The Minotaur: Ariadne's Version
I am beautiful. It is not a vain statement, merely one that is true. I have been told this countless times by the people of Crete. Many of them have tried to win my affections, but I just laugh at their efforts. No one is good enough for me. No one is good enough for the favourite daughter of the king.
Some people call my father, King Minos, a cruel and pitiless man. The people of Athens, our enemies, call him a monster, but I think that they are the ones that are monsters. It is because of them that my brother, Androgeus, is dead. No one is sure exactly how he died or who killed him. Some claim that he was killed accidentally in a riot when he was in Athens. Others believe that the Athenians killed him out of jealousy because of the victories that he had won at the Panathenaic festival. Either way my brother is dead and I hate them for it. So when the Prince of Athens came to our island, I wanted nothing more than to see him dead.
I had been standing with my father in his throne room when the doors had blasted open and in marched my father's guards, bringing with them fourteen captives. Athenian captives. Seven young men and seven young maidens. This was father's way of making the Athenians pay for the death of my brother. My father had won a war against our enemies and, as punishment, he ordered that every year seven young men and seven young maidens must be sent to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, a monstrous beast that my father keeps locked away in the labyrinth under the city. It is like a pet to him, which he keeps caged up instead of killing it. I have only seen it once in my life and was actually very fascinated by it. With the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man, the Minotaur was like no creature I had ever seen before. I think that my father was pleased with my fascination with it. It is one of the reasons that I am his favourite daughter. I think that he sees a lot of himself in me. And to be honest, I do too.
Standing there that day, beside my father, I felt the same excitement that he did, looking out over the pitiful people that were soon to become food for the Minotaur. I felt a thrill of satisfaction as I looked at their cowardly bodies shaking with fear, the women huddled together crying, the men on their knees begging for mercy. Except for one man.
In the middle of the group of captives stood a young man with long brown hair. His broad, strong body stood tall above the others who all cowered in fear. This man did not cower, but instead held himself in a confident and fearless way. His bright blue eyes held no fear in them, only a strong determination that confused me. I quickly pointed him out to my father, who had the guards bring him forward.
"Young man," my father asked with his stern voice, his shaggy brows furrowing with puzzlement. "How do you stand there so unafraid when you surely know what demise lies before you?"
"I am not afraid for I know that my end does not lie in the depths of your dark labyrinth," the man responded. "I will not die at the hands of a monster. I will not die at the hands of your Minotaur either." I gasped as I realized the insult that he had thrown at my father. He had basically just called my father a monster to his face. I looked at him to see how he would react, but all he did was laugh.
"Foolish boy," he chuckled. "You are lucky that I don't kill you right here, right now."
"You wouldn't be able to anyways," the man replied. "I already told you that I will not die at the hands of a monster." My father's cheeks flushed with anger, turning them red.
"Do you realize who you are speaking to, boy?" my father cried, leaping up from his throne. "I am Minos, King of Crete! Who are you to speak to me in such a way?"
"I am Theseus, royal prince of Athens," the man replied, his blue eyes staring straight into my father's dark grey ones. "I am here to destroy the beast you force my people to be devoured by, since your heart is too cold and full of anger to look into the innocent eyes of the people you are killing and stop your monstrous ways. Your people see a king sitting on that throne, but all I see is a creature that is a more hideous monster than the Minotaur himself!"
The entire room was silent with shock. No one had ever dared to speak to my father in such a way. As I looked down on the young prince of Athens, I hated him even more than I had when he first spoke out against my father. He was not only a man who insulted my father, but he was also the son of the king of Athens, King Aegeus, the man who I ultimately deemed responsible for my brother's death. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to watch him die. My father had similar feelings.
"You think me more of a monster than the Minotaur?" my father demanded angrily. "Well then you shall be the first to meet him, so that you may see who the true monster is! Guards, take them away! When the sun rises tomorrow, you, my young prince, will be the Minotaur's first morsel!"
"I have already met the true monster," Theseus remarked as the guards led him away. "And once I have defeated its pet, I will destroy it too." The doors closed with a resounding thud as it shut behind them, cutting off our sight of the Athenian prince.
I turned back to my father, who was gripping his golden chalice tightly in his hand, his face contorted so much with anger that his skin had turned bright red.
"Father-" I began, but was cut off as my younger sister, Phaedra, burst out from behind the window curtains where she had been hiding and fell at my father's feet weeping.
"Please father, don't kill them!" she cried, her tear-filled eyes looking up at him with sorrow. "Please, they've done no wrong! Please father, let them go free! Let them go home! They don't deserve this awful fate!"
"Silence, foolish girl!" my father scolded. "This affair is none of your business! It is a matter that is beyond your weak comprehension. Go water your flowers and think no more of these people!" Phaedra bit her lip to keep from saying anything else, quickly getting to her feet and dashing towards the door, fresh tears falling down her cheeks as she fought to keep the sob from escaping her lips, but failed as it echoed back through the room before the door closed behind her.
