Feel completely free to skip my blatherings. This is only really important if you're re-reading the story.
Author's Note: 3AM, Saturday March 31, 2007
I've been writing this story for three years. In that time, I've grown incredibly as a writer, a great deal of which is evident in this story. I swore to myself that I'd just finish the project and move on to something more mature and stimulating (hopefully publishable) with what I've learned. However, as I prepared Chapter 26 and searched the rest of the narrative for hints I've dropped, I simply couldn't stand the first several chapters. The style is painfully juvenile and the grammar offends me. I know that personally, I probably wouldn't read more than a chapter or two before writing Persephone off completely. I want to gather new readers as well as retain old readers. I also wish to improve their experience.
Although the poor quality has bothered me for a long time, I didn't have the original files. I recently discovered that you can copy and paste from which I previously couldn't do.
So…I finally decided to give these early chapters a quick once over. I've primarily corrected grammar and style, though I am also correcting early content errors and making additions or deletions. I'm trying to marry this style and characterization with the work in later chapters. I don't have a lot of time to spend, and my primary concern is finishing the story. We still have a long way to go, and I promised I would. So I've only done a rough second treatment.
With that information in mind, I must ask new readers to go a little easy on this juvenile baby of mine, noting that the style shifts and improves as the work progresses. Whether you're an old reader or a new one, I hope you enjoy. Let me also say, I love constructive criticism. Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: For fun, not profit. I don't any recognizable characters from The Labyrinth.
Four year old Toby Williams sat on the floor in his room, playing with his toys. He had been banished there by his mother, even though he had admitted to snitching the cookies before dinner. He had told the truth, and still gotten punished, which made even the gooey deliciousness of rainbow chocolate chips completely worthless. Sometimes, being the youngest child wasn't as easy as older siblings suggested, but he kept those thoughts to himself.
Silently, Sarah watched him from the doorway. "In trouble again?"
"Yes," he replied without raising his eyes to her. Dimly, he noticed the frayed cuffs of her light jeans against his sister's ankles. He wondered if they tickled.
Sarah sat down on the floor next to him, with the aloof sigh she thought suggest competence and knowledge befitting a big sister. It worked on Toby anyway; she adored his gap-toothed smile. "She's like that some times." She gestured to the large mess of blocks and action figures. "What are you playing?"
Gingerly moving each lower leg with his fists, Toby walked Lancelot through the mess of blocks; a mess Sarah realized was not a mess, but a carefully constructed maze. "Getting lost," he said sourly.
Her eyes widened, expanding even at the pupils. "Oh Toby."
"Was it real?" her little brother asked.
"In a way," she replied guardedly, leaning closer and twirling a lock of hair around her pointer finger. They never spoke of their adventures. Though she told him plenty of fantastical stories, Sarah had long doubted he remembered anything.
The little boy made Lancelot kick a block away, then forced down a whole section of maze walls. "I wanna go back."
"Toby . . . why?" She might have wanted to share her adventures with him, to cultivate his imagination certainly, but Sarah knew better now. She could keep Toby far safer without magic in his life.
"I wanna do what I want, and have adventures, and not get in trouble."
'So like me . . . .' she thought, noticing her reflection in his pupils in more ways than one, but said firmly: "It's not a good enough reason. Some of it was wonderful, but I learned that it's better to be here and know that it's always there." 'Clearly delineated,' she added mentally. Sarah rubbed his head, admiring the way his hair mussed without frizzing with pride and jealousy, but the action didn't bring the usual smile to his pudgy cheeks.
"I don't care," Toby pouted in the Williams' tradition. "I wanna go back."
"You don't." Carefully, Sarah lifted the broken maze walls off the speckled carpet, rearranging them in a neat stack. She kissed the top of his head. "Just do the best you can in here; she might not be so harsh."
"I wanna." He pushed Sarah's tower over before reconstructing the walls of the maze. "I do," Toby whispered to himself, thinking no one could hear.
But of course, someone could hear- someone who could always hear- and was frequently listening. Jareth, the Goblin King had been watching Sarah and her brother. He lounged on his throne, one boot tossed casually over the other as if he had nothing better to do in the world then play fly on the wall. "Interesting," he murmured, gazing into the crystal, focused on the boy's visage, instead of his sister's- the perfect enticement.
