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Fearful Love and Silver Succession

Chapter Text

Silverhand was bored. He had played every game he could think of. Well, except one, of course. The only one that truly interested him nowadays. The hunt for a wife. He was too young, or so he was reminded whenever he brought it up, but right now, at the tender age of 15, it was all he could think about. Constantly, he would fantasize about what kind of wife he would have.

Certainly, his wife would not be like the worthless woman he had called mother, but who had refused to call him son. He simply couldn’t understand how his father, the greatly honored Marak Foxtail had become so enamored of that technophobic, agoraphobic, not to mention heliophobic, little idiot. Hell, she was practically phobophobic. And she was so self-conscious that every time someone looked at her she blushed. As a result, she constantly looked sunburned, her face was so red all the time. Until she saw him, of course. The moment she caught sight of him, she would turn pale as death, and quickly turn and walk the other way. On her bad days, she would sometimes run screaming for Marak to save her.

The phobias he could forgive, it was her fear and hatred of himself that was truly contemptible. To the day she died, she never forgave him for intruding upon the happiness of her and his father, the most loving couple Silverhand had ever seen. Silverhand couldn’t even comprehend how his father could put up with that woman, much less love her. But love her he did, to the point where, in light of her recent demise, Marak had nearly grieved himself to death.

Silverhand, however, did not have this problem. Being what he considered a “goblin, through and through,” he was not bothered by such petty emotions. Silverhand was of the opinion that his father did not have this advantage, and so was not quite the goblin he should be. Perhaps he was too tainted with elf blood, and had inherited too much of the stupid elves’ sensitivity. If that was so, he had at least done his son one favor by marrying a human.

And as for his mother, even if she was an idiot who was afraid of her own shadow, at least she had loved Marak, thus doing her part in the creation of a truly magnificent king. And he was. Magnificent, that is. All his tutors, including his father’s chief adviser, had assured Silverhand that his was the most powerful magic of any king in the last 500 years, perhaps longer. Admittedly, most of them were oppelg scholars with not half the magic he, himself possessed in one claw alone. Nevertheless, he still held that their opinions were worth something, even if most of them were merely currying favor with the future king in hopes of maintaining their high position when he ascended the throne.

And the simple fact of the matter was, he needed no one to tell him how powerful his magic was. He could feel it inside him, swirling around, waiting impatiently, just beneath the surface until the moment when he would put it to use. And he knew exactly what spell would first delve deep into the bubbling reservoir of power inside him. The King’s Wife spell.

But in the meantime, he must bide his time. He was not yet king, after all, and his father, while not in the best of health, was still alive and could be for many more years, though that was unlikely. So, Silverhand overcame his boredom with more fantasies of his perfect wife, while using his magic to make the elvish math figures he had recently learned come out of his mind and into reality, taking all their useless beauty and spinning them around in front of his eyes.

His perfect wife, he decided, would be demure and respectful, while at the same time unreservedly loving towards him and their son. Her looks were unimportant, and apart from the basic requirements of health, his only preference was that she be somewhat thin, and that her hair be a pleasure to touch. But the most important, indeed, the only important requirement he had, was that, no matter how long the game lasted, she would come to him in the end, of her own free will, not only because of his breathtaking power, but because she would love him, and he would love her.

Over the next 10 years, while he persevered in his studies and when at last his father died, and he became one of the youngest, most powerful kings in history, Silverhand would dismiss most of those fantasies as just that, childish fantasies. But he did remember the last, and only important requirement, and vowed to himself that he would uphold it. His wife would surrender her love to him. And he was right. His wife did surrender herself to him, body and soul. Eventually.


Chapter Text

“No! Why are you doing this to me?”

This plaintive cry came from a small woman standing in the living room of a rather large house. The woman was Jamie Brookes and the house, which was better compared to a mansion, belonged to her parents. Parents who dearly wished their daughter would quietly accept her fate and leave them in peace.

This fate was not terrible. To any other person, it might even seem like a blessing. But for Jamie, it was the worst possible thing that could have happened to her. Her parents had decided to send her back to her maternal grandparents in Cambridge. This, in and of itself was bad enough, but then there was the added misery that Jamie would be going there, not to visit, but to stay.

Jamie was an, intelligent, if rather spoiled young woman, who, at the age of 18, was ready and willing to study abroad in her chosen field. In her mind, this meant moving to Boston and studying chemical engineering at MIT. Her parents had no problem with her becoming a chemical engineer, but they would rather that she stayed near her grandparents and studied at the University of Cambridge. Jamie would’ve been thrilled to study at such an esteemed university, but she would much rather continue studying in the States than go off to live with her hateful relatives in England. If she were there to stay, for at least another 5 years, she would truly have no escape from them. It was for this reason she was fighting so bitterly against so mild a fate.

“But Jamie, I thought this was what you wanted. This is one of the best universities in the world, and you’re already a British citizen, so why not take advantage of that fact?” This from her mother, utilizing her impressive talent at making someone else’s argument seem utterly ridiculous.

“Mom, you know how much I hate staying with them,” Jamie replied, exasperated. “Is there some reason why I can’t just get my degree at MIT? That’s one of the best universities in the world too, you know.”

Her father sighed. “Jamie, wouldn’t you rather live with people you know while you get your PhD, instead of moving to Boston? You don’t know anyone there. You’d have to start over completely. In Cambridge, at least you have some friends.”

“I only see those friends once a year, and our relationship is cordial at best. And as for my grandparents, they hate my guts! You know they all wish you’d brought me up in England, without being corrupted by ‘those uncivil Americans.’” Jamie managed an impressive imitation of her grandfather’s sneering tone, causing her parents to stifle smiles.

Her mother quickly recovered, however. “What they think of your American citizenship is irrelevant,” her mother stated firmly. “What matters is your safety, and I know I’d feel a lot better having you stay with them, rather than living by yourself in Boston.”

“You actually think I’m safer in another country?” Judging from her rather high-pitched shriek, Jamie was absolutely mystified by her mother’s reasoning. “You think I’m safer with them? They’d probably wait until I was drowned before throwing me a life vest. I’d probably be safer with complete strangers than those snobby-“

“Jamie!” Her mother was appalled. “Those are my parents you’re talking about. Show some respect.” Jamie respectfully rolled her eyes.

“For god’s sake Jamie, it’s not like we’re sending you off to boarding school,” her father said in a tone that indicated he was quite fed up with her loud protestations. “You were born in England, and you visit your grandparents every year. When did you start thinking you’d be safer with strangers?”

But Jamie was not swayed by his words; words which, in her mind, were no more than feeble justifications for an unprovoked punishment. “Haven’t you realized how much I hate those annual ‘family get-togethers?’ The last time I visited them, they said some stupid thing, insulting Americans, I’d just had enough. I said some things and they said some things and by the time I’d left, I had sworn that I would never see them again. And anyway, yearly visits are completely different from a 5 year stay.”

Her mother was a little shocked by this little revelation, but hearing Jamie’s last justification, she immediately jumped in. “It won’t even be a whole 5 years,” she pointed out. “You can stay with us for the holidays, and during the school year, odds are you won’t even see your grandparents you’ll be so busy. We’ll even pay for an apartment in the city.” She saw that Jamie was weakening and quickly pressed her point. “I would just feel so much safer if you were near people that could check up on you. If not your grandparents, then at least your friends.”

At that moment, Jamie could see that it was hopeless; her parents had won. All further protestations were useless. Even while she finally signaled her agreement, she was thinking of items to pack. Hours later, mentally replaying the conversation, she could see that she had had no chance. Her mother had come fully prepared to use any and all measures to ensure Jamie’s relocation to England.

Still, Jamie couldn’t help but feel as though, no matter what she did, all roads would lead to the same place. The question was, would she be prepared for what was ahead? And also, should she bring one toothbrush, or two?

Chapter Text

"Gate 5, now boarding."

Jamie glanced up at the voice on the intercom and checked her watch, trying to decide whether she had time to finish her Frappuchino and use the restroom without missing her midnight flight. If she could even find the restroom, which was doubtful. She couldn't even seem to find a trashcan in this confusing airport with getting lost. She knew this from experience, having already gotten embarrassingly lost twice.

Deciding to try her luck, she said a quick prayer and got up, managing through a stroke of luck to find a garbage can in which to deposit her empty beverage, before grabbing her luggage and heading off to find a restroom.

Ten minutes and a few right turns (and lot of wrong ones) later, Jamie somehow found herself at Gate 5 of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Just as she heard, "Gate 5, final boarding call." over the intercom, she gave the stewardess her ticket, put her carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment and sat down in seat 2A of First Class.

A few minutes later, the stewardess came by to check her seat belt and the pilot announced that they would be taking off shortly. Being in First Class, there was no seat next to her, a fact she was extremely grateful for. Looking out the window, she got the most melancholy feeling. It was as if, by boarding this plane, she had set events in motion that ensured that she would never see her home in Snohomish again.

She shook herself from these thoughts, dismissing them as merely manifestations of her fear of meeting her grandparents again. Fears that she felt were completely justified, especially after the last time she had seen them. Certain words had been exchanged, most of them either profane or insulting, sometimes both. The rest could only be classified as sarcastic. But no matter what words had been used, they would nonetheless make her reunion with her grandparents just a bit awkward. Once you had called your grandparents "stuck-up, autocratic, old geezers," there was just no going back. Especially not once they had had happily replied in kind.

But would she shrink from her duty? There wasn't a snowball's chance in hell she would so disappoint her parents. Freshly motivated, Jamie decided the best course at the moment was to take advantage of silence from the lack of seat next to her, and go to sleep. It was a nine hour flight, after all.

Jamie was awakened suddenly when her seat was shaken roughly. She opened her eyes to find that it was not her seat, but the entire plane that was being shaken. At first she dismissed it as merely turbulence, perhaps a bit more violent than usual, but she reconsidered when she looked out the window and saw, rather than land or sea, a large lightning storm. Then she heard the pilot's voice again, this time assuring them that everything was alright, but they would have to fly a little off course, into Northamptonshire rather than straight to London, in order to avoid the storm.

Jamie sighed, not knowing whether to be relieved or annoyed by the delay. She finally decided on relief, concluding that anything that delayed her reunion with her grandparents had to be a good thing. She decided that was now her new motto. After the turbulence had subsided somewhat, she wondered where Northamptonshire was.

Not 30 minutes later, the plane was landing in a small, almost miniature town airport. The only details she was privy to was that it was located somewhere in Northamptonshire, wherever that was, and that it was called Hallow Hill. Somehow, all she could think of was Prince Caspian and the Chronicles of Narnia. She remembered something about the stone table being buried inside a hollow hill.

Jamie was interrupted from her inner ramblings by the pilot's voice again, this time telling everyone to leave the plane in an orderly manner where the situation would be explained to them in detail. After exiting the plane and getting through customs with surprising ease, Jamie and the rest of the passengers were directed to a large room where a small, balding man explained the situation in a loud, booming voice. Jamie was startled when he spoke, as his voice did not at all match the rest of him.

As it turned out, there was a large storm between here and London, making flight there impossible. The man apologized to them for the inconvenience and made sure every one of them received train tickets and were directed to the town train station, where they could travel to London, or whichever destination they saw fit on the national railway system.

After Jamie had picked up her luggage, she made full use of her new motto and, rather than getting directly on a train to Cambridge, she decided to check into the town's only hotel, Hallow Hill Hall. She took a taxi there, and was assigned a room on the bottom floor, one with a sliding glass door facing the nearby forest.

She found the landlady, Helen Richardson, to be rather disturbing with sympathetic looks constantly being cast in her direction. Frankly, she was overjoyed to be able to shut the door after the woman left, thankfully leaving her pitying stares at the threshold. She didn't bother to explore her room, figuring she would be gone tomorrow so there was no point. She tried to call her parents, wanting to let them know she was okay, but for some reason, her phone got no reception and there was no land-line in her room. Not wanting to risk running into the landlady again in her search for a phone, she decided on simply going to bed. She would call them in the morning, or maybe even wait until she arrived in Cambridge.

Exhausted by the long plane ride and the other strange events of the day, Jamie quickly brushed her teeth and barely managed to change into her pajamas before she collapsed into the large, soft, feather mattress on the bed in the corner. Her last sight before sleep took her was the forest outside the sliding door to her right. She thought she could just make out a tall shape moving in the darkness. It was distinctly humanoid.

Chapter Text

"Guard! Come here!"

Tabucal felt more than a little surprise and a healthy amount of terror when Marak suddenly called him over to join him and Milsheddura, his adviser, at the table they were currently standing at.

"Oh, Marak, leave the poor guard alone. What help can he be to you in defending your weak argument?" This slightly amused and somewhat scornful voice came from Milsheddura, although it was more of a growl emanating from his cat-like features.

"Ah, but Sheddura," Marak replied, turning back to him, "if I tell you, it won't be a humiliating surprise when you lose again." They both laughed at this.

For most of the king's guard, which included Tabucal, it was rare indeed to even be noticed by Marak. That it was an honor was undeniable, whether or not it was healthy was the real question. But despite being increasingly doubtful of his continued good health, Tabucal dutifully walked over to the two powerful goblins and made a small, respectful bow.

Once there, he could see that the table was covered in Marak's special magical maps and notes. He had invented them himself. The maps were imbued with magic and thus were extremely interactive; one could set a piece of the map on fire and the map would show how it would burn if it were a real fire. They also acted somewhat like the humans' satellites in that they had a view from the air. They made use of the magic from the water mirror and were able to zoom in on anyone within their range, and the user could see what that person was doing at that time. This feature was still not working properly within the elves' border spell, but Marak was working on getting around that. Marak was many things, including ruthless and terrifying, but idle was not among them.

Marak and his adviser both acknowledged his obeisance and then Marak spoke. "What's your name?"

"Tabucal, my lord," he replied in a soft, hissing voice.

"Well Tabucal," he drawled, "Sheddura here doesn't believe I can make this map work like the water mirror, and put an object into the map and have it appear in the actual place. Care to prove him wrong?"

"I am yours to command," Tabucal hissed. "What is your wish?"

"I need an object from you, small enough to fit easily into the map, and not suspicious to humans." Marak's multi-colored eyes raked over him, his eyes settling on Tabucal's arm. "That armband will do nicely. Don't worry," he added, seeing Tabucal's hesitation, "you'll get it back."

Tabucal quickly removed his gold-embossed, black armband and placed it into Marak's hand. In doing so, their hands touched, and Tabucal felt a slight shock from Marak's silver, magical hand. The hand was not only colored silver, it truly appeared as if it was made of silver; cold and smooth to the touch, it was unnatural even for a goblin. The silver claws were also extraordinarily sharp; one flick from one of them and blood was instantly drawn.

Tabucal watched excitedly as Marak clenched his silver fist over the armband, making his hand glow, and his silver right eye shined too. The lowly king's guard could feel the awesome power coming from his king. Suddenly, Marak smashed his fist into one of the maps on the table, the one detailing the property of the Hallow Hill estate, including the Hall and the smaller Lodge, nearby. Marak grinned and opened his fist, showing that it was empty.

"Bah! That proves nothing," Sheddura insisted. "You could have merely changed it into something too small to see."

"All these years and you still doubt my skill. It's becoming quite insulting," Marak laughed. "Very well, it seems I must go find the armband and bring it back to show you."

"I'll believe it when I see it," his adviser maintained.

"Then see it you will. I will rub the proof beneath your very nose." Marak turned and walked out of the room, saying over his shoulder, "I should be back within a few hours, but if I'm not, don't worry, I may decide to wander around that miniscule village for a while." And with that, he was gone.

Sheddura shook his head and smiled very slightly, then turned to Tabucal and told him he was dismissed. Tabucal bowed and returned to his post at the door, but inside, he was filled with thoughts of awe and admiration for his king. He, at least, had no doubts about Marak's magical skill; the king could probably do anything if he only set his mind to it. Much later, while the young guard was with his friends in the barracks, he related the entire tale to them, and they all marveled at Marak's amazing abilities.

Marak walked out of the room and headed for the stairs leading to the royal chambers so he could gather a few things for his trip to the village. The guards he encountered along the way all nodded respectfully, a marked contrast from the way the goblin children greeted him when he passed the page's floor. They all peeked out of their respective rooms to stare in awe, that is, until one of the teachers got them acting in so disrespectful a manner and scolded them soundly. Marak smiled slightly, he had no problem with the children, and it was hardly disrespectful of them to show their admiration in their excited stares.

No, it was not children that bothered him; mothers had that singular privilege, and there was one mother in particular that bothered him the most. Fortunately, his own mother was dead and had been for many years, followed by his father not more than five years ago. Five years that he had been a king with no wife, a fact which irked him considerably. Surprisingly, his adviser thought it was for the best that he had found no suitable wife for the past five years.

Sheddura, as all his friends called him for short, had told Marak repeatedly that he was too young to have a wife. It was all well and good to be a king at 25, but a wife was another matter altogether, he said. Marrying her was the easy part, being married was task that would require all his patience and kindness, and if he did it too early, he would not possess the self-control to handle all the difficult situations his wife would undoubtedly put him through. It might get better after the first few years, but then again, it might not; one could never know whether one's wife would grow to love him or not. Wait a few years, Sheddura had said. Clean up the mess your father made of the kingdom in his final years and gain the respect of your subjects. Then you can think about a wife.

Fortunately, Marak had not found any women that would make good wives anyway, only a few possible candidates that hadn't worked out in the end. If he had, he would have, in all likelihood, taken them and married them on the spot, completely disregarding his one requirement: she must come to him. He really had been foolish five years ago, hadn't he? If he'd taken a wife then, he would surely have gone insane and probably would have killed her in a burst of temper. Yes, he had been foolish and not at all prepared for a wife.

But that was different now. His kingdom was in order, he was well respected and admired by all his subjects and he had gained a large measure of self-control; those bursts of temper he had had so often in his youth were a rarity nowadays. They had been a large part of why his mother had become so terrified of him, although, ironically enough, they had started because of her irritation at his mere existence.

But most importantly, his magic had matured, giving him the ability to have a child. Usually, a King's magic didn't mature until past the age of 40, but it was no secret that Marak was quite an exceptional King. There was no question, Marak was ready for a wife. All that remained now was for her to make an appearance.

