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Calling of the Blood Prologue 1

The Labyrinth, Ceftiu


Darkness surrounded. An unrelenting black cloak prevented vision farther than a few steps ahead. Feeling the jagged, untamed walls was the only guide Stelion could use. A thin beam of waning sunlight, entering through an airhole high in the endless wall, provided a reprieve he hoped for in this unforgiving place. Two sets of footsteps slowly approached behind the leader of this vagabond group. Stelion stopped to take a deep breath under the air hole… reminding him that he was still alive. The rock wall was smoother here, not cutting into his steady hand placed to hold himself. With his free hand he brushed blood and dirt matted hair from his eyes. Three days ago, he and six companions entered the labyrinth… now these three ragged men were all that remained.

Heavy breathing and coughing announced the arrival of his two badly disheveled partners. “Phorkys, you are too loud! Your breathing and coughing will alert them to our location!” admonished Stelion.

With both hands on bruised and bloodied knees, the old man slowly raised his head. The remaining strands of grey hair shimmered in the thin sunlight from the air hole. “Fuck Hades’ mother Stelion. We have not stopped moving in this god forsaken place!”

“I understand old friend, but it is necessary. We do not have the luxury of long rests. The beasts have our scent and have tasted blood…” Stelion turned his head, interrupted by a deep but distant growl. The unnatural cacophony of beastly noise resonated off the stone. It would seem even the stone shook in terror as Stelion continued with a defeated tone, “As I said friends, we must move.” He placed a strong hand on Phorkys’ shoulder, trying to give the old man some hope and tenacity.

“Oh, what is the point,” cried Kion, “We have been lost for days! We will never find our way out of this piece of Hades! We are doomed to the fates...”. The young man then slid to the ground, burying his face in his thighs. His sorrow and hopelessness were complete.

Stelion walked over to the youth, grabbing both shoulders, “Listen to me Kion! We have to keep going. As long as we live and breathe there is hope of finding an exit. Wallowing on the ground like a hapless muskrat on the field will make you just that, a hapless muskrat, waiting for the hunter hawk to swoop down and grab you for a quick meal! Now rise!”

The young man looked up with a dirty face, his dark green eyes radiated in the glimmer of sun reaching into the cavernous complex. “You always know how to get me going cousin!” A small smile emerged as he reached to grab Stelion’s hand, already out, ready to support him up.

The trio stood under the airhole for a few more moments, trying to suck in the smallest semblance of fresh air and freedom. Stelion’s eyes were half closed, taking in the last bout of clean air before his mind wandered. The image of his wife invaded his mind. Her flowing brown hair splayed over his chest the last time they made love still left a tickle. Placing his son on the saddle of a pony for the first time came to his mind’s eye next. “Always hold the reins and buckle strong…” he advised. The boy’s innocent smile revealed the imperfection of two missing baby teeth. Stelion smiled to himself as a tear emerged from a distant corner of his eye. His smile quickly turned sour as images of armed guards wearing the sigil of the serpent invading his home came next. “Quickly! To the cellar! And do not open under any circumstances!” The faces of his wife and son crying in silence behind a shutting iron door in the floor were the last impressions he had of his family. Now, blood curdling growls approaching were the only impressions left on his mind.

Click… clackclick… clack. The sharp sounds resounded on the hard floor.

“What is that?” asked a curious Kion.

Great Zeus! Hooves!

“We need to go… NOW!” Stelion ordered.

Kion turned sharply, grabbing Phorkys and turning him, “Come now old man! We are not for the shades yet!” The trio trotted forward down the sparsely lit path in front of them. The clanking hooves disappeared with the increasing distance, but Stelion knew this was a temporary reprieve. Jogging forward with his hands following the constant rock, he felt an edge. Squinting his eyes to absorb any stray rays of light, the intersection became visible.

Shit, right or left?

“Any thoughts?” he whispered.

Kion turned his head left, then right, then back again, “Truthfully, is it of any consequence either way cousin?”

Stelion gave a quick suck of his teeth in thought. His cousin was right, but that is not what concerned the former stratigon.

Quiet… too damn quiet.

“Very well then. Right it is...” he decided.

Phorkys straightened up his back, a couple of small pops emerged from the seniors back and hips. He took a step towards the right hall facing the group, “Alright then, let us get on with this bloody…”.

Suddenly, from the darkness of the distant hall, a crisp click, clack, click, clack, was heard. The trio froze, fear and awareness preventing the slightest of motions. Behind the curtain of darkness in front of them, teeth emerged. Long and sharp, they belonged to a decrepit and deformed jaw. Click, clack… The wasted and piece meal body of the gargantuan minotaur continued to unveil in front of them. Pieces of flesh fell from its sides, exposing grey ribs. A pair of awkwardly curved horns still led to pointed ends now stained crimson. The clanking hooves indicating the beast’s arrival were part of thick but decaying legs. Huffing clouds of moisture and blood engulfed large red eyes. The eyes focused on the task at hand… its next meal.

Stelion stayed solemn in front of the beast, quietly taking a half step backwards. Reaching his cousin, he gently grabbed the young man’s wrist. Phorkys remained in a steady stance, mere steps from the abomination. He turned to his former commander, “It was an honor Stelion. Despite how events unfolded, honorable actions were taken, and I have no regrets. Just one request. If you and Kion manage to escape this ghastly structure, I want you to find that demon spawning harlot and when you do, place a dagger right in between her accursed eyes! Now, run you fools! Your lives are worth more than this old goat’s. Go!”

“Phorkys, what are you…” exclaimed Stelion. Before he could finish his plea, he watched helplessly as the old man turned and ran towards the decayed and deformed beast. A small knife was drawn from the torn cloth worn around the old man’s waist.

“Phorkys!!” screamed Stelion, but the yelp fell on deaf ears.

“For life and Gia you spawn of a whore!!” the old soldier yelled, running with his knife up, ready for battle. He was met with a deafening growl. In a breath, the minotaur skipped and leaped into his rushing assailant. A horn pierced through Phorkys’ side. Kion covered his ears to lessen the sound of his colleague’s screams.

“Kion, now!! Move!” Stelion yelled.

“But Phorkys…”

“He is gone now cousin. He gave himself so we may have a chance at survival. Let us not let that sacrifice be in vain.”

The duo turned and hustled away from the scene of horrors. Stelion turned for a last glance at his old friend, just to see the beast tear into Phorkys’ neck and shoulder. The old man’s useless screams silenced quickly in gargles of blood. Stelion returned to running with his cousin, trying to ignore the crunching sounds of his friend’s bones and flesh.


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