Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 37 of 50

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Power Struggle

Sarah was dumbfounded when she woke up. She could see nothing, but she could feel the coarse furrows on all sides of her in the small space, recalling the strange brown arms she'd seen before passing out.

"I'm in a tree," she muttered aloud. "Why the hell did he put me in a tree?" She thought for a moment. "I can't believe that bastard put me in a tree."

Vowing to get out of the tree and get a hold of a weighty frying pan, Sarah huffed and slumped against the wall of her…cage. Drugging her? That was low. What to do with the tree thing, well, Sarah didn't have a ready answer for that one. It was all too Greco-Roman, people and nymphs getting turned into trees. Okay, Sarah reasoned, she wasn't actually a tree, but this was still a situation that had her officially baffled. She began to explore the edges of her confinement. How long had she been there anyway? Judging by the crust around her eyes and the weakness of her limbs, she guessed at least the rest of the day, but that whole magical world thing tended to throw her theories off. At least she wasn't hungry, so something interfered with that during her stasis.

She rested a hand on her abdomen. There was no way Jareth would have allowed anything to happen to LT, she knew that. So somehow she was probably also still getting all the prenatal stuff Alain had been making. But then again, Sarah reminded herself, the whole magic thing throws everything off. At the very least, her abdomen didn't seem to be pooching out any further so (performing the math in her fuzzy mind) if a normal human pregnancy didn't start showing until around the fourth month and Underground pregnancies lasted forty two months, then she shouldn't show until sometime between the fourteenth and the eighteenth month, if everything went at the same scale if not the same rate. So, at least she hadn't been in the tree that long. She nearly wouldn't put it past him to leave her wherever she was until either the war was contained or it was time for their child to make a debut, as insistent as Jareth had been.

Sure, Sarah could understand his position, but she was by no means about to gleefully accept it. Running her fingers along the grooves of her confinement again, Sarah could only assume that she wasn't supposed to be awake yet. There would have been someone here to explain things, make sure that she didn't run off anywhere else and ultimately tell her how long she had been there. The more she stretched her stiff limbs, the more Sarah was certain that she had been there longer than just a few hours. A considerable bit longer than a few hours. One of her fingernails snagged on strange wood and she pulled her hand back. For the first time, she registered just how long her fingernails were. Automatically, she reached up to check the length of her hair.

Oh, he was so dead.

Sarah suppressed her ire and fought for focus. Clearly, she could burn herself out of the cage if necessary or poof herself away, but Jareth would definitely be aware that she was now awake, if he didn't know already. That he wasn't here and had not sent anyone lead Sarah to believe he was either knee deep in goblin issues or oblivious. He was at least alive, she could feel in the back of her mind. Why tip him off by using magic now? She shut off that connection best as she could.

Closing her eyes, Sarah sensed the Labyrinth and asked for its help. The Labyrinth was too distracted to answer her, though she could sense immediately that something was very wrong. It was terrified, angry, despairing, and beyond consul from where she was. Something had happened. Something big.

She had to get out of there. The best course of action was to wait and see who would check in on her next and see if she could make an escape then. In the meantime, she fumbled with her amulets and tried to find her own escape route. The stones and bits clinked together as held them all up, the weight on her neck lessened. Fingering them one at a time, she found the one that Sir Didymus had given her. Running her thumb along its smooth surface, her place of confinement suddenly lit with a soft glow.

"Yep," Sarah said aloud, "Definitely in a tree." She searched everywhere she could manage to twist, looking for some kind of hidden switch, button, handle, hinge, anything. Finding nothing, Sarah instead pushed with both hands in various places, trying to find a weak spot where she might just be able to break through. One spot flexed against her fingertips. She pushed. She struck it with her elbow. She came to the conclusion that she was doing herself more harm than the tree.

Ludo's rock was still in her pocket. It wasn't a large rock, but Sarah took it and bashed it against the wall. Primitive, perhaps, but if it worked, Sarah would never begrudge a rock anything again. Digging into her other pocket, Sarah pulled out the speed stone, wondering if not allowing the surface to recover would make the difference. Still, she had to hold it with one hand and bash the tree with the other, meaning that her strikes were not as powerful and she could not see where she was hitting, not that she had much room to draw her hand back anyway.

