That night sleep eluded me. Thoughts and images ran through my head continuously and refused to stop. A roar sounded, a very familiar one, alerting me to the time and shivers ran through my body again. My eyes slipped closed and the images began again; beautiful big brown eyes, thick black hair, intriguing scars, thick legs, oddly beautiful horns... A heavy sigh poured from me, how did I ever manage to become such a mess? Helena interrupted my thoughts with light tapping on my door before she entered to throw back my curtains. "Good morning Miss."
I smiled and climbed out of bed, "Good morning Helena, is my bath ready?"
She nodded, "Of course, filled with your favourite scents." She curtsied and opened the door to my adjoining bathroom.
The lavender scented steam wafted through and I followed its path as I ran my fingers through my hair and climbed in until the water was up to my neck. I laid my head back for Helena to skilfully brush and wash. Her fingers massaged my scalp and I momentarily forgot the night before. A thought popped into my head, "Helena?" I asked gently.
Her fingers ceased for a moment, "Yes?"
"Have you ever been the subject of forbidden-" dare I say it? Helena was my maid, she worked only for me, and would most likely chop off her own hand before telling my secrets. I took a deep breath, "love?"
Her hands stopped abruptly, "You must rinse your hair now." She said quietly.
I frowned but did as she said and dunked my head under the water and rinsed my hair. I rose and Helena already had my new robes laid out and began to dry me.
"You failed to answer my question, Helena."
She sighed and busied herself with my robes, "I am sorry." Was all she said.
I stopped her hands with my own, "we have been together since I was only seven years old – and you six. I consider you a friend even if you do not think so. Please, answer my question."
"Yes." She bit her lip, "I am in love. And it is forbidden. Why do you wish to know?"
I motioned for her to sit, "Forgive me for prying, I am in a similar situation. Who is it that you love?"
"It does not matter." She shook her head and began brushing my hair. "He is forbidden to even look at me and I know he does not notice me. Why would he notice a hand maid?" She sighed heavily, "And you? Who do you love?"
"I do not know if it is love or just infatuation. But it would be the worst kind of love. Full of pain. It should never happen." I sighed heavily.
"Any love is a good love." Helena said forcefully. "You will learn things about yourself that you never knew before. Who is he?"
I hesitated before I spoke, "Asterion." I knew nobody knew his name. I could be sure of that.
"A strong name." she said gently and came round to face me, "No matter what, don't turn yourself away. Let yourself feel."
"Only if you tell me of whom it is that you love." I grinned.
"This is purely between us?" she whispered and I nodded, "Androgeus."
My heart stopped for a moment, she loved my brother? The headstrong, ladies' man of an idiot? I almost laughed, "My brother? Why?"
She bit her lip, not noticing my humour, "He is so handsome, and caring underneath that façade. He helped me once, I had fallen over and cut myself, he helped me up and took me to our healer." Her eyes were glassy and she sighed heavily. She shook her head, "Sorry Ariadne, I did not mean to get carried away. Thoughts of him make my heart beat unusually fast."
I nodded, "I understand. And I promise, I will not tell anyone." I felt terrible for the girl. Androgeus would never pay attention to her in the slightest romantic way, he was far too proud. At least I knew Asterion felt something for me also. It didn't take long for Helena to finish, she curtsied and left my chambers quickly, obviously embarrassed at our conversation. I left my room, with no intention of going anywhere yet I ended up outside in the courtyard, soaking up the sun.
"Ah, there she is!" I heard a booming voice from behind, my father.
I turned, "Good morning Father, how are you?"
"Very well thank you my daughter, I finally managed to get King Aegeus to pick a peasant. Thank the Gods! The Minotaur is probably ravenous for some human flesh!" He laughed and I turned away in disgust. It never sat well with me how he could sacrifice innocents like that. I didn't hate Asterion for it. He and the Minotaur were completely separate personalities, the beast just resided within Asterion, that was all. "What is it Daughter?"
"Nothing, I just caught a foul smell in the air." Lying was much better to keep my father's mood a good one. He believed me.
"Well, do you not wish to know how I got King Aegeus to agree?" He looked triumphant, so I answered,
"Would Androgeus not be better suited for this conversation?" I did not look at him.
"Well I am telling you, not him! As my daughter it would be nice if you would indulge me of listening." His face began to get red.
"Yes, sorry Father I forgot my place. How did you do it?" I smiled.
"I threatened taking action against his family, he has a new young boy he is infatuated with! He adores his son, it only took one small threat of his safety." He smiled proudly.
"Oh… well done Father" I tried to sound pleased but these matters disgusted me. I stood, "excuse me, Father." I gave a small bow but he touched my arm before I could leave,
"Is there something wrong Ariadne?" He frowned. His moods changed so often and so harshly it was hard to keep up.
"No Father, I am just very tired. Please, excuse me." I repeated, he watched me as I left, I noticed in my peripherals, but I did not glance back. It was true – I was very tired but he did not need to know why. I nearly went straight to the labyrinth, I was almost out of the palace gates before I changed my course and headed to my chambers. I could not go during the day, there were too many witnesses.
Androgeus was just entering the kitchen when I arrived inside, "Hello Androgeus." I grinned at him and he returned my smile whilst pulling me into a hug.
"Good morning Ariadne, how are you? That feast last night way the most fun I have had in a long time."
