Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 31 of 50

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Power Struggle

Sarah was quickly made aware of a new problem: she really hadn't the faintest idea of how to fly

Sarah was quickly made aware of a new problem: she really hadn't the faintest idea of how to fly. Getting out of the window and out of sight of the castle had been the result of luck, magic, and a lot of frantic flapping. A couple of updrafts sent her spiraling and some creature with membranous wings zipped and circled her a time or two before Jareth clawed through its wing. On top of that, Sarah was growing tired.

Jareth led, much to her gratitude, but risked his flight path on more than one occasion, assuring himself that she was still following and trying to set an example by altering his wind-foil with the currents. Sarah tried every muscle combination she could, still not certain how to perfectly mimic anything Bernoulli might have approved. In her mind, her high school physics teacher and her biology teacher shook their heads, but all Sarah could remember was the idea of lift (if not how to achieve it) and something called the uropygial gland (which had something to do with maintenance). Jareth's owl face looked back on her once more, projecting concern and, somehow, the assurance that they were nearing the border. Sarah, in turn, tried not to project her panic and fatigue, her flight path still bouncing at odd intervals. Sure she had the benefit of his magical experience enough to turn into a bird, but muscle memory for a different slew of muscles was another matter.

After what seemed like ages and Sarah was quite ready to tumble out of the sky (with spite along the lines of "gravity be damned"), she all at once felt a soothing wash: the baggage that was the dark taint was mostly lifted away. Mostly. There still existed a swathe of it, but the comparison made Sarah feel quite light. She almost didn't notice Jareth pulling down to land. He landed with two humanoid feet on the ground and turned to Sarah. Considering how much trouble Sarah had staying up, she had a pretty good idea of what to do to get down, though a sudden drop was likely not a good idea.

She ended up in a dive. As she neared the ground, Sarah felt two hands close around her sides.

"Stop struggling," Jareth ordered with a laugh, pulling her feathery form to his chest to hold her steady. She was human again, standing on her own feet and still held steadily in place in the arms of the Goblin King.

"Just a short break, please," Sarah whispered, lowering herself to sit down as Jareth's arm carefully released her.

"You were using a lot of magic. I even felt the strain, despite our increased supply," Jareth replied sitting down next to her. He sighed. "Yes, I believe we might need our faculties when we arrive back at the Labyrinth."

"Any idea what's going on?"

"Something is wrong. A demand for help is not always specific."

"Ah, one of those plan-for-every-contingency things."


Sarah laid back against a large rock. "It was strange, going back through the veil. How is all that mass of bad feeling relegated to that area?"

"An explanation would take quite some time."

"No, it wouldn't," Sarah insisted, rolling her eyes. "Magic, right?"

Jareth grinned. "When you boil it down, perhaps."

"It feels good to get rid of most of that taint except…" she glanced at her husband, scanning him over.

He watched her carefully, as the silence expanded. "What is it?" he asked, noting her peculiar expression.

"Well, I don't feel attracted to you anymore," she answered with a flippant gesture.

Jareth frowned. "That is not funny."

Sarah's giggles indicated that she felt otherwise. "Your expression was worth it." She pulled Jareth in to reassure him with a kiss.

"It still was not funny," he insisted.

"Are…are you pouting?"

"I assure you, I am merely displeased."

Sarah laughed again.

"I must say that I am not so insensitive and find this look quite fetching on you," he murmured, nipping at her ear.

Sarah took a quick glance at her formal-child-stealing-clothes and made a mental note—as Jareth ran his fingers through her curled and glitterfied hair and wrenched her into a firm grip as he kissed her—to perhaps wear her work uniform more often. Though, Sarah mused, her husband showed little need for incentive. Jareth's hand had migrated down the front of her dress and hers were far from innocent when another distress call from the Labyrinth effectively reminded them that there was a sense of urgency they had temporarily mislaid.

Sarah sighed. "Maybe we should just poof at this point."

"Poof?" Jareth parroted with a raised eyebrow.

"You know," she gestured widely with one hand. "Poof." Jareth still showed no sign of comprehension, and Sarah shook her head. "Okay, I'm a little tired, but poof-ing, where we start in one place and are suddenly in another?"

"Instantaneous transport?" Jareth filled in sarcastically. "I wonder what we'd call that. Hmm…a transportation spell? Of course that's too easy."

"What's wrong with 'poof-ing'?"

