Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 17 of 50

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Power Struggle Sarah woke up the next morning with her hand splayed over Jareth's middle and the owner of said middle smirking broadly. He settled one hand over hers.

"My dear, perhaps you should keep to your side of the bed and not worry about anything I might do."

Last week, Sarah would have wrenched her hand away so fiercely that she would have fallen off the bed, but, being too sleepy to do much else, she mumbled her apology and gently slid her hand away. She didn't watch Jareth's eyes in the process and missed an eyebrow raised in a quasi-pleased questioning sort of quirk.

Trying to yawn her way out of her morning stupor didn't seem to work so Sarah wandered toward the bathroom. At first, she had been confused on why the water started itself but then Sarah remembered the luxury of Underground facilities that seemed to know what she needed before she did, even a sudden stiff breeze that not only dried her hair but styled it halfway, allowing Sarah to make adjustments in accordance with her wardrobe. She figured it all had something to do with her magic, though she fondly remembered times singing at the top of her lungs while the hairdryer blared out any evidence. Gas lamps and magic seemed to replace electricity all too perfectly.

"You had best hurry," Jareth mentioned on the other side of the door.

"And why's that?" Sarah grumped back, feeling a slight twinge in the back of her mind indicating that she needed some coffee.

"You have an early morning appointment and it would be quite rude to keep them waiting."


"If you're going to ask ridiculous questions, I'll send them away."

"I have a feeling I don't want that."

"Precisely why it's a threat."

"I'm hurrying, I'm hurrying." And Sarah did, especially when she heard a rumbling BA-RUKE from the hallway in a voice that was unmistakably Ludo's.

Sure enough, Sarah was soon engulfed in a furry hug and two (three if one counted Ambrosius) other voices advised loudly that Ludo should not be so exuberant as to crack Sarah's ribs.

"I will collect you later. Be sure that that one doesn't shed," Jareth commented with a particular glance toward Ludo. "Or any of them for that matter. Yourself while you're at it."

"Har, Har, Jareth."

"I will hold you personally responsible," Jareth assured her.

Sarah shook her head. "If you say so, Jareth. Go run along and do some King-y stuff." At Jareth's odd expression, Sarah thought perhaps she had gone too far.

"Do not forget that you have your duties as well," he reminded her coldly.

Ah, Sarah thought, that's it. Jareth was still wary that perhaps she took her new title a little too superficially, at least that's what she could gather particularly in light of some of their recent conversations. "Yes, we'll have to go over all that. But I'm assuming the role of hostess is among them?"

Jareth nodded his head once.

"Well they're helping me practice."

The corner of Jareth's mouth twitched into a bit of a smirk.

Satisfied, Sarah smiled. "See you later, Jareth."

"Yes you will." And he disappeared.

Sarah knelt and drew Hoggle into a hug while Sir Didymus took her hand and with a gallant "My lady" planted a soft, fuzzy kiss to the skin there.

"It's good to see you all," Sarah beamed. "Well, should we go for a walk?"

"My brethren and I have been asked by His Majesty to see that you receive a full tour of the Labyrinth," Sir Didymus replied, already excited for the adventure.

"But that'll take days."

"Well, yes, normally," Hoggle agreed as he pulled a rock out of his pocket.

Sarah glanced at the rock. A perfectly ordinary rock that Sarah waited to hear the explanation of how it was not a perfectly ordinary rock. Hoggle tossed the rock to her and she stared at it.

"You best put it in your pocket," Hoggle explained.

"Why? What is it?"

"My lady," Sir Didymus answered while sweeping a bow, "it is a rock."

"Well I can see that but isn't there something special about it?"

"It's a rock. It's heavy. What more does it need to be?" Hoggle replied gruffly.

"Rock good," Ludo agreed.

"If you don' put it in your pocket, you mights float away."

Sarah raised an eyebrow and shrugged as she placed the stone securely in the front pocket of the simple linen dress she'd chosen that morning.

"Now what?"

"Verily, my lady can be quite impatient," Sir Didymus chuckled. He tossed Sarah another stone.

