The sound of the minotaur followed them down the hallways of the Labyrinth. Ahead, Ryan saw Athena and Anansi. They’d heard the monstrous hoofsteps approaching and were already moving, though they kept their pace just slow enough for the others to catch up.
“Reshaph!” Crystal shouted as they caught up with the other two, “If you have a way out of here, now’s the time to bloody well share it!”
“Right,” he said, and Ryan could hear his fingers tapping on the keyboard with the same desperation their feet hit the floor. “Okay, up ahead, turn left!”
They did, and to Ryan’s relief at the end of the hallway he saw a massive stone door, the twin of the one they had come through. To Ryan’s dismay, the door at the end of the hallway was nearly a full mile of straight corridor ahead.
As was often the case, the universe decided that since things could get worse, they absolutely should get worse. At the sound of that last footstep, the Minotaur barreled around the corner and into view.
As with before, once they could see it, its feet and by extension its mass move far faster than the slow, deliberate clops would have indicated. The charge it initiated to follow them was the most bull-like of anything it had done, barreling along headfirst faster than the gods could move without massively draining themselves.
“We’re not going to get the door open in time!” Dianmu shouted, glancing over her shoulder. Ryan could see she was right – the Minotaur was moving too fast. They’d reach the door before it did, but only by a narrow margin.
“We won’t need to,” Anansi responded, motioning ahead. Gravity near the door split, the downwards direction shifting towards either wall.
As soon as the gods reached the end, the Minotaur closing in on them, they leapt up to the walls and began to run out of its grasp. It raised its halbreds, slashing at the equations as soon as he reached them.
Gravity asserted its rightful direction, but no force involved at any point told inertia it could not keep doing exactly what it was meant to do. In this case, what it was meant to do was keep all ten tons of angry cow person and slam it into the door as hard as its bulk allowed for.
The stone doors that sealed the end of labyrinth outweighed the Minotaur by several orders of magnitude. If it had just been a question of the Minotaur’s mass and the door’s mass, the doors would have won every time. But those weren’t the only objects in the equation, and the door’s hinges buckled under the impact. Stone doors went tumbling to the ground as the Minotaur’s mass carried it through and into the field beyond.
By comparison, five gods slamming into the stone below was an undramatic affair, just a few gentle puffs of flesh on stone. It stung, but Ryan had endured worse falls. They all got to their feet and took the opportunity to leap out and into air beyond.
Being in an open space again was an immense relief, and Ryan took a deep an unnecessary breath of fresh air. The Minotaur was attempting to right itself. “We still have to deal with that,” he said, before he looked over at Athena, whose lips were a tight line. “It’s out now, we can’t ignore it.”
“I know,” she growled, looking at the assembled gods. “Anyone have an idea for fighting this thing?”
Crystal nodded. “I had time to think while I was waiting for you all, loves. Follow my lead.”
By the time she finished relaying instructions to them, the Minotaur had managed to regain its feet and was bellowing in rage.
The gods scattered in all directions before it could charge, hoping to buy time as it picked its target. After a momentary pause, it turned to charge after Ryan.
It would be me, Ryan thought with a frown, but now that it had a target, he had a role to play.
The first thing to do was to start running in an arc, not in a straight line. No longer constrained by the Labyrinth walls, he could keep moving and prevent it from building up too much momentum. The Minotaur was faster than him, but it couldn’t accelerate like him, and it definitely couldn’t turn like him.
Once it was starting to get frustrated, he turned around and twisted reality directly in front of the Minotaur’s face. It reached up and slashed away the changed equation, and Ryan shouted, “You were right!”
Crystal heard the shout and signal the others. The plan hinged on one theory being true, and they just had confirmation that it was.
The Minotaur hadn’t tried to talk, tried to reason, just acted on animalistic instincts. And those instincts included slicing any equation the gods threw at it, even if Ryan had changed the direction of a single oxygen molecule in the air in front of its face.
“Now!” Crystal shouted, and they reached out and began to twist reality, each of them targeting the Minotaur. Crystal started changing the coefficient of friction of individual furs on the Minotaur’s back. Athena went for a single degree increase in temperature around its eyes. Dianmu maneuvered the blades of grass beneath its feet. Anansi twisted the photons reflecting off its horns to change their color, and Ryan kept running, while throwing changes to the air in front of it over his shoulder.
The Minotaur’s arm’s blurred, and Ryan began to think they had been wrong, that the brute had too much stamina. Even with its arms flashing, it was still gaining on Ryan, and he had a horrible vision of being impaled on one of those halberds.
Then he saw it. The Minotaur’s strikes started to slow down, and individual equations stayed changed for a fraction of a second, then a full second. It took the Minotaur the same amount of effort to undo these tiny twists as it did to undo larger ones.
The Minotaur’s steps were also slowing as it slashed at the air like it was trying to ward off a horde of angry gnats that were buzzing around its face. “Almost there!” Crystal shouted as they continued their tiny alterations.
The monster, upon hearing her voice, turned and began to direct its charge at Crystal. She planted her feet and stood her ground, instead increasing the speed at which she sent her alterations at the Minotaur. It was starting to get confused, snorting and stamping the ground. Every other hunt against gods, they had been running or exhausted long before. Now they were…still fine?
The Minotaur, as Ryan had previously noted, has the skull of a bovine with hyena jaws attached. Now, bovine heads were noteworthy for many things. They were very solid when the beast ran into things, they were excellent at finding the best patch of grass to each, their ability to manage four stomachs was impressive, and they had a wonderful ability to scan their surroundings for possible threats.
As anyone who grew up on a farm could attest, they were not particularly noted for their ability to solve complex problems. Although the Minotaur was at least somewhat smarter than the average cow, as evidenced by its ability to wield weapons, there were newborn infants somewhat smarter than he average cow.
The Mintoaur, without seeing any results from its frantic slashing at the divine twists to reality, dropped its attempts to cut them apart and lowered its head to charge.
“Now!” Crystal bellowed the moment it stopped.
Each of them changed what they were doing. Ryan grabbed every available photon in the cavern, throwing them in a weak imitation of Tyr’s sunbeam spears from so long ago. Athena heated the ground it was standing on so rapidly it skipped turning into a liquid or gas and went straight to a plasma. Anansi cut a segment of the ceiling above it, dropping over a hundred tons of stone on its head, and Dianmu threw her hands together, causing spears of the ground Athena hadn’t touched to rise up towards the Minotaur’s gut. For her part, Crystal waited until every other gods effect hit, and then grabbed every bit of available matter and turned it molten for just long enough to trap the brute if it somehow survived all of that.
The last thing she saw was utter confusion on the Minotaur’s face as it was engulfed in divine fury.
In the aftermath of all that, the air seemed almost too silent. After the silence had gone on for just a bit too long, Resheph broke it with a low, “Damn, I’m glad I haven’t done anything to piss you all of.”
Ryan paid it no attention. As the silence echoed through the field, horns sounded from a distant structure, one that reminded him of a fresh and maintained version of the buildings he had seen on Olympus all those weeks ago.
They’d beaten the Minotaur, but in doing so, they left the doors open for any horrors left in the Labyrinth to break free. What was worst, they’d lost the element of surprise.
Moloch knew they were here.