Continuing Tales

Most Prized Possession

A Labyrinth Story
by Jester3

Part 10 of 42

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Most Prized Possession

Sarah dumped the last bucket of soapy water into the floor drain and as she stood, fire coursed through her back and arms. She rolled her shoulders as she tossed the cleaning supplies into the broom closet. She turned, wincing, as she did her best to stretch out her sore limbs.

Then she noticed Jareth watching her from the doorway to the throne room. Sarah said nothing as he approached apparently taking in her handiwork. When he stood a few paces from her he admitted, "Well, I must say, you've more than exceeded my expectations."

Sarah was at a loss for words. She had half expected him to saunter in and point out places she'd missed, but to her surprise he did no such thing. Jareth smiled slyly at her shocked expression and he further surprised her by saying, "Come you must be hungry, join me for lunch." It wasn't a question, nor did it seem like an order. A genuine invitation for her to join him? Sarah suddenly felt as though she were on another planet. Why did he suddenly seem so civil? She followed tentatively, casting a wary glance at him.

As she walked with him, he noticed the smudges of dirt on her face and arms and grinned. Even when covered in dirt, she was still be rather lovely to look at.

Sarah noticed as they passed the dining room and she asked, "Where are we going?"

Without so much as glancing in her direction, Jareth sanswered, "I've arranged for us to eat outside. The weather is pleasant and I thought you might enjoy some fresh air."

As Sarah followed she couldn't help looking forward to it. Being outside would be a nice change. Still she couldn't shake the suspicion that he was up to something. What did he have to gain by being so accommodating? She resolved not to let herself get too comfortable with his politeness.

Later in the garden...

Sarah leaned back on her elbows and closed her eyes reveling in the feeling of the warm sun on her face. She sighed and breathed deeply of the perfumed air. There were many familiar as well as exotic flowers blooming in the castle courtyard giving the air a sweet floral scent.

When they arrived Sarah had found much to her surprise that Jareth had arranged a picnic lunch. There was a blanket already spread on the ground and a platter of sandwiches, fruit, and a cask of wine awaited them.

Now why on earth would he go to all this trouble?

She found it hard to believe he was just pleased that she had managed to turn the throne room into a somewhat clean and inhabitable place. And the fact that he was acting so pleasantly unnerved her, she was certain that he must have something up his sleeve. It was almost as if he was going out of his way to impress her, and the fact that he had yet to make a single smug comment left her feeling uneasy. As Sarah basked in the sun she cautiously ventured, "So, what's the big occasion?"

Jareth grinned as he furrowed his brow. "Occasion? I'm not sure I follow?" Sarah didn't bother to move from her reclining position as she gestured to the picnic lunch they had eaten as she accused, "Why all this? Why are you suddenly being so civil?"

Jareth's tone held a hint of amusement as he replied, "I just thought you might like to have lunch outdoors and that you might appreciate some friendly conversation."

Her eyes widened and she held her hand up to shield them from the bright sunlight as she retorted, "Friendly is hardly the word that comes to mind when I think of any past conversation we've ever had."

Jareth shook his head as mused, "True, but in the past we were adversaries. Things are different now Sarah. Defiance will get you nowhere, as there is no challenge this time around. There's no reason that we cannot enjoy each other's company."

Sarah snorted and countered, "You aren't actually proposing that we could be friends?" The Goblin King crossed his arms as he casually leaned against the tree, his expression was one of genuine amusement, as he drawled, "Stranger things have and often do happen in a place like this, so it's not entirely impossible."

Sarah looked away suddenly and snapped, "I have enough friends, I don't need another, especially one as treacherous as you." Jareth's cruel eyes settled on her as he fired back, "Really? Are you certain you want to be so quick to refuse my company? I don't see your loyal band of followers lining up to welcome you back?"

Sarah narrowed her eyes at him and accused, "What did you do to them?"

It only infuriated her more that he had the gall to act surprised as he replied, "Me? I've done nothing to them. I assure you they are living out their lives just as they always have."

Sarah raised her chin defiantly as she spat, "You didn't punish them for helping me?"

