Dancing With Shadows: Sequel to Inner Flame
A Monster Rancher Anime Fanfic by Lord Jareth (contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimer: I don’t own Monster Rancher. Not the games, not the anime. I do own this story, and the prequel to this story, the pseudonym Lord Jareth and any characters that I may happen to have made up. Don’t steal them. I’ll be watching…
Everyone stared with horror at the receding spot on the ground of light and darkness that lay where the warring forces had fallen. Holly’s throat worked at the scent of death filling the whole area.
Yosho slumped to the ground. “I should have known better,” he muttered. “I should have tried to keep them apart, now they’re just dead!”
“Don’t blame yourself,” Zurath told him, moving to put a hand on the old man’s shoulder. “It’s not your fault. Fate has run its course for them. None of us can blame anyone… but damn it I’m gonna miss Jareth!”
“I think we’re all going to miss Jareth,” Kunari said drily. “Even me. Genki, too.”
“You’ll miss Genki, Kunari? That strikes me as a bit of a shock.” Durandel smiled. “He was always so cheerful… how could he have been a friend to you?”
“I didn’t SAY he was my friend,” Kunari snapped. “I just said I’m going to miss him. Is that so hard to understand? The kid’s got a damned addictive personality. It just won’t seem right without him.”
“Noooo…” Zurath clutched Jareth’s sword, tears running down his face. “Jareth……..”
“Zurath…” It was Winston.
“She was my only family!” Zurath shouted. “The first family and friend I had! She was with me from the beginning! She can’t be gone!”
“GENKI!!!!! WAH!” Mocchi was sitting in a puddle of tears with Holly.
“I’m glad to see I don’t have to tell you to loosen up,” Zurath said bitterly.
“How can you say that Zurath?” Winston hissed. “Mocchi’s just a little kid!”
“He’s older than me,” Zurath shot back. “And I’m not acting like a baby am I?”
“You guys need your grief. I’ll let you all be.” Durandel stood and began to walk away. “We’ll all miss Jareth and Genki. I’ll need to grieve on my own. Goodbye, my friends. Thank you for letting me know what it is to live again for a short time.” He left without looking back.
Kunari watched Durandel’s form receding until he was no more than a dot on the horizon, then gone completely. “Goodbye… brother…”
Zurath took the sword, cloak and Black Gold medallion from Jareth’s body. “I’m leaving too. But I may already be leaving my heart behind.” He cut his wrist and let a couple of drops of blood fall on to Jareth’s face. “An offering for the dead,” he whispered. “Farewell, my friend.”
Gustav stared at Jareth, Zurath’s blood rolling off her pallid cheeks. “Flesh of my flesh… blood of my blood… power of the gods… what have I done?”
Pixie turned away from the group. “What’s there left now? No Moo to fight and hate… my own kid dead and nothing I can do about it. No battles left to fight…”
Gustav put a hand on her shoulder. “Honor the memory. And don’t make her laugh at us all. She knows things we could never imagine, even dead.”
Pixie gave them a bitter laugh. “Ya got that right.”
Twenty years later…
Chapter One: Bitter Ends
“I don’t care. I honestly don’t care. I’m not going. Call me what you like. I’m. Not. Going. No, don’t start calling me a coward. My dad’s stories of adventure and loss are more than enough for me. I’m not taking that risk.”
“What risk? You don’t actually believe those dumb stories do you? I never though you were so dumb, Jareth. Even for a Naga.”
“I’m a Crimson Eyed, Tharan. And I’m not dumb. The real Jareth is dead… died on those adventures.” Jareth glared.
“I thought you said she died in some big fight or something. At least make up your mind on these things.” Tharan smirked.
“I don’t know! Ask my dad, he’ll know.”
“Jareth, your dad’s old. He doesn’t know left from right these days.”
“Twenty-one is not that old these days, Tharan. Even for a monster. And shut up about my dad. He’s worth more than you could ever hope to know.”
“I think you just hate centaurs.”
“I don’t hate Cyrus.” Jareth’s glare narrowed even more.
“Cyrus is a Chariot, not a pure Centaur.”
