Labyrinthine Beast by Tami Elder - HTML preview

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Chapter 1 ~ The Curse


The snow was swirling through the darkened sky, drifting across the stone bridge. The old woman made her way passed the guards, ignoring their stares as she made her way to the large oaken doors of the castle. Knocking on the heavy doors, she waited. When the servant opened the door, she requested in a frail voice, "The King… prithee may I have audience with the King?"

"Forgive me, Crone. I shall ask." The servant taking pity on the poor woman left the door ajar to provide warmth in the growing chill while he ran to request the presence of the King. "Sire! Sire, there is an old woman at the door requesting to speak with you!"

"What does she want on a night such as this?" The vain and spoiled Fae monarch looked down from his throne tiredly.

"She refused to tell me, my lord. She would only speak with you."

"Very well," he grumbled haughtily as he rose. Going to the door, he growled at the servant. "You let the chill into the castle you fool!" Kicking the servant in the behind, he shoved the man away. "Get to the kitchens and stoke the fires!" Turning to the old woman, he tried to hide his sneer of disgust at her haggard appearance. "What do you want here, old woman?"

"Kindly King, I am but a poor old woman with nowhere to sleep in this cold, cold storm. Please allow me to stay in the warmth of your kitchens until the storm passes. I will repay your kindness."

The King scoffed at her words. "If you are so poor old woman as to have to come begging to your King for a place by his fires, how then can you repay me? Be off with you! I do not suffer beggars free rides!"

"Beware, your Majesty. Kindness begets kindness… cruelty begets cruelty. All I ask is a place beside your fires for the night."

"Be gone old woman!"

The haggard appearance melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress.

The King fell to his knees before her. "Forgive me, my Lady! Had I but known!"

The enchantress had seen into the King's heart, however, and seen not an ounce of compassion. "You are not a just King among the Fae, my lord. I lay this curse upon your castle, your lands, and all that reside therein. Jareth…King of the Fair Lands… until such time as you learn to love another and be loved in return these lands shall be as twisted and cruel as your heart. Your castle shall lie at the center of a labyrinth so twisted and deadly that none shall navigate it. You shall be tasked with taking unwanted wished away children and finding them homes where they will be loved and safe."

"You can stay! Please give me another chance, I beg of you!"

"What's said is said! Jareth, Goblin King!" With the wave of her hand she transformed his kingdom and subjects. "You have until your 2000th year to fall in love and be loved in return." She produced a rose in her nimble fingertips. "This rose will bloom until you either reach the right age or until you break the curse. Live well." Twisting her wrist, she disappeared.