Underground Labyrinths

Underground Labyrinths

By WTFWonder

Summary: Dedicated to my two favorite labyrinths, from my two favorite Underground/worlds. "Labyrinth" X "Pan's Labyrinth" crossover. My apologies to any fluent Spanish speakers if I get some the language wrong. Lo siento.

Princess Moanna was bored again. Not just mild boredom that would be cured with a stroll through her seven circle gardens or a few hours in the levitation room (gliding through the air in there was great fun on most days), but true, great, solid listlessness. The girl knew her father's kingdom of the Underworld was vast and amazing and almost always changing with a new flux of magic, but the princess wanted to go somewhere else. Somewhere new.

Verdeen, her green fairy friend perched on her left shoulder and squeaked something chiding in her ear. Princess Moanna shook her head as she treaded another familiar stone path that curled and twined around her shady kingdom. "No, Verdeen, I know better than to go to Earth's surface by now. Even if centuries of their years have passed, it still holds nothing but infirmity and pain." She cringed at the memory of being shot and rubbed her stomach with a sense of nostalgia. "I must be the most ungrateful girl in the Underworld to not want to stay here.", Moanna gestured to their extravagant atmosphere.

She leaned against a steep rock wall, playing with the hem of her sundress, finding it ironic for such clothes to exist in a place with no sun. Verdeen fluttered in front of her and waved her hands to indicate that she was wrong. The leaf-toned fairy squeaked something and gestured around herself gracefully. "Thanks Verdeen.", she touched the small creature's shoulder with her index finger, "I just wish there was somewhere else in the Underworld I hadn't seen before."

Moanna pursed her lips in thought as Verdeen crossed her little arms and hung her head, pondering as well. The princess knew every twist and turn in her labyrinthine kingdom, and she could think of no place she hadn't seen in the boundaries she adhered too. Labyrinthine. Fauno's labyrinth. The young woman smiled at that memory and how scared she'd been of the wise, strong creature before she'd returned to the Underworld and regained all her fond and happy memories of him.

While she'd been doing his tasks, she had felt rushes of adrenaline, and the uncertainty of doing something hazardous. She missed that and the small, enchanted maze that took her blood and returned her to her madre and padre. "Wait a minute…" Moanna said as a memory dawned on her. Hadn't she been told that the Underworld extended beyond their shadowy realm? The princess couldn't recall going beyond the borders of the kingdom; she really hadn't seen the entire Underworld then.

"And didn't Padre say that he had to borrow magic from another king for the labyrinth portals?" Moanna talked to herself, Verdeen looking at her curiously. "Si…he told me that he got it from…from the Goblin King." A smile lit the girl's face as the rest of it came back to her. "I remember! The Goblin King gave my padre pieces of his own magic labyrinth to make the portals!" She stood away from the stone wall and a look of supreme triumph flooded from her. "The Goblin King lives in the Underworld too, but I've never seen him." She cupped her chin and began to pace up and down the stone path, Verdeen now hovering above her, watching distraught as the princess thought herself into further excitement.

"But I should be able to meet him—to thank him for helping me get home and all.", Princess Moanna said with a sly little smile. "And maybe he'll let me go through his labyrinth too!" she finished with an ecstatic face. However it quickly dropped when she realized, "Oh right, Padre said I had to be older to go outside our central kingdom, and besides I don't even know where to find the Goblin King." Moanna chewed her lip and looked down at herself. By her appearance she would seem to be a human teenager, despite her great age. She put a hand over her heart and sighed at how long it would take for her to grow into the same womanly curves as her madre. Sometimes prolonged youth wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

A couple of feet had been added to her height and her dark chestnut hair was a thick curtain that reached the middle of her back. Other than this, she was the same petite girl that had been shot by the malicious Captain that day in Spain's 1944. "Well," she pondered with mock innocence, "technically I'm older, but how to find the Goblin King..?" Verdeen flew down at this point and squeaked something to the girl. "Don't worry so much Verdeen, if the Goblin King was kind enough to give Padre those enchanted maze pieces, he can't be that dangerous, can he? Besides, I won't even get that far if I can't find…him…"

An idea sparked in her head as she dug into one of her scarlet overcoat's inner pockets, producing a piece of chalk. She drew a large rectangle on the stone surface and said in pronounced fragments, "Take. Me. To. The. Goblin. King's. Land." She pocketed the chalk just as the white lines began to sizzle and entrench themselves into the stone. Fauno had taught her this trick a while back, that if you told the chalk specifically where you wanted the door to lead, it would take you there. He'd taught her this by taking them directly to the castle's grand kitchen despite their being in one of the gardens. She smiled at the memory of the two of them sneaking pieces of strawberry shortcake after the lesson.