Immediately, the world seemed to fall into slow motion, except for her and her small knight (Ambrosius wore a stone atop his saddle). Sir Didymus placed a stone in Ludo's paw and Hoggle's hand and they, too, joined Sarah.

"These will help us cover mos' everything 'cept the Bog and a couple other spots I'd sooner forget."

"Like what?" Sarah asked, fully curious as to what could be comparable to the Bog of Eternal Stench.

"The Marsh of Invisible Hands likes to poke and tickle and don' get me started on the Canyon of the Goblin Orchestra. Jareth made them rehearse out there for everyone's sake."

"Smell, touch, sound, what about the other two senses?"

"Ludo. Scared," Ludo crooned miserably.

"What my brother means is that there are a couple aspects that are perhaps not suitable for polite conversation. Mayhap we can discuss it later."

"We ain'ts got time for all that anyway. Let's go. We have to have you back by lunch."

It was probably the most surreal tour Sarah had ever been on, all manner of creatures that she passed, all stuck in perpetual slow motion. When she passed the Fireys, she had the urge to knock a couple body parts around and stand back to watch the chaos that would inevitably follow. What sort of tricks and pandemonium would they instigate given this sort of power? Hoggle, Ludo, and Didymus gave brief explanations of different pieces of the landscape (from the practical aspect to a grunted exclamation or quickly-summed war, respectively) and Sarah wished she had a photographic memory to store all these new visions, all of which would have some relevancy in her future; at least she had a long time to figure things out.

The group did manage a full stop overlooking a series of shallow canyons.

Hoggle regarded her seriously. "There are natural iron deposits down there. 'Til you know how it'd affect you, I wouldn't go near theres if I was you."

"I'm still human, Hoggle…only different I suppose." Sarah did note however that Jareth's eventual heir (though the thought still made her uneasy) would probably not be and whatever flecks she brought home would scarcely do Jareth much good. Still, if he pushed her too far…

Sir Didymus pulled out a watch from his little jacket pocket. "We had best head back soon, my lady."

"What's out past it?" Sarah couldn't help but ask.

"Hard to say," Hoggle stated uncomfortably, scratching his head.

"Why's that?"

"Lost," Ludo replied simply.

"It is perilous for far more than iron," Didymus expanded, scanning the landscape grimly before turning away.

Taking the hint, Sarah turned to go, following her friends through some familiar trails and a few new ones that had popped up since their passing.

At the castle, she bade her friends goodbye, promising that they would have a real conversation one of these days.

Jareth was kind enough to explain why this would probably not be possible for some time. Quite simply, she'd already been booked and scheduled for a little while, yet. Most of her afternoons consisted of lessons in courtly manners (again with Jan and Elizabeth) and evenings would be spent on lessons in magic until Jareth deemed her no longer a danger to herself (or himself, accidentally anyway). Mornings were left with several different options but with a twinge of regret they were soon parceled out to new adventures, two of which included a brief interlude home under the stipulation that she transported herself there (under much guidance from Jareth considering the sizable drain).

The first day was her official tour of the castle, given by Marek and therefore much more interesting and full of amusing anecdotes. The next day was less entertaining as Jareth was in a stormy mood (some new goblin rebellion of some sort or another had smashed a wall or two of the Labyrinth down; Sarah knew better than to book any argument as he essentially thrust a list of all her supposed duties into her hands and assured her that he expected them memorized immediately.

The third day she was granted a break and was fully relieved to collapse into the surprised arms of her father and stepmother, not comprehending until that moment how much she'd missed them. It'd taken the first hour to convince her parents that there had been no ill treatment. The bruises on her arms were actually from a random goblin named Fruke who clambered around Sarah like a jungle gym while trying to scrabble away from another goblin who was threatening to tear his/hers/its eyes out because of something involving a missing chicken. Naturally, after a good laugh, Sarah's parents were all too pleased to hear about her adventures thus far, despite their misgivings. With a stroke of forward thinking, Jareth sent Jen to pick up Sarah (along with a crystal to take them both back) rather than do so himself; Karen's skillet sat close by just the same though she and Jan quickly found some common ground, particularly when Karen extracted Jan's dedicated promise of watching over Sarah. Though they were loathe to see Sarah leave again, her parents felt better nonetheless. Sarah kissed Jareth on the cheek upon her return, feeling it particularly necessary when she noticed how drawn the excursion had made him (still having not fully recovered).

