by Nene Adams ©1998 - All rights reserved.
The storyteller speaks:
So it came to pass that Joxer, called the Mighty by some, the Foolish by others, was traveling alone on the road to the city of Numae, there to celebrate the festival of Dionysius.
As he walked along the road, the bits and pieces of his mis-matched armor jangling and clanking, he spied another solitary figure, seated in a cart drawn by a pair of mules. Coming closer, Joxer saw this was a woman, who was filling the air with many lamentations.
''Hail!,'' cried Joxer. ''Whither goest thou and why dost thou mourn? Hath someone died?'' And he glanced about, seeking a freshly dug grave or other evidence of great loss.
''Nay! I go to Numae, but alas! My cart's wheel is stuck in the deep mud of this road,'' said the woman. ''Thou lookest to be a strong man; canst thou give me aid?''
Upon these words, Joxer inhaled deeply, thrusting out his chest and striking many manly poses. ''Indeed, for I am Joxer the Mighty! Stand aside, fair lady, and I shall free thy cart in a trice.''
And so it was that Joxer laid aside his helm and sword, spat upon his hands, and clasping the wheel, heaved and pulled with all his strength. But it was not enough.
The woman watched as Joxer pushed and pulled, tugged and heaved, slipped and slid. At last, the cartwheel pulled free and the mules pulled it to safer ground while Joxer sighed and wiped the sweat from his brow.
"You know," said Joxer, "I think a pretty lady like you should have a strong warrior like me riding along for protection." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively and grinned.
The woman grimaced. ''Thanks for your help, but really, the road is very safe. No bandits or anything for miles.''
Joxer came closer. ''Are you sure you don't want some traveling company? I know all the verses to 99 Bottles of Port On The Wall.''
The woman shuddered. ''Actually, I prefer to travel alone.''
Joxer came closer still - so close, in fact, the woman could smell the onions he'd eaten for breakfast still lingering on his breath. ''Say, I have an idea!'' he said, putting his arm around the flinching woman's shoulders, ''We could attend the festival together! There's gonna be wine, and buffets, and naked dancing girls and stuff. It'll be fun - especially the orgies! Rrrrrrrrrow!''
The woman had had enough. She thrust Joxer away as firmly as she could and said, ''No, please! Listen, I owe you something for getting my cart unstuck. I only have a few dinars, but they're yours if you want them.''
''No, no, my precious pet,'' Joxer replied airily, ''I seek only the rightful reward of a hero.''
''And what would that be?''
''A kiss...'' Joxer puckered up his lips and waited.
The storyteller speaks:
Now, this woman was, in fact, a clever and cunning mountebank, well skilled in separating the innocent and the foolish from their coin by various schemes. She had been willing to reward Joxer for his aid, however that good-natured impulse had passed. Thoroughly repulsed by his behaviour, she decided upon a fiendish revenge.
''Lookest thou here!,'' she said, making haste to the back of the cart. ''Why, I possess the most perfect reward for a warrior such as thyself!''
''Aye?'' Joxer peered at the woman. ''What manner of reward is this?''
''T'is magic armor, meant only for the greatest of warriors. Invisible armor! T'will make thee invincible if thou wearest it.'' And the woman made a great show of holding up these invisible pieces of armor between her two empty hands, for it was the truth that no such thing existed.
''Oh.'' Joxer looked, and looked again, but could see nothing. ''Whyfor dost this armor have no substance?''
''For that it is invisible!'' The woman gave Joxer a look such as that given to village idiots. Not wishing to be thought ill of, Joxer nodded and in his turn, made a show of admiring the invisible armor.
''Now, takest off thy clothing, for this armor workest best when clasped upon naked flesh. Once clad, none shall see thy skin, but only the great beauty of the special steel from which this armor was forged,'' the woman said. And Joxer removed his clothing; with the woman's help, he was soon clad in his new, ''invisible'' armor.
He walked up and down, admiring greatly his form within the non-existant breastplate, greaves, codpiece and bracers. The woman smothered many giggles as she watched the bare-fleshed, foolish man prance about.
