Continuing Tales

The Lady and the Knight

A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 2 of 19

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The Lady and the Knight

Jareth led her up some cunningly designed stairs to a white balcony nestled in the trees. A pair of ladies in peacock gowns were talking quietly to themselves off to the side, but beyond that they were alone.

Sarah moved away from the steps with a grateful thought that when Jareth had changed her dress, he'd left her shoes.

No matter how formal the occasion was, Sarah had learned it was always important to wear shoes she could run in, if she had to. Or climb six flights of stairs in, for that matter. Rather out of breath, she wasn't feeling all that appreciative of the undergarments that had come with the gown.

"Are you all right?" Jareth asked in a way that let her know quite clearly he didn't care if she was, and might even be enjoying himself, watching her wheezing.

"Just appreciating the corsetry, Your Majesty." She spoke his title as if she'd rather wipe herself with it than speak it.

Jareth smirked, and she felt the laces at her back suddenly loosen. Sarah did jump then. It had felt exactly like someone had reached down the back of her dress. She looked at Jareth narrowly, and he leaned casually against the railing, looking beautiful and inhuman. Not terribly innocent, however.

"So, you're here because you thought I needed a new dress and some complicated underwear, is that right?" she asked, pretending to take the bodice incident in stride.

"You're always so certain the world revolves around you." He sounded faintly mocking, but his heart wasn't in it. The fairy lights were twinkling up here, and Sarah imagined she looked very fine in the soft glow and the lovely dress.

"You said you were here for me," Sarah said casually. She looked down at the beautiful creatures celebrating below them, struck by a sudden thought. "I forgot to ask what all the fuss is about," she realized with chagrin.

"The turning of the season is important," Jareth replied, as if speaking to a child.

"Fall," she said with a jolt. Jareth was looking at her oddly. "Already," she said with a detached kind of concern. "I didn't know I'd been away from the world so long..." She frowned, unsettled. She and Marcus had been in and out of the world quite a bit lately. It was one of the reasons he was headed back for normal life. He needed a break.

"Does it trouble you, Sarah?" Jareth asked in that silky tone of voice that meant he was weaving a trap together. "So far from home, and all the things you love?"

"Not all the things I love," Sarah said without hesitation, looking at him with clear, fearless eyes. "Not half the things I love."

Jareth looked briefly uneasy, as if she'd blossomed into something dangerous right in front of his face. She caught his eyes straying down past the hollow of her neck to where her uncomfortable underwear was producing some respectable cleavage.

Well, well. Look at the Goblin King.

Sarah turned with deliberate grace and moved up to the Goblin King's side, leaning on the railing next to him. He watched her do it with an interesting mix of desire and wariness.

"And how is Toby?" he said then, as if he needed a fight to protect himself. She looked at him sharply, frowning. He had a crystal, rolling it with impossible ease over the back of his hand and across his fingers. Watching him do it was mesmerizing, and so she was careful just to peek at it out of the corner of her eye. "Would you like to know?" Jareth prodded, when she stayed coldly silent. He lifted it out in front of her face, and for a moment, she thought she saw Toby reflected inside it. Then he snatched it back, returned to toying with it.

"It depends on the price," Sarah replied. She looked up at the stars, at the swaying branches of the tree above them.

"The usual. Your hopes, your dreams, your immortal soul," Jareth said easily. Sarah burst out laughing, relaxing immediately.

"No thank you," she said, snickering. Good god, he was teasing her. Wonders never cease. Obligingly, Jareth tucked the crystal away, making it vanish into his empty hand. It was a good trick, even if he'd stolen the move from David Copperfield. Sarah smiled at a sudden thought.

"That's how you knew I would be here," Sarah said, surprised and amused. Jareth glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and tossed her a new crystal.

He expected her to flinch. She could see the anticipation on his face.

Sarah snatched it out of the air easily. The trick was not to look at the object directly, be it a crystal or an item of jewelry or a magic mirror. These kind of things snared the heart through the eyes, so to speak. It was best to look slightly to one side of them, and catch what was contained without focusing directly.

She saw herself quite clearly, resting her head on Marcus' shoulder as they looked out over the ocean together. The crystal was warm in her hand, like it was alive.

She looked up at The Goblin King, who looked surprised as all hell, and even slightly embarrassed.

"You know, I think I am flattered," Sarah said thoughtfully, and tossed it back to him. She toyed with an idea, turning it and examining it in her mind before speaking aloud. "From the sound of things, though, you've got enough to worry about without dragging me into it." She was going to wait a little, try and pull the information from Hoggle or Sir Didymus if she had to, but since Jareth was right there in front of her, she found she couldn't resist. 'Something's gone funny in the Labyrinth...'

Jareth darkened like storm clouds gathering. She watched streaks of black crawl through his hair, and took a step back.

"Do you dare mock?" He snapped, his voice slicing through the air. It hurt her ears like a physical attack, and she winced. "With the situation so dire, you would stand there and twitter over it?" Jareth looked about as far gone into a cold rage as she had ever seen, and she felt the first flutters of fear.


