Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 5 of 50

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Power Struggle

Sarah's brief hope that her old friend Hoggle would meet her in the outer courtyard quickly slipped away when she noticed how empty it seemed without him, excluding the massive fairy infestation. In fact, the shimmering white creatures zipped around her head in a hoard, tugging at her hair and clothes and nipping at her ears. Remembering her lesson from last time and too agitated to do much else, she swatted them. A few rogue fairies snapped tiny jaws onto her hands but the rest took heed and stayed clear, sniggering in their own little twitters. Viciously tossing another fairy as far as she could chuck it, Sarah shrugged off her guilt and found the opening once again; chances were, when she found her way through the Labyrinth she'd need her wits about her so it was best to let her anger out now…not that those little bugs didn't deserve it.

With a significant bit of effort, her mood worsening by the moment, Sarah slowly shoved the noncompliant door out of her path. Panting with the exertion, she wiped her forehead…and saw the already open gateway a few feet down.

"Jareth, your sense of humor is NOT appreciated right now," Sarah growled fiercely. Refusing to let her hard work go to waste, she plodded down her open pathway, running her hands along either wall and feeling for some sort of spot when another entrance would present itself. So focused on what was to her sides and stepping over assorted branches, she nearly didn't see the little blue worm inching across the ground until it let out a shrill cry of terror, almost under her foot. Stumbling backward in her attempt not to mash the tiny creature, Sarah tripped over a branch and stared at the sky from a perspective she hadn't been expecting. Desperately wanting to throw a temper tantrum, she instead groaned and picked herself up.

"Thanky kindly for not mashin' me. The fairies said you wernt so kind to the small 'uns this time." The worm looked at her with his overly large eyes, hair tufted in odd angles. "You alright?"

"It's been a long day and it's barely past morning," she replied with a rueful grin. "It's not your fault though. Sorry I didn't see you."

"Nah, think nothin' of it. 'Slong as you 'eard me. Why don't you come on inside and meet the misses? Have a lovely cup of tea?"

Realizing that this time she had no time limit, Sarah shrugged and let her arms fall to her sides. "Sure, why not. I'd love to."

"Come on inside then. She makes the best cup 'o tea you've ever had." The worm slowly retreated back into a hole in the wall.

"Umm…How do I get inside?"

"'Salright, not that complicated, really. You 'aven't tried yet, 'sall."

Shaking her head, Sarah put her fingers up to the whole and peered inside. It certainly looked cozy, a worm with equally crazy hair and a lovely shade of pink squirmed about on a few tiny tasks. A little spark burnt a few twigs in the fireplace and a small square of cloth served as a rug. Sarah leaned closer to get a better look and found herself tumbling into the tiny den, a look of surprise plastered on her face.

"Well don' jus' stand there, come by the fire," the worm invited cheerily in a slightly higher pitch than her husband.

With a laugh, Sarah resolved to herself what she had in her dreams: the Labyrinth was much more fun if one only took events as they came through quirks, twists, what didn't make any sense and all else. Madame Worm grasped the tiny kettle in her mouth and squirmed her way over to the thimble tea cups, still a little big.

"Can I help you with that?" Sarah asked, aware that opposable thumbs could perhaps come in handy in this situation.

"Nomph, I gah it 'eerie," she managed out with her mouthful, artfully tipping it to a skilled degree. Madame Worm set the kettle down and sighed briefly. "Tha's better. Don't trouble yourself at all, your Majesty."

Sarah spluttered in her half swallow of tea, somehow managing to cough out, "What did you call me?"

"Your Majesty, o' course," she repeated brightly. "Maybe you're not officially yet bu' the Labyrinth recognizes you."

"How do you know that?" Sarah asked in awe.

"Bes' just to trust the misses on this. She's always right in these sorts o' things."

"It's very easy when you spend enough time in the walls," she explained with a slight blush. "The Labyrinth has a spirit o' its own. It tried to give you a door earlier bu' you didn' see it."

"So I can manipulate the Labyrinth?"

Madame Worm hesitated. "Yes an' no. Your emotions an' will can 'ave an effect on it but you can't force it."

Sarah couldn't help the smile that curled across her face. Oh the fun that could be had from this little discovery. Putting devious thoughts aside for a while—until she could be close enough to plot more efficiently with her surroundings—Sarah returned her attention to the delightful little conversation involving some of the Labyrinth gossip and whatever else happened so slide in.

