The next 2 days and nights were routine. They got up after dawn, ate, and walked all day. As they traveled, the weather got warmer and warmer. Sarah had taken to tucking her shirt in the middle of her breasts and tying it like a halter top. Thankfully she didn't burn easily, but she did have sunscreen in her pack.
When it got too dark to see, Jareth would build a small fire, more for light than warmth, and they would split their carefully rationed food then sleep curled together. As with most deserts, it got chilly at night. They were both happy for the excuse to keep each other warm.
Jareth did not sleep as much as Sarah thought. Most of the night he would simply lay there holding her, watching and listening for any danger. Even without magic he senses were much sharper than humans. Having an owl nature, he also saw well at night.
Sometimes he would simply watch her face. He knew when she was dreaming. Her lips would curl into a little smile if it was good, and frown when it wasn't.
They did make love a couple of times, but Jareth insisted on only removing as little clothing as possible and redressing right after. He did not want to be caught with his pants down quite literally and for them to be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Everything stayed packed but his bedroll which they laid on and Sarah's blanket and pillow. They even slept with their shoes on.
He watched the horizon almost obsessively as they walked. Any sand kicked up would mean something approaching. They had 4 days to reach The Labyrinth and he was pushing them both as hard as he dared without wearing them out completely.
Calculating carefully he had figured out they might have regained half a day, which was good. If they could make it the day before dawn on the 13th day, they could rest outside the Labyrinth in relative safety and he could sleep.
The 3rd night they did the same as they had been.
Once Sarah was out, Jareth slipped out of their shared bed and stoked fire. He count the fire crystals he had left. Only half a dozen. He hope he could make them last. Otherwise the would be spend at least one night with only the moon and stars to provide any light. He didn't like that idea.
Something could sneak up on them more easily that way.
He gingerly joined Sarah and spooned her sleeping form.
He tried, he really tried, but he could not keep his eyes open anymore. He was soon fast asleep.
Jareth awoke alone to a cold fire. He rose and looked around. "Sarah?" He called. SHe was most likely behind a nearby bush or pile of rocks need a few minutes of privacy.
He walked the perimeter of the camp, then out a little further, calling her name.
Now he was worried. If she was anywhere close, she would hear him.
His voice rose, and sun slowly came into view. "Sarah! Where are you! You better have not started out with out me! It's too dangerous!"
He grabbed their belongs and walked around even more, examining every inch of ground looking for her distinctive shoe prints.
As he came around a large pile of gray rock another 20 yards from camp, he spied something.
The owl he had carved was laying on the ground, the cord broken. There were weeds and rocks kicked up and..something worse. Drag marks.
"Damn it!" Jareth yelled. "Sarah!"
He took off in a run, following the marks.
Sarah had woke and saw that Jareth was deeply asleep. She smiled and kissed him.
Since she was up, she thought she would get their food ready, then wake him. But first..she needed to take care of a necessity, urgently. Her bladder was practically screaming at her.
She found a spot a little way away from the camp and took care of things, stood and turned to go back to Jareth.
As she took a step a large hand was placed over her mouth. She tried to scream but couldn't.
She was pulled back against a large, obviously male, body. He said something to her in a similar, but rougher sounding language Jareth's people spoke while she struggled. He sniffed her and she felt like she was going to vomit. "Human?" He asked, with an odd accent.
He laughed suddenly, grabbing her under the arms and pulling at her. She fought to get away, kicking and swinging her arms, but another man was there, and he grabbed her arms and tied them together then to her body, wrenching them in place behind her back. The pain made tears come to her eyes. Before he did, she was able to snap the cord on the necklace and leave on the ground, hoping Jareth would find it and know she was in trouble. They wrapped a dirty rag around her mouth preventing her from screaming.
In her mind she was screaming for Jareth as she was dragged away. The hulking man carrying her almost like a football, face down, feet dragging on the ground.
Jareth followed the trail for a couple of miles until he saw it was leading a small group of tents. He hid behind some rocks and watched.
He did not see her out in the open.
As he observed he realized this was one of the nomadic tribes out here in the wastes and not outcasts of his kind.
They had been here for many generations, they had their own traditions and ways. He could not get Sarah back by fighting them. He had to play by their rules.
He hid their packs carefully, and sheathed his sword.
Jareth stood tall and walked towards the camp. He would simply have to be smarter. He was a king. You don't earn a crown without cunning.
A group of men were sitting around a fire. When the saw him they stood immediately. They were not used to visitors.
Jareth held his hand up in a gesture of non malice. They did not advance, but they eyed him with suspicion.
He stopped in front of them.
Speaking in the native tongue of the underground he spoke loud and clear. "You have something that belongs to me. Stolen just this morning. A human woman. She is mine. I followed the tracks here."
The men grinned, looking at each other.
"She was out in the open, alone. Fair game." A tall man dressed in animal skins said.
Jareth shook his head and gestured in a cutting motion. "She was simply relieving herself and you took advantage of her momentarily being out of my sight. That is NOT fair game. She is My property. I found her, tamed her, claimed her as mine. She will stay with me and birth my children. You have no right. We have already lain together. At this moment she could be carrying my offspring. Give her back."
