by Joseph Anderson

Xena, Gabrielle, and all characters from the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. Marna is the property of the author. No copyright infringement is intended with this fan fiction which may not be sold, may be copied for personal use only, and must contain all notices of copyright.

This story contains no rough language or sex. There is a little violence.

The Warrior Princess looked carefully around the village. She felt Gabrielle touch her arm.

"What do you think is going on, Xena?"

Xena glanced down at her. "Felt it too, huh? You're getting better and better, Gabrielle. I'm not sure yet."

"What's happening here?" the warrior called to a middle-aged man hurrying by her. He looked at her fearfully and stopped. She could tell he was afraid and wanted to run from her. It made her wince. Wouldn't it ever stop?

"Please, Marna...we don't want trouble," the man said nervously.

Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other. Xena said, "I'm not Marna. Where did you hear that name?" The bard heard something odd in her friend's voice.

The man stared at her. "You're not? Really?" Xena nodded. He said, "Marna is coming."

"Who is she?" Gabrielle asked now. The name sounded vaguely familiar, like a character from half forgotten fairy tails.

The man licked his lips. It was clear he didn't know if they were telling the truth or not. He answered, "Marna is a warrior woman. A great and fearsome warrior woman." Xena knew he added the last part just in case she WAS Marna.

"Has she harmed anyone?" Xena asked. She saw the man get pale. "I swear by Zeus I am not Marna. My name is Xena."

"Oh, thank the gods! You can protect us!" the man said with relief. "She is coming this way, leaving a trail of death behind her. Why she is coming here we don't know, but she has been asking directions for our village. We are just a simple village...we have nothing a warlord or warrior would want! Can I go?" Xena nodded and the man hurried on.

"Hi guys."

They turned with surprise. Gabrielle said, "Joxer, what are you doing here?"

"Waiting for Marna," he said simply. He'd heard some of their conversation obviously. Joxer took his helmet off, upended it and shook it. Leaves and dirt, bits of bread, some feathers, and even a few coins fell out. He smiled and picked the coins up.

Xena studied him. "You know what's going on don't you?"

He looked at her and said, "Don't worry about this, Xena. Let me handle it."

Gabrielle was stunned. She glanced at Xena.

"What is this, Joxer? I hate to be blunt but you can't face Marna if she's who I'm thinking of." Xena replied evenly.

Joxer looked away, the hurt on his face and Xena winced. Then he looked back at his friends. "Marna IS who you're thinking of." He paused and said, "She's coming for me, Xena. This is something personal. Just head on and don't worry about it. It'll be fine, believe me. The village will be fine."

"Gods, Joxer...what have you gotten yourself into?" the bard said frantically.

Xena frowned and said, "We aren't going anywhere. But all right...if you say this is personal I believe you. I swear though, Joxer, if you get hurt I'm gonna take it out of Marna's hide...and that's a promise." She saw the irony in his eyes as he listened to her "hero" speech.

"Good luck," he said, making Gabrielle blink in surprise. She looked at Xena who nodded and also actually looked embarrassed. Joxer turned and walked away. Gabrielle looked after him, mystified how he could have made an enemy of someone like Marna and also what was going on with Xena.

He saw right through her, Xena was humiliated to realize. Joxer...JOXER... was humoring HER. She couldn't help herself. Xena knew that Joxer had a lot of compassion and hoped he wouldn't hold it against her.


As Marna came inexorably closer most of the village fled. Three days had passed since the friends' arrival. Xena had been riding out and investigating, and Marna had indeed been leaving a trail of death but not without some provocation. A band of robbers attacked her and it was the last thing they ever did. Then relatives of some of the robbers caught up with her and she'd killed them too. It seemed to be a clan and they kept coming after her for vengeance and she just kept killing them, all the while continuing on her journey toward this little village.

The robbers didn't know who she was of course. No one did anymore except people like Xena who had grown up on her adventures. She'd never been greatly famous as Hercules was for example, or even Xena herself now. But Marna was famous to those who knew what was important. When heroes themselves told stories, it would often be of Marna. There were bards like that too, she'd learned from Gabrielle; revered by other bards but otherwise unknown. Xena felt her own fame was cheap in comparison. Marna was the real thing.

In a couple of places it sounded like people had tried to swindle her. She simply cut them down where they stood. Xena tried not to smile but couldn't help it. Marna got right to the point. Her generation didn't talk everything to death before taking action, like Xena sometimes felt her own did.

Xena wanted to head her off but she had told Joxer she would let him handle it. Like Gabrielle, the Warrior Princess was at a loss how Joxer could have made an enemy of someone like this. She had loved Marna stories when she was a child. Marna helped her think it was possible for a girl to be a warrior. Then the hero simply disappeared. As a girl she'd thought Marna had been taken to Mount Olympus to feast with Zeus. Later Xena assumed she was killed in battle. It embarrassed her that Joxer of all people had seen through her. She wasn't staying for him and he knew it. Xena had to see Marna.

