As Told by Virgil, Son of Joxer

T.C. O'Neill

Completed September 4, 2002

Disclaimers: Characters from Xena, Warrior Princess are the property of the very cool folks at MCA/Universal/Renaissance. No copyright infringement is intended. No legal problems are desired with anybody. This writing is not intended to generate revenue. At best, it is meant to be a pleasant read for you and therapy for me. Some of the characters are of my own creation and may be used by fellow bards. If you have any suggestions, questions, opinions you need to share you may email me at

These are the chronicles of Joxer the Red. If you recall the writing of the great bard and warrior Gabrielle, he was also known as Joxer the Mighty. But, Joxer the Mighty was an earlier time when Joxer traveled with Gabrielle and the Warrior Princess, Xena.

Gabrielle focused almost all of her writing on Xena, and many of the brave and noble deeds Joxer preformed went undocumented. Unlike Xena, Joxer did not travel with his own personal bard.

I have the advantage of first hand knowledge of Joxer's exploits because he was my father. I grew up with these stories and began putting quill to parchment as soon as I learned to write as a child. By no means do I consider my writing to have the style and flare of Gabrielle's. But, I do the best I can.

I may sound as if I'm bitter about Gabrielle's focus on Xena, but to be fair, Gabrielle did write one tribute to Joxer that outshines my poor offerings. Of course my father had to save her life, Xena's and all of Greece to get her attention. But that's Gabrielle for you.

This first story is about Joxer's transformation from Joxer the Mighty into Joxer the Red. It is the only story that caused my father to weep in it's telling.

This story took place before my father fell in love with my mother Meg. I believe my father was still very much in love with Gabrielle, or her memory, at the time he married my mother and in a way, has always held Gabrielle in his heart.

So read on my dear friend and thank the Gods for men like Joxer.


The Castian Valley

Joxer sat on a tree stump flipping pebbles into the pond. His armor lay in a heap next to him. Helmetless, the cool evening breeze blew his hair back from his face. He was starting to feel the first pangs of hunger. His attempts to snare his evening meal had all failed. Not because he didn't try, it just seemed that the rabbits in this area proved to be exceptionally cunning.

He considered making a spear to impale a fish in the pound until he remembered that the day before he had lost his wet stone and would not be able to sharpen his dull bladed sword to fashion a pointed tip on a stick. He hadn't fail at everything that day. A small fire clung to life at his side. The branches were a little green and the smoke was starting to irritate is eyes.

" A dinar for your thoughts." A masculine voice said.

Joxer grabbed his sword from his pile of armor. As he spun around to the direction the voice had come from he tripped over the tree stump and fell into the small campfire. Joxer sprang up from the fire, dropping his sword to slap at the flames that had taken hold to his shirt and vest.

" Hot…Hot…. Ouch…Hot...Hot". He cried. Just as the flames were advancing up his shirt, he tripped over his sword and fell backwards into the pond. Now flameless but wet, he climbed out of the little pond exhausted from his ordeal. As he lay on his stomach his line of sight focused on a pair of well-made boots. As he looked up he saw Ares standing before him.

"Hello Joxer" Ares said as he bend down to lift Joxer to his feet.

Once on his feet, Joxer stepped back one-step from the God of War. Once again he fell into the pond. This time Joxer opted for a sitting position in the pond and found that the water was chest high. Ares had moved to Joker's tree stump and sat down. " Have you ever considered changing your name from Joxer the Mighty to Joxer the Very Clean? After all, a warrior that bathes twice a day is praise worthy in my book."

Joxer let his shoulders slump and made no effort to remove himself from the pond. "Very funny Ares. I'm glad you got a good laugh at my expense"

With one snap of Ares' fingers, Joxer found himself sitting on the ground, dripping water at the War God's feet. Joxer let his body fall back to the ground. " Look Ares. I don't know what you game is but I'm cold, wet and hungry. But most of all I'm cold…. And wet…. And hungry.

Ares pretended to wipe a tear from his cheek. " Oh Joxer, that's … that's so sad.", he said mockingly. "Get a grip. Be a man, or as near as you can get." A snap of Ares' fingers and Joxer's clothing was dry. a wave of his hand, a table of hot food appeared in a small clearing. " Come, Joxer the Clean, sit down and eat while I tell you how your life is about to change.

Joxer flew to the table and began stuffing himself.

After fifteen minutes of watching Joxer eat, Ares spoke. "Slow down. I don't want you choking before your mission."

" Mission? No, no you got the wrong guy! You want Hercules or Jason. Maybe Xena, or one of those guys. You know a hero. Not me."

" What makes you think you're not a hero?"

" Yeah, right. Me, a hero. That's rich."

" Look Joxer, if I say you can be a hero, you can be a hero. You just need a little work."

" Oh, just a little work. Maybe a lot of work. In fact, so much work that I could never live long enough to do the work I would need."

"Okay, let's look at it a different way. Who is the best warrior with a fighting staff you know?"

" That's easy, Gabrielle."

Yes and at one time she was just an irritating farm girl. Now she's an irritating farm girl that can fight. Of course she's still a sidekick, but a good one."

" Why Ares, I'm shocked. You just said something nice about Gabrielle."

Ares leaned against a nearby tree. Just giving credit where credit is do."

The sun had completely gone down and the night sky was filled with stars. Joxer walked away from the table and stood before Ares. " Why all the interest with me all of the sudden? You never said more then three words to me at a time before."

Ares crossed his arms over his chest. " Look Joxer, I'll level with you. I can't go to any of the heroes the other Gods know. They would be watching them. There is going to be a battle and the Gods have agreed to a hands off policy."

" That sounds like our Greek Gods. When you need them they are never there for you."

Ares uncrossed his arms and stood to his full height. His hand moved to the hilt of his sword. " You don't want to make the God of War angry Joxer. You really don't."

Joxer held up his hands in surrender. " You're right, let's not do anything rash" Ares removed his hand from his sword.

" The problem is Ares that I'm a loser, a bungler. The fish that can't swim. The bird that can't fly. The frog that…."

"Stop Joxer. I get the idea." Ares yelled. In a calmer voice he said, " Look at it this way. You have been in many fights and battles with Xena and Gabrielle. Right?"

"Yeah, but I always go down with the first blow or slip and fall down and knock myself out before the fight even begins."

" True, but you have never run away from a fight. In fact, you have never considered it."

Joxer rubbed his chin in thought. " You know… your right. I never looked at it that way before."

" Heroes are not judged by their successes, but by their attempts"

" Wow Ares, that's sweet."

" Could you possibly sound more like a girl, Joxer" Ares said raising his eyes to the stars in frustration.

Making eye contact with Joxer again, he spoke very earnestly. " Joxer. The reason I came to you IS because of the girls."

Joxer began fidgeting and shifting his feet. " You mean Xena and Gabrielle?"

" You're a quick study. Yes, I mean them. Stop moving around and listen."

Joxer could not think of a way to control his nerves other to sit on the ground. " With your permission Ares"

"Yes, yes, sit and pay attention. There is going to be a battle between the Romans and the Amazon Nation."

" How do you know that, Ares?"

" Hellooo, I am a God, remember."

" Oh, right, sorry. Please go on."

Ares dropped to the ground sitting directly across from Joxer in order to regain eye contact.

" Ares, forgive me for asking. But I thought war was your deal."

"It is in most cases. However, the Romans will out number the Amazons greatly. No Amazon or allied forces will prevail."

Joxer turned this over in his mind, reaching a conclusion. And you have a thing for Xena. You don't want her killed."

" Bingo"

"What about Gabby?"

" She'll be dead as a Roman nail if you don't help"

Joxer felt his heart break at the thought of the demise of his two best friends. Ares if nothing else was a student of human nature and could read Joxer's feelings. Standing up and pulling Joxer to his feet he said, " But it doesn't have to be that way. You can change it. You have to reach inside yourself and pull out the man you can be."

Joxer looked into the dark eyes of the God of War and knew he was speaking honestly. "Do you really think I can do it?"

"I know you can. The question is, do you think you can?"

Joxer stood up to his full height. A look of determination was set in his eyes. "I, Joxer the Mighty will face and defeat Caesar, Rome and the hounds of Hades to protect my friends."

Ares also stood and smiles at Joxer. "Spoken like a man with the heart of a lion." Ares said slapping Joxer on the back and grabbing him before he fell over.

" Good. Get some sleep. Tomorrow you start your training." With that said, Ares was gone.

Standing alone, Joxer remembered that someone else once told him he had the heart of a lion. That was Xena. Laying on his bedroll, Joxer laced his fingers behind his head. "Maybe there is something to this heart of a lion stuff. If a true hero like Xena said it and the God of War said it too, it had to be true.," he thought. With a full belly and new hope for the future he fell asleep.


Two Months Later

Ares held his sword in both hands over his head and was about to bring it down when his opponent's blade plunged into the War God's chest. Ares dropped his sword and put his hands around the sword impaling him. Looking down in disbelief, at the sword he dropped to his knees and then fell on his side.

Joxer fell to Ares' side and rolled him onto his back. "Ares, Ares, can you hear me?"

Clutching Joxer's shirt, he spoke in a weak voice, " Joxer, Jox…er, tell Xena…. tell Xena, that I died loving her."

Joxer raised his pained face to the sky, "Noooooooo".

"Chill out man." Ares laughed. Sitting up, he pulled the offending blade from his chest "God of War here. I can't be killed with a sword. Duh!"

"Oh, right, for a minute I forgot." Joxer said flopping down on the ground.

Ares snapped his fingers and a banquet table overflowing with food appeared. For the first time, two chairs also appeared. Ares pulled Joxer to his feet. With a slap to Joxer's back he said, " Come on, Little Buddy, time to feed the growing boy".

Joxer was growing. His arms were much more muscular and his chest and legs were starting to develop muscular bulk as well. Joxer had been training every day from sunrise to sunset for two months. To his surprise, Joxer was becoming an excellent swordsman. He also excelled with the fighting staff. He turned out to be a natural horseman. In fact, he road better then he walked. He needed work on the throwing dagger. He had yet to start his training in the art of archery. Sitting down at the table, Joxer dug into the food as if he had not eaten just four hours before.

" You're doing well Joxer."

" Thanks", Joker said with his mouth full. Joxer's hands systematically moving from plate to plate.

" I'd say you gained about twenty pounds of muscle, body fat down to about two percent. If we had more time, I think, some table manner training would be in order."

Stabbing a slice of venison with his throwing dagger, he said, " Really, why?"

" Joxer, were you brought up in a barn?"

" No, in a castle actually. Sometimes in a tent when my father was on a siege he would bring my brother and me with him."

" Ah, your father was a warrior." Ares was now interested in Joxer's background. "Was he an Officer?"

" "He was a Warlord. Pass me that plate of honey-bread will you?'

"You're kidding, right?"

" No, I really like that kind of bread"

Pushing the plate of honey-bread to Joxer, Aries said, "I mean your kidding about your father being a Warlord"

" He really was a Warlord. Hey, shouldn't you know that kind of stuff? You being the God of War and all."

" You would think so wouldn't you? But the truth is I have not had dealings with each and every warlord."

" Do you have any idea how many Warlords there were in just the last thousand years alone?"

" Four thousand, six hundred and eighty-three"

"Where did you get that number from?", Ares asked.

" I took the total number of the known cities and villages, used a base mile radius of thirty-six and divided that by one thousand."

Aries sat back and said," Joxer, I'm impressed!"

Joxer stopped eating and looked the War God in the eye. " Ares. Now I'm kidding you.". A smile crossed his lips.

Ares stared at Joxer for a while then burst out laughing. " Joxer, I do believe you made a joke."

After Joxer finished eating, the God and the mortal went for a walk. The walk had become almost a ritual.

As they walked, side by side Joxer asked, " Ares, when I finish my training how will I be able to save my friends?"

" Ah, that's the best part. You're going to lead your army to their rescue.".

" My army? Where will I get an army?"

" Believe it or not Joker, warriors will flock to your banner.".

" Flock to my ban…" Thump

Ares stopped walking and looked down at Joker lying on the ground. "Darn rock, that wasn't there before." Joxer mumbled. Helping Joxer to his feet, Ares said, "Actually, I see you riding at the head of your cavalry. Not too much walking on your part. Less trips and falls."

" That's probably not a bad idea." Joker said while brushing himself off.

