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By John Dorsey
Based on characters and situations created by Robert Tapert and Sam Raimi.
Copyright 1998 by John Dorsey
Xena: Warrior Princess is the sole property of Universal. No copyright infringement is intended through the writing of this fan fiction.
This is a story of a time long ago
A time of myth and legend
When the ancient gods were petty and cruel
And plagued mankind with suffering
Only one man was stupid enough to challenge their power
Joxer possessed idiocy the world had never seen
Idiocy surpassed only by the goodness of his heart
He journeyed the earth getting himself into trouble
And wherever there was stupidity
Wherever there was idiocy
There would be
Dear faithful reader...
This humble bard would like to tell you a tale of an ancient hero so grand, his exploits are still talked about by men today... A hero so powerful that his will was stronger than the metal of Hephesteus... A hero so courageous that he feared not even the thunderbolts of Zeus himself... And a hero so true that the entire world was his to command.
But, alas, I shall tell you a tale of someone else. I shall tell you the unbelievable (and I stress the word "unbelievable") saga of...
Joxer the Mighty.
The Birth Of A Hero
Xena and Gabrielle sat by the campfire. It was still daylight out, but the sun was setting. It had only been a few weeks since they had defeated Xenaís arch-nemesis Callisto, sending her off to prison. They were both happy to get a good rest. Unfortunately, for them, it would not last long.
The two heard someone rustling in the bushes. Standing up, they turned to the hill behind them.
"Xena," Gabrielle said, "Do you know who that is?"
Clank! Clank! Clank!
Xena sighed, "Iím afraid so..."
"Ladies!" came blasting from the underbrush. "Prepare yourselves! For the most powerful, dashing, daring hero to ever walk the earth... Joxer... The Mighty!"
Xena and Gabrielle watched as the most powerful, dashing, daring hero to ever walk the earth tripped and went flying down the hill, rolling until he hit the bottom.
The warrior princess and bard looked at each other.
Joxer pounced to his feet and assumed a heroic stance. "Do not be afraid! Fear Not! You will never have to fear again. For no one knows more about fear than mighty Joxer! Uh... something like that."
"Iím sure," Xena replied.
"No longer am I a ruthless warrior, but now a hero, a man who will stand and fight for right, fight for good. A man whose heroic deeds will soon overshadow those of Hercules himself!"
Youíre a hero now?" Gabrielle asked.
"Of course, Gabrielle," Joxer answered as he drew his sword. "I have seen the light. I have seen the errors of my ways, and I will now dedicate my life to eradicating evil."
"Joxer..." Xena began.
"Wait, Xena. I even have a soliloquy. Iíve come up with a phrase that I want to be recorded in every written account of my adventures. It is a soliloquy so grand it will make Joxer the greatest known hero throughout the ages. Two thousand years from now this soliloquy will still be spoken about mighty Joxer through the lips of all men. Gabrielle, write this down."
"Okay," Gabrielle answered, reluctantly picking up a scroll and quill.
Joxer began to speak, raising his sword in the air.
"In a time of ancient gods... warlords... and kings
A land in turmoil cried out for a hero
He... was Joxer
A mighty warrior
Forged in the heat of battle
His courage would change the world."
Joxer sheathed his sword. "Yes... This soliloquy will make mighty Joxer famous forever!"
Sounds good, Gabrielle thought as she wrote, with a few minor changes.
"Joxer," Xena said. "Maybe we need to have a talk."
"Donít worry, Xena," Joxer replied. "Iím sure Gabrielle can come up with a soliloquy for you."
"Thatís not what Iím talking about. Do you realize how dangerous it is to live the kind of life that Gabrielle and I live?"
"Of course. Danger is my middle name. Danger is what I thrive on. Danger is-"
"Danger is what youíre going to be in if you keep doing what youíre doing!" Xena interrupted. "Look, Joxer, I really respect you for having the guts to not kill Gabrielle when Callisto was standing right there in front of you. She could have easily killed you for disobeying her orders. And thatís my point. Youíre very lucky that she didnít execute you on the spot."
"Sheís right, Joxer," Gabrielle offered.
Joxer raised his hands. "Xena, I appreciate what youíre trying to say. It means a lot to me. It really does. But being a hero is the one and only thing on my mind."
"Thatís one thing more than usual," Gabrielle offered.
"I am going to be the greatest hero this world has ever seen. Nothing can sway me from my goal. Nothing can catch me off-guard. I would rather die today than run from evil."
Sounds of movement came once again from the bushes. In an instant, five men came running out of the foliage towards them. "Xena!" yelled one of them.
"Waaaauuuugh!" Joxer wailed as he dove to the ground for cover.
"Rather die than run, huh?" Xena said as she drew her chakram and Gabrielle grabbed her staff.
"Wait!" the man said, stopping. "Weíre not here to fight you. We want to ask you for help."
"Yes," the other men replied. "Please help us."
Xena lowered her chakram. Judging from their garments, they were just simple people, certainly not warriors.
"Whatís the matter?" Gabrielle asked.
"My name is Isaac. The people of the city of Kolon, ruled by Queen Peloren, have been threatened."
"Never fear, people of Kolon!" Joxer shouted as he sprang to his feet. "Joxer The Mighty is here! And he will protect you from the great menace that threatens your city!"
"Wait a minute-" Xena began.
"No time to waste! Off to Kolon!"
And with that, Joxer plunged into the underbrush running at full speed.
Isaac looked at Xena. "Who was that idiot?"
"Oh, just the idiot thatís going the wrong way."
And the group looked on as the mighty hero, soon to become a legend, went off to find his destiny.
Even though he was going the wrong way.
The Legend Begins
Three weeks later.
Joxer entered the gates of the city of Kolon. The marketplace was filled with buyers and traders, and he waded through the large crowd.
"Finally here. Too bad I didnít think to ask for directions first." He looked around, feeling desperately lost in the maze-like qualities of the city. "Where could Xena be?"
Elsewhere, in the upper room of a tavern, Xena and Gabrielle were planning strategy with their new allies.
"Do you think Joxer will ever get here, Xena?" Gabrielle asked.
"Hopefully not," Xena replied. "But, anyway, if weíre going to overthrow Queen Pelorenís evil tyranny, weíre going to have to train the people to fight."
Outside, Joxer walked up to the Queenís palace. "The best way for me to fight this evil that threatens the people of Kolon is to join Queen Pelorenís army." He spotted two guards in front of the palace gate. "Sir, I wish to join Queen Pelorenís army."
One guard looked at him quizzically, then opened the gate. Joxer walked through. Of course, he thought to himself, one look at me and they couldnít help but see the power and strength that one such as I commands.
The two guards frowned.
"Imbecile... but he might make a decent courier."
Several days later, Joxer was called to receive orders. The Queenís aide brought him forth. "I have a letter for you to deliver, courier." Joxer winced at the mention of his title. "The Queenís young adult son, Prince Zoliath, has been away from the castle, but he is returning at this moment. This letter must be delivered to him at once. It is most urgent."
Joxer took the letter. "You can count on me." He left the city and headed down the road, hoping to intercept Prince Zoliath as soon as possible.
Xena would be so proud, Joxer thought to himself. Here I am, righting wrongs and singing songs, being mighty all day long... Hey, I like the sound of that!
Several hours later, Joxer felt exhausted from his traveling. Then he heard a familiar voice coming from the woods.
The warrior turned to see Xena, Gabrielle, and a rather large group of common people in the brush.
"Xena!" Joxer smiled. "Good to see you!"
"Joxer, what are you doing?" Gabrielle asked.
"Iím on important business. Iím looking for Prince Zoliath."
"What a coincidence," Xena replied. "So are we."
"Really?" Joxer said, "Well, heís headed this way, so I guess I might as well wait with the rest of you. In fact, I think I could use a nap."
"Joxer," Gabrielle said. "Where have you been all this time?"
Joxer sat down by an oak tree. "Oh, just being my usual heroic self. Iíll tell you all about my mighty deeds later." Not long after, he drifted off to sleep.
Several hours later, Joxer awoke with a start. Looking around, he saw there was a huge battle going on. Xena, Gabrielle, and their friends were fighting with large phalanx of soldiers and winning. The enemy was falling left and right.
Joxer drew his sword. "And now, the time for battle has come! I shall not fail! I shall not falter! For I am Joxer the Magnifice-"
"Joxer!" Xena said, walking up to him. "The battleís over."
"Oh," Joxer said innocently, lowering his sword, "Well, if I had been involved, the battle wouldnít ended in half the time."
"And we wouldíve lost," Gabrielle replied.
"Anyway," Joxer continued, "Iím off now to find Prince Zoliath."
"Prince Zoliath?" Xena asked. "Heís over there."
Joxer walked around numerous corpses to find Prince Zoliath, bloody and barely clinging to life. Joxer took out his scroll. "My prince," he said, "I have a message for you." He opened up the scroll and looked at the message:
Dear Prince Zoliath,
A band of rebels are waiting to ambush you on your return home. You must take the secret, alternate route to the palace that no one else knows of. For only with your dark magical powers can we defeat the wretched masses that struggle to free themselves from our evil oppression. With you back at my side, we will soon conquer all of Greece.
And then, with one final gasp, Prince Zoliath died.
"Oops," Joxer said. Xena grabbed the note. Reading it, her eyes widened. She glared at Joxer for a moment. Then she turned to the soldiers who had gathered round.
"People of Kolon!" Xena shouted. "We owe our victory today to this man, Joxer, who by working on the inside was able to foil the attempt to warn Prince Zoliath of our attack! And now, her most dangerous ally is dead!"
The crowd cheered. "Joxer! Joxer! Joxer! He is a hero! He is our chosen one! Joxer! Joxer! Joxer!"
Xena frowned as she watched the soldiers all running to congratulate Joxer. He owes me big for this, she thought.
After the celebration was over, Joxer came to Xena. "So," he said, "what should I do now?"
"Just go back to Queen Poleren and follow any orders she gives you."
"Got it. Mighty Joxer will not fail you." And he headed off, clanking all the way.
Gabrielle walked up to Xena. "Donít you think you should have told him to sabotage the army or something?"
"No," Xena replied. "No need to. Not when we can be fairly certain heíll screw up any orders they give him. Tomorrow, weíre going to attack the city. Prepare all the men."
Upon returning to Kolon, Joxer was brought before the Queenís aide. "Was the message delivered?"
"Yes, it was..." Joxer answered, looking away. "To be safe, Prince Zoliath decided to lay low forever, er, for awhile."
"Perhaps it is for the best," he replied. "But we must crush these rebels as soon as possible."
The next day, a battle for the city began. The fighting was fierce, but Queen Peloren smiled as she watched the fray from the large window of her throne room. She had hoped her brother would have arrived by now, but no matter. She would take care of the accursed rebels herself.
"Iíve been prepared for this moment." She looked at her aide. "Order the reinforcements to outflank the rebels. Weíll catch them completely by surprise. And then victory will be mine."
The flanking movement was initiated. The rebels were soon in trouble, and the tide of the battle turned. Gabrielle turned to Xena, who had her hands full fighting soldiers.
"Xena!" Gabrielle yelled, "Weíve been outflanked! Weíre losing!"
"We havenít lost yet, Gabrielle," Xena answered as she cut down several soldiers with a throw of her chakram. "Not as long as Joxerís on their side."
