In my mind, minotaurs were associated with labyrinths. Or the word labyrinth, but also mazes because mazes were twisty and turny and meant to get lost in. Labyrinths, meanwhile, could mean mazes in that sense or they could be a specific kind of thing that had many twists and turns- but only a single path such that it was impossible to avoid getting lost.
Either way, the minotaur’s dungeon wasn’t particularly more twisting and turning than the goblin dungeon. There were plenty of twists and turns to be had, but the goblin dungeons had been that way as well. The biggest factor in confusing directions was the lack of light. If there had been normal walls and floors it would have been easy enough to pick out details to follow. I had a pretty decent sense of direction, but it was only barely good enough to get along in the dungeon. Halette was better… and Socks could find our way back from anywhere through scent. Alhorn was about my level in that area, while Kasner could remember each turn we made. Kantrilla… well, it was best that she not go off alone. She could probably randomly find her way out of any maze, but she wasn’t the type to put effort into remembering the path.
As we continued to delve into the dungeon, I got in my mind the path to the second level. It would change slightly, but with the approximate distances and directions in my head I found I could figure out where we would need to go when things changed.
The second floor of the dungeon sometimes had pairs of minotaurs. That made our tactics practice more useful, since we could usually kill a single minotaur before he reached us. While a minotaur could power through a spear to the chest or an arrow or two… a spear plus arrows was usually enough. If not, icy floor followed by being mauled by Socks finished them off quickly. When there were two, we actually fought in melee combat.
Socks softly barked twice. That meant another pair up ahead. We turned the corner to just barely be able to see two minotaurs. Seeing them closer was both an advantage and a disadvantage. Since we knew they would be there, we could attack before they built up speed charging at us- but they also didn’t have to charge as far to reach us. On the other hand, we couldn’t have attacked them much sooner anyway.
Since we knew they would be there, I was immediately able to throw my spear. I saw one of them had armor, so I threw at the other one. While the armored target was tougher to fight up close, it was also tougher to take down far away. It was better to have a higher chance to reduce their numbers.
The traditional pattern followed- arrows, ice, and Socks moving in to finish him off. Socks had to run past the second minotaur, but he was focusing on charging forward and not slipping on the ice. That was the other problem with minotaurs being closer- they didn’t have as much speed, and thus didn’t slip as well.
The minotaur barreled toward me, and I dodged out of the way, the axe barely nicking my armor and creating sparks, even through Kantrilla’s barrier spell. I had taken a direct hit from a minotaur once, and didn’t want to repeat that experience. Fortunately my armor was sturdy, but if I had taken a hit on an arm I didn’t want to think about what would happen.
I swung my heavy mace into the minotaur’s side, and heard the slight sound of crumpling metal- but not the cracking of bones I had been hoping for. I also saw a slight sheen of ice from the magical enchantment. Then I had to dodge again, utilizing Martial Trance to the best of my abilities. It was best to not dodge too far, since that wasted energy and meant I was spending less time attacking- but I also couldn’t not dodge far enough, or I would get injured or at the very least incur damage to my equipment.
The minotaur almost acted like it hadn’t been hit by me, and continued attacking. Only when Alhorn stabbed it through the armpit from behind did it slow down, and it only finally collapsed when Kasner sent lightning coursing through it. He’d practiced using metal armor to his advantage, suppressing the electricity’s natural reaction to flow through the armor instead of the person inside. It took more control but it was… shockingly effective.
“Everyone alright?” Kantrilla asked.
I nodded, “I’m fine.”
Everyone else concurred, and Socks licked Kantrilla’s face. She almost had to jump up on her for that, whereas she barely had to raise her head to lick my face.
“Here, Carlos!” Halette called.
Around the corner behind us came Carlos- the mule Halette had been training. He didn’t like to be in the dark, but as long as he could see our light he was fine. That meant we couldn’t go far around a corner without him, but we just needed him far enough back to not get attacked by minotaurs. We loaded the axes and armor into his pack, then moved on.
There were more corridors, minotaurs, and stark blackness. Another reminder that breaks were important for the mental health of adventurers.
“Hmm…” Alhorn spoke, “Something feels weird here.”
“How so?” I asked. It looked like just another corridor to me.
“I’m not sure.” Alhorn shook his head.
“We’ve been going in a straight line for too long,” Kasner mentioned.
“Hmm.” Halette looked around carefully. “I don’t see any traps or anything…”
Socks barked once. One minotaur.
It charged toward us- and took a spear to its chest for its efforts. It was one of my better throws, going deep enough to cause even a minotaur to slow. It only staggered forward a few more steps… before falling to the floor with a thump… and a click.
Then there were mechanical sounds and a loud thud from further down the corridor.