“Oh, for the gods’ sake!” Jareth snarled. “I don’t hate Centaurs! I just hate pain-in-the-ass STUCK up SCREWED up bastard Centaurs named Tharan!”
“Would you shut up, Jareth?”
What happened may not have happened if Tharan had not sounded quite so calm, quite so smug, quite so intelligent, competent, in control and victorious.
As things were, it happened.
“WOULD YOU SHUT THE HELL UP THARAN!!!!” Jareth formed and Evil Bomb in her claws and blasted it at Tharan. He blacked out instantly.
“Let me get this straight…” Zurath blinked. “Jareth attacked Tharan? Why would she do that?”
“I don’t know. I had no idea of her motives and I still don’t.” the White Hound blinked nervously. “They didn’t tell me. All I know is that Tharan may be in a coma…”
“That isn’t good,” Zurath grumbled. “Not good at all. Has anyone seen Jareth?”
“I agree with ya completely, Sir Zurath.”
“Drop the title, boy… this is an informal setting.” Zurath smiled. “Is there any clue as to where Jareth may have gone? I’ll be able to find her if anyone can.”
“You’re getting too old to go running around. Who knows how far she may have gotten by now?” The White Hound’s eyes narrowed.
“Jareth wouldn’t run away. Not over one stupid boy like Tharan. By the way, what’s your name?”
“You a brainy fellow?”
“I like to think so.” Yale grinned. “You sure Jareth’ll come back? I knew her for a while. Good kid.”
Zurath smiled sadly. “The best… just like her namesake.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of the great Lord Jareth.”
“I’ve heard of Lord Jareth… she was responsible for Moo’s greatest reign of cruelty.” Yale’s eyes narrowed slightly, suspiciously. “You actually named you kid after her?”
“Jareth wasn’t evil.” Zurath’s voice chilled.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Jareth was the one who unlocked me twenty-one years ago. Jareth raised me and protected me as well as she could. Jareth was the one who destroyed Moo and saved what little democracy there was left in the world. Jareth was the first family I had. How can you call her evil?” Zurath’s voice swelled for a moment with what might have been pride. “If you knew her, you’d understand what I mean.”
“The legends only tell us what the legends want us to remember.” Yale shrugged. “You can’t expect me to understand something I can’t understand. Jareth’s been dead for how long?”
“Twenty years.” Zurath stared at the floor.
“That would explain it. Getting old there Yale?”
“Nothing compared to Sir Zurath.”
Zurath laughed. “You’ve got spunk and spirit, Yale. I like that. You’ll last a while in this twisted world.”
“Oh yes… twisted it is indeed. What was Jareth really like?”
“She was full of pain and hate. I felt kind of sorry for her at times, but mostly I admired her or felt jealous of her for being so strong and in control. Like I said before, she was the first family I ever had. Now, except for her namesake, she’s still my only family.
“And dead for twenty years.” Zurath brushed a tear away from his eye. “She really cared about me… just think. She’d be forty-five now if she were alive, and her old man’s still alive but she isn’t.”
“Have you seen him?”
“Gustav? No. even if I had, what would I have said? What would I have done? Knowing us, we’d probably fight over who’d lost more in Jareth.”
“Funny men, eh?”
“More like depressed.”
“I suppose you could say that if you wanted.” Yale shrugged. “It can only matter so much, you know.”
Zurath smiled. “I know,” he said softly. “Oh, I know.”
“So sure already? That is a bit sad,” Yale paused for a moment. “To lose the one person who meant the most to you… an yet you’re still one of the most respectable people around. And I know quite a few.”
“Twenty years is a long time.”
“But is it long enough to numb the pain and heal it?”
“Numb, maybe.” Zurath sighed. “Heal… never. Even for the strong.”
Chapter Two: Wandering Shadow
Jareth hid among the rocks in the quarry. It was old, abandoned, and so dangerous that nobody in their right mind would ever go there. As a matter of fact, it was almost as dangerous as the volcanic cave that Tharan had wanted to go to. Nobody with common sense would go to either place, but Jareth was quite done with common sense.
People with common sense didn’t try to kill monsters, especially youngsters. They didn’t kill teens either, like Tharan, a young centaur about half a year before entering the prime of his life. And if they did try, they didn’t succeed.