Verdeen tugged at the hem of the girl's fluttering white dress, thin, vine-like patterns strewn gracefully over the snowy color. "I'll be fine Verdeen. The Goblin King knows my padre remember? He--." Verdeen flew up and stopped in front of Moanna's face squeaking something as she crossed her green arms. "You want to come with me?" Another squeak. "Oh, you will come with me and 'it's final'?" Verdeen nodded. Princess Moanna giggled, "Okay, if you insist."

The girl patted her right shoulder, indicating the fairy to take a seat. Verdeen obeyed and the princess pushed the stone door open, streams of what seemed like sunlight shining through. "But that can't be the sun if I'm just going to another part of the Underworld." Moanna squinted her eyes shut and gave one big push, giving a small cry as she fell through the opening and onto some dry grass. The princess shook her head and got to her knees, daring to open her eyes. Yes, there was what seemed to be sunlight drenching the sight before her, but it did not erase her memory. Moanna stood and searched all around the oddly clouded "sky", but couldn't find the source of the light. She stood and shrugged, deciding it was just another work of magic.

She was atop a hill of stray thin, leafless trees and scraggly patches of dry grass and brush, much of the dusty earth visible. Beyond that was the biggest, most intricate stone labyrinth she'd ever seen in her life, a smaller hedge maze beyond that, and beyond that a city and a large, exotic, foreboding building that may or may not have been a castle. "Isn't it amazing Verdeen?" The green fairy squeaked a "si" but kept her eyes focused on the labyrinth warily. Moanna looked behind her and saw that her chalk-drawn door had opened in a large boulder. She blinked with mild surprise as the door suddenly closed.

"I can just make another one. Now, if I were a Goblin King, where would I be?" the princess pondered to herself as she began to walk leisurely down the hill, Verdeen flying after her.

XXXXX

Jareth sighed for what seemed like the 150th time that day. He was sprawled carelessly over his throne, juggling some of his crystals absentmindedly. "Oh for the love of Aesop, I am bored." A gaggle of bird-brained goblins were doing their usual mindless drinking, gambling and fighting amongst themselves all over the throne room. One that resembled a cross between a vulture and a turtle scuttled over to him and perched on the throne's top, knocking back a small shot.

"Well, Yer Highness, why dontcha' go visit yer lady friend? Susie, or Savanna or—aack!" One of the Goblin King's gloved hands was now clamped around the little creature's throat, the blonde man now juggling the crystals in one hand.

"One, her name was Sarah, and two, no because I have no interest in going to that retched surface world where that ungrateful girl died centuries ago, and three, you and everyone else would do well to not mention her name in my presence--," he pulled the poor goblin to a mere inch's distance from his face, "—ever again." His arrogant yet melodious voice gained a thunderous echo at these last words as they rebounded around the room. All the goblins were silent and unmoving as they gaped in fear at their king. Satisfied, Jareth promptly flung the unlucky creature into the adjacent wall, and the ruckus resumed itself. But the Goblin King was still bored.

"If only there was an intruder I could deal with…", all the crystals disappeared into a single orb that he caught and twirled on his index finger, "…I suppose I could settle for one of these twits…" he mused offhandedly, taking a bit of sadistic joy from the looks of panic on the (not too drunk) faces of his minions. He was just mulling over the thought of dropping the one with the elk-like face into the Bog of Eternal Stench when a catlike goblin burst into the room looking rather excited.

"You're Majesty! You're Majesty!" His interest piqued at the urgency in the creature's voice, Jareth ceased playing with the crystal and caught it with his left hand before sitting properly in his throne.

"Yes, yes, what is it?" he asked in his same "oh-what-is-it-this-time" tone, not wanting to show his hopes getting high.

The goblin panted to regain some breath before answering, "There's a girl approaching the labyrinth! A human girl!" There was a collective gasp from the goblins while Jareth merely gaped in shock.

"Sarah? Impossible! The girl died hundreds of Earth years ago with some idiot human husband of hers."

"No Sire! Not the girl you fancied—er," he shrank under the Goblin King's burning glare, "I mean, it's a different girl. She looks like she's a young woman as well, though she has sun-touched skin, some fancy clothes on and a fluttering little green thing with her. It's like she popped outta' thin air!" the goblin exclaimed. Jareth could no longer mask his surprise and he leaned back into his throne, his brow furrowed in thought.

"A human arriving in my domain without my bringing her? How peculiar."

