Author Note: Hello fandom! Oh how I've missed you all!
This beasty was written for merellia as part of the 2012 Labyrinth Fic Exchange. It was my first exchange and I was a pinch hitter so it was written fiendishly fast. Hence it is a little ungainly-like a bloated yak.
Merellia's prompt was: "Anything with Sir Didymus. I love when he—and other minor characters, too— show up in Labyrinth fanfic. A story doesn't have to be all Didymus All the Time, but a glimpse of what he's up to is always welcome."
Many thanks to dansemacabre for putting on a fantabulous exchange, and to Bryndwr for reading this when it was a very drafty-draft and suggesting all sorts of brilliant ideas that made it infinitely better and less suck-tastic overall.
Chapter 1: The one with the lava
Sarah Williams experienced her first romantic disappointment just two days shy of her sixteenth birthday. For the record, it was all Hoggle's fault (even if he did have the best of intentions).
At the time, Sarah hadn't even been thinking of her love life...or the lack thereof. She had simply been sitting on the porch with Merlin after completing her chores, enjoying the Spring sunshine and sipping lemonade.
That is, until Hoggle suddenly burst through one of the hedges at the back of the garden.
"YOU," he yelled, puffing and red-faced as he hobbled hurriedly toward her, "attract trouble like Ludo attracts rocks."
He shook one stubby finger at her in an accusatory fashion and then abruptly bent forward, hands on his knees, desperately trying to catch his breath.
Sarah looked at the Hoggle-shaped hole in her newly-clipped hedge and then down at the dwarf, who was still struggling to breathe normally.
"What are you talking about?" she asked, brushing bits of hedge from Hoggle's back. "I've been mowing the lawn."
She looked at the uneven, meandering lawnmower tracks that now covered the garden.
"Badly," she amended. "There's no reason for you to come bursting in here, yelling things like that...unless I ran over a fairytale creature without knowing."
She looked over at the lawnmower, half-expecting to see bits of unicorn or some such thing trapped in the blades.
Hoggle pulled himself up into a standing position.
"No, no. Ain't nothing like that. You're about to go on another adventure. And knowing my luck, I'll be dragged into it right behind you," he grumbled.
Sarah held up her hand. "Ok. Time out. You told me that we're only granted one big adventure per lifetime. I didn't think I was even qualified for another one."
Hoggle's expression became distinctly mulish. "Well apparently the rules don't apply to you, Missy. No-one gets through the Labyrinth—but you did. No one beats Jar—" he broke off quickly and looked around.
Seeing that they were still alone, he sighed in relief.
"No-one gets their wished-away brother back," he amended, "but you did. No-one gets more than one adventure...but apparently, you do. It's your 'gift'," his air quotations were rich in sarcasm, "for being 'Champion of the Labyrinth'. And apparently this adventure is going to be a big one."
A big one? Sarah was instantly intrigued; her last adventure certainly hadn't felt 'small' so what constituted a 'big' adventure was rather mind-boggling.
Perhaps it contained a ship.
She shrugged. "Oh. Well, that doesn't sound so bad. Want a cookie?" she asked, calmly picking up a cookie for herself from the plate.
Hoggle threw his hands into the air. "I don't think you understand the gravity of the situation. You already had an adventure where you did the rescuin'. So, according to 'The Way Things Are Done', that means you're the one who is gonna to be rescued this time around."
"What?" she screeched. "I'm going to be rescued?"
She dropped her cookie. Merlin stirred from his shady corner of the porch, snatched it up from the floor, and ran inside, triumphant.
Hoggle nodded approving. "Now that is the reaction I was expecting."
He snatched a spare glass from the open kitchen window and then hoisted himself up onto one of the porch chairs, his stubby legs swinging in the air.
Sarah was no longer calm. "What kind of adventure are we talking about here?"
Hoggle snorted disdainfully and poured himself a glass of icy lemonade. "It's the standard 'fair-maiden-awaitin'-rescue-in-a-tower' kind of adventure."
