Continuing Tales

Of Cupid and Psyche

A Labyrinth Story
by Chibi-no-oneesan

Part 12 of 16

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Arthur examined her closely and then gave a nod. A page came forward, with a crystal on a pillow. The High King knew that within that crystal would be her first task, chosen by an uninterested third party, to be just difficult enough to be challenging, but hopefully not so brutal that the girl would be unable to complete it. The crystal was offered to him and he lifted it, turning it in his hand.

What he saw made him turn a bit pale. He glanced towards the girl in the middle of the room, who was looking up at him with those glittering green eyes and then returned his gaze to the crystal. "Just outside the City of Avalon, there is a place where the faeries nest to protect grains of gold and silver from those who are greedy and tempted by their luster."

A chair to his left fell with a clatter and he glanced over, finding Jareth standing, wearing an intense expression.

Caledonensis moved towards the younger king and put a hand on his shoulder, then using magic, righted the chair and gently pushed Jareth back into his seat. They shared some quiet words, but though the words were lost on him, the tone was not. Firming himself, he returned his gaze to Sarah, who had a peculiar expression on her face.

"Ordinarily, to harvest all these grains and prepare the grounds for the next season, it takes a sizable group of dwarfs. They would need a group just to use the repellent to drive off the faeries, another to harvest these grains and still another to sort the gold grains from the silver."

Guenevere tightened her grip on his hand, leaning close. "There is something peculiar about this mission in particular. This is too much for a single human girl, Arthur..." She whispered softly to him.


"Call the bluff, husband-"

Sarah spoke, her head inclined slightly. "Let me guess, my first task is to harvest them myself."

Arthur closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. "Does that mean you accept the task?" He kept his tone neutral.

"I would not be here if I planned to refuse." She smiled at him, and he found himself taken a bit aback at the knowledge in her eyes. Somehow, from the unease of the court, she knew that she did not have to accept this, that this was not something that would be ordinarily made someone's mission.

"Very well, Lady Sarah." He said quietly. He heard objections through the court and lifted his hand. "You will not receive the repellent, Lady. You will gather two bushels of grain – one gold, one silver – and you have until sunrise tomorrow to complete this task."

She glanced down at her attire, seeming to ponder it, and then gave a shrug. "Well, then, succeed or fail, I'll see you tomorrow morning."

As she left the room, Caledonensis moved towards Arthur, leaning over. "We have a little mouse who is tampering with the test." He said, his voice calm. "Why did you let her go through with it?"

"She knows something. Something the others here do not. I...have the strangest feeling that she will succeed. Wont that be a bur in our little mouse's shoe?"

Caledonensis frowned deeply, seeming to ponder something. "Very well. I will tell the boy to trust in his mate."

Arthur clung to his wife's hand, hoping that the faith that he'd placed in the girls abilities was not a mistake. Or else the Goblin King would be severely pissed off. While that might not matter as far as the kingdom goes, as Jareth's Uncle, it meant a lot.


Sarah stared at the field buzzing with faeries and her breath rushed out from between her teeth. "Son-of-a-bitch..." she muttered. It rather reminded her of when she first looked down upon the Labyrinth. "Was it too much damn trouble to plant the damn things in rows? Or heaven help in some sort of pattern?"

A faery flew close and snapped it's sharp teeth at her. She bared her own, much larger teeth and snapped back, startling it enough that it veered away sharply. Another however, had snuck up and caught Sarah off guard and latched onto her ear. "OUCH!" She grabbed the little thing, about to hurl it away from her, yet when she looked at the small creature she felt a surge of recognition. "Wait a damn second, I know you!"

The small creature looked up at her in puzzlement. Long, silver hair spilled over her palm like a little waterfall and pale blue eyes widened suddenly as though she realized something. Suddenly, the buzzing nearly stopped and Sarah blinked, finding herself surrounded by the swarm of faery. She couldn't help swallow, feeling a little afraid. If these creatures decided she was an enemy, she was going to be chewed to bits.

The small, slightly mangled faery stretched it's wings, flying up level with her face and set a hand on either side of her nose, like it was cupping her face. It studied her eyes for a long moment and gave a surprised keen, then leaned forward, kissing her nose lightly.

Sarah breathed a sigh of relief. "You remember me." She certainly remembered it. This little bugger was the one Hoggle had sprayed with repellent just before she entered the Labyrinth. It's little gossamer wings fluttered on the air and she couldn't help smile. "It's good to see you recovered." She held out her hands in a small cup and the creature sat down.