Chapter Text

Having reached his apartments, Marak changed into a simple, black cloak and took his knife, sheathing it horizontally in the small of his back. He had made it using a modified version of the elves' spell for their hunting knives. It was much longer than the elves' knives – the blade alone was 10 inches in length and the hilt added another four, making the whole knife more than a foot long. Also, it was black, being made from obsidian he had had delivered to the village, where he had picked it up. Because it was obsidian, it was also extremely sharp, much sharper than the elves' knives. The hilt was polished snowflake obsidian. Over all, he considered his version to be much improved from the original elvish spell.

Having acquired the necessary items for his trip outside, he quickly walked down a few staircases and arrived at the iron door guarding the entrance to his kingdom.

"Good evening, goblin King," the door greeted him in a deep, rumbling voice. "Going out to the village again?"

"I am indeed, door, but I'll be back before dawn."

"Until your return then. Goodbye, goblin King."

The door slid open without one creak of hinges and Marak walked out. He navigated the "welcome hall" of confusing mirrors with an ease acquired from repeated exposure. The room was built solely to hinder unwanted intruders until they could be forcibly removed by the Guard. The iron door had been made intentionally stupid for that same reason.

At last Marak exited his kingdom and entered the forest through a magically concealed opening in the rock. The first order of business was the make his way into the Hall, the main portion of Hallow Hill's sole accommodations for travelers. The Lodge, a small cottage located a little ways from the Hall, was usually rented out to tourists as a wilderness retreat.

Marak pulled the hood of his cloak over his head, hiding his face. It wasn't necessary, as the humans' night-vision was pathetic anyway and it wasn't as if the elves would bother him on his own land, but it made him more comfortable. Aganir Melam-Anun, the elf King named Bright Heavens, had been king for less than a year, and was far too occupied settling his own affairs to be too interested in the goblin King's doings. More fool him. Marak may not be interested in an elf wife for himself–they were far too frail and nervous for his taste– but he knew for a fact Nabusar, his lieutenant and military commander, was very interested in the idea of an elf wife.

Marak completely supported the idea; Nabusar would make a good husband for an elf. On the surface, he was more elvish than most and rather small, making him less intimidating. Nabusar was only about six feet tall, much less intimidating than Marak's own seven feet. He was also extremely gifted with magical ability, rivaling even Sheddura's abilities, so he would have no problem controlling a powerful elf wife. As for his personality, he was extremely self-controlled. Some even said he was completely lacking emotions which was not too far from the truth; even for a goblin he seemed completely indifferent, and suffered only the mildest of emotions.

The little-known truth was that, in his younger years, Nabusar had suffered from Marak's own problem of a short temper and frequent outbursts, but one time he had spun totally out of control and nearly killed an elf as a result. The elf had been trespassing, but Nabusar had still been unduly harsh and had suffered a severe reprimand for it. After that, Nabusar changed completely and had soon become the psychopathic, master strategist and excellent lieutenant that Marak knew so well. Nabusar had served Marak very well, and it would be a pleasure to reward him with a beautiful, and hopefully noble, elf wife.

Suddenly, something caught Marak's eye at the edge of the forest, facing the Hall. It was a small elf, a girl about six years old, who seemed to be having a blast playing with falling leaves. She was using her magic to keep some of the leaves afloat. She was also on goblin territory and separated from her parents. Marak quietly approached.

"Hello, little elf," he said softly in elvish.

She turned around, startled. He could tell that her magic was warning her that something was amiss, it would always warn her when a goblin was nearby. He knelt down to look her in the eye.

"What's your name, little girl?"

"Igira," she whispered nervously. "Who are you?"

"I am the goblin King," he said, watching her expression change to real fear. "What are you doing on goblin land, Igira?" He spoke kindly and she calmed somewhat.

"I chased a leaf here. I'm sorry, I thought this was elf land. I didn't mean to go this far. Please don't hurt me," she finished, almost in tears.

"I don't hurt children," he growled, slightly offended. "Come, take my hand and I'll take you back inside the border spell." He stood up and beckoned to her with his fingers.

She was still too afraid to trust him, so, impatient to get back to his original mission, he used a sleep spell on her. Her magic was still too weak to resist because she was so young, so within seconds she was asleep. He caught her before she fell to the ground and carried the small body about a hundred feet to the east and waited. Within five minutes, an elf came by on his patrol around the border. Immediately, his magic sensed a goblin and he prepared to use magic to repel the intruder.

"Stop," Marak called out. "I am merely returning a wandering elf child who strayed beyond your border."

Hearing this, the elf's eyes widened and suddenly noticed the child in Marak's arms. He approached, somewhat warily, and held out his arms for the girl.

"Thank you," he said in goblin. "With the new Kings, we have not been sure of good relations between our races." His grammar was atrocious, painful to listen to and almost unintelligible.

"Goblins do not harm children," he assured him. "And it seems the elf King and I must have a meeting soon. Tell him to contact me when he has settled his own affairs, and we shall discuss a new treaty."

The young elf's eyes widened when he realized it was the goblin King he was speaking to, but Marak was gone before he could say a word. What he would have said, the elf had no idea.

Chapter Text

Marak walked quickly, having wasted more than ten minutes on that foolish errand. He reached the place where the elf had been playing and decided to enter the Hall from one of the rooms facing the forest. The had glass sliding doors and with a little magic, he could easily open the locks. Just in case, he used the spell he always used when outside his kingdom, and sometimes inside it also. The spell didn't make him invisible, it simply made him inconspicuous. Most people wouldn't even notice him, they would be totally oblivious to his presence. For the rare person that did notice him, they were completely indifferent to what he was doing, and once he was out of sight, they had no memory of his presence. He used the spell so often now, it was almost automatic to perform it when he was outside. The spell worked better when his clothes were monochromatic and free of complicated trappings, hence the simple, black cloak.

He stealthily approached the nearest room with a sliding door, unlocked the door with a simple spell, and opened it quietly. Making his way to the door leading the the hallway, he almost didn't see the small lump in the blankets on the bed. When he noticed the girl covered in blankets, he did a double take. The lamp on the night table was still lit and its soft light was all his eyes needed to discern every detail.

She was not beautiful, not the classic blonde, blue-eyed, thin-as-a-willow woman that humans appreciated nowadays. Her hair was that shade that the humans liked to call dirty blonde, but there was nothing dirty about her hair. It was a dark blonde, but he could see at least ten other shades mixed in, some darker, some lighter. It was braided down her back. Her face was, again, not beautiful, but it was certainly very pretty, with a slightly upturned button nose and high cheekbones. Her eyes were almond-shaped and her eyelashes were long and lush and inky black in color.

At that moment, looking at the pretty girl on the bed, Marak knew he had found his bride. Abandoning his original search for the armband, he first did a sleep spell on her to make sure she didn't wake up, then he did a spell to check for any incurable diseases, physical and mental. Finding nothing serious, he looked around the room for some clue as to the girl's identity. He spotted her purse sitting on a small desk in the far corner. Quietly, he opened it and drew out her wallet. Her driver's license said her name was Jamie Anne Brookes, birthday, July 18, 1993, making her 18 years old a little over month ago. Her address was somewhere in Snohomish, Washington, so she was obviously American. The little plastic card also said she was five foot three, 120 pounds and her eyes were black.

Marak looked in her purse again and found her passport. It had the same information as the driver's license, but also said she was born in Cambridge, England, but her nationality was still American. Interesting. She probably had dual citizenship, having moved to the United States at some point. He looked in her purse again and found a map of Cambridge, and brochure for the University of Cambridge and finally, a special-issue train ticket that could take the owner on a one-way trip anywhere in the country. Marak looked around the room and saw that her two suitcases were still packed. He came to the obvious conclusion that she was not here to stay, which wouldn't do at all.

He had gotten the report, shortly before he left, that a plane on its way to London had been forced to land here due to a storm. She had probably been on that plane, and had been given the train ticket to take her to her destination instead of the plane. He decided he must take measures to ensure that that storm continued and that she didn't leave by train. He could always take her and marry her tonight, making the whole thing so much easier, but he tamped down the urge, remembering again his one requirement.

By now, he had completely forgotten about the armband he had come here for, and was totally obsessed with the task of keeping Miss Brookes here in Hallow Hill. He took her passport and her wallet, and also her train ticket and cell phone. He searched her suitcases with a quick spell and, finding some more money, took that too. While he was looking in her suitcases, he found a couple chemical engineering textbooks, plus a miniature laboratory set. These didn't interest him though, so he left them untouched.

Marak walked over to the bed again, smiling fondly as he lightly stroked her cheek, and went out into the hallway. He went to the front desk, and performed another spell to make all the landlines in the building unusable. Satisfied, he went out the front door and started to run with a surprisingly graceful gait up to the village.

In less than an hour, he arrived at the train station. He went to the tracks on both sides and ripped them up with magic. That done, he went to an open field and prepared to do one of the most powerful spells he had ever done. He threw off his cloak, closed his eyes and held his arms out in front of him, palms up. He started muttering words in goblin and elvish intermixed, and his silver hand started to glow again, this time like a 100 watt lightbulb. His eyes flew open to show his right eye glowing even brighter. He flipped his hands over and raised his arms over his head, muttering faster and louder.

In the night sky above, the clouds started moving east and south, gathering together in the far distance until they were out of sight. Thunder sounded faintly, and about 30 seconds later, lighting followed. The light in Marak's hand and eye faded, finally dying out altogether. He wavered on his feet and knelt down, holding his hands to his head. It was a few minutes before he could get up again and when he did, he was still slightly unsteady.

By now, it was a little over an hour until dawn and Marak realized he'd better get back to his kingdom. An hour later, he arrived at the entrance to the cave. Then he remembered the armband. He decided it was best left until the next evening. He made his way through the "welcome hall" again and tiredly greeted the door when it opened for him. On his way to his chambers, he ran into Sheddura.

"Well?" he asked. "Where's the proof you were going to rub in my nose?"

"I don't have it," he admitted, "but trust me, I have something much, much better." He grinned.

"Oh? And what would that be?" Sheddura asked, his curiosity piqued.

"My wife." Marak's voice couldn't have been more smug had he tried.

Sheddura raised an eyebrow and looked behind Marak. "I don't see her anywhere. Is she already being prepared for the ceremony?"

"I don't have her with me, she's staying at the Hall. But I made sure she isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I have her wallet and passport and all her money with me here. I also tore up the train tracks. And..." He paused for effect. "I made two storms between here and London and also her destination, Cambridge, so she can't take a plane there."

His adviser was almost speechless. "You made two lightning storms? Is that why you look like you're about to faint? And isn't taking all her money a little overkill?"

"I'm not about to faint," Marak said indignantly. "And no, I don't think it's overkill. She wasn't here to stay, probably would've been gone by tomorrow if I hadn't taken those precautions."

Sheddura made a noncommittal grunt, then added, "Very well, Marak. If you really think it's necessary..."

At that, Sheddura nodded to Marak and walked off, muttering about overconfident Kings and so called precautions. Meanwhile, Marak continued up to his chamber, where he quickly changed into night clothes and left orders with the guard not to be disturbed unless it was an emergency, before climbing into his gigantic bed and falling asleep almost instantly. His sleep was filled with dreams of his new bride, ending with one where she was running for life away from him in the forest and he was chasing her. When he finally caught up to her, he pounced on her and just had time to see the terrified expression on her face before he woke up.

Chapter Text

Jamie woke up to find that the sun was setting beyond the sliding door of her room. She sat up slowly, rubbing her eyes. Had she really slept that long? Then she remembered that England was eight hours later than Snohomish, so to her it wasn't really that late. By the time her plane had finally landed it had been about 3:30 in the morning. She'd collapsed into bed sometime around 4:30 and it was about 8:30 now. That meant she had slept for a full 15 hours, a little extreme even for her, one of those people who kept very strange hours.

She must have been more tired than she'd thought. Unless... That landlady! Helen Richardson, wasn't it? She'd been looking at Jamie so strangely, could the woman have drugged her? She'd slept like the dead, that was for sure, not even woken up by the noonday sun that must surely have shined into the room at some point. What could have happened to her while she was asleep?

Jamie, becoming more and more disturbed by the direction her thoughts were taking, made haste in getting out of the bed, trying to dismiss her fears. Surely she was blowing things out of proportion. Ms. Richardson had been strange, but it was doubtful she had done something that terrible. Still, Jamie had a hard time getting rid of the feeling that something very bad had happened while she was asleep. Suddenly, she had a flash of memory from when she had woken up briefly during the night. In her mind's eye, she could see fragmented images of a huge man leaning over her, but she must have fallen back asleep before anything else had happened.

Horrified, she took the quickest shower in her life and changed into more appropriate clothing, all the while hoping against hope that what she remembered had been no more than a nightmare. She brushed out her hip-length hair, not bothering to dry it before she braided it again. She packed everything back into her suitcases and walked over to the desk in the corner and picked up her purse. She took one last look around the room, wanting to make sure she wasn't forgetting anything because there was no way in hell she was coming back to this place. She spotted a gold-embossed, black armband sticking out from under the bed. She picked it up, thinking she would leave it with the landlady to put in the lost and found.

Satisfied that everything she had taken into the room was leaving with her, she opened the door and walked briskly through the hallway and into the main lobby. At the front desk she could see the landlady who, before last night, had been merely strange, but today seemed oddly threatening. With that first sight, Jamie forgot all about her original plans for the armband.

"Hello, dearie," the landlady greeted Jamie in her quaint accent. "Did you have a good sleep? Of course, you must have. Imagine," she said, shaking her head, "sleepin' clear until sunset. Not healthy to sleep so much, dearie." Then she cast another of her oddly pitying looks at Jamie which, after last night, took on a whole new light.

Suppressing a shudder, Jamie told her, "I'm checking out. Do I need to pay anything extra or did last night's bill cover it?"

"No, nothing extra, dearie." That endearment was really beginning to grate on Jamie's nerves. "Are you leaving us so soon," the woman asked, seeming surprised.

"I have a train to catch," Jamie told her. "Can you call a taxi?"

The landlady clicked her tongue and shook her head. "I'm afraid not, dearie. The phones haven't been working today. I called someone to come see what's wrong but they won't be here until tomorrow. You can stay here another night, or you could just walk to the station. It shouldn't take more than a half hour going up the road to the village."

Jamie didn't even hesitate. "I'll walk. Thanks for your help." It took all her efforts to get out that last bit of politeness toward the disturbing landlady.

She walked out the front door and started up the road leading to the village. It wasn't easy, carry one rolling suitcase and one carry-on bag, but she managed. As she walked, she thought about how strange it was that such a small town had an airport. The money spent on an airport could likely have been put to better use improving the roads or something like that. Although, come to think of it, the roads seemed to be in excellent condition, including the one she was currently walking on. From quick glance she got and the view of the village from the taxi ride, everything had seemed to be in excellent condition.

Granted, she hadn't been able to see very well, mainly because of the one thing the village was missing: streetlights. Perhaps in the daylight the village would have a few more faults. Maybe she would even spot a pothole, or a chink in the bricks of a store. Jamie had to laugh at the inanity of her thoughts.

Unfortunately, it was another 30 minutes filled with inane thoughts before she came over a rise and spotted the village ahead. But seeing the village in the, admittedly fading, light of day did not dispel her first impression of perfection. Indeed, the village seemed even more idyllic, with the town's inhabitants beginning to close their shops while still talking amicably with the few late customers.

Jamie shook her head, perplexed, before she saw the sign pointing to the train station. Someone in the village saw her heading in that direction and called to her. Reluctantly, she stopped and turned toward him, asking what he wanted. She immediately regretted it when she heard what he had to say.

"The station's closed, miss," he informed her. "Last night the tracks got ripped up somethin' awful and they're still fixin' 'em."

"Do you know when they will be fixed?" Jamie was more than a little dismayed at this information.

"Hm, five days, at the least. Probably more like week."

Jamie groaned. "Do you know if there's anywhere I can stay in the village, so I don't have to walk back to the Hallow Hill Hall?"

The man shook his head. "'Fraid not, miss. There's no one I know here who's takin' boarders. Would you like me to call a taxi to take you back to the Hall?"

Jamie considered for a moment. "That would be very nice of you, but could I get something to eat first?"

"Well sure." The man fairly beamed at her. "Just come right over to my restaurant and I'll get something whipped up for you."

"Thank you," Jamie said, following him into his little restaurant.

"That'll be nine pounds and twenty-eight pence," he said once she had ordered.

Jamie reached into her purse for her wallet. She didn't immediately find it, which was strange, as her purse was always very well organized. She opened it and dug through it. To her increasing horror, not only was her wallet gone, so was her passport, cell phone and the train ticket the man at the airport had given her. Apparently, during her sleep of the dead she had been robbed blind.

"Oh my god! My wallet and passport are gone! They were in my purse last night, but now they're gone, my cell phone and train ticket too."

The man looked at her, concerned.

"I'm sorry," she apologized, "I guess I won't be having that food after all. Do you know where I can find the police station?"

"I don't think it's necessary to involve the police just yet, do you, Ben?"

At the sound of that cultured, yet slightly foreign accent, Jamie spun around. She gasped; it was the man she remembered from last night! He was huge, she guessed at least seven feet tall. He was wearing a long, black cloak that covered his body but he didn't have the hood on. When she craned her neck up to see his face, she screamed.

Chapter Text

Jamie woke up to find that the sun was setting beyond the sliding door of her room. She sat up slowly, rubbing her eyes. Had she really slept that long? Then she remembered that England was eight hours later than Snohomish, so to her it wasn't really that late. By the time her plane had finally landed it had been about 3:30 in the morning. She'd collapsed into bed sometime around 4:30 and it was about 8:30 now. That meant she had slept for a full 15 hours, a little extreme even for her, one of those people who kept very strange hours.

She must have been more tired than she'd thought. Unless... That landlady! Helen Richardson, wasn't it? She'd been looking at Jamie so strangely, could the woman have drugged her? She'd slept like the dead, that was for sure, not even woken up by the noonday sun that must surely have shined into the room at some point. What could have happened to her while she was asleep?

Jamie, becoming more and more disturbed by the direction her thoughts were taking, made haste in getting out of the bed, trying to dismiss her fears. Surely she was blowing things out of proportion. Ms. Richardson had been strange, but it was doubtful she had done something that terrible. Still, Jamie had a hard time getting rid of the feeling that something very bad had happened while she was asleep. Suddenly, she had a flash of memory from when she had woken up briefly during the night. In her mind's eye, she could see fragmented images of a huge man leaning over her, but she must have fallen back asleep before anything else had happened.

