Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 28 of 50

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Power Struggle

"Sarah, do you trust me?"

Surprised by Jareth's question, Sarah replied warily, "I thought you said complete trust in the Underground was inadvisable."

"As a general principle, yes, but you also said you couldn't live that way. Sarah, do you trust me?"

"If I didn't trust you by this point, Jareth, I probably wouldn't be here."

Jareth, with a sardonic grin, shook his head. "Then listen closely. Go back down the garden we were earlier. Look for a plant with a black berry and five leaves. Eat three of these berries."


"It'll help."

"Do plants work the same way here they do in the Aboveground?"

Jareth shrugged, which seemed to say more or less. Evidently he wasn't a botanist in the Aboveground. "Likely more so, but trust me, Sarah. I'll walk down with you, and we'll cut through the garden on our way back to the main room. Try to be as inconspicuous as possible."

Sarah nodded, still not sure what to do with Jareth's tone and otherwise trying to recall if the plant he described was something she recognized. Knowing the Underground, it was going to halt time or something without all the other nobles figuring it out. Why Jareth hadn't mentioned it earlier was a mystery to Sarah.

The started discussing whether or not bring the Goblin Orchestra along for the next grand display (judging by the cringing, they already had a reputation) as they walked into the hallway. Jareth would occasionally send her a sideways look and ask if she was okay. Sarah was confused but kept answering that she was fine. The garden, by the time they reached the courtyard, looked the same as it had earlier with the exception of several feet of more grass, considering the dragons were elsewhere. They walked by the bush that looked like Jareth had described, and Sarah snuck three berries into her palm.

"Not here," Jareth whispered next to her.

They reentered the system of hallways and walked once more into the throng of visiting nobles. Sarah wished she could justify setting off a firecracker just for the hilarity but decided that trick was best reserved for a much more pressing circumstance. Sarah was quickly wrapped into a conversation with Jan and Elizabeth.

"Sarah, you disappeared. Are you quite alright?" Jan asked.

"I'm fine, Jan."

"The room's already terrified of these…fire works?" the word foreign on Elizabeth's tongue. "Please, tell me what they are."

Sarah laughed and began a small explanation, Jareth breaking off when Joan prodded him with a question of her own, asking what sort of mischief Jareth would have Sarah get into. He grinned and assured her that all trouble-making was a mutual venture, sending a small wink Sarah's way when he caught her watching.

Jan or Elizabeth had not missed this small exchange, however, and Sarah could see how, by their small, taunting grins that she was probably going to find herself the victim of some well-meant (and highly embarrassing) prying. Sarah shook her head, mentally threatening to show them first-hand what a firework does instead of explaining it if they dared to mention anything.

Taking a couple small assorted pastries from the layout of food, Sarah ate the berries. They had a mild, sweet taste mixed with a bitterness that settled on her tongue in an odd way. Sarah waited for the spell to take effect, carrying on with her explanation in the meanwhile. She was attempting to explain the different colors and designs when her brain started to feel a little fuzzy.

"Sarah, are you alright?" Jan asked when Sarah stopped talking and stumbled.

In between short, shallow breaths, Sarah managed out, "I-I don't know. What's happening?"

Jan pulled back Sarah's eyelid. "Something's not right here."

"Is she having a vision?" Elizabeth wondered aloud.

Sarah's heart was going too fast and she couldn't pull in enough air. Weird colors in the air. Shapes falling in and out of focus.

"Sarah, look at me, Sarah," Jan ordered. "Elizabeth, fetch Jareth."

Sarah stumbled to her knees. "I don't think this is right."

An arm underneath her knees and another behind her back hoisted her up.

"Oh, it's you," Sarah mumbled into his collar. Her mouth felt quite dry all of a sudden. And there was something about fairies she had to tell him. She could vaguely hear Jareth say something before a moment of sharp focus.

"I will find who poisoned her," he growled to the room, the sound rumbling in a way that cast reverberations enough to make Sarah in her delusional state giggle at the tickling sensation. The rest of the room was silent as Jareth carried Sarah back to their room.

Out in the hallway, Jareth's frown broke into a small grin.

"That should get them talkin' or at least the large elephant in the room should," Sarah mumbled.

"The dragons might disapprove, Sarah, if you called them that to their faces."

"I'm really confused," Sarah admitted, her eyes still not focusing.

Jareth looked down, frowning again though not in the earlier forced vehemence. "It'll pass, Sarah."

"Why do I trust you?"

"Because I'm right and it wouldn't look well to so early be a widower because you fell into some sort of trap."

