When last we left our heroes: Something… something strange… happened when ex-game hunter Colonel Augustus Durant found himself alone in the Labyrinth of Crete fighting three Minotaurs. All we’re sure of is that it left three Minotaurs dead and Durant cursing himself.
Sir Charles was still talking.
“This is unprecedented! None of the myths address a race of minotaurs… the creature was thought to be a singular birth, albeit a rather horrible and scandalous one. And look at them! The diversity of bestial aspect… one could hardly believe them to be of the same species… no, wait now…”
As usual, it fell to Mrs. Chatterton to cut him off rudely. “Might we table the zoological discussion until we’ve found our way out of this byzantine architectural monstrosity?”
“Right! Yes, of course!” Sir Charles agreed. “I just need to find where I dropped my…”
His puppy-like eagerness to please sank as he began to look around for his navigational device. It was shattered in several places, the glass broken and the palimpsest arm snapped off and missing completely. Lots and lots of sand had poured out of it as well, apparently picked up from its stay on the Cyclops’ beach.
“I’d wager that means we’re not going to find our way out of here,” Victor Terranove said.
“Oh, good grief,” sighed Sir Charles, cradling the device in his arms like a sick baby. “The… uh… the tapes are still intact… um, for the most part… maybe I could… I mean, if I had the time…”
“This is an underground maze, right?” Lord Marston asked offhandedly.
Sir Charles looked up. “Y-yes, for the most part.”
“Colonel Durant… your elephant gun?”
It was a testament to how preoccupied the hunter had been since waking his compatriots that he just handed the rifle over to the Earl without even a disparaging comment.
Lord Marston dug into the expedition supply pack and pulled out several high caliber Nitro Express rounds, loading them into Durant’s gun.
“What are you–” Mrs. Chatterton started, but in one swift movement, Lord Marston aimed the gun at the earthen ceiling between two of the intersecting stone arches and fired twice.
There was an explosion of soil and dust and for a moment, none of the explorers could see.
Then, through the dusty air, a beam of sunlight broke.
“If there’s one thing playing mazes on paper teaches you,” Kenneth, Lord Marston said with a self-congratulatory smile, “it’s that the easiest way to get out is to simply lift your pencil off of the paper.”
At her request, Durant helped Mrs. Chatterton out of the hole. Sir Charles and Lord Marston were returning to the skiff to get rope and poles to bind and transport the living Minotaur while Terranove stood watch in the Labyrinth.
“It was odd the way that the creatures were all killed, didn’t you think?” Cassandra asked only nominally offhanded. She stepped onto the green grass of the Knossos ruins. “I mean, Sir Charles is so fastidious about his inventories for these expeditions…”
Without turning to face her, Durant growled, “Get to whatever point you have, Mrs. Chatterton.”
Durant was already striding towards where they had moored the boat and Mrs. Chatterton had to jog to keep pace with the older man.
“The beasts were all found dead with crossbow bolts in them… and yet, I’m certain none of us brought a crossbow along with us.”
“I told you already,” the Colonel said, glancing over his shoulder at the woman, “it was some sort of bloody death trap. Shot them all up.”
“Shot them in exactly the places it would take to kill such strong creatures. How odd.”
Colonel Durant turned back to his trek and simply harumphed.
Mrs. Chatterton gave up on catching up to the ex-hunter and stood ground, her hands on her hips. She made her voice as cold and threatening as she could, which was a not-inconsiderable amount.
“If after all your ‘bloody’ lecturing about the sanctity of life, I find out that you did this, Colonel…”
Durant spun to respond, his own voice gravelly with anger. “And what do you mean by that? Shot creatures that were about to kill us all with a crossbow that I obviously do not have?”
“Yes, Colonel,” Mrs. Chatterton said softly. “That is exactly what I mean.”
The Minotaur had been lashed down to a gurney made of wooden poles and thick blankets. It was vital that its appearance remained covered but Sir Charles had run a venting tube under the blankets so that even though the thing’s bestial head was wrapped securely, there was ample air for it to breathe. The scientist had also measured out another syringe of sedative to keep it unconscious. The only thing Sir Charles hadn’t prepared for was being left with Victor to actually drag the thing back to the boat. Some kind of upper-class “not me” selection process had been employed and before he knew it, Lord Marston and Mrs. Chatterton had wandered away together. Almost immediately, Colonel Durant had stormed off in the other direction. That left the portly scientist and the skinny prestidigitator.
Shrugging genially at Sir Charles, Victor picked up one pole and elaborately offered the other to the scientist. After a few false starts, the two were dragging the massive beast at a slow pace down towards the docks.
“We actually did it, didn’t we, Sir Charles?” Victor asked, a smile on his face.
“We’ve found proof. Proof that these myths and tales are true. These things… monsters… spirits… magic… they’re actually real.” Something akin to awe shone out of the stage magicians face.
“Well, ah, we’ve captured a specimen of unknown categorization, certainly,” Sir Charles said, obtusely moistening Victor’s metaphoric blanket with each word, “but truth to tell, it brings up more questions than it resolves. I mean, obviously this can’t be the original Minotaur… the legends are so ancient that the creature would have to be thousands of years old, and even a cursory examination belies that.”
Victor frowned slightly, but Sir Charles kept talking.
“Also, how does one explain the wide variety of specimen? And if these are somehow descendants of the original creature, how do they reproduce? There’s no indication–cultural or empirical–of a female variant of the Minotaur.”
Victor looked back at the bulky roll of blanket they were dragging.
“So after all that… we know nothing. This is another failure.”
Sir Charles looked over at Victor, and even a man of science could see the disappointment on his face.
“Victor, my friend,” Sir Charles said, “today there is one more creature known to man than there was yesterday. I cannot call that anything but a rousing success!”
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.