The Hercules Detective Agency The Case of the Golden Lyre
No Problem Too Large or Too Small, Reasonable Fees
Proprietor Hercules (Roman name), also known as Heracles (Greek name), also known as Herc (Nickname)
You may remember that it was Hercules who had saved the Minotaur from his prison in the maze on the island of Crete. Hercules took the Minotaur home with him. Hercules had built a home for the monster behind his own hut, with a shared courtyard. Although he was a gentle and kind creature, the Minotaur looked like a dangerous beast. He had the head of a bull and the body of a man. He normally hid from most people so that they would not be afraid. That limited his friendships to a few gods and a few mortals who had discovered his true nature. There was one big exception - the entire polis of Oropus loved the Minotaur. He was one of their favorite beings ever since the Minotaur had trained their team for the Olympics. Tor (the Minotaur) had received invitations from Oropus to attend weddings and parties and festivals. He had developed many secret routes though the woods to reach Oropus without being spotted by people from other towns. Hercules had always been invited as well, but Hercules understood that the Minotaur needed friends of his own. So Hercules rarely went with him.
At the moment, the Minotaur was in Oropus attending a wedding of two of his new friends. It was quite a gathering. Not only was Oropus a very small polis, which meant that everyone knew just about everybody, but the groom was an Olympic hopeful. The Minotaur had been spending a great deal of time at Oropus, training all their Olympic hopefuls. The games were more than three years away, as they were only held once every four years, but training for the Olympics was a daily occurrence. In Oropus, the Minotaur was a VIM, a very important monster. And a much beloved one.
There was another beloved being at the wedding, an elderly musician, the grandfather of the groom. He had heard all about the amazing Minotaur from his grandson and was eager to meet this unusual beast who was helping his grandson be the best athletic he could be. So far, he had not yet had a chance to talk to the Minotaur. He was a lyre player, a very good one. His job at the wedding was to provide the music.
The Minotaur was enraptured with the sounds of the lyre to the extent he had blocked out everything else. The grandfather noticed the intense gaze of the Minotaur. When he was done playing he went down to talk to the Minotaur.
"I have no words," the Minotaur told him. "That was so beautiful."
The musician laughed. "My grandson certainly has words. He cannot stop talking about you. You're doing a great job teaching these boys how to throw, how to run, how to ready themselves for competition."
"I enjoy it," the Minotaur blushed. He waved one hand. "They give my life purpose. And joy."
The elderly musician nodded. "I know what you mean. For me, it's my music." He glanced over at the happy couple. "And my grandson."
"Is it hard to learn to play the lyre?"
"I could teach you," offered the grandfather. "I would like to do that."
And that's how it started. Nearly every day since the wedding, the Minotaur had slipped away to the polis of Oropus to receive a lyre lesson. It was not easy to play a lyre. A lyre is a great deal like a harp. If you play the wrong strings at the wrong time, the sounds you make are not at all beautiful. It takes practice, a great deal of practice. But the Minotaur loved it. He lost himself in the music. Every day he got a little bit better. His friendship with the musician grew as well. They had many a discussion about loneliness and friendship and family and politics and just about everything.
Hercules knew nothing about this. All he knew was that the Minotaur was spending nearly all his time in Oropus. Hercules wanted his friend to be happy, but he would miss him if the Minotaur decided to move. He knew the polis of Oropus would be delighted if the Minotaur became a resident of their city-state. Truly, they already thought of him as one. His appearance did not bother them at all.
Hercules finally worked up some courage one evening, while sharing a meal in the courtyard, and simply asked the Minotaur. "So, Tor, how come you keep going to Oropus? Is everything okay. Can I help?"
The Minotaur looked suddenly embarrassed. He cleared his throat. He shifted in his chair.
Hercules looked down and asked the question that was worrying him. "Are you thinking of moving there?" He glanced up, watching his friend's reaction.
The Minotaur shook his head. "No. I like it here, unless you need my hut." The Minotaur's face showed sudden alarm. "Am I a bother? Do you not have enough privacy? Do you want me to move/"
"No, no, that's not it at all. You just seem to be gone a lot. I'm happy you've made such good friends but it seems like you're always going to Oropus."
"I'm taking lyre lessons," the Minotaur blurted. His face turned bright red.
"Lyre lessons!" Hercules exclaimed with relief. "That's wonderful! Why have I never heard you playing?"
"Because I don't have a lyre of my own. Some days I have a lesson, but usually I just practice."
"You're not moving to Oropus?"
"Herc, no. You are my family."
"Aunt Hestia would be furious if you did not include her," Hercules grinned.
The Minotaur laughed. "You and Aunt Hestia, the strongest half god half man in the world, and the goddess of hearth and home. You are my family. Besides, I love hearing about all the case files of the Hercules Detective Agency. And I have helped solve one or two."
"You certainly have. You are an important member of the team!"
A huge wave of relief flooded both of them, like the tide coming in. Herc and the Minotaur had become more than good friends. They had become brothers, although neither knew it until just that moment.
Hercules suddenly had a mission. He wanted to find a lyre for his friend so the Minotaur could practice in Oropus if he wished, or he could practice right here at home. Hercules remembered seeing a lyre gathering dust in the attic of Apollo's mansion one time when they were looking for something else entirely. It was stashed in a corner and looked like it had not been used in years. Apollo owned many lyres. He was the god of music, and the lyre was his special musical instrument. He would crack a deal with Apollo - one favor in exchange for one lyre. If Apollo did not want to trade, then he would talk him into letting Hercules borrow it until he found one in the marketplace or received one as payment for his services.
