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
"Hey! Where's the fire?" shouted Gabrielle as Xena blew right past her. The bard was obviously annoyed after escorting Joxer to the inn. Her lips twitched as they always did when she was starting to lose her temper .
"Come on, I'll tell you as we go," Xena shot back, slowing her gait to a fast walk. Her friend trotted along, planting her Amazon staff at every step .
In spite of herself, Gabrielle managed a small smile. "At least Joxer's asleep. He was out like a candle the minute I took him to the room. I've never seen him that drunk before."
Xena winced, thinking of the previous night. The three had visited a tavern featuring live music and dancing, and the young man had worked painstakingly on a crown of flowers for the bard's strawberry hair. Unfortunately Argo, Xena's faithful mare, had quite a taste for daisies. Ever since, Joxer had been in one of his snits, and he tended to drink too much when that happened .
"Right now Joxer's the least of my worries. He's safe, that's enough. Have you been hearing any sort of rumors about an assassination?"
The bard's eyes widened slightly. "None. Why, did somebody tell you something in there?"
Xena continued to scan the busy marketplace, looking for anyone who might be suspicious. "Would you believe our old friend Meg? She actually got me a bit of information...after she was going on about Joxer, that is."
Gabrielle struggled to keep a straight face. For all his goofiness, endless self-congratulatory drivel, bumbling, and foot-in-mouth disease, he was actually all right. And was it really fair that someone like Meg got to have...she made herself say it...a genuinely nice guy? Stop right now, Gab, she mentally told herself. Joxer is...Joxer. And besides, he and Meg look good together .
"So what did Meg have to say?" she asked casually .
The warrior took her only clue from her own breastplate. "Unless I'm mistaken, it's an assassin's note. I tried to make out the signature at the bottom, but it's covered in wax."
The bard grabbed the note and squinted hard. "I can't tell. Did Meg give you any other information about this guy?"
"Well, she did describe him as tall, slender, dressed in black leather...but unless he escaped, it can't be who I'm thinking." She fixed her companion with a knowing look .
"Are you saying it's Jett? The prisons in Maramis are too high-security," protested Gabrielle .
Xena stopped to look her friend in the eye. "I'm sure it's him. Meg said he's in every way..." She hesitated. "Equal to Joxer. We need to keep an eye out for him. All these people are nervous about something, and you know how Jett can blend into the crowds."
"Sure thing." Gabrielle picked up her fallen staff. "Let's split up. I'll meet you back at the inn at sunset."
"What are you going to do if you do find Jett?"
The bard almost laughed. "Well, I can handle him. I mean, he's Joxer's brother, after all."
Xena gave her famous stern look. "He's a murderer, and he's bound to want revenge on the both of us. You just be careful. I'm going to fetch Argo and check out the outskirts of town. If he's already done his work, he might have left already."
"Fine. See you at the inn."
As the blonde turned to walk in the opposite direction, Xena smiled. Gabrielle could be too brave for her own good sometimes, even if Jett did seemingly have a soft spot for her .
At the center of town, the temple of Hestia rose above the plainer, older edifices around it. Its elegance and simplicity matched the demeanor of its patron, the virgin goddess of the hearth. Everything in the city revolved around the worship of the goddess, and her priestesses were revered by all .
Leah, high priestess of Hestia, presided over the daily rituals within the temple. An unusually tall, elegant woman, her long black hair provided sharp contrast to her immaculate white robes and silver crown. Her blue eyes were full of spirit, yet she was every inch the dedicated virgin she needed to be. The afternoon's prayers had gone well, yes, the goddess had smiled upon her followers that day. As the sunlight streamed through the latticed windows, Leah painstakingly lit the many candles for the evening worship. Always a stickler for punctuality, she knew without looking that it was almost time for the younger priestesses to give their daily confessions .
"Good afternoon, Priestess," came a soprano voice from behind. It was Rheto, youngest of the Hestians, always first in line .
"Hello, Wheto," answered Leah, her comical lisp fully evident. "Pwease, have a seat."
"Excuse me," came a man's voice, soft but commanding. A tall figure stood in the entryway, his body draped in the burgundy robes of a jurist .
"May we help you, sir?" Leah asked, unsure why a man would be disturbing her private time .
"Priestess Leah, I presume?" The visitor emerged into the light, revealing a middle-aged craggy face with sharp black eyes. He gave a warm smile. "My name is Gryphian. I take it Headmaster Anamelos informed you of my visit?"
The Hestian shooed her young disciple off. "Pwease excuse us, Wheto." She turned to Gryphian. "I'm not suwe we've met befowe," she said in her melodic voice .
"Probably because I've come from Corinth. Anamelos himself requires a new tutor of the law for your academy, and that is why I have come. I am an attorney myself, but also a renowned educator."
Leah smiled. "Yes, he did mention it to me, I do bewieve. We'we always in need of good teachers fow ouw students."
"I'm glad to hear it. The headmaster had scheduled to interview me tomorrow, but I've arrived early, and I thought I'd introduce myself to you. I'll be staying in town, and I'll be here next morning promptly." He gathered his robes and started to leave. "An honor to meet you, Priestess." Gallantly he bowed .
"And a pweasure to meet you as well, Gwyphian." His boots echoed off the stone walls in the temple, and Leah was left alone once more .
Overcome with joy, the priestess knelt at Hestia's altar, decked with flowers and incense, and spoke to the goddess aloud .
"Oh, Goddess, you have sent ouw young schowaws a bwessing. I pwaise you! Thank you fow such a man as this..."
