Continuing Tales

Of Cupid and Psyche

A Labyrinth Story
by Chibi-no-oneesan

Part 14 of 16

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This had not been her best idea, Sarah decided, hearing the muscles in her back screaming rather loudly in protest as she clung to the cliff-face. Unfortunately, it was the fastest way to get down, as there were no paths readily available. At least none she could locate.

It was fortunate that she'd enjoyed rock-climbing in her own realm and had gone often enough with her father to know that not trusting your instincts and your grip were quick ways to wind up at the bottom of a chasm. Her grip wasn't trust-worthy at the moment, and her hands throbbed from pain, but her instincts were still sharp. So she eased from one perch to the next, shimmying her way down the rock face.

"Inside a mountain my ass, Arty," she muttered, finding a steady perch to press a foot into. She eased her weight down, and when assured that it would hold, she moved her hand to the next grip. "I've gone mountain climbing. This isn't a mountain. You could be a little more precise of what I'm going to be scrambling down so that I don't expect to see one thing and find ass clinging to something else..."

There was a giggle nearby her, and she turned her head, finding a goblin clinging to a hand hold as well, her heavy pack on it's small back as though it didn't weigh more than a pound or two. It smiled brightly at her. "Lady funny."

She gave a wry grin. "Thank you for the assistance. I planned on leaving it up there, though."

"I know. But gardener's gift valuable. Should keep close."

Sarah glanced down. "Something for protection, right?"

"Among other things."

Sighing blissfully, she eased herself down onto a two foot wide ledge that was a third of the way down the face of the cliff. She could see the top of the falls, and realized that to feed falls this large, they must be fed by much more than a simple 'spring'. There was an underground lake in this cliff. Shaking the thought away, she helped the goblin down, and pulled open the pack. "Let's see this gift. If it's something I can carry on me, then I probably should." She smiled at the goblin.

It smiled back, nodding. While she searched, the small creature sat down, hugging it's knees.

While she was digging, she found the pouch that usually held Hoggle's vast collection of shiny valuables. She opened it, and blinked, surprised. "Flowers?" She pulled out a few, finding apple blossoms, chamomile, clovers, eucalyptus, pink and white heather, and a wealth of others, some she could name, others which were unfamiliar.

"Protection." The goblin smiled broadly. "Luck, good fortune, strength in adversity." It looked up at her, a little shy. "Gardener told Gruempy while packing. Said it was best he could give."

Sarah slowly closed the pouch, her eyes misted with tears. She looped the pouch on the belt that held the short sword Sir Didymus had given her. "How much farther do you think we need to go?"

The goblin smiled broadly. "Not down."

Her gaze followed where the tiny creature was pointing and she saw two large dragons, one red, one blue, standing guard. Beneath their claws, she could see the top of the mist created by the water falls. "Well, that's helpful..." She shimmied along the ledge, keeping her back to the face of the cliff as she moved. Her hands felt swollen, tender. She heard her goblin companion following behind her and held her breath as she approached the dragons.

"Did not."

"Did too."

"Get your swollen head out of yer arse."

"Isn't that my line."

Sarah covered her mouth, trying not to giggle at the words. The voices were hushed, but argumentative.

"Nivaine said we protect the well spring, and protect it we will."

"But Lapis! That water...can you feel it? It's making steam rise from my scales!"

"I think it feels perfectly pleasant."

Sarah exchanged a look with the goblin, then cleared her throat. "Pardon me."

The dragons jumped, which shook the ground she stood on a bit and Sarah was glad she'd maintained a grip with her hand while easing along the rock ledge. This rather reminded her of when she'd nearly fallen into the bog of eternal stench. Two pairs of sharp gold eyes pinned her and she was just a bit unnerved to find that the snout of the two beasts were both as tall as she was. The length of the head was approximately three times her height, and she found that facing a dragon was slightly intimidating.

"Who trespasses?"

"Who goes there?"

Sarah arched a brow, looking at the creatures. One's feet were, indeed steaming, and she found that she had to assume that since it was the red dragon, it's interior element was fire. That made her wonder what kind of idiot has a fire dragon protecting a water source. Then, it snorted, and a trail of fire left it's nostril.

She found her voice and coughed, clearing her throat. "I'm Sarah. This is Gruempy."

The blue dragon hissed. "Goblin..."

"Suppose so," Sarah agreed, feeling the small creature clinging to her pant-leg. She could feel it shaking in fear. "Is that a problem?"

The dragon stared at her. "Goblins are despicable creatures! Feed on the darker things in life! Kidnap babes from their beds! You'd do well to lose that companion of yours!"

She huffed, resting her free hand onto her hip. "Wow, I suppose even dragons are given to bigotry," she said, glaring up at the dragons. "I know well enough that goblins live in the dark. So do night trolls, and most of the residents of the Underground. Lucky for me, they seem to like me, even though I've always lived in the light." She shrugged.

The dragons were staring at her like she was nuts. "What manner of mortal are you that you speak to dragons in such a way?" The red one asked, glaring down at her.

Gruempy scrambled up her shoulder, glaring at the dragons. "This is the Sarah! This is the Lady of the Labyrinth!"

She gently stroked his downy hair, then looked up at the dragons. They were looking at her, their expression suddenly wary. She gave a weary grin. "I'm an immigrant, and yes, I defeated the Goblin King's Labyrinth. I'm going to tell you this, now. I've no qualms with you and I don't wish to cause any problems, but I need a sample of the water from the well spring here in order to fulfill my challenge."