Joxer watched the carnage from afar, since he was still in the lowly position of courier. There wasnít much to do except examine the two message horns he had been given. Each one was for sending a different signal to the Queenís forces.
The commander yelled to Joxer was far off. "Our forces our routing the rebels, idiot! Blow the horn that tells the men to repeat!"
Joxer could barely hear him over the fray. "That tells the men to what?!"
"Oh," Joxer said to himself, "Blow the horn that tells the men to retreat." Joxer blew the retreat horn several times as loud as he could.
The Queenís forces suddenly stopped, bewildered. But they were trained to follow orders, so they started to withdraw.
"What is happening?!" Queen Peloren screamed. "We were winning! What idiot told the men to retreat?!"
"Xena, whatís going on?" Gabrielle asked. "The Queenís forces are retreating. Why?"
"I donít think itís Ďwhyí," Xena answered. "I think itís Ďwhoí."
They both looked at each other. "Joxer," they said simultaneously.
"Quickly!" Xena shouted to all the men. "Press the attack! We can achieve victory!"
The rebels all charged forward and began to route Queen Pelorenís disorganized forces. Joxer watched Xena and Gabrielle running towards him. He smiled at them and gave a little wave.
"Come on, idiot," Xena said as she ran by.
"The nameís Joxer!" And he quickly trotted after them.
Xena and Gabrielle led the fight into the palace itself. Taking care of the few guards left, they headed for the throne room.
"All thatís left now is Queen Peloren herself," said Xena.
The warrior princess smashed open the door to the throne room and she and Gabrielle entered, ready for battle. The throne room was lavishly decorated, adorned everywhere with gold, jewels, diamonds, and expensive tapestries. It was the kind of home that one would expect from a ruler who had been robbing her people blind. Queen Peloren was sitting on her throne.
"Welcome, Xena. I must admit I have gained a certain amount of respect for you. Preventing my brother from reaching me, tricking my forces into retreating... That could only have been accomplished by a true genius."
"Or a true idiot," Xena said under her breath.
Queen Peloren stood up. "My forces are routed. My kingdom is lost. My brother and I could have enslaved all of Greece had it not been for you."
"Well, I have to admit I had a little help..."
"No matter," she replied. "My reign may be over, but at least I will be able to have some satisfaction from your painful deaths."
She raised her hands. Magical rings suddenly appeared around Xena and Gabrielle, keeping them from moving.
"Xena, weíre trapped!" Gabrielle said in anguish.
"Son of a Bacchae!" Xena seethed. "I really hate magic." She struggled to break free but could not.
"And now, Xena," Queen Peloren smiled, "before you die you shall witness the destruction of all of Kolon." She reached walked over towards the doorway and pushed up a lever on the wall. Then she walked back towards a large window overlooking the city and the countryside beyond.
"Observe," she said, "With the push of that lever, the door to that large building is raising itself. My fiery dragon, Lucy, is inside. In moments, she will emerge and burn Kolon to cinders. If I canít rule this city, then no one will!"
"Well, Iíd say weíve just about hit rock bottom," Xena sulked.
Then a powerful sounding voice came from the doorway.
"Halt, evil one!"
They all turned to see Joxer standing in a heroic pose.
Xena sighed. "Oh, no... a lower point."
Queen Peloren stared at the most pathetic looking warrior she had ever seen in her life. "Who are you?"
"I am Joxer the Mighty," he answered. "And I am here to save my friends. And to stop you."
Queen Peloren looked at Xena and Gabrielle. "Heís your friend?"
Gabrielle shrugged, "Letís say... Ďacquaintanceí."
"Just what kind of idiot are you?" Queen Peloren asked.
"The kind of idiot that men fear. The kind that will put an end to your evil ways forever. The kind that-"
"The kind that bores his enemies into surrendering," Xena finished. "Joxer, thereís a dragon thatís coming to destroy the entire city, so if youíre going to do something, DO IT NOW!" She could see the red dragonís head slowly beginning to emerge from the opened entrance, trails of fire spewing out of her snout.
Joxer unsheathed his sword. "Take your best shot, your highness."
"My pleasure," Queen Peloren answered. She raised her hand, and an invisible force sent Joxer flying backwards into the wall. His sword went flying off to the side.
Queen Peloren looked at the two women. "So much for your hero."
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other. "Our hero?"
"Face it," the Queen taunted, "this fool is nothing without your help."
Joxer was struggling to get up. "Mighty Joxer will show you he is beyond help!" He managed to grasp the lever that the Queen had pushed and used it to start pulling himself upright.
"No!" she shouted. "Donít touch that!"
As Joxer got to his feet, he accidentally pulled the lever all the way back down. The door of the dragonís chamber suddenly came crashing downwards, and the dragon had only gotten her head out. The door crushed her neck, and the dragon collapsed, roaring in agony as she breathed her last.
"No!" Queen Peloren cried, crumbling to her knees. "No! Lucy! My baby! Nooooooooooooo!"
The magical rings around Xena and Gabrielle suddenly vanished, and they charged at the queen, grabbing her and quickly tying her up. Xena was shaking her head.
"He did it. I canít believe he did it."
Joxer stood there bewildered. "What did I do?"
Other rebel soldiers ran into the room. "What happened?" asked the lieutenant. Looking at Queen Poleren, he said, "Xena, you did it. You defeated the Queen and killed her dragon! Youíre a hero!"
"Well... actually..." Xena winced. "It wasnít me. It was Joxer who did everything."
He turned to Joxer. "Joxer, so youíre the hero!"
The men gathered around Joxer and started to cheer.
"Joxer! Joxer! Joxer! He is our hero! He is the chosen one! We will sing his praises forever! We will spread word of his greatness until he is the most famous warrior in all of Greece! Joxer! Joxer! Joxer!"
The celebration continued for three days, with Joxer receiving all the glory. On the third day, a rich-looking man approached Joxer.
"Excuse me, can I have a moment of your time, Mr. Hero?"
Joxer shook his hand. "Joxer the Mighty at your service."
"Itís a pleasure to meet you, Joxer," the man answered. "I was just passing though Kolon and I heard of the incredibly heroic deeds that you did. Defeating the evil queen, rescuing Xena and Gabrielle, saving the entire kingdom from destruction. Itís hard to believe. In fact, itís even harder now that Iíve gotten a look at you... but no matter. Iím here to offer you a possible six-figure contract. With your fame, the marketing possibilities are endless. Iím talking big dinars. Joxer action figures, Joxer armor, Joxer hats, Joxer beer, Joxer board games, Joxer the Musical! Iím thinking endorsements! Franchises! Thereís no limits here. Iím telling you with my help it wonít be long before youíre more famous than Hercules."
"Sounds good to me," Joxer answered.
"By the way," the man smiled, "my name is Salmoneus."
Gabrielle found Xena off by herself during the final celebration. The warrior princess was sitting at the table on the outside patio of a bar, sharpening her sword.
"Xena," she said. "How are you?"
"Fine," Xena answered, not looking at her.
"What are you doing?"
"Oh, just planning a murder."
Gabrielle smiled. "And just whose murder might that be?"
"Everyoneís favorite hero."
Gabrielle folded her arms. "Joxer did give us some credit, though."
Xena stopped sharpening the sword and turned to her. "Oh, yes. During his big speech when he thanked all the Ďlittle peopleí, I believe he did mention our names."
Gabrielle walked over to her and sat down. "You know, I get the impression that this isnít so much to do with Joxer as it is to do with you. You feel bad because you needed Joxerís help to win."
"Gabrielle," Xena sighed. "It just bothers me that, without Joxer there, we wouldíve been killed. You wouldíve been killed. I like being independent, not having to rely on anyone but myself. But to have had to rely on Joxer..."
"If Joxer hadnít been there, we wouldíve found some other way to beat Queen Peloren. But Joxer was there, and he did save our lives. We owe him... unfortunately. And I think he deserves to enjoy the spotlight. He is a good person... deep down, anyway."
"Youíre right, Gabrielle," Xena replied. "Why are you always right, anyway?"
"Well, someone needs to keep you on the straight and narrow."
"Yeah," Xena answered. They hugged each other gently.
Xena and Gabrielle came apart from their embrace to see Joxer standing there holding his helmet. He had a modest look on his face, which was a first.
"Hi, Xena. You know, I never had a chance to tell you this, but... I wanted to thank you... for having faith in me... for having faith in me to screw things up for the enemy."
"I have to admit," Xena replied, "no one screws things up better than you, Joxer."
"That means a lot to me, Xena. Really... it does."
"Joxer, come here," Xena said. Joxer walked over to both of them. "Look, I know I had said that you didnít have what it takes to be a warrior, and, even though I still have my doubts, I canít deny that you saved our lives from Queen Peloren. And for that I want to thank you."
"Me, too," Gabrielle said, resting a hand on his shoulder. "Thank you, Joxer."
Xena smiled. "And, most of all, I want to say that Gabrielle and I are proud to have you as our friend."
She reached out her hand. Gabrielle placed her hand on it, and then Joxer placed his on top. Grasping them tightly together, no one could deny the bond that was forming between the three of them.
Xena smirked. "Just donít tell too many people..."
"Xena," Joxer began, "if you ever need a hero like me, Iíll be there."
Xena raised her eyebrows. "If we ever again become that desperate, weíll let you know."
"Well," Joxer said, the usual cockiness returning to his voice. "The celebration is just about over. Itís time to move on. Time to find new adventures, new challenges. I could use two handy sidekicks. What do you say?"
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other.
Suddenly, a man appeared. "Joxer! I am from the town of Nadaron. My people have been threatened. We need your help!"
"Maybe we should all go..." Xena began.
"Donít worry, Xena," Joxer interrupted. "This is a job for Joxer the Mighty! Nothing will stand in my way! Nothing will turn me from my quest! Off to Nadaron!"
Joxer ran at full speed down the street. Xena, Gabrielle, and the messenger stared after him.
"Heís going the wrong way again," Xena frowned.
And so Joxer, the mightiest hero in all of Greece, headed off for another adventure, even though he was once again heading the wrong way. He eventually did find his way to Nadaron, but... that is a story for another time.
The Legend Continues
Four weeks later.
Joxer entered the city of Nadaron. "I really need to remember to ask for directions." He walked around the busy marketplace, hoping to spot Xena or Gabrielle. "This place looks familiar. Funny, it didnít look familiar the first time I was here..."
Two soldiers were standing nearby. "There!" Joxer said. "Last time I mistakenly joined the ranks of the enemy, but not this time!" He walked up to the guards "Here me! Evildoers! You will not stop me from freeing the city of Nadaron from your evil oppression!"
"Who is this idiot?" the first guard asked.
"For I am Joxer! Joxer the Mighty! Joxer the Magnifice-"
It was Xena, making her way through the crowd. "What are you doing?"
"Xena!" Joxer smiled. "My faithful sidekick. Would you like to aid me in vanquishing these oppressors of man?"
"Theyíre not the enemy, Joxer. There is an army of marauders threatening the city from the outside."
"Oops," Joxer said, "Well, in that case..."
"Come on," Xena said, grabbing his ear and dragging him away.
Inside the kingís palace, Xena was assembling a meeting. Joxer found Gabrielle finishing up a scroll. "I was just writing an account of how you saved the city of Kolon, Joxer," Gabrielle said.
"Iíll have to read it sometime," Joxer answered. "Itíll be great to read of my heroism, my valor, my strength, my courage..."