In the shadows, Gryphian watched her with interest in his deep eyes. Hestians were devout, pious, unflinchingly obedient, but quite silly in some ways. He chuckled under his breath and left Leah alone to praise her goddess .
The summer sun cast its last rays through the open windows of Padmon's study. This time of year, the twilight would be brief and the last light briefer, leaving nothing but darkness in probably half an hour. He frowned and used his first candle to light a second. It was going to be a long night. The other teachers had left long ago, but Padmon was known for staying late into the evening to finish the lessons for the next day. He had even constructed a small cot in the otherwise spartan chamber .
Nothing to keep me company except the moon, he thought glumly, looking outside at the growing crescent high in the western sky. Such is the life of those who are educated. Annoyed at his writers' block, he dabbed the quill on the scarred table. How hard could it possibly be to give his students an introduction to the great Euripedes? A sudden gust of wind, warm with the promise of midsummer, slammed the open sill into the wall, and Padmon's scrolls tumbled to the floor. Muttering under his breath, the tall scholar propped his window shut with a small dowel and bent to pick up his parchment. So much for getting fresh air .
Suddenly hungry, he rubbed at his stomach. Padmon had never eaten much, and even so, abhorred meat and cheese. Olives, fish, and fresh vegetables made up the bulk of his diet, and he licked his lips in anticipation. Headmaster Anamelos always left the kitchen open late at night for those in need of midnight snacks, and while midnight was far away, he hadn't eaten since his early lunch that day. He left his unfinished work and disappeared into the corridor outside .
The academy, in the Hestian tradition, had none of the luxuries of Athenian or Corinthian buildings. The stone halls were instead draped with simple, plain-colored tapestries and lined with small tributes to Hestia herself as well as Pallas Athena, goddess of invention and learning, and Apollo, the lord of poetry, medicine and prophecy. Padmon gave a quick smile as he glimpsed the statuettes of Athena, whom he considered his own patroness. Probably the only sane god in their world of wars, petty jealousy and meddling in mortals' lives. Often he wondered if Olympians really did know everything: he had heard the stories of Aphrodite's hissy fits and Ares' bloodshed and violence .
The kitchen was at the lower end of the academy, where the mischievous students couldn't raid its store of dried meat, sugared fruits, and numerous other delicacies. Padmon scanned the rows of amphorae until he spotted one containing fresh olives. With the glee of a small child, he popped the green orbs one by one into his mouth, savoring their smooth flavor .
Anamelos must have sent for them today, seeing how fresh they were .
He whirled about, fists held at the ready, when he heard the crash. It hadn't come from the kitchen, but upstairs, closer to his study. Padmon's brown eyes widened. It sounded as if one of the marble busts had fallen, and he thought he could hear footfalls in the eerie silence .
Quickly he grabbed one of the torches and hurried back to the source of the noise. Although he was usually quite timid, Padmon's heart was racing furiously. Something was wrong...only he and Anamelos were in the building .
Or so he thought .
Trying his best to blend into the shadows, Padmon looked about nervously as he reached the long corridor with the teachers' offices. Nothing moved in the dim light, and the daylight had gone, leaving only velvety darkness outside .
"Hello?" Padmon called, his tenor voice quavering. He didn't stop to think that if someone hostile were around, he might be in trouble .
No answer, only the soft sound of his own sandals on the floor .
The scholar advanced wearily, unaware that his left hand with the torch was shaking furiously. As he passed each door, he peered inside, hoping to see what had caused the crash .
No luck; only the neatly rolled scrolls and volumes on top of each tutor's desk. None of the statues and busts in the corridor had fallen, and there was only the silence .
The only door left was Anamelos' larger study, the last on the right. The door was bolted, and Padmon rapped nervously .
"Sir? Is everything all right?" he asked. There was no answer, but Padmon thought he heard the sound of the window slamming shut. He put a hand to the door and it swung open with a loud creak .
Light cast from the torch illuminated a scene of chaos: Anamelos' prized bust of Homer had toppled and broken in two; the desk was overturned, and scrolls were everywhere .
But he dropped the torch in shock when he saw the old headmaster's body, sprawled and damp with blood. A pool of it had gathered under the Hestian's chest, and a dagger, its blade dark scarlet, lay discarded to the side .
It took Padmon a moment before he could compose himself enough to pick up the torch. He babbled furiously in a falsetto tone, as he always did when nervous. He squatted next to his mentor's side and tried to nudge him .
"Oh, gods, sir, what happened?" he stammered. Turning the body over, he gazed into Anamelos' grey eyes. He was dead; the dagger had pierced his chest twice. A small trickle of blood ran from the grandfatherly mouth. Whoever had murdered him had done it quickly and without much of a struggle .
Now Padmon began to wander like a headless chicken. He had to go for help...but who? He didn't know who could have wanted Anamelos dead, and Padmon himself might be considered a suspect. After all, he had been appointed the next headmaster...yeah, he'd be wanted, all right, considering he had been the only other man in the academy at the time! "All right. Deep breaths, now, Padmon, you can do this," he intoned, trying to calm down. It wasn't working. Bllod tended to have that effect upon him. His pale face had gone paler, and his deep eyes rolled back in their sockets like those of a scared horse .
"Master, I promise I'll find out who killed you. With Athena as my witness, I will." In a swish of robes, he hurried from the gruesome scene .
In his hurry, Padmon had failed to notice Anamelos' clutched right fist. A scrap of paper protruded from between his fingers, and near it, a quill .
Continued in Part 3
Return to The Bard's Corner