Jareth frowned, but that in itself was not too uncharacteristic for him recently Marek noted. Toby had preoccupied himself with a young dragon, too much in awe to do anything but stand there for several minutes then tentatively run around with the inquisitive creature (its parents standing guard nearby).

"It's quite nice for Eleazar to let Toby play with his son," Marek commented. Jareth made a noncommittal noise and returned his attention to the crystal in his hand.

"You're awfully quiet."

Jareth turned and raised an eyebrow, letting the crystal fade away. "And?"

"Well, when you suggested that Toby might like to see the dragons, I'd assumed you'd have some other reason for coming here."

"It's already done."

"Ah," Marek replied, searching for something else to say. "So what's wrong now?"

Jareth gave a short laugh and settled back again. "Nothing's wrong, per say. No more than usual. I haven't heard from Sarah in some time now."

"What, worried?"

"Not exactly," Jareth drawled. "We both know the Labyrinth won't hurt her. And who knows what will happen if she discovers she has some control. But I have a feeling that if she's left alone for too long, it'll make matters quite unbearable later."

Marek chuckled. "I have a feeling you might be right."

"Naturally. What would ever give you cause to doubt me?" Marek just laughed.

Toby rushed over. "It can talk to me and it's all in my head!"

"Of course he can and he probably doesn't like to be underestimated quite like that, I imagine. Isn't that right, Reginald?"

Reginald did look truly miffed, if a dragon's face could look displeased (beyond the stereotypical gnashing and snarling).

Marek went on to explain what Jareth had started, "Dragons are not puppies, Toby. They'll be the first to tell you that they're pets to no one. In fact, that's probably the surest way to insult yourself into a crisp." Toby looked fully alarmed and glanced at his new friend, instantly halting his stroking hand. Despite the small trail of smoke twisting from his nostrils, Reginald had his own toothy smirk.

"Luckily for you, Reginald has a sense of humor," Jareth noted. He turned to the fully grown dragons, their long tails swishing slowly.

"We must be going. Thank you Eleazar, Victoria."

"Goodbye, Jareth. We will see you soon." A booming deep voice responded in Jareth's skull. He nodded and both dragons bent their iridescent knobby-spiked heads.

"It's time to go, Toby."

"Already?" Toby whined.

"Yes, there are a few more errands to run."

"Where are we going next?" Toby asked, his interest suddenly piqued.

Marek turned conversationally to Jareth, "How is the Dwarf Kingdom this time of year?"

Jareth gave a short laugh and formed a new crystal in his hand. "Cold. What else would it be?"

Dropping the crystal, Toby nearly fell backwards under the new weight of a fur coat that hadn't been there moments before. A moment later, they popped away from the lovely mountains and left the dragons to what they were doing before taking in unexpected visitors.

The worms proved quite a useful fount of information. The Labyrinth served more purpose than a trial for neglectful parents but it also provided housing for all sorts of different creatures and was a gateway to the Underground itself. Jareth, then, stood as the gatekeeper and protected those united lands against invasion from opposing forces. When Sarah expressed her confusion that it would be much simpler to walk around, the worms only laughed and reminded Sarah of the fluidity of her environment.

"What I don't understand then," Sarah had mentioned, "Is how can Jareth be the guardian of all these other places and have such an ineffective army." The worms had had another bought of good natured laughter before informing her that that was hardly the regular army and instead a scant but willing militia of goblins who had yet to see a human make it so far though they could be quite effective if their hearts were in it. As enlightening as the conversation had been, Sarah recognized her need to continue on, time limit or not. Thanking the worms profusely for their hospitality, she tumbled out of the wall, shook off the stun of it and orientated herself once again.

She stood in front of a wall and stared at it, mentally demanding that it open up and provide a new path for her. Sarah sighed as her stare-down didn't seem to be working and closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again, the wall had opened to reveal a sandy cove, lined with trees and filled with the sound of flowing water. Satisfied with the results, Sarah stepped boldly forward. After a few steps, she turned around to see that the way she had come had vanished but she wasn't really surprised.

What did take her off guard was the sudden rhythm that bubbled to the surface of the lagoon. A curious laugh filled the air and a furry blue creature slid on the surface of the water, freezing a pathway beneath him. Four more followed, stumbling for solid footing on the glassy sheet. Sarah laughed. After meeting the Fireys, these Frosties were equally merry company during the fourth dream when a sullen five year old was her new charge, wished over by the sitter's boyfriend.

