Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 40 of 50

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Power Struggle

A few days later, Sarah and Jareth found themselves in much better spirits as for the first time in a long time, they slept through the night now for the third night in a row…or at least Sarah would have if LT hadn't been stomping on her bladder before making her incredibly nauseous. Sarah had been lucky enough not to have many issues with morning sickness, but LT had only been letting her sleep at odd intervals lately. Still, that they had one night without any major attacks was an incredible accomplishment, but three in a row was more of an implication of efficacy rather than a fluke. Their enemy was entirely limited to the Firey Forest, lured away from the shallow canyons. The Labyrinthian side continued to take more prisoners every day as either the aliens from the darker lands succumbed to goblin intimidation or (in the smarter ones) it was realized that Orion truly had no real plan. The goblins fought with renewed vigor and confidence, their monarchs and Marek able to relegate most of their power to obscure contingency planning because thankfully there was little else for them to do.

Sarah was feeling particularly exhausted and begged off as Marek and Jareth debated the tiny possibility of the other side suddenly being able to breathe fire and how it could be countered. She found Ludo alongside the supply tent, calling to the rocks to tumble and help in un-denting pieces of armor, many soldiers (goblin, a handful of fae and human, and whatehaveyou, all allowed a respite given they were simply not required currently) assisting. After talking to Ludo for a while, she fell asleep to his gentle crooning as though he were an orange, furry recliner.

She woke to several pairs of staring eyes and Ack's gentle prodding with his woody claws.

"Sarah, you cannot sleep through the best part!" Ack insisted.

Groggy, Sarah yawned. "What?"

"It's a turning point, Sarah. You need to be there," Ack nearly whined. He sounded, Sarah mused, like an overly anxious eight-year-old, certain that the Christmas presents would disappear if not opened at five am.

A small jolt of fear shocked Sarah awake as she wondered what would cause this anxious excitement in Ack. "What's about to happen, Ack?"

He grinned at her. "That's why it's so exciting. I'm not sure."

"I don't think I believe that, Ack. You at least have some idea."

"Well of course I have it narrowed down, but this part was entirely out of my hands. And there's luck to factor in! Here's where it can all come together or fall into oblivion. Come on!" He tugged on her arm. "There's another place you should be."

"Yay, here goes Sarah into another one of Ack's machinations," Sarah said lifelessly. "Seriously, Ack. Tell me what the potential outcomes are or I'll take all the fun out of it."

Ack hesitated. "Even if you do not act, that, too, will affect this next moment. The fun is still there."

Sarah smiled overly sweet. "Ack, if you're not conscious, then the fun goes on without you."

She wanted to laugh as Ack blanched. "But all the work and watching and waiting—"

"All to miss the best part at the end. I can certainly be that mean, Ack, before you insist that I wouldn't."

Though stunned for a moment, Ack's muzzle split into a wide, fang-filled grin. "I have liked you from the beginning, Sarah. There is much we can teach each other in deviousness. Yours is delightfully straightforward."

"Perhaps someday I'll show you around the Aboveground so you can see where I learned it. It'd have to wait until Halloween or All Hallow's Eve or good ol' October 31st or whatever you want to call it to take you around. Otherwise, you might cause a bit of a stir. Now about those potential outcomes?"

Ack swept a small bow on his hunched frame. "As my Lady wishes. But I would beg that we wait until after this particular interview. Without it, these scenarios might not make much sense, and they will be much more relevant afterwards."

"They won't be too late by that point, will they?"

"I swear it."

Sarah sighed. "Then let's get going. I'm guessing that Jareth and Marek are already going to the same place we are?"

Ack nodded.

"Well, we might as well attempt to beat him and look smug."


Finding where they were supposed to be was surprisingly simple. Aside from a sullen but necessary cluster of the Labyrinthian forces stationed around the main encampment, the rest were gathering. Unfortunately, Jareth was already there so Sarah was denied her chance to look smug, but the altercation was fascinating enough that she scarcely noticed. In one line, the leaders of the invaders knelt with their hands behind their heads, surrounded by the spears of the goblin army.

