Part Three in the Impractical Magic Series
Disclaimer: Not only are the characters not mine, but certain parts of the
underlying theory of this whole series are heavily borrowed. Xena, Gabrielle
and Joxer belong to Renaissance Pictures and Universal/USA Studios. The
atmosphere of the series, along with a few specific concepts, lean heavily
on the Discworld books; if you have read them, you will recognize a lot of
Terry Pratchett's spirit in these stories. As always, I beg of you not to
Rating: Probably PG-13. There are some adult concepts.
Violence: Not in this one.
Sex: Nope. A bit of suggestiveness again. A concept that has been
reoccurring in this series.
Archive: GJRS, JFFG, TedTalk, TRIS, Raye. Anyone else with permission,
This is story number three in the series, the first being "The Gift That
Keeps On Giving", and the second "Ooops, I Did It Again." You can find them
at my website, http://tedjoxertimandmore.homestead.com/ in the "Serial
Stories" section, where this will soon be archived as well. If you want to
understand this story, you have to read them first.
This should ring bells with those familiar with Granny Weatherwax and the
Unseen University. I had just finished reading "Equal Rites" when I began
writing this. Yeah, the staff is sort of Esk's. Oh, and the deal with eight
being a magic number is all Discworld, as well.
Thanks again to Rebecca Littlehales, who helped me make it better by
pointing out mistakes, inconsistencies and things that needed further
elaboration. Thanks also to my pre-readers, a marvelous cheering section any
author would appreciate.
Rebecca says that this story and the next dovetail so closely that I should
release them almost at the same time, so I will be putting number four,
"Every Witch Way," out shortly as well.
Hope you continue to enjoy these. This series will be the longest ever
written in the GJRS fandom, I believe. g
"No, I really don't need another scrimshaw amulet, thank you. Why, of
course, it's lovely and all, but."
Xena watched in amusement as Joxer soothed the agitated sailor and finally
reluctantly accepted his gift. At last count, he had at least two dozen of
the hand carved amulets, each one unique and beautiful in its own way. He
had given both Xena and Gabrielle their choice of as many as they would
like, and had stuck all the rest away, to be dealt with later. Then there
were the seashells, the pearl necklaces and the coral sculptures. At least
one of the sailors had been practical enough to give Joxer a heavy chest, so
he had storage space for all the gifts. A superstitious lot at best, a crew
of sailors who had seen a man going to visit Poseidon and being returned by
the god himself, still alive, were not about to ignore that miracle. Most of
the crew fell just short of worshipping the awkward young wizard, if the
truth were told.
At least they were nearly to Britannia, where Joxer could enroll at the
Wizard's Academy and be less likely to stand out like a sore thumb. At
least, she hoped he could get in there. She was planning to ask her old
friend Merlin to sponsor him.
After the sailor left, Xena fingered the fabric on the wizard's arm. "Hey,"
she commented, "Nice shirt. Another new one?"
Joxer nodded glumly. "The boatswain is quite a tailor, it seems. This is
number four, so far."
Xena choked back her laughter at the young man's discomfort. It seemed that
Joxer the Mighty may have sought recognition and admiration once, but having
actually achieved it, had found he preferred anonymity. Instead she just
nodded. "That color purple suits you."
Joxer just snorted and turned, stuffing the amulet in his already
overflowing case. "Aren't we almost there yet?" he whined, sounding like the
Joxer Xena had known and, well, cared for, before he became a wizard. He
also sounded a little like her brother Lyceous when he was ten and they had
taken a trip to Corinth with their mother.
"Actually, that's why I was coming to see you, Joxer. We are almost there,
and we need to go over what we'll do once we find Merlin. He was pretty
young when I first met him but so was I. Hopefully he'll remember me and be
willing to help."
This elicited the first genuine smile she had seen on the young wizard all
day. "You aren't the type of person people easily forget, Xena. I'm sure
he'll be glad to help if it's you asking."