After a while, they had returned to Joxer's camp. "Get some sleep." Aries said, "Tomorrow is a special day." With a wave of his hand, Ares was gone.

Joxer lay down on his bedroll and before he could think about his conversation with Ares he was asleep.

The next day, Joxer awoke to the smell of hot bread. Sitting up he saw Ares picking through the pile of armor where Joxer had left it.

" How could you ware this junk Joxer?" Ares said. Picking up Joxer's helmet, and flinging it into the pond.

"Heeeey. That's my helmet!" Joxer cried running up to Ares.

"You don't need it." Ares said. He next picked up Joxer's sword and was about to fling it when Joxer grabbed it from him.

" That was my fathers sword. Don't throw it in the water."

" Fine you can keep it, but don't think about using it in combat it's a ceremonial sword and not what you need in a fight."

" Okay, What will I use?"

"Look behind that tree. I brought you some stuff from home." Ares said.

" From home? You mean Olympus?" Joxer said in disbelief.

" That's home isn't it?" Ares said, tossing the rest of Joxer's armor into the pond.

Joxer ran to the tree to see what treasures awaited him. At the tree he found several white tunics, two pairs of black leather britches, a red and gold breastplate, a highly polished fighting staff as well as a red leather scabbard housing a bejeweled sword with a mirror like finish. He also found new red leather boots and a red robe.

Ares walk to his side. " Pretty cool, right?" Ares said.

" Way cool!" Joxer said while changing into his new cloths and armor.

When Joxer finished dressing, Ares walked around him. With a wave of his hand he changed the red robe into a red cape, Roman style.

" Now you look like a warrior." Ares said

" I do, don't I." Joxer agreed.

" You know what you need now?" Ares asked.

" A horse?" Joxer said hopefully.

" A sidekick"

Joxer became very excited hearing this. " Right…right. She should be 5'3", have a face like an angel, reddish blond hair and a body…"

" Joxer, Joxer slow down", Ares laughed, "I think the person you are talking about is already taken."

" Yeah, your right. I guess I got carried away." Joxer said. His enthusiasm draining away.

Ares slapped Joxer on the back. " Don't lose heart Joxer. I know of just the person to serve as your sidekick. I'm sure you'll be pleased."

" Sure Ares. Whatever you say." Joxer mumbled

" Joxer, you're doing that girl thing again."

" Sorry Ares. It's just that when I think of Gabrielle…"

" You become all soft and sensitive." Ares mocked.

" Excuse me, I thought this was about saving the woman you loved, Xeeeeena"

" I never said that I loved her." Ares started walking with Joxer walking behind him.

" Xeeeeennna, Ares loves Xena." Joxer teased.

"Stop it"

" Ares loves Xeeee…" Ares stopped and turned to face Joxer. Joxer bumped into him.

" Remember that girl thing? You're doing it again."

"Okay, okay, I noticed we are walking in a different direction then we usually do, where are we going?" Joxer asked.

There is a small inn a few miles from here. There you will meet your sidekick and first warrior.

All Fool's Inn

Ares and Joxer found the road that lead to the inn and within a short while were standing outside of it.

Suddenly, the Inn's door burst open and a large man was tossed out onto the ground at Ares and Joxer's feet. " And stay out Roman. We don't need your kind here." one of the two men that had ejected the Roman shouted before closing the door. The Roman managed to get to a sitting position before falling on his side. Joxer bent down beside the man and turned him over. Joxer turned his head at the strong smell of wine that reeked from the man passed out on the ground.

" He'll be fine in the morning. " Ares said, stepping around the man on the ground. As they walked into the inn they were greeted by the murmur of men in conversation. Somewhere in the back of the great rooms a female balladeer sang of lost love. Ares and Joxer found a table near a large fireplace and sat down. A serving maiden came to their table. " What is your pleasure gentlemen?" she asked.

Two of your finest ales will do." Joxer said.

Flirting with the customer resulted in better tips for the maiden. She looked first at the dark man in his black leather and then at the one with the kind face and rich looking red cape and boots. The better tip wound come from the kind looking man her years of experience told her. And besides, the dark man had kind of a scary aura about him. "Two of our finest it is then. I'll be right back." She said.

Within a minute the maiden had returned with the drinks. At the corner of the bar, a battle-tested warrior watched the two men with calculating eyes.

Serving the drinks the maiden said, "I have not seen you two around before. May I ask your names good sirs?"

Ares made no response, so Joxer picked up the slack. " My name is Joxer."

" I wager you are called Joxer the Red, as you seem to favor the color." She said, giving Joxer her best smile. The warrior at the bar poked his equally fearsome companion. Both men watched as Joxer over paid the serving maiden with two gold coins.

" Look at the purse he carries. He's a rich one he is." The first warrior stated.

" Did you ever hear tell of Joxer the Red? He asked his friend.

"No. Never heard of him. I did hear of a Joxer the Mighty. Some kind of lackey for Xena."

" He doesn't look like anyone's lackey to me. And his tablemate looks to be someone I have seen before."

" Yes, he does look like someone I associate with a battle I have fought." His friend said. A third main entered the inn and joined the two men at the bar.

Meanwhile, The balladeer had finished her song and was walking past Joxer's table when he spoke to her.

" I enjoyed your song young lady." He said as he politely stood when she stopped for the complement

Being only about 4'11" she looked up at the 6' Joxer and said, " Well thank you good sir. It is the custom to show apparition for a job well done with a dinar or two."

" Oh, right", Joxer pulled a gold coin from his purse and handed it to the young woman.

Looking at the coin she gasped. The coin was worth 100 dinars, more then she made in two weeks time singing at an inn or warlord's estate. Clutching the coin in one hand, she pulled a chair out from under a passed out drunkard at the next table and sat down at Joxer's table in one quick motion.

Rolling his eyes, at the forward brat, Ares said, " Won't you join us?"

Knowing sarcasm when she heard it, the balladeer dismissed Ares with a glance and focused her attention on Joxer. " It is indeed a pleasure to meet a patron of music, good sir. My name is Glenda, balladeer on tour, presently performing two shows here at the All Fools Inn, nightly."

Seeing competition for tips the serving maiden hurried over with two more drinks.

"Two more of our finest ales for Joxer the Red and friend." She said placing the drinks in front Joxer and Ares. Ignoring Glenda, she accepted two more gold coins from Joxer.

Ares looked board, and said, " Well Joxer the Red, I think I'll go check on our friend outside." With that said, he got up from the table and walked away.

This was not lost on Joxer. It was unlike Ares to care for a fallen drunk, and a Roman one at that. This must be his plan, to let Joxer and his new sidekick get better acquainted. The men at the bar whispered among themselves as Ares walk pass them and out the door.

Joxer turned his attention to Glenda. She was short but looked to be very fit. She had short red hair and an impish pretty face. She wore green leather britches and a green puffy sleeve shirt. She looked about nineteen.

"Joxer, Joxer did you hear me" Glenda asked.

" Ah, sorry, what did you say? Joxer said.

"I asked if you play." Glenda repeated.

" Yes. I play the flute." He replied.

" My instrument of choice is the sword", a man's voice said.

Joxer looked up from Glenda to see three men boxing Glenda and him in.

Pushing Glenda's chair over and spilling her onto the floor the larger warrior said, " We couldn't help but notice you seem to be free with your dinars. Perhaps you would like to give some to a few soldiers in need."

In the past, Joxer would have broken out in a sweat but, thanks to his training, he was calm and collected. Standing to his full height, he said, " Oh I can give you what you need". In a flash, he had the tip of his sword resting against the neck of the largest warrior. " I just won't give you what you want."

At this time Glenda sprang from the floor and began pounding the nearest warrior with her little fist. The warrior grabbers her and held a dagger to her side.

" Well it appears that we have a standoff." The warrior with Joxer's sword to his neck said.

" No, not really." replied Joxer. He hit the large warrior with the flat of his blade on the side of the head. The large man crumbled to the floor. In a blink Joxer had the sword on the neck of the man that held Glenda.

" Drop the dagger and step away, or you can join your friend on the floor." Joxer said.

The third man moved on Joxer, but stopped short when Joxer produced a dagger of his own, holding it an inch from the man's face.

"Joxer! Stop playing around, its time to go", Ares said standing behind the two now still warriors.

" I have kind of a problem here at the moment," Joxer said, not taking his eyes off the two men.

" Oh, well I'm a problem solver." Touching the two warriors on their shoulders, he said, "Take a nap boys". Both men fell to the floor and began to snore.

The rest of the people in the great hall made a path as Ares followed by Joxer headed to the door.

" Hey wait."' Glenda cried as she ran to get her gear on the side of the small raised platform that served as a stage.

Outside, Joxer saw that there were now three horses waiting. One of the horses had the Roman tied across his back.

" Why are we bringing him?" Joxer asked.

"He's your new sidekick"; Ares answered with a smile, as if it should be apparent.

" What about her?" Joxer asked pointing to the pursuing Glenda.

Ares looked at Glenda as he mounted his horse. " Her? I don't think so Pal."

Indicating the Roman with a sweep of his arm, he said, "Joxer, it is my great pleasure to introduce Porticos Magnum, one of the great masters of battle strategy and combat in Greece, Rome or anywhere else in the known world.

With the mention of his name Porticos mumbled something incoherent, and passed gas. His horse looked rather displeased.

" Yap, I can see why the enemy would run away from him." Glenda said

" Your still here?" Ares asked.

" You don't think I'm going back there after what happened do you. Those guys are going to be pretty angry when they wakeup."

As Joker mounted his horse he ask, " Ares, speaking of those three guys, why didn't you give them heart attacks, hit them with bolts of lighting, or turn them into stone. You know, something more Ares like."

" You mortals misjudge me. Those three are good men and excellent soldiers. I remember their fathers and their fathers' fathers. I care for good soldiers Joxer. Honestly, where is your compassion for you fellow man?" Ares gave Joxer a look of disappointment and urged his horse to a quick gallop.

Jumping behind Joxer on the horse's back, Glenda put her arms around Joxer's waist.

" Hey, Just where do you think your going?" Joker yelled.

" Just ride warrior" She shouted.

With that said, Joker urged his horse on, chasing after Ares.

The New Camp

It seemed to Joxer that they ridden half way through the night before Ares called a halt to the ride. In a small clearing near a stream, they dismounted. Ares waved his hand and a large tent appeared. A second wave brought a campfire near the tent.

"We will need one for the young lady here." Joxer said, as he helped Glenda off the large horse.

"Whatever" Ares said, as a smaller tent appeared after a wave of his hand.

Glenda was shocked. She finally asked, "Is he a sorcerer?

"Him? No. He's a god. Glenda, may I present Ares, God of War. Ah…Glenda?"

Glenda had passed out.

"I sometimes have that effect on women," Ares said. Stepping over Glenda, he continued, "Look Joxer, I have things to attend to and will be gone for a few days. When Porticos awakens, fill him in on everything. He's a good man and should have your complete trust. Keep up your training. Before I go, I'll tell you the about the big fella you decked at the inn…"

Glenda awoke to find herself on a cot inside the small tent. There were a few candles giving a soft light to the tent's interior. It must be evening she thought. She heard the sound of a flute playing a sad melody. She got up from the cot and walked outside the tent. A few feet from the tent, Joxer sat by the campfire playing the flute.

"That song is so pretty. What's it called?" she asked approaching Joxer.

Joxer got to his feet. Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to wake you.

"Please sit my lord. It is I, who should stand in you presents." Glena said.

"Looks like you already are. Why don't we both sit down?"

"As you wish my lord", she said as she sat down beside him.

I'm not a Lord; I'm just a regular guy. Why don't you call me Joxer?"

"As you wish, Lord Joxer."

Joxer felt he was not going to win this one, so he changed the subject.

"Ah… the song I was playing has no name. I was just making it up as I went along.

"Truly sire, you have the gift of music."

"Yeah, right. Some people are great statesmen, others great warriors. Me, I'm a great flute player." Joxer laughed.

But, you are a great warrior as well. The way you handled those men at the inn…"

"Ares put his sleeper hold or whatever it was on two of them."

"Was that really Ares?"


"And he is your friend? The God of War?" she asked with keen interest.

"I'm not sure how to answer that. Gods are not like people. I'm not sure that Ares really knows the meaning of friendship as we do. But I have to admit the past eight or nine weeks; we have spent a lot of time together. Ares is more like my teacher sometimes drinking buddy. He trained me in the art of combat." Joxer said as if this was not unusual.

