This week we had to write a story about a needy pet. And not a dog or cat, but a mythical creature, chosen from a list of 10. I got a Minotaur, so did a blend of Greek myth and my imagination. It was fun to write. 1000 words.
Lately he just stayed by the gate, gazing up at the sliver of sky above it. He knew when a new champion was coming to challenge him, when he heard the trumpets and shouting crowds, so had time to retreat back into the maze. Asterion missed the outdoors, even if it was where he was taunted and teased about his appearance. Head of a bull, and body of a man, cursed offspring of a god and a mortal, he’d initially been tolerated by his siblings as more of a pet than a person. He hadn’t thought it was that bad, as he had simple needs—to be fed, to be sheltered, to be loved. His mother looked after the first two, but not the last. At least she’d stopped the guards from killing him, after he dealt with the last neighbourhood kid to taunt him. Asterion had gone from a docile creature, eager to please, to an enraged seven foot tall monster, capable of ripping off an arm. And eating it. Much tastier than his diet so far of grains and fruits.
Now he lived in a maze, as Minotaur, the Monster of the Labyrinth. That’s what the warriors shouted out, as they ventured into his prison. He wasn’t sure why they came, but they discovered he was surprisingly agile, with long curving horns, a strong jaw, bulging arms, powerful legs, sharp hooves, and a thick skin. Some were braver than others, some were better fighters, but they all died. They all became his food. He initially had enjoyed the challenge, the rush of battle. But he longed for something more than this life, just for a short while to breathe the fresh air, feel the sun warm his hide, roll in the grass. And for someone to care about him.
He was in the middle of a long, deep bovine sigh when he noticed someone was sitting at the top of the gate, watching him.
"Why so sad," said the stranger. "Is everything okay?"
Asterion leapt to his feet and scrambled back into the maze. Now he would lead the warrior deep into his lair, to battle and death.
He waited, but heard no activity. He made his way forward and found his opponent standing on the ground, by the gate.
"Hi there, fella," he said. "I was a little exposed up there on the gate, in case a guard happened by, so I came down." He held out his hands, palm up. "No weapons, I just came to look."
Asterion pawed the ground with a hoof, snorted though his nostrils, lowered his head, and tensed his powerful legs.
"Hey, easy boy, easy," said the warrior. "My father, King Aegeus, sent me here as a challenge. Or maybe to get rid of me. I’m scheduled for tomorrow, but just wanted to see what all the fuss was about." He looked Asterion up and down. "Yes, you certainty are a magnificent creature, clearly a mighty warrior. But there’s more, I think. Can you even understand me?"
Asterion relaxed, slightly, nodded his head, and grunted in reply. His deformity had robbed him of speech, but he could understand human speech, and usually understand what they were talking about. Especially when they praised him.
The warrior smiled. "That’s good. My name is Theseus." He gave a little bow. "And you, I understand, are Asterion."
The bull smiled, as best he could. It was nice to hear his name, instead of Minotaur, or Monster.
Theseus paused. "Do you mind if I come a little closer? I’m unarmed. I just want to examine that magnificent head of yours."
Asterion nodded, then relaxed just a bit more.
Theseus approached until he was only a metre away. "It’s amazing." He hesitated. "So tall—could you bend over just a bit?"
Asterion carefully bend his head, then jerked as his horns were touched.
"Easy boy, easy. There, there. These are really sharp. Big ears too, and I’m guessing . . ."
There was a pause, and then he felt fingers scratching behind his ear. That spot he could never reach. And then the hair on the top of his head. He groaned with pleasure.
Theseus chucked. "Yes, back on the farm, our bull loved that."
He looked back over the top of the gate. "It’s a beautiful spring day out here. Birds are singing, flowers are blooming. there’s a gentle breeze blowing up from the sea. My crew are down there, ready to return with either me, or news of my death. Me, I’d rather explore more of the seas. I can return tomorrow to do battle, and I think I might best you. But that would help neither of us."
Asterion waited, patiently. He liked this warrior, with the calm words and the delightful scratches.
Theseus grinned. "Would you like out? I can open the gates from the outside and you can escape into the forests. Maybe only for a few days, but I’m thinking that might be better than a lifetime in here."
Asterion didn’t need to even pause to consider, nodding his head and shifting from foot to foot.
Theseus grinned then scrambled back up the face of the gate. He peered over the top briefly, and then was gone.
Silence for a few moments, and then a clank, a thud, a creaking. With the Minotaur’s help, the gate slowly swung open. Theseus stood, hands on hip, smiling. The Minotaur roared and charged, right past his saviour, right into the guard sneaking up behind him. He felled the soldier with a single blow, crushing his skull.
Theseus patted his shoulder. "Thanks. You scared me for a minute there. Well, I’m off on my adventures. Enjoy your new freedom." As he headed to the wharf, Asterion fell in behind him. He liked the sound of adventures.
Theseus turned, and chuckled. "Guess you liked that behind the ear scratch. You’re welcome to come with me. I’d like your company, and could use your abilities. I’m sure we could find you enough to eat, too. But we’d better run for it, as I see some guards approaching."