She really hoped so. The trip had been long, and outside of Joxer's little
adventure with the sea god, fairly uneventful. The Warrior Princess was
bored, truth be told, and was beginning to really long for the feel of dry
land beneath her feet. She'd hate to get all the way to Britannia and have
to turn around and come home right away.
Gabrielle had done a scroll on Joxer's underwater activities, pointedly
rolling her eyes at Xena during his story of the Nerieds who had thought he
was "cute", but writing it just the way he told it. Xena got a feeling the
bard was secretly relieved that he had apparently shown no interest in the
underwater beauties, though. Albeit with Gabrielle, it was hard to tell.
Outside of that and Joxer's daily processional of adoring crewmen, there was
little to break up the day-to-day monotony of sea travel. Xena visited Argo
in the hold frequently, climbed the rigging on occasion, and found ways for
Joxer to vent his magic to prevent any accidents, but she was really used to
having more to do. At least she hadn't had to listen to her best friend
complain daily about being seasick. Joxer made a point of touching her each
day, and the women could only assume he was renewing some kind of
anti-seasickness spell on the petite blonde, who really didn't seem to mind
the man's hands grazing her shoulders the way she once might have. After
all, he was fairly brisk and businesslike about it.
The warrior woman's thoughts were interrupted by a cry from above decks.
"Land ho!" She and the young man moved quickly to see, meeting the bard in
the passageway. She had spent a great deal of the trip editing her older
scrolls, and the rest of the time working on her tan. Joxer wistfully
thought her golden glow lit the entire area. The three friends made their
way to the ships railing, and could make out in the distance the quaint Brit
town of Hythe, which Xena had remembered as the home of the Wizard's
Academy. They were too far away from the shore to see the port, but it was
just a matter of time, now. They returned below to pack for their departure.
They shuffled off the ship at the dock with some uncertainty. This was not a
passenger vessel, and so they were, as a result, the only passengers to
disembark. The crew bustled busily about their business, aided by rough
looking dock men, who seemed to be the same ones that had seen them off in
Greece. The townspeople, few though they were, did appear to have a
different style of dress than those they had left behind, however. More lace
and brocade, mostly. One of the less occupied of the crewmen had lugged off
Joxer's huge chest and deposited as gently as the type knew how at the
bottom of the gangplank. Xena led Argo, after a somewhat rough disembarking
for both horse and owner.
A tall and portly older man in a long, somewhat dusty dark blue robe
scurried over to the Greeks. Xena stepped forward and spoke in Anglo Saxon
with slight effort. "You appear to be a wizard." Joxer strained slightly,
but found himself able to understand her words, although he'd never heard
the language before.
The man spoke as he moved, hurriedly and inelegantly. "Yes, yes, and you
appear to be the people I'm looking for." His eyes roamed with indifference
over both Xena and Gabrielle, settling on Joxer with anticipation. His
language changed, and Joxer found he could understand the magic tongue that
apparently controlled his staff when he heard it. "You must be the wizard I
was sent here to meet."
"Sent here? No one knew we were coming." Joxer replied easily in the odd
The older man nodded tightly, unrolling a scroll, pulling a quill from the
air, and speaking in Anglo once again. "Knows the Mysterious Tongue. Check."
He looked up at the tall young man. "Do you have a familiar?"
Xena stepped forward and touched the man's arm, giving him The Look. He
glared at her, but the Warrior Princess was not one to back down. Finally
the wizard dropped his gaze, and Xena spoke. "How did you know to look for
us? I came looking for Merlin, an old friend, but even he was not expecting
us. Who are you, anyway?"
The man shrugged. "Mother Wigglewort saw it in her tea leaves this morning.
It's been a long time since her breakfast beverage spoke to her about
anything, so she insisted I come find you. The name's Porticullis. I'm the
headmaster of the Wizard's Academy." The old wizard paused significantly.
"You know Merlin? Interesting."
Xena shrugged. "It was a long time ago, really."
