When last we left our heroes: Finally arriving on the island of Crete, Sir Charles discovered the entrance to the Minoan Labyrinth… marked by the sigil of the Society for Cryptozoological Research itself!
Kenneth, Lord Marston raced to the marked plinth with alacrity that belied his usual pose of idleness. Cassandra suppressed a smile at his singular lack of subtlety. It was common knowledge in the Society that Lord Marston had father issues. The disappearance of the original Society back in 1866 was the event that drove him to this day.
“This is perfect!” Lord Marston cheered, looking between Sir Charles’ hands at the sigil in the stone. “This is the first proof positive we’ve had that we’re following the footsteps of one of their expeditions. I dare say there might be more once we track down the elusive beast!”
“Which we can only do once the men open the entrance,” Mrs. Chatterton noted.
“Is it me or is she only a woman when there’s heavy lifting to be done?” Durant muttered to Terranove. Two minutes later, both men were straining against the stone cap at the end of the column. With a loud thud it fell onto the grass beneath, revealing a hollow tube angling down into the earth.
All five paused for a moment in silent awe. This was no mere catacomb; they stood at the entrance to the famed Labyrinth of Crete, designed by the mad genius Daedalus and prison to the monster son of King Minos himself.
“Perhaps this is a good time for me to refresh your minds on our safety measures, if I may,” Sir Charles ruined the moment. “First, remember that the drugged shot will only…”
(Two hours later, deep in the Labyrinth.)
“…forget to remain in relative proximity to each other,” Sir Charles continued. “My device is recording our movements so we can retrace our steps out, but it only operates from its own centralized location. If we move away from it, we can’t…”
That was when the beast in the shadows stepped into Lord Marston’s dim torchlight.
It was huge, almost ten feet tall, and its horns grew from its scalp to curl into sharp points over its hairy shoulders. Brown fur covered most of its body except where long matted auburn hair grew along its arms and lower legs. Its eyes were a cirrhotic yellow and its face was elongated like the snout of a bull.
“Oh my,” was all Sir Charles had to say about that.
“Attack!” Durant barked, his rifle already in his hands and coming around to bear on the beast.
“Three hits!” Sir Charles called out. “The drug should work on it in three hits!” That said, the portly scientist ran for cover behind one of the dozens of nested archways of the maze.
The first crack of a firearm came from Mrs. Chatterton’s rifle. “One hit,” she said.
“Two,” followed Durant a second later as his dart punctured the beast’s hide barely an inch away from Mrs. Chatterton’s.
Things were going worse for Terranove and Lord Marston, the former of whom found his gun jammed and the latter, his aim far worse than his allies’. The thing was moving forward at such a speed that Marston’s drugged materiel shattered against the ancient stone behind the beast.
“A miss!” Lord Marston called.
“Hurry!” Sir Charles said, finding comfort in stating the obvious. “It’s coming closer!”
Victor Terranove looked at the pistol in his hand with a dissatisfied frown. “Can’t believe I actually tried to use this fool thing,” he muttered to himself.
Meanwhile, the Minotaur had turned towards the single distaff member of the Society. Durant, whether out of disdain or chivalry neither was certain, lunged between the beauty and the beast.
“Out of the way, woman! I’ll–” he started.
He was interrupted by the sudden impact of a fist the size of his head against his head. The aging game hunter stumbled back a step before falling to the ground under the renewed onslaught of the Minotaur. One brown fur-matted hand held Durant against the floor by his neck and the other drew back to shatter the intruder’s skull with a massive blow. Durant refused to turn from the yellow eyes, determined to meet his death face to face.
The face stared back, then its grip went limp. Its fist loosened and it fell forward, nearly crushing Durant beneath its avoirdupois.
“You know, it’s much easier if you just apply it directly, it seems,” said Victor Terranove standing over the creature’s body, one hand holding the sedative dart like a knife.
“Right,” Lord Marston said, stepping forward and taking charge once more now that the danger was over. “Durant, Terranove… can you get the creature? Bind it, then portage?”
“I could…” Sir Charles offered, but the Earl of Marston cut him off.
“You just hold onto the map device, Charles.”
Durant, having rolled the unconscious Minotaur off of himself, got to his feet. “Wait,” he said, one ear to the silence. “Something’s wrong.”
“The Minotaur is down and it’s not moving,” Lord Marston said. “Nothing’s wrong.”
“No,” Durant said, holding one hand up to silence the young lord. “I hear footsteps.”
“I don’t–” started Lord Marston, but he was cut off by Mrs. Chatterton’s scream as she was suddenly pulled back into the darkness. Nary a second later, a heavy blow struck down Sir Charles from behind. The navigation device fell from his hands and skidded across the dusty stone floor.
“What the–” Lord Marston tried again. As the shadows closed in, he stopped himself, having nothing more to say.
Three figures surrounded Marston and Durant. All three were half-man, half-bull… but the similarities ended there. The smallest of them, at only a foot taller than Colonel Durant, was garbed in the armor of a Greek hoplite warrior. It had a human face, but two horns grew from its grey brow like a devil. Behind it was a massive hulking form, barely able to fit in the intersection of twisty little passages, all alike. Its fur was black, making it almost impossible to see in the darkness. It lumbered over, arms hanging forward as if it was ready to begin charging on all fours at any moment. There was nothing human about its head except the infernal red eyes that could only come from the nightmares of conscious beings. The third creature was a uniform gray, with a curly fleece more like a sheep than a cow. It had the most elaborate and impressive horns of the trio, long, curved and lethal. Gold jewelry hung from its horns, its ears, its nose… and it was bedecked in ceremonial gold bracers and greaves.
“Sir Charles,” Colonel Durant said angrily, “Didn’t you say there was only one?”
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.