Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 38 of 50

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Power Struggle

War has a habit of ebb and surge, in more ways than one. All in one day, of course. Now it ebbed to an underlying tension that the couple would have readily forgotten had it been possible.

After spending a little time merely enjoying the forgotten pleasure of mutual company, the Labyrinth reported that the sun was setting with a tiny rumbling quake in its walls. They could hear Alain calling for them moments afterward.

"Don't answer him, if it means I have to drink any more sludge."

"You will. It'll be much easier now that you're awake."

"Jareth…" Sarah warned.

He held up his hands. Sarah stood to glare at him.

Alain called once more, sounding fairly close. Sighing, Sarah set her hand on the Labyrinth wall, asking to give them a direct path. Sarah nearly laughed at the startled look on Alain's face.

She opted for a stony expression instead; Alain had had some part in this. "Yes, I'm out of the tree. You were looking for us?"

"Yes, it seems that Marek moved today."

Concern flooded over Sarah's attempt to be stern. "Is that good?"

Alain nodded. "A very good sign. However, these next few hours will be somewhat critical. I'm still trying to figure out how they took it out of him."

"And what are your theories so far?"

With a mirthless smile, Alain replied, "For both our sakes, I'd rather not go into it." He handed her a vial.

Eyeing suspiciously, Sarah offered it to Jareth. "You first."


"If it's vitamins and 'healthful magic,' you could use them anyway, Jareth."

"It's for you and our heir, Sarah."

"Don't you even. You're still in hot water, sir." She shook the vial at him, noting that Alain was watching with some interest.

Growling, Jareth took a small taste, refusing to make a face. After a moment, Sarah downed the rest of the vial, turning to Alain. "I trust you will not put something else in these supplements without first informing me." It wasn't a question and Alain nodded, looking slightly wary.

Abruptly, Sarah felt as though she wanted to burst into tears. She turned to Jareth, silently urging through their magical bond for him to get Alain out of there quickly. He gave her a quick look of concern before turning to Alain.

"Sarah will visit you for a physical examination at her convenience. We will be along shortly to discuss further matters for this evening's plans."

Bowing to both, Alain took his leave. The Labyrinth closed the wall behind him and Sarah felt tears leak out of her clenched eyes. Jareth said nothing but held her close.

"I hate not trusting you," she muttered against his shirt. "And I shouldn't feel guilty for it. I don't. LT has other plans. Damn hormones making up for lost time." Sarah dug the heel of her hand into her eye. "I'm fine, really. It's just been a long day."

"I could always put you back in the tree."

Big mistake. Sarah was certain that Jareth's expression (in immediate response to her expression) meant that he was about to take it back, but Sarah wasn't ready to wait.

"You are not going to joke about that, do you hear me? I thought we made this clear earlier, but I'll say it again and you'd better listen this time: you pull something like that again, and soon as I get out of it—and you know I will—I'm gone. We'll figure out how to save the universe and rule the kingdom a different way, meaning that I'll give up my title or you'll give up yours, because that's why I agreed to this whole thing in the first place. But we'll never be a team again, especially since we can't apparently be a team now, not if you're going to not let me in the first place. I'll go back to the Aboveground and renounce magic or something. LT would come with me. Believe me, I'm not being flippant with it this time. We'll let him make his own decision when he's old enough. Trying to figure out how to explain to the OBGYN why the same child is taking so long to develop will be an adventure, but the Prophesy will give you some advice, I'm sure."

Jareth took off his glove and cupped her cheek. "Sarah, it won't give me any other option that I would want. I had six months to figure that out."

Sarah pulled away from his hand. "It gives you no other option, so that's it? Doesn't help your case much, Jareth."

"No," Jareth assured her, with his fingertips resting on her cheek again, "There are other possibilities. But this is the only one I could ever want." He kissed her forehead. "Sarah, you are so much more than I bargained for. For your sake and for the sake of our child, I would risk more than I have ever been willing to sacrifice. Yet, I cannot sacrifice the kingdom or we will all be lost. We are in a terrible position."