She stared at Joxer for a few seconds and then said. " A god is your drinking companion and your teacher, you're a gifted musician you're buffed and handsome, but you're just a regular guy. Have I got the facts right?"

"I don't know about the handsome part, but I guess the rest is right. Did you say I'm buffed?" Joxer smiled.

Glenda smiled back at him. "Yes, buffed and yes, handsome"

Joxer looked down at the ground. " No woman ever told me I was handsome before."

" What women have you been hanging around with lately?" she asked.

" Well the last few years mostly Xena, the Warrior Princess and Gabrielle, a Queen of the Amazons."

Glenda's mouth dropped. When she recovered, she said, "And you're just a regular guy, right?"

"Right, about the only thing special about me is that I'm the only man welcome to visit any Amazon village. But that's because they know me because of Xena and Gabby.

Glenda let that sink in. Surly this was the most modest man she had ever met. He was without question, one of the nicer ones. The way he stood up to those three brutes proved he had courage. He didn't even know how special he was.

" Earth to Glenda. Hello." Joxer said. "A dinar for your thoughts."

Glenda snapped out of her mental tangent. " I'm so sorry my Lord. What did you say?"

Joker smiled at the young balladeer, " I said that it's getting late and I'm going to check on our sleeping friend and then turn it for the night."

As Joxer got up and stretched, Glenda said impulsively, " Lord Joxer, you are the best man I have ever met."

Joxer looked into her green eyes. The same color eyes that Gabrielle had. The thought of Gabrielle melted his heart. Now saddened, he said. " There are lots of men braver and better then me, Glenda."

As he walked away, Glenda called after him, "Name one friend of yours that is braver then you."

As he entered the tent he replied, "Hercules."

" He knows Hercules too." She said to herself. " Well it's easy to be brave when you're an immortal like Hercules" she shouted to the closing tent flap. There was no reply from Joxer.

Plunk. Swish. Thump. Plunk, Swish, Thump

Joxer was just coming out of his sleep. "I know that sound", he thought. Plunk. Swish. Thump.

"Kind of like someone shooting arrows off. The plunk of the bowstring being released. The swish of the arrow flying through the air and the thump sound of the arrow hitting its target. Yep, that's what it sounds like to me." Suddenly, Joxer's eyes sprang open. "We're under attack!" he shouted to the sleeping Porticos. Porticos turned from his back to his side in his sleep. He made no response.

Grabbing his sword from his scabbard, Joxer stepped from the tent into the breaking daylight outside.

At the far end of the clearing he saw Glenda rapidly pulling arrows from the quiver strapped to her back and firing arrows from her bow. Her target was a young oak tree about five inches wide, thirty feet from where she stood. She had shot about ten arrows up and down the slender tree. Hearing Joxer's approach, She turned to greet him. " Good morning my Lord" she said with a smile.

As Joxer stepped up to her, he said, "Morning Glenda. Boy, is my face red. I thought we were under attack."

"Well, you are the Red Lord. Hmm, The Red Lord, I like that." She laughed.

"Gee, I'm really getting the nick names lately. Last night, Joxer the Red and today The Red Lord.' He smiled at her and she felt like she would melt.

Regaining her composer, she said, " Both names are fitting, my Lord." she said shyly.

Placing both hands on her shoulders he said, " Then you shall have a new name as well. Henceforth, I will call you Archer."

Thank you Red Lord, you may also call me Cook, because I have also made breakfast for you and the Roman." Glenda, a.k.a., Archer said.

"No, I don't think I'll call you Cook. It doesn't have a ring to it. The Red Lord and his sidekick Cook? No, it doesn't work for me. Now, Joxer, the Red and Archer or The Red Lord and Archer. That works."

Glenda clapped her little hands in excitement. " You mean, I'm going to be your sidekick. How cool is that?"

" Pretty cool", Joxer agreed. " So, tell me, how did you learn to shoot like that?" Joxer asked.

"Oh, well, my father was our King's Caption of Archers. I learned archery when I was very little."

" You mean you were even smaller then you are now?" Joxer joked.

" Ha, ha, very funny. I might be small, but good things come small packages." She said defensively.

" By the Gods, where am I?" A deep baritone voice bellowed.

"It sounds as if Porticos is awake at last." Joker said, as they picked up their pace back to the campsite.

Later That Day

Joker had met Porticos as he was coming out of the tent and explained Ares' plan and Porticos' role in it. While the two men talked, Glenda served breakfast for all. After a good breakfast and a much-needed bath, Porticos felt like a new man. Sitting in a Roman style camp chair, Porticos gratefully accepted a cup of tea from Glenda. " Thank you, little one'" he said sipping the tea.

"Little One?" when are you men going to stop judging someone by their height?" Glenda said angrily.

" I meant no offence to you and I was not referring to your height. Truly, I can see that you are brave of heart for one so young and lovely. I meant it as a term of endearment."

Glenda blushed. "You think I'm lovely?" she asked.

"Indeed. You would rival Helen of Troy in charm, looks and grace. And I know Helen well." He smiled.

Gliding the toe of her boot in a semicircle in the dirt as she looked down at the ground to hide her blush, she said in a soft voice, " Well if you mean it that way, I guess it would be alright if YOU called me that." She looked up at him and noticed how much Porticos looked like her father.

"I stand indebted to your favor, my lady." Porticos said with a slight bow of the head. Joxer had sat quietly during the exchange. He noted that Porticos' skills were not limited to battle tactics. Standing up, Joxer said, " Alright then. If that's settled, I'm going for a bath." He was surprised to see both Porticos and Archer standup in respect. Now Joxer blushed. " Look guys, I don't care if you call me The Red Lord, Joxer the Red or anything else if it makes you feel better. But, I'm just plain old Joxer. So don't get carried away with the respect thing. I have not earned it yet." With that said, he walked away.

"He doesn't see himself the way we see him does he Porticos?" Glenda asked.

"Indeed", Porticos replied. "There may have been a time when he was Plain Old Joxer, but that time is now passed.

After his bath, Joxer walked along the path to his camp.

"Hello, Joxer the Clean"

" Ares, I was wondering when you would turn up." Joker said to the God of War in his path.

"So what do you think of Porticos?" Ares asked with a bemused look.

"Oh, well he's just great. I like him very much."

" I don't care if you like him. I want you to use him. Tap into that knowledge he has and learn from him."

"I will Ares." Joker said, "There is no harm in liking him as well."

Ares stroked the hair on his chin in thought. "I guess not, but don't lose site of your mission to save Xena."

"And Gabrielle", Joxer added.

"If you must." Ares conceded. What's with the brat? Why are you keeping her around?

She's the best archer I have ever seen. She will be a true asset."

Ares thought that one over. "Yes, that is true, now that you bring it up. I know her father. If she is half the archer her father is, then she will serve you well."

Joxer felt better hearing that from Ares.

"Great. Ares, why don't you come back to camp with me?" Joxer offered.

"Oh, gee, I would love to hang out with the Joxateers. But, believe it or not I have more pressing business to attend to. Pay attention while I fill you in on the next step of the plan.


Theodore held his head in his hands while he sat by the campfire. His head was no longer hurt form the blow suffered at the hand of the warrior in red at the inn the night before. He suffered a greater pain brought on by his recent defeat in battle against the Roman Legion. The Romans had proved themselves almost invincible against the combined forces of Athens, Troy and Sparta. In the three-day battle all Theodore's commanders were left dead on the battlefield. Theodore was a sergeant in the Athenian cavalry. He would have fought on until death had his captain not ordered him to withdraw what troops he could, to fight another day.

He gathered some seventy Athenian and Trojan soldiers to fight their way out of the mayhem. If not for the courageous Spartans that covered their retreat, they would never have made it out alive. No Spartan took part in the retreat. All the Spartans died in battle. That is the Spartan way. Even with the aid of the Spartans, almost a third of Theodore's charges were killed in the escape.

Now, Theodore contemplated the gloomy future. Theodore had a combination of thirty Athenian solders and cavalrymen, 14 Trojans cavalrymen. And in addition, he also had sixteen Spartan foot soldiers that were on their way to reinforce their fellows. Only by invoking a secret password and the name of the now dead Spartan Commander was he able to turn the Spartans from death. This may not have been the right decision Theodore reflected. The Spartans were eager for battle. Knowing of the deaths of their fellow Spartans, They proved to be a handful to control. What made matters worse; Theodore had been reduced to playing the part of a tavern bully. He was never like that before. "Why have the Gods abandoned Greece? Why have they abandoned Me.?" he said to the campfire.

" The Gods will never abandon Greece. And I will never abandon her warriors."

Theodore dropped to his knees, as did the rest of the camp, at the appearance of Ares. Ares walked among the ranks of the kneeing soldiers as he spoke.

"So, you lost a battle to the Romans and now you look to the Gods for relief. How many of you made offering to the Gods before you left your cities? How many of you made offerings to ME, before battle?"

Most of the men looked down. "There you have it." Ares said in disgust.

"We Spartans made offering to you everyday in Sparta and twice a day on the way to join out fellows at the front." A Spartan offered. Ares smiled at the solider that spoke. And that is why I have asked my Uncle Hades to allow the Spartan that fell in battle to enter the Elysian Fields. I can't say the same for the rest of the Greeks that fell in battle."

Theodore spoke up. "Ares, how can me make amends to you and turn back the Romans?"

Pulling Theodore to his feet and putting his arm around him, Ares said, "Ah, there we have it." Walking with Theodore he said," Here is what you and your men are going to do…"



Xena had pushed Agro, her faithful steed as long and as hard as she could. Carrying both Xena and Gabrielle had not been easy on the horse. The gleaming sweat on Agro showed Xena that the mare was at her breaking point. "Slowing Agro to a walk, Xena said, "Get down Gabrielle, we'll walk from here."

Gabrielle was more then glad to dismount. It seemed to her that they had been bouncing on Agro's back for day, although it was really a little over three hours. Once, on the ground, she leaned on her fighting staff heavily because her legs had stiffened from the hours of riding. If Xena felt the same stiffing effects, it didn't show.

"We've made good time Gabrielle. We should be at the Amazon War Council in plenty of time if we can keep the same pace as the last few days." Xena said.

Gabrielle stopped walking. " Keep the same pace?" Gabrielle exclaimed.

Xena stopped walking and turned to her blonde friend. "I know your tired, but Roman patrols have been reported near the last two towns we past through. If we don't get into Amazon territory soon, we could be cut off."

Gabrielle was about to speak when there was a thump sound. The next thing Gabrielle knew Xena knocked her to the ground and rolled with her into the brushes off the side of the road. While Gabrielle hugged the ground, Xena reached out from the brushes and pulled Gabrielle's staff from the road.

"Just as I thought." Xena said as she stood up.

Gabrielle looked up from the ground to see Xena pull an arrow from the fighting staff she had retrieved from the road. "Xena, get down. We are under attack." Gabrielle said pulling on Xena's leg.

"Relax Gabrielle. If whoever shot this arrow wanted us dead, we would be by now" Xena said, while untying a slip of parchment from the arrow's shaft. She quickly read the message on the parchment and handed the note to Gabrielle as she stood up, looked about for signs of danger. Unrolling the message, Gabrielle read:

Greetings, Queen Gabrielle.

My Lord has sent me to

see you safely into

Amazon territory. Beware, A Roman

patrol is approaching you around the next bend

Your Servant, Archer

After reading the note, Gabrielle looked up to see Xena lying on the road. "Xena, What are you…"

"Quite Gabrielle" Xena hissed. Another five seconds went by, and then Xena got up and lead Gabrielle deeper into the woods. "I could feel the vibration on the road of cavalry coming this way." From their hiding spot, they watched thirty Roman cavalrymen ride by. After they passed, Xena said, "Those are Imperial Guards. That means Caesar must have broken through the combined Greek defenses."

"I guess this man Archer just saved our hides." Gabrielle said.

" Yes he did. But I wonder how he knew where we were and how he knew that we are going to Amazon territory." Xena said more to herself then Gabrielle. " I think I would like to meet this Archer." "Come on, the sun will be going down and we should make camp deeper into the woods.


After Xena had brushed down and fed Agro, she went into the dark woods to hunt for their dinner. Gabrielle started a small campfire to brew tea for the warrior and herself.

A half-hour later: "I hope you have an extra cup for our guest." Xena said from the dark.

