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The Minotaur Settles a Score
By
QuirkyStories

The Minotaur Settles a Score

The Minotaur leaves the Labyrinth with his brother-in-arms.

The Minotaur had a score to settle.

He was trapped in the center of the Labyrinth, spellbound so he could not leave. And who was the monster that cast the spell, imprisoning him thus? None other than his namesake, the evil King Minos. And Minos didn’t even have the decency to have plumbing installed.

Day in and day out the Minotaur paced the Labyrinth’s center, his powerful feet wearing a groove into the marble floor. Always the same questions.

Why had Minos put him there? Perhaps a philosopher could enlighten him, for his bull brains couldn’t fathom a reason.

When would Minos free him of the spell? Perhaps an oracle could foresee this, for this he could not divine.

One thing for sure. He didn’t need a philosopher or oracle to tell him what he’d do when the spell lifted. He’d make his way out of the cursed Labyrinth, find the vile Minos, and make a feast in his honor. And for the main course he’d serve Minos. Ah, he could just taste the still beating heart between his teeth, feel the warm blood coursing down his furry chin.

For he craved manflesh. Always. He ate what he hated most.

Of course, there was hardly a plentiful supply of human flesh at the center of the Labyrinth, and so he was always ravenous. Every so often, at the behest of Minos, the good citizens of Athens sent the Minotaur seven maidens and seven lads to feast upon. These were succulent and sweet, and he ate them complete. But how much marrow could he suck from their soft bones before the hunger crept back?

He had the gods to thank for the stouthearted and foolhardy heroes who braved the Labyrinth to fight him. They came for honor and glory, and most of them met one of two ends. Either they got lost in the imponderable mazes of the Labyrinth and died of deprivation (their parched moans kept him up at night), or they found their way to the center of the Labyrinth where the Minotaur quenched their thirst for glory by eating them alive. They did not make for good eating, these warriors – they were sinewy and gristly, but they were food, and their hard bones were good for building furniture and the like.

The Minotaur envied these warriors, stupid though they were. They at least had the freedom to seek out a death of their choosing. He was free to seek nothing and was all alone.

Well, not entirely alone. In a cage he made from warrior bones, he kept ten human arms. These he had ripped out of the right shoulders of the ten strongest warriors to make it to the center of the Labyrinth. But how could ten extracted arms keep anyone company? Easily. For using magic gifted to him by the not entirely stingy Minos, the Minotaur was able to keep these arms fresh and very much alive. It was as though they had never been separated from their bodies.

These arms were like pets to the Minotaur; he would never dream of eating them. He was fond of watching them. They punched each other, wrestled, and rattled the cage. When they missed the bodies from which they were pulled, they’d huddle and clasp each other, brothers-in-arms. And when the Minotaur was particularly sad, he’d sit himself down next to the cage and let the arms out, and they would give him encouraging slaps on his massive back.

One morning, on the 20 th spring since his imprisonment, the Minotaur awoke and took a deep breath. His nostrils caught the faint and familiar odors of the wild and gay bacchanal rites. But something in the air was different. It smelled freer to him. It was the spell; like the snows on Olympus, it was receding. He was free to leave the Labyrinth, that is if he could navigate his way through its incomparable mazes. And for this he had a plan.

For after wrenching the right arms from the shoulders of the ten brave warriors, the Minotaur plugged the gushing sockets with rags and sent the warriors staggering back into the Labyrinth, blood dripping through the rags. Surely one or maybe more of these warriors would have the wherewithal to stumble his way out of the maze, staining the marble with a bloody trail that would one day show the Minotaur the way out. Now with the spell lifted, he would follow these bloody trails until one of them, hopefully, led to freedom. It was a twisted plan, but clever considering it was hatched in the brains of a bull.

And so he put his ten pet arms in a satchel and began to follow a trail of blood, periodically notching the stone walls with his sharp horns.