She felt something brush her thoughts, something strange and alien, but swallowing, she touched back. "Could me? I need two bushels of grain, one gold, one silver...but...everything is very scattered, and I've only got a little time."

Large, almond eyes blinked up at her and a cry left her lips, echoed by the others. It lifted off her hand and the others seemed to stand at attention. Then, it turned towards the others and gave another keen, and the faeries dispersed, spreading out over the field of grain. Sarah huffed faintly, smiling a bit. "Thank you." She said softly to the faery that still hovered close to her. She took a deep breath and rolled up her sleeves. "No reason I shouldn't get to work, too..." she decided, and headed into the tall, swaying grain.


The court reconvened towards the end of the day to check on the progress of the mortal who had decided to take on the faeries to collect the requested grain. However, before Caledonensis could use the large viewing crystal to call an image of the girl to it's surface, the doors swung open and Sarah entered. It was nearly nine at night and she was covered in dirt, smeared on her face and chest. Her dress had several tears on it, and she had a free-bleeding bite on her ear, but besides that seemed fine.

Jareth inclined his head to watch as Sarah made her way to the center of the room, feeling a little dumbstruck and yet he was grinning like a fool. He knew that look of satisfaction on her face. He'd seen it often after she would complete a task. Somehow, this girl had-

The room, which had grown loud from voices shouting in shock at her entry, at her disheveled appearance suddenly went silence as through the doorway, came the two bushels of grain, seeming to float on their own, and atop one sat the faery queen. The small, silver-haired queen had a look of distinct satisfaction on her face as her faery swarm set the two bushels upon the floor behind Sarah.

"CHEAT!" Lance was on his feat pointing at her. "You were told you could not ask for help-"

Sarah arched an eyebrow at him. Noise rose as some agreed and others didn't, spurring arguments around the room. She angled her head, a hint of defiance in her eyes. She smiled in a sassy way and then looked at Arthur. "I was told nothing of the sort. I was simply told that I could not request help from this court." She pointed back at them. "They're not members of the court. They're the swarm that guard the grain, and I helped one of them six years ago prior to entering the Labyrinth. She recognized me after trying to take a chunk out of my ear."

Jareth bit his lip hard to keep from laughing at the dumbstruck expressions of the members of the court who did not know his Sarah. He saw Arthur sitting before Sarah with a strategically placed hand over his mouth, his shoulders shaking and Guenevere was worrying her lower lip and turning bright pink from withheld laughter. Oh, how he loved it when she caught people off stride. It was refreshing.

Arthur coughed, obviously to clear his throat of the laugh stuck in it and looked at Sarah. "While some may consider that splitting hairs, you are correct, Lady. I said no member of this court. That would not, in fact, include the swarm. And with that, child, your first task is complete. He waved a hand, indicating that the court could clear out. Once most everyone was gone, Sarah approached them, and Jareth hurried over to be a part of this discussion.

"For a minute there, King Arty, I was worried your head was going to pop from trying to keep that chuckle in." Sarah said wryly.

Finally, he tilted his head back and gave a weary laugh. "Sarah, you are extremely clever, I'll give you that. And to be blunt, it was a pleasure to watch you verbally gut that philandering sod."

Jareth slipped his arm around her shoulders, placing a gentle kiss upon her forehead, then looked at Arthur. "I'd like to know what the hell was up with that challenge. The first challenge is never that difficult, and this whole situation screams of tampering."

Arthur frowned deeply. "That is what Caledonensis and I suspected as well." He looked down at Sarah. "You were very fortunate. Why on earth did you accept the challenge? Did you know that the swarm queen would be there?"

She gave a small smile. "To be honest, I didn't fully understand or appreciate what I was getting into. But I've got some relatives that farm, and you could say I know my way around fields. I didn't expect it to be growing like the seeds had been scattered."

This troubled Jareth. "Arthur, if the first one was this difficult, what will become of future ones? In all my years at court, I've never seen an immigrant given such a difficult-" He stopped and swore viciously. "Morgaine."

"She is in custody. If she is doing any tampering, it is through a third party, and one clever enough to escape notice." Arthur shook his head. "It would not be Mordred, because he hasn't been at court since you were last here."

Guenevere squeezed the High King's hand. "Dwelling on this will only cause more problems, husband. The best we can do is take these as they come and make certain that a close eyes is kept over Sarah." She turned towards her and smiled broadly. "I'm glad you decided to come back. Jareth was looking all surly and sulky when he first arrived."