Still no progress (aside from a chipped dent) and sometime later, Sarah flumped against the back wall ready to try a new strategy. She tried to remember what all of her amulets did, though none of them, she was sure, had anything to do with this specific situation. She rifled through them one by one, finally stopping at the impossibly thin tile from the mosaic girl. Far from fragile, Sarah was certain this small piece of slate was as 3D as the mosaic girl could manage, getting it on to this plane of existence and off of her own. Intersecting planes and geometry filtering back into her head, Sarah held the piece against the bark. Only one object can occupy a space a time, but there were unlimited lines in that space if they did not constitute any mass, right? Perhaps if she could manipulate the lines and points in a different dimension, she could shift them enough to move.

It sounded like a bad science fiction plotline, so Sarah wasn't surprised when it didn't work. It did however, turn a portion of the tree two dimensional. She pushed the section aside and it spun like a revolving panel. The sky was an eerie grey, making the rest of the world oddly bright, but Sarah was out of her confinement. She took a good look at herself. Her hair was about three and a half inches longer and her fingernails were officially ridiculous. Awkwardly holding a knife kept in her boot, Sarah cut her fingernails to a more manageable, if still feral, length. Her hair, she quickly braided while forming a plan in her head. First, she needed to get back in touch with the Labyrinth.

As soon as she stepped outside the runes, Sarah staggered, suddenly hit with the full force of the Labyrinth's pleas weighing down on her weakened muscles. She rested her hand against a wall, and images flashed through her eyes: the army had gotten past the wall, Jareth's troops were still fending them off, both sides popping out of crooks in the Labyrinth, dark goblins tearing her goblins to gory shreds, a corner of the Labyrinth knocked down, blood and dirt smearing over glitter. Sarah pulled away from the wall, reeling.

Processing the information as quick as she could, Sarah set her hand on the wall and asked calmly what the king was doing about it. A new flash of images: luring them into the bog, Fireys and Frosties dismembering while selectively burning and freezing, sending them through the new traps including a vortex that lead to non-existence, many succumbing to the nightmare curse and tearing out their own eyes or assaulting their own comrades, the goblin army forcing the invaders away and into a space, scouts picking off stragglers, frustrated commanders barking out orders in the dark tongue.

Sarah smiled to herself, reminding the Labyrinth not to give up hope. After she had promised to do everything she could and feeling the Labyrinth calm even that small bit, she felt it raise the alarm again.

Sarah could hear it, too. Grumblings and clankings, just on the other side of the wall. Taking a tentative peak, she confirmed that the creatures just on the outside of the moss glade were indeed not on her side.

"We can't have them in the moss glade, can we?" Sarah whispered to the wall of the Labyrinth. She could feel its agreement, still terrified.

"Well then, Labyrinth, let's play dirty."

Righteous anger overtook her thoughts as the Labyrinth swore to follow any instructions she gave. They were near the other entrance to the glade.

"Close the entrance when I say," Sarah ordered. Just as the first two creatures were in the doorway, Sarah made the call and the stone closed in on both of them with an echoing crack. All the blood Sarah had seen in the visions was one thing, but this was surreal, seeing it. Still, there was no time to be squeamish, Sarah realized with some distaste. No time especially when another fifteen creatures were clambering over the wall. They spotted her.

"Labyrinth," Sarah spoke calmly, "squash a few more."

The entrance opened again to close on a few of the dark goblins that had tumbled off the top of the maze. A section of the wall up-ended and fell, long side down, on top of several more goblins. This left a small gap in the wall. Those who ran through (one of which was a haggard minotaur) fell promptly into an oubliette, lined by Sarah's request with something to knock them out. A harpy of some sort flew toward her, until two sections of the ground from the Labyrinth swung up from the ground to crush it. Sarah stood with her arms crossed as the Labyrinth took over, using its walls, stones, plants and all else to rid itself of at least fifty invaders. The Labyrinth was almost giddy.

A strange blast broke through the clearing and the tree Sarah had recently "inhabited" splintered over the glade. An elf stood at the other corner, admiring his handiwork. He was readying another blast. Sarah could feel the Labyrinth quail slightly, startled out of its earlier confidence. Closing her hand around the speed stone in her pocket, Sarah ran behind him and shoved him into the oubliette.

"Sarah, Sarah," said a voice beside her.

Immediately creating some distance, Sarah searched for the source of the voice, finally resting her eyes upon the vampire resting on the top of the wall. He had blond hair without the slightest hint of a wave pulled half back. He sat cleaning the crust out from under his fingernails with a curved dagger. Clearly, he had little time for hygiene, considering the bloodstains around his collar, where his meals had dripped down his throat, and all other kinds of muck splattering what used to be a fine garment. Sarah recalled seeing him talking to Orion once, before Orion went insane, of course.

"We were told you'd be in stasis. I imagine the stone you have there had something to do with it. Little matter." He alighted from the wall and stood in front of her. "You will still come with me."

