The newly created world was exquisite and shimmering, lambent and mysterious. It was much like, Fanny Fae thought, the man who had created it. The half-Fae woman moved slowly beside her host, taking in each detail hungrily. If she glanced peripherally, she noted, she could actually see much more than if looking at an object directly. Jareth studied her concentration and appeared visibly amused by it. A wind, or was it a whisper, moved and rustled her hair around her face, her lips curled in a smile up at him.
“This place is built on shadows,” Jareth explained to her. “Shadows of my world, and of yours, and whatever worlds exist in between,” she moved past him to study a flower that evaporated into a shimmering miasma under her gaze, ” It’s nowhere near as concrete as the Labyrinth, ” Jareth continued, “for it lives on borrowed dreams. My magic built this place, and your magic will try to break it. That’s the basic fundamentals of this game, fair Fanny.”
He continued to explain the rules, to her, and indicated the castle in the distance that was itself a shimmering vision that one could not stare at too long. Jareth then spoke of her quest; to find a man called ‘the Storyteller.’
“You will apply your determination to find him,” Jareth said, ” and I will try my best to stop you. There will be no limit on time, except for what is agreeable for us both.”
Fanny nodded to the King of the Goblins, completely unable to keep a smile from her face. ‘Did he not know that she could walk between the worlds as well as he could? Was she herself not born Fae? He should have made it more of a real challenge’, she thought.
“Aye, and that is agreeable, ” Fanny could not help her lips from forming the beginning traces of a smile.
“I bid you good luck, ” Jareth now allowed himself to smile at her fully. A toothy grin that he revealed seemed almost malevolent in its promise. His eyes danced with haughty self-assurance and he made his way past her toward a rock wall that had not been there a moment before. She turned to follow and ask him another question, when with a shimmer, Jareth himself disappeared like a heat mirage over stone pavings, leaving the Wytch with her question unasked question to die upon her lips in his wake.
Fanny’s attraction to him and to his realm had been like that of a moth to a flame, a Fae to the sweetness of strawberries and cream left out as an offering to them by an innocent child. The Goblin King felt familiar, almost like kinfolk. That in and of itself was a hunger that she had, and they both knew it.
“You I consider a companion, a familiar, an intimate, maybe even an ally,” the Goblin King had said, and Fanny Fae had gratefully agreed that for her it was indeed the same.
And yet, there was something else beyond the rapport. There seemed to be between the two of them a desire to always best each other. Fae games could be exceedingly cruel, and this one, Fanny knew, would probably be no less so. ‘It is the love of a challenge,’ she mused. For either of them, she was certain, a challenge was something that neither one of them could resist.
Fanny gathered herself up and took stock of her surroundings. With a deep sigh she moved her way through the enchanted place. The very trees seemed to bend and watch her as she passed. Small almost imperceptible voices whispered and murmured to each other. Fanny smiled and whispered back.
“We’re all just going to have to make the best of this arrangement, my friends,” she said.
All the while she was picking her way through the lush gardens that were neither completely in form and never completely disappeared, she would smile and caress some of the plants, or place her hand upon the gnarled and ragged trunk of a tree. The path or what was perceptible to even be considered one, wound through the forest that was paved with stone. She heard birds and the cries of strange beasts that sounded unlike any she had ever heard before and it filled her with only the slightest trepidation.
Glancing up at the horizon she saw the visage of the castle. The great structure even from this distance seemed quite imposing. Atop the mountain it glittered like a pearly gemstone with tiny surfaces of peacock iridescence. The towers were not like those of castles back in her homeland but more like the spires, domes and minarets of the distant Eastern lands of India, Arabia and Turkey that she had oft heard of within pirate yarns spun by Captain Barbossa. It seemed too beautiful for this place. As if it had been plucked from the imagination of some Eastern Princess and put there within this world that was little more than vision, and yet much more than light upon shadow or reflection upon water.
The wind, that smelled of juniper and the deep earthy scent of moss and forest floor blew her hair against her face as she walked deeper into the well appointed garden, that was quickly becoming forest along a trail that seemed to stretch into nowhere and everywhere at once. The frustrating twist and coil of the pathways that seemed to back upon themselves made her purse her lips in frustration. She knew that the King of the Goblins was celebrated for his games in which he would often change the rules and unveil surprises upon the unsuspecting. For someone who was human, it would be tantamount to cheating, for a Fae; it was all a part of the game. Fanny could still almost feel the presence of the Goblin King, as if he were watching her, observing each step that she took and measuring her every breath and she imagined that he was most probably chuckling congratulations to himself.
Stone eyes stared at her, next them were a pair of Fae ones that sat upon the nose of a great colossal statue that was tipped on its side beside the path. Fanny stared back at both pairs of eyes, her hand still upon a bough of a tree she had pushed aside. On the face of the statue that had been broken at its base sat a Mikle a’ Muckle. His large almond shaped eyes blinked over his green cheekbones and pointed nose as he regarded the Wytch. When at last he spoke, he did so in an almost overly high pitched if not merry voice.
“Oh so there you are,” his high brows were knit together and he seemed quite cross especially for a Mikle, “We were told you were coming.”
