Five young men stood staring at what could be the entrance to one of the most significant archaeological finds in history. There was a dark hole in the base of hills that stretched to the south. A pile of dirt and yellow grass nearby made it seem as if a landslide had uncovered the opening and then it had been dug out by human hands.
"Ok, we know where they are and we know they are armed. Someone should go for help while the rest of us go in," Heero suggested.
"If that's really the Minotaur's Labyrinth, there is no way I'm NOT going in," Wu Fei said matter of factly.
"Me either," Trowa said, "this was Daedalus' greatest work."
"Same here," Duo piped up.
They all looked at Quatre.
"If there are people in there, they probably don't speak English," he said. "You might need me."
Heero frowned. Just great. He couldn't exactly blame them, though, he certainly wasn't going to be left behind.
"Hey maybe I could call," Quatre said and took out his mobile phone. Everyone followed suit except Duo, who didn't own a phone.
"Oh. No service," Quatre said disappointedly. "That's odd, it's supposed to work globally."
"No service," Wu Fei said.
"No service," Heero grumbled and snapped his phone shut.
"No service," Trowa added.
"Oh this is perfect," Duo snickered, "I wish I had my camera." Four phones and not a one with service out here.
Heero shoved his phone back in his pocket. "All right, looks like we're all going in," he said and looked around for consensus. He received a nod from all parties. He took a deep breath and checked the safety on the gun.
"What do we do with him?" Quatre asked of the unconscious Greek they had hauled over the hill with them.
"Let's bring him just inside the entrance so he isn't seen," Wu Fei suggested and they each grabbed hold of the prone man. They waded through the pile of loose dirt and entered the opening in the hill, which was about six feet tall and two feet wide. They set him down a little ways in and then continued in single file.
The path remained dirt and sloped downward for maybe two hundred feet. Vegetation and roots had already been cut or pushed aside. The light from the entry became dimmer and dimmer, and Heero felt a chill when he realized the light now seemed to come from the tunnel up ahead. The tunnel took a sharp turn and the path abruptly became flat paving stones and a stone archway stood at the top of a flight of stairs. In the dim light, carved letters could be made out across the arch.
"It's not Greek," Wu Fei said after studying it for a moment.
"It's Linear B," Duo said.
"What's that?" Quatre asked.
"The writing system of the Minoans, right about the time of King Minos and after," Duo said.
"The Minoans were the people who lived here?" Quatre asked.
"Right, starting about 3000 BC," Duo answered.
"What does it say?" Quatre asked.
"Not many people can read Linear B, it's not like Greek or Latin," Trowa told him as if to excuse them for not knowing what it said.
"Duo?" Heero asked.
"Yup, was positively obsessed with it for like six months," Duo admitted. They waited for his translation. "It's a tough one," Duo said after some study. "Linear B is syllabary, look at the characters there," he said, pointing to the center of the archway, "it can be two different words depending on whether that's a diphthong - "
"Enough, polyglot," Heero said, "what does it say?"
'All hope abandon, ye who enter here,'" Duo answered him.
Trowa snorted and Heero elbowed him. "Ok, Dante, let's just get going," he shook his head and led the way down the stairs.
Lanterns had been left every so often on the stairs, which confirmed that someone must have been inside recently if they weren't there now. The light from the lanterns was just enough to see as the narrow hallway twisted downward. The walls were stone with occasional panels of chipped frescos depicting the grisly ways in which those who entered the labyrinth might die.
"What exactly was at the center of the labyrinth again?" Quatre asked, stopping by a fresco of huge man with a bull's head devouring a maiden.
"That's the Minotaur - half human, half bull," Duo told him as they continued to descend. "Born of the illicit relations between King Minos' wife, Pasiphae, and a bull. King Minos had his inventor, Daedauls, build a labyrinth to hide the beast and demanded human sacrifices from Athens to satiate its monstrous appetite for human flesh."
"Oh yes, now I remember," Quatre swallowed.
"Thank you for that chilling account, Duo," Wu Fei said flatly.
"Cannibalism and bestiality - isn't that why we all love mythology?" Duo grinned.
"It's just a myth," Heero said from the head of the group. "Who knows what's really down here? Maybe they invented those stories to scare people and keep them out. It's even possible that the myths grew from something real, perhaps Minos really did have a son who was disfigured in some way and was determined to hide him."
"Like Sloth from the Goonies!" Duo provided. Trowa snorted.
