Characters from Xena, Warrior Princess are the property of the very cool folks at MCA/Universal/Renaissance. No copyright infringement is intended. No legal problems are desired with anybody. This writing is not intended to generate revenue. At best, it is meant to be a pleasant read for you and therapy for me. Some of the characters are of my own creation and may be used by fellow bards. If you have any suggestions, questions, opinions you need to share you may email me at OneillTC1949@aol.com
By T.C. O’Neill
Completed September 4, 2002
I may sound as if I’m bitter about Gabrielle’s focus on Xena, but to be fair, Gabrielle did write one tribute to Joxer that outshines my poor offerings. Of course my father had to save her life, Xena’s and all of Greece to get her attention. But that’s Gabrielle for you.
This first story is about Joxer’s transformation from Joxer the Mighty into Joxer the Red. It is the only story that caused my father to weep in it’s telling.
This story took place before my father fell in love with my mother Meg. I believe my father was still very much in love with Gabrielle, or her memory, at the time he married my mother and in a way, has always held Gabrielle in his heart.
So read on my dear friend and thank the Gods for men like Joxer.
Joxer sat on a tree stump flipping pebbles into the pond. His armor lay in a heap next to him. Helmetless, the cool evening breeze blew his hair back from his face. He was starting to feel the first pangs of hunger. His attempts to snare his evening meal had all failed. Not because he didn’t try, it just seemed that the rabbits in this area proved to be exceptionally cunning.
He considered making a spear to impale a fish in the pound until he remembered that the day before he had lost his wet stone and would not be able to sharpen his dull bladed sword to fashion a pointed tip on a stick. He hadn’t fail at everything that day. A small fire clung to life at his side. The branches were a little green and the smoke was starting to irritate is eyes.
“ A dinar for your thoughts.” A masculine voice said.
Joxer grabbed his sword from his pile of armor. As he spun around to the direction the voice had come from he tripped over the tree stump and fell into the small campfire. Joxer sprang up from the fire, dropping his sword to slap at the flames that had taken hold to his shirt and vest.
“ Hot…Hot…. Ouch…Hot...Hot”. He cried. Just as the flames were advancing up his shirt, he tripped over his sword and fell backwards into the pond. Now flameless but wet, he climbed out of the little pond exhausted from his ordeal. As he lay on his stomach his line of sight focused on a pair of well-made boots. As he looked up he saw Ares standing before him.
“Hello Joxer” Ares said as he bend down to lift Joxer to his feet.
Once on his feet, Joxer stepped back one-step from the God of War. Once again he fell into the pond. This time Joxer opted for a sitting position in the pond and found that the water was chest high. Ares had moved to Joker’s tree stump and sat down. “ Have you ever considered changing your name from Joxer the Mighty to Joxer the Very Clean? After all, a warrior that bathes twice a day is praise worthy in my book.”
Joxer let his shoulders slump and made no effort to remove himself from the pond. “Very funny Ares. I’m glad you got a good laugh at my expense”
With one snap of Ares’ fingers, Joxer found himself sitting on the ground, dripping water at the War God’s feet. Joxer let his body fall back to the ground. “ Look Ares. I don’t know what you game is but I’m cold, wet and hungry. But most of all I’m cold…. And wet…. And hungry.
Ares pretended to wipe a tear from his cheek. “ Oh Joxer, that’s … that’s so sad.”, he said mockingly. “Get a grip. Be a man, or as near as you can get.” A snap of Ares’ fingers and Joxer’s clothing was dry. a wave of his hand, a table of hot food appeared in a small clearing. “ Come, Joxer the Clean, sit down and eat while I tell you how your life is about to change.
Joxer flew to the table and began stuffing himself.
After fifteen minutes of watching Joxer eat, Ares spoke. “Slow down. I don’t want you choking before your mission.”
“ Mission? No, no you got the wrong guy! You want Hercules or Jason. Maybe Xena, or one of those guys. You know a hero. Not me.”
“ What makes you think you’re not a hero?”
“ Yeah, right. Me, a hero. That’s rich.”
“ Look Joxer, if I say you can be a hero, you can be a hero. You just need a little work.”
“ Oh, just a little work. Maybe a lot of work. In fact, so much work that I could never live long enough to do the work I would need.”
“Okay, let’s look at it a different way. Who is the best warrior with a fighting staff you know?”
“ That’s easy, Gabrielle.”
Yes and at one time she was just an irritating farm girl. Now she’s an irritating farm girl that can fight. Of course she’s still a sidekick, but a good one.”
“ Why Ares, I’m shocked. You just said something nice about Gabrielle.”
Ares leaned against a nearby tree. Just giving credit where credit is do.”
The sun had completely gone down and the night sky was filled with stars. Joxer walked away from the table and stood before Ares. “ Why all the interest with me all of the sudden? You never said more then three words to me at a time before.”
Ares crossed his arms over his chest. “ Look Joxer, I’ll level with you. I can’t go to any of the heroes the other Gods know. They would be watching them. There is going to be a battle and the Gods have agreed to a hands off policy.”
“ That sounds like our Greek Gods. When you need them they are never there for you.”
Ares uncrossed his arms and stood to his full height. His hand moved to the hilt of his sword. “ You don’t want to make the God of War angry Joxer. You really don’t.”
Joxer held up his hands in surrender. “ You’re right, let’s not do anything rash” Ares removed his hand from his sword.
“ The problem is Ares that I’m a loser, a bungler. The fish that can’t swim. The bird that can’t fly. The frog that….”
“Stop Joxer. I get the idea.” Ares yelled. In a calmer voice he said, “ Look at it this way. You have been in many fights and battles with Xena and Gabrielle. Right?”
“Yeah, but I always go down with the first blow or slip and fall down and knock myself out before the fight even begins.”
“ True, but you have never run away from a fight. In fact, you have never considered it.”
Joxer rubbed his chin in thought. “ You know… your right. I never looked at it that way before.”
“ Heroes are not judged by their successes, but by their attempts”
“ Wow Ares, that’s sweet.”
“ Could you possibly sound more like a girl, Joxer” Ares said raising his eyes to the stars in frustration.
Making eye contact with Joxer again, he spoke very earnestly. “ Joxer. The reason I came to you IS because of the girls.”