Gabrielle began to read to herself the beginning of her story: "Heroes are made up of the strongest, bravest, and the smartest of men. There are, however, the occasional exceptions..."
The King, his general, and all the commanding officers had been assembled for the meeting. The room was packed with people, and they all obviously had a deep respect for Xena.
"All right, everyone," Xena began. "The Taurian marauders took a detour, which bought us some time, but now theyíre headed for Nadaron. Iím going to take the army with me and meet them before they get here. That way weíll have at least a few chances to stop them before weíre forced into making a last stand here in the city. We leave immediately."
Over the next few days, Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer and the Nadaron army traveled to find the Taurians. When they finally found them, they were all truly awestruck.
The Taurians were inside a massive moving fortress, with a central tower rising just above the walls, pulled along by six enormous elephants, each ten times larger than normal.
"Those elephants must be supernatural to be able to pull something that huge," Gabrielle said.
"Ares is probably helping them," Xena said. "Weíve got to attack and see just how strong that fortress really is."
Minutes later, the battle began. The fortress appeared to be impenetrable. The elephants could not be harmed. The Taurians were firing a shower of arrows at the Nadarons from the safety of their castle walls.
"Everyone, retreat," Xena said, "Retreat!"
Joxer smiled, "Ha! Joxer never retreats!" Then he turned and started to run. "He runs away, but he never retreats."
Back at the camp, a meeting was called. Xena started to speak. "We have got to find a way to get on the inside."
Joxer stepped forward. "Never fear. Mighty Joxer has an idea."
"Uh-oh," Xena sighed.
Joxer spoke. The general and all the soldiers loved the idea. Everyone except Xena.
"Good work, Joxer," said the Nadaron general. "Weíll get to work on this right away."
"I donít know," Xena said to Gabrielle after the meeting ended. "If itís Joxerís idea, itís bound to go wrong somehow."
The Nadarons soon finished building the massive object. It was placed in front of the Tauriansí path. The massive fortress came to a halt, and the front gate opened. The Taurians came out and pulled the large wooden horse inside their fortress.
"See, Xena," Joxer said from high atop a hill where they could see the horse inside. "I told you it would work."
Inside the fortress, the Taurian general looked at the large horse. "What kind of idiot would try that trick again? As if everyone hasnít heard of the fall of Troy..."
"Ha!" Joxer laughed. "Those idiots. They have no idea there are men hiding inside."
Suddenly, the wooden horse exploded among a barrage of firebombs.
Joxer winced. "Then again..."
Xena walked by him. "Come on, idiot."
"The nameís Joxer!"
Another meeting was held. "Weíre running out of time," the general declared. "In a few days, that fortress will reach Nadaron and destroy it unless we do something. Weíre going to attack again at nightfall."
Joxer walked off. Iíve got to help them. I know! Iíll use the catapult to shoot myself over the castle wall into the fortress. Then Iíll open the front gate and let everyone in. Then theyíll have no choice but to respect me as a true warrior!
Back at the meeting, Xena stepped forward. "Fine, weíll attack tonight, but we need to try a different approach. Letís attack from the rear."
When darkness fell, Joxer jumped onto a catapult once he made sure no one was looking. "Here goes nothing." He cut the rope and went flying over the castle wall, landing in a stack of hay. He couldnít move at first, still in a state of shock. Then he heard sounds of a battle. "Xena is attacking! Great!" He looked at the Taurians scrambling. "What idiots those Taurians are! Theyíve all run to the back gate! Theyíve left front gate completely unguarded!"
Joxer ran over to the front wall and pulled a lever. The front gate quickly lowered itself. He ran out over it. "Xena! The front gateís open! Attack! Attack!" Then he realized there was no battle around him at all. "Hello?! Anybody here?! Gee, that must have been a real short battle." He turned around to see a squad of Taurians standing right behind him. "Oops. Hey, fellas. Iím Joxer The Mighty. Nice to meet you. Iím gonna go now, okay? Bye." The Taurians grabbed him and pulled him inside. Then the front gate was raised.
Meanwhile, the Nadaron army had attacked the rear of the fortress unsuccessfully and was now in full retreat. Xena and Gabrielle were running for cover with the other soldiers.
"Xena," Gabrielle said, "A scout just reported that Joxer somehow got inside and opened the front gate."
"The front gate?!" Xena exploded as she ran and dodged arrows simultaneously. "What about the back gate? He shouldíve opened the back gate!"
The Taurian commander met with his first lieutenant.
"Commander, the prisonerís name is Joxer."
"His name is as stupid as he looks."
"We might be able to use his idiocy to our advantage, sir." He gave the commander his idea.
"Yes, it just might work..."
The front gate was lowered and Joxer was brought before it. The general walked up to him. "Joxer, you must never leave this place. Our west side is totally defenseless."
"Yes, totally, defenseless," answered another soldier.
"If we were attacked on the west side," the general continued, "we wouldnít stand a chance."
"We would be defeated once and for all if they attacked us on the west."
"We would be crushed if they attacked us on the west."
Joxer frowned. If only these Taurians would tell me something of value... Then his eyebrows raised. Wait a minute! He then noticed that the soldiers were all facing the other direction and were whistling to themselves. Joxer slowly tiptoed away and then ran at full speed back to the Nadaron camp.
Gabrielle paced back and forth at the camp. She was worried. "Where is he, Xena?"
Xena tried to console her. "I donít know, Gabrielle. But Joxer somehow always finds a way to take care of himself."
They turned to see Joxer approaching at full speed.
"Joxer!" Gabrielle answered.
"Joxer," Xena said, "Iím glad youíre all right. What happened?"
"The Taurians took me prisoner. But I escaped. And I learned some highly valuable information. The uh, the... the... the east side... Yes, thatís it. The east side of the fortress is completely vulnerable. If we were launch an attack on it, they wouldnít stand a chance."
Xena walked by him. "In that case, weíre attacking the west side!"
"But, Xena..." Gabrielle began.
"If thereís one thing we can be sure of, itís that Joxerís always wrong!"
* * *
Taurian archers suddenly sprang up out of nowhere, and the approaching soldiers were caught in a blitz of arrows.
"Itís a trap!"
"Arrrrrgh!" Xena put her hands on her head in frustration as she led the troops into retreat. "I canít even trust Joxer to be wrong right!"
Back at the camp, Xena came up to Joxer. "I have a special mission for you. Itís something that only one with your unique abilities is qualified for. This is the most important mission youíll ever have in your life. Weíre really counting on you, for this is our most desperate hour."
"You can count on me, Xena."
A half hour later, Joxer found himself heading down a road towards the nearest. "My mission is to replenish food for the soon-to-be-starving generalís cat. Obviously, Iím the only one qualified for a mission of this importance."
He saw a man pushing a small cart in his direction. "Sir!", he smiled, "Iím looking for cat food. Do you know how far it is to town?"
"Well, youíve still got a long way to go," he answered, "but if itís cat food youíre looking for, Iíve got a whole cart of mice here Iím looking to get rid of it. Itís yours for free if you want."
"Iíll give you 10 dinars for it... no less!"
"You drive a hard bargain." He took the money from Joxer.
"Yes!" Joxer proclaimed as he started pushing the cart back towards the camp. "Iíve accomplished my mission in less than half the time it normally would have taken. Xena will be proud!"
Back at the Nadaron camp, Xena was eyeing the approaching fortress. "That mission should keep Joxer away long enough so we can attack without him around to screw everything up. This may be our last chance to stop the Taurians. Get ready to attack. On the count of three. One... two... th-"
They all turned to see Joxer approaching with a cart. "I have accomplished my mission!"
"Oh, no," Xena gasped. "Not him!"
Joxer smiled as he was running full speed pushing the cart. "I have the food for the- Ooof!" He tripped and fell, but the cart kept speeding forward. It was heading straight towards the Nadarons.
"Look out!" Xena yelled. Everyone moved to the side and the cart smashed into a tree, breaking apart. Tons of mice came scurrying out down the hill across the grassy plain.
"Oops..." Joxer said. He noticed Xena glaring at him.
She and Gabrielle watched the mice run across the ground. They headed straight for the elephants pulling the fortress. The elephants let out a howl and started to run forward.
"The elephants," Xena said, "theyíre scared of mice!"
The elephants began to stampede. The fortress, not built to be moving at such a fast speed, began to shake and crack. The massive tower in its center fell forward and smashed through the garrison and the front gate. The entire fortress came to a crashing halt as the other walls crumbled apart, burying the entire Taurian army.
"The Taurians are defeated!" yelled one soldier.
"He did it again," Xena sighed, shaking her head. "I canít believe it. He did it again."
"What did I do?" Joxer asked.
The Nadaron soldiers gathered around Joxer and held him up on their shoulders.
"Joxer! Joxer! Joxer! He is our hero! He is our champion! He saved our city! We will sing his praises forever! We will spread his fame until he is known through all of Greece! Joxer! Joxer! Joxer!"
There was a huge celebration at Nadaron that night, and Joxer once again received the majority of the spotlight. Xena and Gabrielle, sitting at a table, watched Joxer give his big speech, then trip and fall off the stage. The people roared with approval.
"I donít know how he does it," Xena said, shaking her head for what seemed the millionth time.
"Me, neither," Gabrielle answered.
Joxer quickly jumped back onto his feet and assumed a heroic stance. He waded through the crowd, making his way over to Xena and Gabrielle.
"Xena," Joxer said.
"Congratulations, Joxer," Xena said. "I have to admit... Youíve once again managed to accomplish the impossible."
"Well, you have to admit," Joxer replied, "no one is more impossible than I."
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other.
"We agree," they answered together.
Joxer continued to walk through the crowd, accepting thanks from everyone.
"Joxer!" came from nearby.
Joxer saw a man running frantically towards him. "Whatís wrong?"
"My town, Gaea, is in trouble. Weíre being threatened by a-"
"Never fear, people of Gaea!" Joxer shouted, assuming another heroic pose. "Joxer the Mighty will save you!" And then the mighty warrior took off again.
Xena stood up and watched Joxer leaving the city. "Where is he going?"
"He said he was headed for Gaea," answered a soldier.
Xena sighed. "Heís going the wrong way again."
And so, the mighty warrior headed off once again in search of his destiny. Unfortunately, he never did find Gaea, but, well, Hercules was able to help them.
Savior of Freedom
Joxer walked up to the seaport feeling very confident. "Ah, yes, the sea! I have proven my dominance over the land, now it is time to take mighty Joxerís legend across oceans!" He walked up to a large ship docked in the bay.
A guard looked at him. "Hold, idiot!"
"Hey, roadblock," Joxer snapped. "I am not your normal everyday idiot. I am the idiot known as Joxer the Mighty!"
The guard froze. "Joxer... the Mighty? The one who saved the entire city of Kolon? The one who single-handedly defeated the massive moving fortress of the Taurians?"
"The one and only."
The guard got on his knees. "I apologize, sir. Please donít kill me. Iíll go get the captain right away."
He ran off. Moments later, the captain and the guard walked down the plank. "Joxer! Iím Captain Menga," he smiled, shaking the warriorís hand. "Excuse me a moment..." He whispered to the guard. "Are you sure this is the Joxer? He looks like an idiot."
"Thatís what they all say about him, captain," the guard answered. "But it must be a disguise, a trick to lure his opponents into letting down their guard."