Gabrielle stood up and looked in the direction Xena's voice had come from. She could see Xena's form next to her a much smaller one.

As they stepped into the firelight, Gabrielle saw a young girl standing beside Xena.

"Well hello, little one. What are you doing alone in these woods?"

" Saving your butts mostly Blondie. And I have news for you sweetheart. You're not exactly a giant yourself, like this Amazon Queen here." Archer said pointing her thumb at Xena.

Xena laughed, then said. " I think proper introductions are in order. This young thing is Archer. Archer THIS is Gabrielle. She is the Amazon Queen also known as the Battling Bard or Sweetheart if you must. I'm her sidekick, Xena."

Archer was dumbstruck. " I'm so sorry my Queen…It's just that she, er Xena is so big and I had always heard that the Amazon were big, and well…"

Now it was Gabrielle's turn to laugh. " Hey, don't worry about it. People confuse Xena and me all the time." Xena gave her a questioning look.

"I should be the last one to make assumptions based on appearances. I'm very sorry. Archer said shyly.

Gabrielle took the girls hands into her own and smiled.

"Come, come sit down next to me and tell us about this mysterious lord of yours you spoke of in your message and how he seems to knows so much about us."

Squatting down, Xena added, " We are very interested. Here, have some tea." Xena said, as she started to skin the rabbits she had killed shortly before Archer presented herself.

Accepting the cup of tea from Xena, Archer smiled and said, " I'm not sure I know where to start."

"Start with this warlord's name." Xena said in her usual direct way.

" He's not a warlord. I just address him as Lord out of respect. Most people refer to him as the Red Lord because of his cloths and armor. He is a very humble man and a great warrior. He kind' a big, with muscles and very handsome." Archer said, with a starry eyed look.

Gabrielle and Xena sneaked a look at each other. They knew a smitten girl when they saw one.

"He's very brave too. When I first met him, he was attacked by a bunch of bullies in an inn. He fought them off and took me back to his camp with him because I had nowhere to go. He's an expert swordsman and a master of the fighting staff." Looking from Xena to Gabrielle, she added, " He says Gabrielle is the best fighter with the staff. He knows Hercules and…"

"Wait, slow down" Gabrielle interrupted. "How does he know about me?"

As usual, Xena let Gabrielle to most of the talking. As she placed the rabbits over the fire, she followed the conversation.

"Everyone knows about the Warrior Princess and the Battling Brad, even me." Archer said, looking back at Gabrielle and ready to resume telling the virtues of the Red Lord.

Now turning the subject over in her mind, Gabrielle said slowly, " The way you said it, sounds as if he had first hand knowledge. As if he had seen for himself". In my stories, I don't mention my experiences fighting."

Xena had reached the same conclusion. She quickly reviewed the list of friends and foes in her mind. She failed to reach a conclusion as to the identity of the Red Lord. More information was needed.

"Gabrielle, as a bard, you should know better then to interrupt the telling of a story."

Gabrielle gave her a look that told Xena she understood her meaning. " Yes, your right Xena. Please, go on Archer."

The quick look between the two women was not lost on Archer. Joxer had told her that the two were quick witted. She mentally kicked herself for carrying on like a farm girl that was enamored with a young man that had just asked her to a dance. "Just say what you were sent here to say and leave the extra stuff out." She told herself. Switching to a more formal tone she said, "My Lord begs you to weigh the information he sends on it's own merit."

Picking up on the change, Xena said, " What's the information?"

The Romans have broken through the combined Greek defenses. A major battle was lost. Many if not all the Field Commanders are dead. Their troops are retreating in disarray. My lord is gathering as many of the soldiers to his banner that he can, as we speak. He knows that Queen Gabrielle is in route to an Amazon War Council. He also knows that the Romans plan to march on the Amazon Nation. Once they have broken the Amazons, they plan to sweep across Greece. He hopes the Amazons can hold the Romans off until his army can join them on the field of battle."

"It would appear that you're mysterious lord is very well informed." Gabrielle said. " How do we know that his intentions are what you say?'

Archer smiled at that. " My Lord told me that Xena would be thinking that and you would be the one to voice the question." Archer replied.

"Who is this guy?" Xena wondered.

"Is your lord a Grecian general then, if he's not a warlord? Gabrielle asked.

"Once again, Queen Gabrielle, I'm not at liberty to say. However, I can tell you that Porticos Magnum is his advisor of tactics. He said that would mean something to Xena".

"The name doesn't mean anything to me." Gabrielle said, looking to Xena.

" I know Porticos or I should say I know of him. Greek born, but raised as Roman, not a warrior himself but one of the best military minds the Roman Army has produced. In my warlord days, my army had suffered several defeats do to his strategies.

"He does not sound like a friend to me." Gabrielle said, now eyeing Archer with suspicion.

" He could be a friend." Xena said, When Caesar came to power; he replaced Porticos Magnum because he was Greek born. Porticos has no fondness for Caesar."

Gabrielle thought this new insight over and said, counting the facts off on her fingers. "We have a mysterious friend that doesn't want us to know who he is. He has first hand knowledge of us but won't say how. He knows our movements and the plans of the Romans, but won't tell us how. He has an advisor that is some kind of military genius. He is going to lead an army to our aid but he's not a general or a warlord. Have I got it right?"

Standing up Xena said, " Sounds like you have a handle on it Gabrielle. I'm going to get some sleep. I suggest you two do the same, after you eat. I want to be in Amazon territory at sunup. Archer, you can report back to you lord after the council meeting. Those rabbits look like they are done. With that said Xena want of to look for her bedroll and check on Argo.

Gabrielle understood that Xena was trying to give them some time alone so that Archer might begin speaking more freely again. Placing some rabbit meat in a bowl and handing it to Archer she asked, "So how long have you been known as Archer?"

Accepting the meat, Archer said, " You-Know-Who, gave me that name. My real name is Glenda. Until I met him, I was a balladeer by trade. Archer smiled at Gabrielle, knowing what she was trying to do.

"Okay, I get the point. I won't try to pump you for more information about him." Gabrielle laughed.

"Thanks", Archer said with a mouth full of rabbit.

Gabrielle passed Archer a skin of water. " I do have one observation though."

After drinking some water, Archer asked, " What's that?"

"Don't take it the wrong way, but I get the impression that you have feeling for this Red Lord".

Archer was quite for a moment, then said, "It shows that much?"

Gabrielle smiled, "Maybe just a little. Do you want to talk about it?"

Archer thought it over. Then said, " There's not much to tell. And what there is, isn't very good?"

" So try me. Maybe, a little girl talk would help." Gabrielle offered.

" Well, I admit I have feelings for him but…"

" Your not sure he feels the same way about you?" Gabrielle suggested.

" He can see me as a sidekick, a friend, a warrior, a little sister, any way accept as a women."

"He must be blind," Gabrielle said.

"Blind or not interested" Archer said as she dumped the scraps in her bowl in the fire. Archer unslung her bedroll from her back and spread it on the ground. Placing her bow, quiver and a long dagger within easy reach. She plopped down on the bedroll and turned on her side to look at Gabrielle.

Gabrielle had also made her sleeping arrangements on the other side of the campfire.

"Glenda, I think he must be crazy. I think you're very attractive women. Any man would be happy to have a girl like you."

Now it was Archer that laughed. " Oh, Queen Gabrielle, How would you know what's attractive about another woman?"

Before Gabrielle could respond, Xena returned to the campfire. " If the girl talk is over, let's get some sleep." Xena said as she dropped her bedroll next to Gabrielle's and stretched out on it.

Archer bid them good night and turned onto her back.

Later that night, Archer turned on her side and looked across the campfire at the two women asleep. "Gabrielle must have moved around in her sleep" Archer thought to herself. Because, Gabrielle was now on Xena's bedroll. The warrior had her arm draped across Gabrielle's shoulder.


Joxer's Camp

Porticos watched Joxer pace from one end of the large tent's interior to the other. Ares had told Joxer that he could expect his first troops to arrive at his camp today. According to Ares, these troops were a combination of infantry and cavalry from Troy, Athens and Sparta. He had also given the names of a man from each of the city-states that would make excellent field commanders.

"Joxer, you're going to wear a rut into the ground, if you don't stop that pacing."

Joxer stopped and looked at his older companion. Sitting in his Roman chair, wearing his fine Roman robes, Porticos looked more like a Roman Senator then a soldier. His closely trimmed graybeard and baldhead added to his look of quite intellect. Porticos spoke with a deep, rich voice that commanded attention.

"I can't help it Porticos. What if I screw something up? What if I fail to gain the respect of the troops? What if…"

"That's a lot of what ifs you have my friend. Stop thinking like your old self and trust in your metamorphosed self."

"Joxer put both his hands to his temples, " I don't even understand what you just said."

Porticos laughed and put his hands on Joxer's shoulders. "Joxer, you will be just fine. Your training will rise to any occasion. I will be at your side for planning. You need not worry."

But Joxer was worried. Not only about the impression he would make on the Greek soldiers arriving soon but more about Glenda. What had he been thinking when he sent the young girl on a mission to contact Xena and Gabby? Sure, Porticos agreed that the contact was important. And Glenda was more then willing to take on her first mission. Still, Joxer could not help but worry about the girl. Lost in his own thoughts, Joxer had not noticed Porticos had moved to the flap of the tent.

"Riders approaching Joxer." Porticos said. "Wait here, while I speak to them. Remember, we don't want you to greet them until the foot soldiers arrive as well."

"What should I do until then?"

" Take a nap. Sharpen your blade. Anything, just wait here." Porticos said as he exited the tent.

Theodore rode at the head of the two columns of cavalry. He could see the Red Lord's small camp off in the distance, just where Ares said it would be.

He could see a man exit the larger of the two tents and stand in the shade of the tent's canopy. As they road closer, he could see that the man was an older gentleman. That must be Porticos, the tactician, he thought. He had heard of him in the past. His battle tactics were studied in military schools across Greece as well as Rome. The God Ares also spoke highly of him.

"You must put complete trust in The Red Lord and Porticos, Theodore. Aided by your strong arm, Greece will repel Caesar and his army. Without them, Greece will be lost." Ares had said.

The cavalry formed two lines near the tents. Theodore dismounted and walked up to Porticos. "Hail and well met, Theodore." Porticos said, grasping Theodore's right forearm.

"Greetings, Porticos. It is a pleasure to meet Rome's greatest battle tactician." Looking at Porticos, Theodore realized that Porticos was the drunk in the inn.

Releasing the warrior's arm, Porticos said. " Rome's former tactician, my new friend. How far behind is the infantry? What size it their number?"

" Our number has increased greatly on our march. We don't have a complete count at the moment. The infantry should be here by sunset. The main body of cavalry should be here before mid-day." Theodore's eyes drifted to the tent flap.

Noticing this, Porticos said, "He will present himself in his own time Theodore. For now, hear his words." Pointing to the treeline to his left Porticos said, "Beyond those trees you will find a Quartermaster's tent. Send for Argus of Troy and his fellows to take command there. They will find everything they need to outfit our forces, from sleeping tents to armor."

Theodore looked puzzled. " Forgive me Portico, but I do not know this Trojan."

The elder man smiled and said, "He joined your ranks two moons ago. He's one of the number that have yet to be counter."

Theodore called to several of the horsemen to ride back to the fetch the quartermasters. Porticos pulled a parchment from his robe and showed Theodore how the expanded camp was to be setup. Arrangements were also made to have scouts sent out to patrol the area. After Porticos had given Theodore the rest of the instructions Joxer and he had made. "Oh, by the way Theodore, I plan to stay sober during this campaign. I hope your not planning to try to strong-arm the Red Lord again." Theodore started to stammer an apology. Porticos laughed, "All in the pass my friend, let it go, The Red Lord has. Theodore was dismissed and Porticos re-entered the tent to confer with Joxer.

Amazon Territory

The warrior, the bard and the archer had passed the first Amazon marked some time ago. Leading Argo as they walked, Xena said, " How many did you count Gabrielle?"

"Fifteen so far. How about you?" Gabrielle asked.

"Seventeen, plus six more up ahead in those trees."

"What are you talking about?" Archer asked.

"Amazons" Xena said.

"Amazons? I didn't see anybody. If there are Amazons, why don't they greet their Queen?"

"That's not their job." Gabrielle said. "They have sent word some time ago that we are here."

"Ephiny should greet us before we reach the village," Xena said.

