Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 39 of 50

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Power Struggle

"Hey, anyone there?" Sarah called into the crystal in her hand.

Her stepmother's relieved grin filled the space of the crystal. "Sarah, it's good to hear from you again."

"I'm sorry I don't have too much time to talk, but I thought I should check in."

"I understand. We'll take what we can get. Every time you close the connection and go back to your war, I always worry that's it, Sarah."

With a rueful smile, Sarah replied, "I know." She sighed. "More than a year, closer to a year and a half. There's no telling how much longer it's going to be either."


"We've made some good strides. The helping hands have placed themselves around the Labyrinth and tend to filch enemy weapons. The fairies have been spying. We finally had some reinforcements show up, a few cotillions Jan and Elizabeth managed to convince Sal to send some help from the water kingdom, but it's limited where they can help, being aquatic and all. The dwarves and the dragons have started sending in all kinds of supplies since they can't get involved actively for a giant, twisted list of reasons. All in all, we've pushed the vamps and Co. back to one part of the Labyrinth. Unfortunately, this is an area relatively close to the shallow canyons."

"That's the region—"

"With all the iron that's close to the veil between the worlds," Sarah finished.

Karen nodded sadly. "Yes, the whole end of the world thing."

Despite it all, Sarah grinned. "Yep, now that you actually believe me. I can't believe it took me half an hour to convince you."

"Can you really blame me, dear? It's a little overdone."

"Karen, the very nature of the Labyrinth is not the real world. Any other fantasy clichés I can actualize for you while I'm here? Jareth's evil twin could kidnap me if he had one, but I'm sure something could be arranged."

"Just come visit us in one piece, Sarah. Maybe for Christmas. That would be enough for me," Karen replied seriously.

"You know I can't do that until this is over."

With real sympathy, Karen acknowledged, "I know, Sarah. I understand. I just worry about you and this whole mess. As long as we don't have another six month gap before we hear from you again, we'll have to make do. And if Jareth pulls something like that again…"

"We've talked about it thoroughly. Jareth and I spend at least twenty minutes a day together. It doesn't sound like much, but it's what we can manage some days. We go down into an oubliette and forget about everything else for a while. That's where I'm at now if you can see all the dark behind me."

"I was wondering about the ethereal glow."

Sarah gave a small grin. It also effectively hid that she was beginning to show. For simplicity's sake, they both agreed not to tell Sarah's family yet. Knowing her parents, they would have found a way there (probably by Toby recommending a wish), and it simply wasn't safe for them to be there. Thus far, herself and Jareth had been fairly successful in making up excuses and altering clothing styles for everyone else, but not everyone was fooled. Marek bluntly pointed out one day that she looked like she was getting chubby, his eyes widening ridiculously (along with some fantastic spluttering) when Sarah and Jareth immediately shared a significant look.

"Yes, that would be the one entrance, aside from poofing," Sarah replied, explaining the glow.

"I keep meaning to ask whose idea that was."

"The oubliette or the 'us time'?" Sarah smirked not allowing her stepmother's well-meant picking. Karen responded by raising an eyebrow and shaking her head. "Oh, fine, it was a mutual decision. We're getting a lot better at that, actually. It's weirding Marek out."

"How is Marek doing?"

"Much better. He's stopped using the cane."

"Any further updates on what happened?"

Sarah hesitated. "They think so. It's not pretty." Karen waved for her to continue. "Alright, but I'm still going to gloss. Marek was captured while he was trying to recruit a few inhabitants who had missed the royal decree before scoping out for foreign aid. There were all sorts of tortures that Marek still hasn't sorted through, if you ask me. Those that he did tell us, though, well, they weren't anything I'd heard of or really want to think about. The worst was some of the spells they were testing, one of which involved seamlessly removing internal organs. It took some practice."

Karen shuddered.

"Exactly. He's still not completely back to himself yet. I think that's partly because we're still in war mode, and he hasn't had time to cope and deal with everything." Sarah sighed. "Sometimes, I really know what that feels like. For our second anniversary, buy us some therapy."

"Your father has been saying we should just take you out of there since it's only caused everyone headaches to say the least."

"Well, it's really more the timing than anything. There have been a lot of things I really wouldn't trade. And this whole thing is not Jareth's fault. I know Dad didn't care for the first impression, but to blame him or this world is simply not fair. I know that sounds really juvenile, but this whole war is the result of some insane vampires and not us. "

"We know, dear," Karen soothed. "It's more a statement of frustration. You don't have to defend your situation."

"Sorry. I'm just a bit edgy right now," Sarah explained, trying to quell some of her irrational anger. "This whole thing is ridiculously stressful."

"I should say so."

