Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 20 of 50

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Power Struggle

It took Sarah a moment or two to process what was across her stomach and against her back, generating a pleasant warmth that made her regret waking up and the inevitable shifting from the happy security of ones bed. She decided that she didn't care, snuggling a little further under the covers and closer to her heat source. Sarah's brain registered her circumstances roughly the same time her warm pillow started moving to sleepily accommodate her. Several options flashed though Sarah's mind in a matter of seconds: leap out of bed with way too much energy for this time in the morning; peel his arm off of her body; pull that arm a little closer and fall back asleep, pretending that she didn't even notice; inform Jareth coldly that it was only a temporary thing and not to get accustomed to it; do absolutely nothing except lie there until her brain started making sense. While she was still making her decision, Sarah twisted slightly so that she could perhaps see Jareth's face.

He was smiling. And there wasn't any maliciousness to it. Just an honest, satisfied smile. Before she could stop herself, Sarah untangled an arm and began to reach toward that face.

"Good morning, Sarah," Jareth murmured, the corners of his mouth curving more deeply but his eyes staying closed.

Sarah drew her arm back.

"I trust you slept well?" Jareth asked, his eyes creaking open.

"Yes, thank you. And thanks for humoring me last night."

"You're welcome."

"Did you sleep well?"

"Yes, very much so."

Sarah, uncertain how to take that answer patted him awkwardly on the arm and attempted to fully untangle herself.

After managing over with the ungainly morning stupor, Sarah threw open the closet. The goblins had vacated at some point, evidently feeling secure enough to explore or having found a better hiding space. It struck her quite suddenly that somehow Owena hadn't taken it upon herself to travel with them, nor had she really smothered Sarah as much as she had been growing accustomed to; there were some goblins who were more frightened of Jareth than others, certainly, but Owena's particular terror was quite remarkable. Still, it was nice to be able to take care of herself instead of fighting impatient insistence. Sarah hummed to herself and picked a simple pink dress, elegant enough (she hoped) for her company but certainly on the casual side.

"You still remember that?"

Sarah glanced behind her to see Jareth watching her, propped up on one elbow.


"The song," Jareth clarified simply.

Sarah thought back for a second, her mind searching for what that tune fit to.

"Oh! Yes, that. Of course I remember. Are you sure you didn't mean any of that in the ballroom, imaginary or not, that day?" Sarah teased lightly.

"Love? No, perhaps not, but I will admit that I was curious."

Instantly self conscious, Sarah walked into the bathroom to clean up and change.

When she returned, Jareth was speaking to one of the twisted goblins, neither hiding their distaste. The goblin turned to Sarah and sneered, saying something it what Sarah could only guess was the dark tongue; it made her toenails curl. Instinctively, she reached out and slapped him…or it. After recovering from his shock, the goblin sneered again though with a hint of amusement.

"Bold one, this," he muttered. "Best she not sticks no nose where no nose should be."

"I don't know how you came to be like this," Sarah replied, "but I would gladly take steps to rectify it. For now, I'm still the Queen of the Goblins and you will treat me with restrained civility at least."

"We shall see, my lady," he spat nastily, though Sarah could see a hint of confusion in his eyes. He left without looking back or closing the door.

Jareth set a hand on the door and gently pushed it closed. "I'm not sure if that was the best thing to do."

"What happened to them?"

"Honestly, I don't remember the beginnings of what lead to their exile, and I doubt they do either. It's all written down somewhere, going back a few hundred years ago."

"What did he say to me?"

"It's probably best you didn't know. Let's just say ordinarily it might have earned him more than a slap. You were faster on the uptake."

"Chivalry is not dead after all. That's good to know."

"Perhaps not dead but limping; here we do certainly take it a little more seriously than you may be accustomed. You took care of the situation in your own way. We shall have to see what comes of it."

"I'm not sure how reassuring that is, Jareth."

Jareth merely grinned.

Sarah scowled half-heartedly. "You enjoy being cryptic, I know, I know. Why did he come here in the first place?"

"To deliver a message."

Sarah sighed. "Care to expand on that?"

"Not in particular," Jareth replied with a small smirk.

"Please humor me and do so anyway."

"And what fun would there be in that?"

Sarah shook her head. "I'll find a way to make it up to you."

"I will hold you to it," Jareth responded seriously.

Sarah reconsidered her wording, though there really wasn't anything to be done about what had already been said. What's said is said and all that. "I know you will. Now can you just tell me the message?"

"Evidently there are no official meetings today, allowing us time to acclimate and for the other nobles to meet you…or rather size you up. There will still be a dance tonight, as per custom."

"Somehow, I'm not sure that sounds much better than sitting in meetings all day. At least then I could fade into the woodwork."

