Chapter l.


Downstairs, she heard the front door open and close. Her stepmother called, "Sarah?"

She didn't answer at once. She was holding her copy of The Labyrinth.


"Wait," Sarah whispered. "I am closing a chapter of my life. Just wait." She paused, and added, still in a whisper, "Please." She put the book in the drawer with all the rest, and stood with her hand on it there.


Sarah left it a moment, then called back, "Yes. Yes, I'm here." She looked at the drawer, and sighed. "Welcome back," she called, smiled to herself, and pushed the drawer shut.

(All credit for these words go to ACH Smith and the novel of "Labyrinth". Thanks for a jumping off point Smithy!) ( and A thanks to Solea for pointing out that I forgot to give Credit where Credit is due. Thanks again.)

As always I don't own it, I just visit…often. Paisley!

Everything Old is New Again

Sarah returned to school after having spent the summer with her mother on tour. It had been an exciting summer, one filled with new experiences. Now she was back in the 'real' world. The first few weeks of her junior year had proven to be much easier than she had anticipated. Her father and stepmother both remarked on the changes the summer had wrought. The once spoiled girl had done a one eighty. Now she offered to sit with the baby so her folks could go out. She did not lock herself away in her room, or hide in the park to get out of being part of the family.

At first, her stepmother had been skeptical of the changes in her. Sarah did not blame the woman; she had reasons to be distrusting. Sarah had not been the easiest teen in any respect. Little by little Sarah won Karen over, and they were forging a relationship. Finally, there seemed to be peace in the old Victorian. Karen was overjoyed when Sarah invited some of the school friends she was making over. Finally, Sarah was beginning to act like a normal teen, or at least she was giving the appearance of a normal teen.

Sarah was enjoying the new school year, and the classes she was taking. Her favorite class had to be Literature followed closely by Art and then History. She had been surprised that all her classes were advanced studies and even more surprised that she was not only doing well, but was excelling. The instructor of the Literature class was intense, making the class a real challenge but fun. He had formed study groups the first week of the course. Sarah was in a group with a girl she'd known since grade school, Anne Beckette. Anne was smart, funny, and popular. Her long red hair looked glorious in the sunlight and her blue eyes shone like sapphires. She was also dating one of the boys in the group, Ryan Courtney. Ryan was tall, well built but self-centered and lazy when it came to doing his work. How he managed to maintain his grades was anyone's guess. He and Anne made a handsome couple. The other two in the study group, Paul Gordon and Marcy Wane, had little to do with the rest of them outside of class.

Anne however took a real liking to the new and improved Sarah Williams. She and Ryan would show up at Sarah's house on Friday nights and listen to records on the patio while discussing the things that were important to them. Anne had told Ryan that Sarah was big on fairytales, folklore at one time, and that sparked Ryan's interest.

"You ever play role-playing games, Sarah?" Ryan asked as he sipped the soft drink that Mrs. Williams had served. He lounged in the chair, looking bored.

"Role-playing games? No, I don't think I have." Sarah felt the hair on the back of her neck raise up and she wanted desperately to change the subject. "I don't go in for Dungeons and Dragons. If I wanted to pretend I do it in drama club and thespians. "

Ryan was not being put off easily. "I'm not talking about that stuff, that's mostly done on a board." He set his drink down, and pulled a flyer out of his pocket. "I'm talking about full scale LARPing."

"LARPing?" Sarah looked at the flyer. "Live Action Role Play." She read the sheet of paper. "What is this?"

Anne smiled crookedly. "Ryan and I have been part of this on going gaming crowd for about three years now. That is where we met. There are all kinds of different games going. One is a vampire game; one is high tech Si-Fi stuff. The one we play is Conquest of Legends. It covers a lot more fantasy than the other games. It's also much more fun."

Ryan nodded, "Yeah, we even get to dress the part of our character." He stood up and stretched. "I'm a rogue adventurer, my persona is Ryaven of Balastard. Anne here is Lady Roxanne of Kingtown, the damsel in distress don't you know.'

Sarah passed the page back. "I see, so why tell me about this?"

Anne looked at her boyfriend with a meaningful look. "Sarah, there's a big jamboree on Halloween. Conquests of Legends are holding its annual convention at a new amusement complex. It's called Zaker's Realms of Fantasy, it was built over the summer while you were away, out near the old quarry. I hear it's going to be great! They are using our convention as its grand opening. I'm told the complex is really wild, there's seven levels to the thing, and they have everything a fantasy seeker could ask for."

Sarah kept her doubts to herself. 'I'll bet they don't have everything.' She frowned. "Did you say Zaker? Like in Robin Zaker, the writer?"

Ryan shrugged, "Who's Robin Zaker?"

Sarah blinked, "You mean to tell me you never heard of Zaker? He wrote Meander's Queen, and …a book called… The Labyrinth… and a few others."

Ryan shrugged, "Wouldn't know. I don't bother reading the stuff. I much prefer playing it out."

Anne continued, as if uninterrupted. "Look Sarah, I know you love this kind of thing…or at least you use to…. I also know you own many killer costumes thanks to your good old mom and her connections with the theater. We need a third; all groups entering the complex have to be in at least threes. There has to be a brawn, a brain and a magic user. Then you can add a thief and a cleric if need be. Ryan is our brawn, I'm the brain, you can be our magic."

The hairs on her neck were now straight up, warning her. "Why me?"

Ryan gave her a appealing smile, "Because you know fairytales inside and out. I learned that after the first week of our lit class." When his smile got him no where he slammed his hand on the table, nearly sending the drinks flying. "I want to win! We have come in third and forth the last two tourneys we attended. I want to win, just once!"

