When last we left our heroes… Sjotroll: killed. Ministry of Objective Sciences: evaded. Ghost pirates: befriended. Cyclops: befuddled. Minotaur: Three of them, and only Colonel Durant left standing. Final score still pending.
“Lord Marston?” Colonel Durant asked, stepping slowly backwards from the trio of Minotaurs without dropping his gaze. “Sir Charles? Terranove? Damnable woman? Are any of you still conscious?”
Silence was his only response, unless you count the threatening growls of the half-men, half-bulls that were advancing upon the big game hunter. The rifle in his hand had only been loaded with a single shot of Sir Charles’ drug and that was long gone.
Colonel Durant was alone and unarmed.
“No?” he asked one last time. When none of his allies responded, a surprising smile curled up beneath his white mustache. “Good.”
With speed far beyond what anyone might have expected of the older man’s frame, he lunged forward at the largest of the Minotaurs, striking it on the bridge of its snout with the wooden rifle butt. The creature, distracted, tried to gore the hunter but only succeeded in causing a scratch across Durant’s brow.
The colonel landed on both feet, crouching like a cat. One hand balanced him against the stone floor while the other…
The other hand began to change.
Grey leather began to spread from the hunter’s fingertips, running down his hand like a heavy gauntlet appearing from nowhere. Bone-like ridges appeared on the tops of his fingers ending in sharp claws. As the impossible glove advanced up Durant’s right arm, two wooden spars emerged from beneath it. They snapped open on both sides of his arm, trailing a taut string that was already nocked in a short bolt made of bone.
Durant aimed the in-built crossbow at the head of the hulking Minotaur and with the squeeze of his fist, the projectile flew, embedding itself in the beast’s forehead.
His arm was not the only part of his body being sheathed in the miraculous armor. The grey skin spread up his legs as well, talons of bone gripping tight in the stone beneath his feet, sharp ivory spikes jutting forth from hard kneeguards. His other arm had no crossbow, but a long curved blade extended down his forearm, impossibly sharp. Like a hood, the leather peaked over his white hair before stopping, a long horn rising up from his scalp ready to impale. Beneath it, though, the colonel’s face took on a black stone-like quality, smooth and featureless except for two white glowing eyes. A bone carapace crossed his chest over the mystical leather, nasty barbs jutting outward from his shoulders, his elbows, any joint that could be used to impale an opponent in a bloody struggle.
The Minotaur in armor drew a stone-pointed spear off its back and stepped in closer to the strange figure. It lunged at Durant’s side, ducking the sweep of the bone sword and shattering the tip of the spear against the chest plate. Taking advantage of the creature’s proximity, Durant shot three bolts into the creature’s chest, piercing the bronze armor like it was cloth. The beast was dead before it fell upon the labyrinthian stone.
The figure no longer even moved like Colonel Durant. Its speed and grace made it seem like it moved at twice the speed of the monsters surrounding it.
The only Minotaur remaining was the gray-fleeced one, its gold ornamentation reflecting the sparse torchlight. Leaning low, it raced at the Durant-figure, horns in position to gore. The hunter turned, but not fast enough to avoid taking a hard hit from the bull. Durant responded with a sharp blow from his spiked elbow to the side of the creature’s muzzle. Blood ran down the beast’s nose. Infuriated, it swiped at the armored hunter with its own clawed fist, tears in the grey leather of its chest exposing pink human skin beneath… and then sealing up over them.
If the Minotaur was cognizant enough to deem this unfair or if it was just confused by the impossible prowess of its opponent, it didn’t matter. One moment of hesitation was enough for the hunter to clench its fist and drive it into the monster’s face. A horrible sound of crunching bone and the wheeze of mighty lungs drawing a final blood-filled breath went unheard by all except Colonel Durant. The Minotaur fell at his taloned feet.
What it took for Augustus Durant to draw the lethal skin back, exposing his mundane boots and sweat-stained clothes, we may never know, but as the hood pulled away and the stone visage made way for his tired and wrinkled face, he could only muster the breath for three words.
“God… damn… me.”
Stepping over the bloody corpse of an unimaginable creature, now nothing more than broken flesh, he looked for where his allies had fallen unconscious. Sir Charles and Mrs. Chatterton had fallen next to the sole survivor of the line of Minos, the one monster that had been drugged before… before the Colonel had given in.
The old man wiped a tear from his eye before frowning with his best stiff upper lip.
“Right,” he said to no one in particular, “Better sound the bugle and get this beast back to England.”
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.