This week's prompt was to write about sending someone, or something off to school. I started this late, as I couldn't think of a good premise. But, I did manage to pull something together. It could do with some simplification I think, a better focus. Difficult prompts are good prompts, right? 941 words.
A Difficult Separation
His pet had killed, again.
Theseus sympathized, in a way. Poor Asterion always had trouble communicating, so he would get frustrated and lash out, forgetting his own strength. He really needed to be sent to some kind of obedience school, but Asterion was still very needy, after being ignored by his mother, ridiculed by his brothers and sisters, and banished to live in a maze below the castle. If he was sent away, he would miss his master, and Theseus would miss his pet.
More than a pet now, though, more like a loyal follower. Asterion was cursed with the head of a bull and the body of a man, and at over seven feet tall he was a formidable fighter. And smarter than he looked—within that huge shaggy head was an inquisitive mind, and a lot of issues from his past to be resolved. Unfortunately, speech was impossible and his crude set of hand gestures ineffective, so he’d often main, or kill, someone. In this case an unthinking palace guard. That had cost several gold pieces to the man’s family.
"Asterion, it’s for your own good. Come here." Theseus reached up and scratched next to one of the huge horns. "I know you’ll miss me, I’ll miss you too. But they have very learned doctors there, patient men, who will work with you to help you with what bothers you. And help you control that sudden anger, to save it for battle. And, as I promised, some fighting lessons too." That was the carrot he hoped would keep Asterion there.
Two day later they made landfall, and he left a very sad Asterion in Athens.
Theseus headed right back out to sea, eager to visit some island cities of his kingdom. He missed having his pet, his friend with him, whether on deck, in battle, or after supper, in the evening. Cursed with the head of a bull, Asterion couldn’t speak, but he was an excellent listener, using gestures and noises to show his support. Theseus talked about his troubled childhood as a prince, his father’s plan to send him to Crete to battle the Minotaur and hopefully die, his casual whim to try to befriend the Minotaur and help him escape rather than kill it, and their growing friendship. Now, he just had his crew for company—simple men and loyal, but none that he could be open with, without fear of judgment.
He received occasional updates from the school and was pleased to hear that Asterion was doing well. But, they were worried about his bouts of loneliness. Theseus missed Asterion, but was also didn’t have to worry about when the next fit of rage would occur. He was enjoying that freedom.
Until Asterion ran away.
They’d just returned from Delos when Theseus was given the news. Asterion had been asking for, then demanding, changes at school. There’s been a fight with a classmate, but at least this time nobody died, or was eaten. That was encouraging. The place guards were scouring the countryside for the Minotaur, without any success so far. Maybe school wasn’t such a great idea, maybe Asterion should come home to the ship – all the real home he’d had. He’d have Theseus back, and the crew was smart enough to adjust as needed.
"Any reply?" asked the messenger. "Do they keep after the monster?"
"He’s not a monster. Tell them to stop chasing Asterion, and spread the word that I am here in Piraeus."
Wih enough soldiers, they would eventually tire Asterion out and capture him, but would lose many guards in the process. Theseus would wait, and hope.
Two nights later, while he was sitting on deck writing some dispatches, there was a commotion on the dock.
The lookout leaned over the railing. "Let him pass, put down your swords. Ho there, welcome back."
As he’d hoped, Asterion had returned. He rushed at Theseus and lifted him off the ground in a hug, with a rumbling groan that seemed to come from his feet.
"Ow, you're crushing me, let me down. Yes, I missed you too my friend. But I hear you ran away from the school – that’s not like you. You should return."
That was met with a vigorous head-shaking and a sad moan.
"Okay, sit here at my feet. I’ll send for some wine, a nice roast of pork, some fresh fruits, and tell me what you want. We’ll figure it out if it takes all night."
It didn’t take that long to discover that all he wanted was to learn to write. He had all those ideas, all those thoughts, but no way to get them out.
"Is that all?" said Theseus. "Why didn’t they just teach you."
Asterion picked up a paper from the table and tipped his head sideways to focus one eye on it.
"Ah, they think you need eyes in front to read and write. Did they even try?"
Asterion then tilted his head the other way, let his long tongue hang out, and rolled his eyes.
"They think you’re too stupid? Idiots." He leapt to his feet. "I’ll have them whipped."
Asterion put a large hand on Theseus’s arm and shook his head.
"Yes, I know, anger control, I get it." He paused. "I was in the market and saw some slaves from Phoenicia there. Most of them labourers and prostitutes, but some are scribes. I’ll buy you a scribe, and you can stay on the ship and do your classes at the same time. Agreeable?"
Judging by the speed with which Asterion leapt to his feet and hugged Theseus, it was very agreeable.