"Why can't your sister be more like you, Ariadne?" my father sighed, turning to me. "Keep an eye on her, would you? She's too tender-hearted, too much like her mother."
"But you, my sweet child," he smiled as he brushed a piece of hair out of my face and tucked it behind my ear, letting his hand rest gently on my cheek for a moment. "You are everything that I could hope for in a child, the perfect image of myself. If only Phaedra could be more like you..." He sighed, letting his hand drop as he turned away to speak to one of his advisors. I took the chance to sneak away and find Phaedra. I didn't trust the way that she had backed down so easily. I found her in her chambers, digging through one of her closets.
"What are you looking for, little sister?" I asked, startling her.
"You frightened me, Ariadne!" she exclaimed, gripping her chest. "You should not sneak up on someone like that!" I just smiled.
"What are you looking for?" I repeated, looking into the closet. Phaedra quickly put her hands behind her back, hiding something. "What do you have there?" With a sigh, she brought her hands out in front of her and showed me what she held. It was a ball of string.
"What are you going to do with that?" I asked, suspicious.
"Nothing, I hope," she replied, pushing past me and heading out the door.
"What are you up to?" I asked, reaching out and grabbing her arm to stop her.
"Promise you won't tell father?" she asked in a whispered voice. I nodded, though I knew that I may be lying. "I'm going to help Theseus escape!"
"You're what?" I exclaimed.
"Hush!" she cried out, alarmed, quickly looking around to see if anyone had heard my outburst. Satisfied that there was no one else around, she continued.
"I have fallen in love with him," she confessed. "I hope that if I help him escape that he will take me away with him." I was dumbstruck by what she said. She wanted to leave Crete? I could not understand why. Crete was perfect. And how could she leave father? I expressed these thoughts to her.
"Father has never loved me the way that he loves you," she replied sorrowfully. "It would be better for all of us if I were to just disappear and, with Theseus' help, I finally could have a chance to!"
Foolish girl, was all I could think. But she did have a point. Father had always loved me more, and with Phaedra out of the way, father would give all of his attention to me (though I already had most of it). It would be one less person to worry about and I really couldn't care less if she were gone. The only problem was that she wanted to escape with Theseus, whom I wanted to see dead.
That's when I made my decision. I would not help my sister, but I would not tell father either, at least not yet. I wanted to see if Phaedra would actually go through with it first. So later that night, when everyone else had fallen asleep, I followed her down to the dungeon, making sure that she did not see me. I watched as she tricked the guards into stepping away from their posts, secretly swiping their keys as they left. She quickly unlocked the door to Theseus' cell and let him out.
"Theseus, you must hurry!" I heard my sister say. "Wake your friends. I have cleared the way to your ship. If you hurry, you will be able to get away before anyone realizes that you're gone. I only ask that you take me with you when you leave, for my father would surely kill me when he discovers what I have done."
"I cannot leave yet," he replied. "I came here to slay the Minotaur and that is what I intend to do. I will not run away like a coward!"
"I was afraid that you would say that," she sighed, pulling out something that was wrapped in cloth and passing it to him. "You will need this to slay the monster." I watched as Theseus unrolled the cloth and pulled out a beautiful, long, golden-hilted sword.
"My father's sword," Theseus whispered. "How did you get it back?"
"There's not enough time to explain right now," she replied, looking around anxiously. "Wake your friends and send them ahead to your ship. Then I will take you to the labyrinth." I watched amused as Theseus quickly woke the other Athenians. Once they had all left, Phaedra turned to Theseus and offered him her hand.
"Come, we must hurry," she said as he took her hand. I silently followed them as Phaedra led Theseus down to the dark labyrinth that father had Daedalus build for the Minotaur. Daedalus had done his job well, creating a gigantic, intricate labyrinth from which escape would be impossible. It was the perfect place to keep a creature that one did not want to get out.
"Wish me luck," Theseus said, releasing her hand and taking a deep breath before taking a step into the labyrinth.
"Wait!" Phaedra cried out, grabbing his hand again and turning him back to her. "Take this. I will hold the end of it so that you will be able to find your way out again once you have defeated the Minotaur." She placed the ball of string in his hands.
"Good luck, brave prince," she said softly, stepping up on her tippy toes to place a kiss on his cheek. "I will pray for your quick and safe return."
"I thank you," he replied, nodding to her before turning and stepping into the labyrinth. Within seconds, he had disappeared from sight. Phaedra sat down to wait, the end of the string clutched tightly in her hands. I heard her start to hum an old song that our mother had used to sing to us.
"I can't believe you're actually going to go through with this," I remarked as I revealed my presence to Phaedra. She jumped, startled by my voice, almost losing her grip on the string.
"I wish you would stop doing that!" she exclaimed with a huff. "That is one thing that I will not miss when I leave. And yes, I am going through with this. I love him. Why don't you understand that? I have to leave. I feel trapped here, alone. Theseus was the first person that I've ever seen speak out against father. He had the courage to do something that I have never been able to do! I wish to go with him, not be trapped here where I feel like I'm forever being silenced!"
