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Battles and Quests : Legends Series - Anthony Horowitz

Battles and Quests

Legends Series

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King Arthur would have been just another king if he was content to just sit at home. And Rome would never have been founded if Remus had won the famous battle instead of his brother. From the epic defeat of the Minotaur to the fierce legends of the Inca, battles and quests are the lifeblood of mythology, and this collection thrusts readers right into the heart of some of the best (and bloodiest) adventure stories from around the world.

About the Author

Anthony Horowitz is a popular and prolific children's writer, whose books now sell in more than a dozen countries around the world. He has won numerous prizes for his books which include Point Blanc (shortlisted for the 2001 Children's Book Award), Skeleton Key (Winner of the Red House Children's Book Award) and Scorpia. Anthony also writes extensively for TV. He lives in north London.

· The Minotaur

There was a time when Athens was not the major city that it is today, but a small town perched on the edge of a cliff some three miles from the sea. King Aegeus was on the throne and he was a good ruler. There were no wars, there was plenty of food to go round and no plagues or monsters inhabited the land.

And yet, once every seven years, something strange would happen. There would be no alarm, no signal, but suddenly the streets would empty. Men and women would hurry home, avoiding each other’s eyes, gathering up their children and taking them indoors. It would seem as if Athens had been deserted.

And inside their homes, families would sit together, hiding in the shadows, and nobody would speak.

A stranger, walking through the town,

might think that some terrible catastrophe had just occurred. And yet there would be no sign of any damage, like that caused by an earthquake or a fire. The streets would be clean and orderly, even if all the shops were closed for business. Trees carrying the first spring blossoms would surround him if he strolled into the parks.

A mystery.

Standing there, the stranger might feel a cold wind whisper through the streets and,

if he listened carefully, he might just be able to hear what it was saying.

‘Minos is coming. Minos will soon be here . . . ’

And hearing that, he would understand.

He would turn and hurry out of this accursed place, leaving the wretched people to their fate. Throughout Ancient Greece everyone knew what had happened to the son of King Minos and the cruel revenge that he had demanded. They also knew the terrible secret that lay hidden deep underneath his palace.

But even the breeze was too afraid to speak that name. It would rush through the streets saying nothing more, twisting round the corners as if it too was in a hurry to get away.

The Birth of the Minotaur

Minos was the king of Crete, the Island of the Hundred Cities. He was one of the most powerful sovereigns in the world and his island was one of the most magnificent. Its harbour was huge, built to hold a hundred ships and surrounded by towering walls and guarded by turrets that were manned twenty-four hours a day. The capital –

Knossos – was a mass of colour and life. The Cretan people, all too aware of their status,

loved to wear expensive clothes and to eat the most luxurious food, brought to them from the furthest corners of the civilized world. The market stalls, jammed together in the narrow streets, were always piled high with the finest goods, including silks and satins, exotic spices, ivory and jewels,

rare parrots, performing monkeys and much, much more. While the sun shone,

the buying and selling never stopped and even at night, once the torches had been lit,

dancers and fire-eaters, snake charmers and magicians would come out to entertain the crowds.

And yet there was a darker side to Crete.

And even Minos, for all his wealth and success, could not escape from its shadow.

The Minotaur. It was like a cancer beneath the skin, the unpleasant truth that spoils everything that is exposed to it. Minos would have gladly emptied the markets and thrown all the riches into the sea if he could have got rid of it. And the worst of it was – it was all his fault. If it hadn’t been for his own greed and stupidity, the Minotaur would never have existed. He had made one mistake. He had been paying for it ever since.

This is how it had happened.

Every year, for many years, Minos had sacrificed the best bull from his herd to Poseidon. Crete depended on its sea power and Poseidon was, of course, the god of the sea. One year, however, acting in a moment of madness, Minos had decided to hold back his best animal . . . a huge white bull,

the like of which he had never seen before.

From such a beast he could breed a whole herd of prize cattle. It would be a complete waste to slaughter it and then burn its remains on an altar. Surely Poseidon wouldn’t notice if he sacrificed another, slightly less magnificent bull in its place.

That was what Minos thought, but of course Poseidon did notice and his anger was as terrible as his revenge was strange and cruel.

He left Minos untouched, but turned his powers on the king’s wife, the young and innocent Queen Pasiphaë, making her fall in love with the white bull. Not knowing what she was doing, the queen stole away one stormy night to the stables and it was from this unnatural union that the Minotaur was born.

Minotaur means, simply, Minos bull.

King Minos and his wife looked after the ugly creature for as long as they could, trying to keep it away from prying eyes. But the moment it was strong enough to walk,

the Minotaur broke free and left the palace.

In the days that followed, it went berserk,

destroying much of Crete and killing many of its inhabitants. It was as if a psychopathic murderer had arrived on the island. It didn’t kill for any other reason than because it had to.

Minos was filled with shame and horror.

In desperation, he turned to the Oracle to find out what to do. He couldn’t kill the creature. It was, after all, his wife’s child.

But how could he deal with it? How could he avoid the terrible scandal that now surrounded him?