"Do you wish us to bring her to you Your Highness?" The cluster of goblins began to rise and ready their armor and weapons, despite the target being a girl. They weren't about to underestimate human females a second time.

"No, I will go to her myself." So saying he rose from his throne, strode to one of his open windows and looked out at his labyrinth. Sure enough, there was a tiny girl-shaped speck approaching it. This would certainly be interesting. "Oh, and as for you lot, if I return and find anyone in my throne, they'll be tossed into the tunnels with the Cleaner faster than they can blink." And on that cheerful note, the man teleported away with a blink of light.

XXXXX

"Hmm, there should be an entrance around here somewhere…" Moanna thought aloud as her distinct feeling of direction began to kick in. She'd always had a gift for navigation and right now it was telling her to head to her left. As she approached the sand colored wall, Verdeen tugged on the sleeve of her scarlet overcoat and pointed at a cluster of bushes. There, fluttering around the leaves were fairies—not the nude, multicolored fairies like Verdeen and the rest of Fauno's "pets", but silk-clothed little things that looked like tiny humans with butterfly wings.

Moanna's eyes lit up and she trotted over to the flitting creatures. "Hola! Me llamo--. Ow!" The princess stuck her finger in her mouth and stared at the smirking little fairy that bit her. "Why did you do that-? Verdeen!" The green fairy had just knocked out the tiny blonde nuisance and said some very bad words to her in Spanish. A few of the rude fairy's friends made high squeaking sounds and flew at Verdeen who was punching her fist into her hand in a "bring it on!" motion.

"Verdeen just let it go!", the princess pleaded when suddenly a coy and silky voice sounded just behind the offending little creatures.

"My, my, what an odd language. Oh, pardon the fairies—their rude little brutes, the lot of them."

"Que?", Moanna asked as she searched for the owner of the voice that spoke in such a foreign tongue. Suddenly a white owl glided off the top of the labyrinth wall (why hadn't she noticed it before?) and it promptly swatted the whole quartet of fairies away with a single flick of its wing. But where was Verdeen? As if to answer the girl's mental question, a familiar green-tinted stick bug landed on her shoulder, clicking and squeaking at the white owl in a warning manner.

Suddenly the bird spread its wings and in a flash, the thing had turned into an oddly dressed man. He was tall, thin and had a well-muscled chest judging by the patch of skin his low-dipping shirt revealed. A tooth pendant hung from his neck and rested on that bare patch of skin, below which were clinging black pants, topped off with riding boots and gloves. He had a narrow, handsome face that was the same pale color as her padre and the American, British and Canadian troops had on Earth. His hair was wild, wispy and gold around his head while a long blonde sheet of hair ran to the middle of his back. His eyes were a pretty greenish color with mismatched pupils and strange markings over his lids.

Now Princess Moanna was just fallen into puberty, but she knew enough to recognize a guapo, albeit a little strange-looking, man when she saw one. She blushed slightly and fumbled with her hands. "Ho-Hola, me-me llamo--Eh?" The man had held up a black-gloved hand for silence as he shook his head.

"I can't understand a word of your gibberish, don't you speak English?"

The princess furrowed her brows in confusion as the man spoke in that odd language again. "Lo siento, no comprehende…" The man sighed snapped his fingers and a shining sphere crystal appeared in his palm. The girl gasped softly at its appearance and she watched the tall man clutch his hand over it until the crystal seemed to be gone once again. He directed his clenched fist at the tan girl and uncurled his fingers to reveal a pile of glittering powder. Without warning the man blew this dust into her face, which she accidentally breathed in. Moanna coughed twice and asked, "Why did you do that? Hey!" Moanna exclaimed as she realized she was speaking in the man's tongue, though with a slight accent.

Verdeen clicked excitedly at her as the blonde man put his hands on his hips and asked, "Now can you understand me?"

"Uh, yes?"

"Good. Now what was it you were stammering out before in that peculiar language of yours?" he asked as he cocked a brow. Moanna gulped and looked into the man's mismatched eyes.

"Right, I was saying that my name was," A thought struck her then. This man was dressed in fine clothes and had a decent amount of power to be able to shapeshift and have ownership over even one of those magic crystals. He had to work for the Goblin King, and if he found out who she really was she might be sent home before she even set foot into the marvelously intricate labyrinth. "…Ofelia. I'm here to meet the Goblin King."

XXXXX

Jareth smirked at the dark-eyed young woman and snorted at the irony of her situation. She looked to be about seventeen years old in human years and was quite pretty despite her lack of curves. A bit odd-looking though: he'd yet to meet a human with such unblemished tan skin, or dark eyes, and her accent had a strange ring to it.

