A Rare Breed
By: The Dragon's daughter
*Disclaimer* this is getting pretty old.
Eronol's words hung in Sarah's ears for a long while after the immortal left her home. The lap desks he'd delivered were stacked neatly in on corner of her Oubliette in an area she'd intentionally left clear for lessons because of a smooth expanse of dark stone there that she could mark on with the few precious sticks of chalk that Hoggle had turned up for her.
Toby had woken up from his nap and was currently balanced on Sarah's left hip as she sorted through a basket of cold food that had appeared in front of her bare cupboard. There were a few tins of formula for Toby, as well as some heavy break and cheese for her. There were dried meats and fruits as well and a small tin of tea and muslin bags to brew it in. There wasn't a perishable item in the lot with the possible exception of the cheese, but Sarah understood how reasonable that was. The only way to keep such things was to get them fresh and eat them before they went bad or use magic to keep them.
"Half of my soul?" she wondered out loud as she sliced herself some bread and covered it with a layer of cheese. She took water with her meal and dried fruit. Toby sucked on one of his pre-made bottles. "How could Jareth be half of my soul? I don't feel like I have only half a soul."
Sarah was startled from her thoughts as a small explosion of light occurred over her pond and became a little goblin that promptly fell into the water.
"Help!" it cried in a high pitched, piping voice. "I be drownding!"
Sarah set Toby down in his basket where he dropped his bottle and pulled himself up by the edges of the makeshift crib to look over the edge at the goblin as his big sister hauled it out of the water and wrapped it in one of her sweaters to dry it off.
It shivered and looked utterly pathetic as Sarah rubbed the chill out of its thin limbs and fussed over it. "Thankee, mum." it whimpered when she was done. "Master didn't 'ave time to watch where 'e was 'porting me. 'E was in a rush, 'e was. Gotta new challenger and 'ad ta send warnings 'round the place. 'E sent me 'ere to tell ya to block up the 'ole in the ceiling."
Sarah blinked. "What's this? What do you mean by 'a challenger'?"
"I means a 'uman trying to solve Master's Labyrinth! That's wot I means." The goblin said. "Yer in the Oubliette and Challengers end up in 'ere just about all the time! Ye ain't been 'ere long enough for the Labyrinth to keep 'em away from ye, so's ye got to protect yeself."
"How long do you think I have?" Sarah asked gently. "Before the 'challenger' comes through."
The little goblin shrugged. "Dunno, mum. Dat depends on tha challenger. Getting through tha Labyrinth depends on the 'uman doin' it. Master said this one was pretty stubborn so's he'll get through the easy will-power stuff quick."
"I see." Sarah murmured, and stood up to peer through the sky light to the blue hands in the tunnel above her head. "Excuse me!"
A face appeared in the blue helping-hands. "Yes, Lady Sarah? How can we help you?"
"A goblin told me a challenger is coming through. If he comes through here could you not let him down? I'm afraid for my little brother." she told it.
"Oh, of course!" the face said. "It's a good thing you asked, he's nearly at the Card dogs now! We'll be sure to let him by for the next trap to get." To emphasize their point, the Hands pulled the dome lid closed over the hole.
"Thank you." Sarah called and turned to the goblin. "All taken care of!"
The goblin. "That's good, mum. Kin ye git me 'ome?"
Sarah nodded, "Of course, let me finish my supper and get Toby. Would you like something?"
The goblin had crawled up onto Sarah bed and sat there wrapped up in her thick blue sweater. "Some fruit if I could, mum."
Sarah gave it some dried apricots and a ring of apple which it gnawed on happily as Sarah wolfed down her bread and cheese, chased it with some water, and held Toby as he finished off his bottle with a will.
"What is your name?" she asked the goblin. "You look familiar, have we met?"
"Zip, mum. I was there when Master took yon babe. Nothin' personal 'bout that, mum, I's just doin' me job." Zip said defensively.
Sarah looked away. "Oh, I see. No, I don't hold a grudge. It was my fault you had to come after all."
Toby finished off his bottle with a soft belch and looked up at Sarah as if telling her he was ready to go. Sarah pulled the sling over her should and tucked Toby into it. She held out her hand to the Goblin. "Come on, Zip. I'll take you home."
Zip allowed Sarah to pick it up and carry it over to the pond. Sarah touched the water with the tip of her shoe and concentrated of the small fountain she remembered in Jareth throne room.