"One of our best students. It's a shame he never finished." He seemed to
want the subject dropped. Turning back to Joxer, in a businesslike tone, he
Gabrielle was getting peeved. Everyone knew what was going on except her.
She couldn't understand a word that was being said, although she did realize
that Joxer and the old man had been talking that funny language that the
staff understood. She tugged on Joxer's sleeve, and asked him in Greek,
"What's that language they're talking? Do you understand them?"
Joxer nodded absently. "Xena," he asked in Anglo, "What's this language
"Gabby can't understand it." He turned to the bard and said something
quietly. "There, is that better?"
The bard answered in the same tongue. "Is what better?" Then her head
snapped up in shock. "Did I just speak Argo Sections?"
Xena looked mildly surprised herself. "Anglo-Saxon. Yeah. Thanks, Joxer."
The young wizard shrugged. "It's easier than explaining it all to her."
The older man was scribbling notes madly in the margins of his scroll. His
face, at first a mask of barely maintained neutrality, relaxed back into its
previous superior grimace. Tapping his pointy-toed boot, he repeated with
exaggerated patience, "Familiar?"
Joxer thrust his staff forward. The staff tried to draw back, but the young
man held it out for inspection like one would a recalcitrant child.
"A staff? Interesting. Only Oswald ever used a staff as a familiar. Where
did you get it?"
Xena, at Joxer's urging, told the story of the old man's bequest, the
Warrior Princess only scowling slightly at the young man's constant
interjections. When they finally slogged through the entire story, the older
man scribbled some more notes, having to turn over the scroll to find more
blank space. "So, Oswald left you his power. Hmmm. Since you were made heir,
I doubt we need the family history, but I hate leaving sections blank.
Joxer patiently outlined his family's background, spending a great deal of
time on the circumstances of his birth as a triplet at the older wizard's
insistence. Again the man was making copious notes. He could feel Gabrielle
growing restless beside him, and saw Xena eyeing a shabbily dressed drifter
as if hoping he would cause some trouble so she could go do something.
Finally, he heard the man mumble, "Gotta get Mirabelle more of that tea."
Then he rolled up the quill inside the scroll and tucked it under his arm,
where it promptly vanished. He smiled brightly, an expression that fit his
face like a frilly apron would fit Xena. "Shall we go off to the Academy,
On the way, Xena attempted to pull from Master Porticullis information about
her old friend. The man kept shaking his head and muttering, "Such a pity,"
but would give her no specific information about Merlin. In spite of her
growing irritation, she didn't feel that it would be a good move to put the
pinch on Joxer's future Headmaster.
Gabrielle stared openly at the town. Dirty. Not that Greece was spotless,
but there just was an unpleasant smell about this place that seemed to have
to do with the odd piles of what appeared to be garbage along the sides of
the road. She wondered how long Joxer's training would take, and if she and
Xena would have to stay the whole time. She was torn about whether she
wanted to do that or not. She guessed this would be one decision she'd leave
up to Xena when the time came. She looked hard at Joxer's back. Unless of
course Xena decided to leave him here.
Joxer was confused. It was a pretty comfortable and familiar emotion for
him, and he settled into it. How had he understood that language? He'd never
heard it in his life. He'd done no spell to make it possible either. Come to
think of it, he had done no such spell with Poseidon either, and yet both
spoke and understood the water language easily. Another puzzle he hoped
would be solved by his admission to the Academy. If Master Porticullis
planned to let him in. He'd acted somewhat oddly during the interview, and
Joxer wondered if he was just taking him to the Academy so that he could
find a quieter place to tell him to go away. The young man sighed. Story of
his life. He shifted his case from one hand to the other. It had taken a
very strong sailor to carry the thing down the gangplank, but once Joxer
realized that he was going to have to get it to the Academy under his own
power, he had placed a spell on it lightening the case so he could carry it
easily by himself. He suddenly realized that he was doing magic now without
even thinking about it. Joxer wondered if this was a good or a bad thing.
