When last we left our heroes: The Society for Cryptozoological Research, led by Kenneth, earl of Marston, attempted to find a troll reputed to live in Lake Kokar, Finland. Using a device to create artificial fog, the Mythstalkers found the beast… but not before it seized game hunter Colonel Augustus Durant and began to crush his throat!
Cassandra Chatterton stood on the silt shore of Lake Kokar, Finland, twelve hundred miles from her home, and watched as the troll lifted Colonel Augustus Durant in one hand and began to choke the life out him. Behind her she could feel the supporting hand of Kenneth, Lord Marston, on her shoulder, but it offered no comfort.
What it did offer, however, was support.
The Spenser rifle in her hands wasn’t fancy, nor was it specially “remodeled” by Sir Charles Rutledge Brown, the Society’s resident scientist and inventor. It had been her father’s, and despite Lord Marston’s continued insistence that she oughtn’t carry it about–not ladylike, you know–it had a full cartridge loaded and ready for bear. Or, in this case, troll.
She raised the gun, drawing a bead on her target like she had been taught. The creature had lifted the Colonel a foot off the ground and was holding him in such a way that Mrs. Chatterton couldn’t get a clear shot.
She didn’t care. It was only Durant, after all.
“He’s mine,” she said, cocking the hammer.
She felt Kenneth’s hand pull away.
“No, dash it, woman!” he cried. “We need it–”
The first shot missed both the troll and the Colonel, inches from the monster’s shoulder. Fortunately, however, it turned both the attention and the head of the Sjotroll so that by the time the second shot reached the beast, its slavering open mouth was turned perfectly to catch it.
The bullet exited the back of the creature’s skull.
“–alive,” Kenneth finished with a sigh.
“Oops,” was Cassandra’s only, smiling, reply.
-*- -*- -*-
Three days later, the Society for Cryptozoological Research had gathered once again in their London headquarters. The head of the Sjotroll, mounted and stuffed by London’s most talented (and, more importantly, most discreet) taxidermist, hung on the sitting room wall. It occupied a place of honor next to the head of a Japanese kappa, killed in 1844 by one of the founding members of the Society. Nearly fifty years later, it showed no sign of deterioration.
Lord Marston ran his finger along the bottom of the wooden plaque upon which the head was mounted.
“Well,” he said noncommittally, “there it is. I do hope it’s not one of those decorations where the eyes follow you about the room.”
Colonel Durant huffed. “I dare say not, as dead as the thing is!”
Cassandra Chatterton looked up from her newspaper. “Are we still harping on that?” she asked.
“Hmph. Harping. Yes, that’s how I’d categorize concern for the life of a possibly intelligent being. Spoken like a true monster, Mrs. Chatterton.”
Cassandra’s eyes narrowed and her fingernails dug into the paper making a crinkling noise of dissatisfaction. Durant had been both a soldier and a game hunter… who was he to take a high horse over her?
“Yes, indeed,” she started, “we mustn’t kill inhuman monsters… only innocent foreign soldiers in crown wars…” but her tirade was cut short by the clumsy entrance of Sir Charles.
The scientist had several papers rolled up in one hand which was apparently enough of a handicap to impair his ability to open and walk through a door. “I say!” he started, but his exuberance opening the door had enough force to cause it to bounce back, smacking him in the head. Sir Kenneth tried to suppress a laugh, failing equally.
The second, slower attempt at entering the room was more successful, and Sir Charles, once confirming that, resumed his exuberance.
“I think I’ve found something!” he said proudly.
“Hopefully something bulletproof,” Colonel Durant muttered under his breath and directly at Mrs. Chatterton.
Oblivious of the tension, Sir Charles continued, spreading out the paper rolls over the table in the center of the room. “The runes on the obelisks at Lake Kokar looked familiar, and when I finally was able to stop and think about them without, uh, running away from things, it initiated a series of recollections in my mind… that same semiotic syntax, I had seen it before…”
Victor Terranove rolled his eyes. If there was a way to express something with the largest number of words possible, Sir Charles would find it. He considered looking at his pocket watch for effect, but everyone else was looking over Sir Charles’ shoulder and the showmanship would have been wasted.
“As you can see,” Sir Charles continued, his stubby finger running along a line of symbols on a map, “a similar runic alphabet was used to make notations here. I’d, ah, attempted to decode them several years back, when I first got access to our library archives, but there wasn’t enough of a linguistic foundation to base anything but a guess upon. We have so few notations in this hand that it’s almost–”
“Whose hand?” Lord Marston asked sharply, his interest suddenly focused on the scientist’s ramblings. “Who made the notations, Sir Charles?”
Sir Charles’ chubby face pinkened. “T-these documents were from the unified miscellany left behind by Mister Benedict.”
“Say again? These were Mr. Benedict’s?”
“You, ah, did request that I follow any lead that might direct us to a new mythozoological encounter, Lord Marston. I know that the 1833 Society archives are far more complete than the 1866 ones, but…”
Kenneth, Lord Marston, took a sip of his sherry with one hand and waved away Sir Charles’ guilty discomfiture with his other. “Don’t worry yourself, Charles… you’ve done excellently. Good show indeed. My father’s man Benedict took most everything when they…”
“Vanished forever from the world of man?” Terranove offered.
“Yes, oh yes,” sighed Mrs. Chatterton, “What a mystery it was. Now can we please let Sir Charles speak? Some of us would rather get on with the present business than morbidly delve into ancient history.”
“Well, ah, actually our business is ancient history,” Sir Charles pointed out meekly.
“Charles is right, you know,” Kenneth said. “This Society wasn’t formed for your own personal entertainment, Mrs. Chatterton. Things that shouldn’t be out there… are. And I’ll be damned if I’m not going to learn all I can from them.”
Terranove noticed the steel beneath Lord Marston’s usual banter. Despite frequent protestations, it seemed the young earl had not given up on discovering his father’s last port of call after all.
Colonel Durant huffed around his cigar. “Why don’t you just tell us what in life’s hell we’re going after, Rutledge?”
Sir Charles looked confused. “Oh? I mean, I didn’t?”
“No,” Terranove said.
“Not yet,” added Mrs. Chatterton.
Lord Marston shook his head.
“I apologize!” Sir Charles said, turning the map around so that it faced the others. “These notes very clearly detail the location of the famed Labyrinth of Crete!”
A smile crossed Lord Marston’s face.
“Minotaur?” he asked the colonel.
“Minotaur,” the hunter responded.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.