Joxer began fidgeting and shifting his feet. “ You mean Xena and Gabrielle?”
“ You’re a quick study. Yes, I mean them. Stop moving around and listen.”
Joxer could not think of a way to control his nerves other to sit on the ground. “ With your permission Ares”
“Yes, yes, sit and pay attention. There is going to be a battle between the Romans and the Amazon Nation.”
“ How do you know that, Ares?”
“ Hellooo, I am a God, remember.”
“ Oh, right, sorry. Please go on.”
Ares dropped to the ground sitting directly across from Joxer in order to regain eye contact.
“ Ares, forgive me for asking. But I thought war was your deal.”
“It is in most cases. However, the Romans will out number the Amazons greatly. No Amazon or allied forces will prevail.”
Joxer turned this over in his mind, reaching a conclusion. And you have a thing for Xena. You don’t want her killed.”
“What about Gabby?”
“ She’ll be dead as a Roman nail if you don’t help”
Joxer felt his heart break at the thought of the demise of his two best friends. Ares if nothing else was a student of human nature and could read Joxer’s feelings. Standing up and pulling Joxer to his feet he said, “ But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can change it. You have to reach inside yourself and pull out the man you can be.”
Joxer looked into the dark eyes of the God of War and knew he was speaking honestly. “Do you really think I can do it?”
“I know you can. The question is, do you think you can?”
Joxer stood up to his full height. A look of determination was set in his eyes. “I, Joxer the Mighty will face and defeat Caesar, Rome and the hounds of Hades to protect my friends.”
Ares also stood and smiles at Joxer. “Spoken like a man with the heart of a lion.” Ares said slapping Joxer on the back and grabbing him before he fell over.
“ Good. Get some sleep. Tomorrow you start your training.” With that said, Ares was gone.
Standing alone, Joxer remembered that someone else once told him he had the heart of a lion. That was Xena. Laying on his bedroll, Joxer laced his fingers behind his head. “Maybe there is something to this heart of a lion stuff. If a true hero like Xena said it and the God of War said it too, it had to be true.," he thought. With a full belly and new hope for the future he fell asleep.
Two Months Later
Ares held his sword in both hands over his head and was about to bring it down when his opponent’s blade plunged into the War God’s chest. Ares dropped his sword and put his hands around the sword impaling him. Looking down in disbelief, at the sword he dropped to his knees and then fell on his side.
Joxer fell to Ares’ side and rolled him onto his back. “Ares, Ares, can you hear me?”
Clutching Joxer’s shirt, he spoke in a weak voice, “ Joxer, Jox…er, tell Xena…. tell Xena, that I died loving her.”
Joxer raised his pained face to the sky, “Noooooooo”.
“Chill out man.” Ares laughed. Sitting up, he pulled the offending blade from his chest “God of War here. I can’t be killed with a sword. Duh!”
“Oh, right, for a minute I forgot.” Joxer said flopping down on the ground.
Ares snapped his fingers and a banquet table overflowing with food appeared. For the first time, two chairs also appeared. Ares pulled Joxer to his feet. With a slap to Joxer’s back he said, “ Come on, Little Buddy, time to feed the growing boy”.
Joxer was growing. His arms were much more muscular and his chest and legs were starting to develop muscular bulk as well. Joxer had been training every day from sunrise to sunset for two months. To his surprise, Joxer was becoming an excellent swordsman. He also excelled with the fighting staff. He turned out to be a natural horseman. In fact, he road better then he walked. He needed work on the throwing dagger. He had yet to start his training in the art of archery. Sitting down at the table, Joxer dug into the food as if he had not eaten just four hours before.
“ You’re doing well Joxer.”
“ Thanks”, Joker said with his mouth full. Joxer’s hands systematically moving from plate to plate.
“ I’d say you gained about twenty pounds of muscle, body fat down to about two percent. If we had more time, I think, some table manner training would be in order.”
Stabbing a slice of venison with his throwing dagger, he said, “ Really, why?”
“ Joxer, were you brought up in a barn?”
“ No, in a castle actually. Sometimes in a tent when my father was on a siege he would bring my brother and me with him.”
“ Ah, your father was a warrior.” Ares was now interested in Joxer’s background. “Was he an Officer?”
“ “He was a Warlord. Pass me that plate of honey-bread will you?’
“You’re kidding, right?”
“ No, I really like that kind of bread”
Pushing the plate of honey-bread to Joxer, Aries said, “I mean your kidding about your father being a Warlord”
“ He really was a Warlord. Hey, shouldn’t you know that kind of stuff? You being the God of War and all.”
“ You would think so wouldn’t you? But the truth is I have not had dealings with each and every warlord.”
“ Do you have any idea how many Warlords there were in just the last thousand years alone?”
“ Four thousand, six hundred and eighty-three”
“Where did you get that number from?”, Ares asked.
“ I took the total number of the known cities and villages, used a base mile radius of thirty-six and divided that by one thousand.”
Aries sat back and said,” Joxer, I’m impressed!”
Joxer stopped eating and looked the War God in the eye. “ Ares. Now I’m kidding you.”. A smile crossed his lips.
Ares stared at Joxer for a while then burst out laughing. “ Joxer, I do believe you made a joke.”
After Joxer finished eating, the God and the mortal went for a walk. The walk had become almost a ritual.
As they walked, side by side Joxer asked, “ Ares, when I finish my training how will I be able to save my friends?”
“ Ah, that’s the best part. You’re going to lead your army to their rescue.”.
“ My army? Where will I get an army?”
“ Believe it or not Joker, warriors will flock to your banner.”.
“ Flock to my ban…” Thump
Ares stopped walking and looked down at Joker lying on the ground. "Darn rock, that wasn't there before." Joxer mumbled. Helping Joxer to his feet, Ares said, “Actually, I see you riding at the head of your cavalry. Not too much walking on your part. Less trips and falls.”
“ That’s probably not a bad idea.” Joker said while brushing himself off.
After a while, they had returned to Joxer’s camp. “Get some sleep.” Aries said, “Tomorrow is a special day.” With a wave of his hand, Ares was gone.
