Summary: Nineteen-year old Sarah is back home from college over Christmas vacation, and she's long given up on the Labyrinth and her friends as being just another fantasy she's outgrown. But when Hoggle appears in her mirror with a plea for help, she's dragged back to the Underground. Dire things are happening in the Labyrinth, and Sarah might be the only one who can save it... and the Goblin King.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Labyrinth or any of the original characters or ideas that appeared in the movie.
Rating:This is story is rated M for what happens in later chapters. Please read at your own risk and discretion.
Chapter One: Home for the Holidays
In the still darkness of her room, Sarah turned restlessly in bed. Through her window she could see the half moon and the spidery outline of tree branches across its silver face, like a network of fine cracks on a porcelain vase. She never imagined it would be so difficult to sleep in her old room, surrounded by the posters and books that had been so long familiar to her. But Sarah missed the noise of her college dorm: the faint sound of someone's stereo down the hall, the shuffling of footsteps in the hallway. It was never truly silent, there was always something going on and someone moving only doors away. She'd found that oddly reassuring.
Not like here, Sarah thought with mild irritation. Not that she wasn't happy to be home for Christmas break. She'd missed her father and Toby, who tackled her knees in a fierce hug as soon as she stepped in the door. Even Karen had eased up a bit, she thought. Or maybe being out of the house and having her own space made her stepmother's constant nitpicking and fussing a little easier to bear. Whatever else happened, Sarah knew she could always go back to college, back to her classes and her quiet room full of books.
Downstairs, the hall clock struck one. Sarah sat up in bed, turning on the small reading light clipped to her headboard. It was no use, sleep would not come to her anytime soon. She rummaged for her book on the nightstand, a historical thriller about Vlad the Impaler, intending to read until she fell asleep. Its unwieldy bulk evaded her grasp and slid to the floor with a soft thump. Instead, her hand fell upon a slim volume bound with red leather and embossed with gold lettering. Her fingers traced the title's ornate script, which read, "Labyrinth".
"That's odd," Sarah murmured, "I don't remember getting this old thing out..."
Her voice sounded oddly hollow in the silence of her room, and Sarah immediately felt silly for talking to herself. Still, it was odd. She would've sworn it was packed away in her closet, in a box of things she'd outgrown, but couldn't bear to throw away. The book fell open in her hand to a familiar spot, and Sarah's eyes went automatically to the lines she'd loved to read:
"Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered,
I have fought my way to the castle beyond the goblin city,
to take back the child you have stolen..."
Despite the warm blankets piled up on her bed, Sarah shivered. Now the warm glow of her reading lamp seemed inadequate, and it threw sinister shadows that lurked in the corners of her room. It had been five years since her adventures in the Labyrinth, and life had returned to an almost eerie normalcy. She still got angry at Toby for playing with her things, still fought with her stepmother about everything from clothes to punctuality. And yet, things had gotten a little easier somehow. Sarah never threw a tantrum about babysitting her little brother again, and even Karen had to admit that she was finally growing up. The years passed quickly, but it seemed long when she thought back to that night. Sometimes, Sarah wasn't sure if the Labyrinth had really happened or if it had all been some wild dream.
That is, until several weeks ago. It began a month before final exams, troubling dreams Sarah first dismissed as mere stress. She'd wake up with her alarm clock, images of crumbling stone walls still lingering in her mind. The scenes that came to her in her sleep were strangely desolate... ruined gardens with marble statues fallen to pieces, pathways overgrown with thorny vines. She dreamed of a vast wasteland with cracked, pitted earth and dead trees that leaned in the wind like skeletal old men. When she could no longer shrug it off as anxiety over her grades, she had an uneasy thought. If the Labyrinth was more than just her over-stimulated imagination, was it... calling to her? Sarah didn't like that idea at all.
Downstairs, the hall clock chimed the half hour. Her hand tightened on the red book, laying almost forgotten in her lap. It was a childish fantasy, nothing more. Oh, she'd tried using the mirror a few times in the days and weeks after that night, but nothing and no one ever appeared. Hoggle, Ludo and Sir Didymus had never returned. Sarah felt hurt at first, then angry at herself for being so silly. Living in a fantasy-land, head in the clouds... She was tired of hearing herself described that way. Before she left for college, she took down the posters and toys, giving some to Toby and packing some away. The Labyrinth book had gone into her closet, reluctantly wedged down between her music box and scrapbook, and she'd forgotten all about it. And yet, here it was again, lying next to her. Sarah banished the feelings of unease that crept up on her. Karen had been in her room to prepare for Sarah's homecoming, airing out the bed, putting out a vase of evergreen branches and holly on the desk. Maybe her stepmother had dug out the old book and laid it on the nightstand, knowing Sarah's habit of late-night reading. Maybe.