"And if we refuse to give it to you?"

"I'll do whatever I can to get it regardless. I'm not asking for help. I'm asking you to let me past." She looked into those sharp golden eyes and let out the breath she was holding slowly.

The blue dragon leaned towards the red dragon and their voices lowered to the barest growls. "Jasper, if she is who she says..."

"It's not possible, Lapis. No mortal can reach the well spring. That's why..."

"It's possible." Gruempy chirped, it's eyes shining with that shrewd intelligence that was sometimes so apparent in the creatures. "If one of you holds the lady over the water."

The dragons whipped their heads around, staring at the small creature on her shoulder. It cheerfully played with her hair, and Sarah managed not to smile at the dumbstruck expressions on their great faces. Then, her brain caught up with what the goblin said and she opened her mouth to object just as the great blue dragon grabbed the back of the leather jerkin with her teeth and began lifting her off the ground.

"Oh...crap," she managed as she was held precariously in the air. "Well...Jareth did say that it should be okay as long as I didn't ask for help..." She just hoped that the giant, scaled behemoth didn't accidentally send her to the bottom of the falls.


Jareth hid a yawn behind a hand, wishing he'd thought to take a nap before the court gathered that eve to check on Sarah's progress. He straightened his jacket and was about to enter the court when Gruempy, Sarah's little guard ran up, scrambled up his back and clung to him, trembling. This alarmed Jareth a bit and he glanced back at the goblin a frown playing on his lips. "Is everything alright," he asked quietly.

The goblin gave him a sheepish grin and nodded. "Future Queenie pissed." It snickered, then scrambled down him and out of sight.

With that ominous little tidbit to chew on, Jareth walked into the court and took his seat, noting that Lance looked a tad troubled. Wondering whatever was wrong, he caught sight of someone who was often referred to as his doppleganger standing a short distance behind Lance. He felt his brows shoot up into his hairline.

Two brown eyes caught sight of him and a wry smile turned up thin lips. The man pushed off the wall and headed towards him. When he was a short distance away, he bowed at the waist, eyes bright with amusement. "Your highness."

"Jeremy, what are you doing here?"

Jeremy smiled wryly. "I came to check on the progress of my step-daughter." Jareth had to stare at him for a long moment before the man chuckled. "Sarah?"

"Darkness help me," he muttered, putting a hand over his mouth. "Have you told your cousin?"

The pale haired man pulled up a chair and snorted. "I haven't spoken to Lance since I went Above and married Linda. That one has a rotten disposition. He despises mortals, and that I would chose a mortal life sickens him."

Jareth exhaled sharply. "It is the belief of the High King that Lance has been interfering in her trials. For God's sake, have you heard what they've been? The field of gold and silver, night troll fur, and now..." he scoffed, "now she's been sent for a sample of water from the Lake of Life."

Jeremy tapped his jaw, frowning deeply. "The boy's a fool. He probably doesn't even realize that he's attempting to kill a niece."

That caused Jareth to choke, and it took a moment of coughing to clear his throat. "I beg your pardon?"

"Isabella? You remember she immigrated to the Above about thirty years before I did. She's Sarah's grandmammy."

Slumping back into his chair, the Goblin King realized that it made an odd kind of sense. How Sarah managed to hold onto her belief, her imagination. The powers that she was developing. "Isabella was quite a witch, bright, intelligent. She passed that on to her granddaughter."

"And her grandson." Jeremy smirked, glancing over at Jareth from the corner of his eyes. "Toby is showing himself to be more than proficient in magic as well. He forced an unauthorized viewer to stop watching. I believe I caught your mother's feel from that one. Tainted and twisted, but it felt similar."

"You've missed quite a bit." When Arthur entered, Jareth stood, moving towards the High King. He leaned over and said softly, "Gruempy says the Lady is pissed, which likely means she's on her way back."

Arthur chuckled, nodding. He glanced over towards where Jareth usually sat and blinked in surprise. "Is that Jeremy?"

"Indeed. He's visiting to check on Sarah, probably at her families behest."

Once they were in front of Arthur's throne, the man turned towards Jareth, frowning faintly. "How does he know her family?"

Jareth just grinned secretively, then returned to his seat.

Arthur remained standing, turning to address the court. "Queen Guenevere is feeling unwell this evening, and will not be joining us. It has also been brought to my attention that Lady Sarah is returning from the trial. Get comfortable-"

The doors opened with such force that they hit the walls with a crash, and then bounced back.

Everyone looked over in shock. Jareth stared at his lady, bit his lip as hard as he could to keep from chortling and likely putting himself on the sharp side of her temper and let his breath out through his nose.

Sarah Williams walked into the court, dripping wet, her hand tightly around a water skin, several tears in her jerkin, and her face dark with anger. Even from where he sat, Jareth could see that she was trembling in rage. Oh, heaven, what on earth had happened? Did she take a header into the lake or something?

Lance was already out of his seat. "How dare you appear like this before the court!"

Jareth and Jeremy were on their feet, preparing to go to her defense, when Sarah turned towards Lance, bared her teeth, and snarled at him. The sound wasn't remotely human in tone or timbre. Obviously, her expression frightened the poor sod so badly that he went pale and sank into his chair.

