A Song For The Ages
Xena winced again as she, Gabrielle, and Argo walked with Joxer down the dirt road.
"Joxer The Mighty Roams Through The Countryside He Never Needs A Place To Hide With Gabby As His Sidekick Fighting With Her Little Stick-"
"Joxer!" Xena interrupted. "Love that song, really, but this is only, oh, the twentieth time you've sung it."
"I'm just so happy, Xena. Here I was, after being put under that bell spell by Aphrodite, ready to quit being a warrior. What an idiot I was. But I had you to show me the truth. That I am a true warrior! A true hero! That is what lies deep within my heart! And I thank you, Xena! The whole world owes you thanks, for without you, Joxer the Mighty would have never been heard from again!"
Xena could feel tears coming to her eyes. What have I done?
"And now, I must take my leave, my warrior princess. I'm off to see my agent! See ya, Gabrielle!" He winked at the bard and headed off onto another road. Xena and Gabrielle kept silent for a moment. Then Xena noticed Gabrielle glaring at her.
"Way to go, Xena," Gabrielle frowned.
Xena opened up her palms. "What?"
"Thanks to you, we'll never be rid of Joxer."
Xena couldn't believe her ears. "But you wanted me to cheer him up!"
"Of all the times for you to finally start listening to me, why did it have to be now?"
"Look, I'm sure we can dodge Joxer for awhile."
Gabrielle looked off into the distance. "What's all this about an agent?"
"I don't know, but I have a feeling it won't be too long before we find out."
The two of them didn't see Joxer at all over the next two months, although they had numerous adventures. One day, they entered the city of Carthage and there was a festival going on. Xena and Gabrielle smiled.
"It'll be nice to have some fun for a change," said the bard. A chorus began to assemble upon the stage before them. "I wonder what song they're going to sing."
The band started up and then the chorus girls started dancing. The words of their song struck Xena and Gabrielle like a rock.
"Joxer The Mighty Roams Through The Countryside He Never Needs A Place To Hide With Gabby As His Sidekick Fighting With Her Little Stick Righting Wrongs And Singing Songs Being Mighty All Day Long
He's Joxer Joxer The Mighty"
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other, then back at the stage. "I don't believe it," Xena said, shaking her head.
"Me, neither," Gabrielle answered. Then the chorus girls started a second verse:
"Joxer The Mighty He's Really Tidy The Greatest Hero In The World The Fantasy Of Every Girl His Enemies All Hide In Fear Be Thankful When You See Him Near Your Heart Will Know Where It Belongs When You Hear Him Sing His Song He's Joxer Joxer The Mighty"
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other again. "Let's get out of here," Xena said.
"I agree," Gabrielle nodded. They both started to leave when a young man stopped Gabrielle.
"Hey, you're Gabrielle of Poteidiai! I've seen drawings of you!"
"Really?" Gabrielle asked, confused but curious.
"So tell me, how does it feel to be the sidekick of a mighty warrior like Joxer?"
Gabrielle raised her eyebrows. "Side... kick?"
"Please tell me... Is the Mighty One here?"
"No, I'm afraid not," she smiled painfully.
"Hey, look everyone!" the man pointed. "It's Joxer's sidekick!"
"I want the sidekick's autograph!"
"Let's get out of here," Xena urged.
"I'm with you," the bard answered. They both ran from Carthage, barely dodging a mob of Joxer's sidekick's fans.
"So this is what it's like to be famous," Gabrielle mused that night by the campfire.
"Well, it won't last long," Xena replied. "We'll just have to stay away from Carthage until this... Joxermania dies down. Don't worry. These fads always do."
And at the next town, they discovered another festival. And more chorus girls.
"Joxer The Mighty Bound By No Boundary His Fame Spreading Everywhere Hercules Just Can't Compare When No One Else Can Save The Day Joxer He Will Find A Way With Women He Can Take His Pick Just Ask All The Sidekicks Of Joxer Joxer The Mighty"
"Let's get out of here," Xena said.
"I agree," Gabrielle nodded.
"Hey, look! It's Joxer's sidekick!"
"The sidekick?! Where?!"
"It's the sidekick! The sidekick!"
"Hey, can I have your autograph?"
"Can you set me up with that stud?"
And at the next town...