I smiled kindly at him, "Thank you. I am well, quite tired however."
He nodded and held open the door to the kitchen, "Are you hungry?"
I thought for a moment and then shook my head, I was still full of adrenaline from last night's encounter with the beast. "I will sit with you though." I watched as he told Cicero what he wanted and as he winked at the scullery and kitchen maids. I shook my head at him as he sat down. He truly was handsome, his hair a deep brown and cut short. His skin was a deep golden colour from the hours he spent in the sun and his body was rippled with undeveloped muscle. I looked into his deep green eyes, "So, Brother, have you found yourself a wife yet?"
He laughed loudly, "I am far too young for a wife! I intend to have fun for a few more years yet."
I smiled brightly at him, "So no one in particular has caught your eye?" He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. This boy had no hope. "You are seventeen, Androgeus you should be thinking about this soon."
"Oh do not start turning into mother. I will do as I please. I will not have my life mapped out for me." he nodded at Cicero as his food was delivered to him and took a big bite. "I will marry who I want, when I please."
I smiled in amusement, "Yes sir." I giggled and he narrowed his eyes.
"Why are you not married yet?" He raised both his eyebrows in triumph as I faltered and stuttered.
"Well, I…" I thought hard for a moment, "Obviously no one wants to marry me."
He gave me a flat look, "Look at yourself Ariadne. Any man foolish enough to not want to marry you should be hung."
I sighed and looked away, "Eat your food."
He chuckled and dug in. Why had I not married yet? Perhaps if I had married when I was told to I would not be in this mess with Asterion. I would not feel this way – confused and trapped. Although if I had married, he would not have felt a kind of acceptance I have given to him.
"What is troubling you sister?" He could be observant when he wanted.
"Nothing." I sipped at some water, "You have met my handmaiden have you not?" He nodded with an intrigued look, "She is beautiful do you not think?"
He thought for a moment, "Yes she is. Red hair has always fascinated me, it is like a flame." He blinked and looked back at me, "Why?"
"No reason in particular… she is your age. She is not married either." I looked to the side and tried to look innocent.
Androgeus leant back in his chair, "Ariadne, no. I cannot marry a handmaiden. Let alone your handmaiden. Stop being foolish." He shook his head but there was an odd look in his eyes.
I smiled and my thoughts drifted.
Asterion lay on the harsh rocky ground, his arms behind his head and stared up at the equally horrid ceiling of his tunnel – the part he considered his bed chamber. Was Ariadne going to return? After last night he couldn't be sure, the beast had lunged for her without remorse. Asterion had begged within his mind for it not to do it but it would not listen. He was only glad his mother had taught him to speak properly before he was taken away. When he was a child he grew at an immense rate, his mind grew just as swiftly allowing his speech to form and words to be processed. After his entrapment it had been years, seventeen to be exact. His life had been an endless mental torture of silence, then screams, then silence again. He closed his eyes briefly and sighed and tried to remember happier times. The only memories that came to mind were ones of his mother; although her face was just a blur, and his most recent happy memory was Ariadne. Pictures of her flashed through his mind throughout the night and he could not shake the feeling inside him. He cared. He had not cared for years, Ariadne had woken him up. She was saving him.
His stomach grumbled like thunder, his food intake was mainly bodies, but one body could last for weeks even a couple of months, even the bones satisfied his hunger. Other days if he needed something to eat, he had planted seeds that had entered his labyrinth with the farmers daughters he was given. These were a saviour; they made him feel human again, normal. Until the next human was unwillingly shoved into his maze. They always ran and he didn't know why, inevitably they would die. The maze was his home and he knew every twist and turn. Every dead end was etched into his brain and he remembered the panicked gasp of the victim as they hit a dead end. Then their whimpers began. He stood up abruptly and growled. He stalked from his room and went towards the opening to the outside maze. Just a simple hole in the floor, all he had to do was jump and he was out. Something happened – a sound, the gate. He jumped and ran through the thick bushes and found his peephole to the gate. A group had gathered, a weeping mother, a screaming father, the King, many guards and a young whimpering female stood at the entrance to the maze. An involuntary shiver ran through Asterion's body and his head twitched. WANT! The beast screamed within him and his body started shifting. It was times like these he could not control him. Asterion gasped and dropped to the ground his back cracking and popping, moving, sliding, agonisingly growing. His fingers popped out of place and his face started growing. He felt the horns on the side of his head painfully stretching the skin growing and curling. Then in one swift push he was no longer in control of his body. He was in the back, trapped as a viewer. Only being able to see, feel and scream at the beast. Trapped in a body that was not his own. He watched as the girl was shoved through the gate which was then slammed closed behind her. Her mother let go of a blood curdling scream and dropped to her knees. Asterion felt remorse coursing through his veins. I'm sorry! He wanted to shout, it is not me! But they would never know. They would forever hate him. The young blonde girl turned to look at her mother,
"It's okay Mama. I love you forever." Her mother sobbed, "And you Papa, I love you more than words say." Finally her father stopped his angry screaming and broke down in tears, holding his wife tightly. Their response was muffled by their tears. The girl turned back towards the maze and sucked in a huge breath and started walking towards the maze – she was brave. Asterion's heart wept.
The beast lowered his head and crouched as the girl started her walk into the blood filled maze. His feet moving slowly, the beast was on the hunt.