Jareth pretended not to notice as Sarah gave him a speculative look. "Was I?" he asked, keeping his voice airy, a faint smirk playing on his lips. "I didn't notice." Gwenny just grinned at him. He felt the girl at his side sag a little bit and glanced towards her. She looked beyond weary. She looked exhausted. "If you'll both excuse us, I need to get this Lady of mine off her feet."

Arthur gave a near-imperceptible nod, and Jareth guided Sarah towards the exit. With each step, she leaned upon him heavier, and he deeply regretted having to stop to ask one of the kitchen maids to bring up their dinner to her room. Finally, once they were in her bedroom, he settle her into a chair and went to get a cool cloth for her brow. When he returned, she was already asleep.

He set the cloth against her face, gently cleansing her dirt-smudged skin. "Ah, precious. My dear stubborn lady, why do you refuse to let yourself heal?" He watched as her face twisted into a petulant sort of frown, followed by a dreamy smile. "Arthur would give you the time you need, and if it is his decision, what can the court say? You need to rest, but you push yourself. Why, darling, why? You need not prove yourself..."

Her only response was to lean slightly into his hand as it swept over her cheek. He sighed, pressing his face into her lap and wrapping his arms around her knees. "You precious thing..."

Jareth wound up falling to sleep there, much to the protestation of his knees and back when he woke as the door opened revealing a maid holding a tray with two plates. One was exceptionally hearty, and he blinked sleepily, not moving as the girl brought the tray and set it upon the small table near them.

"Will his highness be needing anything else?"

There was an invitation there. Blatant and irritating. He would have snarled, but someone beat him to the punch, so to speak. He looked up and found Sarah looking at the maid, her teeth bared in a threatening manner, her green eyes dark and murky. He stood, guided his ladies face up and pressed a gentle kiss on her lips before looking towards the maid, mildly amused. "Nothing you can give, little girl."

The maid fled, the door slamming shut behind her. He glanced towards Sarah, his eyes bright with amusement. He made a quiet mental note to never startle Sarah awake, nor to press her bad side when she was just waking up. "I think you sufficiently terrified that maid." He teased lightly.

She bared her teeth at him, her hand reaching up and fisting in his hair before he could draw back. She stared into his eyes for a long moment, and then pressed her mouth against his, pressing her tongue into his mouth and giving him a much more pleasant wake up than the maid who'd startled him awake. He groaned, pulling his mouth away from hers. "As much as I'd like to follow where you're leading me, I must insist that you eat first, darling. You were very weak earlier, and you're looking a bit pale."

She pouted, but the protestation on her lips was interrupted by a rather large growl from her stomach. Her cheeks colored with embarrassment, and she huffed slightly. "Then I guess we'd better eat, so we can deal with that other hunger."

He chuckled, not minding when she glared in response.

Later, they lay in his bed, spooning up against each other, Sarah already asleep, but he was too busy worrying for his lady. The knowledge that someone was tampering with her trials would have troubled him without her illness, but when combined, they caused a great deal of anxiety. He was not allowed to interfere, but he had a troubling feeling that these trials were intended to harm her.

If someone could interfere to attempt to stop her, why could he not also interfere to make certain she had the protection she might need?

He rolled over and snapped his fingers. A goblin appeared at the foot of his bed and crawled up until Jareth could speak without raising his voice. "You are not to interfere with her attempting the trials herself, however if you think that the future queen is in danger, you do what must be done to protect her. I'll deal with the consequences of my actions later."

The goblin gave him a toothy grin and disappeared.

Jareth rolled over, pressing his face against Sarah's neck, breathing her scent deeply, his lips pulled into a deep frown. As he'd told her before, now that he finally had her back, there was no way he was going to just let her go again.


After the mission the day before, Sarah decided to say to hell with what the Court thought. She pulled out another pair of sturdy jeans, a comfortable button down shirt she'd kidnapped from her father's closet ages ago, and a leather jerkin she'd 'acquired'. Jareth had watched her dress from where he lounged on the bed in that boneless manner that only he could pull off and make look damn good.

"You know, you don't have to keep doing this, Sarah. You've got nothing to prove." Jareth had the faintest hint of concern in his eyes but it was mostly overshadowed by the desire to pull her back into the bed and peel the clothing off of her once again.