"If it be a guise, he wears it well. But no matter. We can use a mighty warrior like him on our travels."
Captain Menga turned back to Joxer. "Mighty Joxer, I would be honored to have you with us on our journey. We are on a mission involving the relocation of human resources."
"Sounds like a job for a true hero," Joxer answered. "I shall honor you all with my presence."
"Thank you, Joxer," Captain Menga answered. "Come aboard."
The ship soon set sail, and Joxer soon discovered what it was like to be seasick. It was not until many weeks later that they finally approached the shores of North Africa.
One of the men was talking to Captain Menga. "This Joxer... Iím telling you he is an idiot!"
Captain Menga smiled. "And Iím telling you it is all an act."
"He is very convincing."
"Land Ho!" came from high above. Then Joxer came sliding down the pole a little too fast and crashed hard onto the deck. "Uhhhhhhhhh!"
"He is very convincing," the man repeated.
Joxer stood up. "Land ho, captain!"
"Yes, Joxer, we know that. We first saw land yesterday."
"Oh... well... just thought Iíd remind you."
"Thank you, Joxer. For now I suggest you prepare your sword. Soon we will begin with the relocation of human resources." Captain Menga walked off.
"Relocation of human resources," Joxer smiled. "Xena and Gabrielle would be so proud."
The ship soon docked near the beach, and the soldiers took several small rowboats to get to shore. After searching for a day, a scout reported back to the Captain. "Sir, we have discovered the enemy."
"Good," Captain Menga smiled. "Now we shall carry out our mission."
Joxer went with soldiers as they snuck up on a small village composed of African inhabitants. "Mighty Joxer shall lead the attack! Yaaaaaaaaaah!" And he ran yelling down the hill towards the village. The villagers saw and immediately ran off before Joxer could reach any of them.
"Joxer!" Captain Menga yelled as his men caught up with the warrior. "What are you doing?!"
"The village is secured, captain."
"We donít want the village, fool! We want the inhabitants! Follow them, my men! We better find them. If we donít, Joxer, then youíre in trouble!"
They all walked off. "Perhaps Joxer really is an idiot!" Captain Menga sighed.
Not long after, the soldiers found the fleeing villagers at a much larger village. "Fantastic!" Captain Menga smiled. He looked at Joxer. "Joxer, you are brilliant! Allowing the small village to escape and lead us to a much larger one is sheer brilliance! You have my deepest apologies. You play such a convincing idiot, you had even me fooled!"
"Thank you," Joxer replied. "I think..."
"Attack!" Captain Menga shouted. Everyone except Joxer ran off and attacked the village. "Relocation of human resources," Joxer pondered. "Am I missing something here?"
The village was quickly taken by the superior numbers of the attacking force. Its inhabitants were put into chains.
"Three cheers for Joxer!" Menga declared. The men gave Joxer several large ovations and cheers.
That night, Joxer was walking by one of the slaves. "My name is Karaba. I hope youíre happy," the slave snarled. "Look what you have done to my people. We are all slaves now."
"Slavery?" Joxer was in shock. "No, this isnít slavery. This is the relocation of human resources."
"Idiot!" Karaba answered. "Theyíve played you for a fool. Thanks to you, I will never see my family again. My freedom is lost. And the guilt all falls on you!"
Joxer gulped, the guilt starting to set in. "Wait a minute. I donít believe in slavery. Killing people, maybe... (although I never have) but not slavery."
"Then prove it," Karaba answered. "Free me and my people so we can escape."
"Iíll do it," Joxer answered. There was no one around due to a huge celebration the slavers were having. Joxer found a key and let the entire population free.
When Captain Menga and the slavers returned, there was no one around. "What happened?" Menga raged. "Where are my slaves? Joxer!" He grabbed Joxer. "You fool! Why did you let them escape?"
"L-look," Joxer started, trying to think up of a good lie. "Itís all part of my plan..."
They all grabbed their swords. "If we donít find those slaves, Iíll have your head on a platter!" Two days, later, they caught up with all the escaped slaves at a much larger village. "Attack!" Captain Menga shouted. The entire village was soon taken, and the slavers had more than twice the number of slaves that they had before.
"Joxer," Menga smiled. "You are amazing. Your plan was brilliant! Letting the villagers escape so they could lead us to a larger village! We all applaud you!" The men gave out several large cheers to a very uncomfortable Joxer.
"You used us," Karaba said to Joxer later than night. "You used us as pawns. You betrayed us. Now we will be beaten, whipped, perhaps even killed!"
"Look," Joxer said, looking around. "Thereís no one around now. Iíll let you all go again, okay?"
"Please help us," Karaba answered. Joxer let everyone loose again. Captain Menga and his men secretly watched from the shadows. "The man is brilliant!" Menga declared. "His tactical genius must be even greater than that of Xena herself. Allowing the slaves to escape again so they can lead us to even more is the easiest way to find slaves Iíve ever seen."
The next day, the slavers found the escaped slaves at an even larger village. Soon, they conquered the village and had once again more than doubled the number of slaves they had before.
"Three cheers again for Joxer!" Menga declared.
"I truly hate you," Karaba said to Joxer that evening. "I hate you! Hate you! You are a bastard! You are a devil! You are evil..."
"Hey, Iíll let you go again, okay?" Joxer said as he unlocked his chains. Captain Menga was again watching from the shadows. Eventually, all the slaves were free and ran off.
"Follow them!" Captain Menga shouted. "I have a feeling they will lead us to the largest village of all!"
The escaped slaves were carefully tracked by Menga and his men. The group of a thousand slavers turned around a corner to find the largest village any of them had ever seen.
"Again, Joxer, I applaud you," Captain Menga smiled.
Suddenly, ten thousand villagers appeared with bows and arrows. The slavers were trapped and hopelessly outnumbered.
"W-well, sir," Joxer said, "This is definitely the largest village yet."
"Joxer, you really are an idiot!" Captain Menga began to strangle him.
Karaba ran over and clobbered Menga, knocking him over. "Take these men captive. We will send them off to prison. But this man, Joxer, he is the one who saved us! We owe this man our lives!"
The natives all began to cheer and celebrate.
"Joxer! Joxer! Joxer! He is our hero! He is the chosen one! We will forever sing praises of his mighty deeds! Joxer! Joxer! Joxer!"
"Thank you, my friends," Joxer said. "I am always happy to save peopleís lives... although Iím still not sure how I manage to do it. But, believe me... As long as there are heroes, Iíll be there. As long as there is evil, Iíll be there. And as long as there are idiots, Iíll be there."
The natives cheered with approval.
Karaba walked over to him.
"Joxer," he began, "for the heroic deeds you have done for me and my people, we would like to present you with a gift."
Karaba pulled out a necklace with a small medallion attached and placed it over Joxerís head. "This medallion will protect you. It has the power to keep you from harm. It can even, for one time only, be directly used to save your life. And, from the looks of you, youíre probably going to need it. But we all want you to know that you will forever be in our hearts, our souls, and our minds. For we will never forget... Joxer... the Mighty."
The natives again roared with approval.
Joxer smiled. "Thank you, Karaba. That means a lot to me. Iíve recently experienced things that I never have before. The sweet smell of ocean water... the brisk winds of sailing.... seasickness... and itís all been grand. But I want you to know that if you are ever again in trouble, if you are ever again threatened by evil, if you are ever in need of a hero... Joxer the Mighty shall return!" He raised his sword into the air and the natives exploded again with cheers.
"And now... itís time to head back to Greece. Iím off!" And Joxer ran down the road at full speed on his way to new adventures. Karaba stared after him.
"Hmmm... ocean is in opposite direction."
Joxer the Mighty did indeed get lost again, but would find his way to the ocean (eventually) and then find a port (eventually) and then find a boat to take him back to Greece (eventually) and get seasick on the way (eventually), but that is a story for another time.
A New Evil
It is known as the Waste Lands.
The land was dark. The ground was barren. No vegetation existed anywhere, for the sun never shined here. Located at the far outskirts of Greece, the Waste Lands were rarely traveled. There was little to see, and many who ventured across them did not return. It was said that you could smell its evil in the air.
In the center of the Waste Lands lay a castle, if one could call it that. It looked more like a massive dead tree branch. This was the lair of the Lord of the Wastelands.
Deep inside this dark lair was a throne room. Sitting on a throne of bone was a lone figure. He was adorned in a blue outfit with a hood and cape over his head. His face showing out of the hood was completely black except for two glowing eyes whose icy stare made all feel cold who were unfortunate to be glanced upon.
He had no soldiers, for he did not need them. He carried no sword, for he did not need one, either. His magic was more powerful than any weapon forged by man. This creature was not human, yet not god either. His origin was a mystery. Few knew of him, but he was planning to change all that... very soon.
Mesmeron stood up from his throne, his dark confidence flowing off the blue cape that adorned him. His voice was not loud, yet it was so deep and powerful that it had a thunderous effect.
"Come to me, Thundermare."
A horse came slowly walked out of an entranceway. This was no ordinary horse. This was Thundermare. Flames danced across his entire form, for this was a horse forged completely of fire. Its body was a flaming red that shined evil everywhere it went.
Thundermare stopped at Mesmeron, who stroked the horsesí fiery head without showing any hint of pain.
"I have waited long enough," Mesmeron said. "The time for action is now."
Thundermare let out a loud snort in a language only Mesmeron could understand.
"Perhaps," Mesmeron answered. "But the Warrior Princess is nowhere near him. She will not be able to interfere."
Mesmeron climbed onto the saddle on Thundermareís back. "No, she will not be able to stop me."
He grabbed the reins. "We leave now. The Son of Zeus shall fall into my hands, and, once that happens, the entire world will soon follow.
"So swears Mesmeron."
Thundermare took off down the corridor, eventually reaching the outside of the massive lair. Then the fiery horse began to gallop faster and faster. Soon it was speeding across the stretches of the Waste Lands, the only light that could be seen among its unholy darkness.
Hercules and Iolaus had their hands full.
As if just saving an entire town from a raging 15-foot giant wasnít enough, they were now encircled by a group of the giantís marauders.
One of them men snarled, "You may have killed Kormatese the Giant, but weíve got you outnumbered 10 to 2."
"10 to 2", Hercules repeated. "Those arenít very fair odds."
"True," Iolaus shrugged. He looked at the marauder, "So if youíd like to surrender, weíd be happy to accept."
"Kill them!" the man yelled with rage and charged forward, as did the others. Hercules reared back his fist and, with a single punch, catapulted three men thirty feet into the air. Their descent was broken by a large oak tree. They hit the branches and then plummeted to the earth below.
Hercules raised his eyebrows. "Now thatís what I call boldly going where no man has gone before." His thoughts were interrupted by another marauder who jumped onto his back. As Hercules grabbed at him, Iolaus had a frying pan in each hand and was clobbering his opponents left and right. Hercules threw the man off him and knocked down three more with another punch. Iolaus clonked the last marauder over the head with several swings of his frying pans.
Iolaus smiled as the man got up and ran off. He looked at the two dented frying pans he was holding. "I guess you could say I cooked your goose." He then tossed the frying pans aside and walked over to Hercules, patting him on the back.
"Well, thatís all of them," Iolaus said.
"Yeah," Hercules smiled. "At least thatís all... over... with." He stared off into the distance. Rising above the hill was an army composed of at least two hundred men. "Uh-oh."