It was dusk when the old white warhorse and his rider walked into the nearly deserted village. Xena studied her eagerly. Marna was tall and rangy with very long gray hair that used to be auburn, Xena knew. Her face was lined though still attractive, and regal looking with a long aristocratic nose. She wore an old fashioned rich-looking breastplate with matching forearm bracers and greaves, a segmented leather skirt, and a fur-lined red cloak. A sword was at her side and a long-handled battered war hammer hung from her saddle. The Warrior Princess caught her breath as she found the expected jagged scar coming up from under Marna's breastplate and running up to her left ear. As a girl she had listened to the story of how the hero received it over and over. In the far north beyond Brittania, Marna had battled the Frost Giants until Odin intervened to end the fighting---to prevent the possibility of demigods being defeated by a mortal, Xena suspected now. The awful fight was embossed on her breastplate--Xena recognized Euphemies' handiwork. Except for the signs of age, Marna looked exactly like Xena had always imagined her and the Warrior Princess found her heart beating fast with excitement.

Xena and Gabrielle were waiting with Joxer. They looked at him. He seemed tense but not afraid. He had told them again not to worry and they should just ride on. Xena had refused, not being able to meet his eyes. The horsewoman had stopped and was studying them. Xena knew Marna was sizing her up. Joxer sighed, adjusted his helmet, and walked out to meet the legendary warrior, shaking off Gabrielle's hand who impulsively tried to stop him. Marna dismounted and waited, a hand resting easily on her sword. Gabrielle suddenly realized something seeing the two of them together. "Xena.." she started to say but quieted at a hand gesture. If Marna made a move for a weapon the Warrior Princess was prepared to take her head off with her chakram...or try to anyway.

Joxer said, "Hi Mom."

The older woman's face cracked in a wide smile. "Hi honey!" She grabbed him a hug, lifting him up. "Introduce me to your little friends."

Joxer took her hand and led her over to the smiling bard and the stunned Xena. "Mom, this is Gabrielle; she's a bard; and this Xena the Warrior Princess. This is my mom, Marna."

"So you're the little blonde my boy here is making such an ass of himself over," Marna said taking Gabrielle's hand.

"Mom!" Joxer groaned. This was why he hadn't wanted them to meet. Zeus knew what his mother would say.

Gabrielle was puzzled and looked curiously at Joxer. Now Marna and Xena took each other's forearms in a warrior greeting. The older woman studied her. "I've heard about you. We have a lot in common."

Xena knew she blushed but couldn't help it. "Thank you. I hope we do."

Marna said, "Even more than you think, Xena. You were Ares' favorite. You broke with him and he's been trying to get you back ever since, right?"

Xena nodded, surprised, then said, "You too?"

The older woman nodded. "Yep. You wouldn't believe--no I guess you would--the stuff he kept trying to pull to get me back. It didn't stop until my hair started turning gray. He'll leave you alone as soon as you get a few wrinkles. He's a total pig!"

Xena rolled her eyes, "You're telling me!"

Joxer felt like sinking into the ground. Gabrielle whispered in his ear, "What was she talking about? You have a crush on me or something?"

"Oh Gods!" Joxer mumbled. It just kept getting worse.

"And my boy has just attached himself to you, I hear."

"Mom..." Joxer said pleadingly.

The older warrior smiled warmly at him and said, "He left home to be independent and prove himself and ends up with someone just like his own mother. You do like your old mama after all, don't you, Joxy?" She had reached a hand out and was affectionately pinching his cheek.

"'Joxy?'" Xena said with a smile and looked at Gabrielle who was also grinning. Joxer wondered if his sword was sharp enough to throw himself on now or if he'd have to sharpen it first.

"I don't know why he insisted on trying to be a warrior anyway. Me and his dad never forced it on him. As far as the family business, Jett was a natural. No reason for Joxy to try and be something he's not. He never believed we meant it though. What he is really good at is cutting hair and arranging furniture. Him and his other brother, Jayce, used to play for hours fixing each others' hair. All of his girl cousins would come by whenever they wanted to look especially nice for a harvest festival or something."

Gabrielle and Xena both made impressed sounds.

"Please, Hades, take me now..." Joxer whispered to himself.

'What about his father?" Xena asked now seriously.

Marna shrugged. "He's in prison in Maramis; where you put Jett." Xena's face got red.. The older woman continued: "Don't worry about it. Jett knew the risks. As for his dad, he's a warlord, you know. It meant something in those days to set up as a warlord. Not like these wimps now; you know, like Cortese and Draco. There's no way he could've been captured unless he allowed it. I think he just wanted a separate vacation and this is how he got it. He can break out anytime he wants just like Jett did." She had a long suffering tone, accepting that men were children.

