Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 11 of 50

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Power Struggle

Back in the Underground, Jareth hunched over.

"Are you alright?" Sarah asked in real concern.

He straightened painfully but said nothing, stalking quietly toward the direction of his study, Sarah guessed. He faltered and swayed for a moment, still wandering forward.

She caught up to him quickly and wrapped one arm around his waist and flung his arm across her shoulders. He awkwardly un-entwined himself with a bit of a grumble, marching slowly but resolutely to somewhere private.

"Oh, stop being so stubborn," Sarah admonished, catching up with him again.

He jerked away again, this time with more force and nearly sending himself keeling over.

Fed up with quite a long and exhausting day, physically and emotionally, Sarah took his lapels into her fists one more time. "Listen!" she muttered with clenched teeth. "I know you like keep up that you're strong and whatever else but this scene will do far worse than allowing your future queen walk you to your study, worse if you collapse on the floor even. And so help me I won't let go unless you let me help you."

Jareth's eyes flashed for a moment but Sarah refused to back down. Eventually, especially since he could hear some ominous clattering down the hallway, he nodded curtly and raised his arm slightly.

Sarah pulled his arm over her shoulders and he settled his weight against her. She staggered for a moment but set a brisk pace. Once they made it past the thick wooden door, Jareth's head sank a closer to his chest and his knees crumpled a little further. Sarah caught him and half dragged him to the couch.

"You're welcome," she muttered under her breath. "Can I get you something to drink?" she asked a little louder.

"No," Jareth replied curtly. Sarah busied herself by trying to arrange the pillows so she wouldn't have to notice his dreadful color or the tight line of his mouth.

"Should I call Marek?"


"Is there anything I can do?" Sarah asked with real exasperation.

Jareth flipped his eyes open and glanced at her. Sarah nearly looked away, not sure what he was searching for. Eventually he sighed and muttered a much softer, "No."

"You know, asking for help doesn't make you weak."

"You'll learn about goblin politics and its tricks."

"I'm not sure I really want to. What's happened to you?"

He gave a very short, pained chuckle. "Iron poisoning, a blow to the head, and more importantly you're still leeching on my magic."

"I wouldn't have done that last bit if you had, I don't know, somehow managed to make a better impression on my parents."

"You still have to learn your place," he muttered coldly. "And you will. I have been lenient because you have yet to receive any proper instruction."

"I really don't think it's fair to argue this now while you're laid up," Sarah mentioned sardonically. "It's just going to have to wait."

Jareth glared at her for a moment, then chuckled. In a tired, mildly bitter voice, he told her, "I suppose you could hand be a sheet of paper and a pen." Sarah raised her eyebrow in question and he rolled his eyes. "I'm trying this meeting halfway thing. You can't help so I will ask someone who can. And in return perhaps you could heed some advice about etiquette?"

Sarah was speechless.

"That's what you wanted, isn't it?"

"Are you sure you're not dying?" Sarah spluttered.

Jareth laughed again, a deeper laugh that would have been more contagious had he not been breathing quite so heavily at the end, still exhausted. Sarah waited patiently for him to stop, entirely at a loss as to what was quite so funny but a small smile tugging just the same.

"Dying? No. But I'm out of options for now." He was starting to look a little better, with a twinge of the slightest pink returning to his cheeks and his hair regaining a luster that she hadn't realized was missing.

"Really, what causes that, Jareth?"

"Using too much magic. Transport spells are expensive and anything in the Aboveground is even more so. Still, this consistent pull has made it difficult for me to recharge." He glanced at her seriously, "You haven't realized how much you've been using, have you?"

"Guess not," Sarah admitted, rising to take a clean sheet of paper from his desk. He started to sit up but Sarah pushed him back down. "You can show me later, just take it easy, okay?"

Renewed strength apparently implied further defiance because he adjusted himself anyway into a sitting position with an expression somewhere between a mocking dare and a smug look of assurance that he wasn't going to back down now.

"I'll sit on you if I have to."

"I'm quite certain that will not help your cause."

Sarah sighed and thrust the paper and pen into his hands.

"Magical drain aside, I don't understand why you haven't just waved a hand and be done with all these preparations."

Jareth raised an eyebrow. "No? There are several reasons."

"And they're worth all this extra stress? What are they?"

Jareth started to tick off on his fingers: "The goblins like to feel useful, for starters. If you don't entertain them, they find their own mischief. Nothing on this short of notice will be done correctly. You've been draining my magic. Some of the elements within the ceremony are contributions from other realms and their magic does not always work the same way; to offend them with such a gesture could start a war if the rulers have been too bored recently. Most importantly, if you have everything by magic, what's the point? In the Underground, we understand that doing something yourself rather than a spell makes it more meaningful. There is a considerable gesture in preparing it oneself."

Sarah set her hands in front of her. "Alright, I am convinced."