"Uh, Herc," Iolaus gulped. "This might be a little too much... even for us."
"You may be right."
Suddenly, a voice rang out from nearby.
Hercules and Iolaus glanced around, trying to figure out where it came from.
"Joxer the Mighty is Here!"
Joxer came swinging towards them on a vine. When he was close enough to the ground, he let go of the vine, and fell flat on his face. "Ooooof!"
"Joxer?" Iolaus asked.
"Thatís your partner, isnít it?" Hercules said with a half-smile. Iolaus glared at him. Then Joxer suddenly sprang to his feet and drew his sword.
"Marauders! Begone! Or suffer the wrath of Joxer the Mighty!"
The commander of the marauders brought them all to a dead stop. "Thatís Joxer the Mighty..." he gasped. The other men were in shock as well.
"...he saved the entire city of Kolon..."
"...destroyed the massive moving fortress of the Taurians..."
"...defeated the all-powerful Slavers of Menga."
"...but he looks like such an idiot..."
"...itís just a ruse to get us to underestimate him..."
"...he can defeat entire armies..."
"...destroy entire cities..."
"We donít have a chance!"
The commander of the marauders was scared. "No one can defeat Hercules, Iolaus, AND Joxer!" He signaled to his men. "Retreat! Retreat now! Quick! At once!" The marauders turned around and made a mad dash for cover.
Hercules and Iolaus stared after them in total disbelief.
"Joxer turned the tide?" Iolaus said flatly, his mouth still open.
Hercules shrugged. "I never wouldíve believed it if I hadnít seen it without my own eyes."
"Of course," Joxer smiled cockily, sheathing his sword. "My reputation is legend. Soon all of Greece will realize the true warrior that I am."
"You better pray they donít," Iolaus answered. He couldnít help but smile. He and Hercules had first met Joxer not too long ago during the messy Golden Hind affair. Iolaus had been rather irritated with Joxer, especially at his constant pandering to get Iolaus to be his partner. But Joxer had made Iolaus realize what a jerk he had been to decide not to attend Herculesí wedding. He had rushed back just in time to see Hercules take his vows, and it was a moment he would never forget for the rest of his days. With that, he had gained some respect for Joxer. Despite all his cockiness, Joxer undoubtedly had a good heart within.
"Tell me something, Joxer," Hercules began, "how did you get such a grand reputation?"
"Simple," Joxer answered, drawing his sword again. "It was my skill, my daring, my courage, my heroism..." He swung his sword around wildly, lost his balance, and fell on his back. "Aaaagh!"
Iolaus looked at him. "Why do I get the impression that dumb luck might also have had something to do with it?"
"Beats me," Hercules smiled.
Joxer got to his feet. "Hey, look. Why donít we travel together? At least for a little while? Think about it! Itíll be great. The three of us taking on all evil... with me doing most of the work, of course. Iím great in a threesome. Just ask Xena and Gabrielle."
Hercules and Iolaus stared at each other.
"Iím sure," Hercules answered.
"Joxer," Iolaus said, "why arenít you with Xena and Gabrielle now?"
"Well," said Joxer, "Iím having a little trouble finding them."
Iolaus smirked. "Theyíre hiding from you, arenít they?"
"Well, they just donít want me to get all the glory like I usually do. By the way, did you ever hear the story of how I defeated Callisto..."
Hercules and Iolaus sighed. As the they walked down the trodden path, they realized it was going to be a very long day.
"Where is the Son of Zeus?"
Mesmeron was sitting on Thundermare. He held a carpenter up in the air by the throat. "Tell me where he is."
The man was gasping for breath. "I-I saw him here... yesterday. I donít... know wh-where he... went."
Mesmeron threw the man down to the ground. He would live, but he would never forgot the deep depth of the horror that had just stared him in the face.
Mesmeron urged Thundermare to trot towards the tiny village which was right in front of them.
"If Hercules was just here yesterday," Mesmeron began, "then he could not have gone far. Tracking him down would still be difficult... and likely unnecessary. Our best strategy would be to get him to come to us. And I think I know just the way."
Mesmeron dismounted from Thundermare as they reached the entrance to the town. People were already scattering at the sight of the flaming horse.
"Thundermare," Mesmeron commanded. "Go play."
More people began to run as Thundermare charged towards a wooden house. The fiery creature smashed into the wall, and its flames suddenly began to spread like wildfire.
"And then there was this time when I single-handedly stopped this Xena look-alike, gosh, she was pretty... from replacing another princess who looked like Xena, and it was amazing because the real Xena took on the identity of the princess who looked like Xena, and then the princess who looked like Xena took on the identity of the Xena who looked like Xena and... er, something like that. It was all kind of confusing."
"Sure sounds like it," Iolaus answered. He and Hercules had heard the tale of how Joxer defeated Callisto, conquered the Bacchae, stopped the Taurians, and saved Kolon. Iolaus had a feeling that a portion of it all was true, but he didnít want to guess as to how much.
Joxer was really into the stories of his exploits. "And let me also tell you about the time I-"
A old woman was running towards them. "Hercules, help!"
"Whatís wrong?" Hercules asked.
"Our village... it is aflame. There is a man, a man with no face. He has a flaming horse that has attacked us, setting everything on fire."
"Is anyone hurt?" Iolaus asked.
"No, not yet, thank god," she answered. "But everything we hold dear is being destroyed."
"Letís go," Hercules said. He and Iolaus began to run off in toward the village. Joxer stood there for a moment, watching them go.
"Hey, guys, wait for me!" And he took off after them.
Four more villagers were knocked to the ground by Mesmeronís fists. Almost the entire village was a conflagration. If Mesmeron had the ability to show a smile, he would have.
"If you wish for you pathetic existences to continue, then I would suggest you find Hercules. For only he will stay my hand."
A young man stepped forward with a sword in his hand.
"I donít know who you are, monster, but youíve destroyed my home. What Iím going to do to you is for everyone who youíve hurt, everyone youíve-"
"Please, spare me," Mesmeron sighed. With the wave of his hand, the man went flying backwards into a wall. He slumped to the ground.
"I donít kill weaklings. I only kill warriors, opponents who are truly worthy of my steel."
"Am I worthy enough?"
Mesmeron turned to see Hercules standing thirty yards away.
"Ah, the Son of Zeus. I was getting tired of waiting."
"Who are you," Hercules asked. "What do you want?"
"My name is Mesmeron. What I want is simple. You wish to stop evil. I wish to spread it."
Hercules sighed. "So you want a fight. If I fight you, will you leave this town alone?"
"Granted," Mesmeron answered. "They mean nothing to me. Only you, Son of Zeus. Only you..."
Iolaus and Joxer watched from behind a nearby house.
"Joxer, stay here," Iolaus said. "Iím going to see what laughing boy over there is made of."
"If you need back-up, let me know," Joxer answered.
"I will," Iolaus answered. But if it comes down to us needing Joxerís help, then I think weíre done for.
Iolaus ran up beside Hercules. "Iím with you, Herc."
"Thundermare," Mesmeron said. "Go play with the sidekick."
The fiery horse came forward and charged towards Iolaus. "Oh, boy," Iolaus let out. He turned and ran, keeping a good distance between himself and the horse.
"This is between you and me, Mesmeron!" Hercules yelled. He ran forward.
Mesmeron didnít move. "Take your best shot, my friend."
Hercules smashed Mesmeron in the face with all his strength, knocking him thirty feet into the air. He landed hard on his back.
Iolaus made a frantic dive to the left just as Thundermare caught up with him, barely dodging the flaming horse. The horse sped by him, but then quickly stopped. Slowly, he turned around and snorted. Iolaus struggled to his feet.
"I think Iím in trouble," he gulped as Thundermare started to charge forward once again.
Mesmeron slowly got his feet. Hercules walked over to him and punched him again, knocking him another thirty feet into the air. But Mesmeron slowly got his feet once more. Hercules, even more angry than before, came at him again, but Mesmeron stood still.
Hercules swung again but Mesmeron, with uncanny speed, dodged to the left. Hercules swung at him again but Mesmeron ducked. Hercules swung at him several more times with no success.
"The key to evading your blows, Hercules, is speed. Dazzling speed... which I now possess."
"Youíre pretty fast," Hercules answered. "But sooner or later..." He finally connected with Mesmeronís face. But this time, the same punch that had sent him flying backwards thirty feet twice before now didnít even force him back a single step. Hercules was agasp. "What in the name of..."
"Is that it?" Mesmeron asked. "Is that your very best?"
Hercules simply stared at him in amazement.
"You have much sheer strength, indeed, Son of Zeus. But the answer to sheer strength is invulnerability."
And then Mesmeron threw a punch that sent Hercules flying backwards into the air.
"Total invulnerability. Which, unfortunately, you do not possess."
Hercules stumbled to his feet, but Mesmeron was already upon him.
"Still, your stamina is rather impressive. But Iím curious as to how you would stand up to dozens of punches..."
He stared pelting Hercules left and right with blows. In a matter of seconds, the Son of Zeus was unconscious. Mesmeron stared down at him.
"A pity," he sighed. "I was expecting more from the worldís greatest hero."
Iolaus had grabbed a piece of wood and was using it to try and hold Thundermare back. The fiery creature seemed to be playing with him.
"Thundermare," Mesmeron commanded. "Down, boy." And the horse backed away from Iolaus, who was now seeing for the first time the unconscious form of Hercules.
"Hercules!" Iolaus yelled. He charged forward at Mesmeron.
"So predictable," Mesmeron said to himself. With a single blow, he knocked Iolaus unconscious. The sidekick collapsed at his feet. "And the predictable is so easily defeatable."
Mesmeron looked over to see Joxer standing there with his sword drawn. "And just who are you?"
"I am Joxer. And those are my friends."
"You... are Joxer... the Mighty?"
"Youíve heard of me?"
"Yes," Mesmeron answered. "Iíve been looking forward to meeting you. Iíve heard of your exploits. And now that Iíve gotten a good look at you, I can see they all must have been greatly exaggerated."
"Let them go."
"Come, Joxer," Mesmeron invited. "Make me."
Joxer yelled and charged forward, and Mesmeron easily knocked him off his feet. Joxer was on the ground in a daze with the dark being standing over him.
"You have quite a grand reputation, Joxer, although I have no idea how you ever got it. So pitiful are your fighting skills that killing you would be scarcely worth the bother. Itís rather funny. I chose now to attack because I knew Xena would not be in a position to interfere. But if the Warrior Princess would associate herself with a fool such as you, then perhaps Iíve overestimated her abilities. Still, please run an errand for me. Go to the shrine of Zeus and tell him that I have his wretched son, and I will release him for a price. I want ambrosia. I want to become a god. He can find Hercules and I at the top of the Sinai plateau near Dierra. I want the ambrosia delivered to me there a half hour before sunrise. Otherwise, the Son of Zeus shall die. Farewell."
He waved his arms in the air, and the unconscious forms of Hercules and Iolaus levitated into the air facing down. He mounted Thundermare and rode out of the town, using his magic to bring his prisoners with him.
Joxer slowly got to his feet.
"Oh, boy. I think I may be in over my head this time. But Iíve gotta do something."