She looked at him in shock. "Why would I want to be a fair maiden, awaiting rescue? That's probably the last thing I'd want to do on an adventure!"
It was true. After she had fought her way to 'The Castle Beyond the Goblin City', Sarah had no desire to play the role of the fair, defenceless maiden—not when the hero got all the best lines and got to smash things up.
And Sarah had definitely acquired a taste for smashing things up.
"And besides," she said, thoughtfully, "how is sitting in a tower supposed to be a gift for making it through the Labyrinth?"
Hoggle looked around shiftily and then jammed two cookies into his mouth.
"You'resupposedtoberescuedbyyourOneTrueLove," he mumbled through cookie crumbs.
Sarah took a moment to decipher his comment and then lurched to her feet.
"One True Love?" she stammered, shocked. "I'm too young for a One True Love!"
Hoggle swallowed gamely. "So I keep telling them, but all they keep saying is 'True Love Waits'. Whatever that means..."
Sarah barely paid him any attention. She was already pacing across the porch.
"I don't have time to sit in a tower. And I certainly don't have any interest in a One True Love right now. I have my life all planned out!"
Hoggle nodded. "Don't I know it. You'll be off to college after high school," he recited, "to study theater and English while, in the meantime, landing small parts in local theater productions until you've honed your craft sufficiently to star on Broadway. Though, you'll only be in plays and not in musicals because, let's face it—you couldn't carry a tune in a bucket..."
Sarah paused her pacing briefly to give him a dark look. Hoggle continued, oblivious.
"...then marriage eventually, but not until you're least thirty to give your career ample time to blossom." He rolled his eyes at the word. "Then kids—two of them, four years apart to ensure that they both get equal attention, but close enough in age so that neither of them feels like an only child. Did I miss anything?"
"No," she said dryly, "you got it exactly right." She crossed her arms defensively. "I don't want this. Can you imagine how worried my family will be if I just disappeared? I don't...I don't want to disappear and never see my brother again."
Hoggle merely shrugged. "Well, you can kiss your plans goodbye. Farewell Broadway and Toby! Hel-lo tower and One True Love!"
Sarah practically collapsed into her chair. "Are you absolutely sure about this? Maybe it's just a rumor?"
"Ain't no rumor, Sarah. The whole Underground is talking about it. And you'd better be prepared because it's all going to happen sooner than you think."
Hoggle took a healthy sip of lemonade. "Just after you turn sixteen. Apparently, there is some kind of age requirement."
Sarah stared at him in shock. "That's two weeks away!" Her shock turned to horror. "I have an algebra test that week!"
Hoggle shrugged again. "Don't even bother studying—algebra ain't going to help you where you're going."
Part of Sarah was rather relieved to miss the test-it was algebra, after all, which made being trapped in a tower almost benign in comparison. The rest of her, however, was rapidly heading towards a panic attack.
"How soon after my birthday?"
"Don't rightly know. It's supposed to be a surprise. But, mark my words: One day, you'll be on your way to school, minding your own business, and from out of nowhere a dragon will swoop down, grab ya, and fly away! And then where will you be?"
She frowned. "Where will I be?"
"Probably stashed away in the highest tower of some ol' deserted castle, surrounded by lava, waitin' to be rescued." He shook his head. "Damn lava."
Sarah blinked. "Damn lava," she agreed and took a long sip of her lemonade.
"And I ain't got no idea how you're going to get rescued from there. Lava tends to be hard to cross—even harder than the Bog."
He bit savagely into another cookie.
"Do you have you any idea who is going to rescue me?"
He shrugged. "Typically, a One True Love tends to be a prince."
A prince. Sarah thought about that for a moment. During her lifetime, she had only met one royal male and he was prone to giving her hallucinogenic fruit or sending stabby bits of machinery after her. Consequently, the prospect of a royal suitor wasn't as pleasant as it should be.
"Are you sure it's going to be a prince? Couldn't it be a knight?"
Hoggle shook his head. "We ain't got all that many knights anymore, on account of the dragons. Apparently the armor makes knights delightfully crunchy."