Jareth straightened as he stepped away from the tree, "No. Although I did make it clear that they'd better reconsider before trying something like that again, as what they did could have been construed as treason. Hoggle's gardening duties were increased for a short period of time, as he did disobey my orders, but Didymus and Ludo I cannot blame. They merely got swept up in the adventure of your crusade."

Sarah looked at him and replied, "Do they know I'm here?" The goblin king shrugged, "It's a fair assumption that they've heard. News does tend to travel fast around here."

Sarah quickly replied, "Well, can I see them?"

Jareth regarded her for a moment before he replied, "That entirely depends on whether they want to see you. As I understand it, you were the one who stopped calling on them."

Sarah swallowed as guilt filled the pit of her stomach. She had stopped calling them. Sarah had, to a degree, grown up, and life had a way of keeping her moving. Over the years her adventure in the labyrinth had become a increasingly distant memory, granted it was a cherished memory, but one that came with baggage. Though she wasn't entirely sure if the whole adventure had been an elaborate dream or if it had indeed been real, the fear of accidentally invoking the Goblin King had kept her from dwelling too much on the experience and was also the reason she hadn't continually tried calling on her friends.

Sarah turned her face away from him, fighting the urge to tell him that he was cruel and it wasn't fair, but then again life wasn't fair, and she was just as cruel for blowing off her friends because she was the one who was afraid.

To her surprise, Jareth finally added, "I shall send word to your friends, that you have returned and convey that they are free to visit you at the castle if they so wish."

Sarah kept her eyes closed and merely nodded her thanks.

She hoped that her friends would still want to see her after she had been unreachable for so long. At the very least she felt she owed them an apology. It wouldn't do any good to get upset, she would just have to wait and remain hopeful that they would visit her. As the sun warmed her upturned face Sarah thought fondly of her long missed friends.

Jareth watched her turn her face to the sun, and he was reminded of the radiant spirit that she possessed. She had the body of a woman, but her face gave away her youth, her innocence. Her natural beauty was breathtaking, even with her dirty face and that dingy kerchief restraining her dark lustrous hair. Her glittering green eyes were the most expressive he'd ever seen, and quite intense for a human. The ferocity within those eyes was mirrored so perfectly by her spirit. He was astounded how she could be so serene, and thoughtful one moment and so passionately defiant the next. In truth he found everything about Sarah Williams utterly fascinating.

Jareth quickly caught himself and glanced away. Letting himself get caught up and affected by her charms was no way to go about exacting his revenge. There had already been times when he felt his cool resolve starting to slip and his soul weakening due to her mere presence. It was easy to antagonize and intimidate her, but he couldn't keep falling back into that routine, if his plan was to work.

He would have to eventually win her trust and her affection. He already sensed that she was attracted to him, or curious at the very least. Still, he was rather impulsive by nature and it was a challenge for him to remain so focused and restrained, especially when she was so tenacious and willful. He took comfort in the fact that so far everything was proceeding more or less as he had planned. He reminded himself that all he need do was elicit feelings of love in her, and when she was finally begging for mercy and for his love in would be time to set things right.

Sarah opened her eyes and noticed that Jareth was staring at her. To her dismay, she realized that she was holding her breath and that her heart had begun to pound a little faster.

He took a sip of his wine as he observed, "You enjoy being outdoors..."

Sarah nodded as she shifted a bit uncomfortably, "Yeah, I do." As she moved to sit up straight her shoulders flared in pain and she grimaced.

Jareth noticed her discomfort and remarked, "You're in pain."

She shook her head as if to protest, but he cut her off, "You are favoring your right shoulder."

Sarah ducked her head and countered, "It's just a little sore...I probably strained it when I was washing the floor."

She suddenly noticed that Jareth had stood up and before she could argue further, he had seated himself on the grass directly behind her.

She stiffened at his swift intrusion, but before she could react he smoothly whispered, "I can relieve the tension...allow me" With that, his gloved hands closed over her shoulders. There hadn't been time to refuse before he touched her. The feel of his hands, even gloved made her head swim and she went rigid with fear. And then came the velvety caress of his voice at the back of her neck, "Relax...This won't hurt."

It wasn't pain that Sarah feared, it was the possibility that she might enjoy his touch, and that was something she was not ready to deal with. Sarah tensed even further, locking her shoulders as she protested, "You don't have to do this...really."