In an overly gallant display, Jareth took her hand and kissed the back of it. "You, my lady? Fade into the woodwork? I should think not."

Sarah laughed. "If you say so."

"Perhaps it would be best today if you simply follow my lead?" Jareth mused, taking Sarah's arm under his own.

"It's worth a shot, I suppose. If you're the one to cause an international incident though, don't think I'm going to feel sorry for you," Sarah replied flippantly.

He began to lead her down the hallway, strolling along the worn stone floor and between the flickering torchlight. "We had tossed around the idea of setting some stakes on this game during our trip here. It would certainly make all this useless show more interesting."

"What, the one who has the most friends or the best position at the end of this gets something?"

"Depending on the prize, yes, this could be acceptable."

"Okay, if I win, my family can visit on some random weekend that works out for them."

"Within reason, I suppose that can be done." Jareth fell quiet for a moment, and Sarah could practically see the cogs clicking in line and the scales of pro and con being weighed; the longer he was silent, the more Sarah began to fear what the wager may turn into. Finally, he made some sort of decision: "You will watch over goblin affairs for two weeks."

"That's it?"

"I could add more, certainly."

"No, that's fine."

"You merely expected me to push some advantage?"

"Yes, to be honest."

"Believe me, I will do that enough this week while I can. Remember, we agreed on 'lightly smitten.'"

Sarah shook her head. "What have I gotten myself into?"

"Just another adventure, Sarah." They came to two large, ashy-grey doors. "Do we have a bargain?"

"Looks that way."

"Are you ready?"

Sarah took a deep breath. "Guess so."

Jareth pushed open the door with a quiet authority.

Some of the sickly light entered the room through tall, yellowing glass and Sarah could hazard a guess as to which beings she honestly wanted to associate depending on where they orientated themselves around that light. The room itself was quite large, but this made sense as it had to contain two dragons; how they made it into the room in the first place was beyond Sarah though she could hazard a guess that magic was probably involved somewhere along the way. Fabian and Anya were stretched idly in the darker corners; Orion sat up when Sarah entered, watching her progress across the room. Some of what Sarah guessed were elves sat next to them; though they were unmistakably beautiful, they had a deadly look about their features. Sarah followed Jareth as he led her to a spot just next to them and the dwarves. With some relief, Sarah saw a familiar face, those of Jan and Elizabeth who promptly rose to greet her properly.

"So good to see you again, dear," Jan whispered in her ear while pulling her into a small hug.

"We're here to represent Amphitrite and Triton," Elizabeth informed her perhaps a little more formally than she normally would.

"Amphitrite?" Sarah questioned. "Like the Greek goddess?"

"We call her Sal, usually," Jan explained, "She insists. I'm sure you'll meet her eventually."

Sarah smiled. "That would be lovely."

Jareth steered Sarah fully into her seat.

"Would you care for something to eat, Sarah?" Anya asked sweetly, the effect ruined by the small fact that didn't blink.

Fighting off the urge to point out the series of cliché puns that could quickly flow from a conversation starting in such a manner, Sarah nodded politely with her gratitude as Anya gestured toward a side table full of all sorts of fruits and what looked something like cheese. Jareth walked her over to the table and with a significant glance toward Sarah, indicated by some of his own choices which was more or less safe to eat. Up to Sarah's elbow, a dwarf made her presence known with a gentle grunt.

Sarah curtsied and introduced herself. The dwarf introduced herself as Joan and roughly indicated her consort, whose name Sarah unfortunately forgot; the only new names she remembered were Joan and the two dragons Eleazar and Victoria, mostly because they introduced themselves directly into her mind. The morning passed fast enough, all parties taking some interest in Sarah—some with honest curiosity and others with merely interested disdain—but this make some sense though it was tiring; Sarah was the newest thing in the Underground, full of all sorts of stories of how such a ridiculous world could run without magic. Sarah had studied one term abroad in college so the conversation of swapping customs and norms was vaguely familiar if completely different. Some of the clichés of the Aboveground fantasies made their subjects laugh uproariously or appear slightly offended (as Sarah tired to explain her way out of it) or occasionally ponder as to how mortals had received such insight. Sarah half contemplated making up how some modern appliances worked (since none of her company would probably have a chance to inspect otherwise) especially as most of the everyday objects certainly did not work like magic, figuratively or otherwise.

Jareth guided the conversation away from dangerous and uncomfortable topics smoothly, throwing in a joking jibe to lighten more serious moments and otherwise to set Sarah at ease. When she shot back with a tease of her own, Jareth would sometimes kiss her temple as Sarah blushed and said, "Not here, Jareth," in a quiet, feigned modesty as the other nobles watched on in varying reactions. Who occupied the seat on Sarah's other side changed from time to time—Orion hovering close by, Jan and Elizabeth offering support through their presence, or whoever currently had a question for the newest member of their society.