Another scream echoed across the sky, and Jareth sighed, wearing his handful of centuries openly. Whether his openness was a result of his own fatigue catching up with him or an earnest need to bridge the gap, Sarah wasn't sure, but she held her breath. "We are not leaving this conversation at a point I would wish to, but there is nothing to be done for that now. I can only reorder time so far, and the magic must be conserved. The whole situation is not fair, Sarah, but I want you to trust that I will find a way to make amends. You mean too much to me to lose. Please trust that if you don't currently trust me. I love you, precious one."

Sarah bit her lip, her mind and hormones fluttering all directions at once. "You've never told me that before, Jareth," she murmured dazedly.

With a small, warm smile Jareth pulled her gaze to his face with a hand gently adjusting the position of her jaw, noting the tears pooling in her eyes again. "I've not told it to you nor anyone else. Until now and only because it is true. I wanted you to know." He kissed her more tenderly than he ever had before as though trying to convince her to stay in one final argument.

Sarah wrapped her arms around his waist, resting her head on his shoulder and consequently dampening the fabric or rusting the metal, she wasn't sure which anymore. "Jareth, I—"

He shushed her with a finger over her lips. "We need to return and get our plans into action, Sarah. We will find time later to talk."

Sarah nodded. It was just as well since she wasn't sure what she was going to say. She knew as surely as held him in her arms that she loved him. She was still hurt and frustrated with the tree conclusion. There was still the option of kissing one another senseless. She was ready to take another nap. She knew that they should at least take cover given the darkening landscape. Instead, she took a deep breath and pushed her emotions aside.

"Let's get to work."

"That's a good idea," said a voice from the top of the wall.


"Startled or just happy to see me, Sarah?" He grinned and leapt down from the wall. "The Labyrinth is much shorter this way."

Sarah smiled, pulling to Jareth's side with his arm set on her shoulder. It was awkward, having Ack drop in at the end of their conversation, not knowing how long he had been listening, but Sarah found it easier to slip on her mask with another party present. "That would be cheating, Ack. Can't allow it."

"I suppose not. It's good to see you again, Sarah."

"Good to see you, too."

"It has been some time," Jareth added noncommittally.

"Yes, I've spent a good deal more time on the other side recently. Trying to talk sense to Orion is ridiculous."

Sarah frowned. "What kind of sense were you talking to him?"

"Attack strategy."

"I wonder what kind of reasons work on insane vampires. What information are you giving them?"

"Much the same I give you."

The cogs in Sarah's mind began to grate and rumble forward. "Ack, do they know that you're talking to our side?"

Ack's smile widened. "Ah, someone finally asked."

Jareth's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean by that?"

"Oh, I let them find out a couple months ago, it was the right time to enact a few things."

Sarah was flabbergasted for a moment, staring at the mischievous glint in Ack's eyes. She found her voice: "Ack, whose side are you on?"

"Sarah, I do not choose sides. I thought I explained my philosophy once to you before. I merely like to make the issue as complicated as possible and watch how it all explodes. Watching the neighbors war is vastly more entertaining than this whole peace thing, particularly if a few careful nudges push it forward."

"Did you tell them where Sarah was?" Jareth demanded, fists drawn to his sides.

Ack, Sarah noted, did look a little chagrined. "Sarah, you have made this more difficult. I do very much like you, so I waited a little bit longer than I might have." His face shifted to another visage of impish glee. "I must admit though that the results are better than I would have expected."

"What have you done?" Sarah demanded in a whisper. "They'll know—"

"Quite a lot," Ack agreed with a grin. "I've told you as much as I could to bring you to up to a necessary level."

A section of wall sprung from the ground behind Ack, and as he was peering behind him to see what had happened, his face was pressed against it. Jareth's arm was just under Ack's muzzle and the other pinning Ack's claws to the wall. "Leave now," Jareth growled.

Sarah was torn between helping Ack or helping Jareth. It was true Ack had never claimed to be on any side, but information of their plans had ruined many assaults and cost the lives of her subjects. He broke their trust, but he made it possible for the goblin army to push Orion's subjects back again and again, ambushing them in corners and taking key prisoners.

Ack smiled again, looking significantly more nervous. "I have an important piece of information to pass on, first."

