Continuing Tales

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 7 of 50

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Power Struggle

Sarah wished she could disappear. The woman and her company had arrived about an hour ago, judging by the commotion in the castle, announcing her presence with a new onslaught of havoc when the goblins flew again to their favorite sport of gossip (in the castle, it certainly was a sport and one which required cunning, the ability to remain unseen, and swift feet to spread the story along). All that Sarah knew was that Owena had officially set herself in charge of getting her ready and somehow she'd been left out of the loop…again. Marek had popped his head in and sympathetically informed her that her presence would be required in an hour.

"Owena, slow down," Sarah grumbled as the excited goblin viciously pawed at her hair.

"I'm so sorry, your Majesty," Owena practically bawled, certain that all of Sarah's frustration was her fault.

"Just calm down, Owena. I don't suppose you know what's going on this time?"

Owena shifted nervously from one foot to the next and refused to pry her gaze from the floor.

Sarah nearly growled. "This is ridiculous. Jareth!" Sarah barked at the ceiling. "I'm pretty sure you can hear me. I need to talk to you." There was no reply and the only sound Sarah could hear was Owena's continued shuffling. Sighing in frustration, Sarah plopped back down in the chair in front of her new vanity and glanced at her reflection. The dress was lovely and thankfully not ridiculously covered in bows and frills and all else that the first few specimens had (Sarah had a strong suspicion that Jareth had them in her closet as a joke) and the hair arrangement Owena had started was promising, but Sarah couldn't bring herself to be happy about the situation.

An idea sparked in her mind and Sarah's lips curled into a smile. Focusing her thoughts, she willed Jareth to appear in her room. Still nothing. The longer it took her, the more frustrated she became. Finally, there was a knock on her door before Jareth burst in, an oddly glazed look about his face and his jacket in one hand.

"Well it's about time," Sarah stated with her hands on her hips.

Jareth seemed to shake off whatever grip he was in and looked vaguely confused for the briefest of moments before he registered where he was. "Hm, I suppose you needed something? I was just having a discussion with my tailor but I suppose he'll understand why I left abruptly." He glanced down at his boots and a few multicolored threads still tangled around them. "Apparently, walking through whatever he was trying to show me." He shifted his focus back to Sarah sharply. "I thought I told you no more magic."

"Look, Jareth, this has all gone on long enough. We need to come to an understanding."

"Oh?" he replied flippantly.

Biting her tongue, Sarah forced herself to relax. "Please don't make this difficult. I'm tired of being the last one to know what's happening. Can we reach some sort of truce?"

"Were we warring?"

"In a sense. You don't think that I've grown up and I don't think that you've changed much since my first impression. Let's just drop some of the subtle cuts and whatnot. Start over. I'm not exactly one of your subjects to rule over. You need me or you need me dead. But it's what I was trying to say before, I need you to meet me halfway."

Jareth said nothing for a few moments, eyeing Sarah somewhat suspiciously. "If you stop using magic for the time being then I will agree. Just what does this entail?"

"Well, for starters, who are the people who arrived at the castle today?"

Jareth bit a laugh. "You will see."

"I'd rather not walk in there with no idea of what I'm up against."

"My, Sarah, already on the warpath? Know thy rival?"

Sarah grinned sardonically, "Perhaps. Is there some reason to be worried?"

"That depends. Are you going to be a jealous wife?"

Sarah just laughed.

Jareth eventually grinned, too. "The first is Elizabeth. We were engaged until the little development of your late night adventures, subconsciously taking over my duties and whatnot. She's followed by her mother and her lady in waiting. I imagine they're still trying to talk some sense into her."

"I'm stepping into the middle of an engagement?"

"Don't be too upset. Elizabeth was groomed for this position and we would have gotten along well enough, but for all your faults you are far more interesting."

"Was that something like a compliment?"

"Perhaps, depends on what it gets me."

"A little less animosity."

"Then yes, it certainly was."

Sarah sighed and shook her head with a smile. "Jareth, even if I never love you, I hope we can be friends."

"That sort of affection is rewarding in its own right." Jareth threw his jacket over his shoulders and buttoned it quickly. He held out his arms. "How do I look?"

Sarah glanced him over, his odd taste for pants still strong. "You don't want me to answer that."

Somehow looking slightly miffed, he disappeared. Owena peered out from the spot she'd hidden behind the bed throughout the exchange. Sarah returned to her seat in front of the vanity and Owena plucked the brush from her hand before she had a chance.

"I never heard anyone speak to the king like that before," Owena whispered in awe.

Sarah rolled her eyes. She and Jareth weren't friends yet, nor were they married, but at least they weren't enemies.