She paused, met his gaze and finished buttoning the shirt. She sighed, tugging the jerkin on. "Jareth, maybe you don't think so, but..."

"You came back. For me that's plenty."

She moved towards him, crawled up on the bed and leaned over him. "Maybe for you. To me it doesn't seem like nearly enough." She flopped down, sitting on the bed and pulled a pillow into her lap. She studied him for a long moment, then sighed. "You don't understand. You can't possibly know how much you've done for me. If not for you...Jareth, you helped me become the woman I am today. By taking Toby, you forced me to set aside my selfishness, my childishness."

He simply watched her as she spoke, his eyelashes veiling his eyes, making it difficult to read them.

"That first trip, and then again when Toby wished me've done so much. And both times I left you. I didn't want to, not even when I was fifteen. But..." A tear broke free of her control and she swore with vicious precision. She felt his gloved hand gently brush the tear away and she met his gaze, her lower lip trembling. "I hurt you. I want to prove that I'm not going to leave you again."

Those fingers trailed lightly over her cheek, eventually cupping it and drawing her close. "Oh, Sarah," he breathed, "you precious thing..."

She closed her eyes when his lips found hers, moving gently beneath them, coaxing her to kiss him back. It was achingly sweet, tortuously gentle. She let her hands come up and trail lightly along his jaw, and nearly said to hell with going to court, let me ravish you.

Unfortunately, a knock on the door drew their attention and Jareth sighed, flopping down onto the bed. "The court awaits us, Precious." He sounded to her like he'd rather ignore the summons, rather than go spend a day in the company of who he called 'prissy prigs'.

She leaned down, giving him one more gentle kiss before she left the bed and heard him follow. She opened the door and found Hoggle waiting. The dwarf gave Jareth an odd look, then looked her over. "The courts sayin' that you'll be needing to come down now." Obviously, this left as bitter a taste in her friends mouth as it did her lovers.

Sarah gave him a gentle pat on the head and sighed. "Could you go see about a pack being put together for me? I think I'll need some food and water today."

Hoggle nodded, then headed off. "Probably a good idea."

They headed downstairs and Jareth looked down at Sarah in concern. "Precious..." he said softly. "If anything should happen, don't forget the pendant."

She lifted her gaze and gave him a shaky smile. "Nothing will happen, Jareth. I promise."

He grazed her forehead with a gentle kiss before he moved into the court before her. She waited until Hoggle returned and slipped the leather pack onto her shoulders. "Thank you, Hoggle."

"You shouldn't be doin this in your condition, Sarah." Hoggle said, his voice low.

She paused, glancing towards him. "And what condition is that, Hoggle?"

He shifted, looking uncomfortable. "I'm not an idiot. I had siblings enough to know the signs of a woman with child. Sir Didymus isn't happy about this either. And if that jackass, Jareth is right, then someone's messing with your tasks. What if you or the babe-"

She set her fingers gently against his lips. "The babe and I will be fine," she said softly.

"Well, you know the drill, Sarah...If you should need us-"

She cut him off with a winning smile and kissed his forehead lightly. "I'll call, Hoggle. I promise." She straightened and took a steadying breath, then walked into the room. She heard her friends following her, but kept her eyes forward. She, again, heard the same complaints regarding her dress, but ignored them, focusing her gaze on where Arthur sat with Guenevere. She gave a much shorter bow than last time, the pack threatening to smack her in the back of her head should she stoop lower. When she rose, she saw concern in the eyes of the king.

"Lady Sarah of the Above, are you prepared for your second challenge?"

She smiled, nodding. "I'm ready, your highness."

Another crystal was brought forward. She watched closely as the man viewed it and his face grew concerned. A breath later, the man addressed her. "You are aware of my opinion of these challenges, Lady Sarah, and having looked at this one, I must tell you, it would serve the court better if you consented to wait until the reason behind this is revealed-"

An objection came from Lance. "She accepted to be challenged. Said she has something to prove. Tell us what this challenge is!"

Sarah frowned faintly towards Lance, then returned her gaze towards the High King. "I appreciate your concern, however I would still hear the challenge." She kept her tone a damn sight more respectful than Lance had.

Arthur closed his eyes and sighed. "Not far to the west of here is the forest where the night trolls dwell." He said, his voice emotionless. Yet, a stir of chaos came from the others in the room. Once again, Sarah suspected that this was a challenge that was difficult, and extremely uncommon. "Our weavers say that their fur can be used to create wools that are as soft as silks. Unfortunately, the beasts do not take kindly to being...shaved. Your task is this: bring enough of their fur for the weavers to test this theory."