He headed off to a massive temple nearby which contained what was known as the Shrine of Zeus. Joxer went inside, ignoring the stares of the temple priests who probably thought he was some kind of heathen. It was truly a magnificent temple. Nothing but the best for the King of the Gods, Joxer thought. Kneeling before the altar, Joxer closed his eyes and said aloud everything he knew, wondering if Zeus or any other god would be able to hear him.
Suddenly, robed figure adorned with jewels appeared before him.
"Oh, Zeus," Joxer gasped.
"That is correct," he answered.
"Hercules and Iolaus", Joxer began, "Theyíre-"
"I know," Zeus answered. "I was watching. Iíve got to help Hercules. I canít let that monster just kill him."
"I want to help... sir," Joxer said. "I know I can help."
"You?" Zeus raised his eyebrows. "What exactly could you do?"
"I can... be a distraction."
"I suppose," Zeus sighed. "Since Xena isnít anywhere nearby, I guess I donít have much of a choice. But if youíre going to have a fighting chance against Mesmeron, then Iíll have to let you borrow a weapon. The Hammer of Thor ought to do it."
"The Hammer of Thor? Wow! When do I get it?"
"When the time is right. The only way weíll have a prayer of rescuing Hercules is by catching Mesmeron off-guard. Now, here is the plan..."
Joxer listened intently. He felt both scared and excited. But this is what being a hero was all about. And, of course, no one knew more about being a hero than him...
Mesmeron arrived at the top of the Sinai plateau with Thundermare and his two prisoners. It was a large plateau, at least a mile high. The view of the city of Sierra below was breathtaking. Mesmeron took it all in as he stood on the edge of the cliff.
"A magnificent sight, donít you think?"
Hercules and Iolaus were conscious again, but they didnít respond. They were still trying to break free of the magical bonds that held them prisoner.
"Once I have the ambrosia and gain the power of a God, my own powers will be augmented ten-fold. And then the entire world will have no choice but to kneel before the might of Mesmeron."
"Hercules," Iolaus said. "I canít move at all."
"I think youíll find those bonds more powerful than anything youíre used to."
"Zeus will never go for this," Hercules said. "Heíll never give you ambrosia. He cares more about protecting his position as king of the gods than he does about me."
Mesmeron stared at him for a moment. "Letís hope you are wrong, Son of Zeus. If not..."
They all turned to see Joxer coming towards them.
"Joxer?" Iolaus asked dumbfoundedly.
"Joxer..." Mesmeron sighed.
The warrior drew his sword as he approached Mesmeron.
"You let my friends go... now."
"Surely you jest," Mesmeron said, walking forward. "Or perhaps you have a death wish."
"I have my ideals," Joxer said. "Theyíre well worth dying for."
"Certainly," Mesmeron answered. "It is always Mesmeronís pleasure to grant such a foolish request. Thundermare, go play."
The fiery horse began to move forward. Joxer gulped. Zeus suddenly materialized behind Mesmeron and the others, hovering over the deep chasm below. He raised his hands in the air, and Hercules and Iolausí bonds suddenly disappeared. Mesmeron was too busy watching Joxer to notice. He felt a tap on his shoulder.
Mesmeron turned around.
Hercules fist sent Mesmeron flying backwards over Joxerís head. Iolaus ran up to Hercules.
"You did it," Iolaus said.
"No, I didnít," Hercules answered. Mesmeron quickly got to his feet. "Go help Joxer."
"Right," Iolaus agreed.
Mesmeron had no visible face inside his dark hood, but his glowing eyes gave away his rage.
"You donít have a prayer, Son of Zeus. I can adapt to anything you can throw at me."
"Perhaps you can with him," Zeus answered. "But not with me." He raised his hand and fired an electric bolt. Mesmeron, with his uncanny speed, managed to dodge it.
"True," Mesmeron snarled. "But you must hit me first. Let the battle begin."
Joxer knew he was in trouble. Thundermare was charging at him full speed. There was no way he could move out of the way in time. Suddenly, Iolaus dived into Joxer, knocking them both out of the creatureís path.
"Are you all right?" Iolaus.
"Yeah," Joxer answered. "Thanks, Iolaus."
"Donít mention it," Iolaus answered. "But if you have any ideas about how to deal with that flaming pain, Iíd sure be willing to listen."
Thundermare had turned around and was let out a loud snort. Then he moved forward again.
"Zeus," Joxer said softly. "I sure could use that hammer about now."
As if in answer to his wish, a large golden hammer suddenly materialized in the air in front of him, hovering with a light warm glow. Joxer reached out his hands for it.
Mesmeron dodged another of Zeusí bolts. Then he grappled with Hercules. Hercules hit him in the chest, but to no effect.
"You are no match for me," Mesmeron said. "To be defeated by Mesmeron is no shame, Son of Zeus. For against Mesmeron even the mightiest must fall!"
Mesmeron punched Hercules. The blow was so powerful it sent the half-god flying backwards toward the edge of the cliff. Hercules landed just before the edge and then rolled backwards, falling over the edge. He managed to grab the edge of the cliff, breaking his fall. But he was dangling over a mile high drop, and he was defenseless.
"No!" Zeus shouted. He fired another flashing bolt at Mesmeron, who again easily dodged it.
"The time has come for the king of the gods to feel my power!"
He fired one of his own blasts at Zeus, knocking him backwards several yards. Mesmeron was aware he hadnít really hurt Zeus, but it bought him a few seconds. And a few seconds was all he needed. Mesmeron casually walked over to the edge of the cliff and stood over the dangling Hercules. The half-god felt fear as he looked up to see the dark being gazing down at him.
"Now things are about to get very interesting..."
Joxer grabbed the large hammer just as Thundermare was upon him. He brought the hammer back and then swung it forward with all his might as the deadly stallion was in range. The sound of impact was deafening. Thundermare wailed as he was catapulted several miles into the air. The horse soon disappeared as he descended behind a distant mountain.
"Wow," Joxer said. "Imagine if that had been a ball... Yíknow, that could make for an interesting game. Nah, theyíd call me an idiot."
"Joxer," Iolaus said. "What is that thing?"
"I believe that is the Hammer of Thor," Mesmeron answered. "On loan from Zeus, no doubt. I applaud you for defeating Thundermare, but you will not so easily defeat me."
"Oh, my god," said Iolaus. He saw Herculesí hand clinging to the edge of the cliff.
Mesmeron turned to Zeus who was hovering in the air before them. "Give me the ambrosia, Zeus. Or you son dies!"
The king of the gods stared at him for a moment. Then he gave him an answer.
"No ambrosia, Mesmeron."
Mesmeronís shoulders slumped briefly, as if in defeat. Then his eyes glowed brighter.
"So be it."
Hercules saw approaching death as Mesmeron pointed his finger at him. He closed his eyes.
"Hang on, Hercules," Joxer said as he raised the Hammer of Thor and walked forward. "Iíll save you- Whoa!" He then tripped over the large jutted rock in front of him and fell forward. The Hammer of Thor hit the ground with thunderous impact, shattering the entire cliff all around them.
"No!" Mesmeron shouted as he, Hercules, Joxer, and Iolaus began to plummet into oblivion. Suddenly, Hercules, Iolaus, and Joxer, and the Hammer of Thor were suspended in mid-air, but Mesmeron continued to plunge.
They all watched as he disappeared into oblivion, tons of rock plummeting after him. If the fall didnít kill him, he would likely be buried forever.
The three of them slowly gravitated toward the mountain. They all knew it was Zeus who saved them. Once they landed, Hercules looked up at his father, but said nothing.
Zeus stared down at him.
"Iím sorry, my son." Then he and the Hammer of Thor disappeared.
Iolaus walked over to Hercules. "Hey, are you okay?"
"Yeah, Iím fine. He did the right thing. If Mesmeron had become a god, it would have meant disaster for the entire world. What bothers me is that my father did it more to protect his own position among the gods than anything else. I donít think Iíll ever be able to think of him as a real father."
"Iím sorry, Herc," Iolaus answered.
"Donít be. But I think we owe our real thanks to our new friend here." Hercules walked over to Joxer and extended his hand. "Thanks, Joxer. I wonít forget what you did for us."
"Me, neither," Iolaus smiled. He patted Joxer on the shoulder.
"Think nothing of it," Joxer answered. "Iím always glad to help. Itís been a lot of fun, guys, but now itís time for mighty Joxer to take his leave. Iím off to Thebes!" He drew his sword. "Ha Ha!" And then he ran off into the distance.
Hercules and Iolaus watched him go. Hercules smiled.
"Should we tell him heís going the wrong way?"
"Nah, heíll figure it out," said Iolaus, "You know, maybe deep down Joxerís not so bad after all."
"Itís too bad we tend to judge people by whatís on the outside, when itís whatís on the inside that really counts. Deep down, I think Joxerís got that hero inside of him. Itís just a question of when he has the courage to let that hero out. Fortunately for us, today... he did."
The two friends turned and started to walk off.
"But thereís still no way heís ever going to be my partner," Iolaus added.
Hercules laughed and patted his best friend on the back as the two of them headed off for a new adventure.
Several hours later at the bottom of the mountain, there was a massive explosion as tons of piled rock instantaneously shattered. Mesmeron casually walked forward, emerging from the deep smoke. He did not appear to be injured.
His eyes glowed brighter, yet not enough to penetrate the darkness that made up his face.
"Joxer," he spoke with calm. "You have not heard the last of this encounter."
Against A War God
Ares stood up from his throne and smiled at Stryfe.
"Iím telling you, Stryfe, things have not been looking well for the God of War since that Golden Hind debacle, but itís all starting to change."
Stryfe grinned. "What have you got up your sleeve now, you sly devil you?"
"I keep getting bent out of shape over Xena, but Iíve got so many followers, so many worshippers. I really donít need her."
Ares walked over to a table with a map on it, just one of the many items that adorned his luxurious temple.
"Take this one kingdom, Wardonia. The name says it all. The ruler, the army, and even the people worship me. Very rare to have all three. This Wardonia has potential. With me at their side, theyíre going to be quite a force to be reckoned with."
"This Wardonia," Stryfe said. "Are they going to start a war?"
"Soon," Ares smiled. "Very soon."
"But, Unc," Stryfe began, "is there any chance that someone might try to stop them? Like... letís say..."
"Xena? Hercules?" Ares answered. "No, theyíre both preoccupied at the moment. They canít interfere. And letís face it... Without them around, who would be idiot enough to stand in my way?"
Joxer walked down the trodden path. He took in the warm sun and smiled.
"It sure feels good to be a hero. I wonder who else might be in need of my assistance."
He saw a sign up ahead. "Wardonia," he said. "Sounds like a friendly place. I think Iíll check it out." Then he noticed a man coming the opposite direction. "Hello, sir. My name is Joxer. The Mighty."
"Hi, my name is Granden." Then he suddenly froze. "J-Joxer. You... youíre Joxer? The one who saved the entire city of Kolon? Who destroyed the massive moving fortress of the Taurians? Who defeated the all-powerful Slavers of Menga?"
"Yes," Joxer answered. "My reputation precedes me. Iím on my way to Wardonia and-"
"Youíre going to Wardonia?" Granden answered. "Oh, my god. I have to go." He turned around and started running back in the opposite direction.
"Wait!" Joxer shouted. But it was too late. "Oh, well. Iíll catch up with him later." And then Joxer began walking towards the city.
Granden, running at full pace, eventually reached the city of Wardonia. He shouted as he ran down the streets.