She felt a cool rushing feeling sweep over her and suddenly they were standing before the fountain. Zip released Sarah's hand and scurried off to its chores with a wave good-bye for Sarah.
She felt a soft movement in the air behind her, as displaced air rushed aside to make room for Jareth as he appeared beside her.
"I see you brought Zip home yourself, I wondered if you'd just let her into the tunnels." he commented. Jareth dropped a light caress onto Toby's fair head and winked roguishly at him.
"Why? It was really now trouble on my part to bring it home. It wasn't as if I had something better to do. Zip was kind enough to wait while Toby and I ate." Sarah replied.
"Of course she was." Jareth said flippantly. "By the way, Zip is a female. It's difficult to tell if you aren't familiar with goblins."
Sarah flushed and didn't comment.
Jareth took her by the arm and led her through the palace. Sarah noticed that the turn of his mouth had turned grim. "I'm glad you came to the palace. I'm afraid I must ask you a favor."
"What favor?" Sarah asked dubiously.
"You must act as a guide for the misbegotten idiot who's wandering through my labyrinth," he said shortly.
Sarah blinked. "What? Why?"
Jareth sighed, and explained although he looked none too happy about it. "You remember how Higgul…"
"… how Hoggle helped you through the Labyrinth? Well, occasionally the Fates decide that a Challenger needs a little help. Normally they come by their help as you did, by coincidence. Except this time, they've come directly to me demanding that I send you."
"The Fates talk to you?" Sarah asked skeptically.
Jareth cocked an eyebrow at her and she subsided, forcibly reminded of certain lessons she'd been taught during her own course through the Labyrinth.
"… alright…" she said slowly. "What about Toby, I can't just haul him through the Labyrinth for thirteen hours. It wouldn't be fair to him."
"I have already arranged for that. He will stay with the Wood Elves. They are able providers and protectors, I can personally assure you that the only danger he will be in while he is in their care is becoming the most pampered baby in Arcadia." Jareth swore.
Sarah watched his expressions; he seemed so different from the way he'd been when they'd first met. She knew he'd been acting a part then, but was this truly his real self? He seemed earnest.
Still, if she couldn't trust him now then she had no one to trust.
"All right, can you take him to the Enchanted Forest?" She loosed the sling from her neck and transferred Toby into Jareth waiting arms.
"Indeed." Jareth cradled Toby to his chest and smiled at Sarah. "Perhaps you should change into that ivory costume of yours? You'll seem more… in place."
Sarah glanced down at her worn jeans and green sweater with a shrug. "If you say so. Where is this 'challenger'?"
"Just concentrate on the concept of 'Challenger' when you teleport. The Labyrinth will do the rest." Jareth promised her.
Fifteen minutes later, Sarah appeared over a small fountain in the Shifting Maze. She pursed her lips and looked around herself, in search of her 'client'. It didn't occur to her that she was standing on the still surface of the fountain pool until she took a step forward and nearly fell on her face.
"Whoops!" she said with a blush and hopped down from the water surface, leaving a few spreading ripples where her feet touched it.
She'd changed into the dress as per Jareth's suggestion and had even pulled her hair up off her neck. She felt as though she looked the part of a denizen of the Labyrinth, although not as crazy.
"Deus Corpus!" A man's voice whispered behind her.
Sarah turned to find herself face to face with a knight in full plate armor. She blinked as she noticed the white surcoat he wore; it was decorated with a blood red cross… a Knight Templar.
"Oh, hello there!" she chirped uneasily. "You wouldn't happen to be the Challenger would you?"
"You stood on the water as though you were Christ, what manner of sorcery do you have?" he accused her, leveling a damning finger at her chest.
Sarah cocked an eyebrow at him in an expression she found to be slightly redolent of Jareth. The Knight in front of her didn't back down but she decided that it was the testosterone talking.
"My own." she answered pertly. "I'm Sarah Williams and you are…?"
The Templar stiffened. "Sir Anthony de Borages. Are you another devil sent to torment me?"
Devil?Sarah wondered, but decided not to ask. "Um, actually I was sent to help you." she said dubiously, making sure to convey with her voice what she thought about that.
"Why should I accept your help? How can I trust you?" Sir Anthony asked dubiously.
Sarah chuckled as he unwittingly echoed the words she'd spoken to Hoggle so many weeks ago. "Well, Let me put it this way. What choice have you got?"