The first trail ended soon enough in the skeletal remains of a one-armed warrior. He could feel one of the arms in the satchel clawing its way out of the bag; it was that warrior’s arm. He took the arm, kissed it and lay it next to the remains. The arm sidled up to the skeleton such that it was re-united with its socket and went limp.

The Minotaur then knelt so low his horns scraped the marble and he muttered, “Oh, brave warrior, I have returned your right arm to you. In return please beseech the gods to help me find my way out of this cursed Labyrinth.”

Then using the blood stains on the ground and his horn marks on the wall, he followed the trail back to the center of the Labyrinth so he could pursue another trail of blood.

The Minotaur wandered the Labyrinth for weeks following trails of blood. In his wandering he passed the remains of many a two-armed warrior, the ones who were not lucky enough to find their death at the center of the Labyrinth. And eventually, he found his way to the remains of eight more one-armed warriors. To each he returned its rightful right arm, and from each he beseeched succor from the gods prior to returning to the center of the Labyrinth.

Now he held the last arm in his hand and examined it. He remembered the warrior to which this arm belonged. He had hardly been the biggest, but he was undoubtedly the toughest. The arm had a tattoo, from the wars, or so its previous owner had claimed.

Kissing the arm, he said, “I pray that your master lives, or at least lived long enough to leave this Labyrinth.”

To which the arm raised its thumb in agreement.

The Minotaur cast a final glance at his miserable home these last 20 years and left to follow the final trail of blood. Sooner than he could have hoped, he found himself at the entrance of the Labyrinth. He took a great draught of breath through his gaping nostrils and stepped out into the world.

He raised his hands to the gods in thanks, and his brother-in-arms reached for the sky as well.

“Well, we made it out,” he said to the arm, who patted him on the back.

The Minotaur took the first road he found, with hopes of finding his way to Athens, for that is where Minos lived.

Soon enough a nymph ran across the road, with a satyr in hot pursuit. The Minotaur stopped them and asked for directions to Athens, and they stopped their cavorting to send him in the right direction. Then the three of them danced in a circle and laughed. Before taking leave, the Minotaur gave the happy creatures a parting hug, and then he ate them. Actually, he only got halfway through the satyr when he remembered how much he loathed the taste of goat.

The Minotaur followed his late friends’ directions and reached the metropolis of Athens. The city was teeming with people, but they were not polite. There is something off-putting about a bellowing Minotaur with blood on his face (he hadn’t cleaned up after his recent meal). To start with, it is difficult to understand a Minotaur with a clean face; the vocal chords of a bull are simply not conducive to effective elocution. And of course, the more people ran in horror, the more impatient and angry the Minotaur grew, and the more his words came out as spit riddled grunts and shouts.

One certainly can’t blame the good citizens of Athens for being frightened by such a bloody visage, but they weren’t particularly smart. One need not fret about the minotaur with a bloody face, for he has recently eaten and is probably not hungry, just yet. It’s the minotaur with a clean face that should cause alarm.

At any rate, the situation was getting desperate for the Minotaur, until he happened upon an old lady. She was hard of hearing and mostly blind. To her cloudy eyes he looked like a particularly large man with a oversized head, nothing too unusual for someone who had lived long enough to see it all. In fact, there was something about the shape of the surly man’s head that reminded her of a bull her father kept when she was a young girl. She was very fond of that bull and when her father, against her entreaties, sacrificed the bull to Athena, she was heart-broken and never quite forgave him (or Athena) for it.

“Where is the house of Minos?” the Minotaur shouted down to the lady.

“Sweetie, you are going to have to speak up, because I can’t hear a word you’re whispering,” she said to the Minotaur.

Taken aback, the Minotaur leaned over until his great mouth all but swallowed her wrinkly ear and yelled, “I SEEK DIRECTIONS TO THE HOUSE OF KING MINOS!!!!!”

