Chapter 1: Welcome… or Something
Jareth sighed in exasperation. The teenager who had been wished on him a mere hour ago was already wreaking havoc in his usually peaceful castle. He was seriously considering dropping her into an oubliette just to get a bit of quiet. The insufferable creature had been shouting and issuing threats about her sister ‘kicking his ass’, and saying ridiculous things like “You’re so dead!” and “She’s going to put such the uber-hurt on you!” ever since her arrival. Really, where DID children learn to speak today? If she were truly trying to intimidate him, she should learn to make proper threats.
He was pulled abruptly from his thoughts when something bounced off the side of his head. When he looked to see what it was, he was unamused to find that the brat had thrown her shoe at him. He gave her a deadly scowl and commented, “I would think you had been reared with a bit more in the way of manners, little girl. You are in MY home, and if you will not respect me for simply being your elder, you should perhaps consider the fact that I am the King of this world. I did not invite you here, after all, your sister wished you upon me.”
“Buffy meant that as a JOKE, and she’s gonna be sooo pissed at you when she figures out how to find me. I bet she tears this world of yours apart for you. See if she doesn’t. You are so-”
“Dead,” he finished for her, his tone bored. “So you’ve told me. Now do be silent, or I shall have you dumped headfirst into the Bog of Stench.”
She quirked an eyebrow at him. “The bog of STENCH? What’s that, your bathroom?”
Jareth bit the inside of his cheek to contain a bark of laughter that threatened to escape his throat. The child was irritating, unmannered, and obnoxious, but she had a certain amusing charm. He had always enjoyed sharp-witted people, and she had that in spades. If he could make her cease her excessive shrieking, he might find himself liking the aggravating little chit. He sighed again and began rolling three of his crystal balls in his hand. Truthfully, he was looking forward to having her sister come for her. There had been precious little to entertain him since Sarah had been in his realm. He felt a small pang at the thought of the beautiful girl he had once considered taking as his queen.
When he stood and strode out of his throne room, Dawn followed him. He was interesting, and she wasn’t about to let him leave her all by herself in this big, creepy castle. Hurrying to reach him, she fell into step at his side. “So. Where are we going?”
He slanted a sardonic look in her direction. “I am going to tend to my own affairs. You are following me to be annoying.”
Dawn grinned cheekily at him. “You might as well get used to me, because I’m all over you like flies on a Slime Demon, bub.”
“Such colorful words, child. Tell me, how many demons have you met?”
“How much time have you got? ‘Cuz Buffy’s been Slaying demons for about eight years, and that’s a lot of demons.”
“Interesting. Well, I must say this does promise to be exciting. And how old is your sister?”
“Twenty-three. She’ll be twenty-four in about three months.”
“Killing demons at fifteen, hmm? And why, pray tell, did she decide on that particular activity at such a tender age?”
“She was Chosen. She’s the Slayer. Haven’t you ever heard of Vampire Slayers? The One Girl in all the world, and all that?”
“I’m afraid I’ve never had the pleasure. Tell me about them.”
She eyed him speculatively. “Why?”
“Because I wish you to.”
She snorted. “You need to do better than that. I don’t do anything just because some freaky guy with weird hair and too much makeup ‘wishes’ me to. Try again, pal.”
This time, he chuckled. “Well, I’ve been far too long without the company of anyone possessing more than the relative intelligent of a potato, and talking with you is infinitely preferable to your screaming at me. And this sister of your sounds quite interesting to me, as I mentioned.” Raising one eyebrow, he added, “Perhaps you would be willing to strike a bargain?”
A shrewd glint appeared in Dawn’s eye. “Make a deal? Sure. How about I answer your questions and then you send me home?”
“I’m afraid not. But perhaps I could tell you about my world in exchange.”
“So I ask a question for every one I answer, and you tell me whatever I want to know?” When he nodded, she smirked. “Deal.” Dawn stuck out her hand. When Jareth simply looked at it, she rolled her eyes, seized his hand with hers, and shook it firmly.
When their hands touched, a familiar shock ran through Jareth, and his eyes narrowed. “Tell me,” he purred. “How long has Buffy been your sister?”
Instantly, Dawn’s guard was up. Her expression was shuttered when she replied, ”All my life.” When he opened his mouth to ask another question, Dawn shook her head at him. “Uh-uh. My turn. How long have you been the king of this dimension?”
“Several thousand years. Exactly how long is all your life?” When she hesitated, he reminded her softly, “Exchange of information, remember? The truth, child.”
“If I lie, you’ll know it, huh?” When he simply looked at her, she studied him carefully. His face held curiosity and recognition, but no malice. “I’ve only been Dawn Summers for four years, give or take a few months. Now you. What does a Goblin King do?”
“I maintain control of the goblins and other creatures of this realm.” He paused thoughtfully. “And I spend a great deal of time observing the mortal worlds. So tell me, what exactly is everything there is to know about Vampire Slayers in general, and your sister in particular?”
Her eyebrows rose, and she gave him a look of respect. “Good question. Do you have anything to eat in this place? This is going to take awhile, and I’m starving.”
For the first time, Jareth smiled at her. “Of course. The kitchens are this way.” He turned down a corridor leading to the right, and guided her through his home, thoroughly anticipating her story.