Believe it or not it all started with a spat over a peach tree.

If you didn't know, peaches are special to this particular kingdom, as the preferred fruit of our current and most likely eternal sovereign his majesty King Jareth. If the name does not ring a bell his other nicknames are: Jareth, The King, you-know-who, that idiot on the throne, arrogant jerk, and his royal haughtiness.

Notably, the last three are usually used on a much rarer basis and not always without some sort of consequence usually involving rather unpleasant but never fatal situations which his royal highness has continuously denied all involvement with. However the chances that fruit can instantaneously spoil and five feet from the gates to the goblin city your path may abruptly change after centuries of being the exact same route, is highly unlikely. Especially when it has happened seventeen times to various people moments after using those phrases. Hence it isn't very wise to use them.

Anyway, back to the peach tree though. I am the proud and rightful owner of one of the Labyrinth's many peach groves, and yes there are quite a few. If there were several hundred within the boundaries I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest. Of course when I say grove though I mean three. Three peach trees that is.

In the Labyrinth two would be enough to count as a grove considering the number of safe places to grow peaches.

So naturally when I awoke one morning to find one of my three gone, I was quite upset. Peach trees do not just wander off you know. Even in the underground, and especially my trees. I've been a longstanding citizen of the Labyrinth and they knew the highways and byways as well as I did, if one of them was to leave they would have left a note in the sand or told me themself. Peach trees are polite like that, (can't for the life of me figure out how that makes them you-know-who's favorite fruit) at least to their owners and people with axes.

Peach trees are smart like that.

As I said I'm not the only peach tree owner in the Labyrinth so I immediately suspected another one. (It helped that I had caught them trying to steal it a few days ago.) It was only a simple matter of checking their grove which had doubled in size from one tree to two and then restraining my anger at the sight of seeing my poor peach tree staked to the ground. To hold it upright, she would have claimed.

Yes, Isabelle. You could just tell from the sickeningly sweet sound of her name that she was a peach-grove-owner-wannabe. She only owned one tree yesterday and now two, while I was missing one. It was too suspicious. The only trouble was, if I tried to take my tree back she would call the goblin guards on me and then take me to the King who would ask why didn't I just bring it to him. (I should have done that a few days ago but I'm such a nice girl I figured it wouldn't happen again.)

Not my ideal wake up call to reality.

Needless to say I started off towards the castle. His majesty would be returning from the Council meeting around noon and if I managed to get to the city by then I would miss all the massive rearranging that always happened after his visits. That would give me the entire day to map a new way back to my grove. I was confident they'd be fine until I returned (I gave them my meat knives on the way to the castle.)

They're clever trees, they'd know what to do.

I wound up having to sprint the last fifty meters as the clearing I was walking across suddenly began to shift east away from the front gate but I made it. Barely.

The back hem of my skirt swept past the great stone gates just as a stream dug a new path across the entrance and ended up a little damp. He must be back early. I really didn't want to consider having to cross the stream again on my way home so I began formulating how I'd present my argument.

King Jareth wasn't a bad ruler, quite the contrary he was actually really fair about judging and sorting out all sorts of things that came before him, considering how ludicrous some of them were, but...

Bluntly put the King had an odd sense of humor.

A really, very, unpredictably, sarcastic and quite often sadistic sense of humor. Lets just say; you didn't always get with what you were hoping for although often enough it was exactly what you asked for.

I've seen a father who wanted to distribute his five-tree grove evenly between two sons and can you guess what his majesty did? Cut one in half. Exactly what they asked for but..yeah. I suppose it was deserved seeing how the father had made such a big deal of it and the two sons were arguing who got the third. Evidently they wanted him to give them another tree or magically create another one as fae can do that. (His majesty is a fae by the way) But nooo.he did exactly as requested and the tree was split right down the center. He even ate three of the peaches so they'd receive the same number of fruit.

As I odd sense of humor.

I quickly shuffled to the end of the line, which had already begun to form outside the castle. It looked particularly imposing, I bet King Jareth was in a bad mood.

I rested my head on my fist and dutifully listened to the next case. Meting out judgment wasn't something I particularly enjoyed but it was something that I had to do.

As king.

Sometimes I wondered if it was worth being king if I had to listen to all these foolish issues. Most could be resolved with the simplest of compromises. However the residents of my kingdom are notoriously stubborn they probably take after their king and such simple matters must be listened to and then forced. By the king.

Unfortunately, for today's justice seekers The King wasn't feeling very just, or generous, add to the list kind, thoughtful, benevolent and all those other sugar laced words that are synonymous with nice. In fact on council days I almost never was.