"I'm not!" she insisted, stiffening. "I don't know what's going on, I just heard things were bad." She opened her eyes wide. She knew it made her look very young.

For a moment, Jareth looked bitterly disappointed. It startled her. He turned from her as if he meant to leave.

"I see I was mistaken. Still a selfish, stupid girl." He did not quite look at her as he said it. He did not see Sarah, regarding his retreating back with pale, calculating eyes. It was at least possible he was being sincere, and Sarah was abruptly presented with two ways to handle herself.

Sarah could move swiftly and silently in her beautiful, practical shoes. Jareth looked down at her hand on his arm as if he was considering tearing it off at the wrist. Then he looked up.

"Are you in danger?" she asked. Hero voice...

Jareth saw the change in her face, heard it in her voice, and his eyes widened. She was taking a gamble, but she had to trust her instincts. Sarah had always had the uncanny ability to find friends.

"Yes," The Goblin King said, drawing himself up to his full height, looking down at her with glittering eyes. He said yes, and nothing else.

'But the king was proud, and would never ask for help, though his kingdom stood on the edge of great peril, and many good folk could die.'

Until one day, when she was tired from a day of housework, and she was hurt by the harsh words of her stepmother, and she could no longer stand it...

There were certain ways these things had to be done.

'The hero was angered by the foolish pride of the king, and said-'

"'I have no love for you, proud King, but I care for those in your kingdom that have shown me kindness and called me friend. For them I will help you, and aid your cause as best I can,'"Sarah quoted, her eyes gentle. Now to see if he could act differently if given different restrictions.

"You go too far," Jareth said, but he said it softly and his eyes were calm. Her hand was still on his arm and he didn't tell her to remove it. The texture of the brocade on his sleeve made it feel as though she stroked her hand through ruffled feathers.

Sarah took a deep breath. She could feel it, the old magic, circling them, closing in on them like a shark scenting blood.

"If I have, I'm sorry," Sarah said sincerely. Jareth smiled slightly with knowing eyes.

There were certain ways these things had to be done, and they didn't have much time.

"You always are," Jareth replied and took her hand from where it rested on his sleeve, twining her fingers with his.

"I'll need safe passage," Sarah reminded him, "and a promise. I'll do my best, but after that, I want to be returned here to the party." He would have to ensure that only a little time passed here- she knew that for creatures like him the precaution was almost second nature.

"For your best," Jareth said with dry emphasis "We have a bargain."

The King lifted his hand and Sarah felt the world start to fold. She stopped him with a hand on his chest.

His eyes flicked down at her hand pressed against the soft material of his shirt, then back up to her face with an impatient question in his eyes.

"Wait," Sarah said. "I need my bag."

She'd left it on deck, tucked away where it wouldn't be noticed but could be retrieved quickly. Jareth waited on the dock. He was something that needed to be invited in. Normally given the situation there would have been no problem; The boat deck was open to the air and he was capable of wings. Marcus, however, did not take kindly to uninvited guests and had protected his craft accordingly. Sarah was tempted to go below one last time, to see her room again, but there was no point to it. She would be back soon enough, and little time would have passed here.

When she walked down the ramp, Jareth met her with a gift.

"Safe passage," he explained as he held it out to her.

A pendant, small and silver, with horns curving down. It was nearly glowing with contained enchantment. The shape of it teased at her memory, and she looked quickly to his neck. He smiled crookedly and spread his shirt a little. He wore one as well. The mate to hers was larger, and a bit more...sinister looking.

She lifted her eyes to his face, to his exotic, mismatched eyes.

"It doesn't look like it did you much good," she said gently, sympathetically.

For a moment, just a moment, Jareth looked utterly human and very, very sad.

There were places that were children's places, places that were adult places and places that were halfway between the two. They all had their own rules, and the one thing they all had in common was that they changed you. Every place tried to change the people that came there, bend them until they fit the rules of that place. A person could very easily lose themselves, if they spent too much time in a place that was too different from them. A traveler needed powerful protection to get through unscathed. There was more than one reason she had been given only thirteen hours to run the Labyrinth.

Sometimes the changes could be good. Sarah had left the Labyrinth the first time much stronger, braver, and kinder than she had been going in.

But sometimes...sometimes the changes could be very unfortunate.

Sarah put her hand out to take the protective amulet from Jareth, and did not immediately let go of his hand. He let her, looking away so he would not have to see the understanding on her face.

She could feel the crackle in the air that meant they were out of time. Old magic started to tighten around them like a fist.

"You won't be caught there as I was," Jareth said, so quietly she could have pretended she hadn't heard him.

Sarah slipped the pendant on over her head without comment. She was surprised when she felt the brush of his gloves at the nape of her neck. She turned her head to look as Jareth lifted her hair clear of the chain for her.

When she turned back, they were elsewhere.

The Lady and the Knight

A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 2 of 19

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