"Who is Ephiny/" Archer asked

"Ephiny is the regent appointed to rule in the Queen's place whenever she is away."

"Gabrielle, don't you worry about her taking over permanently?" Archer asked.

"No, not at all. The former queen gave the title of Queen to me when she died. It's not like I ran in an election." Looking at Xena she added, " Besides, I'm not around very much. We spend most of our time traveling."

Xena said nothing but wondered if Gabrielle was growing tied of life on the road.

"I understand that", Arch said, " I have been traveling alone for a long time. At least, you have each other."

"Were not always alone," Xena said.

Gabrielle smiled, "That's right, there is a warrior that has had many adventures with us."

"Really, a third woman warrior?" This is getting interesting Archer thought.

Now Gabrielle laughed. "Not a another women warrior, a man."

"He must be a mighty warrior if you two allow him to travel with you."

Gabrielle and Xena looked at each other, not sure how to respond. Finally, Gabrielle said, "Yeah, I would associate mighty with him"

"Ah… Yeah, he's a mighty man, alright" Xena added.

"Very mighty. Wouldn't you say he's a very mighty man Xena?"

"Yes, very mighty…and the ah, Master of Mayhem too. Right Gabrielle?

" He's the Mighty Master of Mayhem, alright."

"Whom are you talking about? I'm getting confused." Arch confessed.

"Our Friend, The Mighty Master of Mayhem. Joxer the Mighty." Gabrielle said.

Archer stopped to let this sink in. Gabrielle, who was walking behind her, bumped into her.

"Sorry, Queen Gabrielle." Archer said.

"Are you okay Glenda? Why did you stop?"

"Ah…my foot fell asleep. Sorry." Glenda ran to catch up to Xena. Could this be the same Joxer? The man of mystery.

Gabrielle caught up to Xena and Archer.

"So, Xena, is this Joxer a brave man?"

Keeping her eyes looking ahead, Xena answered, " He has the heart of a lion. I've never known him to run from a battle.

This has to be MY Joxer, Archer thought. " Well…ah… Where is he now? This Joxer the Mighty?"

Gabrielle started to speak but Xena cut her off. " He's not with us now because he's sometimes a sword for hire. A solider of fortune."

Arch looked down at the ground as she walked. "You mean a mercenary, a paid thug."

Xena and Gabrielle both notice the change in Archer's mood. Both women knew there was something going on in the girl's head. Something to do with Joxer.

"Joxer, a thug? Far from it." Xena said

"Joxer is a lot of things, but he's no thug." Gabrielle added. "Joxer would never fight for a warlord or a corrupt king. He's a good guy."

Xena decided to fan the flame a little more. " Don't tell me you have never heard of Joxer the Mighty."

"I can honestly say I have never heard of Joxer, The Mighty" Archer said truthfully.

Xena shot Gabrielle a look, then said " Gabrielle, as a balladeer, I'm sure Glenda would love to hear the Joxer song. Why don't you sing it for her?"

"Joxer has a song? Wow…I mean, yes Gabrielle, please sing it for me"

Looking a little sheepish, Gabrielle began to sing, "Joxer the Mighty, He roams around the countryside. He never runs, he'll never hide…"

By the second rendition, both Gabrielle and Archer were singing at the top of their lungs. Even Argo shook her head in approval from time to time.

While they sang Xena tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Joxer is a good man, but how could he possibly hope to lead a patched together army against Caesar? How did he get Porticos to join him?

As they walked on they came to clearing where some twenty Amazons stood waiting. A tall blonde warrior stepped forward to meet them. Bending down on one knee the warrior said. "Greeting my Queen."

Gabrielle smiled at the woman and bid her to rise.

"It's good to see you again Ephiny."

"It's good to see you two as well. I see you brought a friend." Ephiny said glancing in Archer's direction.

"Archer, this is Ephiny, my Regent. Ephiny, this is Glenda, an excellent archer and scout in the service of the Red Lord."

"The Red Lord?" Ephiny asked. "Who is the…"

"All in good time" Xena said. "We can talk when we get Gabrielle safely to the village. Let's start moving."

As they started to walk, Ephiny asked, "Wasn't that the Joxer the Mighty song you were singing Gabrielle?"

" You know the Joxer song?" Archer asked.

Ephiny laughed, then said, "Do we ever? Joxer paid us a visit once and drilled it into out heads. I don't think there is an Amazon in Greece, Gaul or Mesopotamia that doesn't know that song by now." Ephiny began singing the song. Gabrielle and Archer joined in. Soon the other Amazons picked up the chorus as well. All sang of the glorious Joxer, accept one Warrior Princess thinking of the battle ahead.

Joxer's Camp

The sun was setting when the last of the infantry marched into camp. The little clearing was now in the middle of an army camp. Argus and his men had done an excellent job erecting tents and re-outfitting the troops as they arrived.

Joxer sat at a desk, surrounded by Theodore of Athens, newly appointed cavalry commander, Matthew, of Sparta, now commander of infantry and Hexious of Troy, commander of archers. They were reviewing the numbers of troops and there placement.

Porticos entered the tent with Lexious, captain of engineers. "Greeting Lord Joxer." Lexious said and gave Joxer a snappy salute.

"Right back at you Lex." Joxer said. "What have you got for me?"

"Poor tiding, my lord. I regret we have few engineers and less men trained in the use of catapults."

Joxer stood up and placed his fist on his hips. No doubt, to look rather dashing to his officers. " That is bad news. Nothing like a little Grecian fire to make the Romans think twice."

" We could use fire tipped arrows, my lord." Hexious suggested.

"Hmmm arrows of fire. I like that. What do you think Porticos?" Joxer said turning to the elder man.

" I'm not sure the Amazons would care for the idea of use burning down their forest with fire arrows."

Joxer rubbed his chin in thought. "Hexious, Instruct you archers to shoot only Roman soldiers, not trees or bushes."

All the men laughed at Joxer's joke. Only, Joxer didn't get the joke.

"Ah, well, that should be all for tonight gentlemen. See to the needs of your men. I will address them in the morning."

As the men filled out, Porticos stayed. "You did well today Joxer."

" Agreed" Areas said as he materialized. "Let's talk about your speech to the men, Joxer. Porticos, you may leave us."

Porticos bowed as be backed out of the tent.

"I was hoping you would show up Ares. I'm not much for speeches. You know, I'm more of a man of action. I let my blade do my talking."

Ares held his fingers to his temple. " Only you could give a god a headache Joxer. Stop making these dumb little statements. Stop trying to be someone else. You don't have to pretend to be a warrior anymore. You are one; you are Joxer the lion hearted. You carry the favor of the God of War. You will lead Greece to victory over the Romans."

Joxer was embarrassed that he had slipped back to his old ways. "Your right Ares. So tell me what I should say to rally the men."

"I just did. And remember, presentation is everything." In a flash Ares was gone.

"Oh, right." Joxer sat down in his chair. Picking up a quill he began to write on a fresh scroll.

The Amazon Village

At the same time Joxer was preparing his address to his army, Gabrielle sat with the other Amazon Queens. They were arranged in a semicircle inside the large meeting hall. The queens were conducting their war council. At this stage of the process, they were hearing reports from their scouts.

Archer had not yet been called to present her message from the Red Lord. Xena waited outside the hall with a nervous Archer.

"Boy, I hope I don't screw this up" Archer said as she glanced at the hall, as she had done almost every twenty seconds.

"You'll do fine," Xena said, not looking up from her task of sharpening the blade of her sword.

"Easy for you to say. I'm the one who has to address them… alone," Archer said, feeling her stomach turn over at just the thought of speaking to the assembled fierce women warriors.

Xena finished sharpening her sword. She gave it a twirl to test the balance. "Nice", she said to herself. She looked over at Archer and said with a wicked grin, " Yeah never know when you might have to run a blade through somebody."

Archer looked ill. She didn't realize this was Xena's attempt at humor.

Xena flipped her sword into the air and shifted her body slightly so that the sword landed neatly into the sword's scabbard strapped to her back. "Don't worry Glenda, Gabrielle arranged for me to be with you when you give Joxer's message to the council."

"Joxer? Who said anything about Joxer?"

Xena smiled and said, " It adds up. In the last few years I could always count on Joxer showing up for a fight. Here we are on the eve of a major battle. Maybe the biggest battle I've been in, in years. Funny thing, I don't see Joxer around. Unless he was killed when the Romans defeated the combined Greek forces, we would have heard from him by now." Looking Archer in the eyes, Xena said, " So tell me Glenda, is my friend dead or is he your mysterious Red Lord? Joxer is the Red Lord, isn't he?"

Archer didn't know what to say. Finally she said, "The Red Lord is named Joxer. At first I didn't know if he and Joxer the Mighty were one and the same. But the more I think about it I'm sure they are the same person."

Looking deeply into Glenda's eyes, Xena knew the young woman was telling the truth. Xena also guessed that the reason Joxer had wished to keep his identity a secret from the Amazons was the fact that although Joxer was well liked by the Amazons, they never respected him as a warrior. They would be very hesitant to depend on Joxer's abilities and advice in the coming conflict.

Putting her arm around the smaller woman's shoulder, Xena said, "If Joxer does not want anyone to know he's the Red Lord, he must have his reasons. Except for Gabrielle, we'll respect his wishes and keep his secret for now."

Archer felt as if a tremendous weight had been lifted from her. "Thank you Xena, I feel much better now."

A tall Amazon exited the meeting hall spotting Xena and Archer she motioned for them to enter the hall.

Walking Archer toward the hall, Xena said, "Just deliver the message and answer any questions to the best of your ability. Everything will be fine. I'll be with you every step of the way."

As they entered the hall, Archer could see that the interior lighting was provided by two great fire pits at each end if the greatroom and what looked like hundreds of candles in stands and on shelves along the walls. The smells of steel, oiled leather and the sweat of the assembled women packed into the room assaulted Archer's olfactory senses. Xena and Archer stood before the diocese. Gabrielle sat among seven other queens of various ages.

An older woman, named Rhuna, Archer judged to be a queen of senior rank or spokeswoman for the queens raised her hand slightly and the collective mummer and other noise faded.

The elder woman spoke. "Greetings Glenda, Queen Gabrielle has informed us of your mission to bring the words of your lord. It is not usually our custom to allow persons outside the Amazon Nation to address the council or even enter one of our villages. However, Queen Gabrielle advises the council that it is in our best interest to hear you out. You may proceed.

"Thank you good queen. I bring a scroll from my lord. He bids me to read it to you and carry your response back to him." Archer pulled the scroll from her shirt and began to read.

Greeting Queens of the Amazon Nation,

As your scouts have surly informed you, Caesar's Legions have defeated the

combined forces of the Greek city-states. I have knowledge that before the Romans sweeps across Greece; Caesar plans to lay waste to the Amazon Nation and Her territories within Greece. I also have knowledge that the Romans will not attempt to enter the territory via either of the two passed that can be held for an indifferent time by your warriors. Rather, Caesar will launch an attack through the woodlands on your eastern border. This is a bold move on Caesar's part, as the Amazons are known to be superior woodland fighters. However, his plan is to overwhelm you with greater numbers. He has committed two legions to this campaign. Take heart, at this time I am gathering an army from the remains of the defeated Greek armies. I will come to your aid. I fear you will be joined in battle with the Romans before I can take to the field. You must engage in a holding action until my army arrives.

Together, we will drive Caesar from your territory and Greece.

Yours, In Fellowship, The Red Lord.

Archer finished reading and looked up at the panel of queens. The elder queen spoke. " Thank you Glenda, we will discus this Red Lord's communiqué among ourselves and give you an answer to that back to him in the morning. A hut has been assigned to you for the night. Do you have anything do add before you go?"

"With your permission, I would like to speak." Xena said, as she took one step closer to the panel.

"Yes Xena, what do you have to add? The queen asked.

"The council should know that Porticos Magnum is in the service of the Red Lord. As you know, he is a great battle tactician and no friend to Caesar."

A younger queen sitting next to Gabrielle spoke up. " Xena, you seem to know more then this young woman has told us thus far. Who is this Red Lord? How do we know that this is not a trick to send our warriors to the eastern border, while Caesar enters our territory through another way?"

Xena turned to the young queen. "Both good questions Queen Myron. I believe the message sent by the Red Lord. Who he is, I'm not quit sure yet.

But, I'm sure your scouts have informed you that the Greek soldiers have been regrouping at a central location. If someone had not been massing them for another battle, they would have gone home to defend their own city-states."