Joxer lay down on his bedroll and before he could think about his conversation with Ares he was asleep.
The next day, Joxer awoke to the smell of hot bread. Sitting up he saw Ares picking through the pile of armor where Joxer had left it.
“ How could you ware this junk Joxer?" Ares said. Picking up Joxer’s helmet, and flinging it into the pond.
“Heeeey. That’s my helmet!” Joxer cried running up to Ares.
“You don’t need it.” Ares said. He next picked up Joxer’s sword and was about to fling it when Joxer grabbed it from him.
“ That was my fathers sword. Don’t throw it in the water.”
“ Fine you can keep it, but don’t think about using it in combat it’s a ceremonial sword and not what you need in a fight.”
“ Okay, What will I use?”
“Look behind that tree. I brought you some stuff from home.” Ares said.
“ From home? You mean Olympus?” Joxer said in disbelief.
“ That’s home isn’t it?” Ares said, tossing the rest of Joxer’s armor into the pond.
Joxer ran to the tree to see what treasures awaited him. At the tree he found several white tunics, two pairs of black leather britches, a red and gold breastplate, a highly polished fighting staff as well as a red leather scabbard housing a bejeweled sword with a mirror like finish. He also found new red leather boots and a red robe.
Ares walk to his side. “ Pretty cool, right?” Ares said.
“ Way cool!” Joxer said while changing into his new cloths and armor.
When Joxer finished dressing, Ares walked around him. With a wave of his hand he changed the red robe into a red cape, Roman style.
“ Now you look like a warrior.” Ares said
“ I do, don’t I.” Joxer agreed.
“ You know what you need now?” Ares asked.
“ A horse?” Joxer said hopefully.
“ A sidekick”
Joxer became very excited hearing this. “ Right…right. She should be 5’3”, have a face like an angel, reddish blond hair and a body…”
“ Joxer, Joxer slow down”, Ares laughed, “I think the person you are talking about is already taken.”
“ Yeah, your right. I guess I got carried away.” Joxer said. His enthusiasm draining away.
Ares slapped Joxer on the back. “ Don’t lose heart Joxer. I know of just the person to serve as your sidekick. I’m sure you’ll be pleased.”
“ Sure Ares. Whatever you say.” Joxer mumbled
“ Joxer, you’re doing that girl thing again.”
“ Sorry Ares. It’s just that when I think of Gabrielle…”
“ You become all soft and sensitive.” Ares mocked.
“ Excuse me, I thought this was about saving the woman you loved, Xeeeeena”
“ I never said that I loved her.” Ares started walking with Joxer walking behind him.
“ Xeeeeennna, Ares loves Xena.” Joxer teased.
“ Ares loves Xeeee…” Ares stopped and turned to face Joxer. Joxer bumped into him.
“ Remember that girl thing? You’re doing it again.”
“Okay, okay, I noticed we are walking in a different direction then we usually do, where are we going?” Joxer asked.
All Fool’s Inn
Ares and Joxer found the road that lead to the inn and within a short while were standing outside of it.
Suddenly, the Inn’s door burst open and a large man was tossed out onto the ground at Ares and Joxer’s feet. “ And stay out Roman. We don’t need your kind here." one of the two men that had ejected the Roman shouted before closing the door. The Roman managed to get to a sitting position before falling on his side. Joxer bent down beside the man and turned him over. Joxer turned his head at the strong smell of wine that reeked from the man passed out on the ground.
“ He’ll be fine in the morning. “ Ares said, stepping around the man on the ground. As they walked into the inn they were greeted by the murmur of men in conversation. Somewhere in the back of the great rooms a female balladeer sang of lost love. Ares and Joxer found a table near a large fireplace and sat down. A serving maiden came to their table. “ What is your pleasure gentlemen?” she asked.
Two of your finest ales will do.” Joxer said.
Flirting with the customer resulted in better tips for the maiden. She looked first at the dark man in his black leather and then at the one with the kind face and rich looking red cape and boots. The better tip wound come from the kind looking man her years of experience told her. And besides, the dark man had kind of a scary aura about him. “Two of our finest it is then. I’ll be right back.” She said.
Within a minute the maiden had returned with the drinks. At the corner of the bar, a battle-tested warrior watched the two men with calculating eyes.
Serving the drinks the maiden said, “I have not seen you two around before. May I ask your names good sirs?”
Ares made no response, so Joxer picked up the slack. “ My name is Joxer.”
“ I wager you are called Joxer the Red, as you seem to favor the color.” She said, giving Joxer her best smile. The warrior at the bar poked his equally fearsome companion. Both men watched as Joxer over paid the serving maiden with two gold coins.
“ Look at the purse he carries. He’s a rich one he is.” The first warrior stated.
“ Did you ever hear tell of Joxer the Red? He asked his friend.
“No. Never heard of him. I did hear of a Joxer the Mighty. Some kind of lackey for Xena.”
“ He doesn’t look like anyone’s lackey to me. And his tablemate looks to be someone I have seen before.”
“ Yes, he does look like someone I associate with a battle I have fought.” His friend said. A third main entered the inn and joined the two men at the bar.
Meanwhile, The balladeer had finished her song and was walking past Joxer’s table when he spoke to her.
“ I enjoyed your song young lady.” He said as he politely stood when she stopped for the complement
Being only about 4’11” she looked up at the 6’ Joxer and said, “ Well thank you good sir. It is the custom to show apparition for a job well done with a dinar or two.”
“ Oh, right”, Joxer pulled a gold coin from his purse and handed it to the young woman.
Looking at the coin she gasped. The coin was worth 100 dinars, more then she made in two weeks time singing at an inn or warlord’s estate. Clutching the coin in one hand, she pulled a chair out from under a passed out drunkard at the next table and sat down at Joxer’s table in one quick motion.
Rolling his eyes, at the forward brat, Ares said, “ Won’t you join us?”
Knowing sarcasm when she heard it, the balladeer dismissed Ares with a glance and focused her attention on Joxer. “ It is indeed a pleasure to meet a patron of music, good sir. My name is Glenda, balladeer on tour, presently performing two shows here at the All Fools Inn, nightly.”
Seeing competition for tips the serving maiden hurried over with two more drinks.