"Joxer The Mighty King Of All Chicanery Always Has A Master Plan To Go With His Sparkling Tan When There's Trouble In Your Town He's The One Who Comes Around He Stopped Callisto With A Glance No One Else Had A Chance No one but Joxer Joxer The Mighty"
"Let's try again," Xena said.
"Right behind you," answered Gabrielle.
"Look! Joxer's sidekick! And Xena!"
"Xena, is it true that Joxer trained you?"
"Is it true that he inspired you to turn good?"
And the next town after that...
"Joxer The Mighty Knows Wrong From Righty The Greatest Swordsman In The Land Now He's Even Got A Band When There's Trouble He Will Show The World's Greatest Hero Xena's But A Zero..."
Xena clenched her fists, grimacing.
"Unlike Joxer Joxer The Mighty"
"I'm way ahead of you," Gabrielle said as she began to run.
"Hey, Joxer's sidekick! Is it true that you love Joxer?!"
"Xena, is it true Joxer forged your chakram?!"
"I want the sidekick's autograph!"
"No, I do!"
"No! Me! Me! Me!"
Fifteen towns later...
Xena and Gabrielle slowly walked down a long paved road. They walked like zombies, both feeling numb.
"I'll never get that song out of my head," Xena moaned.
"Me, neither," Gabrielle agreed hoarsely. "I never thought one song could have so many horrible verses to it."
The city of Athens lay in front of them. Xena sighed a sigh of relief.
"Well, we're saved now, Gabrielle. Athens is the most cultured city in all of Greece. The Athenians are a very elegant people, with tastes that are high above and better than anyone else I've seen. They're far too wise to fall for some silly, cheap marketing campaign which is as phony as..."
Xena stopped talking as she and Gabrielle entered the city and heard chorus girls singing a familiar tune:
"Joxer The Mighty He's A God Almighty Now A Legend All His Own Surpassing Every Hero Known His Sword Will Strike A Deadly Blow The Greatest Hero That You'll Know Even Xena Said So..."
Xena started banging her head against a wall. "I should've told him to quit! I should've told him to quit!"
"He's Joxer Joxer The Miiiiiiiiiiiigh-ty!"
They both stared in amazement at the festival before them. This was larger than any of the other Joxer festivals they had seen before. It was like a wild party. Many people were wearing Joxer costumes with those silly looking Joxer helmets.
"He's the greatest hero ever!"
"What about Xena and Hercules?"
"Who cares? The two of them together couldn't beat Joxer!"
"Well, Gabrielle," Xena sighed, "we might as well surrender. Like it or not, Joxermania has swept through all of Greece. Look! It's Hercules and Iolaus!"
"Xena!" Hercules shouted, making his way towards her through the heavy crowd. Iolaus was right behind him. They all exchanged greetings.
"It's great to see you both, again," Xena said, "although I wish it could have been under more... saner circumstances."
"You're telling me," Iolaus answered. "What in the world is going on?"
"I don't know about you, but I'm feeling rather small these days," Hercules frowned.
"Same here," Xena agreed.
Gabrielle was awestruck. "How did this happen?"
"Joxer's too dumb to pull this off on his own," Xena answered. "He had to have help. And why do I think I know who?"
She raised her eyebrows as Salmoneus walked up to greet them, dressed in his usual lavish fashion. "Xena! Gabrielle! Hercules! Iolaus! So great to see you here! How do you like my festival? It's Joxermania running wild!"
Xena smiled. "Salmoneus. Somehow, I knew you were the one behind all this. Now tell me, how did you do it?"
"Me? I didn't do anything! Joxer's a hero! And when you're a hero, your fame spreads! It's just the natural order of the universe!"
Xena, Gabrielle, Hercules, and Iolaus simply stared at him.
"Okay, so maybe I helped it along a little. But a good marketing campaign never hurt anyone!" He pointed at Xena and Hercules. "Hey, I've been trying forever to get the two of you into merchandising, endorsements. With the status that you have, well, that you used to have, you could have brought in big dinars! But did either of you ever listen to me?"
Xena and Hercules glanced at each other for a moment, then back at Salmoneus.
"No, you never did. And, now... well, I hate to break this to you, but the Warrior Princess and the Son of Zeus are so... yesterday. Joxer is today. This is the greatest marketing campaign in the history of the world. We're creating a name hero that people will be speaking of two thousand years from now, maybe even longer. Hey, have you heard Joxer's song?!"