She was blushing at him again and he couldn't help but grin toothily at her. Her face turned a shade redder and the stick bug perched on her shoulder clicked violently at him. Perhaps he'd squash the little thing later. He was about to tell her who he was when a more inventive idea popped into his head. "Well Ofelia, the Goblin King lives in that castle," he pointed to his castle far off in the distance, "at the center of the city. To get there, you'll need to solve the labyrinth.", he purred in a false-pitying tone. He pulled an honest face of confusion as the girl lit up with joy.

"Really? The only way's through here?" she asked eagerly as she gestured to the labyrinth's wall. Jareth forced himself to compose his features back into his usual scheming visage, a bit dumbfounded at why the girl was so eager to get into his labyrinth.

"Yes dear girl." An almost childlike gleam entered Ofelia's eyes and her petite face split into a big, plump-lipped smile.

"Gracias—I mean, thank you! Por fav—darn it, I mean please, what is your name sir?"

"Jareth."

"Well Jareth, thank you again and let the Goblin King know I look forward to meeting him.", she said with a wave and she began to trot off in (surprisingly) the correct direction. He teleported the second she turned her back and appeared in front of her with his face not three inches from hers. The annoying insect was clicking with unadulterated rage now, Ofelia merely jolting in surprise.

"Not so fast little girl, first tell me how you managed to get here." At this Ofelia looked a bit panicked.

"Oh, I just—uh…" Suddenly the stick bug on her shoulder fluttered up and contorted itself into the shape of a fairy, albeit nude, green and without any hair. She squeaked something rather quickly.

"So you're saying you," he pointed to the fluttering little green thing, "brought her here?" The fairy nodded. "And how pray tell did you accomplish this?" Jareth asked with a hint of malice. The fairy squeaked at him and crossed her arms with a smirk. Why that rude little--! The Goblin King reached out in a flash of movement and caught the irksome creature in his hand. "Care to repeat that?" Jareth growled.

The fairy squeaked angrily and beat at his fingers, Ofelia looking horrified. "Verdeen!" she cried as she latched onto Jareth's arm and pulled. "Let her go! She didn't mean it, honest!" The man snorted and phased out of her grip before leaping up and landing deftly on the ledge of the labyrinth wall. "Hey! Let her go!" she demanded as she tried hopelessly to reach the grinning man.

"Afraid not, Ofelia, this rude insect of yours has irritated me one time too many. So how about this?" he asked with an impish smile, "I'll give your, what was it, 'Vary' back, if you can reach the Goblin King's castle in…", he deftly handled the annoying fairy into a grip on her leaf-shaped wings, said fairy almost biting his pinky off, "thirteen hours."

"That isn't fair! Let her go, right now!" 'That isn't fair!' My, now why did that sound familiar?

"I'll be waiting at the castle. Good luck, Ofelia…" he said before he vanished into thin air.

XXXXX

Jareth disappeared and left her standing all alone in front of the sand-colored wall. "Why that, that evil--!" She bit her lip to keep from cursing in Spanish. "Fine, I'll get to that castle with hours to spare, and when I get Verdeen back I'll make sure the Goblin King hears about you." Moanna threatened the spot where Jareth had disappeared. She followed her innate sense of direction and continued walking left where sure enough a pair of wooden double doors appeared.

She opened these and stepped inside, avoiding a few fallen branches on the stone floor. No sooner had she taken three steps than the doors shut behind her. "Hmph, it'll take more than that to scare me.", she whispered confidently, her mind going back to that dreadful child-eater encounter. Now she had to go right. She ran at a steady pace for what seemed like two miles until her sixth sense told her to halt.

She looked to the wall on her right and narrowed her eyes in concentration. There was something about that wall… Moanna reached out her hand to touch it, but she simply kept walking forward. "An optical illusion.", she smirked, "Piece of cake. Now which way to the castle..?" The left. Definitely the left.

She was just turning in that direction when she heard, "Wait a minute girlie!" She turned around and looked for the speaker. "Down here!" Moanna looked down and there was a small, chubby blue worm looking up at her.

"Yes?"

"Listen dear, y'don't want to go that way." She furrowed her brow and glanced down the path. She was absolutely positive the castle was that way.

"Why not?"

The worm shuddered and said, "'Cause no one 'oo goes that way ever comes back."

Moanna raised a brow at the little cerulean creature; she could feel no ill will coming from him but she was one hundred and ten percent sure the left led to the castle. "Um, why not?"

"Heh, well for one thing there's more booby traps that way than you can shake a stick at."

"I can handle booby traps."