Sarah pursed her lips. She heard murmured objections, and saw Hoggle about to speak. Before he could, she did. "I will accept the challenge-"

"Sarah! No mortal should be asked to do this! None of them would do it without a fully armed escort of soldiers!" Hoggle gestured towards the court, not noticing the biting looks some of them gave him. "What about you! What about the-"

Sarah dropped to her knees, setting a hand over his mouth. She lowered her voice so the others would not hear. "Please, Hoggle, do not mention my condition. Not yet."

"You don't know what these night trolls are capable of, Sarah!" He whispered fiercely.

She sighed, petting his head, then lifted her gaze to the High King and Queen, who were looking at her, unnaturally closely. She swallowed, hoping they had not heard her words. "I assume the same rule regarding assistance from the court applies-"

Lance stood. "We all see how well you circumvent that! She should be banned from asking for help from anyone!"

Arthur scowled viciously at the man, then looked towards Sarah. "You may not ask help of anyone for this mission, Sarah. I wish that it were otherwise."

Sarah glanced towards Jareth, who had a hand over his mouth, but did not look particularly perturbed. His calm settled over her, and she wondered what he'd done to circumvent that rule himself. She straightened, and smiled at Arthur. "That's fine." She said softly.

She'd scarcely left the room, when a large furry mit on her arm stopped her. She looked and found Ludo looking at her, it's big eyes worried. She patted his hand gently, feeling the concern flowing from him. "I'll be okay."

Suddenly, she had the sensation of a veil dropping and a picture popped into her head. She gasped, shaken, but didn't pull away from her friend. "Ludo, what was-"

He shook his large, furry head, and his mouth pulled into a wobbly smile. "Sawah...friend..."

She rested her hands on his great horns, tugging him down gently and kissing him between his eyes. "Yes, Ludo. Always." She took a steadying breath and headed towards the castle exit.


It was a long, tiring walk, and she didn't have the company of her friends for it. Before she'd head out, however, Sir Didymus had found a sturdy short sword and a slender stiletto to be her companions and protection. Since Arthur had said she couldn't ask for help, she saw no problem in accepting the gifts. The short sword was strapped to her hip, and the stiletto was held loose in her hand.

It was past mid-day when she reached the forest. She'd long since begun sweating, and could feel it trickle in several places that were distinctly uncomfortable. Once she was out of the blazing sun, in the blessed shade of the thick forest canopy, she sighed, leaning against one.

Ludo, her dear friend, had sent her a picture before she'd left the castle, of a beast that looked a startling amount like him. It had long, shaggy black fur, and glittering red eyes. Really, it was the stuff of nightmares. If what she'd heard while before the court, they were also highly dangerous. It worried her, but there was little she could do. She'd accepted the challenge, and she wasn't about to back down and look like she was afraid, even if she was.

A howl shook the tree she leaned against and she swore, darting around the tree. More howls answered and the trees shook harder. Yet, she couldn't deny that there was something about that howl that reminded her more of her great hairy friend than she cared to admit. She moved towards the howling, finding a very large night troll surrounded by others. It's great foot was caught in a painful looking trap. She could see dark red blood trickling into it's fur. It looked towards her and snapped and hissed, revealing sharp, dangerous looking teeth.

The other's heads snapped up and snarled at her, looking fearsome.

Carefully, Sarah set down the stiletto, and then lifted her hands, trying to show that they had nothing to fear from her. "That's a nasty looking wound." She said, keeping her voice quiet. "May I help you?"

The great beast looked confused, and glanced towards the others, who were still snarling at her. She set down her pack and pulled out a skin of water. "There's water in this...and I've some bandages. My hands are small, and I'm certain I can get your foot out of that nasty trap."

It inclined his large furry head, and the others, seeming to notice that she was either very brave or supremely stupid had started to move towards her. He snarled viciously at them, snapping his teeth. They looked back at him, and howled inquisitively.

Sarah swallowed hard, forcing herself to pull out the roll of linen bandages Hoggle had stocked her pack with, and moved towards the beast. She wasn't certain how she managed to walk with seeming calm past the other four hulking beasts which were looking at her in a way that screamed 'meal', but she did, and knelt by the foot of the last one. The trap was similar to the bear traps she'd seen back home except it also had arrow-like tips on them, meaning removing them would hurt. Possibly as badly as being snared in the first place.