"Yes," they all answered together.
"It's sweeping through Greece like wildfire! It's the number one hit single in the world today! Over five thousand lyric scrolls in print! I'm talking top of the charts! As long as we keep writing new lyrics to it, it'll be the number one song forever! In fact, I'm setting up a tour. We're going to take it to Italy, India, Persia... China! And it's not going to stop there!"
Xena winced in agony.
"You have to admit... it's got that certain beat to it." Salmoneus began to sing, waving his hands in front of him:
"Joxer The Mighty A Gift From Aphrodite He's Really Very Handsomous But Not Quite Like Salmoneus..."
Xena buried her face in her hands, slowly shaking her head.
"I'm serious here," Salmoneus continued. "Take a look at all this merchandising! We've got Joxer action figures, Joxer beer, Joxer board games..." He picked up a pair of shorts with hearts on them. "Even Joxer boxers! In fact, Joxer's autograph is now going for a hundred dinars! We've also got Joxer armor! Perhaps the four of you are searching for a new look? These outfits come in men's and women's sizes. How about it? Huh?"
Xena, Gabrielle, Hercules, and Iolaus raised their eyebrows in thought for a moment.
"I don't think so," they answered together.
"And guess what?!" Salmoneus smiled. "We're even working on Joxer the Musical!"
"Salmoneus," Gabrielle said. "Are you the one who told everyone that I'm Joxer's sidekick?"
"Joxer said you were, though I haven't told anyone here yet. But, Gabrielle, do you think you could sign some autographs later on? I'm thinking we could get twenty, maybe thirty dinars a piece..."
Xena was beginning to seethe.
Salmoneus didn't notice. "We'll set up a booth with a nice big sign that says: THE SIDEKICK."
Xena was ready to strangle him. "Salmoneus!"
"How in the world were you able to convince all of Greece that Joxer is the world's greatest hero?!"
"His deeds speak for themselves. I mean, he did slay the fire-breathing dragon of Kolon, and he did stop the slave traders of Menga from ever enslaving people again, and... and..."
"And...?" Hercules asked.
Salmoneus looked reluctant. "And... I never allowed him to make a public appearance. What can I say? It would've ruined the mystique, the intrigue, the aura..."
"...the con," Gabrielle finished.
Salmoneus frowned at her. "Con is such a negative word."
Iolaus folded his arms and smiled. "Salmoneus, you're smarter than you look."
"Salmoneus," Hercules said, trying not to laugh. "People are eventually going to see through this."
"Believe me, there's nothing to see through!"
"Salmoneus," Xena began. "None of us will deny that Joxer has accomplished some incredible feats..."
"Like staying alive, for one thing," Gabrielle said.
Xena continued. "But, like it or not, everything he's done has been due to sheer luck, not skill or power... which is not what you've been telling everyone. When people get a good look at Joxer, they're going to see he's not strong or powerful, and they'll never believe that he's done the things that he's done."
"Don't worry," Salmoneus answered. "In fact, Joxer is about to be given one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon any hero. The people of Athens have voted to have the Zeus' ceremonial ark removed from Athena's temple and placed in front of Joxer when he gives his speech. The ceremonial ark of Zeus is a gift from Zeus to not just the people of Athens, but to all of Greece. As long as the ark is protected, the people of Greece consider themselves blessed by the Gods. Of course, we know that's not true, but that's what people believe. Anyway, Joxer's going to come out before the ark, give a quick speech, then they'll raise the new Joxer statue up, and it'll be over."
Salmoneus rubbed his hands together, looking at the stage before which the ark rested. "I'm telling you, after today I'm going to be the richest man in all of Greece... as long as Joxer doesn't screw things up."
Xena began to smile widely.
Salmoneus looked at her, concerned. "You don't think... He wouldn't... He couldn't..."
Xena folded her arms, continuing to smile. "Oh, I think he just might."
Salmoneus clasped his hands together in front of his face, as if for prayer. "Oh, please, Zeus, no..."
An enormous crowd had gathered before the stage. The golden ark rested in front of the stage with the large statue of Joxer next to it. A speaker appeared on the stage.
"And now, ladies and gentleman... I would like to proudly introduce to you... the mighty warrior who slayed the fire-breathing dragon of Kolon, destroyed the massive moving fortress of the Taurians, defeated the all-powerful Slavers of Menga, and single-handedly crushed the war mongering kingdom of Wardonia. I now give to you, the greatest hero in the world today... Joxer... The Mighty!"
