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His Champion's Journey

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Sarah wasn't quite as nauseated by the transporting magic as she used to be. Must be getting a feel for it, she mused to herself as they walked to where all interested parties were gathered at the edge of a seemingly endless forest.

She was directed to stand next to a sullen Goblin King. He was dressed as plainly as she had ever seen them. Simple leather breeches, a roughly hewn tunic, and a long leather jacket with sturdy leather boots.

His wild hair was tied into a ponytail at the nape of his neck by a leather strip, and his large pack he was carrying was over one shoulder. His face was absent of his usual markings. She was never sure if they were makeup or not and now she knew.

The guards were ordered to search her things and make sure there were no magical items being smuggled.

As they rifled through the bag, Jareth glared at her, his mouth tight. He said nothing.

"What is this?" The guard said holding something in his hand. Sarah saw what it was and blushed deeply. While she wasn't embarrassed normally, to have to explain a tampon to someone who would have no idea what it was, was a new experience.

"It's for..well you know, women above use them when they..." She looked at Jareth. He was smiling, amused, his eyes dancing with laughter he was keeping inside. She turned even more red at being embarrassed in front of him.

He finally decided to help. "It is what mortal women use during their moon cycles to keep proper hygiene." He told the guard.

It was the guard's turn to blush. He stuck it back in the box and shoved everything back in the pack. "All clear Magistrate." He told the grayed haired man Sarah had met in the court.

The man, whom Sarah now knew was "The Magistrate." beckoned for Jareth and Sarah to stand before him.

"Jareth King of The Goblins, and Sarah Williams of the Above, Champion of The Labyrinth and of the King of The Goblins, Your trial begins. You have 13 days to journey to The Labyrinth from this point. When you arrive, assuming you arrive within your allotted time, you will then have 13 hours to traverse the Labyrinth and reach the castle. Jareth must make his way through within said time, under his own power. This means The Labyrinth itself, and no subjects or family, may help him. If he does he will retain his throne, and Sarah Williams will be granted all honors and titles she will have earned by completing this trial beside her king. If Jareth is not successful, he will be put to death and his Kingship passed on to a suitable successor."

The Magistrate turned to address Sarah directly.

"Sarah Williams, if you fail, you will forfeit your titles as Champion of The Labyrinth and King's Champion, You will be sent above and the child you won back, a one Tobias Williams, will return underground. Above, only you will remember his existence, to live your life with the knowledge of what you have done, that your failure resulted in the death of the Goblin King and the loss of your brother to the underground for all of eternity."

Sarah's ire rose as she stood there and listened, but she didn't show it. She squeezed her fists tight and gritted her teeth until her jaw hurt, but said nothing.

"Is this understood?" The man asked them both. "Please answer verbally."

"Yes." They both said in unison.

"We will leave you to it then." He bowed.

Suddenly they were alone. Sarah and Jareth. They stood there for a few minutes both too stubborn to speak first.

As the seconds ticked by Sarah got antsy. This was ridiculous and time was being wasted.

"Fine. I'll speak first Let's just get this over with okay?" She said.

"Agreed." Jareth answered. "Follow me please. For the Gods' sake, do not get lost. I do not have time to look after you and make sure you do not do anything foolish."

He took off at a brisk pace and Sarah hurried to catch up.

"What do you mean do something foolish? Hey, I can take care of myself, Goblin King. You should know that already."

Jareth scoffed. "My magic protected you before, girl. In case you haven't noticed I am blocked from using it now."

"What do you mean your magic protected me? Did you let me win?" Sarah had to know.

He just laughed again. "The Labyrinth is dangerous place. You will see this time. The Labyrinth you experienced as a child is not the real thing. It is a child's version. You are not so lucky this time. You would do well to just be obedient and quiet and follow me."

She stopped and stood there glaring at his back. "How dare you! You are such as asshole!"

He stopped and turned. "Hold your tongue. I am A King. I am YOUR King. You will do as I say."

"Excuse me Mr. High and Mighty, it seems to me you got us into this mess. Not so perfect there Your Majesty." Sarah said as she wagged her finger.

