In A Flash: Blind Minotaur Led By a Girl Through the Night

The girl had yet to speak. The bird that fluttered from shoulder to shoulder gave voice for both of them. It had announced, upon their entering the hovel where the Minotaur had spent the last days of his journey, that he was to come with them. The Minotaur had stood up and allowed his hand to be taken by the girl. There seemed no point in asking questions or demanding explanations. He was at the mercy of this girl and her bird, until they reached the end of their portion of his journey.

Such had been his fate for these last months, since he had begun this ordeal, broken and fleeing into the night. He had been forced to endure much and had to learn to trust in those he did not know and could not see. Would they betray him to those who were looking for him? He would not know until it was too late.

The fact it was a girl, hardly more than ten years old to judge by the size of her hand and his sense of her height—he was becoming quite adept at judging a person’s size by the feel of their movement—was somewhat reassuring. Though he knew it should not be. Girls, whatever their age, could be bought. Everyone had a price, as he knew too well.

In spite of all he had lost, in spite of the meanness of this existence—going from one safe house to another, never having a home, indebted to strangers he could never repay—he never thought of stopping or slipping into despair. There was no use for self-pity. This was what fate had chosen for him, and he would continue to wander for as long as fate allowed. He expected it would not be long.

“How much farther?” he asked, when he could stand the silence no longer.

The girl shrugged and the bird said, “It will take us the evening to get to the river.”

What river they were heading for, and what happened once they reached it, was left unstated. Most likely, the girl and the bird did not know. How many others had they conducted along this trail in the dead of the night?

After some time the bird spoke again. “You needn’t worry. We meet our bargains.”

The Minotaur did not reply. Words mattered little, as they all knew. It was actions that counted.

Read the rest at Circumambient Scenery.

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Now Available: The The Trials of the Minotaur

The Trials of the Minotaur

In the fifth year of the rule of Auten the One Eyed a minotaur was born to one of the imperial city of Colosi’s most important patrician families. The Trials of the Minotaur tells his story, following his life from despair and exile to triumph in the pantheon of Colosi. Betrayed at the hands of those closest to him, he achieves wealth and power beyond imagining as the oracle of a barbarian city, only to be cast out and turned into the star attraction of a traveling cabinet of curiosities.

Including all three volumes: The Blind Minotaur, The Oracle’s Mortification, and The Wondrous Beast.

By Clint Westgard
Published November, 2013
Available at AmazonKobo, and Smashwords

The Traveling Cabinet of Doctor Eid

Months passed in miserable solitude for the Minotaur, where he survived on berries and whatever he could manage to scavenge. He was avoided as a pariah wherever he went in Thedeo’s kingdom, for word had passed quickly from Alari of his downfall. No longer a god, but a mere beast, towns barred their gates to him and villagers rang bells to warn others of his approach. Children, tempted by the stories they had heard of his former deity, would follow him at a distance, throwing stones at him for fun.

Though he longed for death, and had expected it after what Velthar had done to him, the gods did not grant him release. His crimes were too great, he surmised. His wounds healed well, though he was left greatly weakened, with little of the strength he had once possessed, and his sides were still marked with scars where the whip had torn at his flesh. His visions had ceased upon leaving Alari, returning him to that darkness again, which he took as a small mercy. He often woke weeping and trembling, his mind empty, whatever dreams that had troubled him vanished into the aether.

In a sense he had died when Velthar and his followers had cast him from the temple, his false godhood passing from him, for in the long and empty days that came after not once did he think of what was to come. Such things no longer mattered to him. He lived on because he could not summon the courage to stop himself, scrounging and foraging, a pathetic figure on the fringes of the world. He hated himself for this weakness. No flame burned within him to keep on, nothing beckoned him forward, yet on he went, unable to stop himself.

Some days, when he had walked too long and exhaustion had overcome him, he would collapse, wherever he happened to be, and lie there insensible thinking about Galrice. He would imagine their escape from Alari and their child, a son he was certain, that they raised to be a proud man. All impossibilities he knew. Galrice would never have left the temple, perhaps not even at his command. She had believed, they had all believed, and when that belief had proved to be upon a foundation of sand, it could only crumble and ruin them all.

It was while lost in such despairing thoughts as these that he fell into the hands of Dr. Eid and His Traveling Cabinet. The Minotaur had passed beyond Thedeo’s kingdom and into another barbarian fiefdom where the learned doctor happened to be displaying his bestiary. Upon hearing from the locals of a strange half-bull, half-man who had once been a god, he sent two of his minions to capture the beast. It was an easy task, for by this time the Minotaur had fallen into a pitiable state. His ribs showed through his chest, his gums were bleeding and he had a tremor in one leg that made his gait unsteady.