Sarah shook her head. "I don't really want to talk about that now. Tell about what's going on at home. It's been about three weeks since I could check in."

"Well, Jen still hasn't given up on you. I didn't even know they still did pictures on milk cartons. The fliers, though, have faded. She's had to pull back on her efforts, but she still calls in to check on occasion. It's awkward, but we repeat that we know you're safe somewhere and will find a way home eventually. Then we both laugh about how that's the Sarah we know, and the conversation falls dead. I think she believes we've given up hope, especially since we didn't help much in the beginning. We knew we weren't going to find you because we put up another roadblock, but there had to be some appearances."

"I'm sure it wasn't easy."

"Yes, well, the whole situation has had its moments. Oh, what about the traitor?"

"Ack? Well that situation's still a bit mucky. Basically he just sits and watches. On days when there isn't much I can do or I'm hanging back to help set other things in motion, I'll take a seat next to him. It's like he's four years old, watching cartoons and giggling and clacking his paws and claws together. Then he falls asleep under a bed somewhere, wakes up under another bed, and figures he might as well scare another kid. He says it's been happening a good bit more recently. Oh, he's the boogeyman," Sarah clarified when Karen gave her an odd look. "Can't believe I haven't told you that. Anyway, he says it's been happening more frequently, and on top of that there've even been a surprising amount of kids wished away to the goblins. I've been taking care of most of those, usually trying to convince the wishers that they really would rather win their sibling or whatever back so I don't have to warp them."

"What, warping?"

Sarah shuddered. "I've had to do it a few times now. It's terrible, forcing them to change like that. It's what the Labyrinth would do naturally."

"Then why do it?"

"Ever since Becky, well, it has to be done. I hate it. I truly hate it. But it's the way it is."

"Who is Becky?"

Sarah closed her eyes and took a breath. "Who was Becky, you mean. She was a teenager, about as old as I was on my first run of the Labyrinth. Her wisher lost, and I didn't want to force the change on her. So I hid her, tried to let her be. After a week—I didn't tell Jareth about it either, which was a mistake—I went to check in on her and the whole change was beginning on its own. Only a week. There were no immediate physical changes but she was all curled up and vomiting like she had cholera or something. Apparently, she'd been like that for a couple days. I called Jareth in. We didn't have the magic to spare to save her."

"Nothing could be done?"

"Nothing. When people say the words, there's a burst of power that lasts for some time, but not long enough at the rate we've had to use it."

"Oh, Sarah. I'm so sorry. How did Jareth take it?"

"He still didn't say a word. He just let me cry into his chest and put her out of her misery. At the end, Jareth just gave me this look of 'you should have trusted me,' but he didn't say a word. He knew. Jareth can be a righteous bastard when he wants to be, but he really doesn't irreparably maim or kill if he doesn't have to. From what I've seen, I mean. We're in a weird situation to judge that. Heck, according to some of our prisoners, the Goblin Kingdom's gotten really soft over the years."


"I asked Marek once. Really not pretty. It totally makes my skin crawl just about as much as Orion does. Like all else here, it's overly complicated. A big reason for the shift had something to do with the fluctuation of where the dark taint was since it used to be everywhere Underground, but otherwise it just made sense that if you needed the Aboveground to believe, there had to be survivors to tell the tale." Sarah took a deep breath. "It's bizarre to talk about these kinds of things so, I don't know, detached. I've seen more blood and destruction than Saving Private Ryan all before breakfast." Sarah pulled her knees to her chest, as well as she could anyway. "I don't want this to be normal."

"Sweetie, it will end," Karen assured her.

"Sooner would be better," Sarah grumbled.

"I know, I know, dear. Find some time to relax today somehow, Sarah. You look exhausted."

"I'm working on it, Mom."

"Well stop talking to me and take a nap instead."

Sarah yawned. "If you insist."

"Remember we love you."

"Love you guys, too. I'll call you when I can." Sarah allowed the crystal to dissolve and rubbed her arms against the darkness. She hadn't meant to end the conversation with her stepmother on such a morbid tone, but while she wanted to put on a brave and optimistic face, she also just wanted to punch a wall. Or break down and cry. Pretty much a toss-up, actually. Between hormones and sheer frustration, Sarah wanted to crack. Pity she was in a leadership position.