Sarah looked at herself in the mirror, thinking about what Toby had said. How much had she really changed? She thought she had grown up some in the nearly two years since her first journey into the Labyrinth. She knew people thought she had grown up, but they were wrong about how precisely it had happened. She hadn't given up her fantasies, she just had mixed them with other things. There were many times when people swore she was as stuck in the real world as any teenaged girl, but they couldn't see inside her head. There, she kept all her dreams alive, nourishing them frequently. Her horizons broadened rather than diminished. She went on dates occasionally now and a tender boyfriend made her smile, but she still devoured books on lazy Saturdays. When she went to the park, she wrote poems or drew instead of acting…usually. Though when she acted, she chose often more main-stream literature; fantasy remained well-represented in her tastes. Internally, very little changed, she just fit better with the external world.
Unbeknownst to Sarah, Toby sat in his room, the toys still covering the floor muttering, "I wish . . . . I wish . . . ." but he lacked the conviction to say anymore. Instead, he built new turns in the maze, placing monsters around the bends, Cyclops and centaurs from Sarah's stories. He constructed a bridge, imagining the deep chasm yawning beneath. Slowly, Lancelot toed-up to the pass…
"Toby are you cleaning your room?!?" Karen hollered from downstairs.
Angered, Toby began throwing the blocks back into the box. The maze was stupid anyway; besides, centaurs weren't real. "I wish I could be taken away from here, right now," he growled, enjoying the satisfying woody plunk of block on block.
"Say it! Say it!" a not-so far away goblin mob chanted as one.
"No good." The Goblin King waved his hand impatiently before bringing it to his brow, rubbing a headache from his temples.
Further back in the crowd, not all of the goblins had heard him. One of the rare female goblins, a plump leathery woman who called herself Gilda though she'd long forgotten who gave her the name, turned to her companion. She tugged lightly on his jerkin. "Did he say it? Shel . . . . did he say it?"
But Shel paid her no mind. "You look lovely today Lyja," he said to the human girl leaning sullenly against the wall, attempting his toothiest, most debonair smile.
Gilda eyed the girl up and down, took a sideways glance at Shel and looked back again. All lean angles and harsh shapes, the scrawny girl pursed her lips, staring unblinkingly at the king. Gilda tapped Shel's shoulder. "Did the boy say the words? Has he wished himself away?"
Shel was watching Lyja, not listening to reply. Lyja looked down at him for the barest of heartbeats before returning her full attention to the Goblin King. "He did. In a way," the goblin muttered.
Gilda tapped his shoulder harder. "Aren't you paying attention?"
Shel noticed the lack of dirt on her skirt on Lyja's rust colored skirt. "Is that a new dress?"
"It is," she bit out.
"It's very nice."
She saw a look cross his eyes- the look he reserved for her. "Shel!" Gilda repeated.
"Distracted?" she glared at him.
Toby continued to throw the blocks into their box, sputtering. The sound lost its pleasing effect, yet many blocks remained on the floor. He didn't remember making the maze so large. And he was still mad. Taking the logical next step, he hurled several at the wall, half jumping back at the new crashing sound they made.
"TOBY! What was that!?! Don't you make me come up there . . . ." he could already hear her putting down soapy pans in the kitchen sink. She was coming to punish him. It wasn't fair!
The words seemed to form spontaneously under his breath. Upset and irrational, he did the one thing that came to his four year old mind "I wish the goblins would come and take me away, right now."
Instantaneously, Sarah knew something was wrong. She heard a boom of lightening and an unexpected wind gust. A shiver trickled down her spine; besides, it just didn't feel right. She threw aside her thoughts and rushed into Toby's room. It took her only an instant to realize that he was not there. Perhaps one moment of utter silence passed, in which she heard nothing but the beating of her own racing heart. Then, the stillness shattered as a white owl broke the window, sending glass everywhere. The owl shimmered into the Goblin King before her. He shook his head and the glass shards that had dusted his hair and shoulders flew off and disappeared into slivers of light. "Hello, Sarah. Long time no see." The left side of his mouth raised in a predatory smirk.