Heero glanced back to give him an odd look. "Uh, something like that," he said. He looked ahead again and halted suddenly, bracing his hands on the wall. The others stopped right behind him and thankfully did not run into him because he would have fallen quite a ways.
The stairs dropped off at a sheer cliff that went down at least thirty feet. He looked ahead in astonishment. It was as if the stairway opening were a tiny hole in the wall of an enormous natural cave, lit by burning torches, lanterns, and overhanging braziers suspended from the walls. On the floor of the cavernous room was a great maze which looked unsolvable even though he could now see over the top of part of it. There was not a word from anyone behind him as they all tried to comprehend exactly what they were seeing.
"Daedalus' greatest work!" Trowa breathed and scrambled to the front to get a better look.
"Shh," Heero hissed and crouched down, "the looters are down there and might see us." The others got down and tried to remain quiet. He looked around at the floor below, noticing sacks, ceramic urns, amphorae, and statues collected in a small empty area by the entrance to the maze. It was quite a collection, and damn if it wasn't all out of proper context now that it had been removed, he grumbled to himself. A rickety-looking wooden ladder stretched up from the floor to the stairs where they hid.
"Ok," Heero whispered to the others, "we'll go down the ladder one at a time. Go quickly and quietly. Meet by the loot." The others nodded and he quickly climbed down the ladder, which turned out to be more robust than it looked. He stuck to the wall and then squatted next to a huge painted urn almost as tall as a man. Trowa joined him next, followed by Duo, Quatre, and finally Wu Fei.
"This is some incredible stuff," Duo said appreciatively as his eyes fell on a golden oil lamp.
"Well, he did have the Minos Touch," Quatre quipped.
"That's MIDAS," the others corrected.
"Oh, right, Midas, of course," Quatre said.
"All right," Heero said, getting their attention. "Jay has to be down here somewhere, so we'll - OW," Heero stopped short when he was kicked in the ankle. He looked around the other side of the urn and found his uncle sitting on the floor, gagged and wrists bound. "Jay!" he choked. He looked a little beat up, but he was alive. They all moved over to him and Heero untied the gag.
"Dr. Jay, are you ok?" Wu Fei asked as Trowa untied his hands.
"I'm fine," Jay grunted as he rubbed his raw wrists. "They're inside the labyrinth, stay quiet." He looked around at all of them. "You?" he asked, looking Duo up and down.
"Uh, long story," Duo whispered with a wave.
"And who are you?" he asked Quatre.
"Quatre Winner, sir, it's a pleasure to meet you," Quatre answered. Jay just nodded.
"How long have they had you here?" Wu Fei asked.
"Three days," Jay answered, "they're getting ready to leave with the stuff."
"We have to stop them," Heero said, looking towards the entrance
"You and your damned heroics, Heero, just like your father," Jay shook his head.
"Swear to God I'll put the gag back on you, old man," Heero threatened.
"How many are there?" Trowa asked, ignoring his friend.
"Four," Jay told him, "plus the one outside. Mr. Claustrophobia."
"We took care of him," Trowa said.
"Four isn't too many," Heero said. The boys looked at each other.
"I'm in," Duo said, locking eyes with Heero.
"Me too," Wu Fei said firmly.
Trowa gave Heero a sharp nod.
"You'll need me to question those guys once we get 'em," Quatre said.
"All right then," Heero said, "Jay, you climb out and go to the police, we'll track those looters down."
"What? I can't let you five lunatics barge into that maze half-cocked, I'm coming with you," Jay insisted gruffly. "Besides, I've been inside a few times already."
"Lead the way, then," Heero said and they all stood up and followed the older man to the entrance.
The maze was even bigger and more imposing from the ground than it was from above. The stone walls were ten feet tall and two feet thick.
"This is incredible," Trowa said as he paused to run his hands over the perfectly flat, perfectly fitted masonry. "Can you imagine getting all this stone inside, bringing it down those twisting stairs? They either had to quarry it on site, or there's another entrance to these caves."
Heero's mind spun as they continued inside. So did that mean there was an exit to the labyrinth? The Minotaur was supposed to be at the center, the myths had never said anything about a way out. Maybe it was blocked up. Or hidden. According to the stories, the purpose of the maze was to get the sacrifices lost and confused and let the Minotaur hunt them down. Was there another exit somewhere?
"I'm surprised it's so light in here," Wu Fei commented.
"How did they light all those braziers?" Trowa asked.
