Authors: Sahara Kelly
Copyright 2013 Sahara Kelly
Cover art Copyright 2013 Sahara Kelly
For P and N Graphics, LLC
This book is dedicated to those readers, like myself, who are enchanted by the work of Douglas Adams. Those who traveled with Arthur Dent to the End of the Universe and who would know—down to the last circuit board—how to fix an Infinite Improbability Drive with only a vase of flowers and a whale.
I read Mr. Adams' work at an impressionable age and marveled at his ability to make me laugh even while telling a crackingly fine adventure. The man was a genius and left us far too soon.
This story is my homage to Hitchhikers and their Guides. It doesn't come with a towel, but does come with the mandatory Intergalactic species warning—"Don't Panic". It also comes with my thanks to all the usual suspects, including my family, my friends, my readers, my philodendron (who has turned out to be one of the most faithful companions in my life, asking nothing more than water and bit of food now and again) and of course my writing partner who makes things so much better on a regular basis. He even provides his own water and food. I am indeed blessed. So while reading the following off-kilter story, remember to be thankful for one thing if nothing else… it's
Scotland, sometime during the twelfth century. Thursday evening…
The sound of Laird Rhuadhri McAllen reaching his satisfaction yet again rolled across the hillside and brought a proud smile to the lips of his men who rested quietly around their small campfire.
Indeed, their Laird was a man of unsurpassable passions, able to satisfy more women and come to his own peak more times than the rest of them put together.
They had sated their lusts with their own women, who were scattered exhaustedly throughout the camp; only those who wanted to bed the Laird remained alert, gathered in a small knot some distance away.
The Laird himself had retired to seize a small amount of privacy for his pleasure within a patch of shrubbery. His bedmates waited their turns, eager hands tugging at gowns and straightening braids.
There was an air of contentment circling the small crowd, the remains of a good meal warming on the stones at the edge of the fire and horns of local
being passed from man to man.
Looking at the sight, none would have guessed that each man present knew his fate. That the following morn would bring a battle so fierce it was almost certain to end their lives.
The warriors knew that the villainous rogues who had burned their homes and seized their lands were better armed and possessed a greater force. But they refused to lie down and surrender, believing that to die fighting for a just cause was better than living under another's heel.
The Laird had been forced to agree.
He had no other alternative but to accept the pledge given to him by these men, even though he'd rather have found another way. A way that would have kept his friends alive. He had made sure they understood that for himself, he didn't care. He had no bairns, no woman waiting for him.
He'd given them choices though he had none. To leave, to run, to hide deep in the misty vales of their beloved land.
Not one of these choices was acceptable to these fierce and proud men whose hearts refused to take the easy way out.
They would follow Laird Rhuadri, the red-haired lord, into battle for what they believed in. And if it meant their deaths, then so be it. The women were to leave before sunrise along with the elders and the young, and be far away before the day's deeds were done. The loose ends were tied up, the last meal enjoyed, and all that remained was the cheering sound of their Laird as he eased his body with his women and made them all proud to be part of his clan.
At that particular moment, Mairie MacGregor was the recipient of the Laird's seed, her cry of fulfillment preceding his by mere seconds. This night saw the Laird remaining deep within a woman's sheath as he spurted his essence into her. It was the first time anyone could remember him doing so. Since he'd learned about lovemaking he had always withdrawn and spent himself outside his lover. His women agreed it was a mark of his respect for them.
But tonight, all the women waiting for the Laird prayed that this bedding would find them fertile. That they would be able to birth a bonny red-haired child some nine months hence.
For it was sure that there would be few men of their clan left to do the job after the morrow's battle.
The moon finally set and a solid darkness settled over the land. The Laird had done his duty. Seven women had been rendered boneless with pleasure and had experienced the honor of receiving the Laird's seed deep into their wombs.
Yet now, by choice, he rested alone, the women gone to their well-earned sleep. Wakeful and unsettled, he lay swathed in his plaids, watching the stars as they flickered and twinkled in the crisp air of this fateful highland night.
"You cannot sleep, Laird McAllen?"
The quiet voice startled Rory and he reached for his sword, only to find his body held immobile. A soft light gathered at his side and he struggled to turn his head a little in that direction.
As the light coalesced, a figure took shape. A tall figure, dressed in soft robes, with long hair tied back and very unusual eyes the color of a turquoise sea.
"Rest easy, Laird. I mean you no harm."
The voice was soothing to Rory's ears and instead of being alarmed and ready for battle, Rory found his heart slowing and his mind clearing of its incessant worries.
"Who...who...are ye?" he asked hesitantly.
"I am called the Guardian," the man answered. "But who I am is not as important as why I am here."
"Ye're here to foretell my death," said Rory. The knowledge of his imminent demise was engraved within his brain.
"Well, yes and no."
Rory blinked. "I beg yer pardon?"
"Sort of. You will sort of die tomorrow."
Rory shook his head. "Laddie, there is no 'sort of' about it. Ye're either alive or ye're dead. Ye canna be in between."
The Guardian smiled. "Well, actually,
, you can. And I'm here to offer you that choice."
Rory's head swam with the words. This must be some awful nightmare he'd fallen into. Damn, he just knew that little Janet Douglas had slipped something into the
. Otherwise her breasts would never have seemed so big, and he wouldn't be talking with an idiot ghost. Or whatever it was.