"Sarah," Jareth deadpanned, "I will never refer to a transportation spell as poof-ing."

She leaned against Jareth, and he wrapped his arm around her. "We'll see."

"No," Jareth insisted. "I will not budge on this matter."

Sarah sighed and snuggled a little closer. "Whatever. Just wait a little longer before we poof anywhere, please. And now I'm really still trying to catch my breath, here, no thanks to you."

He kissed her forehead. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather fly?" Sarah glared, and her husband chuckled. "Alright, I suppose we could wait a little more before I use a transportation spell."

Staring off into the distance over the grassland spotted with a few scattered trees that seemed aggressively territorial (judging by the snarl and swipe of one towering species), Sarah thought back to Ack's hintings and murmured, "Nothing too bad has happened in the Labyrinth, right?"

"It doesn't matter. It is our job to protect our kingdom."

"Let's go home, Jareth."

"That is perhaps one of the best things I've heard you say, Sarah." He stood and offered a hand. "Shall we?"

Sarah took his hand as he pulled her to her feet, adjusting herself as necessary. It was difficult to process the sudden shift in her surroundings, no tingling sensation or physical jarring, just the realization that the world had suddenly changed. The view was pleasantly familiar.

"This is the third time, now, that I've seen this particular view," Sarah commented as her husband led her down the hill to the entrance of the Labyrinth. The dusty breeze hadn't inspired much hope on either previous visit, rescuing her brother on both instances, but today, well, Sarah just knew she was heading home. The significance of what she had said to Jareth sunk in fully, that she was going home. Somehow, the Labyrinth and the Goblin City had a place in her heart, and she couldn't help a small swell of pride and peace as she surveyed the distance. She glanced at her husband once again and knew certainly he had a place in her heart as well, somehow. Her Aboveground friends, especially Jen and Derek, would renounce it as Stockholm syndrome, she was sure, but she hadn't exactly been kidnapped. Instead, she had complied and cooperated and secretly wanted to help, felt a responsibility to help maintain her fantasy world. Jareth had perhaps pressured some of her decisions, but they had been at an unspoken resolution for quite some time. Sarah had her own authority but depended on Jareth's experience; in return, Jareth had to be open to Sarah's unique perspective for the solutions and possibilities therein.

But that didn't account for the warm, fuzzy feelings, though Sarah doubted they would have been possible had it not been for that unspoken, relative equality. It didn't sound romantic put quite that way, but the smile of contentment across Sarah's face as she pulled Jareth slightly closer and his arm wrapped around her waist was enough for her.

Of course, Sarah's mood immediately shifted to the matter at hand when she retracted her gaze from the massiveness of the Labyrinth to the outside wall. About eighteen feet of wall had been reduced to scattered pieces of stone, like linebackers blasting through a child's wall of cardboard blocks. Strange marks of punched indentations along the next layer of wall affirmed Sarah's assessment, that something had landed there, unable to break through both at once. Hoggle was already shuffling some of the small debris closer to the wall, setting small columns of broken stone as high as his stumpy limbs could manage.

Jareth surveyed the destruction with a careful eye, probing with magic, Sarah was certain.

"Hoggle," Sarah began, gaining the dwarf's attention, "What happened?"

"Sarah, when did you get back?" Hoggle greeted, nearly dropping a stone on his toes and leaping aside with an odd little gallop.

"Just now. Do you know what happened here?"

"I didn' see nuthin,' jus' heard it. Came up and saw this." He gestured to black and grey stone.

"Are the Worms okay?"

"I think so, bes' you look for yourself."

Jareth was still inspecting different pieces, wandering down the healthy part of the wall as he scanned with a frown angling his eyebrows all the more severely, so Sarah crossed the rubble.

"Hoggle, stay here. Whatever it was could still be here."

Plucking up what there was of his courage, Hoggle insisted, "Then I should go with yeh."

Sarah gave him a small, warm smile. "No, Hoggle. Stay here and bring some of these stones a little closer to the wall. We'll talk later."

Hoggle grumbled but assented. Sarah began exploring along the wall. Large gouges in pairs and triplicates scored sections, so Sarah could surmise that the Labyrinth had been fighting back in its own way.

"Worms? Are you alright?" There weren't any tiny cries of response that Sarah could hear. She closed her eyes. "Labyrinth, please show me the home of the Mister and Missus Worm." She opened her eyes again. The walls looked perhaps the same, but the overhanging branches had shifted. Gently running her fingers along the wall, Sarah called again. "Worms?"