His blonde eyebrows rose and he pursed his lips. "I cannot refute your logic, Milady. What would you swear to, if I asked for your oath that you would lead me to the Castle at the Center of the Labyrinth safely."
Sarah chuckled. "I won't swear that oath. I was only sent to help you, not do it for you, that would defeat the entire purpose of the Labyrinth!" Inwardly she was surprised at the words that flowed out of her mouth because it seemed as though she hadn't willfully said them.
Sir Anthony shook his head and turned away. "I have not time for this foolishness. Begone!"
Sarah blinked as he suddenly stopped and stared at the wall before him. "Are you all right?" she asked.
"This was an open passage not seconds before." he said in a disbelieving tone. "Now it is naught but a dead end!"
The younger girl coughed discreetly and scratched the back of her head. "This part of the Labyrinth changes almost constantly. All you can really do is wander until you happen across the way out."
"I don't want out!" Anthony snarled at her. "I want to get to the center!"
Sarah shrugged and fell into step behind him, unwilling to waste more of his precious time. She followed him in silence for nearly half and hour before the Knight stopped.
Without a word he took a grease pencil from underneath his breastplate and knelt onto the ground to make a mark.
"I wouldn't recommend that." Sarah piped up, earning herself a glare from the Templar. "I tried it myself once, someone changes the marks. Besides, what good will they do when this section changes all together?"
Anthony scowled at her even more, but he put his pen away just the same. Under his breath she heard him mutter, "Such a wretched place, damn Lady Marigold!"
Marigold? Was that who he wished away?
Sarah felt something sweep over her just then, like a psychic tidal wave crashing over her and she saw a section of wall slide away to reveal Alf and Ralf guarding their doors.
Well, she was practically back at the Oubliette!
"You're right! It is wretched, isn't it?" Alf catcalled at the knight. "But that's only half of it!" his proclamation sent Ralf and his counterpart into gales of laughter that only increased when Anthony whirled upon them, sword unsheathed and disbelief etched into his handsome face.
"From whence did you two creatures come?" he sputtered.
"From your ass-hole!" Ralf's lower half volunteered crudely before receiving a kick from Ralf. "I've told ye to watch yer mouth!"
"Such a lie!" Alf laughed. "You always were such a liar!"
"I do not! You the one what always lies! Tell him, Lady Sarah!" Ralf looked cajolingly to Sarah who shook her head.
"I still don't know which one of you lies!" she replied. To Anthony she said, "The doors they guard are both ways out of this section. One of them leads to the Castle and the other to certain death, or so I'm told. You can ask the dogs, but one of them is a liar."
"You've never been through them?" Anthony asked skeptically.
"She has all right!" Alf told him. "Dropped straight into the Oubliette she did, I still ain't sure how she got out."
"She did not!" Ralf countered. "Went straight to the Goblin city she did, it plain as day seeing as she's still alive and in one piece what."
"Which is which?" Anthony asked Sarah.
She shrugged. "I couldn't say, obviously I picked the wrong one but as I still solved the Labyrinth. However, His Nibs sent someone to get me out so I wouldn't recommend asking me."
Anthony looked at her speculatively and Sarah decided she didn't like it.
"What?" she demanded testily, while keeping an eye out for a water source she could use to run.
"You confirm the red dog's story?" he asked her.
She blinked and nodded. "That's how it happened."
Anthony turned to Alf. "Sir, please tell me which door leads to the Castle at the Center of the Labyrinth. If you would be so kind?"
Alf scowled. "He does." he pointed at Ralf who looked sheepishly at Sarah and stepped aside from his door.
"A thousand thanks." Anthony strode over to the door. He opened it with one hand while standing aside and glancing in. After a while, he seemed satisfied and Bowed Sarah in.
She shook her head and went it, well aware that he was using her to check for traps. The ground remained firm beneath her feet and she found herself in the Hedge Maze. She turned to tell the knight all was clear, but he'd already entered… only to have a trapdoor open up directly under his feet.
Sarah peered down into the hole and winced as she head him hit ground. Ralf peered in and she glared at him. "You both lie, don't you!" she accused him.
Ralf shrugged. "If we feel like it, there's no rule saying whether we have to or not. His majesty leaves the decision to our 'discretion'."
"Do either of these doors lead to the Castle?" she asked tiredly.
Ralf grinned toothily. "They both do… eventually."
End Chapter Five