When last we left our heroes, Kenneth Valence, Lord of Marston, had his worst fears about water travel confirmed when their oversea trip to Crete was interrupted by a mysterious ghost ship that tore through their boat before vanishing. Before the survivors could make their way to safety on a nearby island, though, a wave crashed over them, pulling them into the deep Mediterranean Sea…

mythstalkersTHE LABYRINTH

Part Eight

Sir Charles Rutledge Brown came to consciousness when something hit his face. Blinking the salt water from his eyes, he could see a blurry white haired head with a blurry white mustache looming over him. The figure slapped him again.

“Are… are we alive?” he asked.

“Feh,” muttered Colonel Durant, but at least he stopped slapping the disoriented inventor. A taller, thinner, darker haired smudge reached out a hand and helped Sir Charles to his feet.

“Right, right,” Sir Charles said. “Absurd question. We must be alive if we are still possessed of imperfect knowledge.”

Reaching into his pocket, Sir Charles pulled forth his spare spectacles and put them on. The blurs became people, people on a beach.

“I think that Colonel Durant is more perturbed with our current situation than with your observations, Sir Charles,” Victor Terranove said.

Just as Sir Charles was about to panic at the realization that the device he had engineered for the Labyrinth was lost at the bottom of the sea, he noticed it sitting next to the sandy imprint of his rotund body.

“I’m perturbed with whatever the deuce that thing that nearly killed us was!” Durant growled.

“I’d say it looked like a ghost ship,” Victor said, “but my credulity is already strained and that might just be one belief too far.”

As Sir Charles wiped sand–the enemy of gearwork–from his navigator, he saw that Lord Marston and Mrs. Chatterton had also made it ashore safely. They sat next to each other on a large piece of fishing boat wreckage.

“I’m never going on a boat again,” Lord Marston said.

“We’re trapped on an island. I don’t think you have much choice if we’re ever to get off of it.”

“Are you sure it’s an island? Maybe it’s a peninsula?”

“Whatever it is,” Colonel Durant said, looking out across the ocean, “it’s not one on any of the charts.”

That was the moment that the island–or optimistically perhaps the peninsula–shook with a loud thoom.

“What was that?” Mrs. Chatterton was the first to ask.

“A tremor?” said Terranove. “Don’t tell me we’re on a volcanic island.”

“Maybe I could try another boat, just the once,” Lord Marston muttered to himself.

“No, there shouldn’t be any sort of seismological activity in this area of the Mediterranean,” Sir Charles said. “Either vulcanological or…”

“That’s not a tremor,” Colonel Durant said with frowning certainty as the thooming continued, steady and getting louder. The sound of tearing wood preceded the emergence of the creature, but only by seconds as it tore the trees lining the beach out of its way.

From the arboreal carnage, a giant emerged.

The thing was twenty feet tall and muscled like the circus strongman that other circus strongmen go to see. It was armored in a bronze breastplate and greaves lined with sheep fleeces sewn together with what could only be their own entrails. Greasy black hair hung down over its one eye. There was no second eye, no empty socket or scar; just the one, centered malevolently over its nose and roaring maw.

“Someone tell me that the weaponry washed up with us,” Lord Marston said.

“Oh, my,” was Mrs. Chatterton’s only response.

“Oh, my!” Sir Charles echoed, but with fascination instead of fear.

“A… a giant,” Victor said with exceedingly strained disbelief.

None of the four of them moved as the impossible creature raced towards them.

“Go to ground! Scatter!” Colonel Durant screamed, biting his lip not to add “you damn fools” to the order.

“That’s not a giant,” Sir Charles mused as the not-a-giant closed in on him. “There’s no historical or folkloric basis for giants in the Mediterranean… and the monocular nature of its facial structure…”

A meaty (and Sir Charles noted as it reached for him, meat-stained) hand was inches from closing around the scientist when Mrs. Chatterton, who had listened to the Colonel, turned and tackled Sir Charles out of its way. The thing’s fist closed around nothing, just missing their fallen forms.

Sir Charles looked up at her, blinking as if only just then realizing what the true peril of their situation was.

“Do you ever shut up, you idiotic pedant?” Mrs. Chatterton spat before turning from him and running full bore towards the shelter of the treeline.

Sir Charles stumbled to his feet and raced after her.

“She… she actually talked to me!” he muttered to himself. In his astonishment, the navigation device went unremembered in the sand.

Running in the other direction, Kenneth, Earl of Marston, was following the far more survival prone Colonel Durant towards a hilly outcropping.

“Augustus!” he cried, glancing over his shoulder just long enough to see Sir Charles’ danger but not his rescue. “It’s got Sir Charles!”

“Damn it, man, what do you expect me to do? Knock it out with my bare fists?”

“I… I can’t believe it,” Victor panted, catching up to the two. “How can something so big–”

“Oh, don’t even say it!” Lord Marston snapped.

The beast had caught up to Sir Charles and Mrs. Chatterton, and obviously ascribing to neither the Marquis of Queensbury rules of fisticuffs nor proper treatment of “the Sex,” had knocked them both out with a single wide swipe of its shipmast of an arm. Sniffing the air, it turned to the three men. Its mouth attempted a satisfied sneer, but the grimace it actually made was just as terrifying.

As the one-eyed beast turned and began charging towards him, Lord Marston realized that retreat on an island was unlikely to end well for him. Though born from desperation, deep within his noble spirit an uncommon valor sparked into life.

He reached down into the grass and picked up a stone, sharp and about the size of a cricket ball. It hadn’t been that many years ago he was the best left-arm fast bowler on Eton’s under-sixteen team. While the giant lumbered mindlessly towards the Earl, Kenneth began his run-up.

Just as the beast closed in on twenty yards distance, Lord Marston let the stone fly; cricketer David against a monocular Goliath.

The stone struck the giant on its brow, several inches up and to the left of its vulnerable eye.

“Balls,” he said as the last thing he saw was a hairy, bloody fist flying towards his head. He didn’t have time to appreciate how his binocular vision allowed him to see it coming.

One more time, it all went black.

To be continued…

© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.

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