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

"Hercules! Open up! I need your help!" shouted a harmless looking individual with tousled hair and very worried eyes.

"Prince Theseus!" Hercules stared at the young man with amazement. "What brings you to my door?"

"Hercules, I know you can solve anything. Look what you did to the Stymphalian Birds, and the Cretan Bull, and oh my - the Lernaean Hydra! Everyone in Greece knows how clever you are, and how courageous."

Hercules had turned rather red with embarrassment. Just the same, he was beginning to think the young prince was a rather good fellow. He would be glad to help him. For a small fee, of course.

"I need you to kill the dreaded Cretan Minotaur!" Theseus blurted. "Before he can eat the children of Athens!"

"Your highness. Someone has been pulling your leg. There is no such monster as the Cretan Minotaur."

"But Hercules, there is! It's a horrible monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man. My father made a deal," Theseus sadly explained.. "The king of the island of Crete kept sending ships to attack Athens, not for any particular purpose. Just because he was bored. Something had to be done. My father made the king a deal. If King Minos would stop attacking Athens for 9 years, Athens would send 7 boys and 7 girls to the island of Crete to be eaten by the monster that King Minos keeps as a pet in the heart of a maze, a maze so complicated that no one has ever escaped. The king took the deal. He said it would be a treat," Theseus shuttered. "My father never expected King Minos to keep his word, but he did. And now it's time to send the children of Athens to Crete, to be eaten by the dreaded Minotaur."

Hercules knew the importance of keeping your word. He knew that a deal was a deal. He was also quite sure that it was wrong to send small children to be eaten by a monster.

"What makes you so sure the maze is impossible to escape?" Hercules asked the young prince.

"Because King Minos hired Daedalus to build the maze as a home for his beloved pet." The young prince explained. "You know Daedalus. He's the finest inventor and the finest architect in all of Greece, probably in all the world. Daedalus was hired to make the maze so complicated that anyone who enters is lost until rescued. The people of Crete are safe unless they enter the maze. But the children of Athens are not safe. Hercules, you have to do something."

The answer came to Hercules, just like that. He knew what had to be done. It was the only way. "You have to rescue the Minotaur."

"WHAT!" shrieked Prince Theseus.

"Think about it, your highness. How would you like to spend your life in the middle of an impossible to escape maze, with no friends, and nothing to do? I bet that poor Minotaur has tried to get out before. He'll know a lot of ways that won't work."

"But, Hercules!"

Hercules laughed. "I don't expect you to rescue the Minotaur, your highness. I expect you to hire me to do it. I need the money and you need to save the children of Athens. I'll take the case!"

"Thank you, Hercules," the young king mumbled. "I'm sure you'll think of a way," he added dismally.

"I already have," Hercules assured the young prince. "Listen up. Here's what we're going to do."

After hearing the plan, the young prince perked up considerably. "You know, Herc. That might actually work."

"Of course it will! You get along now. Fill in the children on what they must do. And don't you worry a bit."

By the time the young prince returned to his city-state, everyone in Athens was crying.

Prince Theseus told his father (the king) that he was going to Crete as the seventh son of Athens. He did not think his father would agree with Hercules that Prince Theseus needed to rescue the monster. In fact, he was sure of it. Instead, he told his father he was going to kill the dreaded Minotaur so this would never happen again.

"The Minotaur is a terrible monster! What makes you think you can kill it?" cried his father.

"I'll find a way," Theseus replied gently. "The gods will help me." Actually, it was only one god. Half a god if you wanted to get technical, as Hercules was half-god, half-man. But half a god was far better than none.

His father begged him not to go. But the prince took his place as the seventh Athenian boy. The children, who had been filled in on Hercules' plan, turned their parents so their backs were to the gangplank so they would not see Hercules slip aboard. Hercules did not want anyone to know his plan until everyone was safely home again, perhaps not even then. Soon, six Athenian boys, seven Athenian girls, one prince, and one Hercules sailed towards the island of Crete.

As things turned out, it was much easier to rescue the Minotaur than Theseus had imagined. And it was much easier to escape the maze than even Hercules could have imagined, thanks to the help of King Minos' daughter.

This is the tale that was released to the public, the story nearly everyone believes still to this day - click here to read it, if curious. But that's not what happened at all.

It is true that when the prince and the children arrived on the island of Crete, King Minos and his daughter, the Princess Ariadne, came out to greet them.