Ahead loomed a walled compound that appeared so completely unwelcoming that
Joxer was sure it couldn't be the Academy. Maybe the gaol, but not a place
people actually wanted to get into. It was dark and foreboding, with doors
of a strange metal that seemed to gyrate in the sun. A group of women,
mostly young and many dressed all in black, stood not far from what appeared
to be the main entrance, a few eyeing Joxer with obvious interest. The
Headmaster smiled that alien smile of his again and announced, "Welcome to
the Wizard's Academy." He waved his hands at the doors, and they swung open
on their own.
Xena asked the question that was on all of their minds. "What kind of metal
"The doors? Just iron. But they've been enchanted for security. There are
lots of people who'd like to get in and grab a young wizard to do their
bidding, but they can't this way. The walls carry the same spell." The
headmaster didn't bother to mention that between the hijinks of young men
emboldened by magic abilities and the group of young witches that hung
around outside the walls looking for a wizard to wed, the spells were as
much to keep the students in as anyone out.
The Headmaster turned to Xena and Gabrielle. "I'm sorry, but rules say that
only family is allowed beyond this point, and even they're only to come in
on Admission Day."
That unfamiliar steel crept into Joxer's backbone that he was beginning to
recognize as bad temper. "They are my family. Just not by blood."
The older man saw Joxer's stiff posture and the angry glint in his eyes. He
knew that he didn't really want to set this one off, not until he had a
better grasp on his abilities, anyway. Rules were made to be broken, on
occasion. "But, of course. Right this way, ladies."
The three entered through the eerie doors, to the anxious chittering and
giggling of the group of watching females. The doors swung closed behind
The courtyard through which they entered was a rush of activity, men of all
ages, shapes and sizes all dressed in long robes and scurrying in every
direction. Xena leaned over and whispered to Joxer, "Well, maybe I was wrong
about the dress code thing." The young wizard groaned. A few of the bustling
wizards did take the time to pause and gaze admiringly at the two lovely
women who had just entered. Females were uncommon in the Wizard's Academy -
attractive ones even more so.
The entered a small building, which appeared to contain a very large hall
once they were inside. Porticullis noticed the three staring about trying to
figure out how the room they were in fit into the building they had walked
into. "Magic," he said briefly. "Saves on Real Estate costs." Gabrielle was
the only one of the trio that seemed not to fully accept this explanation.
Several dark robed men were assembled on the other side of the hall. The
headmaster took Joxer's arm and moved him to them, the women trailing
slightly behind. "This is Jokester," Porticullis began in the magical
"Joxer," the other snarled.
"This is Joxer," the headmaster went on, unperturbed, "and he wished to
become a novice. He has inherited Oswald's powers, and desires training. He
comes to us from Greece."
"He doesn't look like Oswald," one of the men murmured.
"Oswald never married," said another, who then shrugged. "Not that that
means he didn't have a son." Several low conversations broke out,
speculating on this titillating idea, and offering possibilities for the
Porticullis raised his voice. "Ahemmm." The group quieted. "He is not Oswald
's child, he was bequeathed his power. He is the youngest of a set of Greek
triplets." The group buzzed again. "Ahemmm," the headmaster repeated, a bit
louder. Once he had regained their attention, he pointed to one of the other
wizards. "Barelyn," he ordered, "test him on languages."
"But, sir," Barelyn protested, "that's an ad."
The headmaster shushed the professor. "Test him. Now, please." He turned to
the young Greek. "Barelyn heads our Language Department. Just answer his
questions the same way he asks them."
The chubby professor was mumbling to himself. "Knows the Mysterious. Start
with the classics, I guess." In Anglo-Saxon, he asked Joxer, "Where were you
Joxer answered in the same language. "Athens, Greece, two blocks from Akbar,
In Greek, the professor asked, "How many brothers and sisters do you have?"
"Two brothers," Joxer began in Greek, but the headmaster interrupted.
