March 30th, 2003
Minotaur - By Lanval
I was a lowly sailor on a ship out on the Dawnward Ocean. We hit all
the big ports there. Trellor, NaeraMae, Karlisna, and even all the way
down to G'dangus. That's where we were taking the big fellow, the
minotaur. The crazy monster wanted to go to G'dangus.
The minotaur was taller than a man. His bullish head was weighed down
with the horns and his shaggy mane and the heat. He moved sometimes,
when the shade moved. He stayed on deck because it was cooler there.
He huddled against the walls out of the way of sailors, and out of the
way of sunlight. He wore only a loin cloth. I don't think anyone would
have cared if he went naked. None of us cared about naked minotaurs,
only naked wenches and an occasional mermaid would catch our eye.
I poured cool sea water on him in the afternoon. His big, fat tongue
lolled open and dry and he gasped at the sudden cold. Then he shivered
a little in the breeze. It must've felt good to shiver a little, even
for a moment. At night he walked around a little. He talked. Even
night was too hot for him. I thought he was going to die on this voyage.
I fed him lots of bananas. He hated fruit. It gave him terrible gas.
When mealtimes rolled around, the galley chef fed him sausages that
gave him worse gas. Neither of these things helped the naked minotaur be
very popular among the crew and the other passengers. The Captain had
ordered me to take care of the brute. I got used to the smell. He
smelled like cow dung, and rotting beef. Of course, he was a paying
passenger, and that's hard to find these days. He paid up front in gold,
and Naera Mae doesn't have too many folk willing to do that with men.
Business is business, and he was an alright fellow, for a minotaur. Once
you got used to the smell, that is.
"How much farther until G'dangus," he said. He spoke with a deep
voice, and awkwardly. His massive minotaur mouth did not take to our fast
"Far," I said. I handed him a flask of wine. He drank slowly. When
he handed the flask back it was empty. "What the Vryce are you doing on
a boat to G'dangus, anyway?"
"I told you, already. I'm negotiating a trade agreement for my Uncle."
"That's stupid," I said.
"Why?" the minotaur scratched his nose. His nose glistened when he
drank. I think wine made his nose runny. I tried to avoid shaking hands.
"What the hell does G'dangus have that you want?" I said with a smile.
I was joking, but I don't think he got that I was joking.
"They have a port, with boats," he said, "They have a tropical paradise
for vacationing minotaurs who love it to get so hot their head aches
all night long. Vryce, I can feel it in my horns when it's hot. It's
like the sun skis down my horns and right into my brain..."
"Right," I said. I don't know if he was joking. I handed him another
flask, this time of water.
The minotaur took one sip and then poured the water all over his head.
"It's so hot here..."
"We're only halfway there," I said, "It's like this all the way down.
And the sun isn't even up yet."
"My Uncle spent a month in G'dangus in the winter," said the minotaur.
"Did he like it?"
"He liked it enough to send me. In my home, it has already started to
snow. I think it never stops snowing there."
"You know, this is just a thought," I said, "but did you ever consider
shaving off your fur?"
"What?" the minotaur bellowed, "Goodness, no!"
"We men shave our beards when it gets hot. We clip our hair short,
sometimes completely off. It helps us stay cool here in the south."
"No. Absolutely not. Never."
I poured some more water over his bovine skull. His shaggy mane
dripped in puddles, and steamed even in this moonlight.
Three days later, he handed me a pair of scissors. "Just a little off
the top, but be careful near my ears. Go down my back a little, too."
"Do you have a mirror?" I said.
"Not on me, no," he said.
"Does anyone here?"
"Why, what do we need it for?"
"So you can inspect the results when I'm done."
"I trust you," he said, "Just take some of my mane off. It's too hot!
It's just too hot."
I shrugged. "Do you have a comb?"
"No. Just make do. I'll get it cut pretty later. Right now, just cut
some of it off. Just help me get through this heat."
I shrugged. The life and times of a lowly sailor gets some strange
requests. At least this one didn't hurt anybody. I had the minotaur sit
down with his back to a barrel. I stood up on the barrel and clipped
away at his shaggy mane.
"I can almost feel a breeze," said the minotaur. I had gotten up half
his back. His mane kept up all around his neck like a young lion.
"Do minotaurs usually get haircuts?"
"No, never." He scratched his nose. He sighed. "I may be the first
minotaur in the history of minotaurs to get a haircut."
"You sound so sad about it. What about when you're wounded? Not even
if you're wounded? When we're wounded, the clerics cut back our hair
to keep our wound clean."