Jareth was done with common sense. And she wasn’t interested in failing, either.
The rocks under her shifted. Jareth shifted with them. They fell. Jareth fell with them and landed unhurt twenty feet below.
“Guess my training paid off,” she muttered aloud. “I’ll bet good old Tharan would have been hurt.” She smiled bitterly. “I’m so happy. And so insane… god! I’m talking to myself already!” with a shrug, she moved into a small, hidden cave to wait the rest of the day out.
Zurath eased back on to his lounge chair as Yale left. The White Hound was a good man at heart, he decided. A bit cynical maybe, but who was he to call someone cynical?
“Now,” he muttered, “About Tharan…”
As if on some sort of cue, a Dino burst into the room. “Sir Zurath!”
Zurath glared. “What?”
“Tharan is dead.”
Night fell as Jareth returned to town. Everyone had turned in early and the stores and businesses were closed in respect for the death in the city.
A cat walked lightly across a fence. It took one look at the grim figure heading for the city morgue and disappeared into the night.
Jareth snuck into the morgue, riffling through the bodies until she found Tharan’s. “Nobody messes with me,” she muttered bitterly, tearing open his body and coating her hands with his drying blood.
Using Tharan’s blood, Jareth scrawled, “Beware the Shadow-dancer” on the wall. She picked up the blue sword and Black Gold medallion of the Blue Devils that she had taken from her father and left town with a bitter strength and elegance, a cloak so dark blue it was almost black flying about her shoulders. If one looked closely, they could see a single drop of dried blood on the hem.
Zurath sat up suddenly in bed. “NO!”
He got up and dashed out to the morgue, fueled on by some insane force just beyond his conscious line of insane thought.
As Zurath reached the morgue, he saw others, humans and monsters crowding around the biggest blank wall. Tharan’s torn body lay in front of them, backed by the wall, with “Beware the Shadow-dancer” scrawled on it in his dark blood.
The blood was touched with a tiny tongue of power that shone with a dark gold color, laced with blue. Humans were trying to scrub the letters from the wall and failed miserably.
Zurath stared at the words and their power. It sunk in to his mind as he realized that the sword, medallion and cloak that had belonged to the great Lord Jareth were gone. “Jareth…” he whispered. “What have you done? Why did you do this? And why did you run away…?”
The human governor of the town pushed up to Zurath. “Are you saying Jareth did this? I knew she was a troublemaker!”
“I’m saying that Jareth did this. I’m also saying that if you want to keep your life you will not seek her out,” Zurath told the human grimly.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“My dear human, I mean that Jareth, like her namesake, is often known as a metaphor for the Angel of Death. The vessel of the Bringer of Destruction? That’s her. And if you ever find her, she won’t let you get away alive.” Zurath smiled bitterly. “That’s what it’s supposed to mean.”
“One monster can’t kill me!” the governor snapped.
“Jareth killed Tharan with one Evil Bomb attack,” Zurath said pointedly. “I’ve taught her more powerful attacks, such as Drain, Wicked Bomb, Drill Assault and Eye Beam. You wouldn’t stand a chance against a trained warrior like her.”
“She’s barely two years old!”
“I know. Just think of what she’ll be like when she reaches her full strength. So leave her. To this city, Jareth is dead.”
“You’d abandon your own kid just like that?”
“Jareth is not ‘my kid’. She’s her own person, and makes her own decisions.” Zurath sighed. “I have no right to try and change what she does with her life… but I wish I still could have done so…”
“You’re a soft fool, Sir Zurath.”
“You’re a heartless bastard, Governor.”
“I resent that.”
“I’m so glad. You never understood the likes of us, Governor. Farewell.” Zurath turned and left the morgue. “I have no more to say to the likes of you.”
The sun was hot on Jareth’s heavy shoulders. “I hate this,” she muttered. The sword on her belt dragged in the dust. “Why did I have to kill him?”
“You grew up too fast,” said a voice from behind her. “Just like your father.”
Jareth turned to face an old man with a shaggy mane of silver hair, a craggy face and haunted blue eyes that were almost black. “Who the hell are you?”
“That’s not important, Jareth.”
“How do you know my name?” Jareth glared.