"I bring grave news! Joxer the Mighty is coming! Joxer the Mighty is coming! Heíll be here shortly!"
People started running into the streets in panic.
"Joxer the Mighty?" a bakery owner asked. "He saved the entire city of Kolon..."
"...destroyed the massive moving fortress of the Taurians..."
"...defeated the all-powerful Slavers of Menga..."
"...he can defeat entire armies..."
"...destroy entire cities..."
"The mighty warrior must have heard about our plans to conquer Greece!"
"Heís coming to destroy us!"
The storeowners immediately put up new price signs on their windows. Bread went up from 1 dinar to 4 dinars. Corn went up from 3 dinars to 7 dinars. Liquor went up from 2 dinars a drink to 6 dinars a drink. Prices were going up everywhere in Wardonia.
"I canít believe it," one citizen gasped. "The mere mention of Joxer the Mightyís name sends our prices sky high. Who knows what ingenious scheme heís developing at this very moment to annihilate us?"
Joxer gazed at the sky. "Hmmm. Yes, my plan is brilliant... foolproof. If I eat dinner now before entering Wardonia, I wonít have to pay a city tax on the meal... and I wonít be hungry later on!" He smiled to himself. "Joxer, you are a genius." And then he walked on.
The town council of Wardonia held a meeting at the city square. A large number of people were there.
"Joxer is coming!"
"Weíll all be slaughtered!"
"Even if weíre not, there will be so much damage and destruction that our taxes will be raised."
Someone, hearing this, ran out to the street.
"Our taxes are going to be raised!"
"Wardoniaís going to be too expensive to live in now!"
"Iím out of this town!"
Several stores started to close. The wheat shop, the blacksmith shop, the tailor shop, and others were permanently shut down. The ruler of Wardonia, King Troyus, was pulling his hair out at the news. He stood up from his throne.
"I canít believe this!" King Troyus shouted in despair before his aides. "Prices are going up, stores are shutting down, people are leaving the city..."
"...and Joxer the Mighty is coming!" said one of the aides.
"...he saved the entire city of Kolon..."
"...destroyed the massive moving fortress of the Taurians..."
"...defeated the all-powerful Slavers of Menga..."
"Send the army out into the city," ordered the king. "They should be able to keep the peace. I just hope theyíre able to make a stand when the deadliest, most skilled warrior in all of Greece gets here!"
Joxer fell on his face.
"Oof!" he let out. He slowly got to his feet. "I hate tripping. That ground sure packs a wallop. Well, might as well head on towards Wardonia. Who knows what mighty benefits they might reap from my mere presence."
Rioting and looting had broken out in the streets. Several buildings were aflame. Everywhere in Wardonia, people were in a major state of panic. The army entered the fray. The general shouted, "Stop the rioting! Quickly!" The soldiers did not look very confident.
"The cityís going up in flames."
"Our kingdom is collapsing."
"And worst of all, Joxer the Mighty is coming!"
"...he saved the entire city of Kolon..."
"...destroyed the massive moving fortress of the Taurians..."
"...defeated the all-powerful Slavers of Menga..."
"...he can defeat entire armies..."
"...destroy entire cities..."
A good portion of the soldiers began to desert while the rest found themselves under attack from the people. A huge battle began. The fires, with no one to fight them, spread from building to building. The fighting lasted through the night until the next morning.
Joxer awoke with a start. "Uuuuhhhhh," he moaned. He slowly, groggily, got to his feet. "I never did get as far as Wardonia. I think Iíll go there now for some breakfast."
A few miles later, he approached the city. Joxer couldnít believe his eyes. A fire had razed almost the entire city. Smoke was billowing from everywhere. Joxer entered the desolate town. There were a few people standing among the ruins.
"Look, itís Joxer the Mighty!" someone pointed out.
"What happened?" Joxer asked.
"Huh?" was Joxerís reply.
"He destroyed our city!"
"Crushed our army!"
"Against him, we didnít have a chance!"
"Now weíll never conquer Greece!"
Joxer looked around, bewildered. "What did I do?"
Suddenly, a man in a black outfit materialized in front of him. Joxer gulped, instantly recognizing him. It was the God of War.
"Iíll tell you what you did," Ares began. "You managed to single-handedly destroy my greatest city!" Lighting struck in the distance. The God of War was boiling red.
Joxer began to shudder. "I-I did?"
"Well, it wasnít actually you. It was actually the rumor of your coming to this town that did it." Ares let out a small laugh. "To think that a complete imbecile like you could somehow manage to build up a grand enough reputation to cause an entire city to destroy itself. Xena never could do that. Hercules could never do that. But, somehow... you did."
"W-well," Joxer answered, "You should realize... you are talking about J-Joxer the Migh-"
"Joxer... the Mighty," Ares finished. "Well, Iíve got news for ya. The legend of Joxer the Mighty is about to come to an abrupt and swift end... NOW!"
Ares walked forward. Joxer drew his sword. The war god stopped in front of him and smiled. Joxer plunged his sword into Aresí chest.
"You really are an idiot," Ares said. "Iím a god." He pulled the sword out of his chest and a punch sent Joxer flying several yards backwards.
"Oooof!" Joxer let out as he landed on his back. I think Iím in trouble, he thought to himself. Where are my sidekicks when I need them?
"You actually think youíre a warrior?" Ares let out another small laugh. "By rights you should have been wormfood ages ago. But I can remedy that." He gave Joxer a swift kick.
"What Xena sees in you Iíll never understand. But letís face it, Joxer. Without the warrior princess around to save your skin, youíre less than nothing." Ares gave Joxer a punch that again sent him flying back several yards.
The God of War drew his sword. "Now this... This is the fun part." He walked over to Joxer and dragged him to his feet. Ares grabbed Joxer by the throat and lifted him into the air.
"Good-bye, Joxer... the Mighty."
A certain thought kept rebounding inside Joxerís head. This medallion shall protect you...
Joxer, with what little strength he had remaining, reached up and pulled out the gold medallion attached to the necklace that he had been given by the black tribe. It began to glow. Ares suddenly went flying backwards a hundred yards, dropping Joxer to the ground.
"Aaaaaaarrrrgh!" he yelled as he landed amongst the rubble of the town. A moment later, he slowly struggled to his feet. "That medallion... It has power. Until next time, Joxer." And then the God of War vanished. Joxer lay on the ground, still in pain. He looked at the medallion carefully, realizing that its power had just saved his life.
Then he slowly got to his feet. "I did it," he said to himself. Picking up his sword, he raised it in the air and shouted "Joxer the Mighty has defeated the God of War! I am invincible now!"
Joxer sheathed his sword and headed for the road. He was alive, and he was happy about that. But Aresí words kept coming back to him.
You actually think youíre a warrior? By rights you should have been wormfood ages ago...
Without the warrior princess around to save your skin, youíre less than nothing...
Joxer shrugged it off. Perhaps it was time to find Xena and Gabrielle again. They both knew just how mighty a warrior he truly was.
And with that, the mighty warrior headed off on another journey. Not much later, Joxer did find Gabrielle. Aphrodite put a spell on him involving the ringing of a bell, and he and the bard had a grand adventure together. It was during this adventure that Joxer discovered what being a true hero was all about.
But that is a story for another time.
A Song For The Ages
Xena winced again as she and Gabrielle walked with Joxer down the dirt road.
"Joxer The Mighty
Roams Through The Countryside
He Never Needs A Place To Hide
With Gabby As His Sidekick
Fighting With Her Little Stick-"
"Joxer!" Xena interrupted. "Love that song, really, but this is only, oh, the twentieth time youíve sung it."
"Iím just so happy, Xena. Here I was, after being put under that bell spell by Aphrodite, ready to quit being a warrior. What an idiot I was. But I had you to show me the truth. That I am a true warrior! A true hero! That is what lies deep within my heart! And I thank you, Xena! The whole world owes you thanks, for without you, Joxer the Mighty would have never been heard from again!"
Xena could feel tears coming to her eyes. What have I done?
"Now, I must take my leave, warrior princess. Iím off to see my agent! See ya, Gabrielle!" He winked at the bard and headed off onto another road. Xena and Gabrielle kept silent for a moment. Then Xena noticed Gabrielle glaring at her.
"Way to go, Xena," Gabrielle frowned.
Xena opened out her hands. "What?"
"Thanks to you, weíll never be rid of Joxer."
Xena couldnít believe her ears. "But you wanted me to cheer him up!"
"Of all the times for you to finally start listening to me, why did it have to be now?"
"Look, Iím sure we can dodge Joxer for awhile."
Gabrielle looked off into the distance. "Whatís all this about an agent?"
"I donít know, but I have a feeling it wonít be too long before we find out."
The two of them didnít see Joxer at all over the next two months, although they had numerous adventures. One day, they entered the town of Carthage and there was a festival going on. Xena and Gabrielle smiled.
"Itíll be nice to have some fun for a change," said the bard. A chorus began to assemble upon the stage before them. "I wonder what song theyíre going to sing."
The band started up and then the chorus girls started dancing. The words of their song struck Xena and Gabrielle like a rock.
"Joxer The Mighty
Roams Through The Countryside
He Never Needs A Place To Hide
With Gabby As His Sidekick
Fighting With Her Little Stick
Righting Wrongs And Singing Songs
Being Mighty All Day Long
Joxer The Mighty"
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other. "I donít believe it," they both said simultaneously. Then the chorus girls started a second verse:
"Joxer The Mighty
Heís Really Tidy
The Greatest Hero In The World
The Fantasy Of Every Girl
His Enemies All Hide In Fear
Be Thankful When You See Him Near
Your Heart Will Know Where It Belongs
When You Hear Him Sing His Song
Joxer The Mighty"
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other again. "Letís get out of here," they both said simultaneously. They both started to leave when a young man stopped Gabrielle.
"Hey, youíre Gabrielle, arenít you? Iíve seen drawings of you."
"Really?" Gabrielle asked, confused but curious.
"Tell me, how does it feel to be the sidekick of a mighty warrior like Joxer?"
Gabrielle raised her eyebrows. "Side... kick?"
"Is he around here somewhere?"
"No, Iím afraid not," she smiled painfully.
"Hey, everyone! Look!" the man yelled. "Itís Joxerís sidekick!"
"I want her autograph!"
"Gabrielle, I think we better get out of here," Xena warned.
"Iím with you," the bard answered. They both ran from Carthage, barely dodging a mob of Joxerís sidekickís fans.
"So this is what itís like to be famous," Gabrielle mused that night by the campfire.
"Well, it wonít last long," Xena replied. "Weíll just have to stay away from Carthage until this... Joxermania dies down. Donít worry. These fads always do."
And at the next town, they discovered another festival. And more chorus girls.
"Joxer The Mighty
Bound By No Boundary
His Fame Spreading Everywhere
Hercules Just Canít Compare
When No One Else Can Save The Day
Joxer He Will Find A Way
With Women He Can Take His Pick
Just Ask All His Sidekicks
Joxer The Mighty
"Letís get out of here," Xena said.
"I agree," Gabrielle answered.
"Hey, look! Itís Joxerís sidekick!"
"Can I have your autograph?"
"Can you set me up with that stud?"
And at the next town...
"Joxer The Mighty
Master Of Chicanery
Always Has A Master Plan
To Go With His Sparkling Tan
When Thereís Trouble In Your Town
Heís The One Who Comes Around
He Stopped Callisto With A Glance
No One Else Had A Chance
Joxer The Mighty"
"Letís try again," Xena said.
