Sensing that he was no longer welcome Joxer parted company with Xena and Gabriel and now he was making his way towards Corinth alone. To put it mildly the would be warrior did not do well on his own and Ares was beginning to understand why Joxer preferred to travel with Xena. Joxer's clumsiness did not make him a good hunter and when he tried to sneak up on his prey he would inevitably trip or make a noise that would scare off his dinner. In result Joxer would go for days without eating anything more substantial that nuts and berries, which explained his scrawny almost lithe like frame. Eventually hunger would drive him to steal food from a nearby village and for the same reason that Joxer wasn't a good hunter made him a terrible thief and Joxer would find himself chased out of the village by some angry farmer. But no matter how dire things became Joxer maintained his nauseating upbeat attitude until eventually someone showed pity on the poor soul and threw him a few scraps that would sustain Joxer for a day or two days if he was careful.
Over all Joxer was a poor miserable creature and there was nothing exceptional about the mortal that would warrant the god's attention. In fact everything about the man predisposed him to be overlooked by others. But now in some twist of fate Joxer had unknowingly garnered the full attention of the God of War and what was most ironic was that Ares found the mortal fascinating. From the outside Joxer appeared to be a babbling delusional fool with no real talent or skill but on the inside there was a great desire to do good and his fantasy were grand and wondrous starring him as the hero. The man lived in a fantasy world that was a complete contradiction to reality that he actually lived, but Ares couldn't really blame poor fool for reality had not been too kind to Joxer. It was kind of charming in a sad tragic kind of way and the mortal slowly wormed his way into Ares's cold black heart. The god spent hours peering into the mirror with a small smile on his face and eventually the other gods on Olympus began to notice the slight change in Ares`s behavior. The God of War never smiled unless he was plotting something sinister and when War plotted everyone, god or mortal, became nervous.
The air grew thick with energy, which announced the presence of a God, and Ares quickly vanished the mirror before anyone could see it. For some reason he didn't want anyone to know about Joxer and he decided to keep his pet project a secret from the other gods. He didn't like the idea of anyone but him peeping into the mortal's private thoughts. It seemed wrong some how, which didn't mean he was developing a conscious or anything as sappy as that, he was War after all. Ares was merely being cautious and it wasn't anyone business if he chose to obsess, no, study Joxer in the interest of scientific interest. Joxer was an anomaly and nothing more.
A moment later Strife popped into existence in a billow of swamp green fog that crept along temple floor with an ominous glow. "Hey Unc."
Ares waved the fog from his face and scrunched his nose up in disgust. "Trying something new?"
Strife smiled manically as his pale white skin turned an eerie shade of green under the fluorescent light, "Yeah, I decided to liven up my entrance a bit with a B movie horror film kind of theme. What do ya think?"
By now the fog had spread throughout the throne room covering the floor with sickly green mist. "It stinks," replied Ares flatly.
Strife frowned. "Well I know it needs a little mo' work but I didn't think it was that bad."
"No, I mean it smells like you were wallowing in a swamp all day."
"Really! Cool," exclaimed the leather clad god ecstatically as lifted his arm to smell under his armpit.
Ares shook his head in resignation. He had long given up trying to understand his nephew and accepted the fact Strife was just weird. With a snap of his fingers the fog dissipated as a slight breeze swept through the temple leaving scent of fresh flowers behind.
"What do you want Strife?" asked Ares impatiently.
"Oh yeah I almost forgot to tell ya. I was walking by Cupe's temple when I accidentally over heard an interesting tidbit of information."
"You mean that you were eavesdropping."
"Oh course not! It's not my fault that they didn`t notice me."
Ares rolled his eyes at his nephew's over zealous profession of his innocence. Anyone that knew the God of Mischief knew that Strife was anything but innocent. "Were you even visible?"
The pale god immediately dropped the act and gave Ares a mischievous smile. "Nope," answered the neurotic god as he dissolved into a fit of giggles.
Ares grew impatient with Strife`s antics and formed a fireball in the palm of his hand and threw it at the giggling god missing his head by mere inches.
The smell of burning hair immediate sobered the young god and the laughter died on his thin cracked lips. "Okay, okay no need to get all violent. The eldest daughter of the King of Corinth is in love but she's been promised to the Orestes, the Prince of Mycenae."
"And why should I care about some silly little mortal's crush?" asked Ares in boredom.
"Funny that you should say that considering that she is in love with the King of Crete, King Agamemnon's sworn enemy."
"Hmm interesting," murmured Ares as he rubbed his goatee thoughtful.
"I thought ya would say that," smiled Strife knowingly.
"Get Out. I need to think."
"No prob boss," cried Strife cheerfully as he winked out of existence, but not before dumping billows of foul smelling swamp gas into the Ares's throne room in his wake.
After cursing Strife's existence and casting several freshening charms on his throne room Ares settled in his chair to think. Crete and Mycenae have been on the brink of war for years. But somehow they had avoided conflict despite rising tensions and subtle cajoling by him. This could be just what he needed to pushed the two kingdoms over the edge if he played his cards right. Perhaps he could use Joxer's `special' talents, plus it would give him the perfect opportunity to study the mortal more closely. Yes this would do nicely thought Ares cheerfully now that he had a plan and he once again conjured the looking mirror to check on his currently most favorite mortal.
But unknown to the God of War he was being watched. Strife stood invisible at the edge of Ares's awareness watching the God of War with keen interest. The young god had seen that mirror before. Ares would spend hours peering into mirror's surface when he thought no one was looking and somehow he doubted that the God of War was that vain about his appearance. Something had caught Ares's interest and as War's second-maybe third, okay fourth definitely fourth-in command Strife felt that maybe he should be interested to.