Icarus watched from the shadows of a yew. King Minos stood on the shore of the pond. Beauty was his only crown. Miletus, freshly stolen from his mother’s arms, was naked. The water breached his navel and lapped against his chest. His scrawny arms pushed at a fleet of small sailboats. The only communication between king and boy was an occasional wave of Minos’ hand as he directed the war game.
Did Minos show his loneliness, perhaps in the slouch of his back or a twitch of muscle?
Daedalus had bid him to hurry with his errand but Icarus lingered, watching. Confined to his workshop prison, Icarus’ father used him as his eyes and legs in the castle. Daedalus collected crimes against the gods like badges of honor. His latest transgression was a cow costume for Queen Pasiphae. Only Daedelus, master carver, inventor and craftsman, could make a bull believe a queen was a cow. But was this a crime? Icarus wasn’t certain. The gods made her love it. Daedelus only provided the means to consummate that love. Minos didn’t agree. Perhaps he could have overlooked this betrayal had the union not spawned a half-breed monster. Daedalus would be freed only when he finished the labyrinth to hide the Queen’s love-child. Free then, to leave Crete. He expected Icarus to go with him.
“Sire,” said Icarus. No answer. He reached his hand to the king’s shoulder, afraid to startle him, but more afraid to feel the heat of his skin.
“Minos?” The familiar name was like a favorite shirt, now outgrown but still comforting.
Minos turned abruptly, his face a king’s mask of rage. Then it softened.
“Icarus. It’s you. Gave me a fright, son.” He clasped him on the shoulder, as if they were old friends. As if the beard sprouting on Icarus’ lip hadn’t banished him from the king’s bed.
“No! To the right, Miletus. Yes, that way.” Minos sighed. “He can’t control the boat. Give him a hand, Icarus. I’m in the middle of an important maneuver.” Crete was an island nation. Its fleet was the King’s best weapon and his only joy. Icarus had once loved the tiny replicas of the Cretian fleet, the decks and masts carved by his father and painted with care. Icarus would play out mock battles while Minos plotted against his enemies. Much of his youth had expired in this way, hours wasted by candlelight with precious maps used as bedclothes.
Icarus stepped into the pond. The tepid water did nothing to shrink his lust.
“Move the boat to the right, son. Show the boy.” Miletus moved aside and Icarus gently waved the water to the right. The soft ripples pushed the boat. Minos beamed.
“Watch and learn, my boy,” he said. “Now show him how to do a storm.” Icarus looked up, not believing. “Show him! Show him!” Icarus clasped his hands together and struck the water hard, just behind the stern. A splash covered the boat in a sheer wave. Icarus repeated this trick three times. The little ship almost overwhelmed with each wave, but righted itself at the last second.
Icarus straightened. His black hair dripped into his eyes. A hawk circled the clearing, looking for careless prey. Its langourous path in the sky irritated him. Nothing should move with such simple-minded freedom. If he had wings, he would shoot straight for the sun and confront the gods for exploiting the hearts of men.
“Well done, Icarus,” said Minos. “Now let’s see you, Miletus.” The boy clasped his small hands together as Icarus left the pool. Minos gripped his arm and Icarus fought the urge to shake off his hand.
“Haven’t lost your touch, have you, my boy?”
My touch, my thoughts, my sanity, my dreams, my heart, my stomach… I’ve lost it all.
“My father needs you, Sire,” he said. “It’s about the labyrinth.” But Minos didn’t hear. He’d already turned back to his new page.
“To the right, Miletus. Use some finesse, boy!”
Icarus walked away, shaking out his pant legs. Minos’ cheering followed him, until he turned, unable to resist a last look at his king. That’s when he saw her.
Queen Pasiphae kneeled beside a fence, beyond the pond. Her spine was straight as befitted a queen, but her body sagged against the post. She gazed at the bulls grazing in the pasture. Even from the distance, Icarus recognized the large bull in the center, still the master of the herd despite the sprinkling of grey in he shining coat. Pasiphae had borne the curse of the Gods’ passion. But then, Icarus sighed, everyone needs a passion.
With his hand shielding his eyes from the sun, Icarus saw the hawk circling, still hungry. He fitted a stone into his wet slingshot and took aim. The bird fell.
Though fantasy is her first love, Kim McDougall writes anything from children’s picture books to horror fiction. She believes that genres are crippling literature. A story takes on whatever form it needs. She doesn’t set out to write a fantasy or a romance. Rather, she writes a story as it demands to be written and then tries to fit it into a category only for the sake of convenience. Needless to say, some of her stories fall through the genre cracks. So she has created her own genre. Read Between the Cracks fiction at www.kimmcdougall.com.