The next morning, Hercules set out for Mount Olympus. Apollo was his brother, well, half-brother. They had the same father, the mighty Zeus. Like all brothers everywhere, they always had plenty to argue with each other about. They were very good friends. Apollo had a temper but he also had a warm heart. Apollo was not home. Nobody locked their doors on Mount Olympus. Hercules hiked up to the attic and took the lyre. Since the mansion was huge, Hercules left Apollo a note on his front door to make sure he saw it. The note let Apollo know that he had taken the lyre from the attic, and why, and offered him a deal.
What Hercules did not know was that the lyre he had borrowed was the golden lyre of Orpheus. Orpheus was Apollo's son. When Orpheus played his golden lyre, as Apollo had taught him, his songs could cast spells and soothe savage beasts. One of the spells was that people would forget what they were doing and just listen. It worked on gods too, but not as strongly. Orpheus was no longer a student and did not need spells to gather an audience to hear him play. He had become the most gifted musician in all of ancient Greece. His golden student lyre had been put away in his Dad's attic for some time now, nearly forgotten, and had been replaced with a bigger and heavier gold one, with even more beautiful tones. The spells, however, in his student lyre were still active. But Hercules did not know that.
Hercules had another problem he did not know about. Hera, queen of the gods, happen to glance over at Apollo's front door. Her glance became a glower when she realized the man she saw leaving a note for Apollo was Hercules. Hera hated Hercules. It gave her great joy to cause Hercules trouble whenever the opportunity arose. If Hercules felt it was important to leave a note, then it was important to Hera to make the note disappear. The goddess Hera summoned a breeze strong enough to blow the note away. Should anyone ask her, she could honestly say she had not touched it. She continued on her way, feeling quite content with the way her day was going.
"Hercules!" the Minotaur whispered, when Hercules gave him the golden lyre. "Can I use this, really?" The Minotaur gently strummed the strings, almost afraid to touch them. He began to play the songs the Oropus musician had taught him. He played all afternoon, the same songs over and over, while Hercules lay in the courtyard listening to him. Nothing else got done that day until the Minotaur stopped practicing, not even their mid-day meal. The next day, the Minotaur took the lyre with him to Oropus, to play it for his teacher, and to let him know he would be doing some of his practicing at home.
Nearly a week went by before Apollo noticed the lyre was missing. It was only by chance that he noticed at all. He had climbed into his attic to fetch something he had stored there. It was very odd that someone would take the lyre but leave the rest of his valuable possessions. Still, a thief should not be allowed to get away with stealing anything, let alone a lyre that belonged to his son. Apollo decided to hire the Hercules Detective Agency to find it. Once Herc found the thief, Apollo planned to punish the thief personally.
Hercules was resting in his courtyard, listening to the Minotaur play. He had bought a pair of cork ear plugs in the marketplace, but he was not wearing them at the moment. Instead, he was drowsing, lulled nearly to sleep by the music. He barely heard the pounding on his front door.
The Minotaur stopped playing. "Herc, wake up. There's someone at your door."
"What now?" Herc asked no one in particular. He grumbled his way around his hut. There, at his front door, stood Apollo, frowning. Hercules was very glad to see him. He was always glad to see him, but especially now.
"Herc, I need to hire you. Someone has ..... what beautiful music." The Minotaur had begun practicing again.
Hercules popped in his cork ear plugs. He was barely in time. "It's Tor. He's getting really good, isn't he?" Hercules beamed proudly. "So, do we have a deal?"
Apollo did not answer right away. He tilted his head, listening. "There was something I wanted you to do for me," Apollo finally decided to say.
Hercules waited, but it appeared that Apollo was done explaining his problem, without explaining anything. "I'm going to need a few more details," Hercules nudged.
"Yes, of course," Apollo told him. "I don't actually remember. What beautiful music. Do you hear it?" he asked. Then wandered away.
The next day, bright and early, the Minotaur began practicing on the lyre. Soon after, Apollo appeared at Herc's door. Once again, Apollo could not remember what he was doing there. He commented on the beautiful music, just as before, then wandered away.
It was all very strange.
The next day, when Apollo knocked on his door, at first, music filled the air. Then it stopped. The Minotaur was taking a break.
Apollo blinked. "That's my lyre!"
Hercules removed his ear plugs. "Did you say your lyre? Yes. I know. I borrowed it from you. Didn't you read my note?"
"No. I didn't see a note. I thought someone had stolen it. That's why I'm here. To hire you to get it back."
Hercules paled. "This is terrible. I borrowed it for Tor. Is there any chance you will let me keep it for a while, just until I can find one to buy? In exchange, I'll owe you one favor."
Apollo thought it over. "I must admit, it's good to hear it play music again." There was a pause. "Just until you find one to buy."
"I owe you, little brother."
Apollo had nearly turned to leave when he hesitated. "You do know that particular lyre is magical, right?"
Apollo nodded. "It makes people forget nearly everything except the music as long as it is playing. It does other things too, but that's the big one." Apollo gazed off into the distance, remembering.
"What other things?" Hercules asked. But Apollo, with a wave of one hand, was gone.
It was not much of a case, but since Hercules had been sort of hired, he named it anyway - The Case of the Golden Lyre. He marked it: I owe Apollo one favor, and filed it away with the other case files from the Hercules Detective Agency. He thought it over. He took the file back. He wrote himself a note across the top in big letters. The note said: Ask Apollo - what other things? Not that it mattered, really.
That done, Hercules put the file away, and went outside to enjoy the beautiful sounds of the lyre. It was a new song. Tor must have had another lesson. Herc curled peacefully up in his courtyard and just listened.