The Fourth Trial

Jareth was, unknowingly, becoming rather a celebrity across the Labyrinth. He was much talked about in taverns, as people gave their opinion on the gossip that one of the royals very clearly wasn't willing to fight for the goblin throne.

Opinion was divided among three camps. Most of the non-goblin citizens were of the 'live-and-let-live' opinion, some of them even going so far as to think him entirely sensible.

The goblins themselves were divided into those who were outraged and offended that someone would sneer at the highest position a goblin could achieve, and those who thought he was touched-in-the-head, but ultimately harmless. This wasn't uncommon, for the royal family had carried the taint of madness for generations now and the goblins had learned to live with it. One could, the goblins pointed out, find more than a hint of it in all the competitors and Jareth was one of the more harmless eccentrics in the bunch.

Jareth was unfortunately rather oblivious to the gossip, or he would have tried to be far less obvious. All he really wanted was to quietly vanish back into his life as quickly as possible, still being relatively unknown to as many goblins as possible. He was just far too lazy to actually keep going with the tasks for any length of time.

Jareth was rooting for one of his cousins, Rick in particular, to win the crown. That way Jareth would be able to slide back into obscurity without any need for future court appearances. He strongly suspected his siblings, if they won, would rather enjoy forcing him to be at their beck and call.

Anyway, he only had to last out these trials and he would be free of any further obligations to the goblins forever. Even the royals could only take part in the goblin trials once in their lifetime and Jareth's right to the throne would be gone completely once the tasks were completed and the new King or Queen crowned, regardless of the length of time they reigned.

Jareth's behaviour changed with the announcement of the fourth trial and Jareth ended up actually putting forth his best effort.

It would have been nice to say that this was because he had listened to Gringott, who had given him a quiet warning that his actions were fast becoming notorious across the Underground. But it wasn't entirely true. It was Jareth's ego that demanded he not come last.

For the fourth trial was basically an intelligence test.

Jareth was, in his own way, just as egocentric as any of the others with royal blood and had no intention whatsoever of being proved as less intelligent than his lunatic family.

Jareth tied for second place with his cousin Amelia, much to his disgust, and it was Gavin that proved victorious once again. Jareth sulked, and all but pouted, before pretending he'd only tried half-heartedly, much to Gringott's amusement. His relative success also meant he was forced to sit next to Sir Hugh and his sister Katy for dinner. Gavin's success meant that he got to choose the menu once more, an unwelcome prospect for most of the table.

Jareth stared at the worms crawling over his plate; he poked them slightly, watching them wriggle away in disgust.

He watched in morbid fascination as Sir Hugh twirled them around his fork, as though he was eating spaghetti.

Sir Hugh sighed inwardly, he spent much of his life as a goblin ambassador in the company of almost every creature in existence and this wasn't the worse meal he'd eaten, but it also was not something he would ever choose voluntarily. Unfortunately Hugh could not afford to ever show weakness, particularly could not allow himself to be seen as squeamish.

He looked up to find Jareth watching him intently. Hugh swallowed his mouthful of worms and Jareth glanced away, looking green.

By the end of the main course Jareth had not managed to eat more than his bread roll and even that he'd had to force down. Hugh sighed slightly and then discretely pushed his own bread roll in Jareth's direction, aware that Jareth had eaten very little for several days now.

Jareth stared suspiciously, before giving Hugh a small smile.

Hugh smiled back slightly, before his attention was once again drawn back to the current reigning monarch.

Amelia smirked at Jareth from across the table as she finished her own worms with gusto, being one of the few diners actually enjoying them. Jareth glowered back, still not over his sulk of coming joint second with her.

Hugh watched the pair of them, amused, as they proceeded to glare at each other across the table. They were reminding him very much of his 12 year old nephews, both parties equally certain of their own superiority.

All three of them had actually done surprisingly well in the test, beating the other competitors by a very large margin.

Gavin, though showing slightly less inherent intelligence than the other two, pulled ahead by virtue of actually having an interest in the world outside of himself and being used to actually thinking things through.

Jareth and Amelia, on the other hand, both showed a remarkable degree of ignorance on subjects that didn't directly relate to their own interests. They were both rather too clever and had got used to manipulating people around them to do any work for them. Typical royals they were used to breezing through life with a minimum of effort and both had found during the test that they actually had to put that intelligence to work, which had very clearly come as rather a shock to them.

The Fifth Trial

The fifth trial was all about strategy, the contenders having to lead and co-ordinate the goblin army in a minor battle. This was something that had given Sir Hugh a huge headache, he'd had to arrange 7 battles to coincide and take roughtly the same amount of leadership skills. The task was arranged over a full week, one contestant taking part each day. Sir Hugh had carefully made sure that the more experienced candidates took charge of the hardest battles.

Jareth had not the smallest idea how to go about leading an army and his first attempt did not go well. He had only a small smattering of military knowledge, which consisted mainly of the knowledge that one should usually try and take the high ground. This was not at all useful when the skirmish occurred in a forest. Jareth's task was simple, he had to coordinate and attack a dwarf convoy.

Sir Hugh had had to step in and take over before Jareth got his people completely killed and so Jareth ended up coming last.

Once again, Gavin proved his abilities and won the victory in both the shortest time and with the fewest casualties. Once again Amelia ended up sat at his side.

Gavin's victory made a huge difference at the evening meal, as suddenly the other contenders were forced to take a cross-breed seriously. This meant they started, to Jareth's disgust, courting the Gavin's favour, even Amelia, though she still held out high hopes of her own.

Even the council members had started to treat Gavin a little differently from the others, something they had previously done for Amelia. Suddenly it was Gavin who was holding court in the evenings, much to Amelia's disgust.

None of the contestants was quite sure how the new King or Queen was actually decided, whether one needed to win every trial, or just show all round ability and the council wasn't talking, so everyone was hedging their bets.

Jareth fiddled with his fork, back at the foot of the table. Gringott wasn't present at all, claiming business affairs and so Jareth was back to being the black sheep of the gathering. Somehow though, failing from lack of ability made the foot of the table slightly less acceptable.

He was beginning to suspect that Gavin was deliberately picking the troll-friendly revolting meals to deliberately annoy the other contenders. A tactic he would have found amusing were he himself one of the main victims.

Jareth hadn't eaten properly in days now.

The food issues were actually becoming of concern to the council had Jareth but known it, for though Jareth was the most obvious in his disgust, he was not the only royal unable to stomach live food. It was effectively a brilliant tactic, succeeding in demoralising at least three of the contenders, but even Hugh was becoming sick of having to catch his food before it wandered off his plate.

Hugh looked down the table with some concern. Jareth was looking rather unhappy and was playing with his fork.

Hugh listened to Gavin with half an ear. The man was showing himself to be an intelligent, effective man who would lead the goblins well. The only flaw he seemed to have was the rather unfortunate appetite. This was not something they couldn't work around and there had been King's with worse appetites by far. In fact Hugh more than suspected that he was playing up on his part-troll heritage to wind up the other contenders.