“Why didn’t you say so before?” she said, patting the Minotaur on his head. “It so happens he lives just down the street.”

She gave him directions, and so grateful was he, he lifted her up and kissed her on both cheeks.

Finally, the Minotaur had hit pay dirt; he would serve Minos his well deserved revenge. Or so he thought. For the old lady had correctly heard every word the Minotaur had bellowed on her ear except the last. He had yelled “MINOS!!!!!” and she had heard, “ Midas.”

And so he didn’t think anything of it that the gates of the great palace were made of gold. Neither did all the gold columns and statues say anything to him. He was very unimpressed with gold as a rule. Such a useless metal; you looked at it and it bent. Give him bronze or iron any day, but spare the gold.

As for the palace guards, all he saw of them was the golden chain mail of their backsides.

Reaching the center of the palace he flung open two great, golden doors and found himself face-to-face with his nemesis, the beast who had ruined his life and who would now pay, King Minos.

It’s funny, he didn’t remember Minos so small, round and gray, but then again, twenty years will change a man, even one so terrible as Minos.

Then a curious thing happened. He had dreamt of this moment for so long, and now that it had come, he was frozen with fear.

The king, for his part, stared at the great monster with open eyes. His face turned red, and he opened his mouth. At first no sound came out, but as with a crying child, the dam finally burst and the mouth emitted sound:

“GUARDS!!!! INTRUDER!!!! GUARDS!!!! INTRUDER!!!!”

And though the Minotaur felt his chance for revenge slipping away, he just stood there.

But not so the arm in the satchel. The Minotaur was its master and it would see justice done. It climbed out of the satchel, jumped over the Minotaur’s shoulder and with surprising speed bounded toward the king, leapt into the air and slapped the king across his face; and just like that the arm turned to shiny gold and fell to the ground with a resounding clunk.

“What is the meaning of this?” cried King Midas.

“What have you done to my arm friend, Minos?!” yelled the Minotaur. “First you imprison me in the Labyrinth, then you change my only friend into a soft and useless metal?”

His fear banished, he advanced toward the king, as a great predator might approach a vanquished prey.

“I will enjoy devouring you, King Minos,” he said.

“Minos? Did you say, King Minos?” yelled the cowering king. “I am not Minos! I am Midas. King Midas. You know, the one who turns everything he touches into gold. You’re not the most observant of brutes, are you? You didn’t notice all the gold? You didn’t see the letters on the gate? You know the big, golden ones that say, ‘King Midas.’ You’ll excuse me for asking, but what kind of idiot are you?!”

“Me? Me idiot?!?!” He sputtered. “You idiot! What bull knows to read?!”

And he walked over to Midas, picked up the golden arm, put it in his satchel and stormed out of the palace.

For hours he wandered the city, talking only to the poor golden arm in his satchel. No wonder the good citizens of Athens gave him a wide berth. In addition to being the Minotaur, he was in deep conversation with a satchel.

Finally, he came to a tavern called, ironically enough, The Lonely Arm.

“This looks like the place for us,” said the Minotaur to his golden arm.

A good draught of mead would wet his parched throat and perhaps clear his head.

He entered the tavern and right away saw him. A one armed barkeep. Older no doubt, but most certainly the warrior who could lay claim to the golden arm. The toughest warrior he had ever faced, the only one to make it to center of the Labyrinth and leave with his life, if not body, intact, and he was keeping bar in a lowly tavern in Athens.

The barkeep spotted the Minotaur and at once reached under the counter and raised a rusty sword in his left hand.

“Have you come for my left arm as well?!” he shouted. “This one you will not get without a fight.”

With surprising speed for a one-armed barkeep, he leapt over the counter and faced the Minotaur.

“I have not come for your left arm,” said the Minotaur.

“Come for my head, no doubt,” answered the barkeep. “Tell me, beast, have you not ruined my life enough? Had you even a speck of decency you would’ve killed me instead of maiming me. I was a respected warrior before I met you. I was to marry a lady with a dowry of two thousand sheep until you turned me into an invalid!”