“Lucky guess?” the man asked meekly. “I knew your father. Matter of fact I was coming to see him. I figured he’d name his kid Jareth. Why’d he wait so long?”
“He wanted to be in love when he got married,” Jareth said bitterly. “My mom died soon after I was born. I don’t remember her at all…”
“What killed her?”
“Disease I think. Either that or she was murdered by humans. I prefer to think the former. So what’s your name anyway?”
“How did you know my father? And my namesake?”
“That would qualify as a long story.” Gustav stared at the ground for a moment, as if he felt awkward. “I don’t suppose you want to hear it?”
“Spit it out.”
“I met Zurath by chance. I suppose there isn’t much more I can say about that, since I met him after rising form the dead to help him on his quest…”
“You rose from the dead?”
“So how do you know Jareth?” Jareth glared at Gustav. She felt embarrassed, referring to Jareth by name, as if she was referring to herself in the third person.
“I’m her father.”
Chapter Three: Spilled Guts and Stories
Jareth glared balefully at Gustav. “You expect me to believe that one of the greatest heroes of all time was fathered by a loser like you?”
“No. I don’t expect anything of you.”
“You’re really her father?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“The man who acted as her father was Sir Frostbit of the Blue Devils. I physically fathered her, due to being possessed, but other than that I did nothing.”
“How does Sir Frostbit figure into this story?” Jareth’s glare narrowed even more.
“That medallion first belonged to him. I was possessed, as I already told you, and I kidnapped him.” Gustav sighed. “Under the proper circumstances, I think he and I could have been friends. That’s why it hurts me all the more that it was the slavery I kept him in that killed him.”
“Don’t tell me you’re a sentimental old geezer,” Jareth said bitterly. “I’m not too keen on them.”
“It’s just that you’re exactly like Jareth…” Gustav sighed. “I’d swear you even look like her. Almost as if she’s been reborn as you. But that’s just stupid…”
“You talk like her too, you know.”
“Oh, please.” Jareth rolled her eyes.
“How old are you?”
“I suppose you’re a deadly fighter?”
“Yes. I ran away because I killed a stupid Centaur. I didn’t want to face everyone I knew after I found he was dead. I actually wanted him to die… it’s just all so strange, Gus. I don’t like it.”
“Please call me Gustav. I don’t like being called Gus.”
“Okay. Gustav. How old was my father when you knew him?”
“A little younger than you are now. He was also a natural fighter. He told me once about the first and last battle tournament he entered when he was still with Jareth… he beat up seasoned fighters…”
“Everyone except the Audrekhan.” Jareth grinned bitterly.
“You actually remember the titles?” Gustav arched an eyebrow, impressed.
“You have NO idea what my dad’s put me through.”
“Whatever it was, it’s probably no worse than what your namesake had to endure.”
“Which was what?”
“I don’t really know, but whatever it was it drove her to kill me.”
“Yes, a great deal of it.”
Jareth sighed. “I can’t believe I’m sharing all of my thoughts and feelings with somebody just on the flimsy excuse that he knew somebody who died nineteen years before I was born.”
“I don’t normally spill my guts either, so we’re equally screwed.” Gustav smiled almost sadly. “I think we each see someone else in each other. I see Jareth, and you see…”
“…my father. I think there’s something of him in you. Maybe.”
“So we’re not total strangers then.” Gustav tried a smile.
Jareth froze the half-formed smile on Gustav’s lips with a long-practiced glare.
“I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it…” Yale was pacing in Zurath’s study. “I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it…” he slumped to the ground, furious with himself, his white fur shiny with sweat. “I just don’t get it!”
“Don’t get what?” Zurath inquired meekly. “I would like to know if it’s not too much trouble for you, Yale.”
“What could have pushed Jareth past the breaking point so easily and so young? I’ve been thinking about it since the murder. Everyone’s been saying how sad it was about Tharan but other than you and me nobody’s bothered to think about Jareth!”
“Don’t forget Cyrus. He’s always been Jareth’s mentor.”
“Even Cyrus isn’t the same any more! He used to be at the point that he could never be too proud of Jareth but now he won’t let anyone even mention her in his presence! I know she killed Tharan, but why doesn’t anyone ever look behind the eyes of the killer?” Yale fell again, exhausted.