"There's an 'ole slew of goblins'n monsters that can eat a thing like you right up!"

"I've escaped monsters before."

"Really? A pretty little girl like you?", the worm shook his head incredulously, "Just the spit of that Sarah girl, aren't you?" Moanna pondered over who this Sarah person was when the worm continued, "Well, I'm positive you 'aven't faced someone the like of 'im yet."

"Who's 'him'?"

" 'Im' 'oo?"

"The 'him' you were just talking about."

" 'Oo was talking about an 'im'?"

"You were!" Moanna said exasperatedly.

"I was talking about what now?" The relatively young woman sighed and shook her head. This was getting her nowhere fast and Verdeen was counting on her.

"Listen, do you know if the Goblin King's castle is that way?", she asked, pointing down the path she'd been trying to go down.

"You better believe it is, dearie! And that's why no one 'oo ever goes down that way ever--."

"Thank you very much, adios!" Moanna said hurriedly as she sped down the left path, glad to have that conversation over with. Apparently the Goblin King was indeed a fearsome being to frighten his own subjects—if worms like that one were considered subjects—but even still, Moanna was unafraid. Her father knew the man, and he had been good enough to help her get back to her kingdom with his magic stones. He was a friend to her at least. Right..? "Right.", she assured herself while treading down the twisting pathway.

She didn't know how much time had passed before realization smacked the princess clean in the face. She then smacked herself literally as she sighed, "The chalk. Why didn't I think of the blasted chalk?" Moanna smiled to herself as she fished out her chalk again and touched it to a wall. She'd barely made a mark before a web of cracks burst through the chalk and it turned to dust with a resounding "puff!" Moanna smacked her temple again, this time in true annoyance. "Of course: enchanted labyrinth means enchanted stones you dummy." There went her shortcut. Something scuttled behind her. "Huh?"

She spun around and searched the narrow passage. Nothing. She licked her lips and continued on her original journey, keeping her ears attentive should—skitter-scuttle. The girl halted and shoved her right hand into one of her overcoat's inner folds, her fingers curled around the handle of Fauno's dagger. Once again, there was nothing but the scattered twigs and leaves that littered the place. But still it felt as though something was… "I'm being watched." Moanna whispered to what she hoped was nobody. The cool handle of the dagger suddenly felt very hot and slippery in her hand.

Moanna swallowed dryly and kept following her mental compass, albeit a bit slower. She kept her eyes and ears peeled for movement, but that tiny sound—the nearly mute skittering and scratching—always seemed to come from behind her, no matter which way she looked. All that met her when she whirled around was the walls of the labyrinth and the clutter of glimmering branches and dust. Nothing. "Nothing but the branches." Moanna thought aloud, ebony eyes narrowing in suspicion.

She forced herself to turn forward again, walking with soft footsteps and waiting for that little tell tale creeping to resume. No sooner had she thought it than the scritch-scratching of something returned. Moanna stopped, hand still clutching the concealed knife and the noise stopped as well. Moanna waited. It waited. A bead of sweat popped out at her hairline as she paused—if this didn't work she would just be wasting more of her time, more of Verdeen's time. The princess had nearly given up when the noise stirred again, the thing (things) assuming she was frozen for some reason or other.

Scritch-scratch, scuttle, skrit.

Closer.

Scritch-scratch, scuttle, skrit.

Even closer. Tighter grip on the knife, lick of the lips.

Scritch-scratch, scuttle, skrit.

Much closer, she could feel it not three feet away. She could recognize the sound now—she knew she'd guessed right.

Scritch-scratch, scuttle, skrit.

It was the sound of tree branches scratching against the side of her and her Earth Mama's house, "Like Mother Nature filing her nails.", Earth Mama had said. A sharp something was digging into the back of her neck, another something trying to hook around her left arm. Moanna whirled around with a cry, knife drawn—it sliced one sparkling branch clean off, the thing giving a bizarre wooden shriek before shuddering to stillness.

The princess didn't notice this however; her attention was a bit wrapped up in the creature looming over her. "I had to be right…", she murmured to herself, eyes huge and gaping. The branch-thing was like a giant, long, vicious basket made of unnaturally-woven twigs and sticks, two gaps at its front imitating eyes, with light pouring through them and onto its prey. Her.

Moanna glanced anxiously at the gilded knife in her hand, wondering how she could possibly cut down the thing with it alone. The branch-thing suddenly shot down at her, twigs barbing out to act like teeth. Moanna let a Spanish curse slip past her lips and simultaneously swung her dagger out in an arch. Off came a big branch, the thing giving that same semi-screech and a writhing fit before falling prone.