When she returned her gaze to the front, Jareth saw why. Her eyes were glazed, her expression was so far beyond fury, that he didn't really know a word for it.

She walked forward, set the skin on a round pillar in the center of the room. "Water from that lake. By the way, Arty, next time you're going to send me on one of these happy little challenges, it would be nice to know that I'm going to be climbing down a cliff face. My hands were torn up until my little dips in the lake." She sounded cross, and Jareth wanted to go down to her, take her to her room and let her get the temper out in a better way. If what Caledonensis had said was correct, he was getting a first-hand account of a lady's pregnancy mood swings.

Jeremy coughed beside him, and Jareth glanced over, seeing that the man had a hand clamped firmly over his mouth. His eyes were shining brightly with suppressed laughter and Jareth cleared his throat, finding that now he had to keep a hand firmly planted over his own mouth. Arthur seemed to be having similar troubles.

"Lady Sarah, whatever happened to put you in such a state?" Arthur managed to keep his voice steady, but damned if Jareth knew how.

"Well, first someone forgot to tell me that I was going to be scaling a cliff. Then, after shimmying my ass along a ledge that was about as wide as my feet are long, I wound up having a conversation with two bigoted dragons. It was suggested by an uninterested third party that one of the dragons hold me over the lake while I scoop up the water..." Sarah shot Jareth a look that nearly singed the hair on his head.

Ah, so Gruempy had made that suggestion. And it looked like he would be paying for it.

"Before I even had a chance to say that it wasn't necessary, I'm hanging several feet above a lake inside a cliff, and Lapis tried very hard to be careful, but her jaws are very large and I am very small. After about the third dunking, I slipped through the crevasse that feeds the falls, and it's a good thing Jasper is so swift, or I might have died." She glared at Arthur. "Unfortunately, Jasper is a fire dragon, and as a result, I got a tad singed on the way to the top again."

Arthur made a sound similar to a kettle releasing steam, and took a steady breath. Jareth tucked his tongue into his cheek, trying not to laugh. Jeremy, finally let out a whimpered laugh, and it set the rest of the court off. Now, everyone was chuckling, because the story was so ridiculous, but now that they'd seen her go through the other challenges, heard the stories about her in the Labyrinth, they knew it had to be true.

Jareth watched as Arthur sat there, shaking from his own smothered laughter, tears dancing in the man's eyes. The Goblin King felt Sarah's gaze on him and looked down, pursed his lips, trying not to laugh at the mild insult on her face. Their eyes locked, and finally, a grudging smile turned up her lips and she chuckled. "Okay, I guess it's kinda funny."

Finally, Arthur caught his breath and sighed. "And on that note, you've completed the third challenge...go rest, Lady, you've earned it."

The court cleared out, many wiping tears from their eyes as they tried to regain control and their normally stoic demeanor. Jareth came down, put a hand on either of her arms, and gently kissed her. "Rough day, precious?"

She leaned into his chest, giving a weak laugh. "You have no idea."

Jeremy joined them and he gently patted Sarah on the back. Jareth opened his mouth to snap at the man, but Sarah didn't even wince, not even a whimper of pain. Deciding to question it, later, he released her so she could turn to her step-father. It obviously took a moment to recognize him, and when she did, her jaw dropped. "You look well." He smiled at her, his eyes amused. "And you're taking the Underground by storm, I see."

"Please do not tell Daddy about the challenges," she muttered, leaning her shoulder into Jareth's chest. He smiled wryly, putting his arms around her, cradling her there. "I'll tell them if I get a chance to visit. If you tell him now, he'll just fret."

"He already is. He'll be glad to hear that you're safe. Toby and Caitlin are quite interested in hearing about your adventures when you return as well."

Sarah nodded. Then, she looked up at her King. "Jareth, I'm tired."

He glanced at Jeremy and smiled wryly. "My lady is weary. Pardon me, Jeremy. I advise you tell Lance what you told me before you go back and reassure her family."

Jeremy gave a mock salute, then headed out the door.

Jareth lifted her into his arms, carrying her through the castle. He didn't mind that her soaked clothes were soaking his as well. Once they were in the privacy of her rooms, he stripped her and himself. Then, when he turned to help her into the bathroom, he found himself staring at the smooth, white column of her back. Stunned, he reached forward, touching her skin lightly. "Sarah, your back..."

She twisted, a frown on her lips. "What about it? Is it that bad?"

"The bruise is gone, darling..."

She blinked in surprise, then looked up at him. "Why on earth would it be gone? That should have taken weeks to heal."

Laughter bubbled out of him and he wrapped an arm around her waist, spinning her in the air. "The Lake, precious. The Lake. Water from the well spring that feeds the falls has amazing healing properties. You must have ingested just a bit due to your repeated dunkings."

Sarah thought about it and grinned up at him. "Well, that explains why I was feeling energetic enough to go off like that. I'm actually amazed you didn't start laughing first. Usually you're chuckling as soon as I start talking. That was an impressive amount of self restraint, highness."

Her voice had that sassy, teasing quality that he loved so much.

He smiled wickedly. "If you're feeling energetic enough, perhaps we should make the most of the bath." He lifted her into his arms, and walked into to the bathroom.