Horrified, she took the quickest shower in her life and changed into more appropriate clothing, all the while hoping against hope that what she remembered had been no more than a nightmare. She brushed out her hip-length hair, not bothering to dry it before she braided it again. She packed everything back into her suitcases and walked over to the desk in the corner and picked up her purse. She took one last look around the room, wanting to make sure she wasn't forgetting anything because there was no way in hell she was coming back to this place. She spotted a gold-embossed, black armband sticking out from under the bed. She picked it up, thinking she would leave it with the landlady to put in the lost and found.

Satisfied that everything she had taken into the room was leaving with her, she opened the door and walked briskly through the hallway and into the main lobby. At the front desk she could see the landlady who, before last night, had been merely strange, but today seemed oddly threatening. With that first sight, Jamie forgot all about her original plans for the armband.

"Hello, dearie," the landlady greeted Jamie in her quaint accent. "Did you have a good sleep? Of course, you must have. Imagine," she said, shaking her head, "sleepin' clear until sunset. Not healthy to sleep so much, dearie." Then she cast another of her oddly pitying looks at Jamie which, after last night, took on a whole new light.

Suppressing a shudder, Jamie told her, "I'm checking out. Do I need to pay anything extra or did last night's bill cover it?"

"No, nothing extra, dearie." That endearment was really beginning to grate on Jamie's nerves. "Are you leaving us so soon," the woman asked, seeming surprised.

"I have a train to catch," Jamie told her. "Can you call a taxi?"

The landlady clicked her tongue and shook her head. "I'm afraid not, dearie. The phones haven't been working today. I called someone to come see what's wrong but they won't be here until tomorrow. You can stay here another night, or you could just walk to the station. It shouldn't take more than a half hour going up the road to the village."

Jamie didn't even hesitate. "I'll walk. Thanks for your help." It took all her efforts to get out that last bit of politeness toward the disturbing landlady.

She walked out the front door and started up the road leading to the village. It wasn't easy, carry one rolling suitcase and one carry-on bag, but she managed. As she walked, she thought about how strange it was that such a small town had an airport. The money spent on an airport could likely have been put to better use improving the roads or something like that. Although, come to think of it, the roads seemed to be in excellent condition, including the one she was currently walking on. From quick glance she got and the view of the village from the taxi ride, everything had seemed to be in excellent condition.

Granted, she hadn't been able to see very well, mainly because of the one thing the village was missing: streetlights. Perhaps in the daylight the village would have a few more faults. Maybe she would even spot a pothole, or a chink in the bricks of a store. Jamie had to laugh at the inanity of her thoughts.

Unfortunately, it was another 30 minutes filled with inane thoughts before she came over a rise and spotted the village ahead. But seeing the village in the, admittedly fading, light of day did not dispel her first impression of perfection. Indeed, the village seemed even more idyllic, with the town's inhabitants beginning to close their shops while still talking amicably with the few late customers.

Jamie shook her head, perplexed, before she saw the sign pointing to the train station. Someone in the village saw her heading in that direction and called to her. Reluctantly, she stopped and turned toward him, asking what he wanted. She immediately regretted it when she heard what he had to say.

"The station's closed, miss," he informed her. "Last night the tracks got ripped up somethin' awful and they're still fixin' 'em."

"Do you know when they will be fixed?" Jamie was more than a little dismayed at this information.

"Hm, five days, at the least. Probably more like week."

Jamie groaned. "Do you know if there's anywhere I can stay in the village, so I don't have to walk back to the Hallow Hill Hall?"

The man shook his head. "'Fraid not, miss. There's no one I know here who's takin' boarders. Would you like me to call a taxi to take you back to the Hall?"

Jamie considered for a moment. "That would be very nice of you, but could I get something to eat first?"

"Well sure." The man fairly beamed at her. "Just come right over to my restaurant and I'll get something whipped up for you."

"Thank you," Jamie said, following him into his little restaurant.

"That'll be nine pounds and twenty-eight pence," he said once she had ordered.

Jamie reached into her purse for her wallet. She didn't immediately find it, which was strange, as her purse was always very well organized. She opened it and dug through it. To her increasing horror, not only was her wallet gone, so was her passport, cell phone and the train ticket the man at the airport had given her. Apparently, during her sleep of the dead she had been robbed blind.

"Oh my god! My wallet and passport are gone! They were in my purse last night, but now they're gone, my cell phone and train ticket too."

The man looked at her, concerned.

"I'm sorry," she apologized, "I guess I won't be having that food after all. Do you know where I can find the police station?"

"I don't think it's necessary to involve the police just yet, do you, Ben?"

At the sound of that cultured, yet slightly foreign accent, Jamie spun around. She gasped; it was the man she remembered from last night! He was huge, she guessed at least seven feet tall. He was wearing a long, black cloak that covered his body but he didn't have the hood on. When she craned her neck up to see his face, she screamed.

Chapter Text

In order for Marak to get back to his kingdom from the truce circle, he would have to pass uncomfortably close to elf territory. Their border patrols were like gossipy old ladies – if they saw just one mildly interesting thing happen it would be common news throughout their entire camp within a day. The news that Marak was kidnapping a human girl, not to marry, but to give to someone else to marry, was not something he wanted circulating the elf King's camp. It was humiliating enough that his own kingdom would know of it within a week, but if the elves were to find out also, his pride might never recover. Not to mention, he would lose all respect. All hope of a treaty favoring the goblins would be gone.

So it was unfortunate that he ran into a border patrol when he passed the elves' border. And not only a border patrol, but a group of women picking some type of red berries off a nearby tree. Really, berries? By the sword, you'd think they were treehuggers or some such nonsense. Come to think of it, they were pretty close. Anyway, berries or no, it was hard not to notice a seven foot tall, dark blue goblin trudging by with a little human girl thrown over his shoulder. Their silent, wide-eyed stares followed him as he passed.

"What?" he barked at them in elvish, and the women jumped. "Is it really that odd for a goblin to be walking through the forest with a human over his shoulder?"

"Wait, goblin King!" It was the guard in the border patrol. When Marak stopped and turned to look, he saw, to his irritation, that it was the same guard to whom he had returned the little elf girl last night. "I wanted to thank you again for returning Igira. Also, Aganir has requested a meeting in the truce circle on the full moon."

"Tell him I'll be there, with my adviser and my lieutenant."

"And your wife?"

There was a long silence while Marak seethed over the foolish elf's impertinent question. Then, in a voice filled with unspoken menace, he quietly replied, "Perhaps, perhaps not. But let me give you some advice, elf." The word was spit out as if it were an insult. "Mind your own business, and speak of this to no one. That applies to you too," he added to the wide-eyed women who had witnessed the entire exchange. Then Marak turned and walked on in the direction of the entrance to his kingdom.

Still paralyzed and draped over Marak's shoulder like a sack of potatoes, Jamie had witnessed the entire exchange between Marak and the elves. Well, heard really – from her position, all she could see was Marak's back. Unfortunately, hearing it didn't really help when she couldn't understand what they were saying. She couldn't even identify the language. She'd always been awful with languages. She knew English and that was it. Whatever Spanish she'd learned in high-school was already wiped from memory, mostly due to lack of use.

But, language skills aside, Jamie was furious at the way she was being treated and trembling in fearful anticipation of what was to befall her. At least, she would have been trembling if she wasn't a paralyzed sack of potatoes. She seethed in rage again at her predicament. The combination of rage, fear and helplessness certainly wasn't helping to calm her down. In her mind, she let loose a string of four-letter words even a sailor would have been impressed by. All of them directly involving the blue neanderthal currently occupied carrying her who knows where.

After about five minutes of alternating between swearing and wanting to cry, they finally arrived at their destination. From her unfavorable position, all she could see was that she and Marak appeared to be walking through a rock wall. Directly inside the illusory wall, she could just see from her upside-down position, that the room they were in now was filled with mirror. The effect was very disorienting and when combined with her uncomfortable position it was extremely nauseating. She quickly closed her eyes, but not before noticing that Marak seemed completely unaffected. But then, he wasn't being bounced, upside-down over someone's shoulder.

Thankfully, the next time she peeked through her lashes, they were out of the mirror room. Suddenly, a deep voice said something and Marak stopped. She still couldn't understand it, but the language seemed subtly different from the one she had heard spoken in the forest. Whatever had been said, Marak returned in kind, and she heard the creak of hinges, that voice again, and suddenly they were moving again. It was strange hearing Marak's deep voice and feeling it vibrate his chest where she was pressed against it.

She caught glimpses of beautiful stone statues and carvings in the raw, unfinished cave walls. Then there were polished stone walls and marble floors. The marble floor turned into marble stairs and she was bounced even worse than before as Marak went up staircase after staircase until he finally arrived the floor he desired. Greetings from people she couldn't see followed them the whole way. They were not returned. On this floor, the floor was still the same polished marble, but the walls had beautiful carvings and precious stones were set within them.

At last, they came to a door which Marak opened and proceeded inside. He dumped her on a bed and left without a word. She noticed the paralyzing spell was gone, so she slowly sat up and looked around. The room was very large and also very beautiful, if a little sparsely furnished. The walls contained more carvings and gems than the walls outside, and to top it off, they were hung with intricate tapestries.

The bed she was sitting on was huge. It had to be at least four feet high. It was about as wide as a king bed but it was more than eight feet long. She would be swallowed up in a bed this big. It was covered in soft blankets of a strange, stretchy fabric. The blankets were black, just like his cloak. She got up off the bed and explored the large room. She found a dressing table, with a mirror and seat and a brush and comb. She also saw a large wardrobe, but didn't open it.

At the back of the room, she saw another door. Opening it, she found bathroom, not unlike the bathrooms she had had experience with. It looked like a bathroom one might find in Germany – extremely efficient and clean. The bathtub was the exact opposite from the rest of the room, though. It was positively opulent. It was basically a giant jacuzzi. Six by six feet wide and about five feet deep, with built in seats all around the sides and stairs leading in.

Jamie wondered whose room she was in. It must be someone awfully important, considering the overall opulent extravagance of the room. She was rather afraid of what would happen when she met the original occupant. Perhaps that was goblin Marak had picked out for her to marry. He did say his chief adviser wanted a wife, so it was probably his room. She wandered over to the window, pulling back the drapes, which were very thick and heavy. The drapes gone, she was treated to a breathtaking view of the goblin kingdom through a window without glass. She stuck her head out the window and saw that the cave stretched for miles in a bowl-shaped valley, dimly illuminated by thousands of lights, twinkling near the cave ceiling. They didn't seem to be powered electrically, as they weren't connected to anything that she could see.

Directly below the windowsill, she could see the wall of the structure she was in, presumably the palace, and hundreds of feet below, she could see a large town nestled against the wall. Throughout the cave, there were many other towns, connected by roads and canals. There was also a wide, underground river that winded through the valley, with several bridges over it. Looking at the town below her, she noticed that the houses were carved directly from the rock. This was very noticeable because the tops of the structures didn't rise above the cave floor. They were carved right out of the floor!

Looking at the cave walls, she could see hundreds of huge, beautiful terraces filled with soil and plants - some of them flowers, some of them more edible varieties. Somehow, these plants were happily growing underground, with no sunlight. Also on the walls, very near the surface, there were large sections carved, no from rock, but from soil. There were long, winding staircases leading to them from the cave floor. Housed within them, she could see hundreds of thousands of little white things, which she finally realized were sheep, happily grazing on, miracle of miracles, grass! It must be magic that made the grass and the plants from the terraces grow underground. The sheep seemed pretty content, too.

Jamie walked back to the bed, lying down on her back, but not sleeping. She tried to feel some fear at her current, rather precarious situation, but all she could think was that she was in Narnia. This was Aslan's How, after all. Stone table, anyone?

As Marak closed the door to his apartments, where he had left Jamie, he saw his lieutenant, Nabusar, approaching. The goblins literally glowing, white hair contrasted with his pitch black skin. He had beautiful, sky-blue eyes, but his feet were like a cat's hind paws, only without fur. His hands were normal, apart from the short, white claws at the fingertips. He also had black fox ears. But despite his distinctly goblin characteristics, he was still rather elf-pretty.

"Marak, there you are! I've been looking for you," Nabusar greeted him. "What's this Sheddura's been telling me about you getting married." He raised an eyebrow. "Was that your wife you just dumped in your bedroom? Shouldn't you wait until after the wedding for that?" The insinuation was not lost on Marak, nor was it appreciated.

He scowled and answered, "I was planning on getting married, but it appears that my chosen bride doesn't want to cooperate. So, upholding my vow to have a willing wife, I am respecting her wishes and not forcing her to marry me."

"Then, I repeat, what's she doing in your bedroom?"

"Like I told her, just because I don't want to marry her doesn't mean another goblin won't," Marak replied, parroting his words from the truce circle.

"You weren't hoping I would marry her, were you?" Nabusar's apalled tone implied that he hoped that was not Marak's intention.

Marak laughed. "Don't worry, Nabusar, I know how much you want an elf bride. I wouldn't force that spoiled brat in there to marry you. Sheddura, though..." Marak grinned, and Nabusar smiled slightly. "Anyway," Marak continued, sobering somewhat, "In the worst case, there are plenty of strongly elvish goblins in the guard."

"Yes, you could always give her to Tabucal, seeing as you still haven't returned his armband," Nabusar replied in a tone that managed to be both droll and censuring at the same time.

"Armband?" Marak scowled as comprehension dawned. "Damn. I forgot all about that. I was just about to get it when I saw that girl, and then I was too busy thinking of how to get her to marry me to think about it."

"Yes, about that..." Nabusar paused. "Are you sure you want to give her up? I know, your vow and all that, but still, you went to all that trouble... It seems like you really like the girl. Wouldn't it be a waste to give her to some guard?"

Marak was silent for long minute. Finally, he replied. "I will not go back on my vow. But," he added, "if she changes her mind before I find another goblin for her, I will marry her."

"Well, I suppose that is something, at least," Nabusar said, still disgruntled over the whole strange affair. It wasn't natural for a goblin, let alone a King, to care so much about his bride's willingness to marry him. That was the kind of attitude that endangered the survival of the species. It was the kind of thing an elf would do, but certainly not a goblin. Nabusar had never been happy with Marak's vow to find a willing wife, but he had kept silent, as no problems had arisen. Until now, that is. It was possible that Nabusar might have to take things into his own hands. If the girl didn't change her mind, perhaps he would take on the responsibility of informing her what might happen to her if she continued to refuse Marak.

Both of them still troubled by these new events, Nabusar and Marak parted ways; Marak, to go about finding a new husband for woman he had intended to be his bride, and Nabusar, to ensure that Marak's husband-finding efforts were unnecessary.

Chapter Text

Sheddura was in his apartment studying the latest reports from London. There was little information of note, nothing except a report that the storm had finally abated, which he already knew. He slouched in his chair, back aching from leaning over his desk for so many hours. At that moment, he heard a sharp rap on his door.

"Come," he called.

The door opened and Nabusar walked in. He looked around the mess in Sheddura's study, then looked back at Sheddura. Not for the first time, Sheddura wished he had a wife. Besides staving off the loneliness that had become a constant ache in his chest, perhaps she could help him keep his study clean for visitors.

"Nabusar, did you want something?" His voice was a deep growl, indicating his irritation at the unexpected visit.

Nabusar raised an eyebrow at the growl. "Who stepped on your tail?" he asked the King's furry adviser.

Milsheddura, more commonly known as Sheddura, looked a lot like a cat. He was covered from head to paw in brick-red fur, apart from his mouth, his head was a tiger's head. His feet were a cat's hind paws, complete with four inch claws. He also had a long tail, about four feet long and a brighter red than the rest of him. Unlike most tigers, however, he had sharp horns all along his spine, with small horns on his tail. A more common trait that he shared with a lot of goblins was a mouth filled with pointy teeth. Marak had this also. His most unique trait was his eyes. They were a glowing, orange-gold and gave the impression that he could see into one's soul. They had played a big part in earning his name.

"Nothing," Sheddura waved him off. "Why are you here? Do you have a request of the most exalted chief adviser? If you do, you'll have to get in line, because everyone else does too." He laughed.

"I just thought I'd warn you what Marak will undoubtedly ask of you," Nabusar replied lightly. "And yes, I do have a request – for some advice, and perhaps a little help."

"A warning, eh? Please, continue," Sheddura urged him. "Then we'll see about your advice."

"You know how you just told me a few hours ago about Marak finding a bride?" he began. Sheddura nodded. "Well, I just saw him dump his bride into his bedroom." Sheddura's cat eyes sharpened, his interest piqued. He told me she refused to marry him, and you know all about his stupid vow, so he brought her here so he wouldn't have completely wasted his time. He intends to find her another husband, and he considers you prime material."

Sheddura was silent for moment. His expression was contemplative. "Well," he said at last. "That's... interesting."

Nabusar scowled. "Interesting? Marak's stupidity just cost him the first bride ever to catch his discriminating eye, and all you can say is 'interesting'?"

"Don't shout at me. It is interesting." He saw that Nabusar was about to explode again and quickly continued. "Okay, so Marak is being an idiot. What do you want me to say?"

Nabusar sighed. "Not a total idiot, fortunately. He agreed to marry her if she changed her mind before he found her another husband."

"Ah. But that is useless unless..." He paused and looked Nabusar in the eye. Comprehension dawned. "Unless you plan to change her mind for her," he finished slowly. "Is that what you wanted my help and advice about?" he guessed discerningly.

Once again, Sheddura had managed to discomfort Nabusar with his near mind-reading skill at reading people. "Yes," he admitted. "I was merely planning to inform her of how much better off she would be as Marak's wife."

"Well, you'll certainly have to do more than that. If this girl had the gall to refuse Marak himself, odds are it will take more than a 'realization of her situation' to convince her that marriage to Marak is a good idea."

Nabusar was surprised at Sheddura's sincere agreement, eagerness even, to follow his plan. He raised an eyebrow. "You sound awfully enthusiastic about intimidating your future queen. Aren't you worried she'll hold a grudge?"

Sheddura laughed. "She'll have to marry Marak to be able to do anything about it. And anyway, I'm not the one she'll hold a grudge against. You're the one who'll be threatening her."

Nabusar scowled. "It's her fault," he defended himself. "If she'd just agreed to marry Marak, we wouldn't even be having this conversation."

"Whatever you say."

Nabusar rolled his eyes and muttered, "Childish imbecile," as he left the cluttered study.