The good Doctor’s minions found him lying and daydreaming in the middle of some country trail, muttering to himself in some strange language. They set upon him before he even realized they were present, knocking him senseless with a few sharp blows from a cudgel. They fashioned a length of rope into a halter and put it about his neck, running it through a ring they put through his nose, and with that they led him as they might any draft animal.

The Minotaur offered no struggle in the face of these new humiliations, submitting meekly to the two men as they led him back to the village where Dr. Eid had established himself. He could hear the gathered crowd murmur in consternation as he passed by. For a fleeting moment he thought they might act, turn against his captors and restore his freedom to him, but he quickly realized their anger was directed at him. In the months since his exile from the temple, Velthar had been careful to spread word to all and sundry that, not only had the god left the Minotaur, he was now an empty vessel who could be inhabited by any false devil or wizard.

Seeing him in the possession of this foreign doctor who sold various strange life elixirs and talked of the secret knowledge of science and philosophy that he possessed, they suspected the two of them of being in league. By the time the Minotaur had been thrown into a cage and thrown some hay, which he lay down on as a bed, the villagers had begun to gather, even calling the farmers and herders from the fields to stand against this invasion. The good Doctor, seemingly oblivious to the growing ire of the villagers, stepped out before them and in his best barker’s voice began to call for them to come and look upon their fallen god.

“My good friends. Come and see the god that has fallen to earth,” he said in his strange accent. “Once a god now a mere beast. But a singular beast. Part man and part bull. What terrible congress led to such a creation. Only the gods know and they have sent him from their care so that you may look upon him and the offspring of such a terrible act.”

The crowd had begun shouting at him before he had even finished his speech and several of them took up stones and aimed them at the Minotaur’s head.

“My good friends, my good friends. This is not necessary. The beast has been subdued. I have him in my grasp. He shall not escape.”

“Yes, he is under your control,” one man shouted. “We all know what that means. You’ll not be ruling over us.”

“My good friends, I have no designs upon your land or your hearts. I would never dare to usurp your gods or your rulers. I am a humble servant and I ask only for some of your time and your hard earned coin so that you may witness my wondrous menagerie. Creatures, each more marvelous than the next, from all corners of the earth, carefully gathered and tamed and brought before you.”

His words did little good, for the crowd had already decided against him, and he was forced to have his men hitch up the caravan and flee before the villagers turned violent. When they were safely underway he had the driver of his wagon pull alongside the one carrying the Minotaur’s cage so that he could study the creature more closely. He clucked his tongue in disapproval at the shriveled and ragged state of the beast, but soon he found himself nodding and smiling.

“Not some simulacrum here. The unvarnished truth lies before us,” he said to the driver, who spat in reply.

“You had better be worth the trouble you’ve caused me,” the doctor called to the beast. “I’ll have to leave these miserable lands now or they’ll have my head. And think of the coin I am losing because of it. If they believed you a god, they would have believed anything.”

The Minotaur had been dozing but he awoke at the Doctor’s words and raised his head, trying to discern the man’s tongue. “What words are these? Where are you from?” this said in the barbarian tongue he knew the doctor spoke.

“It speaks,” the Doctor said. “A truly wondrous beast. We hail from the magnificent and eternal empire Huiam, all praise its greatness. You have not seen its like in these miserable barbarian realms.”

“I see little as it is,” the Minotaur said. “And I am no barbarian. I am a patrician of Rheadd.”

“His tales grows even more fantastic. Well beast, I think we shall find use for you.” the Doctor laughed and slapped the driver’s shoulder so that he pulled the caravan ahead of the Minotaur’s cage, leaving him to shiver and wonder what the man meant.

from The Wondrous Beast

The Birth of a God

The Minotaur was never to return to Colosi again. After his flight from the empire, assisted by the sibyls of Hizen, he wandered aimlessly for a time in those barbarian lands so feared throughout the empire. He stayed clear of any towns and off any roads, remaining hidden in the wild lands, forested and mountainous, that the barbarians spoke of with awe and fear, for it was said they were inhabited with spirits and monsters. At last, tired of his wandering, and having no other place that he wished to go, he settled in a large cave. Its darkness, he felt, suited one who would pass his existence in obscurity forever more.