"Oh. Okay." Sarah's heart was still pounding in her ears, and for another terrifying moment she wasn't sure she could pull in enough air.

"Try to stay as calm as possible, Sarah. The worst will be over soon."

"Am I flying?"

"No, Sarah, I'm carrying you."

Pushing the door open with a wave of his hand, Sarah's eyes widened briefly. "You have automatic doors here."

"No. Just magic," Jareth assured her, showing remarkable patience for her delusion as he closed the doors behind them.

"Magic! I can do magic, too!"

"No, Sarah, don't—"

The room virtually erupted as books danced off the shelves and whooshed from one wall to the next and back again. A coat rack that hadn't previously been there began to tap dance. The bed began to sing "Banana-phone." Sarah was quite literally flying now, eyes dilated and her breath still coming in short bursts.

"Sarah, you have to stop this!" Jareth demanded over the cacophony.


"Sarah, you're just a little confused right now."

"I ate the berry just like you said. With something from the table."

Jareth's head jerked to attention. He reached up and tugging Sarah down by the forearms. "What did you eat it with?"

"Jareth, that hurts…" The books tumbled to the floor, and the bed stopped, pulling its sheets over the pillows as though it were covering giant, fluffy eyes.

"What did you eat it with?" Jareth repeated through gritted teeth, shaking her slightly.

"I don't know what's happening." Sarah blinked for a moment. "Bella Donna. That's what the plant was, Jareth. You told me to eat Deadly Nightshade."

Jareth sighed and dropped his head. "Yes, I did. And you would have had a feasible excuse for staying back this afternoon along with an interesting scandal. But until you tell me what you ate it with, I won't be able to help you. This could be much worse. You could be really poisoned instead of a minor affliction."

Sarah started to panic again. The books resumed flying until they were blurs of green, red, and brown. "You poisoned me," she accused.

"Sarah, calm down," Jareth soothed. "I can't help you if you don't tell me what mixed with it."

"You asked if I trusted you," Sarah snarled. "Perhaps I should not." Jareth found he could no longer hold on to her forearms, his fingers unclenching of their own regard. Then his fingers continued to bend back too far, tendons stretching and creaking in unnatural ways, tensing underneath his gloves. Sarah stepped away, resuming her position two feet off the floor. Another wave of her hand pushed Jareth in the direction of the wall, inching him there steadily.

"Sarah," Jareth strained, his teeth clenching as the pressure continued to increase on his splayed fingers, his arms pressed out further from his body. A book contacted to the side of his head with a solid thwack. Another thudded into his side, just under the ribs, and he grimaced, still held in place.

"Sarah," Jareth whispered, his eyes watering.

Sarah's head snapped down, and a flash of concern crossed her features. The wind generated by the flying books slowed as the books found themselves back on the shelf, the room just as it was. Sarah and Jareth flumped to the floor as their knees collapsed out from under them, Sarah's by an extra two feet.

Released from his hold, Jareth pulled his arms to his chest, testing and flexing his fingers. He curled his hands into fists, allowing the pressure on his tendons to relax. Clutching his side with one hand, he stood and stumbled toward Sarah. Sarah, grasped her upper arms, shaking slightly.

"I think it's the dark taint," she murmured.

"The dosage of Bella Donna you took should not do that," Jareth replied in some agreement.

"Everyone's body chemistry is different, Jareth."

"It was a terrible idea," Jareth agreed. "That's why I hadn't mentioned it before. It was just supposed to make you ill enough to escape back to the room for the afternoon. I didn't think it through, Sarah."

Sarah rubbed her forearms again. "You couldn't have told me what I was getting into?"

"Your reaction was essential."

Sarah snorted. "Didn't trust me, huh?"

"Not exactly." He stooped next to her and rubbed her arms where her hands hadn't already covered. "Are you alright?"

"Maybe." Sarah shrugged. "I'm still not happy with you right now."

Jareth inclined his head. "Understandable."

Sarah scanned his face, particularly where a small trickle of blood slowed as the cut above his eyebrow closed. "Are you okay?"

"I'll be fine."

Sarah sighed and started to pick herself up, Jareth offering his support. "I really just want to say it's all your fault."

Jareth chuckled. "The poison angle was always an option I'd considered as a means out, but magically induced symptoms are never quite as realistic."

"Speaking of which, I'm still feeling pretty lousy right now. Can't you fix it?"

Jareth's lips pursed. "I wouldn't want to risk it," he confessed after a moment.

"Risk what?" Sarah growled as he helped her into bed.