Sarah sighed. "Well, if it's a prince, I guess that narrows things down a little."
"Don't be so sure. We're talking about the Underground, so everything that can go wrong will go wrong."
Sarah's stomach dropped. "What do you mean?"
"If your One True Love doesn't rescue you in time, you might get accidentally rescued by something else; troll, jabberwocky, chicken. Though," he said thoughtfully, "of those options, your best bet is the chicken."
Sarah stared at him in shock. "My fate lies in the hands of heroic poultry?"
"Better believe it."
Suddenly, her eyes lit up. "Sir Didymus is a knight. And both you and Ludo have rescued me before; can't you guys rescue me this time?"
Hoggle pondered that. "We could, and we'll certainly try." He scowled, kicking out at the plastic table leg. "But, let's face it: If we ain't meant to rescue you, we won't be able to. That's 'The Way Things Are Done' when it comes to these adventures."
"Great," she said, shaking her head, her ponytail bobbing back and forth furiously. "Just great. I have to sit in a tower, surrounded by lava, waiting for someone..."
"Don't forget the chicken," Hoggle interjected.
"...or something to rescue me. What if they're incompetent and can't find me?"
Hoggle shrugged. "That's actually pretty likely. Worse still, your One True Love may not have even been born yet."
Sarah slumped in her chair. "Then I could be sitting in that tower..."
"...forever," finished Hoggle. "Though, look on the bright side: a century is typically the longest you'll have to wait."
That was a terrifying thought.
"A century in a tower seems like a lot of bother just for True Love," she said morosely.
Hoggle swallowed his cookie chunk. "Personally, I think True Love is all a bunch of goblin dung. You hear stories, but I ain't met mine and I don't know anyone who has. It's possible that you'll be sitting in that tower for nothing."
THAT was an eye-opener. Things were going from bad to lava-encrusted in seconds.
"Well, if you don't know who is going to rescue me, do you at least know who is going to kidnap me?"
"Other than the dragon? Nope." Hoggle shook his head. "But I know it ain't You Know Who. And before you ask," he interjected, as Sarah opened her mouth, "it's because he's been wearing a lot of beige lately."
At Sarah's puzzled look, he elaborated. "That usually means he's happy. If he was plotting something, he'd be wearing black."
Sarah blinked. "Huh."
They both took a moment to contemplate the Goblin King's sartorial choices and their possible impact on Sarah's future health and wellbeing.
Sarah sighed. "Can't I just say 'no' to this adventure?"
Before Hoggle could answer, Sarah stood up from her seat.
"I don't want to be stuck in a tower," she yelled at the sky. "And I don't want a One True Love! Well, not right now," she amended. "It's not that I don't appreciate the gesture, it's just that it's inconvenient right now. Thanks anyway!"
Hoggle grabbed her arm and pulled her back into her seat.
"Are you crazy? Didn't you learn anything from your trip through the Labyrinth? Words. Have. Power." He shook his head, disgusted. "Even if You Know Who is not the villain, there is still one out there right now, probably wearing black and definitely armed with a dragon. Do you really want to get his attention? Especially if your One True Love ain't goin' to rescue you right away?"
Sarah looked down at Hoggle and gave him a smirk. "Then I guess I'll just have to rescue myself then, won't I?"
Hoggle frowned. He recognized that particular smirk. It was the facial expression equivalent of 'piece of cake' and it made his eyelid twitch.
"There are some places where escape ain't all that easy from the inside," he warned, "especially when there's lava involved."
"Well then," she said, as she refilled their glasses, "I'll just have to avoid capture altogether then, won't I?"
Hoggle huffed at that.
"And dragons," she said cheerily.
"Yeah, but will the dragons avoid you?"
Sarah shrugged and patted Hoggle's shoulder. She looked fiercely determined.
"I'm not worried."
After all, she had beaten a living maze at the age of fifteen. How hard could this be?
Hoggle dropped his face into his hands. "And that's what worries me most of all."