Jay turned around and gave him a look. "You would have pissed yourself with excitement if you'd seen it. There must have been some kind of ignition fuse line connecting them. When one was lit, the entire cave went up. It was magnificent."
"Wait, what's that noise?" Wu Fei asked, bringing them all to halt. They stood in silence for a moment. "Uh, never mind then," Wu Fei said and they continued.
"I hear it too," Quatre said, stopping them again a moment later. "Kind of a shuff shuff shuff noise."
"Oh, that's me," Duo said and they all looked at him. He pointed to a spool of string with a colorful label attached to his belt loop. "Bought it at a souvenir shop on the ferry, Ariadne's Magic String. It's just baling twine," he said with a slight blush. "I tied the end to the entrance so we can find our way back out."
They all stared at him. That's how the labyrinth had been solved in the famous myth, everyone knew that. It was so simple, why hadn't anyone else thought of it?
"Just like Jason!" Quatre exclaimed.
"THESEUS," five voices corrected him.
"Oh, yes, Theseus, that's what I meant," Quatre said as they continued on their way.
"See the fresh knife marks on the corners?" Jay asked and pointed to one as they turned left. "That's how the looters find their way around. They weren't bright enough to use string."
Defacing a ruin of unimaginable cultural value, Heero seethed to himself as he followed his uncle. They would stop these guys. He would use the gun if he had to, but the looters were not getting away.
Jay led them through the corridors, which were increasing in their complexity. Hallways started from breaks in long walls, every corner yielded two or three options. There were still more gruesome frescoes here and there on the walls. There were a few rusted weapons lying around, mostly broad swords and shields. "There were more," Jay said, pointing them out, "the looters already took anything that looked valuable from this part of the labyrinth."
They paused at a dead end before moving on. At the end of the short passage was a pile of bones. "What do you make of it, Wu Fei?" Jay asked. Wu Fei got a bit closer and squatted down to take a look.
"Maybe they're, um, animals that wandered in here?" Quatre suggested.
"Sorry, these are definitely human," Wu Fei said. He nudged at a bone with his toe. "See the angle of the head of this femur? And the bowing of the shaft? Human. And on this ulna you can clearly see a break, probably caused by blunt force breaking the bone to the inside - "
"We should be moving on," Heero said impatiently.
"Oh right, of course," Wu Fei said absently and got to his feet.
They continued on, following Jay who appeared to be able to understand the knife markings to some extent. In some corners there were pedestals from which statues had been removed. A few statues still stood, with chisel marks at the belt or anywhere precious stones and been attached. Heero growled to himself again. They began to hear voices speaking in Greek and Jay stopped them. "We're getting close," he said, "I think they were going to try and get to the middle today."
The voices became louder and there was some shouting. Quatre snickered. "One of them is lost in the maze," he said.
Jay nodded. "They are afraid of this place. I don't speak a lot of modern Greek, but there have been a lot of arguments among them."
"Any idea who they are?" Wu Fei asked.
"No," Jay shook his head, "but they seem like locals. They aren't real organized and they don't know what anything is. One can speak some English and he's been making me tell him which items might be valuable."
"You lied, of course," Heero said.
"Of course," Jay replied.
"They are planning on moving a lot of large items," Heero remarked, "they would have to have some serious contacts to ship and store those things secretly, not to mention sell them on the antiquities black market."
"That's true," Jay nodded, "my guess is they already have a deal lined up or they wouldn't be so ambitious with their choices."
There was more shouting that sounded increasingly frantic. "One guy went to find the one who is lost, and now he's lost," Quatre relayed. "The other two are telling them to just calm down and find their way back."
It couldn't have worked out better, in Heero's opinion. It would be best if they didn't have to deal with all four at once.
"Look," Quatre said, pointing to the ceiling. "I don't think that's all natural. Looks like it was carved to throw sound, confuse people."
"Really? How do you know that?" Trowa asked as he studied the ceiling.
"I play a number of musical instruments and I've played in more concert halls than I could possibly hope to count. I developed a sense of the acoustical properties of different structures," Quatre answered.
"Listen," Heero cut in, "this is our chance. They're separated and distracted. Let's go."
"They're armed," Jay warned and grabbed his elbow as he passed.
"So am I," Heero growled and took the lead.
"Don't you dare use that in here. The last thing this place needs is bullet holes," Jay scolded.
"I wasn't going to," Heero hissed back.
He followed the arrows carved into the walls until he could hear voices down the corridor and not just echoing above them. He crouched and peeked around the corner. "Two of them," he reported in a whisper. "Just standing there, probably waiting for the other two," he nodded at Quatre.