Jamie, in her extreme boredom, had finally remembered the armband in her pocket, that she had picked up on the floor of her room at the Hall. She took it out and examined it, figuring it must belong to Marak. He must have dropped it when he was in her room stealing her money and ID. Bastard.

The armband was covered in gold-embossed characters. They were like nothing she had ever seen. She thought they might be writing, but for all she knew, they could be completely meaningless and for aesthetic purposes only. The door opened just then, without warning. The man that entered wasn't like anything she had ever seen either. He padded in on hairless cat's feet, his bright, blue eyes glittering when he noticed the armband she was holding. She tried to put it out of sight before he noticed, but he stopped her and took it, holding it up.

"Where did you get this?" His voice was soft and not at all angry. To Jamie, it was terrifying.

"N-nowhere," she stammered.

He looked down at her on the bed and said, "This belongs to one of the King's Guard. Marak used it in a spell last night. Where did you get it?"

"It was under my bed at the Hallow Hill Hall," she blurted out, shrinking under his burning regard.

He seemed to accept her explanation and was silent for a moment. "I apologize, I forgot to introduce myself. I am Nabusar, Marak's lieutenant and military commander."

"Jamie Brookes," she almost whispered. He inclined his head briefly in a respectful gesture.

He was silent again and seemed to be considering his next words carefully. Finally, he said, "I hear you refused to marry Marak." When she didn't respond, except to frown at him, he continued. "I don't think you fully comprehend your situation. Do you have any idea how rare it is for a goblin King to wait for consent from his chosen bride before marrying her? It hasn't happened in over a thousand years. Such behavior is considered suicidal, especially from a King. The King supports the magic of our entire race and thus his most important duty is to create an heir. What do you think would happen if a King decided he needed consent from his wife and as a result never married? Our race would go extinct without a King. So, Jamie Brookes, what makes you think you can refuse to marry our King and get away with nary a scratch? If you think the worst that will happen is your marriage to another, you are sadly mistaken." He paused. "He plans to marry you to one of the guard. I command the guard, did you know that? " He leaned close and his expression became menacing. She shivered. "I promise you, if you don't tell Marak you've changed your mind and want to marry him, I will make your life a living hell. You can be sure of that." He leaned back, adding, "And don't think Marak will rescue you. After all, since you rejected him, why should he care what happens to you after your marriage? Just think about it," he finished, turning to leave.

Jamie thought like mad. Was she really doing the smart thing? It appeared her refusal, which seemed rather childish now, had gotten her no more than marriage to a lowly guard and an enemy for life. Unfortunately, her new enemy seemed to be distinctly more powerful than her future husband. Besides which, it appeared the entire race, including her husband, would hate her for refusing to marry Marak. Marak himself admitted he was angry enough over her refusal to be petty, did that mean he too would try to make her miserable? Her decision was getting decidedly easier.

"Wait!" At her call, Nabusar stopped, his hand on the doorknob. He turned to face her, his expression blank. "I'll do it. I'll marry him." Nabusar grinned, showing a mouth full of pointy, black teeth. Jamie didn't know it then, but that was the first time he had grinned at anyone in years.

"I'll tell Marak the good news. But it's him you'll have to convince, not me." And with those ominous words, he turned and left, quietly shutting the door behind him.

Not 20 minutes later, Marak burst into the room without knocking, making her jump. He loomed over her on the bed.

"Nabusar just told me he came to talk to you and you told him you'd changed your mind and want to marry me," he informed her. "Is that true?" She nodded. "Well, that was fast. What changed your mind?" His tone was suspicious.

"A lot of things," she said quietly. "Nabusar told me you wanted me to marry a guard. I thought about it, and it seems stupid now to refuse to marry a King only to have to marry a guard instead. I thought you should know, I didn't refuse you because I didn't want to marry you, although your stealing from me certainly made the decision easier. I refused you because I don't want to marry at all. But, seeing as how that's not an option anymore, I don't see anything wrong with marrying you. But that's all," she added, and he raised an eyebrow. "You still kidnapped me, so don't think I'll be falling in love with you or anything."

"That doesn't bother you? Marrying someone you don't love?" He sounded only mildly curious. It was obvious he had already accepted her consent and beyond that, it didn't matter whether or not she loved him.

"Most people would crucify me for saying this, but I believe in marriages of convenience." He looked surprised and she added defensively, "Look, when people marry for love, most of the time they end up getting a messy divorce. You need more than love to build a marriage on. Being compatible is a good start. Finances are also a big issue."

"I'm not sure I agree, although certainly, some goblins would. But, the important thing is that I have your consent. I think it would be best to have the wedding now, rather than taking the chance that I might lose it," he finished dryly.

Jamie looked at him in surprise and her face fell. "Now? But don't you have to make some kind of preparations? A wedding dress and stuff?"

"No, it will be tonight. I'm sure my subjects will be happy to work hard and have their queen all the sooner. Besides," he added, smirking at her. "There have been shorter notices. Come, I'll start preparing you for the ceremony."

Chapter Text

Jamie shivered as Marak led her down the seemingly endless staircases. They were going to a special room in order to "prepare" her for her wedding ceremony. Jamie didn't like the sound of that, but there was nothing she could do. She had already given her consent and she doubted that Marak would let her take it back. Not that she wanted to. Nabusar's threats had effectively killed most of her resistance to this wedding. There was still some, but it was so small as to insignificant. It was useless anyway. Resistance is futile, she thought with an inner giggle, aptly quoting a famous Star Trek episode.

She was drawn from her thoughts of doom and gloom when she realized they had, at last, reached their destination. The hallways were much less polished in this section, she noticed. The windows had disappeared many floors up. Their destination, it turned out, was a small, cave-like room. Where the hallways had been lit by torches and lamps, this room was completely dark. Marak made a motion with silver hand and suddenly there was a little ball of fire, about a foot in diameter, floating above his palm. He lifted his hand up and it floated up to the ceiling, showing the room's extremely sparse furnishings.

To the far side, there was a table-high ledge with four golden circlets on top. There was also a strangely shaped golden goblet with dark liquid in it. The goblet was normal except for a whistle-shaped protrusion from the rim. Next to the table, there was a chair-shaped rock, also carved from the floor. To the right, there was a small inner door. Marak walked to the door and conversed briefly, in goblin, with someone beyond the door who she couldn't make out, due to the dim lighting.

Marak motioned for her to sit down in the chair while he went to the door they had entered through and closed it. He laid his hands on it and it shook and clanked, making her jump.

"I'm just locking the door," he told her, noticing her surprise. "Most of this ceremony, including it's preparation, is based on tradition and ritual," he explained. "So, some of the things happening might seem unnecessary, but we must take precautions anyway. Often, there is an elf bride involved, usually one who is extremely magically gifted. She can also have very powerful relatives, usually not very happy about the elf being kidnapped and married to the goblin King. The door is locked as a further obstacle to forestall them until the ceremony is over."

He walked over to her chair and knelt down, untying her shoes and taking off her socks, before picking up two of the golden circlets. He pulled each one in half then reconnected them around her ankles. They reattached seamlessly, shrinking to fit the contours of her ankles exactly. He did the same with the other two circlets around her wrists, saying, "These bind you both magically and physically. Again, perhaps a tad unnecessary, but it's the ritual. And who knows? Perhaps you are part elf and have a bit of magic in you after all. Doubtful, but possible."

Finished with the shackles, he moved on to the goblet. "What is that?" she asked suspiciously.

"This will take away your words. Not your voice," he added, seeing her face. "You can scream, yell, whatever, but you can't form words. It prevents you from performing most spells."

She looked curiously at the strange whistle shape on the rim. "What's that for?" she asked, pointing at it.

"Well," he drawled with an evil grin. "In most cases, Kings' chosen brides are not exactly willing to go through this ceremony. If you refused to drink it, I would grab your hair pull your head back." He demonstrated, making her yelp. "Then I would take the cup and, were you to clench your teeth, this part of the cup would force your teeth open and pour the liquid into your mouth." He fit the cup between her teeth like so, but did not pour the liquid in. "It only has to touch your tongue to work." He released her hair and handed her the cup.

While she drank it slowly, grimacing at the bitter taste, he explained more about the ceremony. "From the moment you leave this room, no one will speak to you in your language. You will be directed wherever necessary, forcibly dragged if necessary, although hopefully not, as you did consent to this. No one, except perhaps myself, cares about your feelings in this. After the ceremony, however, you will be accepted as one of us, a goblin, and my people will adore you, almost unquestionably. Whatever you do, they will try to mimic. You can lead fashions, hairstyles, anything. But only after the ceremony. You're not queen yet. Once you are, there is literally nothing except death, on either side, that can undo our marriage. There is no divorce between the King and his wife." Then he grinned, saying, "Now, let's get you to the women. I'm sure they're eager to do their share of the preparation."

At those ominous words, he led her barefoot through the inner door where she could see what looked like a huge spa and beauty salon combined. Goblins, she assumed they were women, swarmed upon her immediately. Her last sight of Marak showed him winking at her as he slipped through another door, locking it behind him. She noticed the women were wearing human-style clothing, some even had jeans on, though most wore dresses.

The women carried her bodily to a large bathtub, not unlike the one in the bedroom she had been in before. They soaped and shampooed and conditioned her, cooing in admiration of her long, curly hair, before hustling her out and drying her off. She was then laid on a massage table where a hulking woman rubbed oil all over her. The oil was an overpowering scent which she couldn't name. They also shaved her legs and her bikini line, magically and painlessly. Jamie was embarrassed at first, at all the things they were doing to her, all while she was naked, but she forced herself to get over it.

Once they had massaged oil into every pore, they pushed and shoved her over to a dressing table. They gave her some (very) skimpy underwear, a white thong. Then, to her surprise and extreme discomfort, they produced a whalebone corset that looked like it came out of the 18th century. They put it on her and laced it up tightly, making her breathe shallowly. After this, they sat her in a chair while one goblin painted black symbols onto her arm. They looked similar to the ones on the armband that Nabusar had taken. At the end of every line of symbols, the woman painting her arm put one drop of some kind of oil on the line and one symbol turned gold while the women cheered. After about ten neat lines, they stopped. Finally, they moved on to the dresses, with her resistance much lessened due to her restricted breathing.

There were about ten dresses to choose from, but they didn't want her to choose. The women picked up various different dresses, putting them in front of her and critically examining how they enhanced, or detracted from, her appearance. Finally, after much squabbling, they settled on one. It was midnight blue, about the color of Marak's skin. It was strapless and hugged her figure (and the corset) until past her hips where it flared out at mid-thigh, finally ending at just below the knee. The material was unquestionably silk, and not very thick at that. If the lighting were brighter, it might have even been see-through. The dress was unadorned, but that just seemed to work in its favor. When she looked into the mirror with the dress on, she truly felt beautiful.

Next up, her hair needed to be done. They put it up in an extravagant updo, leaving out one lock of hair at the back of her neck. They put on mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow and lipstick, but no foundation or blush or even concealer. They left her nails unpainted also. In her ears, they placed gold earrings. They tugged the long lock of hair to drape down the front of her neck. At last, she was ready. Barefoot, but ready. She felt a a large amount of trepidation about the ceremony, but she ruthlessly suppressed it.

The women pushed her towards the third door in the room, where there were two guards in golden armor waiting. They attached two gold chains between the circlets on her ankles and wrists, then motioned for her to move forward, so she walked through the door with them flanking her. They went through a long, low tunnel, finally emerging in a huge, semi-circular stadium that was filled to overflowing with goblins of all shapes and sizes. She was on a long stage, set along the straight part of the semi-circle, with the goblins to her left. Jamie did her best to ignore the goblins, as they only increased her nervousness.

On the stage, there were two tables, each lit with torches. Marak was facing her about twenty feet away. His attire gave her pause. It was from the early 19th century, with a black pirate shirt that had ruffles down the front, but it was open, showing his blue chest. He was also wearing black trousers tucked into hessian boots. Finally, he wore a black cloak with more gold symbols, like those on her arm. Overall, a striking ensemble.

When Jamie stepped out onto the stage, all the goblins cheered loudly. On the black floor of the stage, there were four squares of sand with one symbol each written into the sand. As she stepped on them, the letters writhed and blew away. When Jamie reached Marak at the first table, her anxiety increased tenfold. There were three golden knives on the table, along with a few other things.

The guards placed her hands, palms up, into brackets on the table, then took the chains and stepped back. Marak took a paintbrush from the table, dipped it in gold ink, and wrote a symbol on her forehead. The paint felt refreshingly cool on her hot forehead. That done, Marak smoothed her palms down on the table, tracing her lifeline with his thumb. When he stopped, she found that her hands were paralyzed. Then he picked up two of the golden knives and held them above her wrists. Her eyes widened.

Suddenly the knives came down, cutting two long lines from the centers of her palms to the bends of her wrists. She hissed in pain, tears coming to her eyes. Marak dropped the knives and tore her wrists from the brackets, holding them above a small bowl, letting the blood drip into it. Then he thrust her hands into a pot of water. Strangely, the water felt like acid on her wounds, and she nearly burst into tears. Finally, he pulled her hands out of the water and she found that the bleeding had stopped. He put her wrists back into the brackets and then took up the last knife. She braced herself for more pain, but he cut his own wrist over the bowl instead. His blood was a clear, dark brown, but it had silver swirls in it.

He sprinkled some powder into the bowl and the blood started to swirl around inside. It rose into a tall, red cloud of smoke a couple feet high. Oddly, there were some disappointed noises from the crowd. Marak, however, looked pleased beyond measure. The smoke faded away and left a blood-red cream that was like frosting in texture and thickness. Marak dabbed his fingers in and smeared the cream over her wounds healed and stopped hurting. All that was left of the cuts on her palms were two, iridescent, blood-red lines. The crowd fell silent as Marak studied the lines on her palms. They were both of equal length and uninterrupted. Marak looked up and said something to the crowd and they cheered so loud, Jamie thought her eardrums would burst.

The guards approached again and reattached the chains to her wrists and ankles, before tugging her over to the next table. There was a cushion on the floor, which she knelt upon, and two brackets on tall rods above her head, which her wrists were attached to. There were cuffs that attached just above her elbows also. There were several things on the table, but what caught her attention was the five foot, golden sword lying upon the table. All kinds of possibilities raced through her mind, but she relentlessly assured herself that they wouldn't kill her after all this trouble.

Marak set a magical flame on a large golden plate, then took golden scissors and a small bowl and cut three of her fingernails into the bowl followed by three of his own. Oh well, her pedicure was looking bad anyway. Marak dumped the nails into the fire on the plate, then cut off the long lock of hair hanging down her neck, followed by a lock of his own hair, a red piece. These he also fed to the flames. He picked up a large needle and another golden plate, and before she could clench her fists, he pricked her finger, making her flinch, and squeezed a few drops onto the plate, before doing the same to himself.

Then, Marak took the plate with the blood and held it upside-down over the plate with the flames, letting them lick off the blood. The flames suddenly disappeared, leaving behind a little bit of silvery ash. Marak rubbed the ashes over the long sword, and it gave off a sound like a bell. He picked it up and walked over to Jamie, an evil grin on his face and his silver hand and eye glowing. He whirled the sword once over his head, then brought it whistling down on her head. Jamie couldn't help herself, she screamed, long and loud, as she watched the sword bearing down on her head.

She couldn't see exactly what happened, but she felt metal slide over her head and down her back, finally settling on her shoulder. She gasped when she saw a long, gold snake rear it's head in front of her face, swaying back and forth as if hypnotized. Its scrutiny finished, it looped once around her left arm, twice around her shoulders and once around her neck, finally coming to rest with its head right on her sternum. Then, as she watched, enthralled, it flattened into her skin, becoming no more than a golden tattoo. She stared at in shock, and the crowd went wild, cheering, whistling, screaming and stomping with abandon.

Chapter Text

As Marak led a rather shell-shocked Jamie up to his apartments, he considered the ceremony and all that had happened during it. He had just finished taking off her shackles and giving her the antidote to the drink that took away her words. He was very pleased that his bride was a pure human. It would stabilize the magic of the race, making it less elvish and more goblin, like it should be. She would also acclimate to life in his kingdom much more easily, without those foolish elf dreams of dancing beneath the full moon. Marak remembered how he had purposely scared her with the sword, grinning and making her think he was actually going to slice her in half. He grinned again, remembering. He was amazed at how much he enjoyed teasing Jamie. Usually, only his lieutenant and adviser had that singular privilege.

Marak thought about the moment Jamie had emerged from the tunnel onto the stage. She had been so beautiful in that dress. Now he wondered what was underneath it. He knew he probably wouldn't find tonight, maybe not for a long while. Marak was not oblivious. He knew his bride wasn't completely willing and he had seen through her excuses for changing her mind. Marak was almost positive that Nabusar's visit to her had not been completely innocent. Whenever Marak did something that Nabusar thought was unwise, his ruthless lieutenant always took it into his own hands to correct it.

Most of the time, Marak would be irritated, but he rarely took him to task about it, mainly because he usually recognized that Nabusar was in the right. He wasn't Marak's lieutenant for nothing. Now was no exception and Marak was content to let things lie. He would accept his wife's reluctant consent without questioning it, mainly because he wanted her so much. And yes, he had perhaps been a tad foolish, naive even, to have such a high requirement for a wife. Still, it had worked out in the end. He had a wife that made him happy, and she... Well, what mattered what she thought anyway? She was married to a King, one of the most powerful goblin Kings in history, if not the most powerful. She should be grateful for that much.

Having worked himself into a righteous anger at Jamie, he was a little terse with her once they reached his, no their bedroom. He noticed she was wheezing after climbing so many stairs. Actually, she was almost fainting. Then he noticed the corset through her dress.

"Stand here and turn your back to me," he ordered her curtly, motioning her to stand in front of him in the middle of the bedroom. She wearily complied and he nudged her head down, undoing the buttons in the back of the dress.

Realizing he was undressing her, she began to protest and tried to move away. He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her back, saying, "Hush. You're nearly fainting from that corset, and you can't get it off yourself."

Reluctantly, she allowed him to continue. Done with the buttons, he pulled the dress down her body, ordering her to step out of it. When she did, she almost fell over, forcing him to catch her. They stared into each other's eyes for a moment that seemed endless, before he broke the spell, setting her once more on her feet. He tried to make his touch impersonal, but couldn't stop himself from caressing her exposed flesh lightly. Forcing himself to concentrate, he focused on unlacing her corset, discovering that it was extremely tight. He would be having a talk with those women. Idiots! The wedding wasn't exactly calming. It certainly didn't help to have something restricting her breathing. It was a miracle she hadn't fainted.