At first he would leave the cave daily to forage in the nearby wilds for what food he could find, mostly roots and berries, but as the seasons turned to autumn and then winter he rarely strayed outside his makeshift home. He ate less and less, growing so thin that his ribs showed through his coat, which had a ragged winter growth. He cared little, for it seemed to him inevitable that he would die here, and he saw no need to prolong this terrible misery. Instead, he feverishly plotted his revenge against Barthil Vulgih and those of his family who had conspired against him, imagining his triumphant return to Colosi to face his accusers on the sands of the pantheon.

Such dreaming was made all the worse for the fact that he knew such a thing could never happen. His life there was gone, replaced by this damp and miserable place. Still, it gave comfort to the long solitary days while hunger gnawed at his belly and mind. Soon enough, he imagined, he would be free of this realm, taken across that final river to the underworld where he would pass all eternity. That release was not to be granted him yet though.

In the months that he spent in his cave the Minotaur had not escaped the notice of local barbarians. Hunters were often seeking game in those forests and more than a few caught a glimpse of this strange beast, whose miraculous appearance they reported to their villages as proof of the place’s mystical powers. A few even trailed him back to his cave, a place that, unbeknownst to the Minotaur, was already considered a holy place of great power. As knowledge of presence spread among the barbarians they began to bring offerings to the mouth of the cave, especially if their hunt had been successful. It was felt, even among those who did not give much credence to these things, that good hunting would come to those who made whatever spirit inhabited the cave happy.

Little did they know that nothing could have mended the Minotaur’s heart at that time, so deep and absolute was his sorrow. He heard the coming and going of the hunters, their whispered invocations as they left their offering, but it never occurred to him to show himself to them. He did avail himself of their offerings, drinking the cups of wine and the hearts and tongues of the beasts they had killed. This only served to add to the power they ascribed him. By winter’s end even barbarians who did not hunt in the area began to make the journey to the cave to leave an offering to ensure that he was not angered.

As word of his imagined dominion spread, mystics and other sorts who claimed to have been touched by the barbarian gods began to journey to the cave to prostrate themselves there, chanting prayers and singing songs to his glory. None of these he understood, for the harsh barbarian tongue was unfamiliar to him. He ignored these penitents as best he could, slipping out of the cave under the cover of darkness to take the offerings and then retreating back within his claimed realm to feast. Few of those who came to make offerings had seen him, but the stories of his fearsome size from those who had were enough to engender awe.

Inevitably one of the penitents summoned the courage to confront the god of the cave. He was from a nearby village and said, by those who lived there, to have been touched by the gods, for he often had fits and fainting spells where he would rave madly in some tongue no one understood. The villagers called him Velthar the Sufferer and they feared him, unsure whether he was possessed by some demon come to torment them or a messenger of the greater path. He had no such doubts and when he heard of the creature in the cave that had brought such prosperity to those hunters who had made offerings this past winter, he went to there to chant and pray with the other penitents. Unlike those others, who came with offerings and paid their obeisance for a few days and then went on their way, he stayed on, praying and offering himself and his undying service to the being hidden within.

Weeks he stayed and still he received no sign that the creature was even aware of his existence. His faith was strong though and he remained, subsisting on what the forest offered, never once tempted by the many offerings left for the Minotaur. One night, as he lay awake, unable to sleep, just above the mouth of the cave, he saw through the branches of the trees above him a shadow pass over the moon blotting it from the sky. He watched, wondering if he were witnessing the end of all times, the sky growing dark, casting a shadow across all the lands in existence. Even as the darkness seemed absolute the shadow passed on and the moon gradually reappeared and he understood that it was a sign from the god within the cave intended for him alone.

Without hesitating he rose to his feet and entered the cave and was swallowed by the darkness within. He went slowly, crawling on his hands and knees, both to demonstrate his servility to the god and because he could not otherwise know where he was going. The floor of the cave was damp and cool, the smell of moss and earth heavy in his nostrils. At last he sensed the passage opening up into a deep cavern which seemed to him as though it had been untouched for untold ages. Here he felt the presence of the creature, could smell it in fact, a mixture of damp hair and the rotten breath of one who has been eating raw meat. He imagined that he could make out where the creature slumbered and he faced it crouched as he was, not daring to come any nearer. There he remained through the night.

The Minotaur had heard the man’s scuffling approach into the cavern, but he did not stir from where he lay, waiting to see what he would do. It had been, he knew, inevitable that one of the barbarians should at last gain the courage to confront him. His only hope lay in the fact that in the darkness of the cave the man would not realize his blind state and the advantage he held. When the barbarian did nothing, staying crouched where he was at the cavern’s opening, the Minotaur was not sure what to think. Was he blocking the way, preparing himself for the battle to come? The Minotaur could only assume this was the case, that here at last was a barbarian brave enough to confront the creature who was terrorizing the land and demanding such sacrifices as they were giving him. He had only known fear in his dealings with others, so it never occurred to him that the barbarians might be worshipping him.