Jareth's shouldered sagged. "Sarah..please. Can we do this without arguing? I need all my energy for this trek and you a quickly exhausting me once again."

They glared at each other for another minute. Sarah took a deep breath and relaxed. "You're right. Let's just go, okay? As this is your world you lead the way."

Jareth eyed her for a few more seconds and pivoted, walking away silently.

"Thanks, by the way." Sarah said after a few minutes of following in silence.

"For what?" Jareth asked. He brushed aside tree branches as they went.

"Explaining to that guard about..well you know." Sarah answered, blushing a little again. "How did you know about that?"

"I spend a great deal of time around humans, I am familiar with human biological functions. The women here have moon cycles too..it's just not talked about. They have their own way of dealing with it. We are not that different biologically." He replied.

"Except you live forever and have magic." Sarah retorted.

"We do not live forever. We call ourselves immortal but the truth is we are just this side of it. We can be killed, and we can choose to fade. The reason we are that way *is* the magic of the underground. Without it, we would, while certainly longer lived than humans, eventually age and die. The magic for us is like air, we need it to survive the length of time we do."

"Interesting." Sarah said. "Would you mind if I asked you about life here? I mean, to kill time while we are walking. Since we have to be here anyway."

"Feel free to ask any question you wish, Sarah." He answered.

They spend the rest of the morning chatting rather amiably with each other. He told her about life in the underground.

Mid afternoon they stopped to eat. Jareth had some dried meat in his pack and Sarah had a plastic bag with granola bars she kept for her hiking trips.

"Would you like to try one?" She asked Jareth. He gingerly took the foil wrapped bar and examined it carefully.

Shew unwrapped hers and he followed suit. He took a small bite and wrinkled his nose, but kept eating. "What is in this?" He asked.

"Oh, fruit, nuts, granola. Honey I think to bind it together. It's organic." Sarah said in between bites.

"There are still chemicals in it. I can taste them." He replied in a slightly haughty tone.

"Well you don't have to eat it." Sarah pointed out.

He continued to take small bites until he finished. "I accepted it, so out of respect, I ate it. However I think I will stick to what I can find in the forest, as well as what I have here."

Sarah shook her head and laughed, finishing her bar.

"What is so funny?" He asked suspiciously.

"You. You are acting so proper."I accepted so out of respect, I ate it." Eesh." Sarah rolled her eyes as she repeated him, accent and all.

"I don't sound like that." He frowned.

"Yes you do. You sounded just like that. You sure weren't this formal when I was here before." Sarah said.

"Sarah, in this world there are rules on interacting with humans, I never crossed any line." He answered, getting angry again.

"Bullshit. You always flirt with teenagers?" She was enjoying needling him.

He stood and walked to the edge of the clearing, clearly riled. "You know nothing of my work. I do what I have to do. Sometimes that includes flirtation to distract runners. It is nothing personal."

He crossed his arms and looked off into the distance. "We need to go. There are a few more hours of light, and we need to find a safe place to rest."

Sarah stood and brushed off her clothes then swung her pack onto her back. "So far I haven't seen anything to be worried about."

He walked back and picked up his pack, looping it over his shoulder. "We have been lucky. Believe me our luck will run out many times over. There are dangerous predatory creatures in this forest. At least half are nocturnal. We must try to be well hidden when night falls. I know of a cave a few hours south towards my kingdom. With any luck we can be there when dark comes."

He started walking in the direction he pointed out.

Sarah, hearing Jareth's explanations, looked around, feeling uneasy all of the sudden. She walked a little faster to stay close to The King. She was glad she noticed earlier the scabbard at his side sheathing his sword. At least they let him have a weapon.

This made her feel a little safer. She had a small pocketknife in her backpack too. She didn't know how much good it would do.
_

Sarah's feet ached and her leg muscles screamed at her to rest. The sun was setting and Jareth seemed to not be affected at all. This annoyed her to no end. They had lapsed into silence not long after they had stopped hours earlier, though sometimes Jareth would hum.

Being tired and in pain this irritated her too.

She could take it no more. "Would you quit that?" She said crossly.