While he continued unlacing her corset, which was quite a laborious task, he admired how the snake had wrapped around her. Really, it was quite becoming, the way it had arranged itself. It must be feeling protective, looping around her shoulders so many times. And rather than strangling her by wrapping around her neck five times, it had looped only once, resting upon her breastbone, which was a good sign. All signs during the ceremony had pointed to a long, successful marriage. He hoped they were right.

When he finally finished unlacing the corset, she held it on with her hands, and he motioned her over to the bed. With her back to him, he missed her squeezing her eyes shut and the tears that slipped out, before she forced herself to comply. His gaze was fixed firmly on her derriere, barely concealed by the skimpy underwear she had on. He shook his head to clear it, then went over to the closet. He knew that the weavers would already have a full set of clothes for her, though he didn't know how on such short notice. How wrong he was. The only things available were silk ball gowns. No essentials like everyday clothes or even nightclothes. By the sword, was the entire kingdom conspiring to make sure he got started on making his heir tonight? What was the rush? Perhaps he had been wrong about his subjects' callousness toward her ending after the wedding. It seemed to be continuing past the ceremony, even though she was now one of them. Maybe to them, she wasn't married until... Bloody hell.

Cursing, he slammed the closet shut. On the bed, Jamie jumped. Turning around to face her, he said irritatedly, "It appears the weavers have disappointed me. The only clothing they have completed for you is ball gowns, though why they would think you need those right now is beyond me."

He shook his head, then looked at her and noticed she was still wiping away tears. He frowned worriedly. She thought he was frowning at her and started crying again and this time it was far from silent. He went over to her on the bed, took off his cloak and wrapped it around her. He gently tugged the corset from her grasp and bundled her up firmly in the cloak. Then he pulled her onto his lap, facing him, and rocked her while she cried her eyes out against his chest. Thankfully, he wasn't tempted to do anything more with the scantily clad woman in his arms. Crying was quite a turn off for him.

As she wept on his chest, he began to work a slow, subtle sleep spell. In about five minutes she had stopped crying and was fast asleep, and he had a firm grip on her mind, keeping her soundly asleep. He used another spell and ensured that her dreams were peaceful. In this state, he could drag her into a hurricane and she wouldn't awake unless he released her from sleep. With this in mind, he firmly thrust all inappropriate thoughts from his mind and unwrapped her from the cloak. He took off his own loose shirt and put her arms into the sleeves, a surprisingly difficult task, with her like a limp sack of bones in his arms.

On her, the shirt went down to mid-thigh, although it gaped open on her chest. He used magic to seamlessly join the two sides of the shirt into one, closing the shirt all the way to her collarbone. Then he carried her to the front of the bed and placed her beneath the covers, pulling them to her chin. She rolled to her side, making herself more comfortable. He smiled fondly at her, then the smile faded as he wondered what had caused her to start crying like that.

Then he remembered human wedding customs and realized that what his people had been conspiring towards, she had been expecting. He was insulted that she thought him so cruel as to take an already strained and overwrought woman and tax her even further by consummating their marriage the same night he'd kidnapped her. Not that he didn't want to, but actions counted for more than intentions, and he had resisted, taking for granted that he wouldn't get his wish anytime in the near future. Did she really think him so callous?

Admittedly, she hadn't gotten the best impression of him thus far, but then, he hadn't been really been trying to make her think well of him. He had made a halfhearted effort, but only to get her consent, and obviously that hadn't worked. His lieutenant had ended up threatening her into a reluctant agreement. Perhaps if he really tried, he could make her see the good side of him. He would never be able to give her the sensitivity that a human could have given her. He would always be slightly callous, he was a goblin after all, but considering what she obviously thought about him now, anything would be an improvement.

And he knew exactly where to start. She had left her bags in the village and it was an obvious conclusion that she would want them back. It was nearly dawn now, but tonight, he would collect them personally. He could also think of a few things he could do for her before she awoke, though it meant forgoing any sleep for himself. Ah well, such was life. Married life, to be specific. What a horrifying thought.

Chapter Text

Jamie awoke feeling refreshed, peaceful... and smothered. She was smothered because there was currently 250 pounds of blue goblin that appeared to have rolled on top of her during the night. As for the first two emotions, she had no idea why she was so calm after the events of last night. Especially what happened after the ceremony. Jamie thought she would die of embarrassment when Marak woke up. Had she really balled her eyes out and fallen asleep in his arms? She was also wearing his shirt, had he finished undressing her afterwards?

Jamie groaned and shoved at the huge form on top of her, trying to roll him off. She was unsuccessful and he continued sleeping and crushing her beneath him. She tried harder, trying to roll over so she was on top of him, but all she accomplished was making him shift so that her face was in direct contact with his chest. It was a nice chest, with strong, well-defined muscles. Jamie's objection was that it was obstructing her ability to breathe. Finally fed up, she pulled back the arm that wasn't pinned and slapped him as hard as she could on shoulder.

That got a reaction... Not. He didn't even move. It really was becoming difficult to breathe. Jamie was about ready to scream, hoping that would wake him up, when she felt something tickling her neck and shoulders. She looked down and saw the golden snake separating from her skin and slithering up around Marak's shoulders. As she watched in amazement, it wrapped around his shoulders and pulled him onto his back, whereupon it released him, finally waking up, and reattached itself to Jamie in the same arrangement as before as it became one with her skin.

Jamie was still staring at the snake tattoo in shock when Marak grunted and rubbed his eyes. He rolled off the bed and Jamie noticed that he was still wearing his trousers from last night, though they much the worse for wear. That's when she remembered she was wearing nothing more than a thong and his thin, black shirt. She pulled the covers up in an attack of modesty. Marak noticed and raised an eyebrow, smirking, as if to say, "You got something I haven't seen?"

"Oh, just get out, you asshole!" she shouted with a glare.

He laughed and walked over to the large wardrobe, pulling out a pair of black jeans, which was rather shocking. From what he'd worn at their wedding, she'd assumed these people were firmly stuck in the 18th century. Before the wedding, she hadn't even seen what he'd been wearing underneath the cloak. Besides, jeans just didn't seem like the kind of clothing a goblin King would wear. Well, everyone modernized, she supposed, even goblins who lived in a cave.

Besides the jeans, he pulled out a dark red dress shirt. They both looked like Armani. Finally, he replaced the hessian riding boots from last night with a pair of knee-high, black, soft leather boots with no heel. Then he gave her a parting grin and headed for the bathroom to change.

Before he reached the door, he turned to her and said, "I have corrected the weavers mistake of last night and ensured that you have a full set of clothes. If you prefer your own clothes, I am going to the village tonight to collect your luggage, but until then, it would be advisable to wear the clothes available. Unless you prefer to stay in this room all day attired as you are..." She glared at him and he laughed again and went into the bathroom, closing the door.

She laid back on the bed, not wanting to get up until he left completely. Her doubts about the existence of magic were certainly put to rest. The golden snake had been the clincher. She couldn't think of any way it could have started as a sword, turned into a snake and become no more than a tattoo on her skin twice without magic being involved. She had felt the snake on her skin, seen it pulling Marak off of her. She wondered what it was for.

She wondered for about five seconds until Marak left the bathroom, dumping his dirty clothes into a little chute with an opening set in the wall outside the bathroom. Then he walked over to the door leading out of the room. But rather than opening it and leaving, he leaned against it and looked at her impatiently.

"Well?" he said, motioning for her to hurry up. "I haven't got all day, are you going to get dressed or what?" At her rather dismayed look, he rolled his eyes and continued, exasperated. "Look, I was going to show you around, but if you'd rather stay here all day, that's fine with me."

"You don't have to give me a tour," she said, "I'm sure I can find my way around."

His eyes narrowed. "I don't think so. Not everyone here knows English, and I don't want you wandering around by yourself. You either get dressed and come with me or you stay in here and find some other way to entertain yourself."

"Fine, I'll stay here then. It's better than being around you all day," she sneered.

Marak's hand started shooting off sparks and he gritted his teeth, but after a moment he seemed to suppress his rage and said calmly, "Very well. I will send someone up with food at the appropriate times."

And with that, he was gone, not even slamming the door behind him. Jamie was rather surprised that he had given in that easily. For all the trouble he had gone to to marry her, she wouldn't have thought he'd be happy that she would rather stay in her room all day than be around him. Not that she was actually going to stay here. For starters, escape was still a valid option. She highly doubted her marriage was valid outside of this cave.

With her new goal firmly in mind, she rolled out of bed, shivering at the cold floor on her bare feet. She walked over to the other wardrobe, which she assumed was hers, and opened it, amazed at the large range of clothes available. She picked out a pair of blue jeans, which also looked like Armani, and a dark blue, silk blouse. For shoes, she chose a pair of short, black, soft leather boots, similar to those Marak wore. She also chose some more comfortable underwear. Then she headed into the bathroom, dismayed to find that there was no lock on the door. She decided against taking a bath, even though it sounded heavenly, and instead gave herself a quick sponge bath at the sink, before changing into her new clothes. She was surprised at how well they fit. The "weavers" must really know what they were doing in this place.

Thusly attired, she dumped her clothes down the chute and looked around the room for anything that might help her escape. To her delight, she spotted a black knife sitting on a table next to the bed. It was shaped like a bowie knife and it was over a foot long. This could definitely come in handy during her escape attempt. She grabbed it and stuck in her belt. Satisfied that she at least had a chance at defending herself, she headed for the door. It was locked, but she made use of the knife and after about five minutes, managed to pick the lock. Some of those acquaintances in Cambridge weren't the best sort and they had taught her how to pick locks. Her grandparents had been horrified when they found out she had been hanging out with "hoodies." Jamie grinned when she remembered.

She replaced the knife in her belt and opened the door. She was faced with two guards who, turning to face her, started to lead her back inside. She drew the knife, making them back off slightly, and then made a break for it, tearing off down the hall. They chased her, and she ran as fast as she could, making for the stairs. She made it to the stairs with the goblins falling behind, not being able to sprint as fast as her. Unfortunately, when she looked back for a second to see how far they were behind her, she ran smack into a rock-hard chest.

She almost made him fall down the stairs, but he caught himself and wrapped his arms around her, keeping them both from falling.

"By the sword! What the hell is wrong with you?"

Jamie knew that voice. She knew that black skin, that glowing white hair. Nabusar. Unfortunately, he recognized her at the same moment.

"Jamie? What are you doing tearing down the stairs? Trying to kill yourself already?" he sneered. As she struggled out of his hold, he noticed the knife in her belt. Just then, the guards finally caught up. He raised an eyebrow, eyeing the guards. "Not suicide then? Looks more like an escape attempt. With Marak's knife too." He tsked, shaking his head.

Jamie tried to make a break for it again, but she found that her feet were glued to the floor. Nabusar picked her up in a threshold carry, but rather than returning her to her room, he headed down a few floors. Before he started, however, said something to the guards in goblin, making them look very glum.

They reached a large, fancy door that was guarded by more goblins. They bowed and opened the door and Nabusar strode past them inside the room. It was a good-sized room, with lots of tables filled with maps and strategical instruments, like those you might find in a military base. The door closed behind them and Nabusar deposited her gently in a large, leather chair, in front of a wooden desk. He reached down and took the knife from her belt, before turning away and walking behind the desk.

He sat down in a chair that looked a lot like an office chair and started poring over a map, every now and then writing something down with a quill pen on a piece of paper.

"What are we doing here?" Jamie asked petulantly from the armchair, irritated at having her escape attempt ruined so quickly.

"I am working," he replied without looking up. "You are sitting quietly where you can't get into trouble and waiting for Marak to come pick you up." Finally, he looked at her. "You were doing a splendid job until you started talking. Perhaps you could go back to sulking instead bothering me."

Jamie was quite indignant. "Well, excuse me. It's just your queen wanting to know why she's sitting around doing nothing."

Now he turned his full, cold glare on her. "You are sitting around doing nothing because you refused to go with Marak and decided instead to try out an escape attempt. Speaking of which, I doubt you'll believe me, but that symbol Marak painted on your forehead tells the doors not to let you out. Which makes escape impossible. Unless you've been holding out on us and are the first human King's Wife who can use magic."

"You're right," she said, after a moment. "I don't believe you."

He turned back to his work, with a parting shot. "I'd advise against saying that to anyone else around here. All goblins are honest to a fault and it's highly insulting to call a goblin a liar. You'd be likening them to a human," he added pointedly. "Another thing," he said, looking up again. "You are not my queen. You are the King's Wife, no more, no less. You are highly respected by our race, exalted for your part in the making of the heir, and protected by powerful magic, but you have no real power. The power belongs solely to Marak, a necessity brought about by millennia of unwilling wives. So do not presume to think you have any power over me."

And with that last stinging put-down, he turned back to his work. Before he could write another word, however, the door opened again and Marak walked in, along with a very cat-like man with the face of a red tiger.

"What's she doing here, Nabusar?" Marak asked in goblin, surprised to see his wife there and looking more sullen than ever.

"She decided to try her hand at being an escape artist. She was much better at thieving." Nabusar handed Marak his knife. Marak's eyes narrowed as he took his knife. Nabusar continued. "When she ran into me on the stairs, I figured it would be best to take her here to wait for you and Sheddura so you could carry out your original plan and show her around the palace."

"Probably a wise decision," Marak agreed dryly and Sheddura chuckled.

"You know, there is someone who can't understand your language sitting right here," Jamie interjected, annoyed at being left out of the conversation.

"Hush. I'll deal with you in a minute," Marak promised ominously, before continuing in goblin to Nabusar and Sheddura. "The only reason I called you two here was to tell you that I have scheduled a meeting with Aganir Melam-Anun at the truce circle this full moon. You'll be coming with me, and he should have his lieutenant and adviser with him as well. Tomorrow we can discuss the most advantageous terms we're aiming for in the new treaty."

"When did this happen?" Sheddura asked with a surprised look.

"I ended up returning an elf girl to a member of the border patrol the same night I discovered Jamie. I told him to tell Aganir to schedule a meeting so we could work out a new treaty. Last night, I met the same elf and he told me that Aganir wished to meet this full moon. I agreed."

"Wait," Nabusar interrupted. "You had an elf girl wandering around on our land and you just returned her? You know how much I want an elf bride."

"Oh, you want one bad enough to marry a five year old, do you?" Marak returned cuttingly. "She was young enough that her magic didn't even sense the danger until I was right next to her. Even then, it took me telling her I was the goblin King to get her really scared."

Nabusar looked slightly sheepish. At that moment, Jamie was willing to give her soul to find out what Marak had just said to make Nabusar embarrassed. "Well, I suppose in that case, you did a strategic move, endebting Aganir to us like that." Nabusar admitted.

Marak grinned. "Don't worry, Nabusar, I haven't forgotten about your promised elf bride. With any luck, we can get you one with the new treaty. I should be able to cow Aganir into that much, shouldn't I?" They all laughed. "Anyway, I should be getting on. I still have a tour to give."

They all looked at Jamie, making her squirm self-consciously. "What?" she protested.

Marak walked over to Jamie. "Jamie, this is my chief adviser, Milsheddura."

The red tiger walked over with a smile and shook her hand, saying, "You can call me Sheddura." Jamie smiled tentatively.

"I believe you've already met Nabusar, my lieutenant and military commander." Marak looked very significantly at Nabusar, his way of telling him he knew about his intimidation of Jamie the night before. Nabusar's expression was unchanged, but Jamie acknowledged this introduction with a glare sent Nabusar's way.

"Well, I think we'll be off now," Marak said. "I believe I owe you some punishment, but after that, I've got something you might like." He took Jamie's hand and pulled her out of the armchair.

She resisted. "Punishments? I only did what anyone would do, including you."

"True, but if I don't punish you, you'll think nothing of doing it again. What anyone else would do is irrelevant, it's what you would do that concerns me. There are plenty of other things for you to entertain yourself with besides pointless escape attempts. I have learned from my predecessors mistakes."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Jamie was still resisting being dragged from the armchair.

"In the past, goblin Kings have let their wives exhaust themselves with countless escape and suicide attempts. I realized that it would be much better to catch it early rather than allowing my wife to try endless escape attempts and damage her health in the process. And trust me, the punishment for suicide is much worse than what you'll be getting now." Tired of their tug-of-war, he used brute force to yank her from the armchair and dragged her from the room with a bruising grip on her wrist.

Chapter Text

As Marak dragged her down the hallways, Jamie couldn't decide between feeling anxious or enraged at the thought of this punishment. She was still alternating between these two emotions when she realized they had arrived... at their bedroom? Marak pulled her to the bed and and shoved her down on it, pushing her back when she tried to get up. Then he placed his silver hand on her forehead and she knew of nothing except her dreams.

Well, she would have known them had she actually had any. After an indeterminate amount of time, she awoke to an empty bedroom. The silence was oppressive. Slowly, Jamie rose from the bed and tried the door. It was unlocked and the hallway was empty. Jamie was naturally suspicious, expecting someone to jump on her any minute now, screaming bloody murder. Where was this punishment? Perhaps Marak had been called away before he could do anything.

Whatever. Jamie was vacating the premises post haste. Screw Marak and his punishments. She darted through the hallway and down the stairs, struck again by the oddity of the total emptiness and pervasive silence that extended throughout the palace.

After an enormous amount of stairs, she was wheezing so hard she barely noticed that her surroundings were becoming increasingly familiar. Down the hall, she could see the iron door that had spoken to Marak last night. Good God, had it been only yesterday? Now that she thought about it, it was quite impressive to have been kidnapped, blackmailed and married all in the space of a few hours. If she was successful in her current endeavor, she could add "escape in one day" to that list.

Speaking of escape, hers was made much easier by the fact that the iron door was hanging off its hinges, swinging eerily in the nonexistent wind. Shaking off her growing apprehension, she proceeded through the open doorway, expecting to be greeted with the nauseating mirrors from before. What she found was a lot of broken glass. Jamie was beginning to become panicked. She picked her way through the glass covering the floor in record time and with a reckless lack of caution.

Once she had passed the broken glass unscathed, she sprinted through the illusory wall out into the forest, lit only by a full moon which she failed to notice. She started laughing, unable to contain her joy at the easy victory. She kept running though the forest, not wanting to stop until she was far away from any mythical creatures with a fetish for forced marriages and shameless intimidation of women, not to mention punishments. Jamie squelched the tinge of guilt for leaving Marak and the goblins to their obviously unhappy fate. Briefly, she wondered what had happened to so devastate the palace and leave the streets silent.