Jareth and Sarah sprawled on his bed, his hand gently stroking her back. She lay on her stomach, asleep, one of her hands pillowing her cheek. He simply lay there, watching her. The sheets rode low enough on her that the he could see the whole of the pale white column and its smattering of freckles. He caressed her skin gently, sighing softly. He would never tell the members of the court, but as soon as he'd learned what her task, he'd contacted Nivaine through one of his goblins to assure Sarah's ability to obtain the water.

He wasn't planning on ever telling Sarah either.

By law, if the courts knew she was pregnant, she would not be permitted to undertake these tasks at all. They were never without danger, and to give a truly fair trial, she should have been hale, whole. If Arthur knew of her pregnancy, he would have demanded that she wait until she had recovered from the labor, the delivery, making her a guest, but not a citizen. He would not be permitted to marry her as such, and she could not be his queen.

Their children would have been born illegitimate, and should they show potential, would have not been permitted to inherit his throne, even if he acknowledged them as his own.

Such were politics in the Underground.

He hated that she was insisting on doing these challenges, would have gone against the laws set by his uncle and married her regardless. It would have caused an irreparable rift between himself and the High King, but he would have saved Sarah this hardship.

Still, it was what she'd wanted, and he had never been able to deny her of her desires. So tomorrow, when she went before the courts, he would sit aside, would let her go stand before the court a final time, because as soon as she returned, he intended on having a hand fasting ceremony with her before she realized what was happening. Not that he thought she'd object.

He smiled faintly, trailing his fingers over the soft skin of her back.

There wouldn't be much pomp and circumstance. A quick ceremony here, to ensure that she was his, then he'd take her home and make her his before his people, would throw her a lavish party, have a huge reception, whatever she wanted. He would bring her family, let them stand witness.

"Just one more..." He whispered, leaning over and gently kissing her shoulder. Closing his eyes, he whispered a soft prayer. "Whatever deity is looking over this woman, protect her well tomorrow. Guard her against those who would cause her harm, shield her from danger. I am not the praying sort, and I do not ask for assistance often. Just watch over my lady a little longer..." He slipped the arm around her waist, pulling her gently against his chest, smiling faintly when she burrowed back into him.


Lance sat at the table, turning his wine glass, and staring into the dark fluid inside it. "Why are you here, Jeremy?"

Jeremy looked at the younger man and smiled faintly. "Shouldn't I be?" He examined the petulant man, seeing everything in his posture screaming of anger, rebellion, hatred. "Are you interfering with the trials?"

Blue eyes met brown, and showed a level of rage that Jeremy had never seen before in his young cousin. "And if I am? She's just some mortal slut whose wormed her way into the bed of the Goblin King!" Lance tipped back the glass of wine and gulped it down, cringing a bit at the taste.

Jeremy rubbed his index finger along his upper lip, just watching Lance, his mouth pulled into a faint frown. When had the bright-eyed boy given way to this petulant, angry young man, Jeremy wondered, lifting the glass and taking a delicate sip of the heavy wine. "I'm sad to hear you say that, Lance." He swirled the wine in his goblet, watching the liquid dance against the glass. "To answer your question regarding why I am here, my wife asked me to look in on her daughter."

Lance looked towards him, a slight frown playing on his lips.

"I met Linda several years before I left the Underground. Really, it was close to a decade. I was in the Above on a vacation, visiting Bella. I clowned around town with her son, Robert and met Linda at the small local theater that we visited. I fell in love with her almost straight away. Still, my brain convinced my heart that it would be best that I return and I started taking steps towards immigrating at that point."

The younger man wore a deep frown. "What does Isabella have to do with this?"

Jeremy smiled faintly, inclining his head. "While I was gone, Linda and Robert married, Linda gave up the theater, and they had a daughter." Brown eyes pinned him. "Then, when the girl was eight, I'd finally procured permission to return permanently and marry the mortal who held my heart and Linda left Robert and ran away with me. Later, Robert remarried a pleasant woman named Karen. They had a son, and Linda and I had a daughter about two years later. Recently, I learned that the daughter that Linda bore Robert had deeper connections to the Underground than her father."

Realization was dawning upon Lance, Jeremy could see it happening.

"The girl's name is Sarah. She's my step-daughter, and a cousin. However...she's your niece." Jeremy stood, setting his still mostly full wine glass onto the table top and pinned his cousin with a look. "So I'd advise you to reassess your priorities. She's a bright light, a rare spirit. She's here because she was drawn to this world to find something she lacked there. If you stop her, if you intentionally make her fail, so help me, I'll bring Robert and you can explain to Bella's son why his daughter is in the Above instead of with the man that holds her heart."

With that, Jeremy strode to the door, and closed it behind him. He closed his eyes, taking a steadying breath and leaned against the wood, deciding that he needed to get a good night's sleep before returning home to his Linda. He headed off to the room he'd been given and hesitated before he entered the room. Finally he entered, shedding the jacket and sat down in one of the chairs in the room. He leaned against the cushion, rubbing the tension out of the back of his neck.

He couldn't go back yet.

He wanted to, how he wanted to, but going back and not having a firm answer regarding their daughter would just cause the others to worry. So he would remain tomorrow, for the reading of the next task, until Sarah returned to the castle, win or fail. He would stay and give his step-daughter the added support of another shoulder to lean upon.

He only hoped that his foolish cousin would heed his warning, because if anything happened to Sarah, he wouldn't have to bring Robert to tear Lance a new ass hole. Jareth would destroy the man before he ever reached the veil. There wouldn't be any body parts big enough to find.