Though her immediate response was to leap and shout as though she won a new car, Sarah instead surveyed the scene with a cautious eye. Jareth stood in front of the vampire she recognized from the day of the destruction of her tree confinement. His name was Fitzgerald, and his limp hair hung in front of his face like a curtain, some sticking to the gash on his cheek that oozed some sort of black substance. The other vampires (since the trolls and elves were certainly not bright enough to lead) were much more worse for the wear, one missing a limb, another an eye, and all speckled with bruises and scrapes. Their clothing was nearly unrecognizable from the finery they had flaunted upon Sarah's visit. One looked as though he had vomited over himself and had not had an opportunity to change. Another ensemble was so ripped that Sarah had to wonder how much magic or luck was holding it to the vampire's body. The second from the end stared with glazed eyes, saying something in the dark tongue that made Sarah's toenails want to curl until a goblin struck his face with an armored palm. The vampire on the furthest end from Sarah, Marshall, swayed, nodding as he held on to consciousness.

"As prisoners of the Goblin Kingdom, you will be submitted to the punishment dictated by her rulers," Marek stated imperiously, beginning a short litany of what was expected of and for their status as prisoners. Sarah stood next to Jareth, crossing her arms as well and glaring down the lines of those responsible for making her life far more interesting than it had needed be for the past year and a half. Marek stopped his tirade as he stood in front of Marshall. With one finger and a gentle shove, the vampire flumped to the dirt. What really surprised Sarah was the visible effort Marek undertook to keep himself from ramming his tipped boot into the vampire's midsection. Sarah had never seen Marek quite that angry before, but she could sympathize with his need to restrain himself against his righteous anger. Marshall had been in charge of the "advanced interrogation tactics" and was more than qualified. His ghastly stamp Sarah had come to recognize with distaste and complete disgust. Sarah could only guess what sort of hand Marshall had in Marek's treatment, judging by the sharpened glares Marek continued to shoot to the prone form of his opponent.

"Your surrender will be taken into account upon your sentencing," Jareth declared, almost sounding bored. His voice took on a hardened caste when he asked, "Where is Orion?"

Fitzgerald raised his chin. "It doesn't matter. He'll be there soon enough then everything will change around us. You can take the magic repressing spell off. It won't do any good. Orion absorbed all he could from us before he left."

"Forgive us if we're not immediately trusting. Vampires are excellent actors," Sarah declared.

Fixing Sarah with a weary and annoyed gaze, Fitzgerald continued: "Victor's missing his arm and Marshall's nearly unconscious. Even under the restrictions we have put on the use of our magic in these times, neither would be in so low a shape. Orion took advantage of his birth, and there was little to be done to prevent it."

"Where did he go?" Jareth demanded, a haze of darkness around his features that successfully imbibed a seed of terror into even Sarah.

"Those canyons," their spokesman replied guardedly. "He's gone to find the veil between the worlds, certain that it's at the other edge."

"That explains the need for the extra magic," Marek commented. "Though one has to wonder why the confession comes so easily."

"Our magic is gone for the foreseeable future, and it is possible for us to die in this state," the vampire Henri explained with underlying urgency, holding a handkerchief to the space where his eye once was. "And his plans ceased making sense some time ago, even as to why he seeks the veil. We are bound to our prince. Taking our magic is his right, but it also takes that bond with it. Would we have surrendered otherwise? Could we not also be fed up with this mess?"

Fitzgerald glared at his companion but did not contradict him.

Jareth's brows furrowed. Sarah could practically see his calculations. "When did he set out?"

"This morning," Henri mumbled, cowed under his fellow vampire's gaze but that overridden by eagerness for any possibility of medical assistance.

Sarah's mind was buzzing. Orion was off in the shallow canyons, taking extra magic to protect himself from all the iron deposits and presumably by himself in order to reach the veil between the worlds. Should he reach that, he could implode the universe for whatever twisted reason he liked. By all accounts, he was likely certain control over the veil would allow him control over both worlds. They had to go after him, but magic transportation was out of the question, the iron weakening the spell to make the results entirely unpredictable. Any attempt to follow Orion would be dangerous for the same reason, the iron deposits poisoning the denizens of her kingdom.

Except for her. Suddenly, it all made sense to Sarah, why she had to be there and what interaction she had already had with Orion. She could carry Jareth's magic further, though still not as potently. She knew the Aboveground and the Underground and could justify the boundaries better than any other creature in either world. She turned to Jareth.

He met her eyes: "Absolutely not."

Sarah fought the urge to sigh. This was going to be a fight, and she needed to rally herself together. Jareth seemed to sense the same as portions of his hair shifted to dark tones, some changing into feathers as his face took on a nearly animalistic intensity. It was another reminder to Sarah that despite their relationship, he—Jareth, the King of the Goblins—was not to be tamed.

However, he could be reasoned with. With a small spell, she cast a sound nullifier that would assure that their public argument would only be a visible show.