Jamie noticed that she had somehow found her way to the "truce circle" where Marak had kidnapped her. Suddenly, she heard shouts from the trees and saw lights coming her way. They burst into the clearing, but they were not at all what she expected. Men and women alike, they all looked like peasants from the early 1700s. They were holding torches and looked for all the world like the lynch mob from hell.

"There she is!" one of them shouted, pointing at her from across the clearing.

"Filthy witch!" another shouted. Soon, the rest of the mob took up similar cries.

"What the hell is wrong with you people?" Jamie shouted, furious at the actions of the mob. "I'm not a witch, you weirdos!" Jamie was became very nervous when she noticed them approaching her purposefully.

"Ha! O' course she's a witch! Who else'd be dancin' skyclad 'neath the full moon? For shame!" This accusation was posed by a particularly grimy old woman with greasy, unkempt hair, who bore a striking resemblance to Jamie's grandmother. The woman pointed at Jamie's body, making a big show out of averting her eyes, as if from nudity.

Jamie glanced down at her body, wondering what on earth the old hag was going on about. To her ever-increasing horror, Jamie saw that she was utterly naked. She gasped, trying to cover herself with her hands.

"It's a little late for that missy! We've caught ye red-handed! Lookit, she's even painted the Devil's symbol on her shoulders. Fancies herself another traitorous Eve, does she?" another man sneered. This one looked a lot like her grandfather.

"Her fate's in God's hands now," her grandmother's dirty doppelgänger said, crossing herself.

"Aye," someone else agreed. "But not before we burn her at the stake, like the Good Book says."

"Yeah! Burn the filthy witch!" This soon became a chant among the mob, soon whipping them up into a frenzy.

Jamie panicked and tried to run, but a man in the mob grabbed her arm, tugging her back. Someone had some rope and tied her hands behind her back. Another gagged her and finally they literally dragged her on her back through the forest with a rope around her neck. At random times, someone would look down and kick her in the ribs or pull her hair viciously. Pinching was also a favored practice.

Finally, with the last of her dignity gone and her screams muffled by the disgusting gag, they reached the end of the treeline. Through vision blurred by tears of pain, she saw a wooden pole surrounded by firewood and bracken as kindling. They dragged her bruised body up to the pole, placing her back flush against it. The rope around her neck was wrapped around and around her body until she couldn't move at all from the pole, then it was tied.

The gag was ripped out of her mouth, and her grandmother's doppelgänger slapped her in face, shouting, "Repent! Pray to the good Lord for forgiveness or ye'll burn, not just on this stake, but in hell for all eternity!"

Jamie spat in the evil woman's face. The old hag's face took on an even crueler expression, and she dropped the torch into the firewood, setting it ablaze. Jamie tried to ignore the intense heat, and started whispering, not to God, but to Marak.

"I'm sorry, Marak. I shouldn't have left. Please, Marak! Don't let them kill me!"

Just before the flames reached her, her vision went black and she could no longer hear the screams of the mob. Then came a feeling like clouds dissipating and she opened her eyes to the ceiling of her bedroom in the goblin King's palace.

She leaped up from the bed as if it burned her, looking around wildly. She noticed Marak was watching her expressionlessly from beside the bed. So none of that had actually happened? She had woken up into a dream? She looked at Marak, getting a nagging suspicion.

"You bastard!" she screamed at him, running at him with her fingers curled into claws, aiming for his eyes. "That's your punishment? How could you do that to me?"

When she flew at him, he caught her, restraining her by hugging her to him. "Jamie, stop!"

But she didn't stop, she struggled and punched and tried to knee him in the groin, but he held fast. Finally, she broke down in tears, her struggles dying down as she sagged in his arms. Marak kissed her forehead and quietly uttered a stream of comforting words, as he sat down in a large chair with her sobbing in his lap. She stopped crying after a few minutes and just sat there in silence. This position was oddly soothing.

"W-why did you d-do that, Marak?" she asked quietly. "Why did you that to me? Were you in the dream, too? Did you enjoy that?" Her voice was getting stronger, more accusatory.

"No, I did not enjoy that," he said succinctly. "But it was a necessary evil." He sighed. "Jamie, that was the best way I could think of to convince you not to escape again without physically hurting you. There is nothing left for you outside of my Kingdom. A few hundred years ago, you could very well have been burned at the stake simply for being my wife. I also have my subjects to consider. What do you think would happen to our race if you, by some miracle, managed to escape and tell everyone about the evil goblins living under the hill?"

Jamie said nothing, just stared off into space. She didn't want to think about being self-sacrificing, she just wanted to be alone. She didn't dare try to escape again. They would probably catch her, and she couldn't go through another punishment like that again.

"Jamie, don't shut me out," Marak pleaded. He actually sounded truly remorseful.

He was remorseful, in fact. After Jamie had broken down crying in his arms for the second time in 24 hours, he had realized what an idiot he was. An insensitive monster, to punish a little girl so harshly just for doing the natural thing. Oh, he knew just how necessary his actions had been, but that didn't make them any easier to swallow.

In the goblin part of his mind, he recognized the harsh reality of the situation. If he hadn't taken the initiative and done what he did, Jamie would still be pining for her old life and planning more escape attempts. It was things like that which caused the birth of an heir to be delayed for years, often decades. Ofttimes, those actions led to the eventual death of the King's Wife involved.

But, in the small human and elf part of his mind, all the logic in the world couldn't stave off his guilt at having terrorized his wife in such a way. Not for the first time, Marak cursed this sensitivity, a "gift" from his elvish ancestors. He dismissed the guilt, quickly becoming exasperated with Jamie's sulking.

Marak rose from the chair, setting Jamie on her feet. Then he led her briskly downstairs a couple (hundred) floors.

"Hey, what are you doing?" she protested. "I'm not going anywhere with you, not after that-"

Marak spun around and looked her in the eye, his own silver eye blazing. "I'm not about to let you mope around in your room just because you got afraid of a nightmare. I don't see you limping and your ribs don't seem to be bothering you. Just think about how much worse you would feel right now if I had given you a physical punishment."

"Emotional pain is still-" she began, but Marak interrupted her, putting his face inches from hers.

"As of now, you are unhurt and no one except you and I know what happened," he said menacingly. "If you want to keep it that way, I'd suggest you stop sulking and come with me."

He took advantage of her shocked outrage to pull her through a door to their destination. Jamie was just about to rip her hand out of his grip and give him a good smack in the nose, but she was stopped in her tracks by the contents of the room.

In the room, there was a complete chemist's laboratory, outfitted with everything she would every need. There was a bookcase in the corner filled with books with titles in goblin, but there were English labels on sections of the bookcase, denoting different categories of research on the molecular and atomic breakdown of various types of materials. On the left side of the room, there was a table covered in maps and what looked like architectural plans and furniture designs. There were notes on the plans for what kind of materials were necessary in building them.

All in all, it was a chemical engineer's dream laboratory. Or as close as one could get while living in a cave with creatures that weren't supposed to exist. She tried to remain unaffected and reject the obvious bribe, but she could already feel tears coming to her eyes.

"It's amazing," she said quietly. "Is this a bribe for my good behavior?" Her tone was bitter.

"Actually, I had intended to show you all this earlier, but things didn't exactly go as planned. You were supposed to accept the tour," he grumbled.

She looked at him, surprised. "I might have been more inclined to accept your tour if you'd left the room to let me dress."

He stared at her in amazement. "That's what you were so upset about? It's tradition for the King to act as lady's maid to his wife. Anything that increases contact between us is considered a good thing."

Jamie rolled her eyes. "I don't need a maid. Even if I did, it certainly wouldn't be you. I don't mind being around you, when you're not being a neanderthalic asshole," she added, making him glare at her. "But I'm not comfortable dressing or undressing in front of you... Yet. Maybe someday, but certainly not after I fell asleep naked in your lap, balling my eyes out, the night before."

"So you threw my generosity back in my face, with a few choice insults besides?" he sneered.

"Well, maybe now you'll remember not to tease a girl when she's just been thoroughly embarrassed. Ever heard the saying, 'don't disturb the hornet's nest?' Next time, take a more cautious approach."

"Whatever," he dismissed her, rolling his eyes. "I'll send Nabusar to help you with anything you need here. Like reading those books," he said pointedly. "You'll need to start learning goblin as soon as possible."

"Wait, not Nabusar-" Jamie's protests went unheard, as Marak was already out the door. "Bipolar caveman," she mumbled.

Chapter Text

"Having trouble?"

Jamie jumped. She had been flipping through various goblin books from the bookcase when she heard a voice behind her. She turned to see her new arch-nemesis, Nabusar. She scowled.

"Even if I am, I certainly don't need your help," she replied derisively.

"I didn't offer it, girl," he sneered back.

"Good," she said, turning her back.

"But," he continued pointedly, "Marak did."

"Too bad," she replied, keeping her back turned. "Why don't you just run along now, little lapdog."

He snorted. "It takes a truly childish King's Wife to insult a goblin for obeying his King."

"Oh, I'm not insulting you for obeying him," she denied, finally facing him. "I'm insulting you for enjoying it so much."

"You think I enjoy this?" he shouted at her. His blue eyes were blazing and his hair was lightning white. Jamie could feel that tickling on her neck again. "Why the hell would I enjoy babysitting an immature King's even more immature wife?"

He clenched his fists and teeth, struggling to control himself. Finally, he turned away, muttering something in goblin. Funny how curse words always sound the same no matter what language they're in. Unfortunately, cursing didn't calm him down one bit. By now, his hair was actually shooting off little sparks of lightning. Without warning, he shouted in goblin again and held his hands up toward an empty stone wall. Blue-white flame shot from his hands in a long stream, making the wall white hot. It lasted about ten seconds, then abruptly stopped. He stood there for a moment, motionless.

If Jamie hadn't been wary of him before, she certainly was now. The goblin was surely insane. Nabusar slowly turned around. His expression was implacable.

"You are a reckless fool," he informed her, enunciating every syllable. "A naïve, childish idiot."

Jamie bristled, in spite of her fear.

"No, don't say anything," he cut her off. "I'm not finished." He sighed, shaking his head. "Marak could have done so much better than you," he said contemptuously. "But his foolish pride and impatience caused him to forsake all reason. A wise King would have waited. He would have gathered more information, ensured that his first choice was the right one, not just for him, but for his people. You see what all his pride has brought him." He sneered at her. "A spoiled, proud, childish fool. You two are a match made in hell."

Jamie sputtered in indignation. "I didn't want to be married in the first place! You're the one who blackmailed me into doing it!"

"Trust me, you have no idea how much I regret that. I should have just agreed to let Marak marry you to me."

"What?" she asked, surprised. "But you said he was planning to marry me to one of the guards," she accused. "So much of for your all your blather about how goblins don't lie."

"I didn't lie, I omitted," he corrected her. "He was planning to do just that... after he asked Sheddura if he would marry you. I was his first choice, but I refused. I was of the opinion that Marak should just marry you and to hell with consent. The survival of our race does not allow for such luxuries. But apparently, being picky with one's choice of bride is more important than I had originally thought."

Jamie was speechless. As far as she could tell, she had just been insulted in every way possible. "Oh, yeah?" she managed. "Well, screw you, jerk. I'm not spoiled or childish and I'll prove it."

"Will you now?" he asked uninterestedly.

"I'll be the best King's Wife ever," she boasted. "I'll make Marak happy and make the goblins love me. And then I'll make sure you get demoted to the worst job in the Kingdom."

"The best King's Wife would befriend every goblin," he snarked. "Even the ones she doesn't like."

"You're the one who threatened the King's Wife," she said, annoyed.

"Ah, but you weren't a King's Wife when I threatened you," he was quick to point out.

"Whatever." She rolled her eyes.

Nabusar was silent for a moment, then he said, "Well, you could never be the best King's Wife without knowing goblin. And as long as I'm here..."

Jamie opened her mouth to give him a stinging set-down, but he forestalled her, saying, "Unless you weren't serious when you made that boast...?"

Her mouth snapped shut and she glared at him. "Oh, fine," she gave in ungracefully. "Where do we start?"

"In my office. I have some books that will help."

Nabusar walked over to the door, opened it and looked back, saying, "Coming?"

Jamie sighed. "Yeah, I"m coming."

Grudgingly, she followed him down the hall and down the stairs a few floors. They reached his office, where he had taken her after stopping her escape attempt. He continued inside, while she stopped at the door, hesitating.

He turned back to her. "What are you waiting for?" he asked, impatiently. "Come on in."

"Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly," Jamie muttered direly. Nabusar's mouth twitched and finally the corners tilted up slightly. Noticing this, Jamie's eyes widened. "Are you actually smiling?" she asked incredulously.

The smile disappeared and he said gruffly, "No, I'm not, now get in here."

She snickered at him, but did finally cross the threshold.

"Sit down over there," he ordered her, pointing at the same armchair he had dropped her into earlier.

She stuck her her tongue out at the back of his head, but complied. He crossed over to a large bookcase behind his desk and drew out a small, leather-bound book. He placed this on the desk while he opened a drawer and drew out some parchment and a few quill pens. She looked at the pens dubiously but he just raised an eyebrow at her.

He sat down at the desk and negligently flicked his hand at her chair. The chair suddenly moved behind the desk, with her in it, until she was sitting next to him. She shook off her surprise and concentrated on what he was doing. Nabusar opened the little book and opened it to a page somewhere near the beginning. As Nabusar began to teach her to read, speak and write goblin, the hours flew by without her noticing. Finally, Nabusar closed the book.

She looked at him, confused. "What are you doing? Are we stopping already?"

He looked at her, amused. "Jamie, we've been studying for over five hours. They'll be serving the evening meal in the banquet hall about now."

"Oh." Jamie was rather embarrassed and surprised that she hadn't noticed the passing of time. Now that she thought about it, her stomach was loudly protesting the lack of food.

"Why didn't we get lunch in here anyways?"

Nabusar's lip curled in disgust. "I'll not have lamb chops spattered all over my desk or greasy fingerprints on my books."

"Hey!" she protested indignantly. "I'm not a messy eater. I never eat with my fingers."

"You do now. Goblins never eat with forks. We consider it sacrilegious and inhumane. It's like killing the animal twice."

"Yuck! I hope you have lots of napkins, 'cause that's disgusting," she stated candidly.

Nabusar merely shrugged. Getting up from his chair, he gathered up the book they had been using and collected some fresh parchment, more quill pens and a full bottle of ink. He took a small container, similar to a briefcase, and carefully placed all the aforementioned items within.

He handed it to her, saying, "We'll drop this off in your new workroom before we head to the banquet hall."

She nodded and they set off up the stairs. They left the briefcase in the lab then went back down the stairs again, heading down several more levels. Jamie was about to complain to Nabusar about the ridiculous amount of stairs in the palace, when they reached a large set of double doors. They were wide open, and Jamie could hear what sounded like a massive crowd of people all talking at once.

When they entered the room, it took no more than 10 seconds for there to be total silence. There were hundreds of goblins within seated at numerous tables, all staring at her. After a moment, Nabusar shouted something in goblin and everyone jumped before quickly going back to their conversations. Jamie was grateful to Nabusar, although she would never admit it. She hadn't thought she was that bothered by the strangeness of goblins, but when they were all staring at her, it had reminded her too much of her wedding.

"What did you say to them?" she asked Nabusar curiously.

"My words were not fit for a lady's ears," he told her sanctimoniously. "You, however, are not a lady. You speak like a sailor from the 18th century."

Jamie snorted. "I'll take that as a compliment. Now tell me what you said," she insisted.

As Nabusar led them to their seats across the room, he leaned down and whispered something in her ear. She raised an eyebrow. Then her eyes widened. Then she burst out laughing.

"Why, Nabusar," she gasped between fits of laughter. "I don't think you're a lady either. You could turn a sailor into a cherry-cheeked young maid."

"Sadly, I cannot. As far as I can see, you're still the same old, foulmouthed sea dog."

This comment did nothing more than send her into another fit of giggling. She was now to the point that Nabusar was carrying her more than she was walking, because she was incapacitated by her laughter.

And that was how Marak saw them approaching his table. Marak raised an eyebrow at Nabusar, a question in his eyes as he motioned toward Jamie. Nabusar just shook his head, a hint of a smile on his face.

"Marak, your wife." Nabusar dumped Jamie in Marak's lap.

She shrieked and tried to glare at Nabusar, but suddenly started giggling helplessly again. Marak, feeling mischievous, had taken advantage of the situation and started tickling her. She tried to curl into a ball, but being trapped in Marak's lap made that more difficult than expected. This continued for several minutes until Jamie was gasping for breath.

"Mercy!" she cried, still giggling. When he didn't stop, only grinned, she yelled, "I call parley!"

Marak stopped momentarily to raise an eyebrow at her. "We're not pirates, Jamie." Then he started tickling her again. She shrieked again.

"No! Stop! Please, Marak!"

"For the love of the First Fathers, would someone silence that obscene noise!"

This outburst, surprisingly to all involved, came from Sheddura. He was seated a few seats to Marak's left and his tiger ears were flattened to his head. Jamie took advantage of Marak's surprise to scramble away and lay gasping on the floor.

"Thank you!" she gasped to Sheddura.

He grinned and winked at her. "You're entirely too welcome, my dear."

"Was that really necessary, Sheddura?" Marak asked, in a dry tone.

Sheddura merely shrugged and went back to his meal and his conversation with the goblin next to him.

Marak shook his head. Turning back to Jamie, he held out his hand to help her up from the floor. She cringed away.

"Oh, no. I'm not getting anywhere near you after that. You have no respect for sanctity of parley."

She got up off the floor, ignoring Marak's grin. Slowly, the very picture of injured dignity, she made her way the chair between Marak and Nabusar. This in turn caused Marak to burst out laughing and Nabusar to actually grin in amusement. Soon, they were all talking amiably. Jamie hesitantly showed off her small knowledge of goblin, which, of course, was mocked into oblivion. It was all in good fun.

After about an hour, Marak dragged a giggling Jamie upstairs again, where they did what all happy couples do after dinner. They played chess. Oh come on, what do you think they did?