He was trying the whole vampire charm thing, Sarah could tell. The rest of the world was running in slow motion as the Labyrinth continued to shake of its intruders, but the vampire was keeping up with her somehow. Doing her best to fake a vacant stare, Sarah thought to try and wheedle some answers.

"Where are we going?"

He grinned. "That's a good girl. We'll be going back to the main camp."

"Is it far?"

"A short walk west."

She sighed, attempting to seem as moony as possible. "How did you know where to find me?"

The vampire's grin faded to a frown. He wasn't buying it.

Sarah let go of the stone and the Labyrinth threw up a shield as the vampire moved to attack her. Silently, she asked the Labyrinth for a path and fell through the ground. Pulling herself out of the temporary tunnel, Sarah was still close enough to hear his yell, but in an enclosed section at least three walls away. The Labyrinth promised to take care of the remaining surge, taking great pride in its performance. After congratulating the Labyrinth, Sarah took a seat against one of the walls, watching peripherally though images given to her by the conscious of the Labyrinth and releasing a long breath.

Then she could hear new voices a few walls away. The images sent to her by the Labyrinth confirmed that it had reinforcements. The goblin army was there. She could hear Jareth barking orders, and she noted the grim efficiency of his battalions. They finished what the Labyrinth had started in a skewed time Sarah lost track of. Jareth, Sarah could feel through the Labyrinth (having still blocked their connection in her mind), was surveying the chaos, asking the Labyrinth what had happened and calculating some of the damage, much of which was self-inflicted if highly effective in thwarting its attackers. The Labyrinth had never been so proud to sport a few bumps and bruises.

Eventually, the chaos slowed and their enemies were reduced to dead or prisoners. The images the Labyrinth showed her immediately focused on Jareth's quick steps toward her cage, splintered bits of the tree covered with armor, limbs, and debris. Sarah quickly told the Labyrinth not to give away her position, also asking it for a quick path to the outside wall of the glade. She rested her hand on the wall, pulling herself out of the hole, chunks off delicate moss tumbling off in singed crumbles.

Jareth immediately asked the Labyrinth about Sarah, she could feel. The Labyrinth wondered why Jareth didn't tell it where she had been in its own childish way, sensing Sarah was indulging in some kind of trickery. Sarah could see from her position the worried twist at the corner of his mouth that none of his commanders would have noticed as they currently accosted him for new orders. Once he set them about their tasks, he closed his eyes and she could feel him probing their connection with some urgency.

Sarah stood behind him with her arms crossed.

He tried harder, pushing against the block she had erected in her mind; Sarah watched his eyebrows furrow.

"What?" she asked impatiently.

Jareth's eyes snapped open as he turned and took her in. She unblocked their connection for effect. He took two steps toward her and kissed her without preamble.

Sarah broke away. "Why Jareth, it's like you haven't seen me in ages," she commented snidely.

He made a tiny grimace. "This is not the place to discuss it."

"You put me in a tree," Sarah accused, all her previous anger returning full force. "And you want to set terms?"

"It was for your safety."

Sarah glanced at the remnants of the trunk. "Safe place, right. I'm guessing I wasn't even supposed to have been awake when I was. How long were you going to keep me there? How long have I been there?"

"Sarah, we will discuss this elsewhere."

"How long, Jareth?" The goblins were beginning to stare, but Sarah didn't care.


"How long? I can make this much worse," she promised in a growl. "Now tell me how long you've locked me in the damn tree."

"Six and a half months."

Taking advantage of Sarah's momentary shock, Jareth grasped her arm and transported them to an alcove.

"You're upset. I expected that. But now is not the time to give the troops any other impression than precise control," he began. He smiled then, adding, "But since we're alone, you may rave and rant. How I've come to miss it." He guided her to a stone bench and sat down next to her. "I've missed you very much, Sarah. I'm immensely glad that you are safe."

Sarah's brain and mouth reconnected. "I can't really say that I missed you, being unconscious and all. You drugged me."

His words were quiet and he took her hand in his. "I would do it again."

She stood up, pulling her hand away. "You had better not. Honestly, Jareth, if I can't trust you, this is going to have to be a splitting point because I don't have the time nor the means to fight the war and you."

"I didn't want to lose you."

"No, you didn't want to lose to me, isn't that right?"