Sarah crossed her arms and set herself in a characteristic stubborn posture. "Before you tell me that this is a tree conclusion if you ever heard one, Jareth, it's the only way."

"Sarah, you know full well what lengths Orion is capable of and his insanity only makes him all the more unpredictable in that spectrum. Even were you to be facing a predictable villain on your own, I would refuse to let you out of eyesight in the shallow canyons. Creatures and demons of all sort, worse than that of the dark kingdom, are exiled there for a reason. No one really knows what sort of effects and monstrosities it harbors because no outsider survives long there."

"I have my wits, I have my amulets, I have your magic that channeled through me will have a stronger affect there than if you used it, and I am determined that nothing I encounter will stop me."

"This is not something that you can will your way through, Sarah."

"For the sake of the world, I will try. You've said it before, Jareth. If we all fade into oblivion, nothing else matters."

"That's why I will go."

"And keel over from iron poisoning? Jareth, you think I'm going to run into all sorts of trouble, but you'd be done in for sure, weakened and subject to the same unknowns. It'd be even more dangerous for you."

"You'd be willing to risk yourself and our child to that assertion?" he asked acidly, taking a grip on her arms.

Sarah could feel her eyes tearing up. Blasted hormones. She still kept her tone even: "I am well aware of the risks, Jareth. To protect my child's inheritance and for LT's chance to exist, I'm going to try."

"You still have no idea what the effects taking a Fae child amongst all the iron deposits could do."

"Neither do you." This was a conversation they already had, dating back to the numerous items on Alain's list. "LT will be protected by my body."

"You cannot be sure of that."

His grip on her arms was tightening by increments. It would be painful soon. Sarah wrapped her forearms around so she could rest her hands just on his biceps, contrasting his unyielding hold with a gentle touch. "No, I cannot," she admitted. "But I also can't think of another solution. At least not one where we succeed. And we don't have much time. Orion has a head start."

Again, Sarah could nearly see the gears in his mind turning. His love of games also made him a brilliant and swift strategist. He was running through as many scenarios in his head as he could, weighing through the same options and risks she was. After a few moments of silence, he relaxed his grip on her arms, still holding on to her but without the punishing force. "I cannot immediately come up with other conceivable possibilities either," he admitted to Sarah's surprise. "But I refuse to send you off without tapping our other strategic resources, the Prophesy, and our prisoners for more information."

"We'd better make it fast." Sarah knew she was getting off easy. Had it not been for their pressing timeline, Sarah was certain they could have argued the possibilities to the ground and out again, neither conceding in a massive power struggle until the pressure erupted into the best make-up sex in the history of ever or both were reduced to a pile of embers, still glowing angrily at the other…or, having grown tired of the debate, one chose to see the other's side, this time. Discussions with her husband were always stimulating, his stubbornness and hers both fronted by logic and wit, but the implied equality behind it made Sarah appreciate their relationship and emotional intimacy more than should could say. Despite the difficulty along the way, Sarah had never found such a satisfying stalemate. She tried to convey this all without saying a word, searching her husband's face and finding an underlying softness that no one else could have interpreted. He understood.

The feathers in his hair were back to their blond locks as Sarah removed the spell, gazing with amusement at the perplexed stares around them. After a few ordered barks, Jareth transported himself, Marek and (under Sarah's insistence) Ack to discuss matters in a tent in the main encampment as the prisoners were dealt with, muttering something about going from one insane ruler to another.

Sarah instantly rounded on Ack. "Spill," she ordered. "Let's hear it or I'll knock you out here and now. Trust me you won't be getting up for a while. You'll wake up in a nest of ivy or something."

Ack held up his claws defensively, though a grin stretched across his muzzle. "As my lady commands."

"What information are you going after?" Marek asked, bemused.

"Ack calls it 'the best part,' so that in and of itself makes it interesting. He says it's because he no longer knows precisely what is going to happen. However, as long as he tells us the potential endings, he gets to keep watching."

Jareth nodded, a twinge of amusement indicated by the twitch at the corner of his mouth though the gravity of the situation prevented him from acknowledging it any further.

"As promised," Ack intoned, sweeping an overly formal bow. "By now, I can guess by your silent argument that Sarah has determined that she must be the one to chase after Orion." Sarah fought the urge to watch Jareth from the corner of her eye. Ack however did shift his attention to Jareth. "I can site portions of the Prophesy, if you wish, your Majesty."