Chapter Text

Several weeks passed, and the full moon approached. Jamie started to adjust and life went on. That's not to say that Jamie and Marak didn't have some hellacious fights, but they got along most of the time. That was probably because she spent most of her time with in her new lab or in Nabusar's office learning goblin. She could speak a little of it now, and she knew the most important phrases.

Marak, meanwhile, was debating on whether he should bring Jamie along to the meeting with Aganir. It was in less than a week, and he was rather rushed, having still not decided on the most ideal, yet still reasonable terms of a new treaty. Sheddura leaned toward the reasonable and conservative, while Marak was very willing to throw his weight around and get the most advantageous terms possible. While he and Sheddura argued, Nabusar sat at his desk and ignored them. He was doing the same at this very moment, finishing up his lesson with Jamie.

"Well, why shouldn't we get three wives out of it?" Marak asked angrily. "It's the least those star-gazing fools can do."

"But why should they?" Sheddura argued. "Even if you can beat Aganir in a fight, he doesn't necessarily believe that."

"Oh, he doesn't? Maybe I should prove it to him, then," Marak stated belligerently. He was sick to death of this argument.

"Fine!" Sheddura shouted, exasperated. "Go and start a war, then. It's obviously the only thing that will satisfy you, so why wait?"

"I don't want a war! I just want a good treaty, and I don't see why we shouldn't take advantage of the fact that I'm the most powerful King since Lionclaw."

"Ugh! Shut up!" Jamie shouted at them from the corner. "I'm trying to learn your stupid language and I can't do it with you two screaming at each other! Go and kill each other outside, if you have to."

There was a stunned pause, where Nabusar's smirk prevailed. Then Marak said snidely, "Can you say that in goblin? No? Then keep your thoughts to yourself and stay out of it." He turned his back on Jamie's dropped jaw.

A moment later, some very distinct, perfectly enunciated and sweetly spoken four-letter words were heard from the corner. Then Jamie leaped out of the chair and jumped on Marak. At least, she tried to. Before she landed on him, an invisible force tossed her several feet away, leaving her to land on the floor. Marak spun around, just as Nabusar leaped out of his chair and Sheddura rushed to help her.

Somehow, Marak reached her first, although the other two were actually closer.

"Jamie! Are you alright?" Marak felt her all over for broken bones.

She shoved him away, rubbing the back of her head. "I'm fine, you jerk. What the hell was that?"

"That was my defense magic. It kicks in automatically if someone attacks me."

"Oh, don't tell me, it was a knee-jerk reaction," Jamie said disgustedly.

"It was, actually."

She glared at him. "Help me up," she commanded, raising her hand.

Rather than taking her hand, he simply thrust one hand under her neck and one behind her knees and picked her up. "You said to help you up," he said innocently.

"Shut up. And be careful. You're so tall, I'll probably die if you drop me."

He rolled his eyes. "Well, I think it's obvious that you're not hurt. So much for that." Marak carelessly dropped her back in the chair at the desk.

Nabusar went over and told her they would finish the lesson another time. Always stubborn, Jamie refused to leave.

"I want to know what you guys have been hiding from me. You're always arguing about something in goblin and it's always in this room. So what gives?" She crossed her arms and looked at them expectantly.

Marak sighed. "There's a meeting between us three and the elf King and his lieutenants. It's on the full moon. We're going to discuss a new treaty and we've been trying to decide what terms we're going to push for."

Jamie considered for a moment. "Am I going to this meeting?" she asked thoughtfully.


"So when is the full moon?"

"In five days."

She raised her eyebrows. "That's not very long. Shouldn't you guys be in agreement by now?"

"Yes. We should," Marak said meaningfully.

Sheddura was irritated by this. "That's as much your fault as it is mine. You refuse to see my side of it."

"Are you really going to start this again?" Nabusar asked. "Why not just ask for two wives? You can keep the borders the way they are and agree not to raid the camps for brides."


"Finally given your verdict, Nabusar?" Sheddura inquired amusedly.

"Took him long enough," Marak grumbled. "Fine, we'll go with that, I suppose. Since you're all allied against me. I can tell further resistance is futile," he stated dramatically, causing everyone else in the room to roll their eyes.

"So, am I going, or not?" Jamie asked.

"I don't know, why don't we ask my faithful lieutenants? They seem to be the ones making all the big decisions around here."

"Oh, stop being a drama queen, Marak," Jamie replied exasperatedly.

"Of course you're going, Jamie. If I left you here, you'd probably kill someone with my knife trying to escape again."

"I'm telling you, he made it go through the map." Strangely, this quiet, slightly hissing voice came from a huge, four foot viper. Stranger still, it was speaking to a mongoose.

"How do you know he didn't just turn it into a piece of dirt or something?" the mongoose replied.

"Because Nabusar gave it back to me. He said he'd taken it off of Marak's wife. Where would she have gotten it if not from the Hall, where he put it?"

"Alright, Tabucal. If Nabusar gave to you, I suppose there's no way Marak didn't do it."

"Finally! At least someone believes me. You wouldn't-"

"Shh!" the mongoose shushed him, its whiskers twitching. "There's someone coming!" he whispered. "Come into the tree." He hopped into the tree, Tabucal slithering up behind him.

A moment later, a woman, middle-aged, walked quickly past them. Her face was covered by a heavy, black cloak and she appeared to be heading for the elf border. Her footsteps were very quiet; if the two guards had been human, they would have had no warning of her approach. This led them to believe that she was an elf, which begged the question: what was she doing on goblin land?

Karukeenu, the mongoose, was of a mind to try a surprise attack and question the old woman. Tabucal was more cautious, preferring to follow her and find out what she was doing that way. After a quiet, whispered argument, they compromised: they would follow for a while, but if they found nothing, they would question her. They followed her to the elf border, where she stopped and waited. Karukeenu had almost lost patience and was about let loose a spell, when an elf border patrol came along. The elf's movements were furtive, which was odd. Why should he have anything to hide? He was on elf land after all.

The elf approached the woman, glanced around, then whispered to her in elvish.

"Ele'nura! Still nothing?" he asked her softly.

"No new developments," she replied. "I grow tired of this task. Always dealing with nosy tourists. When will you give me what I need?"

"That's not for me to decide," he said firmly. "You agreed to this. If you want us to honor our side, you'd best honor yours."

The woman looked very angry at the elf's words, but she did nothing. "Very well. I will report back next week."

"That's not necessary," he stopped her. "Your task only lasts for five more days, remember? Come back here then, and you'll get your reward. Not that you deserve it," he sneered at her.

"That wasn't my fault!" she hissed. "I'm not the one who was late!"

"Oh, please! I'm sure there was something you could have done to delay. You were just too lazy to do a simple spell!"

Now she looked spitting mad, ready to hit the elf. "You know nothing! Go back to your friends. I'll be at that disgusting pit of filth," she sneered. "Fulfilling my part of the deal."

She turned and headed back, while the elf sniffed in disgust, before heading back also, in the direction of his camp. The two goblins exchanged glances, silently agreeing on Plan B: attack and interrogation. They leaped out of the tree, landing silently on the ground, several feet behind her. She didn't notice, even when they changed shape, back into their natural forms. Karukeenu was a short goblin, about four and half feet tall, but he packed a punch. He had a relatively normal head and body; his most distinctive features were the rat nose and whiskers, and the light sprinkling of brown fur all over his body.

Karukeenu started to loose a quick paralyzing spell, but before he could complete it, the woman spun around to face them. Suddenly, her body started to lose its shape, her clothes collapsing, empty, onto the ground. A thick mist emerged from the cloak. It formed a humanoid shape, still distinctly female, and stared at them for a moment. While they were staring back, stunned, it drifted away into the night.

Chapter Text

Jamie was running for her life.

She was on the top floor of the palace and working as hard as possible to change that fact. She raced down the stairs, breathing hard. A couple floors down, she dodged around Sheddura who was coming up the stairs, probably to talk to Marak about something. Probably wasn't the best time for that.

"Jamie!" This thunderous roar was heard from the top floor.

Damn, she was hoping to have more time than that. To make it worse, she was already having trouble with the stairs. After this was over, she was going to make Marak put in an elevator. If he didn't kill her first. You wouldn't think he'd have gotten so mad about such a small thing. Well, okay so it wasn't exactly small. But how was she supposed to know he cared about that cloak so much? She'd just wanted to figure out what the golden ink was made out of. She hadn't meant to melt it off.

She looked behind her for a second to make sure he wasn't right behind her. That second was her downfall. While she was looking back, someone else happened to be coming up the stairs at the same speed she was going down. They smacked into each other at what felt like the speed of light.

The goblin she had collided with was very short and that, combined with the difference in elevation – him being lower down on the stairs – caused his head to hit her right in the solar plexus, winding her. When she started to fall down the stairs, unable to catch herself due to the immense pain, the golden snake unwound itself from around her neck and wrapped around the railing and her arm, catching her in an instant.

Jamie could only lie on the stairs, doubled over, clutching her stomach and gasping for breath that wouldn't come. And then Marak was there and he was gathering her up in his arms, murmuring comforting words. He ran his silver hand along her abdomen and the pain lessened until it was almost unnoticeable. Suddenly, she could breathe again. She wrapped her arms around his neck, still shaking from the adrenaline rush.

Now Marak turned his menacing glare upon the hapless goblin Jamie had collided with. There were two, in fact. Marak recognized them, the short one was Karukeenu, and the other was Tabucal, the one whose armband he had used in his experiment. They quailed under his regard.

"You idiots!" he shouted at them. "You almost killed my wife!"

He almost blasted them into oblivion with his seething magic, but luckily for the guards, Sheddura came along at that moment.

"Marak!" he said sharply. "Calm down! It was an accident."

Marak growled, not at all appeased.

"Go take care of Jamie," Sheddura ordered firmly. "I'll take care of this. Go on," he prompted, seeing Marak's hesitation.

Grudgingly, Marak turned and went quickly up the stairs back to his bedroom, leaving Sheddura to deal with the goblins.

Sheddura, always calm when others surrendered to anger, regarded the two guards for a moment before he spoke.

"Well, I suppose the important question here is: what caused you to be in such a hurry that you almost killed the King's Wife?" Contrary to his words, Sheddura actually appeared quite amused with the situation.

"Well," Karukeenu began. "We were on a border patrol last night, see. All of a sudden, this old woman in a black cloak comes strolling through forest, heading towards the elf border. So we followed her, thinking she was acting a little strange. Sure enough, she stopped at the elf border and an elf came along. Only, he was acting strange too. He kept on looking around to make sure no one else could see him. He went up to her and called her Ele'nura, before asking about new developments. She said there was nothing new, then said something about how she was sick of nosy tourists and asked when she'd get what she needed. He told her she had to honor her side of the deal before she'd get her reward. He said her 'task' would only last for five more days, and then she was supposed to report back to that spot to get her reward. They said something else and then he left and she started back the way she came."

"Hm, that is strange," Sheddura commented.

"But that's not all," Tabucal hissed excitedly. "We were about capture with a spell so we could question her, but she saw us. Then her clothes just collapsed on the ground, empty, and this little cloud of mist came out of them. It took the shape of a girl, then floated off and disappeared."

Now Sheddura looked quite alarmed. "You're sure that's what happened?"

"Positive," Karukeenu chimed in, and Tabucal nodded in agreement.

"The full moon is five days," Sheddura said thoughtfully. "Marak must be notified immediately. You two go to Nabusar's office and tell him what you told me. And tell him I'll be along shortly with Marak to discuss this."

Sheddura ran up the stairs, leaving the two guards standing on the landing. They exchanged looks of dismay. None of the guards enjoyed interactions with their military commander.

Fifteen minutes later, Marak and Sheddura came through the door into Nabusar's office. Tabucal and Karukeenu were standing near the wall, waiting, while Nabusar paced the floor. When they entered the room, he immediately addressed Marak.

"What are our plans, Marak? What are we going to do about this Ele'nura?"

"I just heard about this ten minutes ago!" he replied, irritated. "We don't even know who or what she is."

"Don't be ridiculous," Nabusar said. "Of course she's an elf. First of all, her name's elvish. I recognize it. It means 'light above'. Secondly, turning her body into mist could simply be a new spell the elves have invented. Or an old one we've never heard of. And thirdly, what else would she be?"

"But what about the supposed bargain she made with that other elf?" Marak countered. "Something isn't right here. I just can't quite put my finger on it."

"I agree," Sheddura put in. "But what worries me the most about all this is that it all culminates on the full moon, the same night we have our meeting with Aganir. I don't think that's a coincidence."

Marak and Nabusar made noises of agreement, and they were all silent for a moment, each with his own thoughts. Then Marak signaled the guards in the corner.

"Repeat your story again," he ordered. "Tell everything, as much as you can remember, in detail."

The two guards dutifully repeated their narrative, omitting nothing. When they finished, the room was silent again. Then Marak spoke up.

"So she started as an old woman, a human, correct?" Tabucal nodded. "So if she is an elf, apparently they've invented some powerful new spells. Perhaps Aganir Melam-Anun isn't as weak as we thought."

"Describe the woman," Nabusar commanded.

Karukeenu complied. "She was short, about 5'4. Maybe a little plump too. She had light brown, mousey hair, and I think her eyes were green. We couldn't see anything else, because she was wearing a big, black cloak."

"Was it of elf-weave?" Sheddura asked shrewdly.

They shook their heads. "Looked human to me," Tabucal offered.

"Interesting," Marak said thoughtfully. "And it was black, so it certainly wasn't something an elf would wear."

"She was masquerading as a human, why would she wear elf clothing?" Nabusar argued.

"You're missing the point," Sheddura interrupted. "Why would an elf be masquerading as a human in the first place? They're not exactly fans of the race as a whole. It would take a lot to get one of them to submit to the indignity of pretending to be one."

"Maybe for a King's Wife." Everyone stared the the snakeish guard who had made so bold a statement. "I would do it for that," Karukeenu chimed in.

"Tabucal, isn't it?" Marak asked thoughtfully. "And Karukeenu? You're both very intelligent. And you spotted this mystery woman. Nabusar, make sure they're promoted."

He nodded curtly. "I'll see to it."

"So, say Aganir is in search of a wife, what could one elf pretending to be human do?" Marak continued, completely ignoring the guards, who were looking like they couldn't believe their luck.

"Perhaps she could blend in among the humans and choose a suitable bride," Sheddura suggested. "Then, when a decision was made, she could convince them more easily to follow her into the woods. Although I don't quite see why Aganir couldn't do all this himself," he mused.

"It was probably a full-time job," Nabusar said. "He still has to rule his Kingdom, which is even more work because he only recently assumed the throne."

"Let's assume this is the case," Marak cut in. "Why would her task end on the full moon? What could our meeting have to do with this?"

"You're assuming this is all about us. What if he's decided to get married on the full moon, and make do with whatever bride he can?" As always, Sheddura's logic cut short the conjecture that ran wild when Marak and Nabusar were in the same room. "I think we should wait and come to the meeting prepared, but not openly aggressive. We certainly shouldn't bring any extra guards, that might even trigger a war. And I think, between the three of us, we have more than enough magic to defend ourselves and Jamie."

Marak scowled at the name. "I'm not sure what to do about that. I'm reluctant to bring her along after this new information. She would be safer here."

"Come now, Marak. You have more magic than any King in hundreds of years. I think you can protect her. And she needs this. She's been cooped up in here for weeks; the fresh air will do her good. Besides, you've already promised she could come with us. It would be unwise to go back on your word in such a crucial stage in your relationship."

"What are you, a marriage counselor?" Marak mocked.

"Actually, I agree with him, Marak," Nabusar concurred. "She's just begun to trust you. You can't botch it up now."

"Oh, alright. But you two had better stop allying against me. It's becoming tiresome." They all laughed and the tension level decreased a little. "So we'll wait. And while we wait, we'll sharpen our stakes and hone our spells," he added with a grin. "Just let those overweening, pompous featherbrains try something. They'll never know what hit them."

Chapter Text

It was two days before the full moon and the meeting that would determine whether Marak's reign would be a peaceful one. Over the past two days, Marak and Sheddura had been cooped up in their respective workrooms, practicing their defense magic and putting the finishing touches on some nasty surprises for any potential ambushers.

As for Nabusar, he had postponed Jamie's language lessons until after the meeting, and he too had been cooped up in his office. He was honing his magic, yes, but he was also consumed in thought; his mind had eagerly approached the mystery of the woman in the woods and was tackling it with an unmatched zeal. Even though he had suggested it in their emergency meeting three days ago, Nabusar still wasn't convinced that the mystery woman was indeed an elf masquerading as a human. That kind of behavior just didn't fit with what he knew about elves. In his experience, they were totally scornful of both humans and goblins, preferring to seclude themselves in their woodland camps, doing only the First Fathers' knew what in their endless free time.

Frustrated, he finally gave up trying to practice defense spells and threw on his cloak. He decided a moonlit walk might help his mind to calm. He acknowledged the sleepy guards as he passed them in the hallways, but had no patience for the iron door's stupidity. He got the feeling he had offended it as he made his way through the hall of mirrors, but didn't much care. As he strolled out into the forest, brightly illuminated by the nearly full moon, he felt some of his worries just wash away and he cursed his elf blood.

He decided to go into town. Perhaps he could find some small entertainment in the humans that abounded there. He got no farther than the Hall.

Marak rubbed his eyes in exhaustion as he finally stopped his work for the night. He looked over at Jamie sleeping on the couch and smiled. She looked so innocent in sleep, like a little angel. His smile turned wry, for in wakefulness she was anything but. He went to the couch and kissed her forehead, ruffling her hair. He was just about to pick her up and carry them both off to bed, when a guard rapped on the door. The fact that his head whipped around and he was ready to let off a dismemberment spell an instant later showed just how worried he was about the upcoming full moon meeting. The fact that Jamie didn't even stir from sleep showed how much she didn't care about the meeting she wouldn't be attending. Or maybe just how tired she was.

Yes, Marak had given it more thought, and realized how stupid it would be to bring his newly acquired wife along to a meeting during which he was expecting to be ambushed. Jamie had been furious of course, but he had thoroughly appeased her that night.

Marak face had a rather smug expression on it when he called out, "Enter!"

The door opened, admitting one of the Guard. The goblin looked both nervous and excited, and also a little out of breath. "My lord," he wheezed, "Nabusar has captured the woman from the woods, the one that Tabucal and Karukeenu saw three days ago."

"He what?" Marak demanded. "How- No, forget how, where is he? I'll ask him myself."