“Two more of our finest ales for Joxer the Red and friend.” She said placing the drinks in front Joxer and Ares. Ignoring Glenda, she accepted two more gold coins from Joxer.
Ares looked board, and said, “ Well Joxer the Red, I think I’ll go check on our friend outside.” With that said, he got up from the table and walked away.
This was not lost on Joxer. It was unlike Ares to care for a fallen drunk, and a Roman one at that. This must be his plan, to let Joxer and his new sidekick get better acquainted. The men at the bar whispered among themselves as Ares walk pass them and out the door.
Joxer turned his attention to Glenda. She was short but looked to be very fit. She had short red hair and an impish pretty face. She wore green leather britches and a green puffy sleeve shirt. She looked about nineteen.
“Joxer, Joxer did you hear me” Glenda asked.
“ Ah, sorry, what did you say? Joxer said.
“I asked if you play.” Glenda repeated.
“ Yes. I play the flute.” He replied.
“ My instrument of choice is the sword”, a man’s voice said.
Joxer looked up from Glenda to see three men boxing Glenda and him in.
Pushing Glenda’s chair over and spilling her onto the floor the larger warrior said, “ We couldn’t help but notice you seem to be free with your dinars. Perhaps you would like to give some to a few soldiers in need.”
In the past, Joxer would have broken out in a sweat but, thanks to his training, he was calm and collected. Standing to his full height, he said, “ Oh I can give you what you need”. In a flash, he had the tip of his sword resting against the neck of the largest warrior. “ I just won’t give you what you want.”
At this time Glenda sprang from the floor and began pounding the nearest warrior with her little fist. The warrior grabbers her and held a dagger to her side.
“ Well it appears that we have a standoff.” The warrior with Joxer’s sword to his neck said.
“ No, not really.” replied Joxer. He hit the large warrior with the flat of his blade on the side of the head. The large man crumbled to the floor. In a blink Joxer had the sword on the neck of the man that held Glenda.
“ Drop the dagger and step away, or you can join your friend on the floor.” Joxer said.
The third man moved on Joxer, but stopped short when Joxer produced a dagger of his own, holding it an inch from the man’s face.
“Joxer! Stop playing around, its time to go”, Ares said standing behind the two now still warriors.
“ I have kind of a problem here at the moment," Joxer said, not taking his eyes off the two men.
“ Oh, well I’m a problem solver.” Touching the two warriors on their shoulders, he said, “Take a nap boys”. Both men fell to the floor and began to snore.
The rest of the people in the great hall made a path as Ares followed by Joxer headed to the door.
“ Hey wait.”’ Glenda cried as she ran to get her gear on the side of the small raised platform that served as a stage.
Outside, Joxer saw that there were now three horses waiting. One of the horses had the Roman tied across his back.
“ Why are we bringing him?” Joxer asked.
“He’s your new sidekick”; Ares answered with a smile, as if it should be apparent.
“ What about her?” Joxer asked pointing to the pursuing Glenda.
Ares looked at Glenda as he mounted his horse. “ Her? I don’t think so Pal.”
Indicating the Roman with a sweep of his arm, he said, “Joxer, it is my great pleasure to introduce Porticos Magnum, one of the great masters of battle strategy and combat in Greece, Rome or anywhere else in the known world.
With the mention of his name Porticos mumbled something incoherent, and passed gas. His horse looked rather displeased.
“ Yap, I can see why the enemy would run away from him.” Glenda said
“ Your still here?” Ares asked.
“ You don’t think I’m going back there after what happened do you. Those guys are going to be pretty angry when they wakeup.”
As Joker mounted his horse he ask, “ Ares, speaking of those three guys, why didn’t you give them heart attacks, hit them with bolts of lighting, or turn them into stone. You know, something more Ares like.”
“ You mortals misjudge me. Those three are good men and excellent soldiers. I remember their fathers and their fathers’ fathers. I care for good soldiers Joxer. Honestly, where is your compassion for you fellow man?" Ares gave Joxer a look of disappointment and urged his horse to a quick gallop.
Jumping behind Joxer on the horse’s back, Glenda put her arms around Joxer’s waist.
“ Hey, Just where do you think your going?” Joker yelled.
“ Just ride warrior” She shouted.
The New Camp
It seemed to Joxer that they ridden half way through the night before Ares called a halt to the ride. In a small clearing near a stream, they dismounted. Ares waved his hand and a large tent appeared. A second wave brought a campfire near the tent.
“We will need one for the young lady here.” Joxer said, as he helped Glenda off the large horse.
“Whatever” Ares said, as a smaller tent appeared after a wave of his hand.
Glenda was shocked. She finally asked, “Is he a sorcerer?
“Him? No. He’s a god. Glenda, may I present Ares, God of War. Ah…Glenda?”
Glenda had passed out.
“I sometimes have that effect on women,” Ares said. Stepping over Glenda, he continued, "Look Joxer, I have things to attend to and will be gone for a few days. When Porticos awakens, fill him in on everything. He’s a good man and should have your complete trust. Keep up your training. Before I go, I’ll tell you the about the big fella you decked at the inn…"
Glenda awoke to find herself on a cot inside the small tent. There were a few candles giving a soft light to the tent’s interior. It must be evening she thought. She heard the sound of a flute playing a sad melody. She got up from the cot and walked outside the tent. A few feet from the tent, Joxer sat by the campfire playing the flute.
“That song is so pretty. What’s it called?” she asked approaching Joxer.
Joxer got to his feet. Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.
“Please sit my lord. It is I, who should stand in you presents.” Glena said.
“Looks like you already are. Why don’t we both sit down?”
“As you wish my lord”, she said as she sat down beside him.
I’m not a Lord; I’m just a regular guy. Why don’t you call me Joxer?”
“As you wish, Lord Joxer.”
Joxer felt he was not going to win this one, so he changed the subject.
“Ah… the song I was playing has no name. I was just making it up as I went along.
“Truly sire, you have the gift of music.”
“Yeah, right. Some people are great statesmen, others great warriors. Me, I’m a great flute player.” Joxer laughed.
But, you are a great warrior as well. The way you handled those men at the inn…”
“Ares put his sleeper hold or whatever it was on two of them.”
“Was that really Ares?”