"Over here, dearie!" a tiny voice called. Sarah turned around, watching as the pink worm assisted her husband to his…belly.

"Is he alright?" Sarah asked, stooping to help Mrs. Worm to right him.

"Oh, jus' a bit of a shock. He'll be fine."

"What did he see?"

"Perhaps the owner of this," Jareth suggested, standing behind her. Sarah turned around and stifled a yelp. In Jareth's hands (and conveniently at eye level) was an arm, a gnarled arm ripped off at the shoulder and still oozing black sludge.

"Look familiar?" Jareth asked.

Sarah glanced again and nodded. She'd been shoved and pushed by arms like those, attached to ruthless and tainted minds. "Why would the dark goblins be running around the Labyrinth?"

"That is what we will be investigating."

"Well, I'm glad to see that the Labyrinth was able inflict some damage back."

"The Labyrinth did not tear off this goblin's arm."

Sarah blinked. "Are you sure?"

"Yes. There would be a particular sense of pride that is missing. Right now, it is hurt and upset, possibly angry." Sarah didn't need to ask for clarification; she could feel it, too.

"What did it then?"

"That is another question to consider for later."

Sarah turned back to the Worms. "Could you tell me what you saw?"

"We didn' see much, jus' wha' was running around afore we wen' hiding," she confessed, somewhat abashed.

Sarah thanked Mrs. Worm and stood again. "Are we done looking?"

"I believe I've gleaned all I can currently."

"Well, let's clean it up, then. Can you take us back to that initial landing, please?"

Jareth's frown reduced until his expression read both situational concern and mild amusement. He nodded, allowing Sarah to take the lead. They were standing next to the fountains at the entrance of the Labyrinth an instant later. Placing her hand along the wall, Sarah closed her eyes.

"Labyrinth, show me where it hurts," she commanded gently. She stepped back and opened her eyes. Three separate breeches of the outside wall presented themselves, lined up with their surrounding blocks. Sarah ran her hand soothingly along the wall, watching as Jareth gingerly explored the other two broken segments with similar concern. Turning her attention first to the segment they had already searched (how Sarah knew, she wasn't quite sure) and began to focus on reconstructing with magic one stone at a time, half-tempted to inscribe "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here," on stones she had to replace. Making sure that each piece was equally coated in ethereal shine (under the Labyrinth's insistence), Sarah turned back to see Jareth already beginning reconstruction on the second section, indicating with a nod that Sarah could begin on the third.

Sarah caught a good glance at what Jareth was doing: in the rebuilding, he was setting a scene within the wall. Himself he depicted standing to the side with a smirk while a figure (who looked remarkably like Sarah) and a shorter figure (who looked remarkably like a much uglier Hoggle) were scrambling away from the Cleaners.

"Really, Jareth," Sarah said shaking her head.

"It's designed to scare the runner, Sarah," Jareth claimed with a smirk.

Sarah snorted and racked her mind for some moment she could depict. Her final moments of the first visit seemed too personal, as did her hallucination. The Escher room, too, seemed a little too close for reasons she could not pinpoint. Movement caught Sarah's eye and she watched as her friend from her second trip through, the silent mosaic girl waved from the stones, colored in darker tones but unmistakably the same.

"Good to see you again."

The girl in the mosaic curtsied, picking up the corners of her simple, flowing dress.

"I'm trying to think of what to place on this wall, any ideas?"

The mosaic girl pantomimed a bird with her hands.

"Owls? No, I don't know if that's going to strike fear into the hearts of many runners. That and it's all too easy."

The mosaic girl thought for a moment. She pointed to Sarah and set herself in an aggressive pose, then pointed to Jareth and did the same.

"A portrait of me and Jareth in our formal child stealing clothes? I think that'll do the trick."

A few feet away, Jareth gave a start. "What did you call it?"

"Our formal child stealing clothes?"

Jareth began to laugh, a deep chuckle building to a full laugh of real abandon. Sarah had to marvel at the difference it made on his face. There was a new brightness exuding from his eyes as he turned to meet hers.

"Okay," Sarah conceded, giggling along, "I doubt that's what the outfit is actually called but it's what I kept referring to it in my head and…oh, stop it!" Sarah insisted while Jareth continued to laugh.