"He sent me to take you to him," the guard said. "If you will follow me, my lord...?"

Marak motioned to the goblin impatiently to get going. Meanwhile, Jamie slumbered peacefully, oblivious to the chaos that abounded around her.

When Marak saw Nabusar, the first words out of his mouth were, "Where is she?"

Nabusar, who was standing in his office with his back to the door, spun around at the sound of Marak's voice. "She is in the small cave where elf prisoners are kept. Don't worry, she's not getting out of there anytime soon," he reassured Marak, seeing him about to protest.

"Well, what are we waiting for?" Marak demanded impatiently. "Let's go and see what we can get out of her."

Nabusar said nothing. Marak was quite annoyed by this and made it known. "Nabusar, let's go! Or do you suddenly have something against interrogating elves?"

"No, I have nothing against 'interrogating' elves," Nabusar said slowly, "but I draw the line at torturing humans."

"Humans? Are you saying the woman is human?" Marak questioned sharply. Nabusar nodded in affirmation. "Who is she, and did she have an explanation as to why she was in the forest meeting an elf in the middle of the night?"

Nabusar shook his head. "She is the landlady of the Hall, and she denied ever being there. She was far too terrified to lie, even if I couldn't sense it," he added grimly. "In fact, she even went on to deny all knowledge of the existence of elves, and goblins too."

"I'm sure she was overwhelmed with the realization that humans aren't alone in the world," Marak said sarcastically. He was silent for a moment. "You're sure she was the same woman?" he asked rather desperately.

"Positive," Nabusar confirmed. "She matched the description exactly."

Marak cursed fluently. "By the First Fathers, what hell is going on here?" he demanded frustratedly. He paused, attempting to reign in his temper, which was ready to explode. Nabusar watched calmly, his expression giving no hint as to his thoughts.

"Release the woman," Marak ordered, coming to a swift decision. "But make sure to wipe her memory first. I'm going to question those guards, Tabucal and Karukeenu, just to make sure that their account was completely accurate." Had those two hapless guards been there to hear his tone, they would have been shaking in their boots. Even Jamie would have cowered from his black scowl.

But Nabusar merely nodded and made his way back to the prison cave to release the unfortunate landlady, minus a few hours of memory.

The sun had just set on the night of the full moon. They had made no further progress on solving the mystery of the landlady. Tabucal and Karukeenu had vehemently confirmed their story, but no more evidence had been found to support any conclusion. So, Marak and his lieutenants had fallen back on their original plan: to be prepared for anything and then some.

Their plan to capture and question the mystery woman having born no fruit, Marak had decided to send one of his lieutenants to intercept the woman when she tried to meet the elf on the border. There had been some disagreement as to which lieutenant should go, however. They had finally settled on Nabusar, mainly because he wasn't as important to making the meeting go well, but also because, being the military commander, his defense magic was much better than Sheddura's.

So it happened that Marak and Sheddura were heading to the full moon meeting alone, while Nabusar lay in wait for the rendezvous with the woman and the elf. If truth is stranger than fiction, coincidence is stranger still (it can be a right bitch at times too), and as coincidence had it, Nabusar was waiting in the very same tree that Tabucal and Karukeenu had occupied five days previously. Having consumed the goblin equivalent of about 15 energy drinks (minus any bad side-effects of course), he was wide awake and ready for anything. Good thing, because Karma's a bitch too.

He had waited in the tree for no more than an hour when someone came along. It was an astonishingly beautiful little girl. She looked to be about 15 years old, although Nabusar was not renowned for his skill in determining human ages. Not that she looked human. He would have said she looked like an elf, or at least a very strong elf-human cross, but there were some fundamental, if subtle, problems with that assumption.

Her skin was paler and seemed more... ethereal somehow, though her cheeks held a healthy pink flush, which was saved from looking garish by her full red lips. Her face looked cherubic, and yet, from his brief glimpse into her eyes, it was obvious that she was neither innocent nor childlike. Surrounded by gold eyelashes, they were a silvery gray and clouded like those of a blind person, but she seemed to see fine. Better than fine, in fact; her night-vision appeared to be much better than the average human. Her ears, though well-formed, were not at all pointed, and were in fact quite human, as were her delicately arched eyebrows.

Her height was diminutive, five feet, perhaps less, and she walked with an almost gliding motion, as if she was a pin-drop away from floating Her hips swayed in a totally un-elflike way. But one of her most distinguishing features was her hair. It was a mass of gleaming, strawberry blonde waves as it flowed to her ankles, blowing gently in the breeze. Eye-catching, to be sure, and no elf he knew of had hair down to her feet. She wore no cloak, so these distinctive features were clearly visible in the brightness of the full moon. Her clothes were light, both in color and weight, seeming almost transparent. Almost. Her flowing dress still covered all the important parts. Unlike goblin dresses, it had full-length sleeves, and, though most of it was a nearly transparent white, it was threaded with cerulean blue.

Just when Nabusar decided he might have to reconsider his original assumption of her species, she stopped, right underneath his chosen tree. He tensed, readying his spells to knock her out instantly, but then he realized she had merely stopped at the border of the elves' camp, presumably to wait for her meeting. It appeared that this little girl had the power to make herself look like someone else. Namely, the landlady. Nabusar was eager to get his hands on her to find out how. But now that he thought about it, he was also eager for an entirely different reason. She really was quite beautiful, even more so than an elf, in his opinion.

Several minutes had passed by now, and the girl appeared to be getting impatient, her delicate features beginning to show some of her personality. It was quite a haughty personality, and obviously not used to being kept waiting. He grinned slowly. Far be it from him to keep a lady waiting. If the elf wouldn't show, the girl would just have to make do with him.

Meanwhile, Marak and Sheddura had arrived at the truce circle, entering it cautiously. But not cautiously enough, for no sooner had they breached the edge, Marak was thrown backwards, while Sheddura was trapped inside.

"Marak!" Sheddura called. Marak didn't move from where he had landed. Sheddura growled and used every spell he could think of, finally resorting to teeth and claws, but nothing worked against the invisible, and seemingly impenetrable barrier that surrounded the truce circle.

Footsteps sounded from behind him. He spun around to see three elves, one of them obviously their King, Aganir Melam-Anun. Aganir was outside the circle, fast approaching Marak, while his two lieutenants were standing about 10 feet away from Sheddura. All three wore expressions filled disgust and anger.

At first glance, Aganir looked fairly typical for an elf King, black hair, black eyes and unmatched good looks. But his skin seemed to have a golden hue, and he was glowing with power. Then Sheddura where some of the gold was coming from. For the elf King's eyes were in fact not black, but a liquid gold. Aganir Melam-Anun was actually more beautiful than his predecessors. And since all his predecessors had looked pretty much the same, that was saying a lot.

"So, the great Marak falls to the elf King," Aganir sneered. "All while his adviser looks on... helplessly."

Sheddura growled again, louder, and raked his claws against the invisible barrier again. "What have you done?" he said softly in a menacing growl.

"I? I am merely taking revenge for past slights. You goblins should understand that concept quite well."

Sheddura's eyes widened and he roared, "By the sword, what did Marak ever do to you, you pompous fool?"

The elf King's face hardened. "Your bastard King stole my bride!" he shouted.

"That's it?" Sheddura was astonished. "That's your reason for this? Just because you failed to inform us of your choice of bride? How was Marak supposed to know you wanted to marry the human?" he demanded angrily.

"You gave me no time!" Aganir defended himself. "I was just about to go collect her when Marak returned Igira and one of my elves stopped me to ask about scheduling this very meeting. Then I had to spend the rest of the night helping Igira recover from your King's manhandling of her." he added accusingly. "But no, that isn't all. If your other lieutenant was here, instead of hiding in your cave, I would punish him far more."

"What? Why?" Sheddura inquired sharply, and his face suddenly bore a striking resemblance to a hawk, about to devour an especially juicy rodent.

"It happened about ten years ago. He found my mother trespassing and rather than simply sending her home, he attacked her. She nearly died. My father managed to save her, but she was never the same again. She would never leave the camp and any mention of goblins sent her into raving hysterics. All because some overzealous guard decided that one human woman wandering onto goblin land was reason enough to attack her." His voice was bitter as he finished.

"That was your mother? We always thought that was just an elf. But either way Nabusar was severely punished for that incident."

"Ah, but since it was 'just an elf', I'm sure your version of 'severely' is quite different from mine," Aganir said, his voice hard. "I grow tired of interaction with a lowly goblin. Let us see if your King can offer more stimulation."

Aganir walked over to Marak and kicked him in the ribs. "Get up, goblin King! We're all waiting."

He kicked him again and Marak finally moved. He grunted, then leaped up in an instant, silver hand and eyes blazing.

Aganir backed up a few feet, before sneering and saying, "Oh, look, a light show. Is that the best you can do?" So saying, he raised his hands, watching as a cage of tree roots rose from the ground and wove around Marak. Aganir clenched his fists and the cage began to tighten at an alarming rate.

Alarming, that is, until Marak touched the cage and roots stopped dead. Literally; they withered instantly, dropping to the ground with a series of hollow thunks.

Marak raised his brow, then sneered. "Care to tell me why you're attacking me?"

"He says that he wanted Jamie first, but was delayed when you returned Igira, whoever that is," Sheddura informed him, ever helpful.

"Too bad!" Marak said to Aganir. "She's mine now, and you can't have her! Get over it, and stop acting like a spoiled child!" Marak said, angry now. He turned back to Sheddura and said over his shoulder, "I think it's best if we end this meeting now and reschedule it for another time when you've calmed down. Sheddura-" he called to his adviser, but was interrupted when a huge ball of lightning hit him in the back making him stagger.

"Never turn your back on your opponent," Aganir mocked. "Your lieutenant isn't getting out of there until I release him myself."

"What? How did you spell the truce circle?" Marak said, amazed and, though he'd never admit it, rather impressed.

Aganir raised one eyebrow. "You're not the only one with powerful magic, goblin."

Marak sneered. "I doubt yours is as good as mine, but if you insist..."

He threw up his hands and... nothing happened. Aganir was just about to burst out laughing, when he was struck by a giant lightning bolt, straight from the sky. Why throw lightning when you can get it straight from the source?

A second later, Aganir was smoking hot. No seriously. He was actually smoking, and his mood had declined considerably. Probably because his hair was slightly singed. Elves and their hair...

Aganir raised his hand again, and after that, chaos reigned. Between the constant flashes of light, the deafening crashes and the wood and metal that went flying every once in a while, all that was visible were two faint silhouettes, both glowing, with smoke slowly rising off them. The two elf lieutenants were now standing beside Sheddura their expressions mirroring his own, one of tense anxiety.

At last, the lights stopped, and silence returned. Sadly, it was too late, because everyone involved was already stone deaf. Marak and Aganir were both on the ground, almost unconscious, but there was still a few sparks of awareness that weren't completely burned out by the nonstop barrage of lightning.

"I still won't apologize," Marak mumbled. "But... I must admit... I seriously underestimated you," he admitted grudgingly.

There was a long pause. Then, "I can find another wife," he said, with an equal lack of grace. "And perhaps I underestimated you, as well. You mentioned rescheduling...?" By this time, they were both on the verge of unconsciousness, but Marak managed to mumble out a reply.

"One week from now. It would be probably be best to avoid full moons from now on. You elves seem to go from absentminded, bird-watching crazy to homicidal, dancing-skyclad-in-clearings crazy the rounder the moon gets." Amazing. Even in near incoherence, Marak still managed to get an insult in.

"Shut up," Aganir quelled him with a mumbled (but completely original) retort. "A week it is."

And they all fell down! Or passed out.

Chapter Text

The instant Nabusar dropped from the tree, he loosed an incapacitating spell, landing on her back. He pinned her arms and put his knife, which was similar to Marak's, at her throat. Amazingly, she still struggled, despite his extremely powerful magic.

He dug the knife in deeper, drawing blood, and growled in her ear, "Stop. Moving."

She stopped. He grinned. This was going to be fun. He touched some nearby sticks on the ground and turned them into rope using them to tie her wrists and ankles together, then blindfolded and gagged her. Then he dragged her up from the ground and tossed her over his shoulder. She struggled every minute or so, and tried to say something through the gag, but her protests went unheard. Or, more likely, ignored.

Nabusar headed for the cave where he had kept the landlady briefly. In the 1800s, in the time of Marak Catspaw and Aganir Ash, the elf King named "alone," a human named Miranda had been kept there while Catspaw and Ash had "negotiated."

He entered a small bedroom. It was sparsely furnished, but it served its purpose well enough. Nabusar dumped her on the bed and ripped off the gag and blindfold. He gripped her chin, digging into her cheeks with his claws, and leaned in close.

"Who are you? Or am I supposed to believe Ele'nura is your real name?" he sneered.

She spit in his face. He could feel her start to lose substance right beneath his hand, and quickly drew out his knife again, putting it to her neck.

"Can you become mist before I slit your throat?" he threatened.

Her eyes clouded even more for an instant, then she recovered her form and he felt her soft skin beneath his fingers. His expression grew smug with triumph for a moment.

"You'll find it a lot harder to escape from me than from those two fools you encountered a few days ago. If you try that again, I won't hesitate; I'll kill you where you stand. Now," he said, his voice dropping into a growl, "I repeat, who are you?"

She looked at him sullenly, saying nothing. He sighed and released her face, shoving her back down on the bed.

"Understand this, little girl," he said harshly. "You have been seen, trespassing on goblin land, and conspiring with the elves. To top it off, you are neither elf, goblin or human. Now, unless you tell me who you are and what business you have with the elves, I will view you as a threat to the safety of my King, and my race. Trust me, that is not, what you want. So what's it going to be, girl?"

"Screw you!" she cursed him. Her accent was strange and he couldn't quite place it. "What are you going to do, huh? Kill me? Nothing you do could be as bad as what has already happened to me!" Her voice was bitter.

His eyes narrowed, then he backhanded her, snapping her head to the side. Then he dragged her up by the hair, pulling her head back so she had to look him in the face. "Who. Are you?" he repeated again.

There was a trace of fear in her strange eyes, but she compressed her lips together and shook her head as best she could without pulling her hair. When his eyes glittered in rage and his hand came up, she flinched and squeezed her eyes shut. His hand didn't move.

Nabusar watched the lone tear track down her cheek and had the sudden realization that there were much easier ways to get information out of her. He closed his eyes and reached inside himself for the cold, ruthless practicality that had served him so well in the past. The King's new wife had touched him and somehow melted that ice, but he knew that if he could just regain it, this complicated situation would become child's play.

When he opened his eyes, he saw what a fool he had been to approached this problem in the way he had. Suddenly, a rather unique solution came to mind. Rapidly, he considered the pros and cons. The first one was obvious, but he had never cared about anyone enough for that to matter overmuch. She appeared to be strong and healthy, quite capable of fulfilling her most important function, should he decide he wanted to make use of it. He would be stuck with her, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. And who knows? This might even be fun.

When the girl cracked her eyes open, suspicious when the expected blow didn't come, she saw his sky-blue eyes staring at her intensely. As she watched, the harsh line of his lips softened. Then he grinned, his hair lighting up to match the light in his eyes. In that moment, she couldn't decide whether she was scared... or intrigued.

Goblin Kings' Chronicles

In the year of Marak Silverhand and Aganir Melam-Anun, the elf King named Bright Heavens,

September 13, 2011

It is near dawn on the night of the full moon, and the Kingdom is in uproar.

The elf King having set an ambush for me so enraged the my subjects that I had to use my power as King to order them not to burn down the forest. Damn pyromaniacs.

Then, to top it off, Aganir came pounding on the door less than an hour after we parted ways at the truce circle. He started whining about some girl named Ele'nura who he accused me of kidnapping her and forcing her to marry one of my "grotesque, cave-dwelling freaks." I told him that he could go **** himself, and that even if I had taken her, it was absolutely my right since she had been caught on goblin land not five days ago.

He cheerfully responded in kind, before he informed me that it wasn't my right at all, owing to fact that she was not an elf, and thus not subject to the same laws. At my doubting expression and loudly voiced threats to toss him out if he didn't stop spouting nonsense, he elaborated. Apparently, the girl was neither elf, goblin, or human, but a race that there has been no recorded mention of apart from myth and legend. She was a fairy.

Her name was Lauchysng, and he confessed that she had come to him for help a little over a month ago. The help was not for her, but for her people, who were in grave danger, she said. Aganir, being the practical King that he is, demanded some help from her in return. She must help him find a wife, by masquerading as the landlady at the Hall, where she would make note of any pretty newcomers and endeavor to keep them there until nighttime when he could go there himself and decide whether or not they were suitable. At this point in his story, I raised my brows and his face took on a reddish tint before he continued his story.

As it so happened, the first girl that the fairy had noted was Jamie. She had sent word through an elf stationed near the Hall, but he had been delayed when I returned a supposedly "emotionally scarred" elf girl. He should be glad I returned her at all. I'm beginning not to be.

After that lost opportunity, nothing more had happened apart from all the elves being furious with the fairy for not keeping the girl there until Aganir could take her. But then came the full moon, when her deal with the elves was finally up, and she would get the help she had asked for. But alas, the elf who was supposed to meet her at the border had had to deal with some humans who had somehow gotten past the elf border, and thus was late to the rendezvous. When he had finally gotten there, he had found nothing but smashed undergrowth and a few drops of blood.

Aganir concluded his dubious narrative and proceeded to demand that I give the fairy back so he could fulfill his end of the bargain and give her the help she had requested. I repeated my earlier sentiments, and stressed that if I had to make him leave, he wouldn't like what followed.

After a few aggressive reassurances that I wasn't lying when I confirmed that the fairy was not in my possession, he finally left. Frankly, I was quite insulted that he would dare accuse a goblin of dishonesty.

It was fortunate that he left then or I would have been proven the liar after all, for it was only 10 minutes later that Nabusar returned, with the fairy and his knife at her throat. When I informed him of all that had occurred (a brief version, at his behest), he was silent for a moment, and stared at the fairy, who in turn tried to spit in his face. Then he smiled, watching her face pale, and told me that he had a favor to ask of me, pleaded with me not to question it, but know that it was truly his heart's desire. Well, he didn't phrase it exactly like that, but that's the gist of it.

At his fervent urging, I finally agreed. And that is how I came to perform the most important of my kingly duties, and create the first recorded marriage between goblin and fairy. Poor fairy.

-Marak Silverhand, goblin King

edited by Milsheddura, chief advisor