The fourth day he accompanied her on a trip to survey the troops, meeting his regimental leaders, Rufus and Rumble, Rumble being the brother to Ruckas who had previously been in charge of relaying all the castle activity to Sarah. Rufus and Rumble looked nothing like Ruckas, however. They had more human tones to their complexion rather than earthy greens and stood only slightly shorter than Sarah. They spoke well but the truth of their origins was certainly obvious when they caught interest in a subject and were animated and impulsive once more. As the worms had promised Sarah, the true goblin army was a staggering force; Sarah could tell well enough from their discussion that they did indeed take their work seriously, as though a particular phrase set them into a hypnotic trance until they found a more relaxed subject. They proved excellent and knowledgeable company, and in their exuberance promised to teach Sarah any manner of defensive and offensive techniques. Starting immediately. Jareth rolled his eyes and started down the path to observe the rest of the army, leaving Sarah to their mercy.

On the fifth day, Sarah spent nearly the entire morning being fitted for whatever clothes she may need on the trip, meaning that after she'd chosen her fabrics, Sarah had to stand quite still to avoid pricks. Not that her tailor was careless but because her tailor worked so quickly that unnecessary movement shifted stitches out of place. Ultimately, Sarah had several finished gowns by the end between the tailor and his assistants but each one meant another half an hour of standing perfectly still. The results were stunning, but Sarah was officially ready to fall asleep during Elizabeth's explanation of how behaving in court was easily compared to acting in a play and being able to ad lib properly. Jan noticed her disinterest and passed the news to Jareth who insisted on Sarah continuing her magic lesson that evening regardless. Sarah scooted as far away from him as possible on their bed that night but was too tired to really care.

The sixth day was interrupted from its strange routine when another child was wished away.

"How often are we going to be called upon?" Sarah asked, bouncing a healthily chubby toddler on her knees with a series of ptttbbbllll and coos.

"Sometimes many in a row and others years apart. They have been increasing in frequency lately. Somehow I suspect this is your fault."

Sarah was aghast. "My fault? How?"

"It's all in the timing, Sarah."

She rolled her eyes. Goblins tumbled through the door, scrambling and flowing nearly as one solid mass in their effort to get close to the show. Sarah watched on, still keeping Timothy amused, as Jareth instructed the goblins to laugh and then would boot them from his path in one breath. Sarah had thought it was harsh at first until she'd had enough of excited goblins pawing at her ankles. From time to time, he would hold a silvery orb in front of Sarah and ask her to construct her own plan for how best to deter the runner. The goblins were pleased with her creativity, particularly when it involved themselves, of course. Jareth made no comment either way, allowing Sarah the freedom to fail and succeed…but he wouldn't have been Jareth without pointing out afterwards why it clearly wouldn't have worked, with a smirk all the same. The goblins watched as Sarah swatted him, aghast at what she was allowed. One goblin was foolhardy enough to try it himself only to be transported to the Bog before his stumpy fingers ever made contact; he morosely waddled back in about two hours later and the room nearly cleared out before Jareth asked him to leave (rather, had him hurled bodily from the room). He took it in good humor, somehow, peaking through the window when he found a place that was downwind.

Time elapsed and the father or fiancée or whatever he was found that his sense of direction he'd bragged about from the beginning didn't hold up against the shifting passages of the Labyrinth. He was quickly sentenced and ejected back to his usual plane of existence. The child disappeared from Sarah's arms.

"Jareth?" Sarah shot out with concern. It took several more shouts of his name to get his attention over the din of the celebrations before he finally managed to wade through the mess and stand in front of her, arms crossed and expression waiting.