She moved towards the beasts face and touched it lightly with her fingertips. From it, she felt a wave of pain and fear and the faintest hint of hope. "I can open it, but it will hurt badly. The tips are made so that they do as much damage going out as going in." It didn't seem to understand much beyond the word 'hurt', but she got the feeling it got the general concept.

"Hold...down..." The creature muttered, and then howled at it's brethren. They frowned, but held down each of it's four, tree-trunk sized limbs.

She moved back towards it's trapped foot and she examined it, trying not to move it. She found the release and pressed the lever. The creature roared loudly in pain, and one of the creatures failed to hold it's limb securely, and it the creature flailed, backhanding her into a tree.

She gasped in pain, sliding down the trunk, her hands protectively flying towards her stomach. It took her several moments to catch her breath, and evidentially the other creatures were having the same problem. Three seemed winded. The fourth was fully unconscious.

The one which had been trapped slowly relaxed.

Once her breath returned, she moved towards it, and used a twig to close the contraption once more, so that no other creatures would fall victim to it. She took the linen bandages and rinsed it's great leg with the water from the skin. Then, she began carefully wrapping the wound.

"Forest home..." It mumbled. "Sun...painful."

She looked up, surprised. "Is that why they call you night trolls?" It looked towards her, nodded. She smiled, lowering her gaze. "I'm not from the Underground, but I can draw my lineage here. A few years ago, I wished away my baby brother, and came here first to get him back." She lifted her eyes again, sighing. "I succeeded. The way Jareth talks, I'm the first mortal. Now...I'm trying to become a citizen."

"Taking challenges?"

"Yes." She nodded. "That's why I'm here." She lowered her gaze. "The mission was to bring some night troll fur back to the court."

The trolls snarled protectively.

She sighed, tying the bandages. "I didn't think you'd like that. So I want to make a deal with you. I'll help you get rid of the rest of the traps in the forest. When they're gone, would you show me where you shed? I'll just take a little back with me, and that way you all keep your lovely coats, and have to worry less about traps. I'll even show you a way to check for those awful things when I've gone, so you don't have to be afraid of them anymore."

The large, wounded creature looked at her speculatively and then let out a resounding howl. It struggled to it's feet and Sarah looked up at it, a little nervous that it would turn on her now. Instead, it offered a large, black hand for her to pull herself up with and when she was standing, nodded. "You...harvest fur. Help first."

She smiled, then nodded. "I'm Sarah," she offered.

It fisted it's other hand and rapped it's chest. "Septimus."


The day drug by for the Goblin King. Every few hours, he was pulling out a crystal, checking on his lady, and then would spend the next hour pacing. Finally, Arthur had insisted that Jareth go and spend some time in the library, where he wouldn't agitate the already agitated members of the court.

So he'd retreated to the library, where he'd paced, fretted, and finally forced himself to sit down and read a book that held no interest to simply have something to do besides worry. He was half-way through the third one when a small creature scrambled up his leg and he found himself looking at a very amused goblin. "Where is Lady Sarah?"

"She is guest to Septimus." It chattered, looking very excited and not remotely worried.

Jareth's jaw dropped and he stared at the goblin. "The Troll-king?"


He called in a crystal and looked into it, his jaw dropping. Finally, he lifted a hand, hiding a smile. Sarah's beast mastery strikes again, he thought wryly, watching her speaking softly to the great troll, as she carefully selected some already molted night troll fur. "Whatever happened that she is so easy around the beasts?"

Goblin smiled slyly. "Good story. Lady would tell it better. But better question is why beasts so easy around lady."

Jareth arched a brow. "Right you are. Return to your guard, Gruempy. I must have a word with Arty." The goblin bared it's teeth in a broad smile and then scrambled off. Jareth set the book down, tapping his jaw with a finger. That dear girl was unbelievable. How in the Underground had she managed to befriend-

He smiled broadly, striding to the door. This should throw Arthur for quite a loop. No, the Underground had never seen anyone quite like Sarah Williams, and he'd no doubt they were going to receive quite the education when it came to dealing with his lady. He entered the court, finding Arthur speaking softly to Caledonensis and Guenevere. He approached and called in a crystal. "Take a look at this," he said, holding it in the middle of their circle.

They all went silent and stared, dumbstruck into the little crystal sphere. Jareth found himself quite pleased with the expression of dumb shock on the face of his uncle, teacher, and aunt. They turned towards him and he withdrew the crystal, smiling at them wryly. "I suggest we get comfortable. My lady should return before much longer."