Sarah could feel her eyelids growing heavy, and she reached over and switched off the lamp. The book was still beside her. While she wanted to shove it off the bed onto the floor, she didn't dare. She couldn't shake the odd feeling that if she did, an unseen hand would snatch it out of the air to keep it from falling. Sarah couldn't bear that possibility, that there would be no soft noise as it landed on the carpet. She left it where it lay, almost black in the moonlight.
"Are you all right? You look as if you didn't sleep well." Sarah's stepmother Karen eyed her warily as she poured a bowl of Cheerios for Toby, who was bouncing up and down on his seat, still in his pajamas. She wiped her hands on a dish towel, exchanging glances with her husband.
"I didn't. But I'll be okay."
"Did your exams go all right? You haven't said a word..." began Karen.
"They went okay."
Her father folded his paper and set it down on the table. "Sarah, you'd tell us if anything was wrong, wouldn't you?"
"Too much studying, not enough fresh air." muttered Karen, scrubbing the kitchen table so hard the plates rattled. "It's just as I've been saying--"
"I'm fine." Sarah gulped down her orange juice before her stepmother could start in on the importance of vitamins. "Just a little tired, that's all."
"You can go back to bed for a few more hours if you want." said her father. "After all, you're on holiday. "
Toby had been ignoring them all and playing with his breakfast, but now he pushed away his bowl. "Sarah promised she'd take me to the park today."
"So I did." Sarah smiled weakly at her little brother. "We can go after lunch."
Even in the early afternoon, the park was nearly empty and snow lay in pristine drifts between the bare trees. Sarah wrapped her scarf a little tighter around her ears, for once silently thanking Karen for her incorrigibly practical gifts. This had been an early Christmas present, a soft cashmere in a deep red color that contrasted with Sarah's black hair and pale skin. Toby had promptly dubbed her Snow White, reminding her of the Grimm's fairy tales they'd read together about the princess whose lips were as red as blood. There were no Disneyfied kiddie's tales for Toby, he loved his fairytales full of gore and violence and seemed particularly amused by the ones containing wicked step-mothers. Sarah diplomatically refrained from comment.
"Pull faster, Sarah!" Toby sat back in his sled as his sister hauled him over the hiking path that led deeper into the woods. He carefully hoarded a pile of pinecones in his lap, trailing a mittened hand alongside the sled.
"Just to the pond, and then we turn around, okay?"
Sarah had tried to go back to bed, but couldn't sleep. The Labyrinth book had been safely tucked away in her dresser drawer beneath her winter sweaters, but the wind, keening low and constant outside her window, had kept her awake. She hunched down a little further, burying the tip of her nose into the lambswool collar. Toby was bundled up in his bright blue snowsuit so he could barely move, and he teetered precariously back and forth on his sled as she picked up the pace.
"Aren't you cold, Tobe? Dad will have hot chocolate waiting at home for us."
"Faster," demanded Toby, "He's getting away."
Sarah gave him a sharp look, then glanced around the quiet woods. Toby was smarter than most kids his age, but she sometimes worried his overactive imagination would get the better of him. "Who's getting away?"
"The owl, of course. That's who." Toby tossed a pinecone at her and giggled. "Hoo, like an owl. Get it, Sarah?"
"You're a laugh riot, kid."
Sarah tossed a handful of snow at her little brother and started pulling again, but her nerves jangled. An owl? Surely not during the daytime, they were nocturnal... right? And yet, when she scanned the treetops, she could see it. Its mottled brown and white back blended in with the snow on the branches, and it flitted as silently as a ghost from tree to tree barely twenty yards ahead of them. In the immortal words of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Don't panic, Sarah scolded herself. It doesn't mean anything. These woods are full of animals, and they have to eat whether it's cold out or not.
"Daddy looked it up for me." Toby continued smugly, as if he'd read her thoughts. "He said it was a barn owl."