Now that they had sent a champion to strike him down he both feared and welcomed it. Here was the ending that he had longed for through that long winter, and yet now that it had at last arrived he found he no longer wished to perish. The force of life had returned to his heart. As meager and pathetic as this existence was, living upon the sufferance of these savages, it was not something he was willing to surrender. So he decided to await for this protector of the barbarians to launch his attack. The darkness would be his ally and he would make this man come to him.

Morning came with neither of them having slept, the barbarian awaiting a sign from his chosen god, the Minotaur expecting an attack and a battle to the death. The Minotaur was the first to rise, the old wounds he had suffered in the pantheon and at the hands of the imperial guard, aching from too long spent on the cold and damp stone of the cave. He rose to his feet with the slightest of grunts and then moved silently deeper into the cavern where the stone formed a pool filled with water that came dripping from above. He drank his fill there and then went deeper yet into the darkness to relieve himself.

When he returned the barbarian was speaking. He had not, as near as the Minotaur could judge, moved from where he had lain the entire night. He had raised himself to his knees and was repeating the same group of phrases again and again, almost in a song. The Minotaur listened for some time, not moving, and then realized that the man was praying. Was he praying for strength, for his gods to aid him in the battle to come, or was he in fact praying to him? Was he a god to these savages? The thought almost made him laugh aloud given what he had been reduced to, but the longer he listened to the barbarian’s repeated chants, and the more time that passed without the man raising a weapon against him, the more he came to realize it was true.

He was unsure how exactly to handle this situation. How does one act a god when one is most assuredly not? The Minotaur had no idea and he feared what might happen should this man, and some of the others who slept beyond the cave, who he had assumed were guarding against him coming forth, determine he was not in any way holy and divine. The wrath of the pious scorned was legendary throughout history and he had no desire to be on the end of their swords. At the same time he could not hide from these men, nor did he have any wish to flee and start somewhere again when he had established a life for himself here, meager as it was.

Hardly knowing what he was doing, but realizing still that this very well would determine his path for the coming days and months, the Minotaur walked towards the penitent barbarian. The man ceased his chanting as the Minotaur came to stand over him. The Minotaur could sense the fear that was coursing through the man’s veins. He could almost see him cowering on the cavern floor. He stayed standing above him for a long time, as long as he dared, letting the tension blossom into terror. At last, when he felt the man might flee, he leaned down and touched his brow with his hand.

from The Oracle’s Mortification

Now Available: The Blind Minotaur

The Blind Minotaur2

In the fifth year of the rule of Auten the One Eyed a minotaur was born to one of the imperial city of Colosi’s most important patrician families. Though exiled to the empire’s borders where it was expected he would lead a short life, he flourished, returning to Colosi and triumphing in the contests in the pantheon. His family, whose honor he has irreparably stained, will not allow him to enjoy his triumph for long though…

Part One of the Trials of the Minotaur
By Clint Westgard

Available at Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords
Minotaur Image

The Ruin Of This Family

It was in the fifth year of the rule of Auten the One Eyed, the emperor of Rheadd during the second interregnum, that a minotaur was born to the daughter of an important patrician family, the Dethcalla. They have long had the ear of the emperor so it will surprise no one that nearly all mention of the Minotaur has been excised from the official chronicles of the day. However, a careful search of some of the more scandalous histories of the period does produce some mentions of the creature. That the creature existed cannot be doubted for, though unnamed, it is on the patrician rolls.

No one knew how Surys Dethcallen Barthil, the daughter of Barthil Dethcallan Vulgih had come to be with child, for she was unmarried and no more than fourteen. The Dethcalla had naturally followed the correct practice at every turn in her upbringing and her education was impeccable. To the best knowledge of the nurse and eunuch charged with her keep she had never been on the streets of Colosi, the imperial capital, unescorted or uncovered.

Once her father, a dour and forbidding soul, discovered her state, he strove to keep the facts of her condition as obscure as possible in an effort to avoid a scandal. The girl was not seen in public company, which was not unusual, for the unmarried daughters of important patricians rarely were anyway. He had her taken to his summer estate under the cover of darkness and amid much secrecy for her to carry the pregnancy to term over the fall and winter. He left only a few of his most trusted servants to see to her care, with strict instructions and the threat of execution that they should speak to no one.