He was right. Just as the rest of the court had gathered, and not three hours later, Sarah Williams entered the court, a reed basket on her hip, filled to the brim with fine black fur. Her eyes twinkled with mischief as she moved forward. Most of the court just stared in mute shock as she carried the basket. She winced a bit as she set the basket down, and he wondered what injuries she might have sustained. She lifted her gaze to the king and smiled mildly. "Do you think this will be enough?"

Arthur lifted a hand and his face turned red. Guenevere turned and hid her face in her husbands shoulder, her own shaking from her laughter. Jareth didn't bother to hide his grin. A moment later, Arthur managed to regain control and addressed her. "I took a glance into a crystal earlier and imagine my surprise. However did you managed to obtain cooperation from the night trolls?"

She blinked, as though shocked they'd asked such a thing. "Why I was simply my normal charming self and asked for some." Her voice held just enough mischief that Jareth couldn't withhold the snort of amusement that left him. Her green eyes darted towards him and she gave him a saucy smile. Then, she turned her gaze back to the High King. "I was told not to ask for help. I asked for the item, not help. So I didn't break any rules."

Jareth wheezed, trying to withhold a laugh. As it was, a snort left him. Arthur had no better luck. He pursed his lips and a sound similar to steam leaving a kettle left him when they parted. Finally, he managed to speak. "You are correct, Sarah. Asking for the item in question is within the rules...and you've succeeded in your second task."

She smiled, nodding. "Same time tomorrow, then?"

"No, Sarah. Tomorrow is a customary day of rest. No court will be held. Take the day as a reprieve, and try to let your body recover from your trials." He stood, and looked around. "The court may leave."

Once the last person had left, Jareth jumped over the railing, moving towards her. "Whatever did you do to get the cooperation of the trolls, Sarah? I saw you dealing with them, and you were as easy with them as with Ludo, and they seemed just as easy in your presence. Did you bewitch them?" He put his arms around her, startled when she cried out in pain. "Precious?"

She gently pushed him away. "It's fine." She said, biting her lip hard. "Must have hit the tree harder than I thought..." She shook her head and looked up at him. "I'll be fine. I just need to rest for awhile, and you'll have to be a little careful with my back." She lifted her gaze and saw Arthur and Guenevere heading towards her, wearing expressions of concern. "Can we go sit somewhere? Contrary to how cocky and confident I seemed a moment ago, I'm in some pain and I'm exhausted."

Arthur nodded. "Escort her to the family drawing room."

Jareth wrapped a hand around her shoulders, and the other beneath her knees, lifting her carefully. He ignored her objections as he lifted her, carrying her to the drawing room and setting her on a comfortable chair. Moments later, Arthur, Guenevere, Caledonensis, and her friends entered.

Jareth took the seat closest to her, holding her hand gently. "Sarah, what do you mean, hit a tree?"

She sighed, her head falling back to the seat. "First, I have something I want to say. I don't know why they're there, but when I entered that forest, I found a troll caught in a rather nasty trap." She gestured to Hoggle, who brought her pack over. "I brought it with me." She pulled the large metal trap from the leather pack and set it on the table before herself, wincing. Jareth put a hand behind her back to help her lean back. She moaned softly in pain.

Arthur frowned. "Well, that is troubling. There must be poachers in the forest." He lifted his gaze. "What happened?"

"Well, I spoke to the one that was trapped, his name was Septimus." Jareth smiled at the surprise on Arthur's face. "I told him that I wanted to help him, but the trap would hurt to be released. He had four hold him down, but one didn't have a very strong grip, and...I got backhanded into a tree." She saw concern sharpen in Hoggle and Caledonensis's face. Taking a steadying breath, she continued with her tale, and Jareth listened, gently stroking her back.

How interesting that her friends and his mentor seemed more concerned than even he was. After all, she was here, hale and whole. What had them so worried? The tale finally came to an end and Jareth sighed. "Sarah and I will dine in her room again this evening. Caledonensis, I would have you check her back. It must be a nasty bruise if the slightest pressure is causing her pain."

Thankfully, Sarah nodded in agreement. "I would appreciate it as well."

The old man nodded and stood. "Then let's not waste any time."

Of Cupid and Psyche

A Labyrinth Story
by Chibi-no-oneesan

Part 12 of 16

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