Jareth looked at her oddly, but Sarah was on a roll: "There's something about it in the Prophesy, right? You married me in the first place to keep control of your kingdom, aligning me on your side. Maybe I don't want to play this game any more, or maybe I'll win it just to spite you. Well, Jareth, the kingdom needs to win. Not you. Not even us. The Labyrinth and the whole both-worlds-not-destroyed tack needs to win. Your Prophesy, since it never was really mine, stated that I needed to be here. I know I need to be here. But, God help me, I'll find a way to fight elsewhere if you insist or approve of getting me out of the way."

Sarah took a couple deep breaths. "You're doing a better job of driving me away than protecting me, Jareth. If you're only invested in this, in me, because of the Prophesy, just keep doing what you're doing or better yet, tell me. We'll work through child visitation rules later."

Jareth's calculating, nearly bewildered look shifted to a furious snarl. "Visitation rules? You think you could get away from me so easily?" he ground out. "Was I lying when I told you I missed you? Was I wrong in my want to protect you? Has this one action blocked out all other memories of our relationship?"

He broke eye contact with her, but not before Sarah saw a glimmer of hurt. "You can argue my methods, Sarah, but do not challenge my motives." He took her hand again. She didn't pull it away, so he pulled her closer, clutching her hand to his cheek. "Six and a half months, Sarah. You were gone. In another two months, we'll have our first anniversary, and you'll have spent half of it in a tree."

Sarah snorted. So it was a little ridiculous. "That'll be a story to tell LT."

"Don't think I didn't want to pull you out of there, just to see you again." Taking her hand from his cheek, he tugged her into his lap. "I do not want any such separation to happen again."

Sarah leaned against him as his arms wrapped around her. "Me, either." He nuzzled against her neck. "This doesn't mean you're off the hook, though."

Jareth's chuckle tickled behind her ear. "No, I didn't think so."

"No more trees?"

"No more trees," he agreed.

Sarah chuckled. "Well, that's a good step for any relationship." She kissed her husband and he responded hungrily, his hands twining in her hair as she settled her arms around his neck.

Eventually, they talked for a while longer and the subject veered back to other serious matters.

"You should contact your family. The crystal has been buzzing with demands from my mother-in-law."

Sarah snorted. "Well, if you had made a better impression on them or not put me out of contact, it wouldn't be a problem. Did you even try to explain it to them?"

"Not exactly."

"I didn't think so. She's alright talking about you with me, but aside from the fact that I haven't been showing her bruises or coming to her in tears, they haven't had much reason to trust you."

"Toby would speak for me."

"Toby is eleven. No, he'll be twelve in another month or so. Ah, it's screwing with my head."

"The time fluctuations don't help much either."

A high scream rang out from the sky, somewhere to their left. They both tensed.

"What has happened in the war, Jareth?"

This was no short answer, and Jareth gave her a rather full if still condensed report. Their enemies had found their way into the Labyrinth tunnel system which had since been cleansed (a regiment of cleaners received high praise), but the wall was still overtaken. The result of both, however, meant that the war had spread deeper into the Labyrinth. Marek had been found thanks to the last crystal of light Jareth had given to him though he had yet to regain consciousness; he was in a different tree, oddly enough, while he was in the process of re-growing a few vital organs that even Fae couldn't live without. No word on what had happened to him.

There was still no real understanding as to what the army was aiming to accomplish. Jareth had his hunches, the most plausible and unsurprisingly worst of these being that they were out to control the gateway between the Underground and Sarah's world. This shift would mean destruction for the other kingdoms and all else. Some reinforcements had been sent from other kingdoms, but no real information had made it to the other monarchs. Many assumed that it was a show at the whim of the new queen and sent a few brigades to humor her, only to then have all communications blocked a month back. The source of the ambiguity and confusion of their situation was fairly summed up in their leader: Orion.

"Somehow," Sarah muttered, "I'm not terribly surprised. Fate wants me to be a little more traumatized. It'll be amazing if LT doesn't turn sociopath by the time he's a hundred and four, just to fit in."

Jareth's arms tightened on her for a moment. "Do not let Orion find out."

"About what? LT?"


"Wasn't there some weird protection clause for pregnancy?"

"He's not following any of the rules, Sarah. That's one of the reasons I came to the tree conclusion."

Sarah nodded. "You know that a 'tree conclusion' is going to be my new expression for a dumb decision, right?"

Jareth bristled. "I better understand your position now, but I stick with my reasoning. The execution and means thereof were perhaps poor."

"You can have a dumb decision with all the right backing. I'm still not okay with the original tree conclusion. Don't make another one by pretending it was no big deal."

Jareth groaned. "I'm going to have to put up with that phrase for some time, aren't I?"

Sarah smirked. "What part of being stuck with me for all eternity didn't you get?"

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 37 of 50

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