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Proprietor Hercules (Roman name), also known as Heracles (Greek name), also known as Herc (Nickname)

One afternoon, Hercules was relaxing in his courtyard, enjoying the beautiful day.

The Minotaur joined him. "Hercules, I need to ask you a favor."

"Ask, my friend. If I can help you out, I will."

"We have been invited to attend the spring festival in the city-state of Oropus."

Oropus was a nearby Greek city-state. It had once been part of Athens, but had gained its independence. It was one of the few places Tor felt comfortable visiting. He had trained their Olympic team and the villagers loved him. They were not put off by his appearance of half bull, half man. He was so comfortable there that the village music teacher, who was actually quite famous, was teaching the Minotaur how to play the lyre. The Minotaur was getting quite good at it.

"I would love to go!" exclaimed Hercules. "That is a small favor and one I am happy to fulfill."

"No, Hercules. That is not the favor," the Minotaur said dismally.

"What is your favor? Speak up, Tor. You know I'll help."

"There is going to be a lot of dancing," stammered the Minotaur. "Before you rescued me, I was raised in the labyrinth on Crete, I never learned how to dance. Can you teach me?"

This request stopped Hercules dead in his tracks. "I never learned how to dance myself. It is a skill I didn’t think I would need as a warrior."

"Oouuww," wailed the Minotaur. (It was a truly awful sound.) "If you can’t teach me, who can? This is terrible. I already promised several villagers that I would gladly attend. And now what shall I do?"

"Tor, calm down. I am sure that I can find someone who can teach us how to dance. Let me check around up on Mount Olympus and see who can take this task on. Don't worry."

Hercules checked with several of the gods and everyone gave him the same answer.

Everyone said go to Terpsichore, one of the nine Muses, She was the Greek god of dance. Her name actually meant "delight in dancing". If anyone could help them, it would be her. Hercules knew that of course. Terpsichore was his half sister. All nine muses were his half sisters. They shared the same father - the mighty Zeus. The problem was that although Terpsichore did not have an evil side herself, she was the mother of the Sirens, the dangerous creatures who lured sailors to their death on the rocks with their music and singing. Hercules had helped the Sirens escape their fate and had hidden them safely away. They were very happy in their new home and were no longer dangerous to passing ships. The world thought they were dead, even their mother. It was much safer for the Sirens to remain that way. Terpsichore was one of his favorite sisters. There was no doubt that Hercules needed her help, but he was worried he might spill the beans, if only to comfort her. Fortunately, the subject never came up.

Terpsichore was delighted to agreed to teach Hercules and the Minotaur. Like every one of the gods, she had a price. Hers was that Hercules and the Minotaur both would have to actively credit her with their ability. Both promised to do so.

To make them more comfortable, Terpsichore decided to teach them in their courtyard. She had both Hercules and the Minotaur show her what they thought were dance moves. After watching for a very short time she said, "Boys, you are so clumsy I am afraid you will hurt yourselves and others if you were to go to a dance right now. But let us keep at it. I am the goddess of dance and perhaps I can instill in you some small skill in time for the festival."

After several days of practice, Hercules and the Minotaur were both pretty good and felt that they were ready for the dance.

The evening, before the start of the festival, Hercules and the Minotaur were practicing their dancing by dancing together. While they were dancing, they heard a laughing from the corner of the courtyard. There was Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and forests, laughing and clapping his hands.

"Good job, boys!" laughed Dionysus. He immediately sobered. "But no time for frivolities. I need your help urgently."

"What do you need?" asked Hercules, surprised by his friend's attitude. He rarely saw Dionysus serious about anything.

"Zeus and Hera were fighting again and Zeus was so angry he tossed a couple of lightning bolts. Most of the time, his bolts fizzle out in the air, but this time they landed deep in the forest, by the lonely wood nymph’s glade, still ablaze, and started several fires. I need some help putting them out before they turn into a large forest fire. I don't have time to argue about it or crack a deal."

"No need. I'm glad to help, Dionysus," Hercules responded quickly. "I don't know where the wood nymph's glade is, but I assume you do. Lead me to it. Tor?"

"Of course. Right beside you."

Hercules, the Minotaur and Dionysus raced deep into the forest. They soon reached the area of the glade. They could see several small fires smoldering in the forest and a couple were gaining in size rapidly.

Hercules shouted, "Let us split up so we can find all of the fires and put them out as fast as we can!"

The three of them raced around the clearing, kicking fires apart and stamping them out, even finding ways to carry water to put out the small fires. Sometime during the night, the god Pan joined them.

