Author's Notes This is a brief one-shot that I wrote for a Labyrinth Fanfic Challenge on theLabyfic livejournal community. The challenge was to write a scene in the everyday life of a minor Labyrinth character (anyone but Sarah or Jareth was fair game) that didn't overlap the events in the movie.
involves Hoggle and Sir Didymus, takes place at some undefined point
after the end of the movie, and contains absolutely zero J/S
action. Sorry. This is a very silly, foolish little piece of frippery. But if
you've ever wondered about that
noxious substance Hoggle was spraying fairies with in the beginning of
the movie, read on...
Incidentally, the Labyfic livejournal forum is open to
all who want to join, read, write, comment or suggest writing
prompts. We hope to keep ourselves motivated and writing by
having regular challenges, and so far it's been a lot of fun.
Please do consider dropping by, and send me a private message if you want more information.
Hoggle and the Ordinary Day
There's an old dwarf curse that says, "May you live in interesting times."
Or at least, Hoggle thought it was an old dwarf curse. Didymus insisted it was a bit of goblin folklore and Ludo argued that it was an ancient rock legend literally as old as the hills. In the end, it didn't really matter. Hoggle supposed that every people had a similar saying, and he agreed with the meaning of the philosophy wholeheartedly. All he'd ever wanted was a life free of exciting events, nasty surprises and unforseen complications.
But on some days, that could be a tall order, indeed.
The day began harmlessly enough. Hoggle woke up at dawn, then promptly turned over and went back to sleep for another four hours. Breakfast was a slice of cold apple pie with cream poured over it, six slices of bacon, two soft boiled eggs and a pot of tea.
When he finished, he pushed away his plate, brushed the crumbs off his shirt and had a good stretch. There was a list of chores to do today, Hoggle remembered with regret. The garden needed weeding, the goat needed milking and he had to brew up a fresh batch of fairy repellant. The pesky little winged creatures were infesting the rose bushes again.
It was a sunny day outside, so he built up a fire in the front yard and wrestled the big iron cauldron from the gardening shed. It took seven trips to the well to fill it, and he was huffing and puffing by the time it was done. Wiping his forehead with a ratty handkerchief, Hoggle dug around in the root cellar, poring over jars of dried herbs and other mysterious things best left unexplored. He'd just rediscovered a box of dried four-leaf clovers when a piercing whistle from outside caused him to straighten up, banging his head on a low ceiling beam.
"Didymus!" he barked, clambering out of the cellar and cradling the lump on his head, "How many times have I asked you not to do that?"
"A thousand pardons, old friend," said Sir Didymus as he let himself in the garden gate. "I shall surely remember next time."
Hoggle glared at his friend, noting the tidy velvet doublet and crisp linen shirt Didymus wore. The little knight always appeared as if he'd been freshly starched and ironed, and today there was even a cheery yellow rosebud adorning his lapel.
"You look all dressed up," he said grudgingly, setting down various boxes and jars on a small worktable next to the cauldron. He squinted at the flower. "That isn't from my garden, is it?"
"Not a bit of it," replied Didymus airily. "Although yonder roses are beyond compare this summer. But that is not the purpose of my coming."
He took a small knapsack from his back and bent to rummage through it.
"Been on another trip, have you?" asked Hoggle, taking a cautious step back.
Sir Didymus was a restless soul, prone to going off on adventures in faraway lands. Ever a thoughtful friend, he always brought back the dwarf a memento or two and Hoggle had learned to be wary of such tokens. Last time, the fox had carried back a live flametoad from Inferno Lake for Hoggle's garden. The cabbages never truly recovered that year.
"No, no," said Sir Didymus, his voice muffled as his head disappeared into the pack. "A little bird told me of thy plans for today. The fairies have been most persistent this season and I knew the pungent brew would require a special... ah. Here it is."
The fox pulled a cloth-wrapped bundle from the pack and untied it, picking carefully through the the clumps of lambswool inside. Hoggle took another step back, his suspicions reaching a new high.
"I've never told anyone about the extra strength formula. Not even Jareth knows," he began in annoyance, "So you can't possibly have gone and..."
Didymus interrupted him with a wave of his paw. "I have brought thee," he said triumphantly, "A gift!"