"And he is your friend? The God of War?" she asked with keen interest.
"I'm not sure how to answer that. Gods are not like people. I'm not sure that Ares really knows the meaning of friendship as we do. But I have to admit the past eight or nine weeks; we have spent a lot of time together. Ares is more like my teacher sometimes drinking buddy. He trained me in the art of combat." Joxer said as if this was not unusual.
She stared at Joxer for a few seconds and then said. “ A god is your drinking companion and your teacher, you’re a gifted musician you’re buffed and handsome, but you’re just a regular guy. Have I got the facts right?”
“I don’t know about the handsome part, but I guess the rest is right. Did you say I’m buffed?” Joxer smiled.
Glenda smiled back at him. “Yes, buffed and yes, handsome”
Joxer looked down at the ground. “ No woman ever told me I was handsome before.”
“ What women have you been hanging around with lately?” she asked.
“ Well the last few years mostly Xena, the Warrior Princess and Gabrielle, a Queen of the Amazons.”
Glenda’s mouth dropped. When she recovered, she said, “And you’re just a regular guy, right?”
“Right, about the only thing special about me is that I'm the only man welcome to visit any Amazon village. But that's because they know me because of Xena and Gabby.
Glenda let that sink in. Surly this was the most modest man she had ever met. He was without question, one of the nicer ones. The way he stood up to those three brutes proved he had courage. He didn’t even know how special he was.
“ Earth to Glenda. Hello.” Joxer said. “A dinar for your thoughts.”
Glenda snapped out of her mental tangent. “ I’m so sorry my Lord. What did you say?”
Joker smiled at the young balladeer, “ I said that it’s getting late and I’m going to check on our sleeping friend and then turn it for the night.”
As Joxer got up and stretched, Glenda said impulsively, “ Lord Joxer, you are the best man I have ever met.”
Joxer looked into her green eyes. The same color eyes that Gabrielle had. The thought of Gabrielle melted his heart. Now saddened, he said. “ There are lots of men braver and better then me, Glenda.”
As he walked away, Glenda called after him, “Name one friend of yours that is braver then you.”
As he entered the tent he replied, “Hercules.”
Plunk. Swish. Thump. Plunk, Swish, Thump
Joxer was just coming out of his sleep. “I know that sound", he thought. Plunk. Swish. Thump.
“Kind of like someone shooting arrows off. The plunk of the bowstring being released. The swish of the arrow flying through the air and the thump sound of the arrow hitting its target. Yep, that’s what it sounds like to me.” Suddenly, Joxer’s eyes sprang open. “We’re under attack!” he shouted to the sleeping Porticos. Porticos turned from his back to his side in his sleep. He made no response.
Grabbing his sword from his scabbard, Joxer stepped from the tent into the breaking daylight outside.
At the far end of the clearing he saw Glenda rapidly pulling arrows from the quiver strapped to her back and firing arrows from her bow. Her target was a young oak tree about five inches wide, thirty feet from where she stood. She had shot about ten arrows up and down the slender tree. Hearing Joxer’s approach, She turned to greet him. “ Good morning my Lord” she said with a smile.
As Joxer stepped up to her, he said, “Morning Glenda. Boy, is my face red. I thought we were under attack.”
“Well, you are the Red Lord. Hmm, The Red Lord, I like that.” She laughed.
“Gee, I’m really getting the nick names lately. Last night, Joxer the Red and today The Red Lord.’ He smiled at her and she felt like she would melt.
Regaining her composer, she said, “ Both names are fitting, my Lord.” she said shyly.
Placing both hands on her shoulders he said, “ Then you shall have a new name as well. Henceforth, I will call you Archer.”
Thank you Red Lord, you may also call me Cook, because I have also made breakfast for you and the Roman.” Glenda, a.k.a., Archer said.
“No, I don’t think I’ll call you Cook. It doesn’t have a ring to it. The Red Lord and his sidekick Cook? No, it doesn’t work for me. Now, Joxer, the Red and Archer or The Red Lord and Archer. That works.”
Glenda clapped her little hands in excitement. “ You mean, I’m going to be your sidekick. How cool is that?”
“ Pretty cool”, Joxer agreed. “ So, tell me, how did you learn to shoot like that?” Joxer asked.
“Oh, well, my father was our King’s Caption of Archers. I learned archery when I was very little.”
“ You mean you were even smaller then you are now?” Joxer joked.
“ Ha, ha, very funny. I might be small, but good things come small packages.” She said defensively.
“ By the Gods, where am I?” A deep baritone voice bellowed.
Later That Day
Joker had met Porticos as he was coming out of the tent and explained Ares’ plan and Porticos’ role in it. While the two men talked, Glenda served breakfast for all. After a good breakfast and a much-needed bath, Porticos felt like a new man. Sitting in a Roman style camp chair, Porticos gratefully accepted a cup of tea from Glenda. “ Thank you, little one’” he said sipping the tea.
“Little One?” when are you men going to stop judging someone by their height?” Glenda said angrily.
“ I meant no offence to you and I was not referring to your height. Truly, I can see that you are brave of heart for one so young and lovely. I meant it as a term of endearment.”
Glenda blushed. “You think I’m lovely?” she asked.
“Indeed. You would rival Helen of Troy in charm, looks and grace. And I know Helen well.” He smiled.
Gliding the toe of her boot in a semicircle in the dirt as she looked down at the ground to hide her blush, she said in a soft voice, “ Well if you mean it that way, I guess it would be alright if YOU called me that.” She looked up at him and noticed how much Porticos looked like her father.
“I stand indebted to your favor, my lady.” Porticos said with a slight bow of the head. Joxer had sat quietly during the exchange. He noted that Porticos’ skills were not limited to battle tactics. Standing up, Joxer said, “ Alright then. If that’s settled, I’m going for a bath.” He was surprised to see both Porticos and Archer standup in respect. Now Joxer blushed. “ Look guys, I don’t care if you call me The Red Lord, Joxer the Red or anything else if it makes you feel better. But, I’m just plain old Joxer. So don’t get carried away with the respect thing. I have not earned it yet.” With that said, he walked away.
“He doesn’t see himself the way we see him does he Porticos?” Glenda asked.
