When Daedalus pulled Icarus’s body from the green Aegean he tried to rearrange the boy’s mangled limbs back the way they’d looked when he was alive. Icarus had been so much like his mother: impulsive but also brave. Icarus was the one who’d sneaked out in the night, climbing over a wall of the labyrinth, to bring back feathers, canvas, rope, and wood to make pliable frames for the wings Daedalus had made for them so they could escape Crete.
Daedalus warned him not to fly too high or too low, but Icarus had been so excited to be able to soar like a bird, and when he saw a storm cloud he’d cried out, “It’s like a giant cliff! I’m going to climb it, I’ll climb higher than Zeus himself!”
Maybe that was what brought out the lightning bolt that struck him down.
Daedalus buried his son on the beach of a small island then went on to Camicus where he enjoyed the protection of King Cocalus, and, having learned to make things from Hephaestus, he kept inventing. He built baths for the royal family that tapped into the heat of the earth itself so they were always warm.
King Minos had traveled all over the Mediterranean looking for Daedalus, offering a reward to anyone who could run a thread through a sea snail’s shell, a puzzle he thought only the world’s greatest inventor could solve.
When he arrived in Camicus Daedalus came out of hiding, intrigued by the shell challenge, and he solved it by tying the string around an ant and putting a drop of honey at the very tip of the shell. Then he agreed to return to Crete but first King Cocalus offered Minos the chance to clean off. Cocalus’s three daughters took Minos to the royal baths themselves and turned the water up to scalding, then opened the drains so his remains were washed out to sea and attracted many sharks.
After that Daedalus retired and went back to live in another part of Crete, but he was lonely. With clay and sheets of metal he’d gotten from local blacksmith he built a model son and named him Deuteros. He put sand in a forge and made glass and used that as a crest in Deuteros’s head that enervated the boy’s limbs. Deuteros could walk and do simple tasks.
“Go and get water,” Daedalus would tell him, or, “Build a wall with those rocks.”
“I will do as you say, father,” Deuteros would say. That’s all he ever said, no matter what Daedalus asked him to do.
When the sun went down Deuteros would sit in a chair and stay there until daylight flooded the room and he could get up and move again.
One day a stranger came by while Deuteros was in the back chopping wood. Daedalus offered him olives, bread, and wine. After the stranger ate he said he’d been a soldier for King Minos, and that he’d been wandering ever since the king’s death, unsure, having been good and loyal to the king, of what to do.
Daedalus excused himself. He went and said, “Deuteros, go and kill the man sitting in front of the house.”
“I will do as you say, father.” Deuteros took the axe and when the man jumped up in surprise at such a strange thing, a walking statue, Deuteros buried the axe in his liver.
Now Daedalus wondered what would become of Deuteros after his death.
He was thinking about this while walking home from the market when a snake bit him. It slipped into the underbrush but he saw enough to know it was one of the poisonous ones found on the island and that he would have only a few hours to live.
Daedalus went and sat in front of his house and looked out at the sea.
Then he called Deuteros to him.
“I have one last thing to ask you,” he said. “I want you to walk straight into the water and I want you to keep walking.”
“I will do as you say, father.”
And the last thing Daedalus saw before he fell was his son’s head disappearing under the waves.