Joxer, the Mighty Jett, King of Assassins, Joxer's identical twin Xena, Warrior Princess Gabrielle, Bard of Poteidaia Padmon, scholar and educator Meg, barmaid and Xena lookalike Leah, virgin priestess of Hestia, Xena lookalike Arbus, revered judge Gryphian, attorney for the prosecution Jace, sibling of Joxer and Jett Jolanthus, father of Joxer and Jett, warlord Dirce, attorney for the defense Iolaus, companion of Hercules Anamelos, high priest of the Hestian order Argo, Xena's horse Townspeople, Students, Jury Members, Hestians, Meg's Girls, Soldiers, Wardens, Bailiffs
Disclaimer: Padmon was given a new course in education, courtesy of Meg, during the course of the story. Rating: PG-13 for innuendo and discretionary situations. References: "King of Assassins," "The Execution," "Warrior...Priestess...Tramp," "A Comedy of Eros," "Warrior...Princess...Tramp" Inspirations: One of my favorite films, "Dave," and David Hyde Pierce's remarkable work as Dr. Niles Crane in "Frasier." No copyright infringement is intended in the writing of this fanfic. Xena, Joxer, Gabrielle, Meg, Leah, Argo et al are the property of Renaissance Pictures. If you want to use this fanfic on your page, due credit must be issued. Yada, yada, yada...just enjoy!
by Filippa Morgan Flasheart
"And that," the elegant tutor concluded, swishing his rattan pointer for emphasis, "is why we must study philosophy. The quill is always mightier than the sword." He wanted to bow, perhaps thinking that he had created that famous maxim himself. One of the boys in the second row raised his hand immediately, and Padmon, protege of Zeno himself, let out a harsh, annoyed sigh. Ephirus was always the impudent one. The tall scholar pointed his stick at his wisecracking student.
"What if you're standing there and thinking, and the other guy has a big sword, and all you've got is your quill?" The class, twenty boys and a few girls, laughed in a mocking chorus. Padmon pursed his thin lips and tried to remain smiling.
"First of all, as a student of philosophy, it is highly unlikely that you will encounter any rough, sword-swinging barbarians of the manner in which you speak. Secondly, well," he hesitated, "he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day. Am I not right?"
The girl Daria interjected suddenly. "What about Hercules, and Xena?"
Her fellow learners murmured in agreement. "They always fight the best fights and everybody admires them."
Her teacher's lean, pale face blushed a sudden red. "Well, Daria, last that I heard, Hercules and Xena were not the most revered scholars in all of Greece. We are here to develop our minds first, our bodies second. Zeus, do you want to be known as a muscle-bound, ululating, leather-clad warrior all your life?" Before anyone could say anything, the tower outside with its multitude of copper bells clanged an end to the day, and the youngsters hurriedly dashed outside to freedom, leaving a mess of scrolls and tablets behind them.
"I'll see you tomorrow, class," smirked Padmon, already scribbling furiously on his own scroll with a well-used quill. Sighing deeply, he took a seat on his well-made leather chair with its equally handsome wooden writing table. Just after the summer solstice, and already the heat was unbearable. Padmon swished himself with a scrap of parchment while trying to write with the other hand. Most didn't think of him as a scholar when they first met him.
He was unusually tall and lanky, pale despite the intense Thessalian heat, and amazingly intelligent for his late twenties. His hair and eyes were the shade of dark brown clay and he bore an intense gaze that had intimidated his students on numerous occasions. Young minds, Padmon thought absently. All of them idolize Hercules, Xena,
Iolaus, even that wretched King of Thieves...what was his name? All while the works of the masters...Aristotle, Homer, Plato, and his own mentor Zeno fell upon deaf ears. Yes, the times were changing, but he'd be damned to Tartarus before he gave up on his young charges. A sharp rap on the wooden door made the teacher sit bolt upright in his chair. He gulped nervously as the silver-haired figure of Anamelos, leader of the Hestian order, entered the small classroom. Padmon stood upright and smoothed his hair nervously.
"I didn't think you'd be coming, sir, I mean, my students just left, and..."
"Quite all right, Padmon. I didn't come here to criticize you at all. In fact, I rather think you'll be pleased at what I have to say." The old priest's hazel eyes twinkled, and he took a seat opposite the flustered Padmon. Anamelos smoothed his long robes and cleared his throat. "I do suppose you know that Septimios is leaving for Athens soon."