Jareth snarled and pushed Ack more firmly against the wall. Even still, he was not angry enough to ignore Ack's information. "Say it and remove yourself from my kingdom or I'll banish you to Sarah's old world, particularly an area known as 'space,' which I understand is uninhabitable."

"He'd explode, actually," Sarah murmured, still trying to absorb everything.

Jareth's grin deepened something sinister. "Perfect."

Sarah sighed, her tone distracted. "Maybe explode him later, Jareth. He's not evil, just morally ambiguous. He's right, that he doesn't choose sides. He kept you from killing Orion so that'd get messier. He told us about the attack so we could start the battle going…" She trailed off, shaking her head. "You know what? Ack, we'll deal with this later. Give us the damn message."

Ack nodded. Or at least he would have. "Orion means to send a party to where iron deposits make the veil weak. I'm not entirely sure where that is or when he means to attack, but because this could mean the end of the world, it seemed important. Any idea of where he means?"

"Yes, actually," Sarah admitted. Jareth turned to her. "The shallow canyons on the edge of the Labyrinth. I saw them on the tour Hoggle, Ludo, and Didymus gave me."

Jareth released his hold on Ack who scampered to his feet.

"You do realize if there is no world there will also be no entertainment of warring factions," Jareth pointed out, a sneer still over his features.

"Oh, it has given me a lot of grief these past few weeks. I've been worried about the necessity of taking an active part. Now that Sarah's back in the equation, however, I think I can relax some. The Prophesies were more than explicit that you were needed in this, Sarah."

Sarah waved him off. "Ack, you'd really better leave before Jareth hurls something at you. He's had enough practice with the goblins to have wicked good aim."

Ack scampered off, lumbering with as much speed as his taloned feet would allow, the brown hem from his robe whisking around the stone corner. Sarah thought idly that perhaps he should have picked a color that didn't match his long fur.

"I don't suppose we could just take a newspaper and bop him on the snout? I'd say pull his ears if I thought they needed any more stretching. Jeeze, Jareth, this is just what we needed."

"I had a feeling he wasn't to be trusted."

"Congrats, Jareth. Though why you kept him around this long, even with the in and out-ness, I don't know."

"It was clear that the other side did not trust him completely, judging from his need to prove himself to them. I figured there were two options. Either his side failed to trust him because he was not sympathetic to their cause, or they didn't trust him because he was simply untrustworthy."

Sarah exhaled and threw up her hands. "Sounds like we've got the latter. Mark this conversation for therapy later. If I try to figure everything out now, I'm going to go bonkers. Can we just ignore it for now?"

"As you wish."

Although fantastically tempted to make a Princess Bride reference, Sarah held her tongue. "Again, I'm just going to think about it after this is all over. There's only so much I can process in one day. Shouldn't we be at a war council meeting or something now anyway?"

Jareth nodded and took her arm, taking them inside a tent where Ruckus and Rumble were already arguing with Smokey Joe of the Fireys with Chilly Bill of the Frosties equally incensed, particularly surprising given the normal, carefree attitude Sarah had come to know of the Fireys and Frosties. As it turned out, the other side had apparently stolen a few body parts; the only thing worse than throwing someone else's head was keeping it.

Sarah put on her camp counselor voice and Jareth stood by and looked angry and regal. Incorporating imagination and strategy made for a fascinating meeting, especially when it was emphasized that the Labyrinth itself would want a more active role in ridding itself of the unwelcome guests. Part of the plan for that night subsisted of a path to the False Alarms which had agreed to chew on any invaders instead of spouting disparaging prophesies. Surprisingly, it was a very productive meeting. And judging by the sounds of the growing screams, it was over none too soon.

After communicating instructions to the Labyrinth, Sarah found the armory and began to load up. Considering the kind of day she had muddled through, she wanted an aggressive role tonight. Even Jareth knew better than to protest too much.

Intermixed with the final flank of the goblin army, Sarah watched and waited. A voice broke through her concentration: "Sarah? Are you there? Sar-AH!"

Forming a crystal in her hand, Sarah barked, "Toby, can't talk now. Fighting a war." She allowed the crystal to dissolve and went back to watching the horizon.

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 38 of 50

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