She had been in the Underground for a little more than a year and a half and otherwise pregnant for sixteen of those months, tracking the length of the war about the same. LT, despite terrible timing, forced her to find a way to calm down, for his or her sake if nothing else. Ack gave her an objective perspective. Marek made her laugh at the complete ridiculousness of the war and her circumstances. Karen, Toby, and her father gave her an escape. Her husband, Sarah was certain she would have cracked without him. Sure, Jareth was quite serious about the war and inspiring in that, but they found twenty minutes (minimum) every day to talk about nothing, say nothing at all, talk about what tricks they were going to play on Marek (and when it was appropriate to do so again), opt for a different form of (ahem) stress relief, talk about a nursery, talk about the growing up, coaching to help Sarah learn to fly properly, or talk about the necessary victory celebrations for when the war was done. Sarah idly remembered once threatening to ruin his "little parties" with bog water, not understanding then it could have started something like this all over again, especially had it been her first introduction.

Sarah gave a start as another set of hands rested on her upper arms. She relaxed against his chest, and he rested his chin on her head. She took a quick glance up to note his insane hairstyle, streaks of red and black interspersed in the blond.

"I'm really glad it's you and not the vampires to kidnap me. That would really be too much and otherwise ridiculous."

"As though I would let that happen," Jareth mumbled into her hair.

"We really might not forgive you, not that I'd be happy with myself either in that case. What kind of stupid situation would I have to walk into for that to happen? Go without any sort of guard, without telling you? Jeeze, we at least have better communication than that, I hope."

He chuckled wrapping his arms around her middle, one hand splayed protectively over her abdomen.

"LT kicked today," Sarah mentioned. "It's really faint, but I think that's what it was. Quite possibly one of the weirdest things I've ever felt."

Sarah could feel Jareth's cheek shift to a smile. She turned to kiss him, reaching one hand back around his neck. Smoothing his hair away from his face, he allowed her to thoroughly explore his mouth as she drank in as deeply as she could, pulling him closer. He moaned softly as she pulled back, sucking gently on his bottom lip.

"Don't you go getting kidnapped either. I don't know what I'd do without you, Jareth."

"You could rule this kingdom well, Sarah. I have every faith in you."

Sarah gave him an odd look and resting her hand on his armor, today a closed collar than ran halfway up his neck with the arms ending capped over his shoulders, a painstakingly woven chain mail shirt underneath ending in a point at his wrists. She traced the insignia on his chest with her fingers. "That does not mean you can keel off any time soon, do you hear me?" She looked up and brought a hand to his cheek. "You look like hell, Jareth." Sarah led him to sit on the ground and pulled his head to rest on her shoulder. "Glamour's off, huh? I'd say we could just put you in a tree, but we know how that would go."

He nodded. Sarah ran a hand through his hair, even that with an odd, starchy texture that lacked its normal sheen. His skin had a grey tint and the shadows under his eyes bled into the natural highlights of his eyebrows. In essence, he looked like an early zombie, Sarah now having seen enough to say for certain. Sarah knew the circles under her eyes and unkempt hair she sported today had a similar if lesser effect, but setting fingers for helping hands as she had all morning did not require massive morning preparation. At first, Sarah had thought the glamour was unnecessary, but having twelve goblins panic and fret over her (and their own fate) was enough. Sarah knew still that as soon as they both left the oubliette the masks would be back. Masks were left outside of the zone; that was the one rule. They could be exhausted or optimistic or pissed off or sappy or whatever. They would leave with their heads erect and as the image of cool confidence.

Sarah stretched against the pillows they had brought to their particular oubliette, taking Jareth's hand and drawing him against her. "Today, I think we've earned an hour of sleep. Save the glamour and let your magic recoup for a bit."

Jareth's eyes were already closed as he snaked his arms around her middle again, holding her securely to his chest. "Or we could argue over names again. That's one of my favorites."

Sarah snorted. "I'm just about ready to insist that LT forever be LT. It's gender neutral and has the whole 'fear me' thing implied."

"My heir will have a proper name," Jareth declared.

"Well, you know what? Our child will also be firmly grounded in reality. No fairy tales for this one."

Jareth opened one eye to gaze up at Sarah with a bemused expression. "How will you go about this, Sarah? Deny the world around you?"

"No fairy tales period. To state a few examples, ladies are not always in distress. Dragons must never be ridden without permission. There is not good guy or bad guy. Goblins are roughly this size," Sarah gestured with her hands, "to this size. Never trust a deus ex machina. Things are not always what they seem. Never take nightshade from strangers. Make a good impression on your in-laws or you've earned your frying pan. Mom and Dad are the only ones who can grant wishes."

Jareth was laughing openly by the quip on dragons as Sarah giggled through her jibe involving the frying pan.

"Sarah, LT will lack imagination entirely if you're so quick to limit it."

"Somehow, I think LT is going to manage. Remember? He'll turn sociopath just to fit in, right? One loved, happy sociopath."

"Well," Jareth intoned, beginning to drift off to sleep, "that doesn't sound so bad."

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 39 of 50

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