"Chilly Bill, good to see you again," Sarah greeted the foremost Frostie. As if on cue, the Frosties all tumbled on shore in a heap…promptly falling apart in the process. With hysterical tears in her eyes, Sarah spent the next fifteen minutes helping sort limbs to their proper owners. Fria and Frio managed to find themselves in a heated argument and smacking each other in a flurry of snowflakes before dissolving into giggles; Fria ended up with all legs and Frio ended up with all the arms but they were content.

Chilly Bill seemed to have a bit more sense than the others, much like his distant cousin Smokey Joe, so he had full lead of his band of Frosties. "Hey, Sarah, you still rememberin' to keep it cool?"

Sarah held up her hands, "Oh yes, I remember. Don't you try and turn me into a snowman again, please. The Fireys wanted me to take off my head, you want mine to turn into a ball of ice."

"Hey, don't knock it until you try it."

"Don't you worry. If I'm getting too uptight or just need a break, I know a few guys I can turn to." The lagoon slowly shifted from a tropical paradise to a winter wonderland…and Sarah quickly found herself in the crossfire of a massive snowball fight while the Frosties sang of such wintry war and hot chocolate. Her cheeks pink, Sarah eventually begged for peace between the two sides in a fit of laughter.

When one team had stuffed the other into a large enough bank of snow, the five Frosties and Sarah hunkered close together.

"So where are you all off to?"

"Meetin' with the Fireys again."

"I heard that the last time that happened, the party didn't stop for three days."

Frio grinned. "Four, actually."

Sarah chuckled. "Must be some occasion."

Chilly Bill looked surprised but only said, "It is, your Majesty."

The other four Frosties quickly grew restless and started to shove one another around on the ice, inventing all sorts of games as they continued on their way. Shivering, Sarah was only mildly surprised when the weight of a blanket suddenly fell on her shoulders but chose not to question it. She took a careful step and nearly lost her footing on the thick ice, scrambling about warily and glad no one would be able to witness an inevitable fall.

Sarah was aware of the presence of someone else (the source of her blanket judging by three thick comforters now scattered about) when they fell behind her with a heavy thud.

"Owena, what are you doing here?" Sarah asked as the form groaned.

"I heard you were in the Labyrinth so I came to help you."

Sarah grinned down at Owena's shining eyes and helped the goblin to her feet. "Well, let's get somewhere with a little more traction first."

"Yes, your Majesty."

"You, too, huh?"

The little goblin blinked, her expression twisted in confusion.

"Never mind, let's just get back to the forest," Sarah suggested with a shiver.

Scrambling about clumsily, Owena gripped on the back of Sarah's shirt and nearly dragged her down three times and successfully tripped her twice, each time tearily apologizing. Sarah couldn't be angry at her and instead found the situation so ridiculous she collapsed into a fit of giggles after she'd fallen for the third time.

"Your Majesty, I'm so sorry," Owena effused, mistaking her laughter for grunts of either pain or anger, Sarah wasn't sure which.

Sarah rolled over on her back, still laughing. "It's alright, Owena," she managed out. "I just get the feeling we'll never have stable footing."

Owena's tears were still on her face as it shifted from mourning her own lack of grace to sharing in her mistress's joy. Sarah bit back another laugh; it was simply goblin nature to be either all or nothing, in whatever situation.

"You'll see, we'll get there soon," Owena promised, using her tiny body in a futile attempt to pull Sarah up from the ground. The Frosties had certainly paved a path through the forest, icicles hanging off of flowers and green leaves but already dripping as the sun returned the usual warmth to this particular area when it peaked through the clouds. Finally, the path turned to mud and then to dirt.

"Where are we going?"

"I'm not exactly sure, Owena. The castle probably but I think I'm just wandering around until Jareth decides what else to do," Sarah admitted with a hint of sullenness. Owena froze for a moment and Sarah was immediately suspicious.

"What's wrong?"


"Owena, you're a terrible liar," Sarah admonished. But the little goblin only continued to shiver and run a hand over her sloppy brown braid with her green hands.

"Owena, what's going on? Is there something I'm not supposed to know about?"

"Your Majesty, I cannot say," she squeaked, curling into a defensive ball.

Sarah sighed as Owena sobbed once again. "Oh don't start that again, just tell me."

Owena only sobbed harder and Sarah rolled her eyes with a "Why me?" sort of sigh. "Alright, alright. Can you give me any hints?"