"He IS Greek, Barelyn. It's no surprise he understands that one. Go on."
In Latin, the chubby man asked, "How did you get here?"
Joxer paused a moment, processing the question. In Latin, he asked, "Do you
mean the birds and the bees thing, or here, like to Britannia?" Some of the
other professors tittered. Porticullis frowned at them.
Barelyn switched to Arabic. "To Britannia."
"This is an island, right? Isn't a boat the only way?" Joxer had never heard
Arabic before. He thought it sounded quite interesting as he listened to his
Finally, the round faced man asked, in a truly strange language that seemed
to consist of mostly chirps and whirrs deep in the throat, "How long have
you been able to understand everything that was said to you, no matter what
Joxer chirped and whirred thoughtfully in response. "I only noticed it when
I met Poseidon. It could have been longer, I'm just not sure."
The rest of the professors wore blank looks. Finally a tall pale redheaded
one asked, "Say, Bear, what was that last language? None of us know that
one, it seems."
"Garden Fairy," the stunned looking man answered absently, "an ancient
dialect. I did a thesis paper on it." He looked at the nervous initiate
before him. "You met Poseidon? I've been trying for years to get a grip on
the Nereid's language. Could you stop by later and we could talk about it?"
Joxer nodded anxiously. "Does that mean I passed?"
The headmaster stepped in front of the Professor of Languages, who seemed
incapable of speech in any language at the moment. "Of course you did,
lad. Let's show you to your room, and introduce you and your," he groped for
a moment, "sisters, to your new roommate."
As they left the hall, the voices of the professors behind them rose to a
crescendo, with Barelyn's awed tones floating just above the rest.
".prodigy. Amazing natural ability - didn't even have to stop and think."
Porticullis shooed them quickly outside, thankful that Joxer hadn't appeared
to hear that last bit.
"You'll be in with the newest group, of course," the headmaster explained to
Joxer as they walked through the courtyard. He stopped for a moment, eyes on
the Greek. "You aren't having hot dreams anymore, are you?" Joxer looked
puzzled, and the wizard explained. "Nocturnal magical emissions. It's a
problem for some of our younger initiates. We have a special dorm by the
water reservoir." He caught the misery on the young man's face, and realized
what he had been discussing in mixed company, and had the decency to blush.
"Um, ah. well, are you?" Joxer shook his head, his face burning. "Good."
They entered another deceptively small building, and trudged down the long
hall to a door in the middle. Porticullis rapped on the door, and a very
plain-looking young man of about twenty answered, dressed in one of the
ubiquitous robes. "Miller," the headmaster announced, "You have a roommate.
This is Joxer. Do be a good fellow and show him the ropes, would you?"
Turning without pause to Xena and Gabrielle, the man announced, "And now, to
show you two out," in a tone of voice that clearly indicated there was
nothing he would like more.
"Bye, Joxer," the bard called over her shoulder as she was being hustled
down the hall.
"Bye, Gabby. Bye, Xena. See you soon, I hope." Joxer waved at their backs as
they disappeared through the door. He turned back to examine his new
quarters. It appeared to be a single room with two pallets on the floor.
There was a high opening that passed for a window in the outside wall, which
seemed to distill the town's distinctive smell from the outside air, to be
concentrated in the room. There was a basin and pitcher on a rough table in
one corner, and a chamber pot in the other. A rat was asleep in the third
corner in an open box lined with hay. Joxer turned to the other fellow.
"Which one's mine?" The young man pointed, and soon the case, staff and pack
were arranged neatly at the bedside.
The two men stared at one another for a moment before the younger one
stepped forward. "Hi, my name's Miller. My friends call me Milt."
Joxer grasped the boy's outstretched hand. "I'm Joxer. My friends call me,
um, Joxer." The two shook hands a bit longer than need be, neither confident
enough to pull away first. Finally by some unspoken agreement they simply
"Miller is an unusual name, isn't it?" Joxer queried, breaking the awkward
"I was the eighth son. My father ran out of good names around number five,
and just started around the market square. I got lucky. You should meet my
older brother, Butcher."