“Indeed”, Porticos replied. “There may have been a time when he was Plain Old Joxer, but that time is now passed.
After his bath, Joxer walked along the path to his camp.
“Hello, Joxer the Clean”
“ Ares, I was wondering when you would turn up.” Joker said to the God of War in his path.
“So what do you think of Porticos?” Ares asked with a bemused look.
“Oh, well he’s just great. I like him very much.”
“ I don’t care if you like him. I want you to use him. Tap into that knowledge he has and learn from him.”
“I will Ares.” Joker said, "There is no harm in liking him as well.”
Ares stroked the hair on his chin in thought. “I guess not, but don’t lose site of your mission to save Xena.”
“And Gabrielle”, Joxer added.
“If you must.” Ares conceded. What’s with the brat? Why are you keeping her around?
She’s the best archer I have ever seen. She will be a true asset.”
Ares thought that one over. “Yes, that is true, now that you bring it up. I know her father. If she is half the archer her father is, then she will serve you well.”
Joxer felt better hearing that from Ares.
“Great. Ares, why don’t you come back to camp with me?” Joxer offered.
“Oh, gee, I would love to hang out with the Joxateers. But, believe it or not I have more pressing business to attend to. Pay attention while I fill you in on the next step of the plan.
THE GREEK WARRIORS
Theodore held his head in his hands while he sat by the campfire. His head was no longer hurt form the blow suffered at the hand of the warrior in red at the inn the night before. He suffered a greater pain brought on by his recent defeat in battle against the Roman Legion. The Romans had proved themselves almost invincible against the combined forces of Athens, Troy and Sparta. In the three-day battle all Theodore’s commanders were left dead on the battlefield. Theodore was a sergeant in the Athenian cavalry. He would have fought on until death had his captain not ordered him to withdraw what troops he could, to fight another day.
He gathered some seventy Athenian and Trojan soldiers to fight their way out of the mayhem. If not for the courageous Spartans that covered their retreat, they would never have made it out alive. No Spartan took part in the retreat. All the Spartans died in battle. That is the Spartan way. Even with the aid of the Spartans, almost a third of Theodore’s charges were killed in the escape.
Now, Theodore contemplated the gloomy future. Theodore had a combination of thirty Athenian solders and cavalrymen, 14 Trojans cavalrymen. And in addition, he also had sixteen Spartan foot soldiers that were on their way to reinforce their fellows. Only by invoking a secret password and the name of the now dead Spartan Commander was he able to turn the Spartans from death. This may not have been the right decision Theodore reflected. The Spartans were eager for battle. Knowing of the deaths of their fellow Spartans, They proved to be a handful to control. What made matters worse; Theodore had been reduced to playing the part of a tavern bully. He was never like that before. “Why have the Gods abandoned Greece? Why have they abandoned Me.?” he said to the campfire.
“ The Gods will never abandon Greece. And I will never abandon her warriors.”
Theodore dropped to his knees, as did the rest of the camp, at the appearance of Ares. Ares walked among the ranks of the kneeing soldiers as he spoke.
“So, you lost a battle to the Romans and now you look to the Gods for relief. How many of you made offering to the Gods before you left your cities? How many of you made offerings to ME, before battle?”
Most of the men looked down. “There you have it.” Ares said in disgust.
“We Spartans made offering to you everyday in Sparta and twice a day on the way to join out fellows at the front.” A Spartan offered. Ares smiled at the solider that spoke. And that is why I have asked my Uncle Hades to allow the Spartan that fell in battle to enter the Elysian Fields. I can’t say the same for the rest of the Greeks that fell in battle.”
Theodore spoke up. “Ares, how can me make amends to you and turn back the Romans?”
Pulling Theodore to his feet and putting his arm around him, Ares said, ”Ah, there we have it.” Walking with Theodore he said,” Here is what you and your men are going to do…”
ON THE ROAD
Xena had pushed Agro, her faithful steed as long and as hard as she could. Carrying both Xena and Gabrielle had not been easy on the horse. The gleaming sweat on Agro showed Xena that the mare was at her breaking point. “Slowing Agro to a walk, Xena said, “Get down Gabrielle, we’ll walk from here.”
Gabrielle was more then glad to dismount. It seemed to her that they had been bouncing on Agro’s back for day, although it was really a little over three hours. Once, on the ground, she leaned on her fighting staff heavily because her legs had stiffened from the hours of riding. If Xena felt the same stiffing effects, it didn’t show.
“We’ve made good time Gabrielle. We should be at the Amazon War Council in plenty of time if we can keep the same pace as the last few days.” Xena said.
Gabrielle stopped walking. “ Keep the same pace?” Gabrielle exclaimed.
Xena stopped walking and turned to her blonde friend. “I know your tired, but Roman patrols have been reported near the last two towns we past through. If we don’t get into Amazon territory soon, we could be cut off.”
Gabrielle was about to speak when there was a thump sound. The next thing Gabrielle knew Xena knocked her to the ground and rolled with her into the brushes off the side of the road. While Gabrielle hugged the ground, Xena reached out from the brushes and pulled Gabrielle’s staff from the road.
“Just as I thought.” Xena said as she stood up.
Gabrielle looked up from the ground to see Xena pull an arrow from the fighting staff she had retrieved from the road. “Xena, get down. We are under attack.” Gabrielle said pulling on Xena’s leg.
“Relax Gabrielle. If whoever shot this arrow wanted us dead, we would be by now” Xena said, while untying a slip of parchment from the arrow’s shaft. She quickly read the message on the parchment and handed the note to Gabrielle as she stood up, looked about for signs of danger. Unrolling the message, Gabrielle read:
Greetings, Queen Gabrielle.
My Lord has sent me to
see you safely into
Amazon territory. Beware, A Roman
After reading the note, Gabrielle looked up to see Xena lying on the road. “Xena, What are you…”
“Quite Gabrielle” Xena hissed. Another five seconds went by, and then Xena got up and lead Gabrielle deeper into the woods. “I could feel the vibration on the road of cavalry coming this way.” From their hiding spot, they watched thirty Roman cavalrymen ride by. After they passed, Xena said, “Those are Imperial Guards. That means Caesar must have broken through the combined Greek defenses.”