"I could lessen the symptoms of Bella Donna, however, if it was mixed with other substances or if it is just the dark taint, I'd worry about a more adverse reaction."

"Oh, now he thinks about the ramifications," Sarah grumbled, pulling up the covers and rolling over.

Jareth sighed, running a stray hand through Sarah's hair. She didn't move. "Perhaps your spur of the moment ideas always work out better? I was trying to give you a solution that you seemed to need."

Sarah sighed and closed her eyes. It almost surprised her that he seemed to be hunting for her forgiveness, the gentle way he'd said that. Almost, besides the whole she used his magic against him thing again. He even looked fairly drained. "I'll think about it later, Jareth. Right now, I'm still really dizzy."

He nodded, running another hand through her hair.

There was a knock at the door. Jan and Elizabeth, breaching custom and courtesy or not, did not wait for an invitation.

Sarah glanced from them to Jareth, his face in a soft smirk. He turned down to Sarah. "I'll leave you in their capable hands, Sarah. Perhaps the trouble stirred up will cheer you later." He kissed her temple and acknowledged Jan and Elizabeth before leaving the room.

As soon as Jareth was gone, Jan gestured to Elizabeth who was carrying a tarnished silver tray. Tea, crackers, and broth apparently stand as the universal motherly cure-all.

"Are you feeling alright, Sarah?" Elizabeth asked urgently, setting down the tray on Jareth's side of the bed. "We've been quite worried about you."

Sarah smiled but covered her eyes with her arm when another wave of nausea hit her. "I'll be alright."

"Nevertheless, Sarah," Jan replied primly. "We're just getting to know you and will not have you die in the process."

"That's oddly reassuring," Sarah mumbled with a small chuckle. "I'm still a little disoriented."

Jan took Sarah's wrist, following her veins with a careful eye. "Well, let's just see what we can do about that. I did promise your family, after all."

The world had a weird haze to it again. Jan continued her inspection, and Sarah didn't fight her, sluggishly navigating herself when asked. Such as strange end to a long day, though it was only afternoon, Sarah mused. Her husband had asked her to do a trust fall and she wasn't sure if when she closed her eyes and allowed herself to believe that his arms would be there to cradle her, whether she had been caught or not. Was catching her by the forearms or with a shield of magic while he stood back with his arms crossed quite the same thing?

"I don't know why I put up with him," Sarah mumbled.

"He is your husband, Sarah," Elizabeth supplied. "It is your duty."

Sarah and Jan started in a stifled chuckle until all three were giggling uncontrollably, Sarah saved from shrieking by the inconvenient detail of her rolling stomach. At last, their laughter died back down to a cheered quiet.

"At least he's gorgeous," Sarah mused, only aware that she'd said that aloud when Elizabeth and Jan both looked at her with a disbelieving smile (though, again, some prodding was obviously forthcoming) that was apparently genetic for how identical it was. Sarah covered her eyes, and cursed to herself. When she uncovered her eyes, Jan's raised eyebrows and Elizabeth's gaping mouth, concealed by one dainty hand indicated that she had again not kept her thoughts quite as internal as she had intended.

"Well, this is all Jareth's fault anyway," Sarah deadpanned, by means of feeble excuse.

"Oh, please do tell us," Jan replied as if this was all new information.

Sarah eyed her suspiciously. "Look, just because I'm not exactly in the sharpest of states doesn't mean you should take advantage of it."

Elizabeth nodded until she caught her mother's look. Jan, Sarah guessed, was not about to be so obliging.

"I'm just not going to say anything," Sarah mumbled, covering her eyes once more.

"Oh, we'll see about that," Jan assured her. Taking hold of Sarah's arm, Jan pulled up Sarah's eyelids, scanning for signs.

Catching on, Elizabeth asked, "Should we withhold broth until after she has answered whatever questions we can think up?"

"That depends on what we're dealing with, Bess."

"I didn't know you went by Bess," Sarah mentioned, shifting her attention to Elizabeth.

"Oh, only mother really."

"Ah," Jan added, "Don't forget Triton."

"Oh, yes, him too," Elizabeth murmured, coloring. Sarah raised an inquisitive eyebrow.

"We'll discuss this in just a moment," Jan declared. "First, Sarah, I need to know more about your symptoms."

Sarah groaned, rolling over halfway. "I can speed this up a little bit. I ate some Bella Donna earlier."

That caught Jan's attention and she pulled Sarah back over to face her. "Sarah, why did you do that?" she demanded.