“So what makes you try to look behind the eyes of the killer or, say, the traitor?” Zurath asked softly. “It’s not considered noble. Like anyone worth anything considers people like Jareth beneath them.”
“My best friend killed my little brother when I was eight.” Yale stared at the floor. “I killed him in retribution, but as I’ve gotten older and looked back on the whole thing, I’ve wondered what drove him to do a thing like that? He was always my best friend, and I could never quite understand why I had to kill him, even though he killed Janus…”
“Janus was your brother?”
“Yes… a Balon. Sweet little boy. Four years younger than me. I never knew why Sadren killed him… part of me doesn’t want to know, even now…”
“What was his breeding like?”
“They’re a rather aggressive race.”
“That’s not a good enough excuse.”
“I know that.” Zurath stared at the same spot Yale was staring at. “Why is it that we’re spilling our guts right now when we’ve only been friends a couple of days?”
“You know what they say…” Yale brushed a tear from his eye. “Time means nothing to the heart.”
“I just think the whole thing is a tad messed up…” Jareth trailed off for a moment. “But anyway. I left my home so I could look for myself. If you like, you can come with me. But I won’t hold anything back to keep you around. Got it?”
“Yes. I’ve been looking for myself for the past twenty years. But I still haven’t found anything… at least you have an idea…”
“I don’t have any idea as to who I am, Gustav. I used to think I knew, but I don’t any more. Sometimes I wonder if the whole thing is really worth it.”
“There must always be a reason to live.”
“Okay, this is just getting stupid now. Let’s switch to something not quite so deep, okay?”
“As you wish…” Gustav stretched to his full height. “Let’s find somewhere to go. Maybe we’ll find ourselves along the way.”
“Good idea, old man.”
“Just call me Gustav. I don’t like being called ‘old man’ particularly.”
“I don’t think you like anything.”
“Maybe you’re right. I haven’t thought about it in a while.”
Chapter Four: Reason to Live
“Did you hear something?” Jareth asked suddenly, turning to Gustav.
“No. Like what?” Gustav blinked, a bit confused.
“Like hoofbeats. Or something like that. You sure you can’t hear it?”
“Absolutely sure. I can’t hear a thing.”
The hoofbeats grew louder. Jareth glared at Gustav. “You’re absolutely sure you can’t heat anything?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
A large spear whizzed by Gustav’s head.
Jareth glared at him. “Did you notice the spear?”
“Yes, I noticed the spear.” They both whirled around to face the person who had thrown the spear. A tall Chariot Jareth had known who went by the name of Cyrus. “Do you know this gentleman, Jareth?”
“Cyrus!” Jareth spat, giving Cyrus an icy, practiced stare. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Are you trying to kill me or something?” she glared. “Honestly, I think you’re a tad insane some times.”
“Maybe I am,” Cyrus snarled, “But I need to avenge my son!”
Jareth’s eyes widened. “So *you’re* Tharan’s father? Why didn’t you acknowledge him as yours until he died?”
“I haven’t, and I won’t.” Cyrus said coldly. “My reputation depends on it. It’s only for you and myself to know… and this old man. I’ll have to kill him as well.”
“Gustav did nothing to you. Why kill him as well?” Jareth drew herself up to her full height. “You know you can’t win against us, Cyrus. You were my official combat teacher. I know every weakness in your fighting style. You know none of mine, because I showed nothing to you. Please don’t force me to kill you as I did Tharan.”
“You are the one who will die, you barbarian!” Cyrus spat.
“Would you like to test that theory?” Jareth sneered. “You wouldn’t stand a chance against me even in single combat, let alone two to one. Go ahead. Give me your best shot. To my home and all who knew me I am dead already. How much good would that do for your rep, dear Cyrus?”
“I’ve got to say, I expected a bit more maturity from somebody so impressive on a physical level,” Gustav mused. “Do you think he’s cracking up or something like that?”
“Most likely,” Jareth replied. “Do you think we should kill him?”
“Your namesake wouldn’t hesitate to do so.”
