Comeuppance [WHF Short]

Another short piece penned in response to a keyword prompt of ‘Desperation’.  Fairly generic fantasy, although was aimed to be set in the WHF-verse.

Comeuppance
(979 words)

One day, boy,” his mentor had said to him, oh, so many years ago now, “that tendency you have to play heart games is going to land you in a huge vat of trouble. And if you so much as think that I’m going to bail you out when an angry father or husband is ripping your testicles off, you can think again.”

Ever since Jareth D’Amico had first truly become aware that he held a great deal of attraction for members of the opposite sex (and on one or two slightly embarrassed occasions, some members of his own sex), he had gleefully exploited the fact. He flirted, he dallied, he generally had a fine time with young ladies – even with some not-so-young ladies to whom he briefly (and willingly) brought a moment of forgotten pleasure – and often, the fact that many of these women may already have been married was not a problem for him.

So Jareth played his games with cheerful abandon, never once letting inconvenient things like ‘marriage’ get in the way.

He should have taken more care, he had thought as he stood facing the giant who had all but smashed the door of the house down as he had entered to catch his young wife in a passionate embrace with a handsome stranger.

“Now, Rembold, don’t do anything foolish,” the young lady in question had said, clasping her hands anxiously together as she looked from the big, burly man to the tall, slender interloper.

“Foolish? You be shuttin’ up, wench, an’ don’t be tryin’ to tell me what be foolish!” Rembold’s face had been as black as thunder and his fists, Jareth couldn’t help but notice, were the size of small hams, clenched and ready to lash out and potentially break every bone in his body.

He didn’t like that prospect. He preferred the idea that he would remain intact.

Jareth had stood his ground and eyed Rembold up with a faintly disinterested (and very well practised) expression on his face. He knew that it would take very little for him to deal with the matter: he was a practised liar and additionally, highly competent at the skill of Running Away Very Fast.

“I don’t think we need to resort to a fist fight, old man,” he said, in his most controlled voice. “If you would be so kind as to give me a moment to explain?” Desperate lies came easily. “Your lovely wife merely felt faint and I happened to catch her as she fell. It was most fortunate that I was here otherwise she may have hit her head on the way down and done untold damage to herself.”

Rembold blinked and glanced at his wife, who nodded emphatically. “I have been feeling unwell for days,” she had said, improvising wildly and with a surprising degree of skill. “Jareth is…is…an apothecary. He came to bring me a herbal preparation.” The lie had been smooth and almost as practised as his own.

What a woman.

Jareth had, at that point, suspected that he may not have been the first ‘apothecary’ who had been caught in such a situation in this household.

Be that as it may, he nodded his approval at the woman, stopping instantly when Rembold’s head swung back to consider him.

Jareth smiled warmly. “Indeed,” he said. “In fact, I have the preparation here in my pouch…” He patted one of the many pouches that were attached to the belt he wore around his slim waist. “Your timing was most unfortunate, sir, I can’t begin to imagine what you must have thought, ha ha, seeing your beautiful young wife in another man’s arms. Ha ha! It’s easy to see how you could jump to the wrong conclusion.”

It’s working, he had thought as he watched this complicated concept filter through Rembold’s tiny brain. The big man’s eyes had rolled up in deep thought and his face turned almost crimson with the effort of concentration.

Jareth winked at the young woman who had been standing to one side looking anxiously on. They were going to get away with this little indiscretion, it seemed. Jareth would be retaining his tenor singing voice for a while longer.

Hallelujah.

Time to bring this little soiree to a close. “So I trust we understand one another?” Jareth’s most charming smile had put in another appearance.

Yes, it transpired, Rembold had understood perfectly.

Less than an hour later, Jareth was seated in the tavern, nursing a swelling cheekbone which was flaring all shades of the rainbow and a bleeding lip. A tankard of ale sat on the table in front of him and for one of the first times in his life, he was discovering that his silver tongue couldn’t talk him out of every situation.

And the worst thing? The most embarrassing thing? That had been the way his quarry, the young wife, had immediately swooned over how brave her thug of a husband was as his ham-fist had connected with Jareth’s face.

By the time Jareth had realised that his cunning excuses and ploy to escape were not working, it had been far too late. By that time, there was no opportunity to employ his running muscles. By the time his brain had transmitted the suggestion to ‘run’, Rembold had closed the short distance between them and had hit him so hard that he had gone flying into the table behind him.

Fortunately, the wife’s sudden gushing admiration for her ‘brave, strong Rembold’ had inflated the man’s ego enough for him to merely bodily pick the young man up and throw him out into the street, where he added grazes and cuts to his injury.

Still, Jareth mused as he took another sip of beer. At least he was still alive – and at least his reproductive system remained intact.

There would be other women.

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