Anne looked down, not wanting to meet Sarah's eyes. "It would be nice to win. They give a plaque to the team, and each member gets commemorative badges. And the complex is giving prizes too."

Sarah stood up and paced. "So all this time you've been buttering me up with what I thought was friendship just so I'd join your group and help you win some prize I'm not interested in?" Movement in the sky caught her eye; a night bird of prey was over head, making lazy circles in the early evening sky.

The young man ran a hand though his hair. "Look Sarah, it's not that we don't like you, we do. You're smart and fun and you don't judge." He placed a hand on her shoulder and turned her to look at him. "Have you ever wanted to win something so bad you could taste it? Well, that's how I feel about this tourney. My brother and cousin have both won championships… and they are no where near as good as Anne and I! We keep losing because we have never had the right combination working with us. You're smart, you're versed in folk lore and all the fairytales. You probably know things I miss in the clues. You could help us win!"

Anne moved in for the kill. "Ryan's dad keeps lording it over him how his brother won every tourney he ever joined in. It's not fair. He has no idea of how hard the tourney's are or how hard we work at it and really try to win fair and square."

Sarah bristled at the mention of the word 'fair'. "I know what its like to need to win." She admitted, looking up at the window to her brother's room. "Some things are so important, they make everything else small." She wondered what that was moving in the tree outside Toby's window, a squirrel, or a cat perhaps. Looking at her friends, she remembered needing to win not so long ago and the friends she had made who had helped her to win. "I don't even belong to your group, isn't that a problem?"

Ryan pulled a form from his jacket. "Fill this out, and you're in."

Sarah looked at the form; it was not very elaborate just basic information. "Are there fees?"

"Not for joining, only if you go to a tourney." Anne was excited. "I'll help cover the cost for you going to the Realms of Fantasy Complex with us, since it will be your first time. At least you don't have the added cost of costuming. You've got great costumes in that closet of yours as I recall. Hey perhaps you could loan me something for the tourney. I'd love to have something that no one else has instead of the standard Damsels in Distress costume." She watched as the dark haired girl filled out the form. She sent a wink to her boyfriend. "You won't regret helping us!"

"I hope not." Sarah handed the signed form over to Ryan, who tucked it back into his jacket.

"We have to split. See you in class on Monday." Anne grabbed Ryan's hand. "Thanks Sarah, we do appreciate your helping us with this." The pair walked out of the back yard and to the car Ryan drove.

Ryan pulled away, "That was brilliant, Anne, telling her my old man's been lording it over me. Where do you come up with this stuff?" He placed his arm over her shoulder in the small car.

"I know what works with old Simple Sarah! Guilt and plenty of it, I've been using it on her since grade school, why stop now?" she smiled. "And with that book worm on our team, we're a shoe in for the winners circle." She nuzzled into his shoulder.

"Maybe we can hang on to Sarah and get into the international championships!" Ryan boasted. "Who would think being nice to that bookworm would pay off so well? So where to now babe?"

Anne opened the buttons on her blouse, "My folks are out for the night, we can have the house to ourselves for a few hours. Care to come over and mess around?"

"Baby, you know it." He planted a quick kiss before the stoplight turned to green.

"You think we can ease up on the time with spend with Sarah?"

"No," Anne warned as she pulled his hand over her shoulder, letting it dangle over her breast. "We need to keep her working with us and for us. Besides, as part of her study group my grades have gone up and my folks are off my ass."

"Ok, there is that," he admitted grudgingly. " It wouldn't be so bad if she had a guy… Maybe we should set her up with someone…"

"You know anyone who wants to go out with a virgin?" Anne teased.

"Nope…" He drove on.

Sarah picked up the soda bottles and the chip bowl, took them to the kitchen and rinsed the bottles out. Straitening up and putting things away had become second nature in the last six months. She did not take anything her folks or anyone else did for her for granted anymore. Sarah grabbed the leash and called Merlin to her. "I'm taking the dog for his walk." She called to her parents in the front parlor.

Karen met her at the door. "Your fiends left early." She commented.

"Yeah, I think they wanted some alone time. It's cool." Sarah leashed the dog and smiled. "I'm gonna take a long walk with this handsome fellow."

Her stepmother rolled her eyes, "Well at least it's not raining, put him in the garage when you get home, and lock up. I'll leave the back door open for you honey."

Sarah pulled the leash and the Old English Sheepdog followed her with a jaunt to his steps. She paused at the street, choosing which way to go. It had been a while since she had walked at night to the park. "Let go boy."

Beady little eyes in the tree watched, and followed her movements down the block. Then they turned back to the window of the little boy's bedroom. He was asleep, and safe. They were only to watch him, keep him from harm. The girl was none of their concern.

Meep looked at his brother Bann, "Do you think we should tell Him what we herar?"

Bann looked over his narrow shoulder the direction the girl had walked with the great hairy hound. "Tell him what? We don't know anything. Besides, we were sent to watch the boy, not that girl."

Meep shook his head, his long slivery hair flowed on the air. "I don't know. I think he'd like to know."

The other pixie frowned. "Know what?"

"That name was used, Robin Zaker." Meep stated firmly. "Everyone in the Underground knows he's up to no good. But no one knows what."

"We don't know anything either." Bann growled.

"We know plenty." Meep defended stubbornly. "I think we should tell him."

"Fine you tell him!" Bann checked the wards placed to protect the gold haired boy. "But don't look to me for support! I want nothing to do with it."

Meep leaned against the tree. "Fine, I'll tell him by myself, you coward."

Bann narrowed his eyes as he looked at his brother. "Just remember not to mention her by name!"

"I'm not stupid!" Meep complained.