"Gods. I thought being a triplet was rough. Although Jett would probably
have liked being called Butcher." Joxer thought for a moment. "Actually,
sometimes he was."
"A triplet, huh? That could explain it. You the youngest?"
Milt shrugged. "A lot of magic's by the numbers. That and the Rules. I was
stuck - the eighth son of a wizard. I had to come here. Never got a
choice, eight is a magic number. Youngest of any multiples over twins is the
same way, if they survive. Most don't, you know."
Joxer nodded. "Stuck? You wanted to do something else?"
"Sure," the young man nodded, "Always wanted to be a bean counter. My uncle
has a farm, and the inventory on it is fascinating! Thousands of beans, all
of 'em in need of careful counting and tracking." He sighed dramatically.
"But, alas, the choice was never mine to make."
The two felt comfortable with each other quickly. Joxer decided they would
get along fine, although he wasn't that terribly fond of beans.
Out in the courtyard, Porticullis was moving as quickly as his feet would
carry him to a small door in the wall, pushing Xena and Gabrielle subtly in
front of him. "I'll let you out through the Witches' Door, it's quicker."
The door opened at a wave of his hand, and as they all stepped outside the
walls, he let out a sigh of relief. Looking around in the group of women, he
caught sight of one in particular. "Mother Wigglewort!" he called out,
waving his hand frantically. An old woman dressed all in black with a high
pointed hat waddled through the crowd. Almost before she was close enough to
hear, the headmaster began babbling. "These two women came here with the new
initiate you were kind enough to tell me about. They need a place to stay
before they go back home, which will be soon, I'm sure." He gave the Warrior
Princess a pointed look, which she stared down impassively. "Anyway, if you
"Don't you get your knickers all in a wad, Port. I'll take care of them. Run
on." The woman's voice was tinged with smoke and had a rural accent. The
headmaster acted like a little boy who had gotten off easy after wrongdoing,
turning and scurrying back through the small door, which closed behind him.
The witch turned to the two Greek women. "Don't mind old Port. He doesn't
like women. Doesn't like men, either. Really, he don't like much of anyone."
She motioned for the pair to follow, and melted into the crowd.
Inside, the headmaster scurried back to the hall where the interview had
taken place. The assembled professors fell on him as one man when he
entered. "He's incredible!" "Where did you find him?" "As good as Merlin
was!" "Maybe better."
Porticullis let them all go on for a few minutes before shushing the group.
"He's staying. I've put him in a room with young Miller and sent those women
of his off. Now, none of what just happened is to leave this room. You
cannot tell your staff. You cannot treat him any different than the other
The voices rose in a questioning hum. The headmaster raised his hands, and
the other men fell silent. "Magruder," said the wizard, pointing to the
redheaded professor of Theoretical Incantations, "You were the one to
mention Merlin. Has anyone here forgotten what happened with Merlin?"
Guilty expressions painted all the faces. Merlin had been the best student
the Academy had seen since the days of old. It had been so long since the
country had seen a wizard that impressed them - not since Oswald had left,
sneezing and sniffling, for his homeland in Greece. The young man was the
talk of the entire continent. He was better than his professors, and they
all knew it. Still, to turn out a wizard of such magnitude would certainly
raise the Academy's stock, and perhaps they would once again be able to
recruit among Britannia's finest families, instead of taking in the endless
procession of eighth sons from poor farming families that paid tuition in
eggs and milk. So they talked Merlin up, everywhere. Before long, kings and
noblemen from far off countries were at the doorstep, seeking to lure their
star student away.
It was several years before the dark cloud of being The Wizard's Academy,
home of magic's most prestigious dropout, cleared. Some of the farming
families started paying in hay, even. It was not a repeat performance the
school could afford.
Soon the professors were united on a plan to keep this one from getting