The little knight flourished a tiny glass vial, the stopper sealed with several layers of wax and a handwritten warning. In it was what looked like a very murky drop of water. It fizzed and belched, then gave off a very thin wisp of smoke.
"For the love of--" Hoggle snatched it in panic, tucking it away in his pocket. "Don't go waving that about!"
Didymus was too pleased with himself to have his enthusiasm squelched. "Yes, indeed. A single drop of water, brought all the way from the Bog of Eternal St--"
Hoggle clapped a free hand over his friend's mouth. "Don't say it. Don't even say the words." he hissed furiously. "Nobody knows what the secret ingredient for my fairy repellant is, you hear me? And nobody must ever know. Jareth would have my hide to make a pair of boots if he knew I was borrowing from his precious you-know-what."
"Thou canst surely trust my discretion," protested Didymus in an injured tone. "I told no one of my quest and was most careful."
"Well." Hoggle peered cautiously at the vial in his pocket. Everything appeared to be in order. He knew it wasn't broken because he still had posession of his sense of smell, undamaged and whole. "Thank you. I suppose it does save me a trip."
"Think nothing of it."
Sir Didymus had rolled up his sleeves and fetched something else from the knapsack. It turned out to be a tidy apron in royal blue, the pocket embroidered in gold thread with his family's coat of arms. He put it on and looked at the dwarf expectantly.
"What," demanded Hoggle, "Is that?"
"Why, my uniform, of course. I mean to aid thee with this monumentous task."
Hoggle shook his head vehemently. "Not a chance. This is a one man operation, and I don't need any help."
"I assure thee, I can be of useful service," hastened Sir Didymus, "If thou hast need of an assistant, someone to fetch more wood for the fire, or--"
The little knight's whiskers and tail drooped in disappointment.
Hoggle sighed. I'm going to regret this. "You can watch. And stir. Maybe."
Sir Didymus brightened immediately. "I will not fail thee!"
"You won't fail me because you're only going to watch and stir. There's to be no adding of ingredients unless I say so, no sampling, no silly questions and no talking unless it's absolutely necessary. Is that understood?"
"Thy water is boiling."
Into the cauldron went a bundle of oak, ash and thorn twigs, a handful of rowan berries and another of stinkweed. Hoggle counted out three shriveled roots from an unlabeled jar, then added a pinch of this and that from the dozen or so containers on the worktable. He followed them with a whole sack of onions and a long braid of garlic.
Last of all went the single drop of water, vial and all. Hoggle always did it this way, he didn't dare open the stopper himself in case it spilled. The bubbling mixture was a dreadful brownish green with steam rising off the top and a foul, choking odor reminiscent of rotten eggs and rancid meat. Hoggle's shoulders slumped in relief. So far, so good.
Didymus had been uncharacteristically quiet throughout the whole process. Only once had he asked what plant the withered roots came from and he'd quickly quieted down when Hoggle threw him an impatient glare. The little knight seemed very interested in the assortment of jars from the cellar and examined each one with thoughtful scrutiny. In time, Hoggle relaxed enough to explain some of the contents.
"Skunk juice." he said, when Didymus held up a dusty bottle of a thick, purplish liquid. "Good for head colds, too. Devil's cherries. Monkshood. Water hemlock. Thorn apple."
Hoggle rattled a jar of dried twig-like things and muttered to himself. "Could've sworn I had another lizard leg, they're supposed to come in pairs..."
"And this?" Didymus peered through a big jar of oval objects floating in liquid dyed a bright pink.
"Pickled eggs. They're for tea."
Hoggle sprinkled in another handful of some star-shaped seed and sighed. "Damn. Forgot to milk the goat and feed the chickens."
"I could perform this task if it would be of help to thee."
"Er..." Hoggle hesitated, not wanting to offend. "Best I do it, you don't know how much food to give them."
The last time he'd asked Didymus to help with the chores, the chickens ran off and hid in the bushes for a week. They seemed to have a natural distrust of the little knight, despite his gentle and chivalrous nature.
He handed his friend a long stick. "Stir it for sixty clockwise turns, thirty counter-clockwise, then another sixty clockwise again without stopping. And don't let it boil over."
Didymus snapped to attention and began stirring briskly.
"Did you hear me, Didymus? I said, do not let it boil over. This is very important."
"Never fear, my noble companion. It shall be done according to thy command."