Jareth's mouth was dangerously close to her ear as he soothed in a whisper, "Shhh...just will only take a moment." Sarah nearly melted just at having his mouth so close to her skin. As his hands started to expertly knead her shoulders she felt the tension run off her, like water off the curve of her back.

The sensation of his hands massaging her shoulders was nothing short of erotic and she felt wicked for allowing herself to yield to the pleasure of it. Jareth smirked as her neck went slack. She was no longer fighting the sensation, and she was playing right into his hands.

As he continued his ministrations Sarah felt like she could just die from the exquisite feeling. This was no ordinary massage...there had to be magic involved, for simply a touch to feel so amazing, was simply not natural.

Jareth held his breath, concentrating on what he was doing with his hands, trying to establish what she found most satisfying. And then it happened...She seemed to melt, leaning back against him. Her head fell back, her eyes were closed and Jareth saw her swallow, her expression was one of quiet and suppressed ecstasy. He deftly continued to massage her back allowing his hands to drop lower, his thumbs kneading the flesh around her shoulder blades. Sarah bit her lower lip as her brow knitted in response to the pleasurable sensation.

Jareth wished her skin hadn't been covered by the rough fabric of her jumper and craved to touch her without his gloves. He wanted to know what her skin would feel like against his. Just thinking about was nearly enough to drive him mad, but he would endure the wait. Soon enough, she would be begging for his touch.

Sarah felt Jareth's hands venture to her lower back, the pressure of his expert fingers further tormenting and delighting her at the same time. For a split second she imagined his bare hands against her exposed skin and to her absolute horror a soft moan of pleasure escaped her lips. She froze in terror, but it didn't deter him in the slightest. On the contrary, it only encouraged him to continue more forcefully, and Sarah was completely helpless to the euphoria he was causing.

As his hands worked their way back up to grasp her shoulders Sarah couldn't help but notice that his skill was practiced. There was no doubt about it, he was very good with his hands. This shouldn't have been all that surprising considering the guy could juggle three crystals in one hand. It was however, a shocking surprise when Sarah realized at that moment, quite to her horror, that she was starting to feel aroused. There was no denying that there was something highly erotic and stirring about the way he was touching her. The realization shook her and she railed against it, her hands abruptly reaching back to push his hands off her shoulders as she breathlessly protested urgently, "That's enough..." Struggling to regain her composure, she looked away and swallowed, adding abruptly, "You can stop now. It's much better, thanks."

Jareth could not contain his self-satisfied smirk as he replied, "My pleasure." The suggestiveness of the remark was not lost on her and there was a moment of awkward silence before she managed to compose herself and change the subject, "So what's my next arduous task?"

Jareth seemed to consider her question carefully before he replied, "Well that entirely depends?"

Sarah eyed him warily, and swallowed in silent dread before she replied, "On what?"

Jareth put his hand to his mouth as if he was considering something and asked, "Tell me, do you like horses?"

Sarah's eyes lit up with relief and delight, "Yes, how'd you know?"

He smirked slightly as he cocked his head to the side admitting, "I know many things about you Sarah." Sarah crossed her arms over her chest regarding him coolly before he added, "Come with me. I think you'll rather enjoy this."

Sarah said nothing, but followed Jareth out of the courtyard. He led her to the stables located behind the castle. The stables were open and airy and there were only a few stalls. As she followed him towards the back of the barn she nearly gasped at what she saw.

An alicorn, blacker than the midnight sky, came galloping toward them over the rolling green hills of the pasture. The stallion came to a sliding halt as it neared the fence and trumpeted joyously upon seeing his master. Sarah stared in amazement at the breathtaking stallion. His jet-black coat shined in the afternoon sun as he tossed his head and reared. His long mane reached the slope of his shoulder and his crystal blue eyes seemed to shine with profound intelligence. The single horn was dazzling silver as were the beast's hooves.

Sarah watched with genuine interest as Jareth fondly patted the stallion's neck. The excited animal responded by rubbing his head affectionately against Jareth's torso.

Sarah stared wide-eyed as she asked, "Is that your horse?"