The tallest Athenian boy stayed hidden on the ship.

"Keep an eye out for trouble," Hercules directed the boy left behind. "I don't trust a king who would send small children to be eaten by a monster."

"Yes, sir. You can count on me!" The boy straightened. His face flooded with determination.

Hercules took his place as one of the seven Athenian boys and followed the children and the prince down the gangplank.

"My, you're a big one," King Minos chuckled at the sight of him, no doubt thinking of his pet's delight.

"Growth spurt, your highness," Hercules answered in a high falsetto.

The Princess Ariadne did not say anything. Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. Later that night, she wrote Prince Theseus a note and slipped it under his bedroom door.

Dear Theseus (Ariadne wrote)

I am a beautiful princess as you probably noticed the minute you saw me. I am also a very bored princess. Without my help, the Minotaur will surely gobble you up. I know a trick or two that will save your life. If I help you kill the monster, you must promise to take me away from this tiny island so that others can admire my beauty. If interested in this deal, meet me by the gate to the Labyrinth in one hour.

Yours very truly,
Princess Ariadne

Prince Theseus slipped out of the palace and waited patiently by the gate. Princess Ariadne finally showed up. In her hands, she carried a sword and a ball of string.

"Hide these inside the entrance to the maze," she told Theseus. "Tomorrow, when you and the children from Athens enter the Labyrinth, wait until the gate is closed, then tie the string to the door. Unroll it as you move through the maze. That way, you can find your way back again. The sword, well, you know what to do with the sword," she laughed. "Don't forget, now," she cautioned Theseus. "You must take me with you so that all the people can marvel at my beauty."

The next morning, the Athenian children, Prince Theseus, and Hercules (still masquerading as an Athenian youth) were shoved into the maze. The door was locked firmly behind them. Following Ariadne's directions, Theseus tied one end of the string to the door. He and the children stayed by the door to make sure the string stayed tied. Hercules entered the maze alone.

"Hercules!" Prince Theseus called after him. Hercules popped his head back around the corner. "You forgot the sword."

"No need, your highness." With a nod, Hercules disappeared.

It was easy to reach the center of the maze. Hercules simply followed the bellowing. There, surprisingly, he made a friend. The Minotaur was very excited to hear that Hercules was there to rescue him. They followed the string back to the prince and the children waiting nervously inside the door.

"The villagers are going to kill me," the Minotaur worried.

"Nah," Hercules grinned. "We have an inside man, so to speak." He turned to Theseus and the children. "Everybody ready?" There were nods all around. "You know what to do?" More nods, excited ones this time. "Then Prince Theseus, knock on the door and get us out of here!"

The Minotaur hid out of sight, around the corner, as Theseus knocked on the door.

Princess Ariadne was waiting. She opened the door. It helped that Princess Ariadne was not paying attention. She did not like children much, and she was eager to leave the island forever. She had sent the guards away as Hercules as sure she would. The children surrounded the Minotaur who had joined them. They tried to hide him entirely, but there was not much they could do about his horns. Those stuck up rather obviously, but the princess did not notice. Led by Princess Ariadne, followed by the prince, followed by Hercules, followed by the children of Athens and one terrified Minotaur, they ran to their ship. The children hid the Minotaur under some blankets. Princess Ariadne did not even notice when the sixth Athenian boy, who had been left behind to guard the ship, joined them.

The rest of the tale, as released to the public, was nearly accurate. On the way home, they did stop for supplies on the tiny island of Naxos. Princess Ariadne did insist on coming ashore. Bored, the princess did fall asleep, snoring softly. Theseus did sail away, carrying with him one very happy Minotaur, one very proud Hercules, and some very noisy children. It was Hercules who suggested they leave the sleeping princess behind so that the entire population of the tiny island of Naxos could admire her beauty. Theseus and all the children agreed. They sailed away and left the beautiful princess behind, sleeping.

After all, a deal is a deal.

As for Hercules, he was paid a royal sum for saving the children of Athens. To this day, until just now, nobody in Greece, except for Prince Theseus and the children and the Minotaur, of course, knew what Hercules had done.

As for the Minotaur, Hercules built a home for the misunderstood Minotaur behind his hut. They remained friends all their lives and shared many exciting adventures. As Hercules soon learned, it never hurts to have a Minotaur around when facing dangerous monsters.