After lunch, Celeste and her parents arrived at Jareth’s chambers, and were granted entrance.
“You’re Majesty, I demand to know why you are toying with my daughter!” Celeste’s father insisted.
“I am not toying with Celeste. I have told her several times that she deserves better than me, but she refuses to give up on me. I find that an admirable trait, don’t you?” Jareth asked, and Celeste’s mother was relieved to find that all of the occupants of the room had their clothes on.
“I find it a foolish trait!” Celeste’s father growled. “And worse, you and Celeste were both naked and bathing together, despite her status as an innocent maiden! This means that whether it is true or not, everyone in the palace will assume that you have bedded her. Willing marriage partners who are suitable will be much harder to find, and-”
Kira yawned loudly, thereby interrupting the man’s rage. He fell silent at her sheer rudeness. Kira took advantage of his silence. “I think you’ll find it quite the opposite, actually. Men who I’m sure you’d approve of will start demanding her hand in marriage if they think that she would be able to influence the King in their favor. In any case, the point is moot, for Celeste refuses to marry.”
“That is not for Celeste to decide!”
Kira frowned, “I really think it should be.”
“Regardless, I must insist that His Majesty stop encouraging my daughter’s foolishness. He clearly cannot marry her, and anything less makes my daughter nothing more than a whore!”
“Then, I will be a whore!” Celeste cried out in defiance, and ran to Jareth. From his side, she faced her parents. “I have told you and told you that I would rather dedicate myself to the virgin than to be with anyone other than Jareth. I love him, and I will fight for him, no matter the odds!”
Celeste’s parents stared at her in astonishment; she may be willful, but she was never so openly defiant.
“Jareth, I know that you do not return my feelings, and I know that you are probably very tempted to tell me to fulfill my duty to my parents and marry, but I cannot. I refuse to settle for anyone less than you! Even if you were to tell me that you never wanted to see me again, I would not marry another. Please, please allow me to stay by your side, even if all I ever am to you is a friend. I don’t think I could bear the alternative!” Celeste begged.
“Stupid girl! You dare to say such things in front of his wife!” Celeste’s father yelled at her.
Kira stepped up to him, “You dare to call your daughter stupid for being brave enough to tell everyone her true feelings? Love is never wrong!”
“What about her duty? The path she wishes to choose will never bring her happiness. It will only ever bring her pain and sorrow, and then, when she has had enough, who will be there to comfort her? It certainly won’t be her children, because she won’t have any!”
Jareth sighed. “Celeste is young, and she is experiencing the passionate belief of her first love. Perhaps in time she will change her mind, but in the meantime… Celeste, you asked to stay by my side, even if just as a friend. I would be foolish to turn down the friendship of such an honest, brave, and loyal person, and I could use a good friend, but… I ask you to give this some serious thought. For nothing more than friendship, you would give up your entire future… I do not believe this is fair.
“I ask that you spend three days in deep thought, and then we will talk again. If you can still honestly say that you wish to choose this path, then I will not try to stop you, but perhaps you will decide you do want a family of your own after all.” Jareth held her hand, and held her gaze with his own – completely serious – eyes. He had not planned to encourage her feelings for him at all, but if she was truly so much in love with him that she would defy her parents, and sacrifice her future for him…
Well, it was deeply touching, and such intensity of feeling deserved that he at least try to return her feelings. Even if he ultimately found that there was no room in his heart for her, she would know that he tried.
“Three days,” Celeste agreed with a nod. “I shall meditate in solitude for three days, and then I shall return to your side, and never leave it again!”
Celeste sealed her vow by daring to kiss his lips, then walked out of the room. Her determined stride carried her past her parents without sparing them a glance. Her bearing was nearly regal she walked with such confidence. If willpower could be manifested, she would be surrounded by the fire of knowledge and purpose.
Her parents stared after her, wondering if they had ever truly known their daughter. They could not find anything to say, and so excused themselves to follow Celeste.
“That could have gone so much worse!” Kira commented. “I really think she has what it takes to walk her chosen path with courage and determination. It’s a pity that her parents can’t accept her decision.”
For three days, Celeste meditated, eating very lightly, and sleeping very little. She spent one whole day letting her thoughts tumble through her head, and then be cast aside, until finally, she was able to achieve a trance.