She paused and scanned the village again, her eyes flicking here and there for hidden attackers, especially archers. Gabrielle had seen Xena do the same thing often enough to recognize it. Satisfied, Marna continued, "He's probably staying there now because he doesn't wanna face me. I've seen him kill a hundred men in an afternoon in battle but he's scared to talk about how he feels."

Xena was listening, fascinated. She looked over at Joxer and realized how embarrassing this was for him. It was fun but she had to show some compassion. She said, "Well, Marna, I think you're underestimating Joxer here. He's been a real help to me, I can say that. When I went up against Bacchus I don't know what would've happened without Joxer. And he's demonstrated his bravery and heart time and again."

The older woman tensed a little at the mention of Bacchus. "Really? I had a few run ins with that oversized goat myself when I was young. Well, Joxy, I'll have to chew on that." Marna was looking at him now in an appraising way. When she looked away Joxer threw a grateful look at Xena who smiled at him.

Xena had to ask. "What happened, Marna? You just disappeared. I thought you must've been killed."

The older woman shrugged and said, "After I got married I stayed home to be a mom and look after the kids. It's what I'd always planned on; never made a secret of it. I don't why everybody was so shocked. Especially those Amazons...I'm still using the salad bowels I made outa the skulls of a couple of 'em. They wouldn't take a hint. They kept tellin' me I had a duty to be an example for my 'sisters.' I told 'em, I already had sisters, and they weren't them. Finally I just shut 'em up."

"You made the skulls of Amazon ambassadors into salad bowels?" Gabrielle said. She was queen of the Amazons. She was at a loss what the proper response was on this occasion..

Marna nodded and continued. "In my opinion they just need a husband to poke 'em and some kids to look after--they'd be a whole lot happier. I mean, Zeus! they're so anti-man some of 'em would rather screw centaurs. Can you imagine? I'd kill one of those stinking things as soon look at it and there are Amazons who marry 'em! Can't get enough! I'd do it with a dog sooner, or even another woman. I mean we ARE made for men. So just lay there and take it and don't make such a production about it. Personally I always liked it, but, if you don't, do your duty anyway. That's how I feel about it. I wanna be fair though. The Amazons used to be pretty impressive in the old days. I heard of one recently who I thought sounded like she had a lot of potential. Velasca, that's it. I hoped she might straighten 'em out, reinstate the old ways...all that. I hear she got blindsided though. The Amazons have sunk so low they preferred a pompous litttle know-it-all who can barely wipe her own ass as queen."

Xena and Gabrielle were speechless. They looked at Joxer to see if he would say anything but he seemed to be enjoying their discomfort with his mother's opinions.

She added, "But you were asking about my retiring, Xena. I never planned to come out of it, but since my husband's been in prison I've dusted off the old sword and armor. I'm not gonna let his halfwit brother run the business into the ground."

"Uncle Fredo isn't so bad, Mom," Joxer said.

"Fredo's an idiot, Joxy. Without your father he'd never have been more than sword fodder. Instead he gets to play commander. He even tried to make his own deal with another army. When we found out your brother, Jett, and my two brothers wanted to kill him but I told 'em no. We just cut him out of decisions. Your dad might cut out something else when he finally gets back. I'll leave it to him though. Fredo is his brother."

A while later they were all eating. Marna insisted on paying to Joxer's chagrin. Gabrielle could see that Xena and Joxer were both tense when the innkeeper told them what it would cost, then relaxed. The bard thought if she had an inn and saw someone with a breastplate worth a fortune like Marna's obviously was, she'd double or triple the price of anything. It was worth a shot. What was the worst that could happen?

"What's up, Mom? You didn't come all this way to visit me." Joxer asked.

Marna pinched his cheek again and said, "There's a war brewing between Carthage and Crete. I'm on my way to arrange for our army to fight as mercenaries in it. Since my baby boy was on my way, of course I came to visit."

The Warrior Princess asked, "Which side will you fight on?"

Marna said offhandedly, "Doesn't matter," and lifted her tankard of wine up to sip. Xena smiled to herself. She shouldn't approve but she loved it...couldn't help it. That was classic Marna!

Gabrielle had been wondering about something. "Marna, do you know Meleager?" She didn't see Joxer begin making frantic NO signs, which he immediately stopped when his mother glanced his way. Xena had caught it and tried kicking the bard under the table, but her friend just said, "Gee, Xena, watch it willya?"

The gray-haired warrior woman's eyes got a cold glint, "As a matter of fact, I do. Is he a friend of yours?" Xena made sure her chakram was unencumbered.