Archer looked at the queens as they spoke among themselves. Apparently, the council valued Xena's options.

"Thank you Xena, we will consider your words on this matter. If there is nothing more to add, we will excuse you and Glenda while we discus the issue among ourselves."

Xena turned and walked out of the hall. Archer gave what passed for a curtsey and ran after her.

Outside, Archer caught up to Xena and asked. "What do you think they will do Xena?"

As they walked to the guest hut, Xena said, " If they are smart they will defend their eastern border."

"What if…"

"No what ifs for now, Glenda. We did all we could do." Seeing the concern on Glenda's face, Xena smiled and said, "They're a pretty smart bunch. After they hash it out, they will come to the right decision. Don't worry."

Stopping at one of the huts, Xena said, "This is the guest hut. There should be food and drink inside as well as a hot bath waiting. I'll see you in the morning. Get some rest, you'll need it."

"Don't you sleep in the guest hut Xena?"

"No, Gabrielle has her own hut her. This is her village. I'm going to wait for her there; we have some things to discus."

"Well then, goodnight, Xena."

"Goodnight, Glenda". Xena waited a few seconds for Glenda to settle in and then walked away. She walked thought the village and out into the woods.

The Amazon Woods

Xena went deep into the woods. Even with a full moon, darkness impaired Xena's sight because of the thick tree canopy overhead. "I know you're here Ares, I can feel my skin crawl."

Suddenly, Ares appeared a foot in front of her. "Hello Xena"

Xena folded her arms across her chest. "Ares, I knew you were involved someway. This whole thing has your dirty fingerprints all over it. Since when have you had any concern for the Amazons?"

Ares removed his hands from his sides and folded his arms across his chest like Xena. "It looks like someone has not been studying the Olympian history. I'll have you know I am the father of the original Amazons. Of course, I'm concerned with their survival."

"With you as their father, no wonder they hate men. Come off it Ares, what is the real deal?

Ares moved a hand to the hair on his chin and thought for a while before speaking. "I can't let her know I would do anything to save her. She must not know the power she has over me."

" Okay, the truth is, ah… the truth is…"

"Spit it out, Ares. I know that you have a problem being honest. But for once, give it a try." Xena said crossly.

"Fine, If Caesar is not stopped in these very woods, he will overrun Greece.

I can't allow that to happen. He will install his Roman Gods to be worshipped and the Olympians will decrease in power. Can you imagine Greeks worshipping a God of War named Mars? What kind of name is that?"

"That sounds more like it. Self-interest." Xena said in a flat tone. "But why is poor Joxer involved in this?"

"Hence the problem," Ares said making a fist in frustration. The gods, both Greek and Roman have agreed not to get involved. If we were, there would be a war between the gods of Rome and us."

"And you don't know if you can defeat the Roman Gods."

"Wrong!" Ares snapped. "I know we can. I could take out Mars and Mercury and more in combat. It's just that Zeus doesn't want to risk loosing anyone in the family."

Xena knew Ares was speaking honestly. Or, as close to it as he was able. She walked a circle around Ares as she thought out loud. "So you being you had to do something. If you went to gather any of the know champions of Greece, you would be caught violating the agreement. I'm here without being call by any god so they can't object to me. They wouldn't be watching Joxer or Porticos. So, you could get away with using them. Right?"

" Very good Xena. You win the prize."

Xena stopped walking in a circle and stood before Ares. "One thing…"

"Why Joxer", Ares finished the question for her.

"Yes, why Joxer?"

"That is the best part, if I do say so myself." Ares was overly pleased with his own ideas, as always. "Joxer is a good man. He has a good heart and is loyal. However, he lacked the skills needed for the task. I trained him in the arts of combat. He's actually quit good now. Very good with the sword and staff. Even I was surprised that he turned out to be a natural horseman. But…"

"But he's not the sharpest blade in the armory." Xena added. "That's why you gave him Porticos.

" Smart girl, you have it all figured out."

"No, I don't think I have it all figured out… yet. Is he right about the Romans entering Amazon territory on the eastern border?"

"That's textbook Roman strategy according to Porticos. He should know he wrote the book."

Xena raised an eyebrow, giving Ares a doubtful look. "Are you sure Caesar is using Porticos' tactics book?"

"Yes I am. Think about it, if he tries to enter either one of the passes, the Amazons could hold him off indefinitely. Caesar, once committed to battle, can't stop. He has to roll over the Amazon, the Centaurs and all the other small pockets of resistance. He can't have his supply line hampered, or have any forces attacking from the rear when he goes up against the city-states one after another."

"Okay, Ares you convinced me that Porticos knows what he's talking about.

Now convince me Joxer is the man to lead the defense of Greece."

"Xena, I am surprised at you. You have always been able to look into Joxer's soul."

Xena walked a few paces away while thinking. She turned back to Ares, "Joxer was never lacking in courage, I'll give him that. If you trained him as you did me, he probably is able to hold his own in battle. But a leader of an army…I just don't know."

"You are forgetting the key ingredient Xena."

"What ingredient?"


"Motivation…what do you mean, Ares?"

Ares chuckled, "I'll break it down for you. Your little friend will stay and fight for the Amazons, right?"

"Of course she will. She's an Amazon Queen."

"Would you consider leaving her to save your own life Xena?"


"Well there you have it."

"Have what? You didn't tell me anything." Xena was starting to get angry again.

Now Ares looked into her blue eyes. "You, Gabrielle and everyone in the big girl's club you refer to as the Amazon Nation, will fall in battle without Joxer's intervention. The Faiths have told me.

Xena stood very still. Ares was not beyond lying, but the Faiths never lied.

The Queen's Hut

"Joxer! You've got to be joking." Gabrielle paced around the hut while Xena sat on the queen's sleeping pallet watching her. Xena had told her about her conversations with Ares and Archer.

"I think I misunderstood you. Did you just tell me that this mysterious Red Lord is our Joxer? Not some guy with the same name?" Xena looked up at her friend and smiled. "Yep, the one and the same. Our man Joxer." Gabrielle stopped pacing and bent down until her nose was almost touching Xena's. Green eyes bored into blue. "And you believe Ares?"

"In this case I do, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle flopped down on the pallet next to Xena. The women sat side by side in silence. Both lost in their own thoughts. Finally, Gabrielle spoke so softly Xena almost didn't hear her. "We're domed."

Xena put her arm around Gabrielle's shoulder, "No we're not Gabrielle. Joxer has more marks in the plus column then in the negative. He's about to become the man he was meant to be. Have some faith."

"Have faith?" Gabrielle stood up. "It's not that I don't love Joxer dearly, I do. It's just that when it comes to being a warrior, Joxer would make a great fisherman." How can we put the fate of the Amazon Nation and all of Greece in his hands?

"What choice do we have? Rome will march on us and then Greece regardless. Give him some credit. Rebuilding an army is no small task." Xena could see that it would take some time for Gabrielle to come to terms was a new, improved Joxer. "Tell me about the council meeting. Are they going to go along with Joxer's suggestion of an eastern defense?"

Gabrielle looked down at the sitting Xena. "Mostly, yes, The Centaurs and Myron's tribe will guard both passes. The other tribes will commit to the eastern boarder. Of course they don't know that Joxer is the man they are counting on."

"How many warriors will be stationed at the passes?" Xena asked.

"About six hundred men and centaurs, Myran has a little over three hundred Amazon warriors."

"That's a lot of troops to leave out of a fight if Joxer and Porticos are right." Xena said. "How many warriors will there be to face the Romans in the woods?"

Gabrielle having gone over the numbers so many times could rattle them off. "Gave or take a few dozen, about two thousand Amazon warriors, plus six hundred armed villages from the villages we protect have volunteered. But they are mostly farmers with a few retired soldiers among them. They will serve as a reserve force. They would be out-matched going up against elite Roman troops."

Xena didn't like what she heard. She would have to meet with the War Council and persuade them to make some adjustments in their deployment plans. The villagers should be sent to guard the passes and the highly mobile centaurs should be used as a reserve force to respond to any breaks in the battle line. Added to the fact that they would be gravely outnumbered, the present battle plan just wouldn't work.

"I have some suggestions I would like to make to the Council in the morning if I can Gabrielle."

"Of course Xena, we thought you would. You can meet with the council, then we'll send Glenda back to Joxer with our plans."

Joxer raised his fighting staff over and across his head, blocking the two swords before they could strike his head and shoulder. Letting go of his staff with his left hand, he swung the staff in an arc right handed and struck one man with the staff, knocking him to the ground. He punched the second man with his left-gloved fist, knocking him backwards. The man stumbling back blocked two more warriors' path advancing on Joxer. The slight delay gave Joxer time to regain a proper hold on the staff and he hit his first attacked again as the man tried to regain his footing. The two men that had lost time bypassing the stumbling man were hit in the stomach and arm by Joxer's fluid motions. Both men feel to the ground.

Joxer stood still waiting for a new attack. Around Joxer lay eleven men felled by Joxer's staff. None of the men were severely injured. Accept for their pride. These were some of the best swordsmen in all of Greece. An hour before, Joxer had unseated the best horsemen in the camp in mounted combat. Only Theodore had dealt a blow that had rattled Joxer's teeth and almost unseated him from his mount. But Joxer had prevailed and knocked Theodore from his horse. Joxer was standing in a small valley. Surrounding the valley on all sides were all the soldiers in the camp. Close to ten thousand men at arms.

"Not too shabby Buddy Boy." Ares said as he appeared next to Joxer.

"Hey Ares, enjoy the show?" Joxer asked as he wiped sweat from his brow.

"Stop that Joxer. Never let them see you sweat." Ares said quietly. Speaking in a loud voice that could be heard by a the surrounding troops, Ares said "Men of Greece, Is there any man here that doubts Joxer's ability to lead you to victory over the Romans?" Not one man spoke up. You have seen him best your greatest cavalrymen and then the best swordsmen. He is truly a great warrior and as brave as he is skilled. Prepare yourselves, soon, you march on the Romans and onto victory!"

The noise of ten thousand men shouting Joxer's name was almost deafening.

The Return of Archer

Accompanying Archer on the trip back to Joxer's camp were four Amazon warriors. They had to use stealth in their travels because the entire countryside was infested with Roman patrols. Do to the skill of the Amazons, the party made it to Joxer's camp without interference.

Joxer and his commanders were going over battle plans with Porticos when a guard brought news of Archer's return. "Excellent" Porticos said, bid Archer and the Amazons to join us here. The man hurried off and minutes later Archer entered the command tent with four fierce looking women warriors. Archer bent down on one knee before her lord. The Amazons looked at Joxer in stunned amazement.

"Tia, Helraina, Wasand and Libia, it's good to see you again." Joxer greeted them.

Helraina was the first to find her tongue. "Joxer…is that you?"

"That would be Lord Joxer to you." Theodore said.

The Amazon looked from Joxer to Theodore, then back to Joxer.

"Amazons call no man lord. Not even an old friend", Wasand said, squaring off with Theodore.

Theodore would have drawn his sword for the Amazon's lack of respect but Joxer intervened. "Theodore, I ask no one to address me as lord. You know that. Gentlemen, wait outside for a moment, while I speak to my friends."

Porticos ushered the men outside. Theodore gave the Amazons a menacing look before departing.

"You are the Red Lord, Joxer?" Wasand asked.

"Well Wasand, that's what they call me here. But to you guys I'm still plain old Joxer." He said with an almost embarrassed grin.

Archer stood up and pulled a parchment from her shirt. "Queen Gabrielle bid me give this to give to you when you came before the Red Lord."

Helraina took if from her hand and quickly read it aloud for her sisters to hear.


Yes, Joxer the Red is Joxer the Mighty.

You will obey his instructions as if they were

my own.


"Will you follow the Queen's wishes?" Archer asked.

"Of course we will" Tia said, speaking for the others.

"Well, if that's settled, I'll call my officers back in. We have a battle to plan" Joxer said.

Later that evening, the Amazons had been shown into a large tent across for Joxer's own. Archer had retreated to her small tent next to Joxer's and had agreed to call on the Amazons once she had given them time to freshen up and eat. The quartermaster had provided everything they could wish for.

A banquet table had been laid out for them in the tent. The Amazons had attacked the food gratefully. No sooner had they finished eating than Argus, the Quartermaster, called to then from outside the tent. Wasand bid him enter.