Jareth wrote a quick letter and signed it with a flourish. He held a crystal in his other hand that sucked up the letter before disappearing with a soft blip.

"Jareth? I do appreciate the gesture," she told him with a soft smile, trying to fill the settling quiet.

He nodded but said nothing but, "I expect we will have some visitors tomorrow so it would be wise to be presentable to greet them."

"And that's all you're going to tell me?"

"In accordance to your request, Ruckas will be in your room to brief you on the day's happenings within the castle."

Sarah smiled, approving and somehow missing Jareth's smirk.

"Thanks. Try to get some sleep or whatever it is you do."

"You as well. Goodnight, Sarah."

Sarah closed the door behind her, still wondering at what had just happened.

As soon as the door softly clicked shut, Jareth slumped down into a comfortable reclining position on the couch and stared at the fire the goblins had tended (entirely within the fireplace this time). There would be a long discussion on the actions of her family at a later time, when he was more able make good on his threats. Jareth was mildly annoyed that he was forced into a compromise, but if it made Sarah a little more cooperative, he would not complain. Especially when it set her so off balance and she truly needed some work on social and political etiquette. But there was time for that tomorrow, at least until the evening.

"Your Majesty! You need to wake up!"

Sarah groaned as Owena poked and shook her. She owed Jareth a few sharp words. Of course he knew that Ruckas would drone on and on for hours about every detail within the castle (a scuffle over a chicken, who was sent out to tend the garden, who polished the stairs and promptly fell down them, etc) and that he would burst into violent and loud tears of hurt should she appear to (or actually) nod off. All the same, she pulled herself out of her warm cocoon of blankets, trying to cipher what Owena was squeaking about as she ran about the room. Sarah yawned and stretched, glancing over in surprise as Owena placed a cup of tea into her hand. She shrugged and drank it anyway. Owena looked as though she was ready to collapse from nervous exhaustion but Sarah took her by the shoulders.

"It's alright, Owena. I'll be ready as fast as I can." As though she'd flicked a switch, Owena's face split into a large smile.

"I can help," she declared and set herself about the room, no less hectic but without the wails. Owena put up quite a fuss when Sarah pulled out a pair of blue jeans from her closet but she put them on anyway.

"But you can't meet your guests like that."

"No one's going to hold you responsible for this, Owena. I think I'm getting a lesson on etiquette today anyway." Ruckas had mentioned something about the guests around the end of his lecture but Sarah was too relieved that he was nearly finished to remember.

Sure enough, four sets of stern looks (actually, probably only one in full honesty as three were mildly amused at the same time) as soon as she entered the room made her rethink her rational that being late was probably worse than being underdressed. Marek excused himself from the room with a small smile and there were only three pairs of eyes focusing on Sarah.

Jareth started the introduction, "Sarah, I'd like you to meet Janice and her daughter Elizabeth. Janice, Elizabeth, this is my fiancée."

As Sarah was wondering how to respond, the two ladies dipped into a small, graceful curtsy. She tried to do the same but it was slightly difficult to hold out one's skirt when one was not wearing a skirt.

"Nice to meet you," Sarah added.

"She's lovely, Jareth. Please, dear, you must call me Jan."

Sarah smiled, warming to this woman instantly. Her daughter on the other hand remained quiet, inspecting Sarah carefully and still with the same disapproving glare.

"Well, I look forward to getting to know you but unfortunately I believe there is much to be done," Jan added, turning to Jareth.

"Elizabeth will be instructing you on manners and etiquette. Absorb what you can, Sarah, and perhaps we can avoid major incidences," Jareth stated with a bit of a smirk but a level tone.

Sarah sighed. "I suppose. You and I need to talk later, by the way."

Jareth's smirk deepened. "Oh?"

"You know what I meant. I didn't need Ruckas detailing every aspect of the entire castle."

"Perhaps you need to be more specific next time?"

Jan and Elizabeth wore a look of shared confusion as Sarah rolled her eyes.

"We will collect both of you for lunch," Jan broke in with another look at Jareth that, if Sarah didn't know any better, indicated she would be asking for an explanation.

The door closed behind them and Sarah turned to face Elizabeth who had already taken her seat and gestured for Sarah to do the same. Still exhausted, Sarah flumped into the chair unceremoniously. Elizabeth raised a startled eyebrow.

"I know, I know. I'm going to take a lot of work, aren't I?"

A smile tugged at Elizabeth's mouth but she pushed it back down. "Obviously," she agreed staunchly.

"I guess a good a place as any to start is what in the world I'm supposed to call people. Am I right in guessing that I probably can't call your mother 'Jan' in public, let alone refer to Jareth as a stubborn jerk?"

Though she had been determined to be a rather gruff instructor to a pupil she was far from willing to undertake, Elizabeth laughed.

"I guess that would be a no," Sarah added weakly with her own laughter joining Elizabeth. "It might be an interesting just to try it once."