He slowed. "Stop what?" He looked at her out of the corner of his eye.

"Humming. I mean really. Why are you so chipper?" She asked.

"I am not chipper, I just like music. Now would you..." He stilled suddenly holding up his hand. "Hush."

She didn't move, didn't even breathe. She tried to listen but didn't hear anything.

"What is it?" she whispered.

"The birds." He whispered back.

"What birds?" She said. "I don't hear anything."

"Exactly." He said. "We need to hurry. The cave is a few hundred paces that way." He pointed.

Jareth grabbed her hand and pulled her along, Sarah practically tripping over herself to keep up with his long strides.

As they got closer to the cave, Jareth stopped again. He held his finger to his lips in a "shh" motion.

She listened closely. At first she didn't hear anything, but as she stilled completely, she heard a low hissing that seemed to be getting louder.

"Gods." Jareth said as his face paled. "Run left, now. Follow that small trail. I will be right behind you."

Sarah didn't ask questions but took off in the direction Jareth told her to go as fast as she could. She rounded a corner and came upon a large ancient wooden door to what must have been the cave and wrenched it open, falling into the dark space. She looked behind her and at first did not see Jareth.

Then a second later he came around the corner swinging his sword behind him.

"As soon as I cross the threshold slam that door!" He yelled as he ran towards her.

As she watched she was horrified to see several feet behind him was a large head of some sort of snake. The largest snake she had ever seen, with the longest tongue she had ever seen, and it was inches from grabbing hold of The Goblin King.

A small scream escaped her as they got closer. A second later Jareth was there crossing through the door, the snake right behind.

"NOW!" He bellowed and she threw the door closed so loud it shook the ground, dust and pebbles raining down on them.

The room shook again as the snake hit the other side of the door, making a god awful screech. Sarah lept into Jareth's arms and he propelled them to the back of the room against the wall, Sarah's back against the rocks as he shielded her.

It went completely silent except for both of their heavy breathing. Sarah didn't move, but stood there listening to Jareth's pounding heart.

As her eyes adjusted, it dawned on Sarah it was not pitch dark as she would have suspected but there was a light glow emanating from above. She looked up past Jareth's shoulder and saw the ceiling was embedded with glittering crystal rocks that seemed to be lit from within.

After another minute, Jareth stepped back and dropped his arms to grab her shoulders. "Are you alright?" He asked.

She shook off the slightly tender feeling of him protecting her.

"I'm fine. What the hell was that thing?" She asked.

"Demon snake." He answered. "Nasty things. They eat anything, or anyone. They especially love any magic wielding creatures."

"But your magic was blocked I thought." Sarah said as she dusted herself off.

Jareth sat his pack on the floor and sat next to it. He took out his water flask and drank a long draught.

"It is blocked from me using it. It does not mean it isn't there. Those things can smell it. Water?" He offered her the flask.

"I don't want to drink all your water." She said. She took a small sip.

"It is enchanted. Refills automatically." He replied. "Before you ask, all water flasks are made like that it is not considered cheating."

"Wow. That's handy." She said as she took a longer drink. I have never had water this good, she thought. "You would think you would have a magical food pack." She handed it back to him.

"It would be a bit difficult to discern an individual's dietary needs in that fashion." Jareth answered as he dug through his bag. "We should get set up for the night."

Sarah undid her pack, untying her blanket and pillow and laying it carefully on the ground.

"I hope you don't mind, I borrowed a pillow and blanket from your castle."

"I don't mind." He told her as he took his bedroll out and unfastened it. He laid it next to the wall, a few feet away from Sarah. Then he walked back to the very back of the large cave and came forward with an armful of the stones.

She watched as he piled them up in the middle of the space. He took two and knocked them against each other, creating sparks. After a few minutes there were blue flames creeping up around the stones.

"Wow..how do they do that?" Sarah asked him as he arranged them neatly so the top ofthe pile was fairly flat.

Jareth smirked as he got them set and held his hands over the fire, testing the rising heat. "They are blue flame crystals. Unique to the cave system in these woods. Many use them to make jewelry but they are a wonderful source of heat in a pinch. Long lasting as the crystal do not disintegrate but slowly harden in the process. This should last until morning."