"Jareth's idea," Sarah shrugged, suddenly feeling quite tired and still more disorientated than she'd care for.

Elizabeth blinked and sat back in her chair. "Political intrigue, yes, but poisoning yourself?" she questioned.

"That boy is in trouble," Jan nearly growled.

Sarah looked at Jan in curious surprise before rolling back over, still tired and feeling the world start to spin again. "Good," she mumbled.

"Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. And it most certainly will make matters worse."

"What matters?" Sarah murmured.

"Later, dear. I don't want you to fall asleep until we have a better idea of what else is going on here."

"How'd you know something else was wrong?"

"Jareth didn't cure you and there was a bruise fading on his face. I hope you hit him hard."

"I didn't mean to."

"Sarah," Jan insisted, "I'll let you sleep in just a moment. I need you to talk to me just now."

Rambling off a list of symptoms as quickly as she could slur and taking a couple deep swallows of broth, Sarah closed her eyes. She was only pretending to sleep, partly to avoid the spinning world syndrome and partly to avoid questions. Jan and Elizabeth were not fooled. They gave Sarah a few moments before talking in muted but still completely audible voices.

Jan had started teasing Elizabeth on whoever this Triton was, but a good natured teasing, enough to make Elizabeth mildly uncomfortable but not upset. Sarah listened quietly for some time. Jan had mentioned their purpose here as acting for Amphitrite and her son Triton when they were discussing manners and Jareth had mentioned their connection, but any closer ties were unknown to Sarah. It made sense that there would be nothing official, considering that Elizabeth had been loosely engaged to Jareth for much of her life. But apparently, since Triton and Elizabeth had grown up together, they were quite close. Jan hinting at more than childhood friends and Elizabeth either managing flimsy excuses or at least turning another shade that Sarah could feel from where she lay, both of which Sarah was absorbing as her mind fought for clarity. The background conversation gave Sarah something else to focus on and eventually she had to chuckle when Elizabeth stammered yet again.

"Feeling better, Sarah? It's a miracle broth," Elizabeth exulted, glad to find some sort of distraction. "Family secret passed down for years, not even the help knows."

"Is it literally a miracle or it just seems like it?"

"No magic, just a miracle," Jan assured her, seeing the worry buried in Sarah's tone.

"Would you care for more?" Elizabeth offered.

"Just a little bit would be nice," Sarah agreed, sitting up. The rest of the bowl later, Sarah pondered aloud, "So has Triton ever needed it?"

Elizabeth flushed along the color spectrum, and Jan winked at Sarah. But then Elizabeth smiled that particular smile that made her ordinary features truly light up.

"Are you going to ask for the recipe should Jareth need it again?"

Sarah laughed but to her chagrin she felt a blush creep across her cheekbones. "Perhaps I should," Sarah added, after their laugher had subsided once more. Then she frowned. "Wait, what do you mean by 'again'?"

"I can remember two occasions when its presence was required. One we shall not speak of. The other was when his mother died, may she rest in peace."

"Really?" Sarah blurted. "But the whole immortality thing..?"

Jan and Elizabeth fell solemn. "There are ways," Elizabeth said slowly.

"Ways?" Sarah parroted.

Jan sighed. "I suppose that you should know. I daresay it will come up during eternity in the Underground." Sarah nodded with a tiny smile, still not sure how to feel about that complicated subject. "There are a few ways. Diseases that interrupt magic, that's what took Jareth's mother. It was a difficult time. Iron, too, can cause an untimely death. Well, untimely by our standards, anyway. Curses and substances can be helped if caught early enough, though really there are few with permanent effects. It's certainly possible but definitely rare."

"Good to know, I suppose, however I'm going to age in all this."

"There's no way to know if iron will affect you or not, Sarah, though I wouldn't risk it," Elizabeth warned.

"It's hard to say, Sarah. Your case either hasn't occurred before or hasn't occurred for quite some time," Jan added.

"Plenty of time to teach you the recipe," Elizabeth jibed.

Elizabeth gave a startled shriek as Sarah threw a pillow at her.

"Only if I'm lacing it with something to make him dizzy and nauseous for the afternoon. It only seems fair, regardless of what he thinks about the whole fairness thing."

Elizabeth was growing bolder, but she still looked shocked at the idea. Jan just laughed.

"You won't, will you, Sarah?" Elizabeth asked with some worry.

"No, she won't, Bess," her mother supplied.

"However," Sarah added with a grin. I do know a couple of goblins I could send after him, maybe a couple players for the orchestra."

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 28 of 50

<< Previous     Home     Next >>