In a way it's a passive form of punishment for people who lay more bad news on me after I've been given the official bad news for the next month. Only council news actually will cause massive trouble if I don't do something about it and if a goblin locks someone out of their house it usually only lasts as long as a first floor window.

It would be incorrect to say that the Council rules the underground. More like, if anyone particularly Kings, Queens, or other rulers get out of line they unite the other rulers to do something about it. I find it amusing when the council attempts to understand the workings of an inconsistent kingdom like mine; it annoys me out my mind when they say I have to take action on their attempts.

I tell them time and time again that I cannot control the exact positioning of the Labyrinth and cannot help it if the bog ends up right on the boarder of the elven kingdom. If I tell them I can't they shouldn't insist on a solution to a problem I have no control over. Actually I do, but they don't know that and they still insist on action.

It really does get on my nerves.

Realms take after their Kings being magically connected directly to reflect the ruler's personality and in my case mood and whim. Because of this my realm also harbors the most thieves, tricksters and all around mischievous beings who are not what they appear. Due to a certain intolerance of my for thievery none steal from my domain which unfortunately puts our neighboring countries at my citizens mercy. Also another issue the council discussed with me. One I actually cannot control, frankly when they stole in the Labyrinth I could tell if the thief was male, female, short, tall, good, bad, even who had crafted their shoes. I have much less control of the realms outside of mine. Why should I?

Either way, it's another 'problem' that as their sovereign I should take care of. And have every intention of not even trying.

The third issue of the day was of course what it's always been on the effectiveness of the Labyrinth. Another facet that I can't do anything about and another issue the council is massively underinterpreting.

The labyrinth is the method of trial for those who wish away their children, as is my duty as part of the Underground. However they don't seem to understand that not every contender that runs the labyrinth is supposed to fail. Naturally each person who is faced with it is on no occasion told that other have run it and defeated it. Frankly if they want the child that badly I'm more than willing to return it to them.

If the wisher really cares about the child technically they should be able to navigate the labyrinth. Or rather, the labyrinth should make it impossible for them not to arrive at the city within the thirteen hours. If they get lost while going through the city.well they probably aren't smart enough to care for the child anyway.

It's not meant to be an impassable feat, it's supposed to judge the responsibility of the runner. Sometimes if the runner is responsible enough I'll not let them through though, for other circumstantial reasons. I'm after all not a complete jerk like many believe, and I don't deny.

So for reasons more than obvious my mood was not at its best when one of the peach grove owner came forth with a petty complaint over a single tree.

Now, my patience is usually more generous when it comes to the grove owners. I am somewhat of a benefactor for their lifestyle as the Labyrinth is the only part of the underground where peaches can grow and then be safely eaten afterwards. I myself reserve a particular affinity for the fruit, which is just as well since it's my kingdom. However, a single fruit tree, no matter how special weighed nothing in comparison to the possible repercussions if I didn't pay attention to the more serious problems at hand: those posed by the council.

It was a young girl who came forward. Long wavy brown hair, which was dark enough to be mistaken for black and rich enough to be taken for satin was paired with a smooth and rather exotic face. Her clothes a smock and long sleeved shirt were of the finest silk. Yet the smock was a blotchy chestnut to the cream color of the shirt and she went barefoot and wore no jewelry. Also the other petitioners were giving her a wide berth. She had to be a peach grove owner.

It was probably the only thing keeping her from getting married and staying out of my court. The thought didn't improve her chances even fractionally.

"Your majesty my neighbor Isabelle stole one of my peach trees."

I could have spoken them in unison. It was the complaint of every grove owner. "So and so stole my tree!" add the angry snap and clenched fists and anyone would mistake you for one.

"How many trees do you have?"

"I have three.well, now I have two." She replied automatically before correcting herself.

"Do your two have peaches?" I pressed.

"Yes. Why?" she asked quizzically.

"I hereby give you permission to seed two peaches and own four trees."

"That's not fair!"

I smirked. How I loved that phrase.

It was rather cruel and unkind but it was a dismissal nonetheless and she knew it. I wasn't required to be just all the time and maybe if enough people got upset over the council days they wouldn't bother me on them or in that faint possibility they'd send the council bad peaches. I had been generous, royal permission was required to grow a certain amount of trees, she had been awarded a great honor by being allowed to own another. In my mood she was lucky that I hadn't turned her shirt into that missing peach tree that she wanted so much.

That wouldn't have been nice either but I've got a reputation to uphold. Besides the male petitioners would probably love me all the more for it. The women too perhaps, since it was a grove owner. They tend to be rather eccentric. Reminds me of myself.