"What goes on in your mind will continue to be a source of fascination to me, my wife," Jareth managed, still grinning.

Sarah snorted but smiled back all the same. "I'm trying to create here, Jareth. Now do me a favor and stand there and glower."

"I do not recall ever being asked to glower before."

Sarah smirked again. "Really? But you're so good at it. And you're still smiling instead of glowering."

"As much as you enjoy being difficult, I thought you would understand."

Sarah couldn't resist sticking her tongue out at him. "I think I've seen it enough to create an accurate depiction. And if I can't, it's your own fault for refusing to cooperate. Call it tough love."

Jareth chuckled again and Sarah returned her attention to the wall. She had indeed seen Jareth's glower enough times, but, Sarah reflected, she had not seen it as frequently as she once had, especially after those first couple weeks. She set to work, closing her eyes and focusing on that mental image. Opening her eyes, Sarah saw the finished product, the Goblin King with his arms crossed and challenging scowl in place. His expression, hair, eyebrows, everything was well in place…and, if Sarah did say so herself, he looked good. Admiring her handiwork, the real Goblin King inspected the image, his arms crossed as well.

"It's missing something," he said at last.

Sarah waved him off, rolling her eyes. "By all means, help your machismo."

Moments later, Jareth stood back from the wall. "Much better."

Sarah scanned the wall for his alterations: the portrait of the Goblin King was unchanged, but the high, scowling portrait of the Goblin Queen leaning with her arms crossed back-to-back against her husband was new. The sleeves, her gown, her hair as far as Sarah could tell was perfect down to the detail, if somewhat glossed in Sarah's opinion.

"I was going to add that myself."

"I thought you might benefit from my perspective."

Sarah smiled. She could complain or comment that her breasts were not actually that size, but she only sighed. "It looks wonderful. And properly terror inducing."

"Yes, it is," Jareth agreed.

"The Labyrinth likes it, too. I can feel it." The mosaic girl inspected the inscription and nodded her approval as well.

"Of course it does. With two such beautiful people tending to it and leaving such art as this, how could it be otherwise? The Labyrinth appreciates a little attention." Jareth ran his gloved hand along the stone.

"I'm sure you never spoil it either," Sarah replied with a grin.

"I take good care of what I am responsible for," Jareth replied, mildly indignant. "You just happen to find more mischief than I expected."

"Hey, I do pretty well for getting chucked into all this. I still don't understand why you bother to comply with any of the politics."

"The simple reason, Sarah, is that I cannot defeat them all should they decide it is in their best interest to be rid of me." He looked away for a moment, suddenly quiet. "It has happened before."

Sarah rested a hand on his arm. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Jareth shook his head, still not meeting her gaze.

Nodding, Sarah accepted his response, veering the subject away. "Well, it's beside the point anyway. For as impish as you are, I thought you might appreciate my own mischievousness."

Jareth's lips quirked up again. "Perhaps I am merely unused to this side of continuum."

"How did my flair for mischief affect our wager? The one we made on the way to the darker lands regarding number of allies?"

"Oh, as much as it pains me to admit, I believe you won. Sympathy for your illness was a powerful motivator."

Though she was incredibly tempted to gloat, Sarah understood there would be time for that later. Although, Sarah thought, it was more likely to be a constant struggle to ensure that squabbling didn't turn into full-out homicide. "I'll talk to my folks."

"Frying pans and other instruments of torture are to be left at home or our deal is void."

"Only if you will be on your best behavior," Sarah warned.

Jareth laughed. "Haven't we already established that wild streak is present in both of us?"

Sarah chuckled herself. "All the same, you know what I mean." Sarah scanned their portrait again, mentally instructing the Labyrinth to return itself to rights. "Well, it seems that our emergency has passed. Race you to the castle? No flying or poofing?"

Jareth grinned. "What does the winner gain?"

"We'll figure that out later. Are we agreed?"

Jareth held out his hand and shook Sarah's, her fingers grazing his bare wrist, sending a shock through Sarah's system and, judging by the sudden flare in Jareth's eyes, his as well.

Coyly grinning, Sarah stated, "On your mark, get set…" Focusing all of her energy in connection with the Labyrinth into one single command, she yelled, "Go!" and simultaneously instructed the Labyrinth to enclose Jareth between four walls. She could hear him laugh behind her as she ran, asking the Labyrinth for a clear path home.

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 31 of 50

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