Jeremy had always known that Lance wasn't suited to be a king, even to a small and 'unimportant' land like the Goblin Kingdom. He was selfish, arrogant, and cared far too much about himself to let the little concerns of the day to day lives of his people get in the way of what he wanted. Arthur had seen it, Caledonensis had seen it. Likely, Jareth had as well, he simply hadn't said anything about it.

Jareth was selfish and arrogant as well, however, while he strove to attain what he longed for, he never forgot that he was a king, and never neglected those he ruled. He may indulge briefly in dramatic theatrics, but quickly enough he'd settle into a routine, get his ass in gear, and take care of his own.

Jeremy sighed softly, tapping his cheekbone. Yes, Sarah had some substantial connections in this realm. She obviously didn't know how strong. Through her connection to the Goblin King, half of the Underground was tied to her. Due to her easy personality and quick wit, she had nearly the other half already wrapped around her little finger. She'd already won the hearts of the court, and she didn't even realize it.

Those stoic faces turned red from laughter had been brilliant. He was going to have to convince her to write her stories down, and take them to the Above and get them published. She'd have best-selling novels on her hands.

If she survived this next challenge, however that boy chose to tamper with it.

Scrubbing his face, Jeremy decided he was too tired to think about it. He would worry about it further tomorrow.


Jareth opened his eyes and nearly panicked when he felt Sarah wasn't beside him. The room was still mostly dark, hued pink and purple in the dawn light. Rolling, he found Sarah standing by the window, the sheet wrapped around her, staring out across the land. He smiled, watching her. "Why is there an angel standing at the devil's window?" he teased lightly.

She turned towards him, a slight smile on her own lips. "Probably because she fell in love with that devil." She moved towards him, kneeling on the bed. Leaning over, she lightly kissed his lips, her dark chocolate hair spilling around his face.

He deeply breathed in her scent, lifting his hand and catching the back of her neck when she tried to pull away from him. "My lady..." he murmured, staring up at her. Her pupils were dilated, a wide circle of black surrounded by a ring of mossy green. He heard the possession in his voice, but she didn't draw back.

Instead, her eyes heated and one of her soft hands brushed his hair back. When she spoke, her voice was just as possessive. "My king."

He smiled at the words, a thrill of victory flashing through him. "Always, darling." He would have pulled her down for a brief tumble between the sheets, however, he could see the sun slowly rising in the sky and sighed. "Would that I could keep you in bed with me all day, but unfortunately, we have to go learn your next challenge..."

She cupped his face, kissing his lips lightly. "I know." She rested her forehead against his and then sat upright. He sat up behind her, slipping his arms around her torso. They sat as such for awhile, watching as the sky turned pink, and then blue. Finally, grudgingly, he unwound himself from around her, gave her a gentle kiss, and went to his wardrobe to get dressed.

As he did, Sarah rose, and he thought she would go to her own room to dress, but instead, she came over to him, and stood beside him. She laced a hand through his, but didn't turn to face him. "May I borrow one of your shirts?"

Surprise and pleasure ran through him as he turned to look at her. "Not that I mind, precious, but why?"

Her eyes turned towards him and he saw mild fear in her eyes. No, not mild, hidden. He could feel her small hand shaking in his. She took a steadying breath. "In the days of knights, during jousting tournaments, a lady gave the knight something for luck, to show her favor."

He reached in, found a billowing silk shirt and pulled it down. Wrapping it around her shoulders, he used it to pull her gently closer and kissed her forehead. "In that case, feel free." He pulled back, feeling the same fear in her scraping at his own heart. He tightened his hands around her shoulders briefly, then released her. "You should go get dressed," he said softly, fighting against the urge to touch her.

She gave him a wobbly smile, and then, wearing only his shirt, hurried to her own room. He watched her go, his throat tight. This was the last chance whoever was interfering in these challenges would be able to stop her. She just had to get through this last challenge. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath, fisting his hand against the wooden door of the wardrobe. "Just once more..." he whispered.


Jareth didn't walk down to the court with her today. She knew why. She'd seen his tension before he'd sent her to get dressed. She knew that if he saw her too much today, he would give in to the villain inside him and would just spirit her away to his castle. He was avoiding her so that she would be able to finish what she'd started. Standing outside the court, she wrung her hands so hard that the bones ached.

She'd dressed simply, but not as she had for the last two challenges. She'd gone with a loose, comfortable skirt, Jareth's shirt, and the thick brown vest that she'd brought with her from her world. The crystal pendant hung around her neck, and she'd tied her hair back in a thick braid. She'd had to forgo her comfortable walking shoes, instead wearing some soft leather shoes that Ludo had brought to her. A wide belt went around her waist and strapped to it was the sheathed short sword from Sir Didymus, as well as Hoggle's own gift of protection. Guenevere had given her the silver clasp that held her braid, Jeremy had given her a wide silver bracelet that was a gift from her family. Caledonensis had visited her briefly that morning, placing his hands on her shoulders, recited some words she didn't recognize, made a symbol in the air above her and left.

She was surrounded by gifts from friends and family.

Looking up, she saw her oldest friends from the Underground approaching her, and she saw Hoggle's eyes water a bit when he saw her wearing the leather pouch at her hip, next to the short sword. He set the pack down in front of her, and gave her hands a squeeze. She knelt, putting her arms around her two shorter friends. "Thank you."