Jareth pulled a sugar cube out of his pocket and offered it to the stallion before he replied, "Yes and no, He is mine, as much as he is anyone's but he is an Alicorn, not a horse. His name is Tempest." Sarah regarded the impatient stallion, who was now pawing the ground trying to get Jareth's attention. Sarah shrugged, "Well the name suits him..."

Jareth mused, "Yes, well he's always been rather turbulent, that's why I chose him for my mount." Jareth smiled at the stallion and added rather matter-of-factly, "I'm the only one who can ride him."

Sarah crossed her arms over her chest and retorted, "Is that so?" Jareth flashed her an arrogant smirk and drawled, "Don't believe me?" Sarah sighed and countered, "Not really." Jareth raised his brow and taunted, "I suppose you think you could stay on his back?" Sarah glanced at the horse. She had never actually rode a stallion before and had never even seen an alicorn, but she had over a decade of riding lessons under her belt, and she had managed to endure a whole show season with the worst bitch of a mare and a brat of a pony named Sassy, so she anticipated that Tempest couldn't really be all that much worse.

She tore her eyes from the stallion and her challenging glare settled on Jareth as she simply stated, "Perhaps." Jareth gave the stallion another sugar cube before he looked down at her and mused, "We shall see. As much as I'd love to see you get tossed onto your lovely behind, I think you'd better work with Tempest before you try. As you can see, he is no mere horse, and although that horn may appear decorative, I assure you that if he got it into his head, he could quite easily run you through with it, and effectively trample you in the process. You are a stranger to him and Tempest does not trust strangers. If you wish to ride him, he'll have to get used to you." Jareth turned to glance at the defiant girl as he asked, "Would you like to work with him?"

Sarah answered without so much as a second thought, "Yes." Jareth nodded and replied, "Very well then. You can start by cleaning his stall and feeding him". Sarah watched in a daze as Jareth showed her around the stable. After he had pointed out all the necessities he added, "The goblin grooms will see to Tempest each morning, but you may clean his stall in the evening and feed him, and once you are able to touch him you may start grooming him. Then we'll see about you riding him."

Sarah could barely contain her exuberance as she grabbed the pitchfork. She had always loved horses. To be able to spend time each day with one as incredible as Tempest, well that would make her days seem a bit more bearable, and it would be a large comfort.

As far as Jareth's motives, she was pretty sure that he was doing this because he didn't think she would succeed, and it was obvious that he couldn't pass up an opportunity to see her fall on her ass. Still, no matter what his motives were, she would enjoy this new task regardless.

Jareth left Sarah to tend to Tempest's stall and Sarah contentedly cleaned it thoroughly before she refilled the water buckets, put some grain in his trough, and tossed some hay into the manger. When she was finished, three goblins brought the stallion in. He was not tethered. The stallion merely galloped from the pasture and into his stall when the goblins opened the gate. Sarah was sure to stay back. She watched with great interest as Tempest started devouring his grain. She had done such a thorough job and spent so much time admiring the stallion, that it was already dark when she left the stable.

When she entered the great hall of the castle a goblin came to fetch her and told her that Jareth was taking his meal in the dining room and he wished to see her. Sarah strode into the dining room and Jareth barely looked up from his meal as he asked, "You've finished tending the stables?"

Sarah nodded as she realized that Jareth was nearly finished with his meal. He instructed, "The goblins have saved some dinner for you. Unfortunately, I cannot stay and chat with you...I have some matters that need to be taken care of. You may take your dinner to your room or stay in here if you wish. Chances are I will be too busy to speak with you later, so I'll tell you now. The goblins will see to it that you are up at the appropriate time each morning, and as soon as you are dressed you will report to me for your daily tasks. This will begin tomorrow. Is that clear?"

Sarah crossed her arms and suppressed the urge to tell him that he may be waiting a while, but instead she thought of Kayla and reminded herself that he had been partially generous by giving her a task that she enjoyed. Quietly she replied, "Crystal." She didn't miss his haughty smirk as he drawled, "Excellent...I shall see you tomorrow then Sarah." As soon as he disappeared Sarah shook her head angrily. Why was it that no one could push her buttons the way he could?

Most Prized Possession

A Labyrinth Story
by Jester3

Part 10 of 42

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