At last, the woman mounted upon her cart and drove away, leaving Joxer behind... as naked as a fowl plucked for the pot and knowing not how exposed he was to the four winds.
Joxer strutted into Numae, his sword belted around his waist - and not another stitch covering his fishbelly pale body.
As he walked, the people turned and stared, and it seemed to Joxer that the whispers and murmurs he heard were those of admiration for his splended new accoutrements. He bowed his head left and right, occasionally waving, acknowledging his new found status as a warrior of fashion.
Xena and Gabrielle, who had come into Numae the previous day, spotted Joxer on the street.
''Oh, gods...,'' the bard moaned. ''It's Joxer! And he's walking around stark naked!''
''Is he drunk?'' Xena got up from the bed and crossed to the window to join Gabrielle. From the room they had rented in the inn, they had an excellent view of the main street of Numae.
''I'm not sure. He isn't weaving or anything. He's acting like nothing's wrong!'' Gabrielle put an arm around Xena's waist. ''Should we go down and help him? Maybe he's sick.''
''Yeah, he's sick all right,'' Xena muttered. At a sharp glance from Gabrielle, she relented. ''Oh, all right! Come on, let's go get him.''
The two women went downstairs and, passing through the tavern, met Joxer on the street.
''Hail and well met, my fair companions!'' called Joxer. Planting his feet wide apart, hands upon his hips, an enormous smile on his face, he thrust out his chin and struck a pose to impress his two friends.
''Hail, Joxer!'' said Xena, struggling mightily to keep a smile from spreading across her own face. ''How art thou?''
''I am well indeed!'' replied Joxer. A pair of beautiful women in gowns and masks passed by; with a loud purr, Joxer swiveled to watch them, and when one glanced over her shoulder, he thrust his hips back and forth. Those parts of his body which were formerly dangling now waggled crazily in the breeze in pendulum fashion.
With horrified gasps, the women hurried away.
''Joxer!'' Gabrielle said, snatching at his arm. ''Shouldst thou not cover thyself? The festival starteth not now but at sunset.''
''Dost thou not admire my new armor?'' Joxer said. ''T'is the latest fashion, thou knowest. And it makest me invincible.'' He drew his sword with a flourish, causing Xena and Gabrielle to duck from harm's way. ''Verily, I met a robber band upon the road this very afternoon. And dost thou knowest what transpired?''
''It is not within me to imagine,'' Xena replied.
''Why, upon receiving my challenge, the bandits fell down to a man, rolling in the road in hysterical terror.'' Joxer puffed himself up proudly.
Gabrielle bit her lip. ''Sayest thou so? And whyfor dost thou say they were overcome by hysteria?''
''For that they laughed until they were quite ill indeed, with much snortings and many catches of breath,'' Joxer replied.
At last, Xena could stand no more. Clutching her belly, she fell about, choking with laughter. Gabrielle watched, then could contain her own glee no longer and joined her friend in an unstoppable fit of glee.
At first, Joxer stood perplexed, then he said, ''Ah! Knowest I now why this armor renders its wearer invincible!''
''How... how so?,'' Gabrielle gasped.
''For that it causes fits and tremors in all who perceive its splendor,'' he replied.
And there was much, much more laughter at this pronouncement.
Xena finally managed to get a grip on herself. ''Joxer, do you have any idea how ridiculous you look? I mean, you're NOT wearing armor!''
''What?.' Joxer scratched his head in confusion.
''It's true. You're as naked as the day you were born!'' Gabrielle's eyes were filled with tears as she choked back a giggle.
''Naked?'' Joxer looked down at himself, then back to Xena and Gabrielle. ''Really?''
Both women nodded. The light dawned.
''Aiiiiiiieeeeeeeee!'' Joxer screamed shrilly, then covering his most private parts with his hand, scurried away to hide, as the assembled crowd pointed and a great roar of laughter rose up and echoed from every corner of Numae.
The storyteller speaks:
And so Gabrielle and Xena returned to their room in the inn, there to discuss many important matters among themselves...
Among them how to coax the humiliated Joxer (formerly the Mighty) from his hiding place in the bushes to the rear of Dionysius' temple.
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