Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 27 of 50

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Power Struggle Due to the distracted nature of the majority of the council, a unanimous decision was brokered for an early lunch. Those whom Sarah and Jareth were not already on good terms with gave them a wide berth. It wasn't every day a mock battle for the stars took place so soon after breakfast. Joan had sniffed at Sarah, admonishing that she expected better from Sarah. Her heart wasn't in it, judging by the barely suppressed grin, and Sarah was certain that she blamed Jareth for the majority of the escapade. Which really wasn't fair. He'd come up with the theme, but the timing of the pyrotechnics was all Sarah's doing and, in her figuring, the most effective visual. Still, if she was going to win the bet, it would probably be best to blame Jareth, especially since it chalked up another affirmation of his reputation.

Of course, their display also took away from Orion's reappearance, to whose benefit this was, Sarah wasn't certain. Orion was spared some inquisitive stares, but so was Sarah spared some uncomfortable questions, polite "What could have happened?" from those hadn't already heard through the flow of gossip. Fabian and Anya watched Sarah with particular disdain as she mingled with those willing to speak with her.

"Sarah that was quite," Elizabeth hesitated, looking for the proper adjective, "interesting." Then her face split into a grin, allowing the side hidden under all-that-is-good-and-proper to glow for a moment or two. "Perhaps next time, you'll allow Mother and I in on the joke?"

"You sure you don't want to be part of it?" Sarah asked.

Elizabeth bit her lip. "I do not know if…"

"Of course we would, dear," Jan spoke for her. "Within reason of course."

"With the Monarchs of the Goblin Kingdom?" Marek asked incredulously. "Reason has little to do with it."

"Thanks, Marek. It's good to know where we stand," Sarah drawled, shaking her head. "If Jareth and I didn't like you so much, we might just have to toss you in the Bog."

Marek groaned. "Oh, don't you start that now."

"She is a fast learner, Marek," Jareth intoned, suddenly to Sarah's left. "And she would be in her rights to throw you there now, for your impertinence."

Marek groaned again. "Yes, your majesty," he agreed sullenly with only a hint of sarcasm. "I plead your forgiveness, my Queen."

Sarah laughed. "You are forgiven, Marek."

Jan took Sarah's elbow and pulled her couple inches closer. "The vampires have been watching you with particular acidity."

"Yeah, I was pretending not to notice."

"I won't pretend not to know why. Word travels fast in this group. I'm relieved to see you're alright. If you ever need to talk—"

"I'll let you know. I'm doing alright."

Jan nodded with a distinctly mother expression, the kind that say "Well, you say that now, but I know you'll need help later."

"Really, I'm okay right now. I talked to my mom and Jareth was there for me."

Jan's eyes flickered to the man in question as he was saying something to her daughter. "You two are getting on well, then? Your public front is one matter, but I can't claim to know how matters are alone."

"We're doing fine, really. Right now, everything's kind of stressful, but we're getting through it."

"Let's just hope this is as bad as it gets for a while, then," Jan murmured, suddenly stony-faced.

Sarah stifled a groan. "What's that mean?"

Jan hesitated and Sarah quickly realized that this was not a good sign. Jan was confident and in control and this apprehension did not sit well with her.

"Jan, is there something I should know?"

"There are several rumors, Sarah. Be careful."

Sarah was just about to ask for specifics when their attention was pulled back to another conversation: "Sarah, tell us, do you have other plans for unnecessary displays this afternoon, or will your husband be expected to invent them on his own?"

Turning to face a sneering elf, Sarah put on a large smile, ignored the jibe, and laid a hand on her necklace just in case. "You'll just have to wait and see. I would advise you to stay out of the second row, however, if it's likely to disturb you."

With an exaggerated sniff, the elf skulked off, nearly bumping into Orion. Orion had been wandering through the room with wide eyes, as though everything were new again, holding one finger in between his fangs and inadvertently displaying the two stumps where, Sarah recalled that Ack had reported, he had bitten off two of his own fingers. His skin, which had been pale before, looked like a half-soggy cracker, bits flaking old scabs and others with a sheen of some sort of ointment, all with a jaundice glean. Sarah straightened when he realized she'd been watching him, bringing his chin to his chest at an angle as if to present his left eye at a more obvious stare. He scrutinized her carefully, his lips curling into a slight snarl. Then he blinked and seemed highly confused once again.

There was a hand on Sarah's shoulder, long fingernails grazing her collarbone.

"Perhaps," a voice hissed into her ear, "You could better explain what happened to my son."

Pulling all her sensibilities together, Sarah took a breath and turned to face Fabian. "Perhaps he merely went insane. I cannot say for certain how politics work here, but it's enough to turn my head around." It wasn't exactly a lie and feigning ignorance seemed to placate the ruler of the darker lands to a small degree.

"I do not care what he did to you," his wife whispered in her other ear. "We will find a way to torture your thoughts."

Fingering the necklace in earnest, Sarah turned slightly to mutter back, "Jareth won't let you touch me."

Jareth was already turning around and excusing himself through a mass of people who hadn't been between them moments before, his eyes locked on Sarah.

"And," Sarah added, "What makes you think you could get away with trying?"

With a growl, Anya shot away just as Jareth made it to her side.

"Fabian, how is your son?"

"As well as can be expected, Jareth. You will excuse me." Fabian's cloak brushed their ankles as he strode off.

Sarah exhaled, the tension really not helping her earlier sensation of splintering.

"Are you alright?" Jareth asked, scrutinizing her eyes for evidence of any internal scaring.

"I'm okay. They were just threatening. Not that that's really a good thing either."

"Let's go back to the room."

"Good idea. Talk about another grand display on the way out, just to fuel a few more rumors."

Jareth smiled slightly and launched into the necessity of including sensory input for all the five senses while Sarah argued that sight and sound would probably be sufficient for everyone, a couple dark goblins scowling (but twitching preemptively) in their wake.

Despite the conversation they had in the hallway, Sarah and Jareth fell utterly quiet once the door closed behind them. Jareth turned to Sarah.

"Now, are you really alright?"

"Yes," Sarah replied instantly. But she couldn't stop her face from crumbling. "No," she admitted as tears started to leak down.

Jareth seemed at a loss but pulled her to his chest.

"I'm tired of crying, I'm tired of mis-stepping, I'm just tired," she confessed to his shoulder.

"I know, I know." Jareth sighed.

"I'm not even sure why I'm crying now," Sarah mumbled, taking a deep breath.

"The last few days have been rather trying."

Sarah let out a bitter laugh. "The last month has been rather trying. God, was that when this all started?" Some of the dreams, then Jareth's warnings, then whisked off to the Undergound thanks to Toby's wish for about a week, then the week after the wedding, and this messy week. All packed in like that, Sarah mused, perhaps she did know why she was upset, let alone the past few days.

Jareth chuckled deep in his throat. "I'm sure you'll get used to it eventually."

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 27 of 50

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