If all had gone to plan the child would have disappeared to some orphanage in one of the distant imperial provinces, never to gain knowledge of its patrician birthright, with the rest of Colosi none the wiser. The child, however, came early, while Barthil Vulgih was still attending at court, his business and duty public. The last thing he wanted to do was to draw attention by fleeing the city, so he waited until the matters were resolved and then left to dispose of the child.

By the time he arrived, three days after he had received the message, there were six census officials awaiting him at the gate to add the newborn to the patrician rolls. Though furious beyond measure, Barthil could hardly deny them entrance, for the law required that all those of noble blood be recorded on the rolls. To deny the child’s existence could only result in prosecution by his enemies, one of whom had surely had a hand in engineering this predicament.

He noticed the strained and fearful glances of the servants who had been charged with his daughter’s care as he passed by them to her chambers, but gave it no thought. The presence of the census notaries meant that one of them had betrayed him, so all would be fearful for their lives. The notaries allowed him a moment with his daughter and grandchild before they entered to make their record. He left them outside the door with the child’s wet nurse who would not meet his eyes.

At first he did not believe what he saw nestled in his daughter’s arms. He could see nothing of the body, for it was wrapped in swaddling, but its head defied all belief. The nose was broad and pink, a snout in a word, while the ears extended from both sides of its head and moved of their own accord at his approach. The eyes were spread apart on either side of its face and it was covered in hair, all of it, thick and deep and brown.

Barthil Vulgih found himself trembling as he walked up beside the bed, his daughter looking sleepily up at him from where she lay. He thought perhaps this was a dream, a nightmare from which he might soon wake. The girl drew the creature closer to her breast as though to protect it, but he cursed her and tore it from her arms. He drew it up to his eyes, contemplating the now squalling beast, considering as he did so that he should put an end to the creature’s life then and there, no matter the prosecution he would be forced to endure. He knew though that there was no use, there could be no erasing this stain to the family’s honor.

“You are the ruin of this family,” he said, though whether it was directed to the beast or his daughter was unclear. He noticed that the creature had two nubs, almost obscured by its hair atop its head, and ran a finger distractedly over one, realizing they were the beginnings of the thing’s horns. Something between a sob and a roar emerged from his throat.

When he had regained his composure he carried the newborn to the door, which he threw open, startling the waiting census officials. They stared at the crying thing in Barthil Vulgih’s hands with horror and then did their utmost to avoid looking at either of the beast or the patrician, occupying themselves with their official scrolls and their ink and pens. The servants refused to glance over as well, though the creature’s wails grew louder and louder. The ostentatious obliviousness displayed by all those present only served to increase the rage consuming Barthil Vulgih.

One of the notaries cleared his throat, though he still would not raise his eyes from the rolls. “You confirm that the date of birth was the seventh day of Gethuj?”

“I do,” Barthil Vulgih said in a voice that made all in his presence shudder.

“And the name chosen for the child?”

“It will have none.”

This caused both census officials to stare at the patriarch their mouths agape.

“It must have a name,” one of them said at last. “It is on the rolls.”

“It will have none,” Barthil Vulgih repeated and then turned on his heel and strode back into his daughter’s chambers, flinging the door shut behind him. He paced back and forth across the room, the beast still crying in his arms, but he did not seem to notice it or his daughter, who watched him without uttering a word.

This continued for some time until one of the guards knocked at the door. When there was no answer he summoned the courage to enter, but Barthil Vulgih did not even glance at him so lost was he in his anguished thoughts. The guard cleared his throat and then, when that too failed to draw his master’s attention, he called out his name. This did rouse the patrician, who stopped on his heels and stared at the guard in fury and bewilderment.

“The census officials have left, sir,” the guard said and swallowed.

Barthil Vulgih nodded and then walked over to his daughter, returning the creature to her. “Good,” he said, “I want you and your men to put to death every servant and eunuch here. One of them has betrayed me.”

The guard nodded and had turned to go when the girl spoke. “I sent for them,” she said.

Barthil Vulgih looked at her without emotion as though contemplating the tithes on one of his distant and unimportant estates.

“I knew you would take him from me. Now you cannot close your door on him. He is on the rolls, he is of this family.”

Barthil Vulgih did not say anything and left the room, the guard falling in step behind him. His reply came later that day as all thirteen servants and two eunuchs were led, one by one, to his daughter’s room where they were beheaded. She did not look away from the executions, facing them with the same emotionless stare her father had fixed on her, even as the stain on the floor continued to grow. Neither would speak another word to the other the rest of their days.

From The Blind Minotaur by Clint Westgard

Forthcoming March, 2013