Fleeing the scene was just growing in her mind when she saw her route was cut off by the other half of the wooden duo; another sentient basket monster. "Oh, excelente.", the ancient girl hissed. She'd have to get rid of both of these things if she wanted to get any closer to the castle. She—"Aah!" A long stick had slipped under her cloak and yanked her up the way a hook does a fish. "Let me go! Let me go you overgrown basket!" Moanna peppered these requests with a few good stabs and slashes, taking off three more branches.

She was rewarded by having the stick slip out of her cloak and dropped her into the maw of the other creature. The princess landed on the knotted, splintery net of its stomach, her surroundings still visible through the holes of the weaving.

Ker-SNAP, twik, twik, wiv, twik.

Moanna looked up and sure enough, the other branch-thing had woven itself onto the top of its brother, forming a cage. It began to roll back the way she had come—back to the beginning—away from Verdeen. Her eyebrows pulled down in a V of anger and panic, her arm raising high for a good arc. "Let me out!" Just as her arm swung down, a long, thin vine-like branch (grapevine?) whipped out and snatched the blade out of her grip. She didn't bother to cry indignantly—that could wait—and dug rapidly through her cloak's deep pockets. "Spare chalk, Book of Crossroads, chocolate strawberries, wingseed, toad egg--. Wait a minute..!"

Quicker than it takes to describe, Moanna flashed back to her first test in the human world, rescuing the dying fig tree from the bloated toad. It was a long shot, but there weren't any alternatives unless she wanted to try eating through the twigs. "Toad it is." Out came the yellowish-orange marble, a tiny black fetus curled in its core. Moanna wrinkled her nose in disgust before quickly licking the thing and sticking it in a knothole of the glimmering branches. The princess spat profusely, cringing at the mucky flavor and watched the egg as they both rolled and tumbled in the living cage.

Marble. Grapefruit. Bowling ball. Tadpole. Limbs. Bigger limbs. Bigger body. Bloated body. Ribbit. Cro-oak. Ribbit. And finally, too big for the cage to move. There was a series of loud snaps as the new toad's weight crushed it, a strained, wooden mewling sound echoing from the sparkling lumber. The toad began to glisten with whatever mucus it made, sucking the life from the bewitched branches and the mewling became a dwindling scream before the twigs came undone and fell over in two halves, none of them moving. The toad croaked again.

Silence. Another croak.

Moanna sighed thankfully and got to her feet, brushing twig sparkles from her sundress. The princess wrung her hands nervously and looked apologetically at the giant amphibian. "L-Lo siento—that is, I'm sorry, for what I had to do to your ancestor Senor Toad. And thank you for vanquishing that monster." The toad blinked and gave an indifferent Ribbit. Cro-oak. Ribbit. Croak. "Er, alright, then. Thank you. Ah…", she spotted her blade still with a twist of vine around it. Moanna retrieved it and ripped the offending plant life off, pocketing her treasure once again. "I don't know if there's anymore plant life here you can use but, oh!" The princess cut herself off and looked, up the toad following suit.

Above them was a tiny shimmer, a fairy far out of its usual bounds, a second following close after. Before Moanna could say a word the toad's long tongue shot out and lassoed both of the pests, the little buggers disappearing into its ample mouth. Crunch. Chew. Gulp. A grimace pulled at her features and she rubbed her mouth in revulsion. True, this kingdom's fairies were annoying little things, but still… "Eugh."

On the other hand Mr. Toad seemed in ecstasy at the flavor of fresh fairy flesh and he did a little, squatty dance in place. His slimy tongue thumbed his equally slimy lips and he promptly tensed his haunches, hopping onto the top of a wall. His head pointed towards the front of the labyrinth. He licked his lips again and hopped out of Moanna's sight, presumably to his new banquet. A shudder ran through her at the idea and pushed it out of mind. She could worry about the dainty, if evil, things after she saved Verdeen.

The tips of her red shoes aimed in what she deemed the right direction and the rest of her followed. That was the view afforded the Goblin King as he gazed through his crystal ball, the eyes of his minions watching over his shoulder.

XXXXX

Upon returning to his throne room Jareth was greeted with the usual: goblins getting drunk, goblins fighting chickens, goblins eating chickens, chickens trying to eat goblins, goblins singing horribly off key and, of course, one very forgetful goblin sitting in his throne. After the latter was promptly dropped into the tunnels with the Cleaner faster than they could blink, Jareth whipped up a small birdcage and deposited his little hostage inside. Said little hostage then began to squeak, hiss and chirp all manner of foul language, using some curses even the Goblin King didn't know. He gave the green pest a scathing look as he crossed his arms.