“I guess this man Archer just saved our hides.” Gabrielle said.
“ Yes he did. But I wonder how he knew where we were and how he knew that we are going to Amazon territory.” Xena said more to herself then Gabrielle. “ I think I would like to meet this Archer.” “Come on, the sun will be going down and we should make camp deeper into the woods.
XENA AND GABRIELLE’S CAMPSITE
After Xena had brushed down and fed Agro, she went into the dark woods to hunt for their dinner. Gabrielle started a small campfire to brew tea for the warrior and herself.
A half-hour later: “I hope you have an extra cup for our guest.” Xena said from the dark.
Gabrielle stood up and looked in the direction Xena’s voice had come from. She could see Xena’s form next to her a much smaller one.
As they stepped into the firelight, Gabrielle saw a young girl standing beside Xena.
“Well hello, little one. What are you doing alone in these woods?”
“ Saving your butts mostly Blondie. And I have news for you sweetheart. You're not exactly a giant yourself, like this Amazon Queen here.” Archer said pointing her thumb at Xena.
Xena laughed, then said. “ I think proper introductions are in order. This young thing is Archer. Archer THIS is Gabrielle. She is the Amazon Queen also known as the Battling Bard or Sweetheart if you must. I'm her sidekick, Xena.”
Archer was dumbstruck. “ I’m so sorry my Queen…It’s just that she, er Xena is so big and I had always heard that the Amazon were big, and well…”
Now it was Gabrielle’s turn to laugh. “ Hey, don’t worry about it. People confuse Xena and me all the time.” Xena gave her a questioning look.
“I should be the last one to make assumptions based on appearances. I’m very sorry. Archer said shyly.
Gabrielle took the girls hands into her own and smiled.
“Come, come sit down next to me and tell us about this mysterious lord of yours you spoke of in your message and how he seems to knows so much about us.”
Squatting down, Xena added, “ We are very interested. Here, have some tea." Xena said, as she started to skin the rabbits she had killed shortly before Archer presented herself.
Accepting the cup of tea from Xena, Archer smiled and said, “ I’m not sure I know where to start.”
“Start with this warlord’s name.” Xena said in her usual direct way.
“ He’s not a warlord. I just address him as Lord out of respect. Most people refer to him as the Red Lord because of his cloths and armor. He is a very humble man and a great warrior. He kind’ a big, with muscles and very handsome.” Archer said, with a starry eyed look.
Gabrielle and Xena sneaked a look at each other. They knew a smitten girl when they saw one.
“He’s very brave too. When I first met him, he was attacked by a bunch of bullies in an inn. He fought them off and took me back to his camp with him because I had nowhere to go. He’s an expert swordsman and a master of the fighting staff.” Looking from Xena to Gabrielle, she added, “ He says Gabrielle is the best fighter with the staff. He knows Hercules and…"
“Wait, slow down” Gabrielle interrupted. “How does he know about me?”
As usual, Xena let Gabrielle to most of the talking. As she placed the rabbits over the fire, she followed the conversation.
“Everyone knows about the Warrior Princess and the Battling Brad, even me.” Archer said, looking back at Gabrielle and ready to resume telling the virtues of the Red Lord.
Now turning the subject over in her mind, Gabrielle said slowly, “ The way you said it, sounds as if he had first hand knowledge. As if he had seen for himself”. In my stories, I don’t mention my experiences fighting.”
Xena had reached the same conclusion. She quickly reviewed the list of friends and foes in her mind. She failed to reach a conclusion as to the identity of the Red Lord. More information was needed.
“Gabrielle, as a bard, you should know better then to interrupt the telling of a story.”
Gabrielle gave her a look that told Xena she understood her meaning. “ Yes, your right Xena. Please, go on Archer.”
The quick look between the two women was not lost on Archer. Joxer had told her that the two were quick witted. She mentally kicked herself for carrying on like a farm girl that was enamored with a young man that had just asked her to a dance. “Just say what you were sent here to say and leave the extra stuff out.” She told herself. Switching to a more formal tone she said, “My Lord begs you to weigh the information he sends on it’s own merit.”
Picking up on the change, Xena said, “ What’s the information?”
The Romans have broken through the combined Greek defenses. A major battle was lost. Many if not all the Field Commanders are dead. Their troops are retreating in disarray. My lord is gathering as many of the soldiers to his banner that he can, as we speak. He knows that Queen Gabrielle is in route to an Amazon War Council. He also knows that the Romans plan to march on the Amazon Nation. Once they have broken the Amazons, they plan to sweep across Greece. He hopes the Amazons can hold the Romans off until his army can join them on the field of battle.”
“It would appear that you’re mysterious lord is very well informed.” Gabrielle said. “ How do we know that his intentions are what you say?’
Archer smiled at that. “ My Lord told me that Xena would be thinking that and you would be the one to voice the question.” Archer replied.
“Who is this guy?” Xena wondered.
“Is your lord a Grecian general then, if he’s not a warlord? Gabrielle asked.
“Once again, Queen Gabrielle, I’m not at liberty to say. However, I can tell you that Porticos Magnum is his advisor of tactics. He said that would mean something to Xena”.
“The name doesn’t mean anything to me.” Gabrielle said, looking to Xena.
“ I know Porticos or I should say I know of him. Greek born, but raised as Roman, not a warrior himself but one of the best military minds the Roman Army has produced. In my warlord days, my army had suffered several defeats do to his strategies.
“He does not sound like a friend to me.” Gabrielle said, now eyeing Archer with suspicion.
“ He could be a friend.” Xena said, When Caesar came to power; he replaced Porticos Magnum because he was Greek born. Porticos has no fondness for Caesar.”
Gabrielle thought this new insight over and said, counting the facts off on her fingers. “We have a mysterious friend that doesn’t want us to know who he is. He has first hand knowledge of us but won’t say how. He knows our movements and the plans of the Romans, but won’t tell us how. He has an advisor that is some kind of military genius. He is going to lead an army to our aid but he’s not a general or a warlord. Have I got it right?”