Elizabeth was of the very animated sort, caught somewhere between plain and beautiful except when she was laughing and lit up with a brilliantness that didn't seem part of her. However, she was most assuredly not laughing now. Rather, she was pacing back and forth, slowly wearing a rut in the rug, as her mother cared to put it. Still, her graceful skirts caught up with her at each turn, swirling around her elegant frame.

"Honestly, Elizabeth, why are we here?"

"It's very simple, Mother. I want to hear it straight from Jareth."

"And no doubt to see who your replacement is," Frannie added from her chair. Thankfully, her position afforded her enough familiarity to get away with such statements. Elizabeth knew better than to argue; the three of them certainly knew it was true.

"Where is he?" Elizabeth fumed, plopping down on her chair and pouting in a most unattractive way that made her mother roll her eyes.

"You called?" Jareth drawled from the doorway, acting every bit of the annoyed monarch.

Unable to hold on to her rage against him in his presence, Elizabeth's face slipped from the angry mask to a wide smile…at least until she recalled her reason for this visit.

"Jareth, so good of you to join us," her mother began.

"Lovely to see you again, Janice."

"Please, call me Jan, Jareth. We've known each other for a century or two and I've known your mother for much longer than that."

Jareth's mouth quirked into a half smile but the corner of his mouth fell back to a neutral line as he returned his focus to Elizabeth.

"I trust you want an explanation."

Elizabeth nodded with an equally level gaze.

"It's quite simple. This is the girl who beat my Labyrinth a few years ago."

"But other people have beaten the Labyrinth before, what makes her so special?" Elizabeth demanded.

"Well, those that had beaten the Labyrinth before didn't manage to leech magic let alone develop as many ties as Sarah did," Jareth replied bluntly.

Jan nodded slowly. "I see. So regardless of the circumstances, your hand is forced."

The expression on Elizabeth's face was interesting to watch as she shifted from relief in knowing that she had not personally been rejected but also frustration and disappointment upon having the story confirmed. Jan watched her daughter and cleared her throat.

Elizabeth took her cue diligently, "I wish you happiness and congratulate you."

"I'm sure that you have many matters to see to so we won't take up any more of your time," Jan added with a smile. "We shall certainly be present at the wedding. Let's go home now, Elizabeth."

Frannie stood and collected their belongings, practically pushing Elizabeth out the door, while Jan lingered.

"Elizabeth's still very young and this did come as a shock, Jareth, considering how long this has been in planning. She was growing quite used to the idea. I will make sure she doesn't do anything rash. I'm sorry to leave so abruptly but I assume it would be better for all parties if Elizabeth does not meet your new queen now." Jan chuckled and winked. "She'll calm down soon enough but right now, no one needs that sort of help."

"For that, I thank you. I don't really need much else to worry about as it stands."

Jan surveyed him with a calculating glance. "I doubted you enjoyed the situation. And the mortal? How is she?"

"Sarah and I have come to a truce and that's as much as I could ask for from her."

"For right now perhaps. Jareth, I've watched you grow up, even when your mother passed away from that bizarre strain of Dragon Flu. I really do wish your happiness. With a little work, this situation won't be as bad as you're assuming. I'm certain."

"That's what I've heard. But forgive me if I'm a little resentful of being forced into a marriage by some rules I'm more accustomed to bending."

"You're used to getting your way so I think this will be good for you," Jan said with a cheery smile. "This experience will be good for my daughter certainly. Just remember that this is not as bad as it could be. It'll all work out somehow." She pulled Jareth into a hug as he followed suit rather awkwardly. "I shall very much like to meet this Sarah and properly instruct her in what ways to best torment you," she added with another wink as she pulled back.

Jareth only shook his head, full certain that she would make good on her threat, as Jan followed after her daughter. He sighed and decided to mention the cancellation to Sarah who would likely appreciate such news, given her earlier complaints. Perhaps, he noted, he could give her an update of everything that went on in the castle…even in the wee hours of the morning until she conceded that ignorance was bliss. Jareth smiled to himself, well aware that until she was accustomed to his nature she'd likely misinterpret his motivations…though just to watch her twitch was not the purest motive to begin with.

Toby was quite enjoying himself, Sarah noted with a pang she recognized as envy. Marek had apparently taken quite a liking to Toby and had showed him many of the little quirks of the Labyrinth (among other things, leading to a near dip into the Bog of Eternal Stench when going over its technical upkeep regimen; somehow it was quite difficult to keep it up to its fine stenchy-proficiency). Naturally, Toby had also spent much of his day partying for his sister's wedding. When Sarah asked him about his adventures with the Fireys and Frosties in a less than interested tone, he'd been quite confused.

"Sarah, you're getting married. Aren't you happy?"

"Toby, I wanted to get married someday to someone I loved. This isn't what I had in mind at all."

"Aw, don't you like Jareth?"