“I’m not my namesake, but I think I’ll take her unspoken advice if he attacks us again.” Jareth shrugged and dodged a clumsy, angry thrust of the spear to her head. “Okay. Let’s kill him.”
Jareth hefted her sword in her hands. “Let’s do it,” she hissed, a hardened warrior’s smirk playing about her lips. “Let’s show Sir Cyrus not to poke his nose where it’s unwanted. Shall we?”
Gustav smiled too, a horrible maniacal grin. “Yes. Let’s.” he pulled a huge double-headed axe out of his cloak. “I do so love these cloaks… they let you hide so much.” He laughed. “Let’s see if good old Mauler can cut through Durahan’s armor, eh?”
Jareth whistled in appreciation. “Nice axe. Mauler, did you say it was?”
“Yup. Beauty, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah. You’re the innocent one here, Gustav. You can have the first move.” Jareth held her sword out and assumed a defensive stance. “I’d like to see what you can do if it’s not too much trouble.”
“None at all,” Gustav said cordially, hefting the axe. “I’ve wanted to see what I can do for quite some time.” He adjusted the grip on his axe—Mauler—and swung at Cyrus. The heavy blade whipped in a wide horizontal arc. Cyrus met the heavy blade with the shaft of his spear. Gustav swung again, with more purpose this time.
Blade hit spear shaft again. And again. Cyrus lunged and thrust desparately. Gustav dodged and parried every striked with speed and skill. Sparks rained on the ground and sprayed up around them.
Jareth watched the fight with cool professional interest. The fight had proven more interesting than she’d expected. Perhaps Gustav wasn’t so bad…
Suddenly there was a sickening crack. Cyrus fell to the ground, his spear broken in two.
Gustav stared at Cyrus, barely realizing what he’d done. To break the spear of a centaur was worse than to kill him. The spear of a centaur was his soul, and if broken…
Cyrus lay on the ground, crumpled like a heap of rags. Gustav inched toward him, warily almost, almost afraid of what he’d done. Jareth sighed. “Gustav, you idiot. Don’t touch him…”
Gustav just looked mournfully at Jareth. “Jareth, what have I done? What have I done to him? How could I do this?”
“Well, for starters, don’t—” Jareth never finished. Gustav leaned down toward Cyrus and Cyrus leapt up, driving his broken spear deep into Gustav’s side. Jareth sighed. “Gustav, you idiot, what am I going to do with you?”
“You’ll never defeat me!” Cyrus screamed. “Never! I will see to it that you break the way I did! You will never defeat me! Never! Never! Never!”
Jareth sighed and stabbed Cyrus through the heart with her sword. “You’re an idiot, Sir Cyrus. It’s a shame, but you are. Farewell.” She sighed again and picked Gustav up. “Looks like you’re going to need a little help, old man.”
Gustav just whimpered.
Jareth blinked. “Okay, I think you’re hurt pretty damn bad there, old man. Try to sleep, I’ll do what I can.” Gustav closed his eyes and fitful sleep came upon him whether he wished it or not.
Jareth wrapped him in her cloak and picked up his axe, weighing it in her hand. It was a sturdy weapon, heavy, balanced and there was something painfully wrong with it. Jareth didn’t know what and didn’t want to know, but there was nothing shaking the wrongness…
Chapter Five: Beautiful Dreamer
Gustav saw blackness all around him. Shapes floated around him, reminding him of who he used to be, who he was, even who he would be some day. He felt energy pulsating about him like his own mind.
“NO!” he screamed suddenly, knowing where he was all of a sudden. “NO! I won’t fall back into the dark! I won’t go!” he tried to thrash about, would have thrashed about, anything to act defiant, but he couldn’t move. It was as if he’d been put in a mental padded cell…
“You can’t take me! I won’t let you!” Tears streamed down his face as he struggled in vain.
“Oh, shut up,” said an icy voice. “I don’t want to hear your whining, old man. So just shut up.” A tall, cloaked figure strode through the black toward Gustav.
“Who the hell are you?” Gustav snapped. “We’re in my mind, what the hell are you doing here anyway?”
“You don’t recognize me, old man?” the figure sneered. A bright blue blade cut through the darkness. “You’re sure you’re so damned stupid and forgetful you can’t tell? Really, I thought you’d be better than that.” The figure laughed bitterly.