"What do we do?" Wu Fei asked. They all stared at each other.
"I suppose the Lost Tourist routine is out?" Duo said. Trowa snorted.
"They'll expect me," Jay said, "I'll be the bait and lead them around the corner, and you guys take them by surprise."
"Heero will knock them out," Wu Fei offered, only slightly sarcastically.
Jay nodded and calmly walked around the corner. He proceeded until they noticed him, feigned surprised to see them, and then bolted back around the corner. Sure enough, one of them came after him and Heero cracked him over the head with the butt of the pistol as soon as he rounded the corner. The loud thud of his body hitting the floor drew his partner's attention. The other man yelled to his absent collaborators.
"He suspects something funny," Quatre warned. "He's coming!"
They all held their breath and backed up against the wall. They could hear cautious footsteps on the stone floor and the unmistakable cocking of a handgun. Heero swallowed. He couldn't let that guy get around the corner and point that gun at anyone, and he certainly couldn't let him fire it. If someone didn't get hurt or killed, the labyrinth would get damaged, and Jay would probably blame him somehow, so he had to do something.
He spotted a lighter in the unconscious man's shirt pocket. He plucked it out and threw it around the corner to distract the approaching man and then leapt out of hiding, surprising him with a fist to the stomach. The gun clattered to the floor and Heero sent him sprawling to the floor with a punch to the face.
"Who are you people?"
"Told you Heero would knock them out."
"You know, when we were fourteen, this kid told me he'd never been in a fight."
"He took Tae Kwon Do in high school."
Heero turned around and threw a flat stare at the Five Stooges who had poked their heads around the corner. "Just tie him up, would you?" he glowered. He picked up the other gun and carefully put the safety back on as the others tied up the two men with belts and the ties that had been on Jay. "Who knows how to shoot?" Heero asked. Trowa raised his hand and got the gun.
There was shouting from other parts of the labyrinth.
"I think they heard us," Quatre said. "They're calling for these guys."
"We have to find them before either of them gets out and make off with any artifacts," Heero said.
"Do we dare split up? Wu Fei asked.
Heero shook his head. "Let's spread out along Duo's string line and wait for them. Never get out of sight of the line, so we can always find our way out."
"I'll go back to the entrance," Jay said. "You've already taken out their leader, so the others might try to run." He followed the string line around the corner and disappeared.
"I'll stay with these two in case their partners pass by and attempt to free them," Quatre said of the two captives.
"I'll go on ahead since they were trying to go to the middle," Duo said.
"I'll be right behind you," Heero said and nodded at Duo.
Duo nodded back and started on ahead while Heero, Wu Fei, and Trowa spread out along the line between the others. Being in front was a difficult position. Depending on what path he chose, he could miss the looters completely, or run right into them around a corner. He could hear panicked shouting from the two last looters, but he couldn't trust where it sounded like it was coming from. Instead, he tried to listen for sounds coming from around the corners. He hoped these two didn't have guns. He crept along, staying low and close to the wall. He peeked around every corner before moving into the open. He'd rather be the one to have the advantage of surprise in this situation.
After a bit, he found himself in an area without the knife marks the looters used. He kept moving, rounding several more corners and finally stopped in an area that looked something like a courtyard. There were blocks and alcoves with more enormous, man-sized urns. At least a few were still in place and untouched. He may now be the farthest anyone had gotten in the labyrinth. There were a couple options to continue in the maze, but there were also two new options: stairs going up and stairs going down. Suddenly, he felt a tugging on his beltloop as if someone were pulling at the string behind him. Was that a signal from Heero? Was Heero in trouble? He quickly moved back the way he'd come. Not far from where he'd stopped, he found the frayed end of his string.
He looked around, trying to keep a calm head and figure out which way to go to get back to Heero. "Heero!" he called out.
"Duo?" Heero's voice echoed over the walls.
"The string's been cut! He'll be coming your way! I'll try to find you!" Duo called.
Duo carefully chose his path backwards the best he could. He had noticed that many of the frescoes and statues were identical, obviously an attempt to confuse any humans inside the labyrinth. He rounded another corner and stopped in his tracks. Up ahead was a place he remembered - a larger open area with three doorways. He was in luck because there was a man with his front pressed to the wall, peeking around a corner. Duo could see that he had the other end of the rope.