Hoggle whispered in her ear, "Arthur gave us something to put in your pack. Big black cloak, it looked like. Had a good sized clasp on it. He wishes you luck." He patted her back. "We all do."

She felt her own eyes water and kissed each of her friends on the forehead. "Thank you." She stood and wiped her eyes, taking a deep breath. "Let's get this show on the road," she said, strapping a little extra steel on her spine, and then pushed open the doors. Whispers when she entered. Approving nods. Lance didn't speak. He seemed troubled and was looking anywhere but at her. It came as a slight surprise when she saw Jeremy was again sitting beside Jareth. Both men gave her a faint encouraging smile and she steadied herself, heading to the front of the room.

Arthur and Guenevere sat before her and she saw their hands were entwined so tightly their knuckles were white. She stopped before them and bowed at the waist. "Good morning, your highness." She smiled, trying to reassure them.

Arthur gave his wife's hand another squeeze before extracting his own. "Lady Sarah of the Above. You have met and succeeded in your first three challenges. This shall be your last. Are you prepared?"

"I am." She said, straightening. She watched as the trembling page came forward, and Arthur took the crystal waiting.

Arthur took the crystal and his eyes widened in surprise. Quickly, however, he regained his composure. "Your final mission, Lady Sarah, is to travel to Castle Corbenic and heal the Fisher King."

Sarah felt her own brows jump clear into her hairline. Several voices around her cried out in surprise. "The Fisher King? Like Bran the Blessed? Like the Grail-Myth Fisher King?"

Arthur's eyes flickered towards Jareth, who had a frown on his face, and was wearing an expression of confusion, curiosity. After a moment, he returned his gaze to her, nodding. "Do you accept the challenge?"

She frowned faintly. This seemed too easy. Then again, if she hadn't known the Grail Myth, hadn't known of the Fisher King, it would have likely baffled her. Still, she nodded. "I do." She said after a moment. There was something troubling about the anxiety on the face of the High King, as though he also believed that something about this wasn't quite right. She shouldered her pack and headed out. Jareth didn't follow.

It hurt a bit, but she knew why he didn't follow this time. Win or fail, everything rode on what happened now. She would either be welcomed back a citizen, or told she had to return home. Before she headed out, she heard a voice call her name and turned, finding Lance standing behind her, looking uncomfortable. She frowned as he approached her, something in his hands. He held them out to her.

She didn't move.

He looked at her, then turned his hands over, opening them. They were leather gloves, looked to be high quality. On the back was a Celtic knot work design. She lifted her eyes, looking up at him, very uncertain. He stood there for a moment. "Take them. It's all I can give. I...didn't know."

"Know what?"

He took an unsteady breath. "We...are kin. Your grandmother was my sister."

She blinked, then pondered that for a moment. Jeremy said that her grandmother, Izzy, was his cousin. That made Lance..."Ho~kay. That's a weird, random coincidence."

He lowered his gaze, looking distinctly uncomfortable. "Just...take them. It's a peace offering. Good luck."

She accepted the gloves and without looking at him, slipped them onto her hands. They fit perfectly. She flexed her hands in them and looked up. "Thank you," she said and just to taunt him a little, added, "Unccie."

She was rewarded when his eyes bugged out a bit. She smiled cheerfully, heading out the great castle entrance. She made her way, tugging out the map Hoggle had passed to her just after she existed the throne room and walked down the stairs, not paying much attention to the people who watched her pass and whispered amongst themselves.

She didn't care about the whispers, the rumors. She was rather getting used to being food for them. No doubt her clothing caused controversy, her appearance wasn't traditional or commonplace. Pale hair, blue eyes, and fair skin were favored, although there were a smattering of people with dark hair. Her hair was so dark it was nearly black, her eyes were green, an eye color she'd been told was rare. Her pale skin was always freckled, and had grown more-so from her recent time in the sun.

No, she wasn't typical, but the Goblin King favored her, a common mortal from the Above, above those who were of his own class here in the Underground. She wasn't delicate, wasn't frail like so many of the ladies of the court.

She wasn't like them, wouldn't ever be like them.

And that was just fine with her. More importantly than that, however, was that it was just fine with Jareth as well. The Goblin King loved her, wanted her, because she wasn't like those other women.

So she wasn't going to change to suit the rest of the Underground. She'd gotten this far as Sarah Williams and she'd be damned if she became someone else to be beside the man she loved.


Lance stood in the darkened corridor, waiting. He knew when she had arrived, but stepped back when she reached to touch him. He felt her shock, but couldn't do anything else. He couldn't knowingly betray his own blood, even knowing that Sarah was from the Above, the granddaughter of the sister who'd abandoned him in the Underground.

"Lance, whatever is the matter?"

He lifted his gaze, looking into those blue-green eyes of the woman who was currently his lover. They were lovers, but they didn't love each other. They were together because it was convenient, because by being together, they were reaching towards their own ambitions. "I'm turning myself in," he said, keeping his voice low and even.

Shock, fury in those eyes, set in that delicate face. "What are you talking about?" she hissed. "Are you trying to ruin everything we've begun to build?"

He straightened, that haughty arrogance that was bred into him reigning supreme. "It is not my job to explain myself to you," he sneered.