“Jareth?” Gustav hazarded a guess.
The figure threw back the heavy cloak, revealing the face of a phantom with Jareth’s features. “Ya got that right, old man. Fat lot of good it did ya, eh?” the phantom-Jareth laughed. “What do you think made me who I am, anyway? Why did I end up dying like some sort of idiot?”
Gustav said nothing.
“It’s your fault, old man… and you aren’t even ashamed of yourself. How sad.” The phantom-Jareth laughed again. “Yeah, that’s it old man… your fault, all your fault! Hahahahahaha!”
“Bull,” Gustav spat. “You’re not Jareth. You’ll have to do a lot better than that if you want me fooled. I only knew Jareth for a little while, but she sure as hell isn’t you.” He glared. “Who—or should I say what—are you, anyway?”
“I am the spirit of hate and pain and broken hearts. I am the bringer of pain and rage and spilled blood. I am, in short, the next great Belkharin… master of the Triat. Farewell, beautiful dreamer.” The phantom disappeared, laughing.
“Take care of him,” Jareth said icily. “You’ll have to answer to me if he dies. Got it?”
“Your message is quite clear,” the doctor said calmly. She was a good bluff—cold sweat pooled at the back of her neck. Bluffing had saved her once, it could happpen again. “I’ll do my best… I hope you have sufficient honor and common sense not to kill me if I can’t save him.”
“I don’t have very much common sense,” Jareth told her coolly. “I’ll be back this evening to check on him. You can expect me at about six.” She left.
The doctor breathed a sigh of relief as the door closed. Monsters scared her, even though she’d grown up living side by side with them. Especially monsters with weapons. The bright blue sword scared her and reminded her of something she chose not to remember.
Jareth walked through the dusty streets. People avoided her, half because they knew nothing of monsters and were afraid of them, and half because she blatantly displayed her sword. She laughed bitterly. They’d have been even more scared if they saw Mauler as well. It was getting harder and harder to hide the big axe.
A huge man dashed down the street and ran into Jareth. He collapsed from the shock and dropped his backpack. Jareth punched him in the face. Hard. The man’s eyes closed slowly and he landed in an uncomfortable pretzel-like position on the ground. Jareth grabbed the backpack and walked away, leaving the man on the ground.
Gustav was alone again. He sat/lay/floated/whatever inside his own mind, barely aware of what had happened to him. He knew on some level that his body was badly injured—maybe even dying, he wasn’t sure—but he didn’t know it consciously enough to care. He didn’t want to die, but he didn’t know what to do with himself.
“Damn, I’m in a rut,” he muttered. “I can’t believe I still don’t know who I am. I feel like such a goddamned idiot…”
There was a loud crack and Gustav found himself falling. “Well, if everything’s damned…” he muttered. “This has just been a lovely day, hasn’t it?”
“Of course it has, dear,” said a female voice from some indeterminate area of the black stuff. “Just damned lovely. You’re an idiot, you know.” She laughed, like the ringing of glass bells. “Yes, darling. You’re an idiot.”
“I know,” Gustav said mildly. “I’ve known that for a long time.”
“Are you sentimental as well as stupid?” The laughter again, this time with a distinctly darker edge.
“I like to think not. Who are you anyway? The Belkharin again?”
“Too accurate for you own good, eh boyo? You’re right about me…”
“What’s your name?”
“Why should I tell you that? I don’t want to be tracked…”
“I thought the Triat was above that kind of thing. I knew the old Triat, you know.” Gustav sighed. “You’re as impossible as them.”
“The old Triat? You knew them?”
“Kunari, Durandel and Thanatos? Yes.” Gustav shrugged. “Why?”
“I never knew the great Thanatos…”
“Take it from me, sugar, he’s not so great.” Gustav laughed bitterly. “I don’t suppose you’ve heard of the great and evil Lord Jareth?”
“I think *everyone’s* heard of Lord Jareth. She was almost as as great as Thanatos himself. But what does Lord Jareth have to do with anything?”
“My kid. Well, his kid, but my genes. I suppose you’d be happy to be as notorious?”
“Can I go now?”
“All right, Gus. You can go…”