"Depending on the company," Elizabeth replied seriously, though a smile stretched across her face all the same.

"What can I call you? Is there a Your Highness title or…"

"For now you may call me Elizabeth."

"Nice to meet you, Elizabeth. I'm Sarah but I guess you knew that."

Instead of returning the gesture, Elizabeth turned away. "I might as well be upfront with you. I was supposed to marry Jareth before you turned up."

Sarah settled back in her chair and bit her lip. "I'm sorry to have interrupted everything. It wasn't something I had planned either."

Elizabeth met Sarah's eyes. "No?"

"It's a long complicated mess and Jareth hasn't felt like telling me all the details yet, but that's what I understand." Elizabeth made a polite but noncommittal noise as a reply. Sarah took on a serious tone: "I'm really sorry to break up the two of you, especially if you loved him. Believe me, you can still have him if it doesn't break all these Underground taboos I know nothing about."

Elizabeth considered her for a moment. "Hmm. I used to think I was in love with him, but honestly I'm relieved. All the same, I was determined to dislike you as soon as I heard about you and I think I owe you an apology."

"We've only known each other for two minutes. No harm done."

Elizabeth grinned and Sarah marveled at the difference in made from the impression made by her original stormy expression.

"Perhaps we can be friends?"

"I think I'd like that, Sarah. But for now, we must get started. First off, please, do tell me what you are wearing?"

Sarah laughed and tried to explain that women in the Aboveground where she lived had been wearing jeans for a long time, the one article of clothing that never actually went out of style. And while Elizabeth did take a closer inspection of the material, she still frowned and asked if she could change Sarah's attire. Sarah shook her head with a gentle smile but gave her permission, finding herself magic-ed into a pale pink dress, simple and flattering.

Sarah's head was reeling with all the tiny rules jumbling about her mind, each point with six or so exceptions depending on the situation. Curtsying itself had nine variations, one for each kingdom and one for formal gatherings of the entire Underground and another for less formal gatherings of the monarchs of each kingdom. Elizabeth rattled off the names of all the monarchs and Sarah nearly quit, certain that she would never remember everything. Her teacher slowed down when she noted Sarah's distress.

"Is something wrong?"

"How can you remember all that?"

"I was brought up with this marriage in mind."


"I remember meeting Jareth many years ago and being told that we would in all likelihood be married one day. I won't deny that I wouldn't have minded being the Goblin Queen, but Jareth hasn't exactly been warming."

"I'm not entirely surprised for some strange reason."

"I'm sorry?"

"I was just being sarcastic. Please don't take offense to this, but I'm wondering why he was arranged to you."

"Mother's an emissary to Amphitrite and her son Triton. I grew up playing with her son Triton. Their kingdom appreciates their privacy and any additional link to their kind is fine leverage."

"Wait, as in Greek mythology? How did I miss that?"

"I don't understand…"

"My guess is that some of these names leaked into the Aboveground. I mean, that would explain a lot." Sarah sat with her fingers steepled. "I have to ask, Elizabeth, how much of this am I actually going to have to know for the wedding?"

"I suppose that we should get started on that, seeing as it's this evening."

Sarah felt the blood rush from her face. Three days. How had she forgotten? It was happening today. She waved off Elizabeth's concern. "I just didn't realize it was so soon. I mean, it never fully registered." She snorted to herself. "I didn't even get a bachelorette party."

"A what?"

"Don't worry about it, Elizabeth. It's not really worth worrying about. Let's just keep going if I really have to remember a lot for this evening."

With a large grin, Elizabeth launched into a series of explanations with gestures and histories behind the different parts of the ceremony such as why the alignment of the moon was crucial. Eventually, the conversation dissolved into different customs of the Underground verses the Aboveground when Elizabeth noticed Sarah's confusion on a few of the finer points.

"I wish we had that in the Aboveground," Sarah mentioned. "I mean, I'm sure there would be a lot of problems but it would keep more couples together."

"The fidelity stone did cause a lot of problems, that's why it's no longer used. Marriages of state are still practiced and there are other links involved. Mentioning them anymore is essentially outright accusing your future spouse of dallying around before you're even married."

"Yeah, I could see how that might lead to a few broken engagements."

There was quick knock at the door. "Come on in, Marek," Sarah instructed.

"Not so loud, Sarah," Elizabeth insisted. "There's really no need to raise your voice unless you're talking to a troll and they'll expect it."

Marek walked into the room. "Ah, yes, your eerie way to read knocks. How could I have forgotten? If you are both ready, Lady Janice and His Majesty Jareth are waiting for you out in the garden."

"Can we take a break from the lessons or are you going to critique my table manners?" Sarah asked with chagrin.

"I've been instructed to teach you, Sarah," Elizabeth replied simply.

"And you've still got a lot of work on this one, M'Lady."

"Marek, you're not helping," Sarah grumbled good-naturedly.

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 11 of 50

<< Previous     Home     Next >>