"We're so close! She'll get the grail, she'll succeed that far! I put a compulsion spell on the box, when it opens-"

"No..." he whispered, stunned. "Dammit, woman, I may have stood beside you until now, but I'll not hang myself as you are!" He turned on his heal, walking away swiftly, going to find someone who could stop what he was deathly afraid would happen. If that girl wasn't reached in time, if that woman's plan worked, then he would lose the only remaining family he had in the Underground.


Sarah sat beside the river she followed, idly wondering if this river was fed by the falls she'd visited just the day before. That thought made her remember the two bickering dragons, Lapis and Jasper, and she chuckled softly. She'd settled at about mid-day, deciding that she needed a break and a snack. She found in her pack that her friends had packed her a hearty meat sandwich, a skin of water, a bag of grapes and some biscuits.

She'd also pulled out Arthur's gift when she'd stopped, since the day seemed to be cooling off as she traveled. It had gone from pleasantly warm at Arthur's castle, but now the sky was partially overcast, and the wind bit her skin through the silk of Jareth's shirt. The gift was a lovely cloak made from soft, warm black fabric. The clasp was silver and gold, and extremely feminine and delicate. So, wrapped in the gifts, she sat, eating her lunch, watching fish pass her by in the river.

Once the majority of the food was gone, she stood, moving to follow the river once more. As she moved, the temperature continued to drop, until rain started to fall. She pulled the hood up to shield her head from the rain, at least for awhile. The cloak was obviously waterproofed somehow, because the rain simply beaded on it and rolled off.

She'd walked for what seemed like hours, when she heard someone singing a song in a language she didn't understand, but the voice was gusty, rich and strong. She glanced in the direction of the sound and found a man towards the end of his prime or just slightly past it. He sat on the edge of the river, wearing breeches which were in good repair, and a silk shirt which was completely soaked from the rain.

"Wel dyma ni'n diwad

Guefeillion diniwad

I ofyn cawn gennad

I ofyn cawn gennad

I ofyn cawn gennade I ganu.

Qwychw yr hyfder

Rywle rhy drws ar agorwch chi?

I ganu mae'm gwraig

I ganu mae'm gwraig

I ganu mae'm gwraig am gwrw..."

Sarah inclined her head, moving towards the man. The song was light, but he sung it in an almost chanting manner, making words which had no meaning to her seem like something holy, something that should ordinarily be sung in a place of worship. He paused, inhaling to begin the next verse before he noticed her and the breath left him slowly instead.

His hair was black, heavily silvered at the temples. His eyes were sharp, dark blue. His skin was heavily weathered. His long fingers held the line he'd cast into the water. He didn't say anything, simply watched her.

"I didn't mean to intrude," she said softly. "I heard you singing. It was lovely."

The expression softened slightly, a small smile turning up those thin lips. "Thank you, Lady," he replied. "What brings you this way?"

She smiled ironically. "Immigration requirements."

Interest flickered into those blue eyes. "You're from the Above...of course. You wouldn't be the first. You wont be the last. Still, those requirements don't ordinarily lead one this way." He examined her closely. "Have a seat, child, you look weary."

She was. She wouldn't admit it, but she was tired. "So, what was the song you were singing?"

He smiled indulgently. "Mari Llwyd. I suppose in Arthur's tongue, it would be 'The Gray Mare'. Don't ask me to translate further."

She grinned wryly. "I understand that. I took Spanish in high school, and whenever they'd tell us to translate something more than a sentence into English, I was lost, even though I understood it, trying to change words that made sense in one language into ones that would make sense in another..." she shuddered.

He chuckled. "Indeed. So, tell this old man what challenge Arthur sends you this way with?"

She grew serious, considering him. "I'm not certain I should tell you."

He looked genuinely surprised. "Why ever not, child?"

She smiled faintly. "Every time I tell what my mission is, I wind up with people trying to help me, and just once, it'd be nice to do it myself. Besides, this time I think I've got a handle on what needs done." She wrapped her arms around her knees, not minding as the cold rain began wetting her skirt. "You're the Fisher King, aren't you."

The look of surprise turned to wariness. "Whatever do you mean?"

She gave him a patient look, even though irritation scraped at her. "You're sitting along a river, fishing, dressed in clothing that's as fine as what's in the closet of the Goblin King. I'm a smart girl and I know my mythology. If I didn't, I wouldn't be here." She sighed, looking into the distance. "Someone's been mucking with my challenges, giving me ones that are supposedly far more difficult than what is the norm."

He frowned slightly. "Knowing that, Arthur is making you endure these challenges anyways?"

She laughed. "If Arthur or Jareth had their way, I wouldn't be doing these challenges at all. Arthur was ready to just let me in. He knows me and he knows what I've done, and..." She felt that warmth in her chest that she always felt when she thought of Jareth. "He knows how I feel for Jareth."

"Then why are you?"

She just shrugged and laughed a little. "I'm stubborn." She sighed, rocking back and forth a bit. "Jareth has done so much to show his feelings for me, and I've left him twice, even knowing that. This is my way of making it up to him." She looked towards the man and offered her hand. "I'm Sarah."

"Bran." He offered in return.

She grinned broadly. "So you were singing in Welsh?"

His brows shot up in surprise. "You're familiar with the tongue?"

"If only." She inclined her head. "I'm familiar with mythology. Very familiar. Since I could read, I've had a book in my hand. I've done research on Arthurian myths for fun, and so I've read about the Fisher King, or Bran the Blessed. Unfortunately, my ability to understand languages is not particularly high. The state library had books I'd have loved to read if I'd been able to grasp what I was reading. It was painfully frustrating trying, and I eventually threw up my hands."