"You are being foolish!" I exclaimed. "Even if Theseus makes it out of there alive, which I highly doubt, you will never make it off this island!"
"I could if you helped me!" she argued.
"And why should I help you?" I huffed. "You're betraying not only father, but all of Crete!"
"I can't stay here!" she cried. "If I were to stay here, I'd be betraying myself! I don't belong here!"
"No, you don't," I agreed, turning away from her and entering the labyrinth, picking up the string as I did.
"Where are you going?" she called out after me.
"I'm going to watch Prince Theseus die," I replied without turning around. "And then come back and smack some sense into you!" I followed the string into the darkness, the silhouette of my sister quickly disappearing behind me. There was no way that Theseus was going to defeat the Minotaur and I wanted to watch him die trying.
When I could hear the ear-piercing roar of the Minotaur echoing loudly through the tunnels, I knew that I was getting close. I followed the string around a corner and found myself standing at the entrance to a large cavern, and there, right in the middle, stood Theseus and the Minotaur. I watched fascinated as the Minotaur let out a ferocious roar and charged at the prince. Theseus just laughed as he stepped out of the way of the charging bull. The creature turned around to face Theseus and I found myself staring in awe.
The Minotaur was exactly how I remembered it to be. The dark, hair-covered head of a bull, red eyes flashing with anger, and the tall, toned body of a man. From behind the Minotaur swished a long, black tail. The creature bellowed again, lowering its large head to charge at Theseus again. This time as he dodge the beast, Theseus brought his large sword down and cut into the human flesh of the Minotaur. It roared in pain, then quickly turned and ran away from the prince. I was dumbfounded. The Minotaur was scared! Of Theseus!
Much later, as I reflected back on what I had seen, I realized that the Minotaur must not have been used to fighting against such a weapon, as the guards usually took everything away from their prisoners.
I watched as Theseus hurried after the Minotaur, attacking its bare flesh as it ran. I carefully followed after them, worried that it would turn around and come back towards me. Finally, Theseus cornered the beast and with one slick motion, beheaded it. I was stunned. I honestly did not think that he would be able to do it. I watched for only a couple more seconds as Theseus went over and picked up the head before turning and quickly following the string back out of the labyrinth. When I arrived back at the entrance, I found Phaedra waiting for me.
"What happened?" she asked, taking in my white-faced expression.
"He did it," I gasped. "He slayed the Minotaur!" A couple of minutes later, Theseus emerged from the labyrinth as well, carrying the large bull head. He set it down before the entrance before turning to us.
"A message for your father," he smiled. Phaedra raced over to him and threw herself into his arms.
"I knew that you could do it!" she cried.
"I couldn't have done it without you," he replied smiling. Then he did something sickening. He kissed her. My stomach felt nauseous watching them and I quickly looked away. I couldn't believe that she would kiss our enemy.
"This is my sister, Ariadne," I heard Phaedra say. I turned around to look at the couple. I managed to fake a smile at them, though all I wanted to do was scowl.
"Ariadne," my sister sighed. "I know that you hate him because he's an Athenian, but maybe it's time to make peace with them."
"It's because of them that our brother is dead," I hissed.
"But think about how many people have lost brothers, sisters, children, because of father and this hatred!" she exclaimed. "I think that their debt has been paid tenfold!" I didn't want to admit it, but maybe my sister was right.
"Come with us," Phaedra urged. "We can start over, start fresh. No more anger or resentment. It will be a new beginning, a clean slate."
"For you, maybe," I replied with a sigh. "But my life is here, with father. No matter how cruel you think he is, he is still our father and I love him dearly. I will help you leave, for I know that father will forgive me, but I will not go with you."
"So be it," Phaedra sighed, giving me a quick hug. "I will miss you, sister."
"And I you," I replied, actually kind of meaning it. Then they were gone. I quickly went up to the tower and distracted the lookout guards so that they wouldn't see them leaving. As their ship sailed out of the port, I raised a hand and bid them a silent farewell and good luck.
Months later, I received a letter from my sister. She told me that she was now the queen of Athens. Apparently, Theseus had made a deal with his father to raise white sails if he was successful in defeating the Minotaur and leave them black if they were not, and on the joyous return home had forgotten to change the sails. His father, upon seeing the black sails, had thrown himself from the high turret that he had been watching from, not wanting to live as he believed his son to be dead. And thus, Theseus became the new king and Phaedra, his wife and queen. Though I am completely happy for my sister, I can't help but wonder about Theseus. After all, the journey from Crete to Athens had taken weeks, which would have given them plenty of time to change the sails, thus preventing the death of King Aegeus. But maybe Theseus had planned it that way, so that he could become king. Maybe Theseus and I are a lot more alike that I had thought... Maybe I should take a trip to Athens to visit my dear sister and see if the man that she married is actually more of a monster than a man... Almost like the Minotaur... Half man, half beast, one hundred percent monster.