"Right behind you," answered Gabrielle.
"Look! Joxerís sidekick! And Xena!"
"Xena, is it true that Joxer trained you?"
"Is it true that he inspired you to turn good?"
And the next town after that...
"Joxer The Mighty
Knows Wrong From Right-y
The Greatest Swordsman In The Land
Now Heís Even Got A Band
When Thereís Trouble He Will Show
The Worldís Greatest Hero
Xenaís But A Zero..."
Xena was clenching her fists.
Joxer The Mighty"
"No need to say anything," Gabrielle said as she began to run. "Iím way ahead of you."
"Hey, Joxerís sidekick! Is it true that you love Joxer?!"
"Xena, is it true Joxer forged your chakram?!"
"I want the sidekickís autograph!"
"No! Me! Me! Me!"
Fifteen towns later...
Xena and Gabrielle walked down a long dirt path. They walked like zombies, both feeling numb.
"Iíll never get that song out of my head," Xena moaned.
The city of Athens lay in front of them. Xena sighed a sigh of relief.
"Well, weíre saved now, Gabrielle. Athens is the most cultured city in all of Greece. The Athenians are a very elegant people, with tastes that are high above and better than anyone else Iíve seen. Theyíre too wise to fall for some silly, cheap marketing campaign which is as phony as..."
Xena stopped talking as she and Gabrielle entered the city and heard chorus girls singing a familiar tune:
"Joxer The Mighty
Heís God Almighty
Now A Legend All His Own
Surpassing Every Hero Known
His Sword Will Strike A Deadly Blow
The Greatest Hero That Youíll Know
Even Xena Said So..."
Xena started banging her head against a wall. "I should have told him to quit. I should have told him to quit..."
Joxer The Mighty"
They both stared in amazement at the festival before them. This was larger than any of the other Joxer festivals they had seen before. It was like a wild party. Many people were wearing Joxer costumes with those silly looking Joxer hats and swords.
"Well, Gabrielle," Xena sighed. "We might as well surrender. Like it or not, Joxermania has swept through all of Greece. Look! Itís Hercules and Iolaus!"
"Xena!" Hercules shouted, making his way towards her through the heavy crowd. Iolaus was right behind him. They all exchanged greetings.
"Itís great to see you both, again," Xena said, "although I wish it could have been under more... saner circumstances."
"Youíre telling me," Iolaus answered. "What in the world is going on?"
"I donít know about you, but Iím feeling rather small these days," Hercules added.
"Same here," Xena agreed.
Gabrielle was awestruck.. "How did this happen?"
"Joxerís too dumb to pull this off on his own," Xena answered. "He had to have help. And why do I think I know who?"
She raised her eyebrows as Salmoneus walked up to greet them, dressed in his usual lavish fashion. "Xena! Gabrielle! Hercules! Iolaus! So great to see you here! How do you like my festival?"
Xena smiled. "Salmoneus. Somehow, I knew you were the cause of all this. Now tell me, how did you do it?"
"Me? I didnít do anything! Joxerís a hero! And when youíre a hero, your fame spreads! Itís just the natural order of the universe!"
Xena, Gabrielle, Hercules, and Iolaus simply stared at him.
"Okay, well, maybe I helped it along a little. But a good marketing campaign never hurt anyone!" He pointed at Xena and Hercules. "Hey, Iíve been trying forever to get the two of you into merchandising, endorsements... With the status you have, well, that you used to have, you could have brought in big dinars! But did either of you ever listen to me?"
Xena and Hercules glanced at each other for a moment, then back at Salmoneus.
"No, you never did. And, now... well, I hate to break this to you, but the Warrior Princess and the Son of Zeus are so... yesterday. Joxer is today. This is the greatest marketing campaign in the history of the world! Weíre creating a name hero that people will be speaking of two thousand years from now, maybe even longer. Hey! Have you heard Joxerís song?"
"Yes," they all answered together.
"Itís sweeping through Greece like wildfire! Itís the number one hit single in the world today! Over one hundred thousand lyric parchments in print! Iím talking top of the charts. As long as we keep writing new lyrics to it, itíll be the number one song forever! In fact, Iím setting up a tour. Weíre going to take it to Italy, India, Turkey... China! And itís not going to stop there!"
Xena winced in agony.
"Iím serious here," Salmoneus continued. "Take a look at all this merchandising! Weíve got Joxer action figures, Joxer beer, Joxer board games..." He picked up a pair of shorts with hearts on them. "Even Joxer boxers! In fact, Joxerís autograph is now going for a hundred dinars! Weíve also got Joxer armor. Hey, maybe the you four are looking for a new look? These outfits come in menís and womenís sizes. How about it? Huh?
Xena, Gabrielle, Hercules, and Iolaus raised their eyebrows in thought for a moment.
"I donít think so," they answered together.
"And guess what?!" Salmoneus grinned. "Weíre even working on Joxer the Musical!"
"Salmoneus," Gabrielle said. "Are you the one who told everyone that Iím Joxerís sidekick?"
"Joxer said you were. But I havenít told anyone here yet. But, Gabrielle, do you think you could sign some autographs later on? Iím thinking we could get twenty, maybe thirty dinars a piece..."
Xena was ready to strangle him. "Salmoneus!"
"How in the world were you able to convince all of Greece that Joxer is the worldís greatest hero?"
"His deeds speak for themselves. I mean, he did save Kolon from being completely destroyed by a dragon, and he did stop the slave traders of Menga from ever enslaving people again, and... and..."
"And...?" Hercules asked.
Salmoneus looked reluctant. "And... I never allowed him to make a public appearance. What can I say? It wouldíve ruined the mystique, the intrigue, the aura..."
"...the con," Gabrielle finished.
Salmoneus frowned at her. "Con is such a negative word."
Iolaus folded his arms and smiled. "Salmoneus, youíre smarter than you look."
"Salmoneus," Hercules said, trying not to laugh. "People are eventually going to see through this."
"Believe me, thereís nothing to see through!"
"Salmoneus," Xena began. "None of us will deny that Joxer has accomplished some incredible feats..."
"Like staying alive, for one thing," Gabrielle said.
Xena continued. "But, like it or not, everything heís done has been due to sheer luck, not skill or power... which is not what youíve been telling everyone. When people get a good look at Joxer, theyíre going to see heís not strong or powerful, and theyíll never believe that heís done the things that heís done."
"Donít worry," Salmoneus answered. "In fact, Joxer is about to be given one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon any hero. The people of Athens have voted to have the Zeusí ceremonial ark removed from Athenaís temple and placed in front of Joxer when he gives his speech. The ceremonial ark of Zeus is a gift from Zeus to not just the people of Athens, but all of Greece. As long as the ark is protected, the people of Greece consider themselves blessed by the Gods. Of course, we know thatís not true, but thatís what people believe. Anyway, Joxerís going to come out before the ark, give a quick speech, then theyíll raise the new Joxer statue up, and itíll be over."
Salmoneus rubbed his hands together, looking at the stage before which the ark rested. "Iím telling you, after today Iím going to be the richest man in all of Greece... as long as Joxer doesnít screw things up."
Xena began to smile.
Salmoneus looked at her, and then raised his eyebrows. "You donít think... He wouldnít... He couldnít..."
Xena folded her arms, continuing to smile. "Oh, I think he just might."
Salmoneus clasped his hands together in front of his face, as if for prayer. "Oh, please, Zeus, no..."
The crowd had gathered before the stage. The golden ark rested in front of the stage with the statue of Joxer next to it. A speaker appeared on the stage.
"And now, ladies and gentleman... I would like to proudly introduce to you... the mighty warrior who saved the entire city of Kolon from destruction, who destroyed the massive moving fortress of the Taurians, and stopped the Slave Traders of Menga forever. I now give to you, the greatest hero in the world today... Joxer... The Mighty!"
The crowd roared in approval as Joxer stepped out on the stage.
"Thank you, everyone. Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here. I am honored to be in your presence. And I want you all to know that as long as I live, I will never let you down. I will never stop fighting for good. I will never falter. That is my solemn vow to you. So swears Joxer.. The Mighty!"
The crowd cheered. Salmoneus began to smile. "He did it! See! He did it! Nothing to it! All thatís left is for the statue to be raised up onto the stage by the pulley. Only an idiot could screw things up now."
Xena smirked. "Joxer will find a way... he always does."
Several workers began raising the statue of Joxer onto the stage with the use of a rope and pulley. Joxer suddenly unsheathed his sword. "And now, as an added bonus, I will show you what an expert swordsman mighty Joxer truly is."
"What?" Salmoneus frowned. "What is he doing?"
"Ha Ha!" Joxer began to swing his sword around wildly. While swinging he accidentally cut the rope that was lifting the statue. The Joxer statue crashed into the Ark of Zeus, smashing it thoroughly.
"Oh, no..." Salmoneus gasped.
"Oops," Joxer said.
The people were all in shock. "The Ark of Zeus! Itís ruined! Destroyed! The Gods will curse us now! We are disgraced! What an idiot! No one that stupid could be a hero! Weíve been tricked! Conned! Letís get him! Lynch him! Kill him!"
Joxer gulped as he saw the large mob approaching him. "Look, adoring fans, please... Canít we talk this over? Iím your hero, remember? Uh, does this mean you donít want my autograph?"
Joxer turned and began to run, the large mob right behind him. The entire city was in an uproar. Xena smiled as she watched people throwing their Joxer costumes and merchandise into a large bonfire.
"I knew it was just a fad."
Iolaus nodded. "Once word of this spreads, Joxer will be the most despised man in all of Greece."
Xena clasped her hands behind her head. "And everything will be back to normal."
"And weíll all be mighty heroes again," Hercules smiled.
A man came up to Salmoneus. "Hey, arenít you the agent of that fool Joxer?"
"No..." Salmoneus smiled, and then the man walked off. "...not anymore." Salmoneus turned to the rest of them. "Hercules! Xena! Are you sure you wouldnít be interested in getting an agent? Iím talking merchandising, endorsements, the works! Iím through with these fads. I want something that will endure through the ages, and you two... you have got potential!"
"I think Iíll pass," Xena answered.
"Me, too," Hercules agreed.
Salmoneus turned around and looked at the carnage around him. His shoulders were slumped.
Gabrielle walked over to him. "So, Salmoneus... What are you going to do now?"
"For now, I think Iíll grab a sword and go join the mob."
Joxer was sprinting with every ounce of energy he had as he left the outskirts of Athens and entered the wilderness. It was all he could do to stay ahead of the mob that was chasing him.
"Xeeeenaaa! Gabrieeeeelle!" he yelled. "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp!"
And so, the great hero once again journeyed off into the land. He would yet have many more experiences, many more adventures. There would be tragedy as well as triumph. There would be agony as well as ecstasy. Our hero would discover all these things, as he would eventually discover love.
But those are stories for another time.
It is with sad regret, faithful reader, that I tell you that our time here has come to an end. I can only hope that the hearing of the tale was as enjoyable as the telling of it. But before we depart, let this humble bard offer you a simple wish...
May the world treat you with kindness, may the power of the sun guide your way, may your heartís greatest desires come to fulfillment, and may the Gods shine on you wherever you go.
Until next time, faithful reader, I now bid you...
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