The 3 men put their heads together and spoke among themselves.
"She is a pretty one," Another said, elbowing his companion. "Sturdy. Many fine sons on that human."
Jareth crossed his arms and raised his brow. Saying nothing but thinking if she heard and understood what he had just said, she would probably be mad enough to kill him with her bare hands.
"We will buy her from you. If she births your child you may take it, then leave her to us," Yet third one said.
Jareth shook his head again, gesturing with more emotion. Body language was important to these people. "No! She is mine! Only mine! I do not share my possessions!"
The one who must have been the leader turned and said something to one of the women standing a few feet away. The woman bowed and hurried into a nearby tent.
A few minutes later she came leading a bound and gagged Sarah into the circle. The man who was obviously the leader pushed her down to her knees and pulled her hair until she looked up at him. Then forcibly turned her head to see Jareth. He gripped her hair tightly. It had to be hurting her.
Jareth's hand twitched, but he kept his anger under control.
He saw pure fear in her green eyes, and noticeable relief at his presence, but he showed no emotion, observing her treatment coldly. At least he knew that is what it would look like to her. Inside he wanted to scoop her up and run like the hounds of Hades were after them. But to do so would mean they would be chased, possibly all the way to the border with his kingdom. That would be foolish.
"She is mine." He repeated firmly.
The leader drew his sword. "A human is valuable. Are you willing to fight for this one?" The man asked. Jareth noted he was much taller and bigger, but Jareth was a master of the weapon and had no fear of that.
Jareth drew his sword in response. "If I have to. I will kill anyone I need to. You, your companions, anyone. She belongs to me and only me. I will not negotiate."
The tall man showed him a large sack of coins, offering it to him. "Not for money?"
He resheathed his sword, took the coins in his hand and examined them, counting, acting as if he was interested.
Then he gave the man a look of derision and threw it back to him, along with a piece of his other torn shirt. "You do not have enough money in this camp worth as much as she. This has my scent upon it. If you smell it then her, you will find her marked." He refolded his arms as he stood tall and waited.
The leader discussed it with his fellow clansman for a few minutes. One took the cloth and smelled it then walked to Sarah and jerked her to her feet, sticking his nose into the crook of her neck. Sarah cringed and tried to pull away but the tribesman held her fast. Once he had smelled the cloth and her several times he let her go, went back to the leader and nodded. "She is marked." He said simply.
The leader handed the cloth back to Jareth and spoke. "We recognize your claim, and return her to you. You keep her close. Others may try to do the same, and they might not have our honor."
He held out his hand, and Jareth took it. The deal was done.
Sarah was brought forward and pushed towards Jareth, who beckoned her to come to him.
"Come, will be on our way." He commanded.
Sarah narrowed her eyes but was in a hurry to get away from her hijackers. So she practically ran to him.
He turned her roughly and pushed her ahead, untying her arms. As they got further away from the tents, he whispered. "Don't look back and do as I tell you. Don't argue and act as if you are compliant to me. As far as they know you are my property and expect me to treat you as such. Say nothing."
She took her gag off and was quiet as he instructed, but glared at him.
He urged her to walk quickly and within half an hour were near the spot the had been camped.
It was then she spoke. "I'm your fucking property? What kind of screwed up world is this? What the hell? I go to take a pee and am kidnapped by a bunch of smelly cavemen who drag me off by my hair? How dare you treat me like that! I saved your life!" She yelled.
Jareth's control snapped."Sarah! I did what I had to do! If I would have charged into that camp swinging my sword by sheer numbers they would have won! No magic, remember?! I had to use my negotiation skills, my mind, to save you! You do not realize what it is to be a human in this world! Yes among civilized society here, you have some standing as my Champion, but most humans are not so well thought of! Children who come here are changed into one of our own, but adults are little more than servants! Those men wanted to use you! They would have forced you to have all the children they could impregnate you with to fill their ranks, until you died or were of no more use to them! They would not have asked permission either! I HAD NO CHOICE! How many times do I have to remind you of that?!"
His voice was becoming shrill and raspy, the fear and anger and little sleep had frayed his nerves to the breaking point.
Sarah backed away from him as he yelled, eyes wide, mouth hanging open. She had never seen him so upset, so on edge.
"I'm...oh God..I'm so sorry. I didn't know. Jareth I..." She just stood there.
He grabbed her and crushed her to his body suddenly, almost squeezing the breath out of her. He regretted being so harsh after she had such a scare. "Sarah..I would not purposely hurt you. I did what I had to do to get you out of there and back with me. You know I do not think of you that way. I truly do not. You are...precious to me. In every way."
He stroked and kissed her hair, letting his anger bleed away.
She pulled back and looked up at him. She could see the residual fear. There were dark shadows under his eyes again, his mouth tight, his brow scrunched up as he tried to regain control. She reached up and touched his face. Even haggard, he was beautiful. As her fingers ran over his face, he visibly relaxed and took a deep breath.
"You need to get some sleep, Jareth. You look like shit." She teased to lighten the mood.
He barked out a small laugh. "I am sure I do. We must go Sarah. Time is short."
She took her bag from him and put it on her back, then took a deep breath of her own. "Let's get this over with."