Jareth nodded as he and Marek listened to the beautiful language, seeming out of place when spouted from Ack's fangs, though perhaps made all the more lovely because of the affect. He nearly sang. Sarah listened mesmerized, noting that Jareth and Marek scrutinized its meaning by their frowns and eventually a despairing resignation. Fighting the urge to comfort her husband, Sarah waited for the situation to revert back to a language she could understand. Surprisingly, there was either a lot of Prophesy or it took a long while to say anything in Prophesy-speak, whatever the language was.

"There are four major possibilities, five I suppose if you wish to count it. I could make an educated guess, but this is the point I can no longer be certain or even relatively sure. The first is Sarah does not go and nothing happens because Orion either is overtaken by some unseen force or loses interest partway through the journey—a definite possibility given his temperament. The second is that Sarah does not go and the world ends. It will not be as much fun if this is what happens," Ack intoned quite seriously, tempting Sarah to giggle. "Third, this is the one I suppose could be added as its own: Jareth goes first, ignoring other reason, dies and is followed by Sarah where she either fails and leaves the Goblin Kingdom without rulers (where it will fall) or the world ends OR she succeeds and rules on her own. Fourth, Sarah sets out and fails, leaving Jareth to either follow after or the world to end the latter more likely unless the aforementioned stipulations happen to Orion. Fifth, Sarah goes and succeeds, besting Orion or otherwise mending the veil (which has been fraying with time anyway) making the Labyrinth and the borders between the worlds stronger than before. All that's left after that is to escape the shockwave."

"What's the shockwave?" Sarah wondered aloud, still trying to process the mass of information.

"Any alteration to the veil will have repercussions, Sarah. You will need some sort of protection or a means out. If he touches it at all, you will need to fix it."

"How would I know how to alter the veil?"

"It would tell you. If you do not change it now, I daresay it has aged enough that it could ultimately cause further blurring between the worlds in another couple hundred years."

"I'll focus on stopping Orion first. If that can be accomplished without altering the veil, then I don't have to worry about the shockwave. We can deal with the veil later."

Ack shrugged. "Given a portion of the Prophesy, I do believe it will come about one way or the other."

"I would have you returned immediately in any case," Jareth added.

"Thank you, Ack," Sarah dismissed. "Don't worry. We'll let you know before anyone leaves."

Ack's ears perked up. "I will wait eagerly. This will certainly be something to watch." He bowed and exited the tent.

"Well," Marek began, "Those are some of the strategies I would have outlined, especially in light of Ack's proficiency in conniving and background in Prophecy. All else seems like suicide. Even if we sent in any one of ours in a protective covering, they would still have to remove that to alter the veil and would die then."

Jareth ran a hand through his hair. "It sounds as though our options are clear."

Marek frowned. "Jareth?"

"Marek, prepare a pack for Sarah. Anything she might need," Jareth ordered quietly. "Then see what else you can glean from our prisoners, any information that could be of use."

Marek nodded, bowing. Before leaving the tent, he met Sarah's eyes and gave her a small reassuring smile. Then they were alone. Sarah couldn't see his eyes. They were shadowed by his hair which was quite suddenly a frayed, split-ended mass. He reached out and took her hand without a word. A second later, they were in their oubliette.

"Could," he halted, still searching for his words, "Could we argue about names again? That's one of my favorites."

Sarah's breath hitched in her throat. She flung herself to his chest, his arms wrapping around her as she sobbed into his shirt. After she had stilled, Jareth took Sarah's face in his hands, gently wiping her tears away with his bare thumbs. Sarah reached up and kissed away a couple of his own. She leaned against his chest again. "If it's a boy, I still like Mathias or Gregor. And for a girl, recently I've been leaning toward Hope. Kinda schmaltzy given our situation, but I can pronounce that one, at least."

"My preferences are all pronounceable."

"Not in a you're-in-so-much-trouble sort of way."

"Heston and Iris are not unpronounceable."

"Well, you chose the only two. We could still stick with LT and end the argument there."

"That's out of the question, remember?"

"Not right now, at least. Isn't that right, LT?"

"Your mother is an ornery one, LT." Jareth laced his fingers between Sarah's. "We'll have to keep an eye on her and keep her out of trouble." He took a deep breath and rested his forehead on her shoulder. "Sarah, if you don't come back, I don't think I could ever forgive you."

Sarah kissed his cheek, squeezing her eyes shut. "Me either, Jareth. Me either."

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 40 of 50

<< Previous     Home     Next >>