"Not even then," he said, "We never cut our hair. Our hair is
important to us."
"Weird, that," I said. I snipped away for a moment. I had an
otter-skin hat in my mother's house in Tanivsport, and this minotaur hair
reminded me of it. It was so dense. I could cut down forever, and always
find more hair. The skin beneath has probably never been exposed to
air. I said, "You've got so much hair. I feel like I'm trimming a
"Don't compare me to a brutish beast," he said. "Have you ever cut
anyone's hair before?"
"No," I said, "I'll confess, I'm making a mess. I really wish you
hadn't asked me to do this. I'm sure I could find someone else to do
this." I trimmed up around his ears. They flicked when the scissors came
close. I took a horn in hand and adjusted his head like that. I felt
like I was at the wheel of the ship, and guiding his gigantic maw to
anchor in another gas-inducing banana. The minotaur produced a banana
from a nearby barrel.
"I figured you would make a mess of it," he said, "That's why I asked
"Here's a question," I said, "Have you ever killed anyone?"
"What?" he said.
"You know. You're scary as all get out, and you smell to boot, no
"None taken. What do you mean have I killed anyone?"
I pushed his horn in another direction. I trimmed around his other
ear. This one was antsier than the other. "I mean," I said, "You got
these big scary horns, and you're bigger than two of the biggest sailors I
know. Your, well, people I guess we can call them..."
"Yeah, them. They all are really tough fellows. They scare the Vryce
out of us here. And most of us wonder about you folks out on that
island of yours."
"You wonder if we kill people?"
"Yea. That's right. We kinda want to know what's what about you folk.
I mean, do you kill people?"
He didn't answer. I kept trimming. My hand started to shake a little.
I was still trimming around his ear.
"I don't know how to answer that," he said.
"Just tell me. I mean, we're buds, ain't we? Here I am the only
fellow on this boat who says a thing to you, and I keep you cool as best I
can. And I want to know."
He sighed. His head moved to turn around.
I looked down at my hand, so close to his ear with the sharp scissors.
Spiky minotaur hair was all over my arm, and my boots. I could feel
one strand that had found my sock start itching.
The minotaur looked at me with big eyes, brown as chocolate milk. His
nose was pink. I had never seen his face this close before. It was
bigger than my whole chest. His horns shone in the moonlight.
"Are you scared of me?" he said.
I pulled my scissors back.
"You and all your crew. Are you scared of me?"
"Well, now that you mention it... I mean, not too many minotaurs come
down to the people like you do. Your uncle, I mean. I mean, we don't
see too many of you folk around here."
He snorted. He took the scissors from my hands. "Now that you mention
it, I have killed a person. And you be sure you tell everyone on this
boat that I killed a fellow because he asked me a stupid question."
I stood very still on the barrel. The minotaur stood up and turned
around. When he stood up he was taller than me.
"What did he ask you?" I whispered.
"You think about that the next time you want to ask a stupid question."
He held the scissors in his hands precariously close to my throat.
Was this a joke? I didn't know. I shrunk away from the scissors. I
tried to step down from the barrel.
"Are you done?" said the minotaur.
"My mane. Are you finished?" he said. He reached one arm up and
rubbed at his mane.
I looked up. "Yea, I think so. Looks good like that. Makes your
"Hrmph. I don't feel that much cooler. You think it will grow back?"
"Sure," I said. I stepped down off the barrel. "Look, I think my
watch is coming up soon. I need to get some shut eye."
"Of course you do," said the minotaur, "Go get some shut eye."
I backed away. When I was at the door to the low decks, I turned.
"Were you joking?" I said, "Were you just funnin' me?"
"What do you think?" he said. He had hunkered down to his spot in the
corner of the main deck. He stayed there for the night breezes. Below
deck was too many people. It was too hot, and when he went down there
he smelled to wake the dead with his fruity farts. When it rained, he
stayed on top, tied to a mast, or helping the sailors with the heavy
pulling. He was strong, too.
"I just wanted to know, is all," I said. "I mean, you didn't, did you?
You ain't a monster, really."
"Monster? I'm just a minotaur. And I'm tired and hot. Now leave me
When we got to port crowds parted at the site of him. He wore pants
when we made it in to town. He didn't wear a shirt. His gigantic
muscles rippled underneath his hairs when he walked. His shadow was longer
than the buildings were tall.
He walked through the midafternoon heat with his pink tongue lolling
about his neck like an animal. He panted and drooled.
