A Fanfiction by Heist
Once upon a time, in a world far away from the one we know, there was a King and a Queen. They were benevolent rulers of a prosperous human kingdom called Istrien that lay not far from the terrible Goblin Kingdom, Ennevar, and the mysterious Labyrinth within. Despite the fearsome reputation of their neighbor, there was peace between the kingdoms, and a lasting friendship between the two royal families. The fathers of the two kings had been great comrades, promising that their descendants would also be friends.
Through an odd coincidence, the two old kings had died around the same time, leaving their heirs to step up to the thrones. The same had been done over and over again in a long history in the human kingdom, but the successor to the Goblin Throne had been the first new king in a thousand years, due to the long-lived nature of his kind. Though young and impetuous, at least relative to his race, the Goblin King strove to be a good ruler and to retain the friendship of his neighbors. And so, for a time, there was felicity and contentment between the kingdoms. This was not to last long.
It was not uncommon for the Goblin King to sit on his throne a few decades before taking a wife, but the same could not be said for his younger, mortal friend. Willim, for that was the king's name, had brought with him to the throne a beautiful young queen named Linnaea, a woman of mysterious descent from the eastern land of Horandil. The early years of their marriage were filled with joy and light, but as time passed, they began to yearn for a child.
More time passed, and Linnaea grew despondent, for she seemingly could not conceive. Finally, when she could take no more the thought of childlessness, she turned to the Goblin King for help. A certain less than appetizing part of ruling the Goblin Throne was to take unwanted children that are wished away, and Linnaea begged the young fey king for a child. Even he could not offer assistance, as he was bound by the laws of his land to turn the children to goblins if they couldn't be won back.
All might have been lost if Linnaea had not remembered the folklore of her people, and the great faerie stories told of the mighty Labyrinth. Every story always mentioned again and again the consequences of bargaining with the Labyrinth, but Linnaea's desperation pushed her onward. One dark wintry night, the young queen stole away to the borders of Ennevar and begged the Labyrinth to give her aid in her quest.
"You dare much, mortal woman," the Labyrinth silently intoned. "Know you the price of my succor?"
"I know and I do not care," she answered boldly into the frosty air. "My life means nothing if I have no one to share it with."
"And what of your King?" the Labyrinth asked.
"He must have an heir," she insisted. "A child would keep him from loneliness after I'm gone. He must have a child to follow him to the throne." For a few moments, the only sound was her harsh breathing in the cold as the Labyrinth considered.
"I will grant your request," the Labyrinth finally answered. "But first I will require three drops of your blood." A part of a dormant rose bush writhed in her direction. Linnaea willingly took hold of the briar and barely flinched as a thorn pierced her skin. Three drops of perfect crimson fell to the pristine snow, and she felt the Labyrinth begin with its magic.
Linnaea was all too trusting of the Labyrinth. She did not consider the structure might have its own motives. She did not think of the possible repercussions. In her desire for a babe she forgot that the Labyrinth never did anything without the interest of itself or its keeper in mind. It did not cross her mind that the Labyrinth might have greater stakes in this than she. All concern was swept from her mind as the Labyrinth moved around her.
"A child, perfect in form you will bear. A daughter with hair black as ebony, skin white as snow and lips red as blood. A beautiful babe engendered of my power, with a destiny woven in the fabric of my own."
"Yes," Linnaea breathed, ecstatic.
"You will teach this child of magic, the power that gave her life. She will know of me and mine. You will not let her grow without belief. You will have thirteen years. Tell no one of this pact and I will hold your trust."
"I swear." A sudden force clenched in her belly, and she tasted powerful magic in the frozen air.
"Our bargain is complete. Now go," the Labyrinth commanded. Linnaea fled back across the border to Istrien, mindful of the secret, and when her joy became public knowledge three months later, only her contented smile surrendered any hint of what she knew.
Years passed. The Labyrinth's prophesying was proven true, and the babe born of Willim and Linnaea did prove exceedingly beautiful, even as a young child. Her hair was incomparably dark, her skin a milky pale and her lips, even at such a tender age, were blood-crimson. They bestowed to her the name Sarah, a common name among Linnaea's people, and watched her grow ever more beautiful as time passed.
Sarah's most startling features, however, were her eyes, an impossibly inhuman shade of silvered green, reflective of her supernatural heritage. Her piercing gaze was disconcerting to look on for any large amount of time, but her parents ignored the extraordinary look of the fey to her and raised her as an ordinary human child. From the time she was born, Sarah was groomed to be royalty, learning statecraft by day and intricate faerie tales, courtesy of her mother, at night.
So passed Sarah's first thirteen years, secure in the love of her parents and the knowledge of the amazing powers of magic. A few months after Sarah's thirteenth birthday, though, Linnaea passed into the next world, victim to a sudden, violent illness. Thankfully, no others were taken by the Labyrinth's dark bargain, but Sarah's world was shattered nonetheless. Even worse was when Willim, in a fit of caprice, took a second queen, not even six months after the burial of the first.
Katrinne was beautiful, more so than Linnaea, and she initially proved to be a good influence on the grieving king, pulling him from the depths of despair through sheer suggestion. Shortly after Sarah's fourteenth birthday, the proclamation that Katrinne was expecting a child gave new life to the king and a new hope to the kingdom. Katrinne's good will ended there, however.
In the first state visit after Willim's second marriage, Katrinne turned the Goblin King away, claiming him the most evil of black sorcerers. The Goblin King's warnings to Willim accomplished nothing, so smitten blind was he by his new wife, and the previously open doors of goodwill between Ennevar and Istrien abruptly slammed shut. Katrinne's further powers of manipulation came out in the virtual exile of Princess Sarah. The girl herself first was relegated to the position of lady-in-waiting, then after the birth of the prince, Tobias, to the station of servant and nursemaid to the infant.
Willim turned a blind eye to his eldest's pleas, and it wasn't long before Katrinne had wiped clean all devotion to his daughter. All that remained of the first queen was systematically eradicated from the castle, and rumors were passed around the kingdom that the princess was feebleminded, too infirm to follow her father. Sarah's degradation was complete by the time she reached her fifteenth birthday, her will and sense of self-value all but destroyed.
It was around that time that rumors began to reach Istrien about new horrors in the Labyrinth. The Goblin King was touted as a dark, twisted and cruel being, a true monster, and without the balancing influence of his former friend, it became so. The wonderful Labyrinth of Linnaea's stories became a profane place in Sarah's adolescent mind. She still clung to a few of her precious precepts of the fantastical, and retreated to an idealized world in which she wasn't a scullery maid, her mother had never died and she enjoyed the presence of suitors enchanted with her. Even when forced to take on the most unappealing work imaginable, Sarah's imagination ran at full tilt, and it was this endless cycle of invention that first got her into trouble.