"The wood nymphs called me," Pan huffed, as he carried a bucket and dumped it on some flames.

The four of them worked all night. Finally, late in the morning of the next day, they found that they had put out all the fires before they had raged out of control.

Both Dionysus and Pan, who shared the job of caring for the forests and trees, were grateful for their help. They promised Hercules and the Minotaur a favor, if they were ever in need, and with that they were gone.

Hercules turned to the Minotaur. "If we hurry, we can still be in time for the festival."

The Minotaur looked around, suddenly aware of his location. "Herc, we're more than half way there. These fires could have blazed into Oropus!"

"But they didn't, Tor. We were in time. Let's hurry. I don't want you to miss the festival."

When they arrived in Oropus, they noticed several people were staring at them. Hercules turned and looked at the Minotaur who had turned and looked at Hercules. What they saw were two very dirty men (and part god and part monster.) They had ashes smeared on their skin and singe marks from hot coals on their tunics. Their sandals were partially burned and they smelled heavily of wood smoke.

Hercules sighed heavily. "We are in no shape to attend this festival. Everyone will be in their finest clothes and oiled up and ready to dance. You and I need to go home and get cleaned up."

"By the time we get back, we will have missed most of the festival," Tor realized sadly. "And this was going to be my first spring festival ever,"

"I know. I'm sorry, but we really cannot stay looking and smelling like this."

At that moment, a distinguished looking older man came up to them.

"Hercules, Minotaur, why do you show up at our spring festival covered in ashes?" he asked in surprise. "I know you have better manners than that."

"Sir," explained Hercules. "We have been out all night long putting out fires in the forest and rushed here directly from that. We had not realized how dirty we had become. We will leave immediately."

"You were protecting Greece again, were you?"

"I guess we were. We were protecting Greece and all the people and creatures that live here, as we always do. But that does not excuse our dirt."

By this time, Hercules and the Minotaur had collected quite a crowd. You could see the people wanted to say, never mind, we're so glad you're here, but no one did. Several of the villagers were trying to hold their noses without appearing to do so, to protect themselves from the stench of the fire.

At that moment, the goddess Hestia appeared.

"Hercules, I heard that you and the Minotaur spent the night saving Oropus from a forest fire! The people must be so grateful. Since I thought you perhaps might need my help. I took the liberty of stopping by your homes and picked up a change of clothes for you and the Minotaur. I know the Minotaur is friends with the senior musician here in town. I am sure he will allow you to clean up at his place."

"You brought us clothes?" Hercules blinked in wonder.

"You saved Oropus from a forest fire!" blinked the townspeople in shock.

"You will miss a little of the festival, but if you hurry you won’t miss the dancing," Aunt Hestia smiled.

With that, Hestia handed both Hercules and the Minotaur a bundle containing clean clothes and sandals.

"Will you stay and dance?" Hercules asked her eagerly. "I would so love to dance with my Aunt Hestia."

The townspeople gasped. Aunt Hestia? Hestia, the goddess of hearth and home? This was honor indeed.

"If I'm invited," she answered softly, and was promptly invited by all the people on all sides of her.

The senior musician was more than happy to help out his friend and student, the Minotaur, and the Great Hercules. He opened his home to them and offered all his fresh water. Hercules would replace it later that evening, but for now, the two friends rubbed and scrubbed until the last of the ashes and stench had been removed.

After they had dressed in the clean clothes Aunt Hestia had brought, and after Hercules had replaced the water they had dirtied with clean water from the well, Hercules and the Minotaur joined in the festival. Aunt Hestia stayed long enough to sample the many tasty dishes the women of the village thrust upon her with pride. She found time to dance once with Hercules and once with a very proud Minotaur, her "boys" as she called them, before she disappeared.

Now, this was not really a case for the Hercules Detective Agency, but when they got home, Hercules stayed up a little bit longer so that he could write a file documenting his and Tor's service to Greece. As for the fire, all he felt was relief that it was out. He hoped someone would tell the mighty Zeus, king of all the gods, about the trouble he had caused with his foul temper and lousy aim, but he was fairly certain that no one would bother, or dare, and that included himself. The fire was best forgotten. It had been a wonderful spring festival, though, one both he and Tor would remember for a very long time. The memory he treasured the most was the sight of his beloved Aunt Hestia, the goddess of hearth and home, held gently in the arms of his blushing best friend, the Minotaur, as they danced gracefully to the music of the senior musician and his lyre. It was a very good memory, very good indeed.