"With your permission, ladies…ah, warriors, I have brought your bath tubs and hot water."

"Send them in, by all means, Argus." Tia said.

Argus called to the waiting men outside, boys really, and a squad of young men carried in four tubs and many buckets of steaming water. The boys starred at the Amazons with wide eyes but said nothing. The Amazons smiled polity as the young men labored at filling the tubs. Once they had completed their task, Argus shoed them out and bid the warriors a good night.

Now seated themselves in the tubs, tired muscles began relax. Libia was the first to speak. "It seems our friend Joxer has changed since he list visited our tribe."

"He certainly has", Tia agreed. " I heard some of the soldiers talking about how he defeated their best warriors in combat in a demonstration of his abilities."

Helraina was the only Amazon not from Queen Gabrielle's tribe. Her queen was Myran. "You mean Joxer was not always a great warrior?"

This got a combined chuckle from the others. Wasand answered for the group. "Joxer was always a great guy. He is brave and the kind of person you would want as a friend."

"And funny", Libia added.

"He's the only man to ever go up against Xena without a weapon and live to tell about it." Wasand continued. "But he was never a great warrior, until now."

Helraina looked confused. "In my tribe, we even have a song about Joxer the Mighty."

"As do we all", Tia said. "I have a feeling that after we defeat the Romans that song will have a few new verses."

After the baths were completed, the Amazon changed into clean shifts and began to pick through what food they had not wolfed earlier.

"Hello in the tent" a female voice called.

"Come in Archer" Tia answered.

Archer entered the tent looking clean and bright after her own bath. "There is a group of quartermasters waiting outside to take the bath tubs away. Shall I bring them in?"

"Yes bring them in." Libia said.

Archer called to the young men to enter the tent. A few looked to be no older then eleven or twelve. The boys set about their task of removing the tubs. However, now that the tubs were filled with water, their weight had increased greatly. Try as they might, the tubs wouldn't move. The Amazon attempted to hide their smiles.

Wasand, the most diplomatic of the group offered a suggestion. "Why don't we carry the tubs outside for you and then you can drain them and then carry them off?"

This brought on a combined look of embarrassment from the quartermasters. Seeing this, Wasand quickly added, " Don't take it the wrong way. Before we were warriors, we Amazons were required to serve as quartermasters first just like you. There is a trick to it, let us show you. This was a small lie but the boys didn't know and accepted the statement.

Archer and the boys watched the Amazon lift and carry out the tubs one at a time. For the boy's benefit, they made it look as if they were laboring harder then they really were. As the boys started to drain the tubs outside the tent, the youngest boy twisted up his courage and spoke up. "We're not just water bucket boys you know."

Tia smiled at the little fellow, " No?"

"That's right," another boy said. "When the army goes to fight the Romans, we will be assigned the duty of protecting the camp. We will have swords and everything." The boy looked excited at the thought of actually getting to hold a weapon.

The Amazons were aware that there was almost no possibility of the camp being attacked once the battle commenced. "Wow" Helraina said, "That's a lot of responsibility."

"And your first responsibility is to return those tubs before Argus comes looking for you" Archer gently reminder them. The boys picked up the tubs and started to carry them off. The smallest boy paused and turned back to the warriors. Giving what he considered a snappy salute, he yelled, "To valor and victory".

The Amazons and Archer looking very serious, mimicked the boy's salute and echoed "To Victory"

The boy's face lit up and he hurried off after his companions.

Back inside the tent, the women sat in chairs and sleeping pallets and were about to start a conversation when Joxer call to them, "Permission to enter the…" They recognized the sound of a body hitting the ground. Grabbing weapons, they raced to the tent entrance.

Outside, they found the leader of the Greek army flat on his back in the now soaked grass from the bathwater. Helraina and Libia helped Joxer to his feet. "Are you alright Joxer", Tia asked.

Once righted on his feet, Joxer said. "Why is the grass so wet here? It didn't rain." Wasand told him the story of the quartermaster detail.

"Well no harm done. Next time have them dump the water behind the tent."

Joxer walked into their tent and sat on in a chair. The five women filed in behind him. "Please be seated, I have something to tell you." Joxer said.

The women sat down where they could, waiting for Joxer to continue.

"I had planed for you to return to the Amazons with our plans but my scouts tell me that the Romans stand between us and Amazon territory. It would take too long to go around them."

The Amazons looked unmoved by the information but Joxer knew they wanted to return to fight beside their sisters.

"However, I could use you to ride with me into battle." Joxer continued. " I would rather my cavalry was not decimated by your archers mistaking us for Romans from a distance. With Amazon warriors riding with me, that should not happen."

Although they were pleased to be going into battle in the first wave, they were surprised that Joxer was going to personally lead the charge. Greek Generals directed their campaigns from the rear.

"Excuse me Joxer" Helraina said, "but who will direct troop movements once the battle commences, if you ride with the first wave?"

"That's Porticos' job. I'm not a great general, he is. Besides, I don't want to lose a minute getting to Gabrielle… and Xena of course."

Joxer's feeling for Gabrielle was not unknown to any of the Amazons present. Only Archer was ignorant of the fact.

Rising to his feet, Joxer said, "Get some sleep, we move out at dawn. As he got to the tent flap he said, "Glenda, will you walk with me?"

Archer's face glowed, "Of course my lord", she said following Joxer out of the tent.

"Looks to me like the little one has a crush on Joxer." Tia observed.

"Duh… you think?" Libia laughed.

Standing by the tent entrance, Wasand observed Theodore walking to his tent. "I'm going out to get some fresh air." Wasand announced as she exited the tent.

The three remaining Amazons went to the tent entrance to see what had caused Wasand's sudden departure. They saw Wasand and Theodore in an animated discussion. They couldn't hear what was being said, but Wasand was poking Theodore's breastplate with her finger. Theodore brushed her hand away and she gave him a push with the flat of her hands on his shoulders. Theodore was pushed back a step and started to reach for his sword. He must have noticed that the Amazon was unarmed because he said something and then retreated into his tent. Wasand stood for a heartbeat and then barged into Theodore's tent as well.

"Well, better get some sleep. We have an early morning." Helraina said.

Walking With Archer

The last time Glenda had walked this path with Joxer the view was all forest greenery. Now, a sea of white tents, corrals, and armed men bordered the path. Archer chatted on about her visit to the Amazon village and the paroles she and the Amazons faced on their journey back to Joxer's camp.

Joxer tried to focus on what she was saying but officers and other men that need a word with their leader constantly stopped them.

When they finally passed the men guarding the perimeter, some of the tension seemed to drain from Joxer. "… And the Joxer the Mighty song is known by all Amazons." Archer said excitedly. "Did you know that you're the only man that has free accuse to Amazon villages? Of course you do, you already told me that. After all you are Joxer the Mighty."

Joxer interrupted her. "Joxer the Mighty was a different man from a different time Glenda. I would just assume forget about him. Joxer the Mighty is better left in the past." The thought of his past life had defiantly dampened his spirits.

Sensing the pain Joxer felt at the thought of his past life, Archer put her arm around Joxer's and said, " Maybe, this other Joxer was not such a bad fellow. Xena and Gabrielle think quite highly of him, as do the Amazons. Xena told me when there was trouble; she always knew she could count on you to come to her aid. Everyone I met had nothing but good words about you."

Joxer felt a small, involuntary smile cross his face. " Kind words from good friends Glenda, nothing more. Xena did most of the fighting. I pretty much just held her cape."

They came to the old log they always sat on in the past. Both sat down on it. Joxer seemed to have spent all his conversation. Both were lost in their own thoughts. After a few minutes, Archer could not let the silence remain to cloud the air. "During our travel back to camp, the Amazons would tell stories at night. I think all Amazons are bards by nature as well as warriors. Libia told one story that I found very moving. Tell me if it's true or just a story she made up to while away the time."

"I can't imagine what it would be, but go ahead." Joxer said.

"She told me of a time when both Xena and Gabrielle were captured by Collisto. Xena was bound to a chair and couldn't move. Gabrielle was in worst condition. She was tied to a stake and a fire had been started. Gabrielle was about to be barbecued. This all took place in a cave and Collisto had many of her warriors with her. It looked pretty bleak for Xena and Gabrielle. Then you came bursting into the cave. One lone, mighty warrior attacking Collisto and her army. You attacked Collisto's warriors without regard to your own safety. Fearless, and out numbered; you battled you're way to your friends. During the fight, Xena got hold of her chakram and freed herself. You didn't stop fighting until an arrow felled you. Does that sound about right?

Joxer absentmindedly touched his shoulder where he had been wounded by the arrow. "Sounds to me like Gabrielle had better watch out. There is another budding bard in her village."

"Is it true?"

"Well, basically, I guess so. Except for that part about fearless. I really don't recall, but I'm sure I was scared witless. Anyway, it was Xena that won the day in the end."

Archer stood up and kicked the log in frustration. Kicking the log did not drain her anger. Waving her finger under Joxer's nose she shouted, "Xena, Xena, Xena. Don't get me wrong I think she's great, if you like the moody, big boned, conversationally challenged type. But she would be dust now if it weren't for you. When in Hades are you going to see she's not all that?"

"Glenda, calm down." Joxer said. "I don't understand why you are acting this way."

"Can you understand this Red Lord?" Glenda said his she bent over the seated Joxer. Taking his face in both hands she kissed him passionately on the lips. They held the kiss a few moments and then she broke it off. Now, sitting next to him on the log, she waited for a response from him as her heart pounded away.

"Wow", Joxer said, but offered nothing more. Joxer's mind was racing. He knew he was in love with Gabrielle, but now Glenda had shown him that she had feelings for him. No one had ever displayed feelings for him other then friendship.

"Wow, indeed." She agreed. "How do you feel about it?"

"I ah… well, you see Glenda…" Joxer looked around to see if Cupid was involved is this. It would be just like the god to pick the most improper time to do something like this.

"You didn't care for it, did you?" she said crestfallen. She observed that Joxer didn't make eye contact with her. He was looking around, most likely for an escape route.

Joxer stood up. "No, no, no. That was one of the greatest kisses I ever had. Maybe one of the best kisses anyone ever had. It's just that the timing is all wrong."

What was I thinking? Glenda thought. Joxer is about to lead Greece into war and I decide to complicate matters with my own self-interest.

Joxer thought, "How can I tell her that my heart belongs to another?" Joxer was grateful when he heard the sound of galloping horses coming in their direction from camp. He looked up the path to see Theodore and Wasand urging their mounts on as fast as they could go.

Both riders pulled up to a halt just short of trampling Joxer and Glenda. A cloud of dust momentarily concealed them. When the dust settled, Archer noted that they must have urgent news. Both riders had quickly dressed. Neither rider wore armor or carried a weapon.

"My Lord" Theodore shouted, "Our forward scouts have returned. The Romans have broken into Amazon territory. The Amazons are engaged in battle as we speak. We are preparing for a quick march and will be ready to move out shortly."

"You must hurry, Joxer." Wasand said as she pulled Archer up onto her horse. Joxer jumped up behind Theodore and the horses sped off back to camp.

The Amazon Woods

In the first two days of the battle, the Romans had lost more then two divisions to Amazon and Centaur archers. Undaunted, the Romans had pushed their way from the open fields into the edge of the forest. Now more Romans fell to traps and attacks from the trees, but still they pushed on. The same scenario played it's self out over and over again. Roman troops would come upon a clearing in the woods. As they entered the clearing they would be greeted with a shower of arrows from the surrounding forest. The skilled Roman troops would break into small groups covering themselves with their large shields overhead and on the sides. A few arrows would find their mark through small opening in the spaces between the shields and bring sudden death to the hapless legionnaire below the shield.

After the archers had plied their skills, Amazons, Centaurs and the few men from the Centaur villages would boil forth from the woods and attack. There were two goals in these attacks. The first was to inflict as much damage as possible on the Romans. The success of these attacks ranged from killing all the Romans in battle to forcing the legionnaires back, and reclaiming ground. The second was to gather as many arrows as possible to be reused. The supply of arrows was at a critically low point and diminishing rapidly.

This simple plan worked well at first. However, the Romans were very good at adapting to conditions on the battlefield. More and more when the Amazons spilled out of the forest, they found a larger force of legionnaire reinforcements rallying from behind cover to aid their comrades. As of late, more often then not, the Amazons and their allies found themselves being the ones retreating into the woods.