"Duo? Are you close?" Heero's voice came from close by now, just around the corner. The man concealed himself from Heero's vantage, waiting to take him by surprise. Duo was completely out in the open, but he snuck as close to the other man as he could.
"Hey," he said conversationally when he got close enough. When the man snapped his head around in surprise, Duo punched him in the jaw.
"Son of a bitch!" Duo swore, wincing and shaking his hand out. It had been a very long time since he'd done that, he was definitely out of practice.
"Duo?!" Heero called and came charging around the corner. The man Duo had punched staggered back and Heero crashed right into him. There was a brief struggle and Heero got his arms pinned behind him. He shoved the man hard against the wall and he slumped motionless to the floor.
"Are you alright?" he asked Duo immediately. "Is your hand ok?"
Duo didn't answer. He was staring at the knife on the floor near the unconscious man. He hadn't seen that knife before. Heero saw it now too and stooped to pick it up. "We should tie him up somehow," Heero suggested.
"I'm all out of belts," Duo replied with a frown.
"Can I cut some of the string off? Then we can tie the ends back together," Heero said.
"That works," Duo agreed and Heero cut a length of the twine from the end that lie on the stone floor. Duo used it to tightly bind the man's wrists and Heero got to work on his ankles. Duo was about to ask what to do with him when they heard Jay shouting.
"I've got one by the entrance!" the older man way saying. Duo could barely hear him; he had not realized they were so far away.
"On my way!" they heard a voice that sounded like Trowa reply to Jay.
"I've got to make sure he's ok!" Heero said, leaping to his feet.
"Go back to the entrance," Duo told him, "I'll stay here with this guy so we don't lose him in here."
Heero nodded briskly and took off the way he had come, following Duo's string back to the entrance.
Actually, Duo had no intention of staying with the unconscious man. He tied the loose end of the string back to the end still connected to the spool on his belt loop. He wanted to get back to those stairs. He wracked his brain to remember which corridors he had taken before. He made several wrong turns and had to backtrack, but he finally found it - stairs going up and stairs going down.
The down option looked dark and Duo didn't have a torch or a lantern, so he decided to go up. The stairs were only about half a normal flight and the walls remained high, preventing him from looking over the rest of the maze. He rounded a few corners and found himself at the stop of still more stairs, now delving downward. Did that mean that the "down" stairs eventually went up? Man, what a messed-up, turned-around place this was, but of course, that was the whole point of it.
Duo decided to go back to the place with the giant urns. This time, he tried the stairs that went downward. It was not as dark as he thought it would be once his eyes adjusted. It was damp and had a mustier smell than the rest of the labyrinth. There were more bones here, not in a big pile but just lying scattered about. There also heaps of stones, chipped bricks, and broken tiles. Around a few corners, he realized why it did not seem so dark - the tunnel did eventually open to stairs leading upwards.
Something caught his eye and he knelt next to what looked like a pile of rubble. Mixed in with the stones and bricks was part of a tablet nearly a foot wide and jaggedly broken eight inches from the top. He studied it, wondering if he could trust his eyes. Some of the characters were Linear B, he would know them anywhere, but others appeared to be Linear A, the supposed predecessor of Linear B. Linear A had never been deciphered because it was thought not be Greek, whereas the Linear B script was used or adapted to write a Mycenaean dialect. He was staring at the two scripts on the same tablet.
"Duo!" he heard his name called from the top of the stairs. It sounded like Heero.
"I'm here!" he called back and followed his string to the stairs, taking the tablet with him. Since it had been found in a pile of rubble, it wasn't in its original context anyway, so there was really no harm in moving it.
He stopped at the bottom of the stairs and found himself looking up at Heero, Quatre, and two uniformed Cretan police officers.
Ah, classics humor.
Quatre says "Minos Touch" but he really meant Midas, King of Phrygia, who is granted a wish by Bacchus that everything he touches turn to gold - with disastrous results.
Theseus is the hero who solved the labyrinth and killed the Minotaur (amongst other adventures), whereas Jason was on the quest for the Golden Fleece. (Incidentally, both of these men could not have done what they did without the help of a woman, Ariadne in Thesues' case and Medea in Jason's case. Both of these women were promptly abandoned by the heroes after they got what they wanted...)
[ Linear A ]
[ Linear B ]
[ Linear A and B ]
[ myth of the minotaur ]
[ minotaur on wikipedia ]
1. "All hope abandon, ye who enter here" is H.F. Cary's English translation of what is inscribed on the gates of Hell in Dante's Divine Comedy. Tee hee, Duo is funny.