"Cool!" Sarah said, making Jareth chuckle.

She dug another granola bar out of her bag, but wished she had something more substantial. She should have been looking for fruit or something as they were walking.

She continued watching as Jareth pulled a piece of metal out of his bag, with the edges slightly bowed up. It turned out to be a shallow pan and he set it on the flat part of the pile he had made. He then dug around his pack and took out a bag made of animal skin. It had some sort of mix in it and he proceeded to make a flat cake on the pan by mixing the powder with water.

She was surprised when he turned to her. "Hold out your hands."

She did, and he laid what looked like a pancake on her palms. It was warm but not uncomfortably so. He brought out a paper wrapped package that turned out to be a block of white cheese. He took a piece of the cheese and some of the dried meat, softened it a bit in the pan, and laid it on top of the cake she had in her hands. "Now roll it up."

She did. "Sort of like a crepe? Or a wrap?" She asked. She took a bite. The meat was chewy but spicy, and the cheese mild. The bread was heavy enough to be filling, though a bit bland. At least it wasn't dry, thanks to the melted cheese. "This is good." She said after she swallowed the first bite.

"It is palatable. If it was just myself I could have one of these a day and survive. We will have to find other sources for food as we continue, but this will keep us until tomorrow." Jareth said while crafting his food. Sarah swallowed another bite. "Do you hunt? I don't think I could do that."

He nodded. "Yes. In a few days we will get to the river. There are plenty of fish there. We follow that until we reach the wastes. The last stretch will be desolate so we will want to have enough food to last without having to hunt or gather."

"What about that..thing outside?" Sarah shuddered at the idea of having to see that again.

"They are nocturnal. Once the sun rises we will be safe from those. They are really quite rare but that one was close enough to sense me. By the time it wakes we will be far enough away from it." Jareth replied between bites.

Sarah watched him. He took small rather delicate bites and chewed slowly. She was surprised out how genteel he was, yet he was quite handy at camping. He hunts too, and fishes. She shook her head and returned to her food.

It really was quite good really. When she was finished she felt very full. She shrugged off her sweatshirt and took off her boots and socks, then snuggled into her folded blanket and stared into the blue fire.

"Jareth?" She said quietly. He turned to meet her gaze. "Thank you. For the food I mean."

"Well I can't have you starving, or trying to subsist on those nasty bars of yours. You will waste away. I need you to keep up your strength for the trip. I certainly cannot carry you halfway." He replied as he took his boots and jacket off.

"Why can't you just say you're welcome?" Sarah snarked, turning away from him. He was nice one minute then a jackass the next.

Jareth got settled in his bed then silently observed the girl..no the woman, on the other side of the fire.

He sincerely was not happy to have to have a companion during this. He did not hate the girl, but felt responsible for her presence. She was human and vulnerable in ways even a immortal such as himself without his magic was. He could survive a long time without food and drink. He was immune to most common poisonous creatures. He could go longer without sleep. In fact he wasn't really all that tired as it was, but humans needed at least 6-8 hours of complete rest a day.

Yes she had solved the Labyrinth but if he had to be completely honest, he could have made it much more difficult. At the time he was all too fascinated by the human girl. He let himself become enamoured of her. He lost himself in those large green eyes and her incredible imagination, her absolute belief in his world that tugged at him.

She is a woman now. Grown and even more beautiful. Her youthful roundness retreating, lush curves taking their place. Her skin peaches and cream, her jade eyes still like pale jewels against the night sky that was her dark hair.

"No." Jareth commanded himself out loud. He would not think of that. He could not. He did not want to become distracted by her. They would be travelling companions and nothing more. Her personality was not all that pleasant either. Petulant and defiant. He had no need of that.

"What?" Sarah said, turning and sitting up. "Did you say something?"

Jareth sighed. "I was dreaming and must have spoken out loud. Go to sleep, Sarah. We have a long day tomorrow."

She gave him a sour look and laid back down. Soon her breathing became deep and even.

Jareth stared into the fire, willing sleep to come. Eventually it did.