"Unless you want to trade your cage for a thimble I suggest you stop while I still have some patience." The green fairy promptly silenced but continued to glare at him. "Ooh, I'm terrified." It mimicked his pose and his mock. Maybe she wanted a nice meeting with the sports page of the Goblin Gazette. Before he could conjure up said weapon the goblins started their expected banter.

"So who was the girl? She as pretty as yer last one?"

A growl from the nude fairy.

"Another lady friend is she?"

A hiss and growl from the nude fairy.

"Aw, it's so good to see you getting yer love life back!"

A rattling of the birdcage and a roar from the nude fairy.

"When's th' first date?"

A veritable explosion of negative shrieks from the nude fairy.

"Oh, wouldja' lookit' that freaky fairy—some kinda' dowry maybe?"

Several death threats from the nude fairy.

"Marriage already?! Don't be daft she's probably just--."

The nude fairy was in the throes of bloodlust when the Goblin King could take no more. "Will you lot shut up!?" Jareth's voice reverberated around the room, the goblins and even the pest in the cage falling silent. "Thank you. Now before you numbskulls break out the wedding clothes let me tell you that Ofelia is not," he began to count off on his fingers, " my wife, fiancée, lady friend, girlfriend, friend, bosom companion, replacement for her, suitor, suitee or anything else of the romantic or companionable nature. Is that clear?"

"…So she's your concu--."

"If the end of that word rhymes with pine you will regret having a tongue."

The goose-looking goblin paused and finished, "—rrence..?"

"Of course not, why would you bring something so irrelevant into the conversation, Erriote?"

"It's Erily."

"Whatever. If you must know, Miss Ofelia is going to be a playmate of sorts for the next thirteen hours.", Jareth purred with a malicious smirk. In a shocking display of intelligence, a goblin actually caught the message and gasped.

"Y-You don't mean she's going through the labyrinth?!" The Goblin King nodded and his simple-minded subjects erupted with excited babble. Yet another human girl traversing the labyrinth? Would it be the Sarah fiasco all over again? Either way it would be a new upstir in the drudging lives of the Goblin Kingdom and they couldn't wait to see how it unfolded.

"Yes, quite the déjà vu experience—especially since I have no idea how she got here."

"Huh? But if y' didn't invite her does that mean she's not human? Maybe a nymph or some such thing?"

"Don't be daft y' idiot! A nymph? Y' know those aren't real."

"Really? Well, to most humans we aren't real neither!" In another display of goblins' genetic attention deficit disorder they began to bicker over the fact/myth of nymphs while Jareth pondered to himself, twirling his riding crop in one hand. Ofelia looked human enough, although the same could be said of him if one overlooked his hair and attire. Her ensemble was rather regal, if old-fashioned—nothing like the current humans'. The mortals were more fond of slimming suits and pants than fluttery sundresses and overcoats.

Perhaps she was just into vintage wear, but that seemed about as likely as her being a an average human. "Human maybe, but by no accounts normal.", he thought aloud, unheard by the rough-housing goblins. If befriending that alien fairy wasn't enough, she certainly didn't behave humanly. She was actually happy to enter the labyrinth. His labyrinth. The same labyrinth that most entered and never exited. Jareth was positive that whether he'd snatched Vairice or whatever-her-name-was or not, Ofelia would have blundered into the maze. Such curiosity was peculiar indeed and most fetching in a pretty young woman--. "NO.", Jareth hushed himself and thwacked his shoulder with the riding crop.

He would not go tripping over his own head for another vixen—mortal or otherwise. There would be no more Sarahs trampling over his plans and his heart, thank you very much. All that rubbish aside, he'd yet to check in on his new playmate. "Probably hasn't even found the entrance.", he said haughtily, a crystal appearing in his glove. The Goblin King flopped into his throne and watched as the image swirled into view. It was a good thing he was sitting down for had he still been standing he would have fallen on his royal caboose. "Impossible. Bloody impossible.", Jareth breathed as his grip on the orb tightened.

Not only was Ofelia inside the labyrinth in under five minutes, she had found the shortest way to the castle. She had gone left. "All of you…all of you quiet and look at this.", Jareth said with the tiniest tremor in his voice. He wasn't heard and the horsing around continued. "She's in the labyrinth and she's gone left!" You could have heard a pin drop.

And then, "LEFT?!", they roared in unison, the dim creatures stumbling over each other to look into the crystal. Sure enough, there was Ofelia dashing along the shortest and most infamous route to the goblin city. "Such a pity, we won't even get t' meet her in person."