The younger man's eyes widened in shock. Everyone in and around Thessaly thought of Septimios the Wise as something only slightly less than Olympian. As the headmaster of the academy, he had educated the city's children for twenty years, and now he was leaving? Padmon toyed with his quill nervously.
"Sir, I don't understand. Is Septimios retiring? Certainly he can't be more than fifty." The priest laughed, a deep rumble.
"No, he's been offered the vacancy on the Athenian council. He's the most qualified candidate they've had for quite some time." In the withering heat, the slightly rotund Anamelos had already begun to sweat. "Gods, man, you haven't got any water in here, have you?" From under his desk, Padmon produced a small amphora of fairly cool water along with two pewter cups. He poured a glass and let his superior down it. "As you were saying, sir. Septimios has been offered a council position?"
The Hestian nodded. "Who's going to fill the his position?" Quickly the tutor went over the possibilities in his head. Laecrus? No, he was a closet drunk. Phoebe? Too young. Maybe Opheron, or Agades... Anamelos smiled.
"Actually, my boy, I had you at the top of my list." The amphora tipped over as Padmon jumped up in surprise. Embarrassed, he tried to mop up the mess with the hem of his robe.
"Please forgive me, sir, but I hadn't expected that! I'm hardly qualified for the position!"
"You're extremely well read, the students love you, and besides, you're the most respected tutor we have. If you will take the position, it's yours." Padmon swallowed hard. It was such an honor, and yet he felt awkward and out of place. His inflated sense of modesty tended to do that to him.
"I'll give you until tomorrow to think it over. I seriously hope you do accept, my boy." The aged Anamelos was always kind, never patronizing. "And keep up your excellent work." Brushing his robes off, he left Padmon's classroom. The scholar stood for a moment, his long jaw slightly agape and his eyes wide. Then he regained his normal composure and self-consciously adjusted his sash. Promotion or not, he had a lesson to prepare for the next day.
"And you shoulda seen the look on Draco's face when I stole those Hestians right out from under his nose!" came an artificially deep voice, striving to be heard over the ruckus in the crowded tavern.
"Even Xena was pretty impressed, I gotta tell ya." Joxer the Mighty, already slightly tipsy, took another swig of the strong ale. For a town with so many Hestians, they actually had some good grog. He set the pewter mug down awkwardly, and more of the froth sloshed out. Where were Xena and Gabrielle? They were supposed to be here a few hours ago. The would-be warrior wrinkled his brow. Rumors had been all around Thessaly that someone was plotting to take over the Hestian order...from within.
Not a warlord like Draco, nor another sinister priest like Balius. Just the kind of thing where Joxer could show what he was really made of. "You got the cash for all that?" interrupted the surly bartender, pointing to the three empty flagons in front of his patron.
"Um, yeah," drawled Joxer, rummaging in the pouch tied to his belt. He slapped a silver five-dinar piece onto the bar and belched loudly. "Change the keep, wouldja?" The lanky young man then took one step from the stool...and fell flat on his face. The crowd, who had barely listened to his "exploits," laughed uproariously.
"Oooh, I mean, ow!" he murmured to himself, pushing his helmet back upright for the umpteenth time. Awkwardly he staggered to his feet and tried to look heroic, which wasn't easy considering the strong ale. Joxer tottered a few steps...and ran almost right into Xena.
"Xena!" he cried, his brown eyes widening in shock. "Um...wherevya been? I mean, er, you gonna help me with this whole Hestian thing? 'Cause, um, I'm ready and willing, and of course, I am Joxer the Magnificent..." He trailed off and tugged at his sword hilt eagerly.
The Warrior Princess grabbed his face and planted her full lips on his. Amazed, Joxer kissed her back and closed his eyes instinctively. By the time she had withdrawn, he was almost aghast. "Wow, Xena, I didn't know you still had feelings for me." He growled low in his throat, and the tall woman giggled in response. "Ya like the threads, Joxer?"
Although dressed in Xena's full leathers and boots, her goofy voice immediately gave her away. "Meg!" he hissed, amazed to find his former lover in a place other than her own house of pleasures. "What are you doing in here?" Xena's lookalike grabbed her false chakram playfully. "Well, um, there's been all this juicy dish about Hestians and all, and well, I thought the villagers might be a little more, ya know, relaxed if they thought the Big Z was here and all."