The rain pored down as night approached. Gabrielle stood just behind the first two rows of Amazon warriors. Soaked to the bone, she forced herself to stop her teeth form chattering. The sound of thundering hooves roared from the forest before her. Walking up and down the line of warriors she waited for the lapses in the constant thunder to shout her orders. "Archers… Ready." Behind Gabrielle, several hundred archers drew their bowstrings back. "Wait for my command!"

Dozens of Centaurs broke from the forest before Gabrielle, into the meadow where she and her warriors waited. On their backs, the Centaurs carried wounded Amazons and men. As Gabrielle knew from experience, these wounded would be the ones with lesser wounds. Some would be able, or attempt to stand and fight shortly. The mounted Amazons would come next with the wounded too weak to hold on to the back of a Centaur or a horse. Also with the mounted Amazons would be the bodies of the dead.

Gabrielle gave the order for the archers to stand down. Several holes were made in the line so the riders could pass swiftly to the rear in order to turn over the wounded for medical treatment. Once the riders had passed the ranks closed in again. Everyone watch the forest edge for the retreating combatants on foot. Ephiny walked up to Gabrielle from the ranks behind her.

A lone Amazon stumbled out of the forest. She was covered in blood. Gabrielle hoped it was not her own. Spotting Queen Gabrielle, she walked to her. Gabrielle and Ephiny caught her before she fell. Gabrielle recognized the woman to be from her own tribe. "Ala, what new of the battle?" Gabrielle asked.

Ala looked the Queen in the eyes and said, "MY Queen, the Romans have not disengaged." then she passed out. Ephiny call for two Amazons to bring the woman to the rear. "It seems the Romans grow bold." Ephiny said. In the past, the Romans feared following the Amazon into the woods. Now it was obvious to both Gabrielle and Ephiny that the Romans had once again changed tactics. Xena was in command of this, now retreating band of warriors. Most likely she and whatever troops were still with her were holding off the legionnaires in order to get the wounded time to be taken back to safety.

"Ephiny, hold this position while I advance with the first wave." Gabrielle ordered. Not waiting for a reply, Gabrielle shouted, "First wave, with me."

When Gabrielle saw the first two rows take one-step forward, she turned and ran into the woods. Although the average Amazon had longer legs then their Queen, they were hard pressed to keep up with her.

"Fall back!" Xena shouted to the Amazons and men still standing as she impaled a legionnaire. Before her, Xena observed more Romans joining the fray. A Centurion squared off with her. "It's a good day to die, don't you think Amazon?" he growled. Xena gave him a wicked grin and hissed, " If it's a good day for you, then I'll oblige." Deflecting his sword with her own, she stepped in and raked her chakram across his throat. The man fell to his knees as he grabbed his bleeding throat. He looked up at her in disbelief. "Happy to help" she said pleasantly. "I never cared for rainy days myself, but then, today is your day." Xena kicked him to the ground as she engaged her next challenger.

"AMAZONS…ATTACK!" Gabrielle yelled as she entered the battle. Running past Xena, Gabrielle and her warriors slammed into the Roman line. The battle seemed to be at a standstill. The Amazons and Romans were evenly matched. But the standoff was finished when the sound of thundering hooves and the whoosh of arrows caused the Romans to take flight. The Centaurs and mounted Amazons had returned.

The victors shouted cheers as Xena walked up to here friend. Gabrielle turned to Xena and said, "We beat them Xena! We took the field and won!"

Gabrielle held her sword up into the air and cheered with her warriors. The rain washed the blood from her sword and covered her arm with streaks of red.

The smile disappeared from Gabrielle's face when Xena said, " I wouldn't breakout the party hats just yet Gabrielle." She said flatly. "That was not a full attack by the main force. A few divisions at most. They didn't retreat; they withdrew because of the dark. Tomorrow, the Romans will come at us at full strength. "

Gabrielle lowered her sword. "Okay, what's the plan?" she asked dejectedly.

"We pull back to the other side of the river. Crossing the river will slow them enough to give our archers a chance to inflict a lot of damage before they get across."

Gabrielle signaled her forces to withdraw. "I hope there is more to the plan Xena. What happens when they start getting to our side of the river?"

As they started walking, Xena said, "Well… we kill em'."

"That's the plan?" Gabrielle looked as if she had been dumbstruck.

Xena shrugged her shoulders and simply said, " I didn't say it was a great plan. It needs a little work. I'll make adjustments as we go along." What Xena didn't say was that she would be praying to any god that would listen to have Joxer arrive in time.



As the sun-shed light on the riverbank Xena had to squint her eyes as the sun shown brightly on the assembled Amazons, Centaurs and men on the western bank of the river. Xena cursed the advantage the Romans would have with the sun to their backs. They had withdrawn about two miles to the river from the last battle. In the distance they could hear the tramping of many Roman boots. Soon they would be forming on the other side of the river. Already, they had sent soldiers to clear trees and brush along the riverbank, so that they could form their well-organized units.

The archers had been able to pick them off at first. As always, Caesar made adjustments for this harassment was well. Now the soldiers clearing the landscape were covered by other legionnaires with large shields. A few lethal volleys, by the archers, could have easily killed all the Romans on the work detail. Once again, the hundreds of precious arrows needed for the task could not be spared. Fortunately, the wind was blowing to the east. Otherwise, the Romans would have burned the foliage near the river.

Hours went by before the Romans were able to place their formations near the banks. But at last they were able to accomplish their goal. Beyond the riverbanks legionaries could be seen posting themselves from the ridges on the hills, down the slops and surely into the forest. Looking to the west, the Amazons could see a great number of cavalry cresting the ridge of the hills. Also to the south, more cavalrymen were taking position. Even Xena was amazed at the number of cavalry Caesar could field.


The Southern Ridge

Joxer rode to the ridge at the head of his cavalry. Just behind him rode the four Amazons. Theodore had the main body of cavalry on his right flank. Matthew, the Spartan marched his infantry forward on the left flank. Hexious held his archers out of sight below the ridge. Among the archers was one lone woman, Glenda. Porticos would stay with the archers at the peek of the ridge.

The plan was brilliantly simple. Joxer would lead the charge onto the east bank of the river. Once the Amazons realized that these were allied forces, they would cross the river in support. Hexious and his archers would rain arrows down into the legionaries, just before Theodore's cavalry smashed into the Romans while they were taking cover behind their great shields. Next, the cavalry would continue on to strike at Caesar's cavalry. Mathew's foot soldiers would be right behind to engage to weaken Roman infantry. Porticos had estimated that with the Amazons and their allies, the Greeks had a slight advantage numerically.

Joxer knew that the Gods would be watching with great interest. Ares had explained that because of this he would not be present. "Just like our Greek gods, when you need them they are never there for you" Joxer thought. Joxer pulled his bejeweled sword from its scabbard and pointer it at Theodore. Theodore drew his own sword and shouted " FOR GREECE!" the cavalrymen echoed the battle cry as they raced towards the Romans below. No sooner had the Cavalry charged off than Hexious ordered the flight of a thousand arrows into the air towards the legionaries.

Now it was Mathew and the infantry that Joxer's sword tip pointed at. Mathew could not decide if he wanted to shout "FOR GREECE" or "FOR SPARTAN REVENGE". He chose "DEATH TO CEASUAR " for his battle cry. It seemed to be a good choice, because his troops took up the cry readily as they boiled down the hillside.

Joxer looked at the mounted warriors behind him. He had two Amazons on each side of him. He raised his sword in the air and said with a smile to Wasand "I always wanted to say this." Cutting the air in front of him as he brought the sword down he shouted "Amazons Attack!" Joxer and the Amazons bolted forward. The rest of the cavalry behind them got the idea and surged forward.


Battle On

The Amazons watched the cavalrymen race down the hill to their south. Ephiny standing next to Gabrielle said, " I don't know a lot about Roman tactics, but shouldn't they be coming in our direction. It' looks like they are about to attack their own guys". They watched as the sky about the Romans went momentarily black as the Greek arrows rained down on the hapless legionaries. Moments later, the Greek cavalry sliced its way through the Roman infantry.

"Cavalry coming this way." a warrior yelled, incase no one was paying attention. Xena smiled as Gabrielle shouted, "Those are Amazons! It's the Greeks!"

Joxer and company seemed to have run into some determined legionaries, because their progress to the riverbank was halted. The mounted Greeks and Amazons soon found themselves fending off the swarming Romans.

The Centaurs, as always, didn't need anyone to tell them what to do. They dashed into the river by the dozens; crossing the river they engaged the enemy with vigor. Mounted Amazons trailed them ever so slightly. "Ah… Gabrielle?" Xena said. "If you don't give the order to attack pretty soon, you and I will be the only ones stand her."

"Amazons Attack", Gabrielle yelled as she ran into the cold water. Xena ran in behind her. The war cries of the Amazons were almost deafening as they streamed onto the eastern bank of the river. Xena had lost sight of Gabrielle among the taller Amazons. Pushing her concern for the queen's safety out of her mind, Xena fought her way to Joxer as she saw him dismount and take on the enemy on foot.

Xena was pleased to see that Joxer was indeed an excellent swordsman. He systematically vanquished one foe after another. Now fighting next to Joxer she shouted "Great timing Joxer. You couldn't have planed it better." Not looking away from the task at hand, Joxer replied, "Thanks, I'm doing the best I can." Seeing that Libia was loosing ground to several exceptional swordsmen, Xena started to edge away to come to the Amazon's aid.

Before she got to far away she shouted to Joxer, "Hey Joxer!" Joxer allowed the luxury of momentary looking at Xena. He was glad that he did when he made eye contact with her and she simply said, "Battle On, Joxer". With that said, she was gone to help Libia. Those words from Xena gave Joxer renewed energy. He fought with the heart of a lion.

Far off in the rear of the Roman formations, Caesar observed the battle. Turning to his faithful aid, Brutus (for the time being, anyway) he said, "It would appear the Greeks have joined the party." Brutus knew that Caesar was understating his thoughts. Caesar continued, "Perhaps, we should withdraw our troops while we still have troops to withdraw. Sound the retreat."

Brutus gave the order to sound the trumpets to signal the retreat. Mounting his stallion, Caesar said, "Don't look so glum Brutus. They may have won the battle but I will win the war, yet. Greece shall be mine. It is my density." With that said Caesar, followed by his Imperial Guard rode off.


Matthew and the Spartans would pursue the Romans to the Greek boarder.

The other Greeks started their long journeys home. Only Joxer, Archer, Porticos and Theodore remained. They had been invited to attend the celebration in Gabrielle's Amazon village.

Joxer sat in a place of honor with the Amazon Queens. Xena, Archer and Porticos sat a little behind them. Theodore found Wasand and the two warriors went off to discuss "strategies". Xena poked Joxer to get his attention. Joxer was drinking some Amazon wine at the moment and started to choke. Once he managed to get air into his lungs, he turned to face Xena.

"You did all right Joxer" Xena said with a smile. Joxer gave her a sheepish smile before he passed out. Seeing Joxer reaction to the strong Amazon wine, Xena picked him up onto her shoulder and carried him to the Queens hut to sleep it off. Seeing the look of concern on Archer's face Xena said, "Don't worry Glenda, he just needs a little sleep and he'll be right as rain in the morning."

Gabrielle excused herself from the other Amazon Queens and followed Xena and her burden Joxer to her hut. Once inside the hut, Gabrielle asked, "Is he alright?" Placing Joxer on the queen's sleeping pallet, Xena answered, "Nothing a little sleep won't cure." Covering Joxer with a blanket, Xena said, "C'mon, let's go back and find that wine Joxer seems to like so much."

"You go ahead Xena. I'll catch up with you later." Gabrielle said. Xena gave her a questioning look before leaving, but said nothing. After Xena left, Gabrielle looked down at the sleeping Joxer. "You really proved yourself today Joxer. I'm sorry I ever doubted you in the past. I never will again, I promise you that much. In fact, I'm going to prove it to you right now."

Bending over Joxer, she lightly stroked his face with her fingers. " I never noticed at times you can be quite handsome, my dear Joxer." She said softly. Gabrielle stood up and walked to her writing table. Sitting down in a chair she reached for the finest quality parchment she possessed. Picking up her best quill, she began to write.

"I sing the song of Joxer the Mighty. Champion of the Amazon Nation and Protector of Greece…"


I hope you have enjoyed this story and will look for my next one "Death Bringer".


T.C. O'Neill

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