I followed him, too. I pointed at him and motioned at the Captain. He
watched the crowd parting in fear at the brutish minotaur in their
midst. A paying customer, after all, needs looking after off the boat
sometimes more than on. The Captain nodded and waved me off. I jumped
after the brute. He was even uglier after my haircut. I told him I
wasn't any good at cutting hair.
Anyway, I ran after him, and he was knocking on the door of the Mead
I got closer, and I heard a big door bolt slam shut.
"Nobody home?" I said.
"What?" the minotaur turned, "Oh, you. No, I guess not. I heard
something from inside. I don't think they heard me knocking."
"Right. Look, why don't we go get a room somewhere and you can get a
cool bath. Maybe we can try again later. Sometimes these places take a
long time to open up."
"How long do they take? In NaeraMae shops stay open during the day. I
guess people try to stay out of the heat around here."
"I bet," I said. I pointed down the road. "There's a nice bed and
breakfast that way. If you can afford it, that is."
"I can afford it. Let's go."
At the bed and breakfast, we knocked again. Only answer was the sound
of a bolt falling into place.
"It's like they don't want money," I said, "Staying closed at the
busiest time of the day, when a ship's in port."
"So it would seem," said the minotaur. He scratched his nose.
"Your uncle was here, huh?" I said, "What was he doing down here?"
"He was paid to track someone down," said the minotaur. His handish
hoof was still shoved up his nose.
"Oh," I said. I said nothing else. Some things a fellow is better not
knowing, after all. It might cloud his judgment about another fellow
who is a paying customer.
"I'm not here to kill anyone," said the minotaur, "If you're
"I'll tell you," he said, "When my uncle came down here, he found the
mead. He liked it a lot. He brought some of it back to us in NaeraMae.
I'm here to see about setting up regular trade. In our tongue we call
it sunny warmth in a bottle. It's lovely stuff for cold weather."
"Aye, that is it in a phrase. I never drink mead down here. It's too
hot for it, you know. I'm a wine fellow. A little wine, maybe a bit
watered down to keep it from being strong, that's my fancy. You want to
try the pub? They might have some cooler drinks for you."
"I doubt they will be open either... at this very late hour," he said,
"Why, the moon will be out at any moment."
"Right," I said. I looked up at the blazing sky and blinked into the
sun. "Well, tell you what, I can go see about waking up the sleeping
barman, and you can head on back to the ship. I'll find something for
you, and meet you on deck. We can have a drink and watch the moonrise."
"No, thank you," he said, "I have business to attend to."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to... wake the brewers at the mead hall. Even at this late
hour, my gold should speak highly in my favor."
"Want me to come along?"
"No," he said.
And back on deck, I paced a bit. The Captain found me and asked me
what was up with the paying customer. I told him. The captain frowned.
I should've stayed with him, anyway. I shouldn't have even asked.
I shrugged. "He wants his dignity," I said, "I don't want to deny him
that. It's too hot to deny a minotaur his dignity."
I paced on the deck. You see, the minotaurs are mercenaries, and
everybody knows it. We see one of them coming, we expect to see our maker
soon after. And this one didn't carry a weapon, only gold. And he
walked a busy street alone in a town that had only seen one minotaur
before. And I don't even know what that one did.
And now, on deck, I pace and wait for him to get back. I'd known a few
killers in my day. I can respect a killer. I've killed a pirate or
two, well, at least I've fired an arrow or two in a pirate's direction.
Anyway, here I am on this deck pacing. The minotaur is out there in
the town. And I'm pacing. The moon comes up.
The Captain came up to me. He asked me where the paying customer was.
The Captain gave me specific orders to go find our paying customer, and
bring him back in one piece.
I didn't take long. I asked a beggar about the minotaur. The fellow
cackled. "They got him, already," he said.
"The monster's dead. Our guard took him down!"
"Where is he? Did they arrest him?"
"Arrest him?" said the beggar. He scratched his beard. It reminded me
of the minotaur always picking at his nose. The beggar shrugged.
"Right," he said, "You can call it whatever you want. They arrested the
monster in that alley over there. I saw it myself. I think they left
him there for the term of his imprisonment, too." The beggar laughed and
shoved his cap under my face. "A coin for a washed up sailor, matey?"
I punched him in the nose as hard as I could.
Walking back to the ship, I realized that I never learned the minotaurs
name. Next time we go to NaeraMae, I won't know where to look to tell
his terrifying uncle what had happened here.
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