"You should have Arthur teach you some languages."

She snorted. "Jareth will probably try to teach me, and we'll spend the whole time at each other's throats. She laughed. "I still find it funny that I fell for that man. He's so infuriating sometimes." She waved a hand vaguely.

Bran regarded her for a long time. "Lady Sarah, I realize you're likely on a tight schedule, but would you care to come up to the castle and rest for awhile? Dinner will likely be served soon, and I would appreciate the company."

A small smile turned up her lips. "That sounds just fine, your highness."

The walk to the castle didn't take as long as one would think, but they had to move slowly, because of the wounds to the man's legs. Sarah walked alongside him, close enough to prevent him from stumbling on the rocky terrain, but far enough away that she let the man keep his pride.

And proud he was. He walked with the pronounced limp, using a sturdy walking stick, but he kept his back straight, refusing to appear invalid. Now that he was standing, she could see that he was a good bit shorter than Jareth or Arthur, standing scarce more then two inches above her height of five-foot-six. He seemed rather stocky, his arms seeming large, compared to the willowy limbs of those she'd met in Avalon.

Not long after entering the castle, she noticed a young woman walking the halls carrying a spear dripping with blood. She was given a tour of the castle, even though she noticed that the wound had long since begun paining the man. Finally, she asked to sit and rest, using her own weariness as an excuse, but really she couldn't stand to watch him push himself further.

He led her to a large dining room, and as they ate, the same youth passed the open doors. Other young people walked past, one carrying a glowing up. She slanted a look towards the man who was her host. "Is it wise to have the grail paraded around? Although I suppose you haven't much choice. If it was hidden away with the spear, and no one saw it no one would ask."

His eyes sharpened upon her.

"I told you, remember?" She smiled a bit. "I know the Arthurian Myths. That includes the Grail Myth, Bran."

He smiled in answer and there was a sharp hope in his eyes.

"Would you please tell me about the spear and the cup?"


Jareth was reading in the castle library when Lance found him. The man was out of breath, covered in sweat and had a look of mild panic about him. Jareth looked up as he burst through the door, a faint frown upon his lips. "Lance, what are you doing here?"

"You have to stop Lady Sarah. I don't know for certain what's been done, but Alura did something. She wants that girl dead, and if you don't stop her, she'll die."

Jareth's jaw set. "If I stop Sarah and do not give her the chance to finish this, then-"

"That woman has something planned. She wanted to kill her at the first challenge, she's been trying to convince me to do something more permanent that just having her fail at a challenge!" Lance struggled to catch his breath, to stop ranting and raving like a lunatic and The Goblin King watched him closely. "She's my niece, dammit! I can't just sit back!"

Mis-matched eyes fell closed and Jareth sighed, closing the book slowly. He called in a crystal and glanced into it. He threw his intention at the surface and he swallowed hard. Shadows on her face. Sarah, his queen, had shadows on her face. A sign of misfortune. He gave Lance a sharp look and snarled. "Find the High King. He'll be in the Lady Guenevere's quarters. Find him and tell him I'm going to Sarah."

With that, Jareth tore through the castle, finding the water skin Sarah had brought with her after her last mission and grabbed it, checking the contents. He could feel the magic crackle off the water and changed to his bird form, taking the nearest window, the skin clutched tightly in his talons.


The story was long, but she could already see the difference in the man. They'd adjourned to a drawing room for privacy, and he'd taken to pacing, his limp now gone. She knew she'd already passed the challenge, but simply having done it wasn't proof enough. She would need to bing proof of her success to the High King and before the court.

He seemed to notice that she was distracted. After awhile, he looked towards her. "Lady Sarah, your body is here, but your mind is elsewhere."

She frowned faintly, looking up at him. "I'm glad you're healed. That was my challenge, you see. I don't think the person who was tampering realized that I would know what to do. I don't think..." She pursed her lips. "This is too simple. There is a trick in this, and I don't know what it might be."

His face was surprised. Then, his lips turned into a faint smile. "This is why you did not tell me what you challenge was." At her nod, he chuckled. "I suppose you will need to bring proof of it to Arthur. Would you consider the Grail sufficient?"

She blinked, looking up at her host. His expression was kindly enough, a question in his eyes. "You would let me take it?"

He nodded. "You've done more for my own kingdom than you are likely aware. So I would let you take the Grail."

Her lower lip trembled a bit and she firmed it, dashing the tears from her eyes. "Then I'd better find something to transport it in..." She pulled open her pack, digging through it, until she came in contact with a box. She pulled it out and huffed. "Someone must have put this into my pack. Probably Jareth. He'd know I'd want to guard whatever my proof was..." She smiled, tracing her bare hands over the wood.

Suddenly, wrists tightly grabbed her own. "Do not open this box." Bran's dark blue eyes met her green ones with a surprising intensity. "Child, do not open this box-"

The warning was understood, but something was enticing her, coaxing her. Her trembling hands fought against the urge and she swore softly. "I can't stop it," she whispered, gripping the lid in her hands. Tears pierced her eyes and she lifted her gaze to Bran. "I can't stop it."

Sarah opened the box.

Of Cupid and Psyche

A Labyrinth Story
by Chibi-no-oneesan

Part 14 of 16

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