A/N: Well, I've done it again. I got this idea and just wanted to write it since it felt so enticing. I hope you'll think the same way!
In order to understand the framework better you might want to read LEGEND first, since this is kind of a sequel to it. Reading it is not obligatory though since you should be able to grasp what has transpired quite easily without. However, to make things more clear to readers, who have no will to read the other stories which are related to this one, I offer a brief outline:
In LEGEND, Sarah is 50 and something; a long time has passed since her visit to the Underground. Jareth, craving for revenge, lures her into the Labyrinth by using her niece, Linda, as a bait. In the end, Sarah nearly dies. Jareth saves her by making her part of his world, but there's a catch. Because of that she can never return to her home in Aboveground. To compensate her loss, Jareth grants Sarah her youth. The story ends in a scene where Sarah talks with her niece and says that she still cannot trust him completely. Since Jareth has banished Sarah's companions away, she tells she will go searching for them with Hoggle. Thus, the story starts where LEGEND ends.
And without much further ado, let us begin:
Disclaimer: Let me phrase it this way: Do I look like Jim Henson or George Lucas?
Once Upon A Time
The Boy and the Wayfarers
It was night. Lir swept a pearl of sweat from his forehead, for he had walked the whole day and started to feel hungry, having already finished the small loaf of bread the king's page had given to him. He looked around. The road he was following had led him in a forest. Dark trees surrounded him; leaves whispering secrets to each other in a language he didn't understand. Lir could swear they were talking about him. He was no coward but it was as if a cold dread had made a home in his heart. Shivering, he looked around and squinted his eyes. Did he discern twinkling light afore, amidst the trees?
It could be a troll's lair, Lir's mind reminded him. Terrible beasts roamed the earth during the night time. But he needed to find a place to rest, and he hadn't seen any inns or friendly farmhouses since entering the forest. After pondering his time, Lir made up his mind. He would tip toe as close he could, hoping the owner of the light would be a friendly soul.
Silently, like a shadow, he made his way through the trees and peaked behind a fallen trunk of an oak. His eyes widened.
A sparkling fire cast red and yellow light in a small clearing. Two persons sat by the fire. The first was a small man: a real dwarf! Lir had never seen one before though his Master had told him stories about them. The dwarf wore a leather vest and red, worn-out trousers; a chiming bundle of sparkling jewels hung from his belt. He tended the fire above which a dark iron pot had been placed. Lir's stomach churned at the delicious smell the wind brought to his nose. The other person sat on a grey rock, following as her companion stirred the pot.
"'tis be the stew me grannie taught me once. She used to cook for the King. The whole Underground knew her cookings; said there was no better cook alive," the little man told, his back turned to her.
"I'm certain, it'll be delicious, Hoggle. Like everything you've cooked since we left," she said softly. Lir's heart caught in his throat as he gazed into the lovely face. She had to be one of the fair folk, so beautiful she looked with her fair skin and dark hair, colour of the darkest night, that fell down on her shoulders. Lir had only seen the king and the queen wearing something as lavish as was her scarlet dress she had donned on her. A half moon shaped silver medallion hung on her neck.
"Nah," said the one called Hoggle. "Ya should have tasted me grannie's food. She cooked like, dunno, with magic."
Feeling encouraged, Lir stepped affront. Noticing him, the dwarf jolted up and his friendly expression disappeared.
"Who're ya?" Hoggle spat, holding a burning rod he snatched from the fire.
"Have peace, man of earth. I wish you no harm," Lir said, lifting his hands, his palms facing Hoggle. Politely he nodded at him and then at the lady.
Hoggle's eyes narrowed. He glanced at his companion, before stepping forth and without letting go of his makeshift weapon. He waggled the rod menacingly. "What then? Let it out, boy, or I whack your head off!"
Lir quickly backed away. "Please, sir dwarf! My name's Lir and I'm only searching for a place to rest for the night!"
"Well, ya ain't gonna find it 'ere," Hoggle snarled.
"Oh, Hoggle. Don't be mean. He's only a boy," the lady said, shaking her head and getting to her feet. The hems of her dress brushed the ground as she came to Lir. She stopped, tilting her head as though measuring him. Then, she smiled, offering her hand at him. "My name is Sarah. And you're welcome to join our camp, Lir."
"I thank you, milady Sarah." Giving a deep bow, he kissed her hand.
She laughed merrily and Lir blushed. "You sure do have courtly manners, Lir. It's Sarah. Not milady. If you necessarily want to be polite, you can use Miss Williams." Sarah pondered awhile. "But I prefer being called Sarah."
"I obey your word as if it were law, mi…Sarah," Lir corrected quickly, getting to his feet.
An displeased grunt from the dwarf carried to his ears, and Lir saw an annoyed flash in her green eyes, but she refrained from saying anything to her companion.
"Take a seat by the fire, Lir." Sarah advised, returning to the rock she had previously occupied.
"Thank you, Sarah." Lir followed the suggestion, carefully avoiding Hoggle as he sat close to the fire. He stretched his arms, enjoying the warmth. After a moment, the chill left his joints. He followed Hoggle as the dwarf stirred the stew casting dubious glanced in his direction. A deep scowl had permanently adhered to his face. He stopped when he noticed Lir's attention.
"What are ya staring, boy? Eh? Never seen a dwarf before?"
"They do not dwell in my city, sir dwarf." Lir shook his head, hoping he wouldn't offend Hoggle.
"Figures," Hoggle snorted, continuing to stir, but his eyes didn't leave Lir for a second.
He turned to look Sarah. She fidgeted her medallion, a thoughtful air about her. "Yes, Sarah?"
"Can you tell us what has brought you to the Forest of Adumbro? It is a dangerous place," she hesitated with an unexplainable expression on her face. "…Or so I was told."
Hoggle snorted again.
Lir squirmed. "This is the only road leading to Mag's den," he said at last.
At his words, Hoggle's eyes narrowed, and his hand froze in mid-movement.
"You're on a way to his place!" Sarah repeated, getting up, and started pacing. She stopped and looked at him. "But he's a monster! A bloodthirsty giant with snakes as his fingers. J- He would eat you alive. Why in God's name do you want to go there?"
Lir smiled sheepishly. "I have to steal his golden bird. King of the Sunrise Lands appointed the task to me. Unless I do so, he'll have me hanged," he confessed.
"What? A lad like ya," Hoggle was now ogling at him openly. "Are ya a criminal, or what?"
"No, sir dwarf. I'm a bard's apprentice," he told in a proud voice, padding the sack next to him.
Sarah and Hoggle exchanged glances. Finally, Sarah took a seat next to him. She watched him, eyes thoughtful.
"Maybe you could tell us the whole story, Lir?" she asked.
He stared to the burning fire with unseeing eyes and ghost of a smile touched his lips. "My king has a daughter who is so beautiful that no words or songs can make her justice. Her eyes are the colour of the bluest sky, her hair like spun gold, and hearing her speak sets your hart afire…I her love, which is why her father, the king, has sent me away."
Lir shut his eyes, remembering.