"Right." The dwarf eyed the cauldron skeptically. Didymus was stirring so vigorously the liquid was sloshing over the sides. "Fine. I'll be right back."
It was the fastest goat milking Hoggle ever accomplished, and the chickens ducked and scattered from the fistfuls of grain he threw into their pen. The milk went straight to the cellar to cool, and Hoggle had just enough time to wash his hands and face before running back to the front yard to check on the progress of the brew.
He found Sir Didymus happily stirring and counting under his breath. Everything seemed to be going as according to plan. Except...
Hoggle frowned as he looked closer. The brew was the correct thickness, bubbling slightly-- just enough and not too much. But to his alarm, it was taking on a rather strange color, almost a sunny shade of yellow.
"Didymus," he said in a hoarse whisper, "What have you done?"
A large bubble rose in the simmering liquid, then popped with an ominous burp. The air suddenly filled with the scent of roses.
The little knight looked downcast. "Well... Nothing. As such."
"Don't lie to me, you furry dishrag."
"Verily, I would never lie to thee, I vow! Only..."
"In mine earnest desire to fulfill this task, I fear I leaned over the pot a little too far and... my boutonniere may have gone astray."
Hoggle groaned quietly. "Put down the stick and back away from the fire. Do it now."
The mixture had begun to bubble fiercely, and the dwarf reached behind him for the bucket of water he kept handy by the cottage door. With any luck, he could put out the fire and everything would settle down. He'd deal with the contents of the pot later-- and Didymus, too.
The little knight had done as he ordered, and was tiptoeing carefully across the yard, heading for the shelter of the woodpile.
"I cannot help but feel responsible," he called to Hoggle, "And I beg your pardon for my carelessness. You have my most abject apologies, and if there is anything I could do to make up for it, thou hast only to say the word."
"Apology not accepted." said the dwarf through gritted teeth as he hefted the bucket. "And may the Goblin King come and take me away if I ever agree to let you help me again."
More and more rose-scented bubbles rose to the surface of the brew, and the cauldron began to tremble and creak. A hairline fissure formed at the lip, and as the two friends watched in horror, it crept down the side of the pot. The metal strained and groaned, then gave a tremendous crack...
Hoggle had no time to do anything but heave the contents of the bucket in the general direction of the fire and duck, shielding his head with his arms.
The explosion was even worse than the Great Goblin Pickle Factory Fire in the Year of the Thing-We-Thought-Was-a-Raisin.
When the smoke cleared, Hoggle could smell burnt hair and his shirtsleeves had been charred to bits. Viscous globs of perfumed muck littered the yard, steaming gently in the afternoon sun.
He coughed and spat, then rolled over onto his back to stare at the sky. Through the yellowish haze of smoke that hung over the garden, it looked how Hoggle felt-- faintly green. Didymus ran over and helped him to his feet, politely refraining from commenting on the dwarf's soot-covered face.
"Thank goodness thou art not injured. Is there... anything I could do for thee?"
Hoggle stared stonily at the remains of his cauldron, the broken pieces still hissing in the coals.
Didymus brewed excellent mint tea, and after three pots of it, half a dozen cheese-and-onion sandwiches and a pickled egg each, the two friends were on civil speaking terms again. Didymus apologized profusely for his error in judgement and promised an even larger iron pot to be delivered from the goblin foundry within a fortnight. Hoggle graciously allowed that his eyebrows would doubtless grow back. They finished a large wedge of honeycake in companionable silence.
"A day's work lost. I'll have to start all over again." Hoggle said gloomily.
Sir Didymus smoothed the front of his immaculate doublet and leaned back in his chair, tilting it precariously back on two legs.
"Never mind, my friend," he reassured the dwarf, "The goblins have a saying: Tomorrow is another day."
Hoggle scowled. "How in all seven hells is that a saying? Tomorrow is another day. It's obvious."
"I know. That's why they say it."
Author's Notes: I hope you'll forgive this frivolous piece. I don't intend to make a habit of posting my challenge submissions to FFnet because they're just inconsequential drabbles (okay, some of them are, perhaps, too long to be called drabbles), but this one seemed to work on its own. I had a lot of fun writing it... maybe a little too much fun.
I assure you, I am working on a more serious piece of Labyrinth
fanfic. It's about one-and-a-half chapters in, and with any luck,
you'll see it posted to FFnet before I expire of old age.