Gabrielle held a hand up as she finished chewing something, then said, "Oh yeah. I think he's great! My father died when I was a little girl and Meleager never had any kids, I guess. So it's like the minute we met something clicked for us. He says I'm the daughter he never had." She added with a laugh, "A good looking guy like him, though, I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't some little Meleagers around somewhere."

"You really think you're cute don't you?" Marna said venomously.

"Huh?" the bard said, her mouth open in surprise.

Marna stood up and seemed to be quivering. Then she said,"Nice meeting you, Xena." To her son she frigidly stated, "Joxer, I'll talk to you later." She turned on her heels, her long red cloak swirling around her and strode out of the inn.

Gabrielle was stunned. She looked at Xena and said, "That's why you kicked me?"

Xena nodded. Both women looked at Joxer who was leaning back in his chair with one hand over his eyes.

"Joxer, it's not really any of our business, but if you could tell us what's going on, I'd appreciate it," Xena said.

The man took his hand from his eyes and looked at them and sighed loudly. He poured himself some more wine and took a long swallow. Then he finally said, "My parents had some problems, okay? A lot of people do and they worked it out, but my mom left for awhile. Are you satisfied?"

"What does that have to do with Melea....?" Gabrielle started to say then stopped, her face getting red. She looked over at Xena who was also embarrassed.

Xena asked, "So why was she so angry? I mean if she and Meleager, uh, well... but she came back..."

Joxer took another drink. "Look, this was before me and Jett were born, okay? Mom swore up and down but Dad always sorta wondered, y'know, about me and Jett. Do I have to spell it out for ya?"

"By the Gods!" Gabrielle said, remembering what she'd said. Xena just groaned.

Joxer pushed himself away from the table and stood up, adjusting his helmet. "I'll go talk to her. It's okay, Gabby. When she cools down she'll know you weren't taunting her. She half knows it'd be dead otherwise." He took a deep breath and left the inn to find his mother.


The four figures stood again in the nearly deserted village street. The gray haired warrior woman looked down at the small nervous blonde and smiled. "I'm sorry if I frightened you, Gabrielle. I shouldn't have overreacted that way."

Gabrielle just nodded her head, gripped her staff, and smiled. After the previous night she didn't trust herself to open her mouth around Marna. "Sore throat," she said too hoarsely and pointed to her adams apple in explanation. Marna and Xena both had amused expressions.

Joxer looked concerned and started to say, "I know something great for that, Gabby. It's 2 parts lemon and..." but he stopped when she glared at him. She was going to grab his nose but thought doing that with Marna there might not be the wisest course of action available to her.

Marna and Xena grasped each other's forearms again. Xena said, "Meeting you is just...I can't tell you what it means to me, Marna!"

The older woman shook her head and said ironically, "Being a role model isn't all it's cracked up to be. You can never live up to it. But thanks, Xena."

Mother and son hugged warmly, the slender man seeming to have the breath squeezed out of him. Then the woman swung back up on her old warhorse. She looked at Gabrielle again and said, "Goodby your highness" and winked at her. Then she cantered out of the village.

The bard looked stunned then said quietly to Joxer, "So she doesn't really believe those awful things she said?"

"No, that's what she believes all right," he answered. Gabrielle frowned like she couldn't quite digest it all yet.

Xena stood looking after the warrior as Joxer and the bard began walking back to the inn. Suddenly Gabrielle grabbed Joxer's ear and said, "Why didn't you stop me from making a fool of myself like that?"

"Ow, ow, ow...I tried to...I tried to!" he said, stumbling along.

The Warrior Princess smiled slightly then listened intently and ran to Argo and leaped upon her. Galloping out of town she found Marna surrounded by nine bandits. Xena felt something deep inside as she saw Marna wasn't using her sword but the war hammer--a gift of respect from Thor after the fight with the Frost Giants. Xena could hear the crunches as the weapon connected. Before she could throw her chakram to assist her another figure entered the fray and Xena held back. A big gray-bearded warrior cut a man in half as Marna literally knocked the head off of another with the hammer. Then the two together killed the remaining bandits, their movements synchronized so perfectly it reminded Xena of something else. In a moment the bandits were all dead on the ground amid the stepping excited horses. Xena backed her horse up to remain out of sight as she saw the warriors share a lingering kiss.

"Meleager...I might've known..."

"Hello Marna..."

Joxer looked up from polishing his sword as Xena came into the inn. Gabby was on the other side of the room but Xena came over and sat across from him and just seemed to be studying him. Joxer looked around, "Uh, what's wrong, Xena? What'd I do this time?"

She shook her head as if to clear it, then stood up and patted his shoulder, saying, "Nothing's wrong, Joxer. I was just thinking of something."