Standing up Xena said, “ Sounds like you have a handle on it Gabrielle. I’m going to get some sleep. I suggest you two do the same, after you eat. I want to be in Amazon territory at sunup. Archer, you can report back to you lord after the council meeting. Those rabbits look like they are done. With that said Xena want of to look for her bedroll and check on Argo.
Gabrielle understood that Xena was trying to give them some time alone so that Archer might begin speaking more freely again. Placing some rabbit meat in a bowl and handing it to Archer she asked, “So how long have you been known as Archer?”
Accepting the meat, Archer said, “ You-Know-Who, gave me that name. My real name is Glenda. Until I met him, I was a balladeer by trade. Archer smiled at Gabrielle, knowing what she was trying to do.
“Okay, I get the point. I won’t try to pump you for more information about him.” Gabrielle laughed.
“Thanks”, Archer said with a mouth full of rabbit.
Gabrielle passed Archer a skin of water. “ I do have one observation though.”
After drinking some water, Archer asked, “ What’s that?”
“Don’t take it the wrong way, but I get the impression that you have feeling for this Red Lord”.
Archer was quite for a moment, then said, “It shows that much?”
Gabrielle smiled, “Maybe just a little. Do you want to talk about it?”
Archer thought it over. Then said, “ There’s not much to tell. And what there is, isn’t very good?”
“ So try me. Maybe, a little girl talk would help.” Gabrielle offered.
“ Well, I admit I have feelings for him but…”
“ Your not sure he feels the same way about you?” Gabrielle suggested.
“ He can see me as a sidekick, a friend, a warrior, a little sister, any way accept as a women.”
“He must be blind," Gabrielle said.
“Blind or not interested” Archer said as she dumped the scraps in her bowl in the fire. Archer unslung her bedroll from her back and spread it on the ground. Placing her bow, quiver and a long dagger within easy reach. She plopped down on the bedroll and turned on her side to look at Gabrielle.
Gabrielle had also made her sleeping arrangements on the other side of the campfire.
“Glenda, I think he must be crazy. I think you’re very attractive women. Any man would be happy to have a girl like you.”
Now it was Archer that laughed. “ Oh, Queen Gabrielle, How would you know what’s attractive about another woman?”
Before Gabrielle could respond, Xena returned to the campfire. “ If the girl talk is over, let’s get some sleep.” Xena said as she dropped her bedroll next to Gabrielle’s and stretched out on it.
Archer bid them good night and turned onto her back.
Later that night, Archer turned on her side and looked across the campfire at the two women asleep. “Gabrielle must have moved around in her sleep” Archer thought to herself. Because, Gabrielle was now on Xena’s bedroll. The warrior had her arm draped across Gabrielle’s shoulder.
Porticos watched Joxer pace from one end of the large tent’s interior to the other. Ares had told Joxer that he could expect his first troops to arrive at his camp today. According to Ares, these troops were a combination of infantry and cavalry from Troy, Athens and Sparta. He had also given the names of a man from each of the city-states that would make excellent field commanders.
“Joxer, you’re going to wear a rut into the ground, if you don’t stop that pacing.”
Joxer stopped and looked at his older companion. Sitting in his Roman chair, wearing his fine Roman robes, Porticos looked more like a Roman Senator then a soldier. His closely trimmed graybeard and baldhead added to his look of quite intellect. Porticos spoke with a deep, rich voice that commanded attention.
“I can’t help it Porticos. What if I screw something up? What if I fail to gain the respect of the troops? What if…”
“That’s a lot of what ifs you have my friend. Stop thinking like your old self and trust in your metamorphosed self.”
“Joxer put both his hands to his temples, “ I don’t even understand what you just said.”
Porticos laughed and put his hands on Joxer’s shoulders. “Joxer, you will be just fine. Your training will rise to any occasion. I will be at your side for planning. You need not worry.”
But Joxer was worried. Not only about the impression he would make on the Greek soldiers arriving soon but more about Glenda. What had he been thinking when he sent the young girl on a mission to contact Xena and Gabby? Sure, Porticos agreed that the contact was important. And Glenda was more then willing to take on her first mission. Still, Joxer could not help but worry about the girl. Lost in his own thoughts, Joxer had not noticed Porticos had moved to the flap of the tent.
“Riders approaching Joxer.” Porticos said. “Wait here, while I speak to them. Remember, we don’t want you to greet them until the foot soldiers arrive as well.”
“What should I do until then?”
“ Take a nap. Sharpen your blade. Anything, just wait here.” Porticos said as he exited the tent.
Theodore rode at the head of the two columns of cavalry. He could see the Red Lord’s small camp off in the distance, just where Ares said it would be.
He could see a man exit the larger of the two tents and stand in the shade of the tent’s canopy. As they road closer, he could see that the man was an older gentleman. That must be Porticos, the tactician, he thought. He had heard of him in the past. His battle tactics were studied in military schools across Greece as well as Rome. The God Ares also spoke highly of him.
“You must put complete trust in The Red Lord and Porticos, Theodore. Aided by your strong arm, Greece will repel Caesar and his army. Without them, Greece will be lost.” Ares had said.
The cavalry formed two lines near the tents. Theodore dismounted and walked up to Porticos. “Hail and well met, Theodore.” Porticos said, grasping Theodore’s right forearm.
“Greetings, Porticos. It is a pleasure to meet Rome’s greatest battle tactician.” Looking at Porticos, Theodore realized that Porticos was the drunk in the inn.
Releasing the warrior’s arm, Porticos said. “ Rome’s former tactician, my new friend. How far behind is the infantry? What size it their number?”
“ Our number has increased greatly on our march. We don’t have a complete count at the moment. The infantry should be here by sunset. The main body of cavalry should be here before mid-day.” Theodore’s eyes drifted to the tent flap.
Noticing this, Porticos said, “He will present himself in his own time Theodore. For now, hear his words.” Pointing to the treeline to his left Porticos said, “Beyond those trees you will find a Quartermaster’s tent. Send for Argus of Troy and his fellows to take command there. They will find everything they need to outfit our forces, from sleeping tents to armor.”
Theodore looked puzzled. “ Forgive me Portico, but I do not know this Trojan.”
The elder man smiled and said, “He joined your ranks two moons ago. He’s one of the number that have yet to be counter.”
Taiko's Scrolls of the Xenaverse