"Oh?" Sarah tried to think of a way to change the subject, but her brother refused to be distracted. She slowed a bit, reluctant to catch up with the bird. It sat in a large oak tree by the side of the trail, looking back at them with unblinking yellow eyes.
"Barn owls eat mice. He's going to the pond to look for lunch."
"Maybe it's a mommy owl, Toby. Looking for Christmas dinner for her babies."
"Nope." Toby rubbed his nose fiercely with his hand. "It's a boy. Sarah, my nose itches and I can't scratch it with mittens on!"
Sarah sighed and bent over to scratch her brother's nose. "How do you know it's a boy owl?"
His itch taken care of, Toby settled back on the sled and shrugged as best as he could. "I just do."
The pond was just coming into view, its placid surface dusted with a light powdering of snow. The trees came almost up to its very edge, with a narrow path around it and a bench on the far side. In the summer, Toby liked to sit there and pretend he ruled a kingdom by the sea. Sarah hauled the sled to a stop in a drift of snow-covered leaves and took a look around. The owl had winged its away across in the woods beyond. She sighed again, this time in relief.
"I'd pull you around the pond, but it's getting late, Toby. Karen will expect us back home soon. You know how she fusses when we're late."
Toby nodded in understanding and heaved himself up off the sled. Even as a five year old, he was very familiar with his mother's moods.
"I can walk back, Sarah. Are you tired?"
"A little bit." She smiled down at him and tucked in the blond curls that had escaped his hood. "I didn't sleep well last night."
"You'll have to sleep tonight," Toby reminded her emphatically, "Or Santa Claus won't come."
Sarah rolled her eyes. "I'll be sure not to ruin it for all of us. Come on, kid, let's go home."
She took her little brother's hand and turned the sled around, careful not to spill the remaining pinecones. On the way back to the house, Toby chattered nonstop about helping to bake cookies and how they'd decorate the tree that night. Sarah listened with half an ear, casting the occasional glance behind them. The woods were reassuringly empty. They'd just crossed the small stone bridge when Toby quieted abruptly and looked up, all excited.
"There he is, Sarah!"
"Hah, nice try, Toby. Santa Claus isn't coming until tonight, and he doesn't visit rotten little boys who try to trick their sisters..."
A muffled rush of wings made her look up, where the barn owl was quickly closing in on them from above. Sarah gasped and ducked, pulling Toby underneath her and covering her head with her hands. The owl veered at the last minute, so close she thought she could feel its wingtips brush her cheek. As quickly as it had appeared, it was gone, disappearing into the pale winter sky. Fat snowflakes started to swirl down around them and Sarah blinked against the cold bite of the wind on her face, her scarf unwound and hanging loosely around her neck.
"You're squashing me, Sarah!" complained Toby, spitting out a mouthful of snow.
"Sorry, Tobe. I didn't want you to get hurt, that's all." She hauled him back to his feet and brushed off his snowsuit.
"He wouldn't have hurt us," he said scornfully, "Owls don't eat people, silly."
But Sarah had paused in mid-brush as something caught her eye, and she bent down took closer. Lying in the snow at her feet was a peach pit. It was unmistakable. This time of year, peaches at the grocery store were hard as rocks, and tasted like cardboard, but this... this still smelled of warm summers and perfume-laden breezes blowing through an orchard. The wind had picked up again, and for just a moment, she thought she could hear mocking laughter. It was a while before Sarah could breathe again.
"What's wrong?" Toby squinted up at her, his blue eyes narrowing in concern.
Feeling foolish, Sarah scooped up the peach pit and shoved it in her pocket. "Just dropped my change, that's all. Come on, Toby. I'm freezing!"
Author's Note: This is my first piece of fan fiction ever. I never really intended to write any, it was just an impulsive thing because I wanted to see if I could do it. If anyone's interested (or hell, even if you're not) I'll try my best to update regularly, but I'm a natural procrastinator, so I can't make any promises. I should also warn you that brevity isn't one of my strong points, so the beginning is bound to be slow and the chapters will probably be long. Comments/reviews are welcome.
Edited to add: Despite my concerns about fighting off procrastination and writer's block to make regular updates, that hasn't been much of a problem so far. Additional chapters have been added at a fairly speedy rate (especially for me) and I update roughly once every 1.5-2 weeks, often sooner.