When Theseus returned from slaying the Minotaur, he looked like a madman and he stank of manure. His eyes were wide open as if in shock, and he seemed to be mumbling something, more to himself than to anyone in particular. His pupils darted from side to side, and his face and clothes were all splattered with blood.
Ariadne took his sword away from him and kissed him. She whispered some soothing words into his ear and took him by the hand into the sea. There, she bathed and scrubbed him clean until his gaze became calm and he stopped talking to himself.
On the beach, Theseus put on an elegant robe before climbing aboard his ship. The celebrations began soon afterwards, as the ship set sail for home. And shortly after losing sight of land, he laid his head on a sack of grain. And as the sun poured its last amber light on his face, Theseus fell asleep. His body was bruised and tired, but his mind was restless. And Ariadne saw his mouth twitch often as nightmares flickered beneath his eyelids.
Ariadne cut a piece of string and tied it to Theseus' wrist, being careful not to wake him up. She sliced another length and fastened it around her own wrist. That string brought his body back to her intact. It guided Theseus out of the labyrinth. And now that his mind was lost in a maze, she realised it was going to take all her strength to keep him sane after what he'd been through. But she was strong. Mentally she was stronger than Theseus but she didn't know it. Not yet.
During the night, a freak gust of wind ripped the sails. The Captain decided to hoist the black sails Aegeus had given him. They had to get moving as soon as possible, since, without sails, the ship would be prey to pirates. Aegeus, Theseus’ father, had instructed the Captain to return bearing black sails only in case the Minotaur had devoured Theseus. This way, Aegeus would have known his son was dead before the ship landed. And he would not have prepared a hero’s welcome but a son’s funeral.
The crew also knew what the black sails meant. And they were superstitious. They begged the Captain not to hoist them. They said it was equivalent to taunting Death. But the Captain became furious and told them that nobody would see the black sails at night, and they’d take them down in the morning, once the ripped sails were repaired. He also told the crew that he was going to sleep and warned them that if anybody woke him up or took down the black sails, he would disembowel them on the spot, and wear their guts for garters. This was no empty threat. And the crew knew it.
The next morning, Theseus and the Captain were still asleep. But Aegeus wasn’t. He hadn’t slept all night and had sat on a stone on a cliff top, looking out at sea for his son’s return. As the sun rose, he spotted Theseus’ ship grow taller on the horizon. And at the sight of the black sails, grief pushed him over the cliff into that sea that would forever take his name – the Aegean.