In his drunken haze, Joxer didn't think to correct his loopy girlfriend. "But Meg, this is a Hestian bar." Meg laughed. "Hestians don't drink grog, silly pants. Anyway, here's the scoop." She leaned in as if to divulge a great secret. "Ya remember that sissy virgin, Leah? Well she's here, and so are all the other virgins. So somebody's gotta protect 'em, right?"
"Xena's coming. She told me so. Her and Gabby." Joxer hiccuped.
"I don't see Xena here, do you?"
"I do," came a familiar throaty voice. Joxer and Meg turned to look into Xena's ice-blue eyes. She gave both a warm smile. "Hello, Meg." Meg fidgeted with her skirt. "Hello, Xena."
"New business, or do you just like wearing leather once in a while?"
"She's, um, trying to help you out a little," Joxer interrupted, unaware of how he slurred the words together. The Warrior Princess patted her old friend on one armored shoulder. "Joxer, you don't look so good. Do you always get this drunk when you're waiting for Gabrielle and me?"
He nodded sheepishly. Gods, Xena thought. He really does miss us sometimes.
"Why don't you have Gabrielle take you to the inn? She's waiting outside. I guess everybody in town knew where Joxer the Mighty was taking his drinks." Xena knew to humor her slightly deluded companion when he was drunk like this. He gave her his goofiest grin and trotted eagerly outside to see his beloved bard. "Meg and I have some...catching up to do." After the would-be warrior was out of earshot, Xena faced her twin. "All right, Meg, what's going on in this town? Everyone I saw was nervous. It took me an hour just to track down Joxer.
Come on, tell me what you know." The warrior did her best to keep her tone level. The ditzy barmaid gave her an "as-if" look. "Okay, okay, give a girl a break for wanting to do some good for a change, huh?" She looked slightly hurt. "Somebody told me that there's a plot to kill the head Hestian priest and all, so, I made sure everybody just thought Xena was around, so nobody made any sudden moves."
"Who's plotting to kill the high priest? Did you get a name; a description?"
"Funny you should ask," Meg said, reaching into her breastplate. "Lookie what I got." She handed Xena a small stained scrap of parchment. "50,000 dinars for a clean hit. No mess. Signed..." Xena trailed off as she struggled to read the last word. "I can't make it out. It looks like it got wet." She turned to Meg. "Where did you get this?" The tavern wench smiled devilishly. "Well, you'd be surprised what some fellas leave at my place. We got all kinds of stuff in lost and found."
"Who did you have last night?" pressed Xena, aware of the irony in the question. Meg casually held up a hand. "Oh, lesse, two loser walk-ins, three regulars from the temple, Joxer..." Her face took on a dreamy, smitten look.
"After Joxer, Meg."
"Yeah, right. Um, well, I did get some weirdo who didn't give his name. Tall, kinda skinny, black leather, but had some sort of mask on his head. I never got to see his face." She pouted. Xena persisted in her interrogation, her eyes widening. Any clues might help her. "Did he say anything to you? Anything at all?"
"I don't listen to guys when I..."
"Sorry." The wench studied her feet. "Um, yeah. He said something about my gig being more fun than any kill he's done." The Warrior Princess jumped on it instantly. "An assassin. Probably the conspirator against the Hestians hired him beforehand. Are you sure you didn't get a name?"
"Not that I remember, sweetie." She thought hard, trying to piece together Meg's scant bits of information. Tall, slender, black leather, masked face... It couldn't be. He was imprisoned in one of the tightest security prisons in all Greece. "Does the name Jett ring a bell to you, by any chance?" Meg pondered for a moment in her goofy way. "Nada. Is that the name on that thingy I gave ya?" Xena narrowed her eyes. There were other ways of getting information from her promiscuous lookalike. "You told Joxer he was the Master of Virility, right?" She nodded emphatically. "Was this man pale, no chest hair, and..." She hesitated. "Equally gifted as Joxer?"
"Yeah, sure was. Probably the second best guy I've had other than my boy Joxer." Meg sighed as if trying to relive the moment. Before she could say anything else, Xena had left the tavern.
Continued in Part 2
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