“Pardon me?” Fanny looked at him quizzically, “Do I know you?”
“Figures,” he scoffed, “figures that he would dropping you in this place and not be telling you about me.”
Mikle could be playful and absurd, and were always fond of anything that resembled fun. Indeed the Mikle a’ Muckle considered play to be an art and they considered themselves to be its only true artists. It was this reason why Fanny found the Fae’s irritation a puzzlement.
“I’m sorry,I…. my… companion and I were…” she hesitated, “playing a game.” Fanny was careful not to use the word ‘friend’ for she knew that it was one that irritated Jareth as being too commonly flung about. She had to admit she actually agreed with his reasons, and besides, she truly did not know if Jareth were listening to her now. “I hope I am not intruding,” she said.
“A game?” the Mikle seemed incredulous, “you are playing a game? With HIM?? By the Great Horse Goddess, you are the stupidest human I ever heard of!”
“But I am not all human, Friend. I am half-Fae myself,” Fanny countered with a slight smile. Maybe this little one would pass the word among the rest of the Fae, and they could aid her. No, she would need no magic to influence the reactions and emotions of others in this place as she agreed to Jareth that she would not do. She would merely be herself and the doors would be flung open wide she was certain.
“Then you are even more foolish, Lady,” the Mikle scoffed. With a florish of his long green fingers and his leafy garments he hopped down from the nose of the statue onto the ground.. “I bet you even like him, too.”
“Don’t you?” she asked.
“None of the Fae really likes Goblins, we just put up with them. If they remember past five minutes ago it’s a miracle. So your companion, as you put it, is King of those miserable creatures. You would think he would be able to control them – maybe just a little. But NooooOOo!” He pulled off a leaf from a tree and began chewing it as if he were eating a meal. Fanny knew she was getting absolutely nowhere with the Mikle.
“You really should talk to him,” Fanny said, “Jareth really isn’t so very bad.”
The Mikle scoffed, “Yeah right, and I’m Lossguna, the Frog Queen!”
Fanny’s lips curled into a smile and she pulled a leaf from the same tree that the Mikle had done, almost instantly the scent of lemon assailed her nostrils. She glanced at it and then at the Mikle, kneeling down and sitting on the ground in front of the creature, she extended the leaf to him. Perhaps it was time to take a different tack.
“I am sure even you would benefit from one of his games, too, ” she said softly, slyly, “Perhaps you could join in our game.”
“Oh,” the Mikle stopped chewing a moment and gingerly reached out for the leaf that Fanny extended with cautious fingers, ‘Do you really think that I could?”
Fanny smiled as he took the leaf from her, “I don’t see why not.”
The Mikle grinned and let out an infectious giggle at the prospect, “What’s your name?”
“Fanny,” she said, “Fanny Fae.”
“Corr! Your parents musta been proud of yer being part Fae, then! To be putting it in your name like that,” he said.
“Aye,” Fanny said now feeling more than a little hungry herself,” And what is your name?”
“Me?” the Mikle drew himself up and proclaimed with great pride, “I…am Flochsnaerd. I am a Mikle ‘a Muckle!”
“Yes, I know.” Fanny said trying to will her stomach to cease its loud growling,”I met one of your kin on the Fortunate Isle once. He kept stealing my mangoes.”
“That’s too bad,” Flochsnaerd pouted. Having heard Fanny’s stomach rumbling he reached behind him and produced the ripest richest looking mango that Fanny had ever seen, ” We tend to be a bit daft about mangoesYou may have one of mine then….to make up for the ones you lost from me kinfolk.”
Fanny thanked him and reached out gratefully for the almost ruby red fruit and gripped in both hands. She took a bite from it only to find out that it had little taste. Its anticipated enjoyment was little more than a shadow itsef. She could only hope that it would at least sustain her on what would be a long journey.
“So we heard you were coming, but we did not hear of why,” Flochsnaerd said nestling beside the Wytch, “What kind of game are you playing?”
‘My magic built this place, your magic will try to break it. That’s the basic fundamentals of this game, fair Fanny.’ Jareth’s voice ehoed in her mind. Perhaps, she thought, it was best not to tell Flochsnaerd that she was here as little better than a destroyer of worlds.
“I am here to find a man called the Storyteller,” Fanny said, “Do you know of him?”
The Mikle nodded enthusiastically, “Yes, I do. But none of us have ever really seen the Storyteller. He is too well protected by Him.”
“Ah,” Fanny nodded, taking another bite of the nearly tasteless mango. The fruit surprisingly did seem to have enough substance within it to quell her protesting stomach, and she was feeling better at last.
“Would you like the game of trying to find him, then?” she asked after finishing the last bits of mango.
“Oh yes! Yes!” Flochsnaerd exclaimed jumping back up onto the nose of the toppled statue, “I would! Yes, yes! A game worthy of a Mikle!” Flochsnaerd’s chest was puffed out with pride.
Laughing in spite of herself and finishing the last bits of her mango, she rose to her feet and extended a hand to the Mikle a’ Muckle, “Come on then,” she said, “Let’s see if we can’t find this Storyteller and beat Jareth at his game.”