As usual, the Oracle had all the answers.

She told the king to build a labyrinth at Knossos in which to conceal both the Minotaur and his own unfortunate wife.

The maze would be so complicated, with so many twists and turns, so many false starts and dead ends, that no man, once trapped inside it, would find his way out. The two of them could remain there, safe and secure. Minos would never see either of them again.

Minos did what the Oracle had suggested.

He commissioned his court architect, a man called Daedalus, to do the work – and the maze was so fantastic that several of the slaves who built it disappeared without trace. And that might have been the end of it. Minos might have continued his rule, alone and lonely, but a little wiser about how to deal with the gods.

However, a few months later, another event took place that was once more going to change his life. Minos had a son whom he loved, a boy called Androgeus. Shortly after the Minotaur had been incarcerated,

Androgeus set sail for the town of Athens to take part in the Pan-Athenian games, which were held there every five years. He was a strong, skilful athlete and he did well, winning several of the events outright. Soon he found himself being cheered on as the favourite of the crowd, much to the resentment of the royal court and in particular the nephews of King Aegeus.

These nephews were an unpleasant bunch who spent their time fighting in the streets and lounging around the palace. Now, jealous of the success of Androgeus, they lay in ambush one evening after the games had ended and fell on him as he walked home to his lodgings. Androgeus fought bravely but he was heavily outnumbered. The gang killed him and left his body in the road.

When Minos heard of this he was beside himself with grief and rage. At once he ordered his fleet to set sail, and the next day, when King Aegeus awoke, he found the town surrounded. Fighting was impossible.

The Cretan army completely encircled the town; and the fleet itself, anchored in the shallows just off the coast, was larger than the whole of Athens. Aegeus had no choice.

Kneeling before Minos, he surrendered himself and his town to the Cretan king’s mercy.

‘I come in search of my son’s assassins,’

Minos said. ‘Yield them to me and I will leave you unharmed.’

‘I can’t do that,’ King Aegeus replied. ‘I’m sorry, great king. It was a miserable deed and I would gladly give you the killers if I knew who they were. But I don’t! The cowards remain hidden. And so we must all suffer for their crime.’

‘And suffer you will,’ Minos said. He thought for a moment, then came to a terrible decision. ‘This is my decree,’ he continued.

‘I have lost a son. The sons and the daughters of Athens will have to pay the price. At the end of every Great Year, which is to say, every seven years, you will send me your seven bravest young men and your seven most beautiful maidens. Do not ask what will happen to them! All that matters is that you will never see them again.

‘This will be your tribute to me for the death of my eldest child. Fail, and Athens will burn.’

There was nothing King Aegeus could do.

Every seven years, the fourteen Athenians were chosen by lottery and taken away by ship to Crete and an unknown death. And in Crete, while the colourful throng jostled in the streets, the Minotaur stalked its victims through the subterranean maze and killed them to satisfy its lust for blood.

Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz is best known as a screenwriter and children's novelist. Born in 1955 in North London, he was educated at Rugby School and York University, and published his first book, Enter Frederick K Bower, in 1978.

He created the television series Foyle's War, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders, Crime Traveller and Menace, and has written episodes for many more, including Agatha Christie's Poirot, Murder Most Horrid and Robin of Sherwood.

His books for children include the Alex Rider series about the teenage secret agent: Stormbreaker (2000), which became a film in 2006; Point Blanc (2001); Skeleton Key (2002); Eagle Strike (2003); Scorpia (2004); Ark Angel (2005), winner of the 2006 British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year; Snakehead (2007), shortlisted for the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize, and The Mission Files (2008), an essential guide for the teenage spy. The latest in the Alex Rider series is Crocodile Tears (2009).

Further series are the Diamond Brothers series of mystery stories and the Groosham Grange series - the most recent of which is Return to Groosham Grange (2003). He also writes short stories and these, originally collected as Horowitz Horror (1999) and More Horowitz Horror (2000), have been reissued as Scared (2000) and, more recently, as The Complete Horowitz Horror (2008). Recent books are Necropolis: City of the Dead (2008), the fourth in the series Power of Five, coming after Raven's Gate (2005), Evil Star (2006) and Nightrise (2007); and The Greek that Stole Christmas (2007), the most recent of the Diamond Brothers series.

Anthony was chosen by the Ian Fleming estate to write the new James Bond novel which was published in 2015. Anthony has won numerous awards, including the Bookseller Association/Nielsen Author of the Year Award, the Children’s Book of the Year Award at the British Book Awards, and the Red House Children’s Book Award.

In 2014 Anthony was awarded an OBE for Services to Literature. He has also created and written many major television series, including Injustice, Collision and the award-winning Foyle’s War.

Visit Anthony Horowitz's Booktopia Author Page

ISBN: 9780753466322
ISBN-10: 0753466325
Series: Legends
Audience: Children
For Ages: 9 - 11 years old
For Grades: 4 - 6
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 133
Published: 24th May 2011
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.68 x 12.7  x 1.27
Weight (kg): 0.16