The Minotaur wanted to remind him that no one had forced him to enter the Labyrinth, but the barkeep had more to say.

“Look at me, I’m a pathetic barkeep. Street urchins run in here and steal my tips. Scoundrels drink without paying knowing that with one arm I can’t catch ‘em all. Go ahead and try taking my left arm or my head. I’ll kill you or die trying.”

The Minotaur considered him and said, “I figured on you making it fartherer than a tavern, what with how you fought.”

“Well, I didn’t. So what’s it going to be? Are we going to barter words all day or shall we fight?”

“Look, I don’t want your arm or your head,” said the Minotaur. Reaching into his satchel, he said, “I just wanted to return this to you.”

The one armed warrior braced himself, not knowing what evil the monster was pulling out of his sack. But when he saw what the Minotaur offered him he said, “You mock me? A gilded arm? What kind of sick jokester are you?”

But the Minotaur pushed the shiny arm on him and so he took it, nearly dropping it from the unexpected weight. Then he looked at it curiously and bit it lightly.

“Is this…?

“Yes, it’s gold,” said the Minotaur.

“Do you have any idea how much it’s worth?” asked the man.

“I know, it’s worthless next to bronze or iron, but it’s all because of that Midas bloke,” he said. “Believe you me, I’d a rather have given you your arm in flesh.”

“You’re funny,” he said, smiling for the first time. “Don’t you see? You’ve delivered me. What with this gold, I can buy me four thousand sheep or a vineyard of 1000 hectares.”

He rushed to the Minotaur and gave him a one-armed hug.

Then he said, “Surely, there is something I can do for you, good sir.”

“You don’t owe me nothing,” said the Minotaur.

“Well, my barkeep days are over,” said the man, untying his apron.

“Actually, there is something I want,” said the Minotoaur. “That apron of yours.”

“My apron?”

“I’ve spent the last 20 years in the Labyrinth learning no trade, not unless you count eating folks. I don’t suppose it’s all that complicated keeping bar.”

“Not unless you consider serving drinks and listening to tales of woe to be complicated,” said the man. He gave the apron to the Minotaur, bowed and left the tavern, never to return.

The Minotaur tied the apron around his waist and went to the other side of the counter.

From that day onward he was barkeep and proprietor of the establishment, which he renamed The Golden Arm.

He never did look for King Minos after that. He was too busy running the bar to think of such things. Truthfully, he’d lost his taste for revenge. He also lost his taste for manflesh, and with the change of diet, his temper subsided, somewhat. Now instead of eating men’s hearts, he served them mead and listened to them, as they ate their own hearts out.

It always made him laugh when a drunken patron would report how some hero had killed the fearsome Minotaur. Every time it was a new one – Perseus, Theseus, Gluteus, Maximus… he couldn’t keep their names straight. As the drunks recounted it, the great heroes always paraded around Athens with the Minotaur’s head.

“What a joke,” the Minotaur would tell them. “Anyone can cut off a bull’s head and parade it around town.”

“I’m telling you,” they’d say. “You should’ve seen the monstrous, red-eyed head. Monstrous, I tell you. But then, what would you, a barkeep, know of such things?”

Which just goes to show you. Take the scariest of creatures, tie an apron on him and have him serve you drinks and listen to your problems, and he loses all fearsomeness.

Well, not completely. Early on in his days at The Golden Arm a customer tried to drink and run without paying. The Minotaur caught him, ripped his arm off and mounted it over the bar.

Funny thing, it never happened again.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © Copyright for all stories submitted by QuirkyStories belongs to D. Benjamin Baskin. This copyright extends to any original characters featured in stories submitted by QuirkyStories. Please consult with author if you wish to incorporate any QuirkyStories story in a publication or compilation, adapt it to another format or media, or profit by it in any manner.

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