In her trance, she was able to see the possible outcome of several different choices. She saw what would happen if she continued on her current path, and what would happen if she dedicated herself to the virgin. Then, she saw a future in which she traveled to distant lands, and started a whole new life.
She also saw what would happen if she actually married the man her parents were so eager to join her to, and the vision – whether the actual future or not – was enough to make her cry. Sure, there were children, but without love between their parents, the children grew up to be petty and selfish. Who would ever knowingly choose that path?
Lastly, Celeste saw a future in which she did marry the man from her previous vision, but rather than be a dutiful – if unloving – husband, he was consumed by jealousy, and became violent. There were no children, and the vision ended in her death.
Celeste woke from this vision on the morning of the third day to discover that while she had been meditating, her parents had been busy arranging her wedding. They had even had her dressed up in a wedding dress while she meditated. The maids that had put the dress on her, and arranged her hair, were spooked by her mental absence, and regarded her warily, as if she was possessed.
“What is the meaning of this?” Celeste demanded.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Her father asked. “If you will not do the right thing, we will do it for you.”
Celeste watched the priest and her intended husband enter the room, and shuddered in horror. She had never seen this man before in her life, except for in her visions, which were uncannily accurate about his appearance. She looked around the room in desperation.
The palace was four stories high, of which, the fourth level was reserved for the private use of the royal family. Celeste’s room was located on the third floor, and overlooked the rock garden. It was Celeste’s favorite view, as the rock garden was always so serene.
Her desperate search of the room found no weapons to defend herself, and she turned to face her parents. “I will kill myself before I enter into marriage with this man!”
“There is no need to be so dramatic, Celeste,” her mother said dismissively.
Celeste ran out onto the small balcony that was attached to her room, and climbed the rail. “I will jump!”
Her parents gasped, and clutched their hearts, but her father was willing to bet that she was bluffing.
“Stupid girl! There is no sense in killing yourself! Just come inside, and we can finally see you married.”
“Why won’t you listen to me? I would rather die than marry that man! I would rather die than be with anyone other than Jareth! I will not come off this rail unless I get a promise from you, in writing, witnessed by the priest, that you will stop trying to force me to do what I don’t want to do!”
“That won’t happen. You will do as you are told.” Her father took a step towards her, and she prepared to jump.
“Jareth, I love you!” She cried out as she jumped, knowing that her life was about to end on the rocks below.
She gasped in shock a moment later when Kira caught her by swinging on a rope. The two of them continued swinging until they had landed on the fourth floor balcony.
Kira leaned over to look at Celeste’s parents. “You have officially angered me! Get out of my palace, and do not ever attempt to force your will upon your daughter ever again! And be very thankful that I do not give you the punishment you so richly deserve!”
“But it is Celeste’s duty to marry, and produce an heir to carry on our family!” Her father protested. Kira responded by turning her back on him, and ordering a few servants to go help Celeste’s parents pack.
Meanwhile, Celeste was clinging to Jareth for dear life, and crying on his chest. Jareth stroked her hair soothingly, and was baffled that her feelings for him were so strong that she would prefer death to another man. Jareth didn’t know what to say, or do, and so simply continued to hold her. He looked to Kira for guidance, and received a shrug. Kira couldn’t tell him what to do, because she didn’t know.
A few minutes later, Celeste had calmed down, and her lack of sleep combined with her receding adrenaline rush to put her to sleep. Jareth carried her inside, and laid her on a fainting couch. Sometime later, Celeste became aware of voices, and even though she was still sound asleep, she had a clear vision of the events occurring around her.
“I just want to tell my daughter goodbye!” Her mother insisted.
“As you can see, she is sleeping. She is clearly exhausted,” Jareth said.
“That is because she refused to eat or sleep at all during the last three days. I just want to say goodbye. I was so afraid… I was terrified that she would fall, and die… I would rather let her go than lose her to death. Please, let me say goodbye.”
Jareth indicated his permission, and Celeste’s mother hugged her sleeping daughter. She didn’t actually try to wake her, but kissed her forehead and cheek, and whispered. “I love you so much! Please be happy… I’m leaving now, goodbye.”
The mother turned to Jareth, and curtseyed. “Please take care of my daughter, You’re Majesty. Please try not to hurt her.”
“I will try my hardest not to hurt her, but I cannot promise that I never will,” Jareth replied.
Celeste’s mother nodded acceptance, and left the room.
Go To Chapter 24