The massive crowd roared in approval as Joxer stepped out onto the stage.
"Thank you, everyone. Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here. I am honored to be in your presence. And I want you all to know that as long as I live, I will never let you down. I will never stop fighting for good. I will never falter. That is my solemn vow to you. So swears Joxer... The Mighty!"
The crowd cheered. Salmoneus began to smile. "He did it! See! He did it! Nothing to it! All that's left is for the statue to be raised up onto the stage by the pulley. Not even an idiot could screw things up now."
"Joxer will find a way," Xena smirked. "He always does."
Several workers began raising the statue of Joxer onto the stage with the use of a rope and pulley. Joxer suddenly unsheathed his sword. "And now, as an added bonus, I will show you what an expert swordsman mighty Joxer truly is!"
"What?" Salmoneus frowned. "What is he doing?"
"Ha Ha!" Joxer began to swing his sword around wildly. On the third swing he accidentally cut the rope that was lifting the statue. The Joxer statue crashed into the Ark of Zeus, smashing it thoroughly.
"Oh, no," Salmoneus gasped.
"Oops," Joxer winced.
The people were all in shock. "The Ark of Zeus! It's ruined! Destroyed! We are disgraced! The Gods will curse us now! What an idiot! No one that stupid could be a hero! We've been tricked! Conned! Let's get him! Lynch him! Kill him!"
Joxer gulped as he saw the large mob approaching him. "Adoring fans, please... Can't we talk this over? I'm your hero, remember? Uh, does this mean you don't want my autograph?"
Joxer turned and began to run with the large mob right behind him. The entire city was in an uproar. Xena smiled as she watched people throwing their Joxer costumes and merchandise into a large bonfire. "I knew it was just a fad."
Iolaus nodded. "Once word of this spreads, Joxer will be the most despised man in all of Greece."
Xena clasped her hands behind her head. "And everything will be back to normal."
"And we'll all be mighty heroes again," Hercules smiled.
A man came up to Salmoneus. "Hey, aren't you the agent of that fool Joxer?"
"No..." Salmoneus smiled, and then the man walked off. "...not anymore." Salmoneus turned to the rest of them. "Hercules! Xena! Are you sure you wouldn't be interested in getting an agent? I'm talking merchandising, endorsements, the works! I'm through with these fads. I want something that will endure through the ages, and you two... You have got potential!"
"Nah," Xena answered. "After all, we're both so... yesterday. Right, Hercules?"
"Right, Xena," Hercules agreed.
Salmoneus turned and looked at the carnage around him. His shoulders were slumped.
Gabrielle walked over to him. "So, Salmoneus... What are you going to do now?"
"For now, I think I'll grab a sword and go join the mob."
Joxer was sprinting with every ounce of energy he had as he left the outskirts of Athens and entered the wilderness. It was all he could do to stay ahead of the hundred or so members of the mob that were chasing him.
"Xena! Gabrielle! Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp!"
And so the mighty hero once again journeyed off into the land. Although the people of Greece were somewhat... perturbed at his accidental destruction of the Ark of Zeus, he had actually done them a great favor. For when they discovered that life would continue on despite the loss of their sacred object, only the truly ignorant could still deny that the gods did not play quite as large a role in their lives as they had believed. With this knowledge, they would begin to see that they themselves were the architects of their own destiny, and this would begin to give them a freedom they had never experienced before. So thus, even in defeat, our hero managed to achieve his greatest victory.
And what, you may ask, became of our mighty hero? Well, his legendary journeys did not end here. In fact, they were just beginning. He would yet have many more experiences, many more adventures. There would be tragedy as well as triumph. There would be agony as well as ecstasy. Our hero would discover all these things, as he would eventually discover love.
But those are stories for another time.
It is with sad regret, faithful reader, that I tell you our time here has come to an end. I can only hope that the reading of the tale was as enjoyable for you as the writing of it was for me. But before we depart, let this humble bard offer you a simple wish...
May the world treat you with kindness, may the power of the sun guide your way, may your heart's greatest desires come to fulfillment, and may the Gods smile on you wherever you go.
Until next time, faithful reader, I now bid you...
Please send me comments. I love to hear them. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Back to Part 6