He sighed. "Can ye no go away and let me spend ma last night on God's sweet earth in peace?"
"But you're not in peace, Rory. We've established that. And God's good earth is why I'm here. God's good galaxy, actually."
The man knelt down beside Rory and stared deep into his eyes. Rory shivered as the intensity of the man's gaze pierced through his confusion.
"Rory McAllen, the universe needs you. Needs your skills with your cock and the sharpness of your brain. I am here to offer you the chance to serve all of humanity and a couple of other species you haven't heard of yet. Few men get this chance, so think carefully before you answer."
Rory frowned, trying to understand what was happening. Soft fingers of light began to brush the eastern horizon and he knew dawn was on its way. His last dawn. He shivered again, but not with cold this time.
"You will take to the field, this day, Laird McAllen, and you will fight with honor alongside your men. A few will survive. You will not be one of them."
Rory swallowed, the unaccustomed sting of tears filling his eyes. He didn't want to die. Not yet.
"If you agree to my suggestion, then your men will see you fall in battle. But instead of dying, you will be whisked away from here to another place, where you will be taught how to live a new kind of existence and how to put your skills to good use where they are needed most. I will take you to Anyela. To the Guardians of Time."
A planet in another dimension, where Time is mostly irrelevant. Tuesday...
The woman stood in front of the tall tree, staring intensely at small blue flower buds. She blinked in the bright sunshine and then shook her head a little, as if to clear her mind.
Soft bird songs trilled around her, and the sound of the breeze as it rustled the lush foliage around the small jungle were the only noises to break the stillness.
Her eyes took in the odd tangle of low branches that just cleared the tall grass and wildflowers that bloomed with such profusion.
Suddenly, she gasped. "Oh my God. I remember...
Paul. I remember
Alana West Guardino turned and hurried across the tiled paths of Anyela in search of her husband. She found him within seconds and he clutched her shoulders and held her tight.
"I remember, Paul. I remember
. You, the tree, and...and...Paul, where are they?"
The tall, distinguished looking man laughed. "Right here, waiting for you, sweetheart. They've remembered too." His dark chocolate-colored eyes twinkled at her.
He turned and two men stepped out from behind him.
One was impossibly gorgeous, with blond hair that caught the sunshine and reflected it back in a vastly improved state. His glistening blue eyes were full of emotions as he gazed at her with laughter on his face.
The other was slightly taller, with chestnut brown hair and dark eyes that were about to devour her. A smile played around his handsome mouth as it widened to show his whiter-than-white teeth.
She shivered, half-smiled, and then burst into tears as she opened her arms and gathered them close.
Alana West Guardino had found her genies.
Hari and Sami were back in Alana's arms.
The Guardian sighed, shrugged his shoulders and waited for his wife to stop crying. She'd been doing it a lot recently. Understandable, of course, seeing as their child was making its presence felt within her body in a variety of quite amazing ways.
His loins stirred and his heart thudded at the thought of Alana's swollen belly and wonderfully enlarged breasts. Breasts that he'd toyed with just this morning. Well, that was neither here nor there, and seeing as he'd changed into his Anyelan silks, he considered that an obvious erection would probably spoil his attempt at a dignified appearance.
And God knew he was going to have to be dignified. This crisis that had occasioned their return to Anyela needed some careful handling. Which was why he'd been called in the first place, although not why he'd succumbed to Alana's entreaties to let her accompany him.
Truthfully, he just didn't want to be apart from her. Especially not now, when he could feel their child begin to move within her belly, touch the new life that they'd created and know that the little foot that thumped his back at night was part of them both.
The sobbing and sniffling and hugging had given way to excited chattering as Hari and Sami and Alana exchanged news and laughter.
Theirs had been an adventure of extraordinary proportions, and the Guardian leaned against a tree, prepared to allow them some time to become reacquainted.
Time passed at a different rate here in Anyela, and both Hari and Sami had settled down contentedly with their wives and had families of their own. Thanks largely to Alana and her intricately devious way of thinking.
The Guardian's lips curved as he watched both men laughing with his wife. They gently stroked the swollen belly and excitedly found a slight movement beneath the skin.
When the roving hands began to explore other changes in Alana's body, he judged that it was time to put an end to the reunion. He cleared his throat.
It acted like a gunshot on Hari and Sami, who jumped into the air and away from Alana.
"I'm sorry, Guardian..."stuttered Sami, looking helplessly at Hari.
"We...we...just...I mean, she's..." Hari did no better.
"Oh can it, guys. Paul knows how we feel about each other. Right, honey?" Alana crossed to her husband and grinned up at him, running her fingers up his arm and hitting that exact spot that never failed to make him shiver.
The joy he knew she felt in seeing her genies was nothing in comparison to the love that the Guardian saw shining in her eyes—for him.
"I should have expected as much. You three turned this place on its ears last time you were here," he said dryly.
Hari and Sami smiled politely, but Alana chuckled.
"Well, damn it, it needed a good shaking up. Things were pretty medieval.
look at them..." And she waved her hand at the two men who were blushing slightly and managing to look rather proud at the same time.
The Guardian looked. Hari and Sami had become Pro Tem Guardians, exchanging their ceremonial robes for their regular dress once their services for that period were concluded. The Guardianship now rotated amongst the elders and those best qualified. It ensured a continual stream of wisdom mixed with enthusiasm, and added a dash of creativity to the solutions needed.