"So when did you first meet Jareth, Sarah?" one of the elves asked politely, smiling in a way that revealed several sharpened (naturally or otherwise) teeth.

"I wished my brother away when I was fifteen and won him back."

"And you couldn't forget about me that easily, could you, love?" Jareth added, giving Sarah's hand a squeeze.

Sarah chuckled. "I suppose you could say that."

"You beat the Labyrinth?" Joan parroted disbelievingly. "And at fifteen? Pray, how old are you now?"

"It's been a few years."

Joan turned to Jareth. "This girl cannot be queen. She's still a child."

"Bear in mind, for a mortal she is young, perhaps, but old enough to be in charge of her own destiny," Jareth responded matter-of-factly.

"And fully capable, I imagine," Orion added with a small wink.

Joan eyed Sarah up and down for a moment and grunted. Jan changed the subject.

By the time Orion was trying to explain that his family were much more caretakers than rulers and Sarah had an unexpectedly pleasant conversation with the boogeyman (who apparently just happened to like sleeping under the bed or in random small enclosed spaces, occasionally waking up in the Aboveground and merely taking advantage of the situation; he had a great sense of humor, albeit slightly twisted), servants brought in several trays full of, thankfully, normal looking food. Seeing that Jareth and none of the other royals had an aversion to one thing or another, Sarah tried everything, focusing her mind on the conversation instead of the origins of whatever she'd just placed in her mouth (particularly after Elizabeth mentioned that griffin gizzard was an acquired taste). The servants did not escape Sarah's notice. She had wondered initially if any were Jareth's spies then she saw each humanoid form clothed in white looked far too human and their eyes reflective and glazed. In fact, from what Sarah could tell, they were all children with smooth mirrors instead of eyes, wandering about in an ethereal way.

Jareth followed her gaze. "They look like whatever is looking at them."


"They take the form of whatever sees them. The dragons will see dragons, you see humans, the elves see elves."

"What are they really?" Sarah nearly whispered, watching as the figures floated to where they were called by Anya.

"I should be happy to enlighten you," Orion offered.

"Not a story for polite company," Jan chided lightly. She rose from her place. "I shall see you later tonight, dear." She took Sarah's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze before her and Elizabeth made their way toward the door.

"Are you tired, Sarah?" Jareth asked with an odd look.

Recognizing her cue, Sarah assented, "Yes, a little bit actually."

"Let's rest before the festivities, then," Jareth suggested, taking her arm.

"I shall look forward to seeing you all again," Sarah promised her company, realizing that some part of her actually meant it.

They nodded politely, murmuring their wishes for a refreshing afternoon.

"We can continue our conversation later, Sarah. There will be plenty of time," Orion assured her.

Sarah smiled graciously and allowed Jareth to steer her toward their room.

Once the doors to their room were safely closed behind them, Sarah turned to Jareth. "Did we do alright?"

"Wonderfully, my dear."

"Thanks for not abandoning me to go talk about football or something."

"You would have managed yourself well enough regardless, whatever football would be."

Sarah, standing next to Jareth, put her hand on his back in an awkward almost half hug. "Oh, I bet you're just saying that."

Jareth shrugged slightly. "Perhaps."

Sarah used the same arm to swat him playfully.

"So now what?" she asked, plopping down on the bed.

"We wait."

"Sit around and do nothing until the party tonight?"

"If we claim fatigue then go on a sight seeing tour, it will be considered quite rude. If you are so eager to lose the wager, feel free to do so."

Sarah shook her head.

"I daresay would could think of something to keep ourselves occupied," Jareth added.

Sarah raised an eyebrow at Jareth, but, amazingly, he didn't seem to be implying anything with his statement.

There was a knock on the door. Sarah, being closest, pulled it open slowly.

Elizabeth grinned. "Are you coming?"

"Coming?" Sarah parroted, confused.

"Mother and I are getting ready for the ball tonight. We thought you might want to join us."

Sarah smiled and glanced over at Jareth. He waved a hand dismissively in her direction.

"Go. I shall find some way to occupy myself without you," he stated tiredly but still with a lightness to it. "I'll collect you later."

Sarah touched Jareth on the arm lightly as a means of goodbye then quickly gathered her things and, with a final wave, left the room to hurry after a rather impatient Elizabeth.

Though Jareth had hoped to discuss some further matters with Sarah, he shook his head, wondering at why it took females several hours to get ready.

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 20 of 50

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