"He's not my favorite person, no, Toby."

Toby hadn't been quite sure how to take this news and mulled it over in his mind for a moment.

"You'll get to live in the Labyrinth."

"But that still doesn't change the fact that I have to marry a total stranger and leave my life."

"Jareth's not a stranger."


"But Sarah, you get to live in the Labyrinth! And I can visit you all the time…can't I?"

Toby stopped when Sarah looked quite unsure. "I'm not sure if I'll see you for a long time, Toby."

He bit his lip for a moment. "I'm going to go talk to Jareth."

"You can try," Sarah grumbled.

"It can't be that bad, Sarah. I mean, they don't arrange marriages anymore, do they?" Toby smirked.

Sarah chuckled. "In some cultures, Toby…" He ran off before she could finish her sentence.

After taking a deep breath and trying to take a few moments to just be alone, Sarah found herself interrupted again, this time by Marek. "Jareth's explaining the matter to Toby. I know you're not happy about this, but I can assure you that Jareth takes his word seriously."

"However he likes to twist it is another matter," Sarah added, not feeling particularly helpful.

"There really isn't much time to debate the issue now. There is a reason the wedding is being rushed. I made him promise to explain everything a little more fully after the ceremony. There's too much to do as it stands now."

"Of course," Sarah muttered.

"I would like you to promise me something."

"And that would be?"

"Please don't do anything ridiculous before the wedding."

"Define 'ridiculous.' Vague terms are open to loopholes."

"Don't make any daring last minute escape attempts."

Sarah raised an eyebrow, staring at Marek incredulously. "You mean you want me just to sit and accept this whole mess quietly?"

"Maybe not quietly; that's too much to ask anyone. Just not, violently."

Sarah crossed her arms. "What's in it for me?"

"You'll stay out of the bog, for one thing," a voice answered suddenly at her left. She jumped then recognized Jareth's obvious amusement dripping over the sentence.

"Can't I just have one conversation without three other people jumping in and out of it?" Sarah muttered in exasperation.

Jareth quirked an eyebrow but said nothing. Instead he glanced at Marek who quickly took his cue to leave.

"You won't put me into the bog," Sarah declared.

"Really? How can you be sure?"

"I know you well enough to be pretty sure that you wouldn't want to have that sort of disgraceful queen at all your little parties." Sarah hoped he'd actually had parties but she seemed to hit the mark.

"But you're only 'pretty sure'? Are you willing to wager on that?"

"No, I'm quite satisfied in knowing that I'm right," Sarah replied smugly. "So what are you going to do with your favored threat proved empty?"

"Oh, I'm sure I'll find more creative ones as I go."

"Anyway, what's in it for me?" Sarah knew that she was being childish but she shrugged it off in recognition that Jareth liked to play games. "Cooperating, I mean. If I marry you, your problem's solved and everything's hunky dory in the Labyrinth, but in the process, I lose my life and all my ties to the world I grew up in and all I'm familiar with. Who has the better deal here?"

"Well," Jareth ticked off on his fingers, "You will be Queen with all the privileges it offers, you will still borrow my magic though at a much more acceptable manner, you will be able to see your friends, you will be able to indulge in all of your fantasies whenever you wish, and, oh, did I mention that I'm quite a catch?" He raised his eyebrows with a cocky smile.

"No, couldn't forget that one," she replied with a short laugh and a shake of her head. "God help us all if your fragile ego gets shattered." She sobered, "But honestly, Jareth. I can't just sever ties with my family and my friends. I really do understand the problem and I've done a lot of thinking. In fact, I haven't slept much since I've been here." Sarah bit her lip. "I will marry you, Jareth, and relatively peacefully if you will allow me some time Aboveground, before the wedding," she added quickly, "to get a few things and spend some time with my parents, try to explain something they would believe."

Jareth nodded thoughtfully. "That can be arranged. We have a deal."

"When can I leave?"

"You may go back with Toby tomorrow and I will return you in the afternoon. There is still much to prepare."

Sarah chuckled to herself, finding it fairly interesting how gender roles had swapped, where Jareth was making all the wedding plans.

"Oh, one more thing. Toby can visit sooner than two years, right? I mean, that's ridiculous."

"My company is not enough for you?"

Sarah answered with a knowing glance and Jareth sighed, waving her off. "Alright, far be it for me to break fraternal bonds. I'll see what I can do."

Sarah smiled with a genuine grin. "Thank you, Jareth."

"Sarah, you can be somewhat lovely when you smile. You should try it more often."

Sarah promptly threw one of the cushions from her chair directly at Jareth's cheeky smirk.

Power Struggle

A Labyrinth Story
by bobmcbobbob1

Part 7 of 50

<< Previous     Home     Next >>