"What happened to Timothy?" Sarah mouthed.

Jareth looked at her curiously then motioned for her to follow…until he realized that perhaps trying to walk through the mess again was not the best idea and, taking Sarah's hand, transported them to the library where they were relatively unlikely to be interrupted by goblins.

"Well?" Jareth prompted.

"What happened to Timothy? What happens to any of the wished away children for that matter?"

"You haven't wondered this before, Sarah?"

"Only to assume that they all turn into goblins. You didn't turn him into a goblin did you?"

Jareth sighed. "Not exactly."

"Well, what happened, then?" Sarah demanded.

Though his immediate response to Sarah's tone would have been to chastise her for her tone, Jareth saw a glimpse of her desperation. "That depends."

"Where is Timothy?"

"I believe Marek showed you the room, calling it something catchy like 'The Changing Room' without really explaining it. That would be something he would enjoy, playing with double meanings."

Sarah nodded.

Jareth, finding no reason to mention the sound negating spells on that specific room, continued: "The magic of the Underground affects all humans differently. I merely speed up the process." The process could be quite painful, apparently, but this revelation would not decrease Sarah's anxiety.

A glance at Sarah proved that she was waiting for him to continue.

"Some of the children wished away do turn into goblins though they are prolific enough when left to their own devices. Some children who adjust well live as servants for the Fae and others choose to be farmers or some such thing, living quite contentedly. Some don't acclimate well at all, fading into the walls of the Labyrinth itself. Others still invent their own scenario."

"Do any of them become Fae?" Sarah couldn't help but ask.

"No human has ever 'become' Fae. This is one exception that has not been breached and for all intents and purposes will never. I could quote the origins of our civilization for clarification but this would take some time."

Sarah nodded, accepting his explanation. "What happened to Timothy?"

Sarah nodded, accepting his explanation. "What happened to Timothy?"

"He has kept his form and has been offered a position. That's all you need to know for now."

The room fell uncomfortably silent for a moment until Jareth announced that he had a question for Sarah.

"What?" Sarah queried, wary.

"What is that you're sitting on?"

Sarah glanced down and saw a familiar old couch. "I've been looking for this! I-I didn't know where it ended up."

"This is yours then?"

"Well, yes. It's my couch from home. And before you say anything, I'm telling you that I'd much rather it stay."

Jareth rolled his eyes. "Shall we return?"

"Actually, I'm pretty tired."

Jareth eyed her with a hint of curious concern. "You did channel plenty of magic this evening. There will be no need for lessons tonight in light of this practical exercise."

"Thanks. I'll see you later, Jareth."

After another brief sojourn home (in which Toby happily monopolized the conversation with his enthusiasm in seeing his sister mixed with his envy on the possibilities of her position), Sarah collapsed on her and Jareth's bed, not caring where her limbs happened to fall. Jareth had informed her quite curtly (who could understand his moods most days anyway?) on some of the details of their departure the subsequent morning, including a long ride in a carriage as transporting into the darker lands was seldom a good idea for the taint that could follow. That and the people within the transported destination would still be speaking their native tongue and could inadvertently melt some ears; no, it was best to call ahead.

Marek had already been sent ahead to see that everything was ready, already having vented to Sarah about the injustice in somehow becoming Jareth's over-glorified valet. This meant, however, that Sarah would have plenty of time in close quarters with her husband. What she was supposed to feel about that was a mystery to Sarah. Austen-esque characters could perhaps serve as some basic precedents, but elements of magic and journeys to darker lands fell to another category altogether. Mentally shaking her head, Sarah decided to leave it alone and simply to face whatever as it came. She still had her wits about her, a healthy ability to improvise, and a sense of humor.

Sarah fell asleep dreaming of Timothy's chubby arms morphing into an older version of his new self. All smiles on a handsome face before cheerfully setting out to work. She sleepily promised herself that she'd keep an eye out for him before nuzzling a little deeper into her pillow.

Tomorrow would prove to be its own new adventure.

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 17 of 50

<< Previous     Home     Next >>