She fought to keep from trembling; she had never expected to see him again. "Not long enough," she said, raising her chin. "What have you done?"
"Naught more than he asked, I assure you." He stepped towards her.
Sarah winced at the sound of glass crunching under his boots, grinding into the carpet. "What do you mean?"
"I granted his wish," Jareth answered, smiling slightly at her confusion.
Unfortunately, he stood just as tall she remembered. "He wished? You're lying," she sneered.
She considered this, yet she did not think he could simply take a child without a wish- not by her logic anyway. Still, the situation could be saved. She squared her shoulders and took a deep, full, actor's breath. "Give him back."
Karen could come upstairs any moment. "Give him back!" she cried, glancing behind her at the doorway and staircase.
"Instead, I will make you deal, Sarah," he drawled, eternally and infuriatingly calm, patient.
"Name it." She felt her own arrogance in front of him returning. The way he acted, pompous and arrogant and smug, she had to be at least a little bit special. Maybe no one else had ever won, she didn't know. Since she lacked to time to pry, she began another tactic and tried to intimidate him. Taking one step towards him took all of her gumption. "I can beat your Labyrinth. Despite whatever improvements you may have made."
"Keep your personal fantasies alive girl, but do listen to my proposition..."
Intimidating him quickly proved impossible. She stamped her foot, stammering, "But those are the rules. That's how it's done! It isn't . . . ."
"Fair?" he taunted, raising an eyebrow.
"Well . . . ." she amended reddening, ashamed of returning to such a childish mantra, again and again, despite the deep personal growth she'd claimed less than an hour ago.
"No," Jareth snarled, then lowered his voice to a tantalizing whisper. He watched her strain to hear with feline delight. "You are outside the bounds of the game. The rules no longer apply."
"That's . . . ." she bit her lip, realizing the utter stupidity of repeating herself before the words tumbled forth. Sarah closed her mouth.
He closed the gap between them, ignoring the glass shards he scattered across the rug. She watched him without retreating, though the pulse fluttered in her throat. Slyly, he placed a hand on each shoulder, pinning her down. Jareth kept his voice low, "You forfeited your right to those particular rules when you . . . ."
Glass littered the floor. Sarah batted his hands away, wishing she had grown more or at least wore shoes. "Won," she chocked.
He waved a gloved hand non-chalantly. "However you want to put it."
She retreated one step. "What's your offer then?"
He had baited and set the trap, now to spring it. Letting the silence hover before speaking, he clasped his hands before his chest. "Offer me yourself in exchange for your brother."
Her jaw dropped; no words came forth.
Jareth weighed an crystal option in each gloved hand. "Come with me; set Toby free. Otherwise . . . ." She didn't need to know she only had one choice- though perhaps she did already.
" . . . . I'll never see him again," she whispered with the full weight of her fairytale knowledge pressing against her ribcage.
Hurt and betrayed, both by him and her brother, she studied the king's face. "He really wanted to go? Then I won't stop him." In truth, it was more to make herself feel better; they both knew it.
"Very well," he took her hand.
She snatched it away, just before he kissed it. "He'll be afraid. He'll regret it." She told herself she was not above pleading with the Goblin King- just to be able to run the Labyrinth. It was a bald faced lie. "Have a heart!"
"Oh, but Sarah, I do."
His words frightened her. He spoke so darkly, she couldn't hear the pain he masked with menace. "Can I talk to him?"
The king threw her a crystal. She winced as she caught it, expecting an unpleasant surprise, but nothing happened. He laughed deeply in the back of his throat. "My crystal will contact with your baby brother, but only for 52 hours. Then you will decide his fate, and yours." He wouldn't add that she decided his fate as well.
"He won't want to stay. You may . . . . get your wish," she whispered.
"Better." Forcibly, He took her hand and held it to his lips, bowed, and shimmered out of sight.
She shrank to the floor amongst the glass fragments glittering in the moonlight. Holding the crystal in one hand, she gathered Lancelot from Toby's fallen toys and hugged him to her chest. Although it was not distinctly her fault, but she still had a choice to make . . .