"That's either a right stupid or a right unlucky girl there."

"She's doomed." It was at this uprise of premature mourning that the green fairy began to squeak and click in frustration, wanting to know what was wrong with her human (?) friend. Jareth kept his eyes on the tiny image of the girl and answered.

"Well, put simply Verico, Ofelia has entered the labyrinth and found the shortest distance through it to reach the castle, by turning left at the Ceruleworm Fork. This would be a good thing for you and her if it wasn't for the fact that the left path is infinitely more lethal than the right." The fairy gasped and began to bang around in her cage, shrieking orders for Jareth to release her and Ofelia. Jareth snorted at the display as he and his minions watched the newest seen in the crystal; the visitor seemed to be hearing the stick monsters—conjuring courtesy of the Goblin King himself—sneaking around her. It would be over soon.

"Aw, don't go wettin' yerself y' tiny pest!", a moose-looking goblin huffed, "Nobody ever gets far enough to see th' really bad monsters. They almost always get stopped by the Basket Brothers in there.", he jerked a stubby thumb at the crystal for emphasis. They could all see Ofelia standing still for some reason, her hand hidden in the folds of her cloak. Jareth mused over whether or not she had pruning equipment hidden somewhere in there as one half of the branch creature inched closer to her back. The fairy squeaked out a question, one brow raised.

Jareth finally took his eyes off the crystal and looked at the tiny green creature, his own curiosity bubbling at her tone. Had she sounded cocky for a moment? "What he means is that a kind of guard awaits anyone foolish enough to go left. It's mostly harmless but it is a creature made entirely of fallen branches that drags anyone it catches back to the beginning of the labyrinth. And what pray tell is so humorous?" The fairy was giving him a grin to make the Cheshire Cat jealous as she smugly sat down and crossed her legs. He didn't enjoy that look. The blond king was on the verge of just tossing the aggravating thing in a human's blender when a collection of gasps and outcries came from the gaggle of goblins.

"J-Jareth! Look the girl—Ofelia—she's actually--!", one goblin managed to sputter, she and the rest of her comrades gesturing to crystal in his hand. He couldn't withhold his own shock as Ofelia repeatedly wielded a dagger against the living branches, the ones that were cut lying frozen and dead where they fell.

"What the blinkin' 'ell?! Aren't they s'posed to come back t'gether when they're cut off?"

"Yes. Yes they are supposed to, but only when cut by a normal blade." Meaning the young woman was not slicing with some kitchen knife.

"Now wait a tick, humans ain't s'posed t' have no enchanted swords! Not since that King Arthur fellow—or was it Arnold?"

"I heard it was Arbunkle." As expected the goblins' minds veered off course again, leaving only their king and their small prisoner to watch the fight. Jareth either didn't notice or plain ignored the hearty cheer from the fairy as seemingly out of nowhere (it was hard to tell through the wooden cage) Ofelia drew a gigantic toad that promptly crushed and sapped the life from his twig monster. His jaw dropped like a chainless drawbridge as he gawked at the scene in the sphere. The remarkable girl was talking to the toad and then the toad slurped down two irksome fairies. Apparently liking the taste of the tiny mongrels, the gargantuan amphibian hopped to the front of the labyrinth to consume the rest of the horde.

"There's some good at least.", Jareth said to himself as he tapped the riding crop anxiously against the side of his throne. A list of all the abnormal things Ofelia had done began to tick through his head:

She had been (supposedly) brought here by a fairy without his knowing.

She had spoken in a foreign tongue.

She had exhibited a level of ecstasy when talking of meeting the Goblin King.

She had yet to realize he was the Goblin King.

She had nearly gushed with glee upon realizing she had to go through the labyrinth.

She had gotten into the labyrinth with no outside help and within a fraction of the time Sarah had taken.

She had turned left.

She had turned left and killed the stick monster.

She had killed the stick monster by using an enchanted knife and conjuring a giant toad out of nowhere.

Was there anything else? Oh yes, and she was still traipsing along thru the murderous side of the labyrinth, tra-la-la. All told, Jareth had the tiniest suspicion that this Ofelia wasn't quite normal. Mismatched eyes narrowed as he tossed the crystal up and caught it, repeating the move as he thought. "On the one hand I could pop in, force you back to the beginning and make you take the long way around.", he ignored the cry from the captive fairy, "But on the other I could see how you fair on the nastier side of my maze and see what other tricks you have up your sleeve, mediating from afar." Either way he played the game one rule was key: make sure Ofelia didn't know who the Goblin King was. He grinned. If anything, this game of cat and mouse game was quite the boredom killer.