[Fiction] The day the Minotaur died

minotaur by soft h.jpg

Image credit soft h on DeviantArt

The day the Minotaur died, the inhabitants of Knossos were distraught. What were they to do now? Their town’s major attraction was gone, and its thriving tourist industry was under threat. And if Nashuja, second cousin to the Sybil, stalked about muttering of freedom from an ancient curse, well. Nashuja muttered about many things, and few but Ariadnh, the healer’s daughter, listened to him much anyway.

Over the coming weeks, the Minoans learned to their dismay just how much the Minotaur had pervaded every facet of their life. Their legal system was in shambles – prisoners condemned to death now wandered out of the Labyrinth a few days later, dazed and dehydrated but very much alive. The auguries no longer behaved for their bull-headed priests, and of course no ships could be launched nor commercial ventures considered without favorable portent. Business declined rapidly as visitors began to instead visit Phaistos across the island and Zakros on the eastern shore, famed for its haunted Ravine of the Dead and intricate honeycomb of seaside caves.

And if Nashuja pointed and frothed at the mouth when two-fathered Theseus, son of progenitor-hero Aegeus and the dread sea god Poseidon, emerged from the Labyrinth two days after the Minotaur’s death, well, no one really listened to what Nashuja said. They had bigger problems. Only Ariadnh, who watched silently as her mother bound and tended the wounds of grimly triumphant Theseus, heard Nashuja’s presentiments and heeded them. Her heart grew heavy.

On the morning of the 12th of the Bull – just one-eleventh of a Minoan Great Year later, as these things are reckoned – Pijasiros, advisor to mighty Minos, son of Zeus, burst into the throne room of the sullen king. He carried troubling news of a disturbance in the square of the magnificent palace of Knossos wherefrom Minos ruled his domain. But Minos, father of Nephalion who perished at Heracles’ hand, had become only a shadow of the man he had once been following the death of the Minotaur, reviled bastard son of his inconstant wife Pasiphae.

And so with a tired hand lined in flesh that sagged terribly beneath the weight of his troubles, Minos tried to wave away loyal Pijasiros. But Pijasiros, heart sinking at the sight of this once-ferocious monarch, was not to be dissuaded, and eventually prevailed in leading the defeated king out into sunlight he had avoided for so long.

In the center of the cut-stone palace square, Nashuja, second cousin to the Sybil, frothed and gibbered while the palace guards looked on, uneasy. A crowd had gathered and were listening to Nashuja rant about Minos’ betrayal of the people of Knossos, who live beside the clear Aegean. Minos, stirred from impotent passivity, grew incensed and demanded to know why his guards did not arrest this man and remove him from the square. Pijasiros, quivering slightly beneath the king’s rage, explained that the man was Nashuja, second cousin to the Sybil, and the guards were afraid to lay a hand upon him lest he place a curse upon them.

Railing against the superstition of his guards, Minos called for his sword and strode forward into the square, intending to kill poor Nashuja for his treasonous denunciations of the king. The crowd, sympathetic as they were to the prophet’s exclamations, shied away from interfering with the blustering wrath of the king. Only young Ariadnh, daughter of the healer, rushed forth out of the crowd and sank to her knees, begging the king for clemency. She offered up her own life in his stead, but the king would not consider it. He cast her aside and stepped forward to strike the prophet Nashuja’s head from his shoulders.

As his sword descended, it was arrested by another. The king sputtered and looked up to meet the eyes of Theseus, who bears the staff of Periphetes. Theseus counseled wisdom to the king and told him it was he who killed the monstrous Minotaur, and that any woes visited upon the Minoans were his responsibility and not Nashuja. Minos, in all his wisdom, did not relent, but instead challenged Theseus to face him in battle and determine his innocence through combat, in lieu of the Minotaur’s judgment.

In the years that followed, the people of Knossos remembered the Minotaur with fondness, laughing over stories of the Labyrinth’s creator who flew into the sea, or the tribute of seven sons and seven daughters that the king of Athens sent every nine years as punishment for Aegeus’ murder of brave Androgeos. Eventually, they rebuilt their shattered lives and learned to live without the Minotaur, but they never forgot its name nor the name of the legendary king Minos, whose shade serves as a judge of the dead in the Underworld.

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