She shook her head fiercely and Sarah gripped her by the shoulders. "Okay, I won't ask any more. God knows I'll find out eventually. Calm down." Though being patient was driving Sarah steadily insane, she continued to consol Owena until her hiccups subsided.

"I need to go now, Mistress. There is much to prepare."

"Prepare for what?" Sarah asked, instantly biting her tongue as tears pooled once again in Owena's eyes. "Never mind. I'll see you later."

With a smile that stretched impossibly far, Owena nodded and disappeared into the thicket. Alone again, Sarah stepped into the thicket for herself, coming out on the other side in a pale stone courtyard with a fountain in steady trickle. She sat down on the ledge of the fountain and ran her fingers in the pool, racing her mind on what sort of affair really was going on in the Underground from what the worms had told her. She glanced up and wondered at the beautiful mosaic on the wall, her interest fully piqued when the stones rearranged to seem as though the subject, a willowy young maiden was winking at her.

"Hi," Sarah waved, feeling slightly foolish, at least until the mosaic waved back. "I don't suppose you know what's going on?"

The figure held out her hands on either side and shrugged but the smirk still etched from the many stones did not lead Sarah to put too much trust in the gesture.

"Fine, be like everyone else. Could you at least show me where I could get some breakfast?"

The mosaic girl inclined her head and the squares raced along the stone wall, fluidly curving around corners. Sarah jogged after, coming to a quick stop when her guide stood with one arm gesturing to a grove of trees, though she looked awfully cramped in the small section of wall with half of her body curved around a corner. Sarah turned back to her guide with a grateful, "Thank you."

The mosaic girl curtseyed and the blocks slid away back to a larger wall. As she drew closer, Sarah's stomach started grumbling in earnest. Several trees of all different heights with twisting branches and jagged branches, thorns and all else were bordered by a stone wall. But what was really unique, though they certainly had enough different about them in the first place, was the oddly shaped fruit that hung dispersed in between the leaves and branches. The first tree had several thermoses dangling off in odd angles and Sarah nearly wept with relief when she unscrewed the lid.

"Hot chocolate. Oh blessed caffeine." She bit off a laugh as she glanced at the next tree. "And the ever classic peanut butter and jelly. I don't suppose there are any trees that just have fruit?" She pulled one of the PB&J sandwiches down and took a large bite…but instantly spat it back out. "Yuck. Not ripe yet." She plucked another from the tree and took a tentative nibble before she was satisfied and bit in with a delighted chomp.

"Sure ya don' wan' one of these?" a craggily voice said from behind another tree, a rough hand holding on to a peach.

"Hoggle! It's so good to see you," Sarah cried out through a mouthful of sandwich. Scuffling his feet, Hoggle still wasn't quite sure how to accept displays of affection as Sarah drew him into a hug. Hoggle stopped her before she kissed his forehead, just in case Jareth had neglected to lift the spell.

"I 'eard you was back in the Labyrinth."

"Yes, this time it was Toby's doing."

Hoggle just nodded. "Yeah, I 'eard he was here, too."

"Do you know what's going on? If anyone can tell me, despite whatever gag order Jareth's put out, it'd be you," Sarah pleaded.

Hoggle looked quite uncomfortable, staring down at his feet. "Course I know. Not sure you're gonna like it, 'sall, from the palace gossip I've 'eard."

Sarah smiled but continued to press her case. "Please, Hoggle. I only want to know what's going on."

Though he was about to say something, Jareth's voice smoothly interrupted Hoggle's attempt.

"My dear, why ruin the surprise?"

"Surprise?" Sarah parroted, immediately suspicious. She rose to her feet, absently screwing the lid back on the thermos.

"Though I suppose it's hardly a surprise when you've known about it already."

"Jareth, what is going on?" Sarah asked directly, feeling her patience slipping bit by bit.

Jareth didn't seem perturbed and plucked a strangely shaped fruit that Sarah had never seen before from a tree, biting into it sharply. "The celebration of course. Are you enjoying the Labyrinth?"

"Don't change the subject now, Jareth. What's the celebration for? And where's Toby?"

"Toby's at the castle. Now who's changing the subject?" Jareth taunted.

Sarah didn't say anything but crossed her arms across her chest, setting into a demanding glare.

Jareth sighed. "If you must ruin all the fun."

Sarah twisted her face into a smile that held no mirth. "I believe I must."

"Naturally, the celebration of our wedding. Traditionally it starts a week before the wedding but we do what we can."

Sarah was so shocked she barely noticed that Jareth had transported both of them to the castle.

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 5 of 50

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