I was standing on Mount Lemmon looking out over the desert at the lights of Tucson that night.
The night that turned my whole damn life into one wild ride.
I was bored. Tired of my job, tired of my now ex-girlfriend. Tired of life in general.
The only thing that was going right for me was my Hawg. A 1956 Harley-Davidson Panhead.
It's not often that a person can look back on a moment and say, "there, that is where I made the choice that turned my life upside-down".
In my case, it was when I decided to go sit on a big boulder and watch the storm coming across the city from the south.
I had an ideal perch from which to watch the light show as the thunderstorm flowed up the valley from Nogales. I fished around in my pocket for my pipe and my tobacco pouch. I filled my pipe and lit it. At peace with the world for once, I settled cross-legged on the more or less flat top of the boulder and cleared my mind. I had tried this type of meditation before, and it usually helped to relax me. I puffed the pipe evenly and slowly, letting the tension flow out with the smoke. Finally I was relaxed as I was going to get. I stayed there for hours, not moving except to refill my pipe and relight it. When I climbed down off the boulder a few hours before dawn, I felt as if I had been asleep for days.
I stopped before going back to the bike and pissed off the edge of the cliff. When I got back to my bike though, I noticed something was more than a little odd. I could have sworn that the road that I had driven up on had been paved. But all I saw was gravel road, heavily rutted and badly in need of repair. I shrugged it off. I had been over worse roads before.
I kicked the Harley to life easily. Letting her warm up for a bit before I dropped her in gear and started out. Being a rigid frame bike, my Harley damn near bounced my kidneys loose by the time I got down the mountain. The sun was just coming up by the time I got to the main road, or where the main road should have been anyway.
I KNEW that Camino Seco was paved. But all I found was another rutted dirt road, maybe a little wider than the one I had just come off of. And where the hell were the buildings that were part of Tucson's urban sprawl? I could see nothing but cactus, mesquite, and Palo Verde everywhere I looked.
I headed west towards town. I rode for a good hour without seeing a single person. Hell, for that matter, I hadn't seen a frigging house or any other sign of civilization. I kept heading generally southwest towards where I knew downtown Tucson was supposed to be. I had a few bad moments crossing rickety bridges across dry washes. But no major trouble. I was getting seriously worried though.
I was thirsty, and no water in sight. I stopped when I saw the next good-sized barrel cactus. The Bowie knife from my boot made short work of chopping the top of the cactus open. I dipped out the watery pulp inside and gulped it down, nasty tasting stuff. But it stayed down and gave me the moisture I needed. I made myself drink as much as I could hold. Then replaced the top of the cactus and got back on the bike.
I unscrewed the gas cap and checked the fuel. 3/4 full, enough to get me to Nogales if I had to.
I was puzzled, someone had to be maintaining these roads, such as they were. But who? And where the hell were they?
I kept going, hoping for some sign that someone was here. When I reached A Mountain, I knew I was screwed. No big white A picked out in white rocks. And where I was sitting should have been right downtown in Tucson.
Crap and other comments.
I reached into the saddlebags behind the seat of the bike and pulled out my pistol and gun belt. I had a sinking feeling that I would need the firepower of my .44 mag before much longer. I stopped and considered my options. Going back up the mountain had its appeal, but I was just stubborn enough to try to make it down to Nogales.
In the Tucson that I knew, it was a simple drive of maybe an hour to the border. Now? I wasn't sure. I found a road heading generally south and took it.
I was somewhere around where I expected Tubac to be, and still nothing and no one. This was not good.
I could see the storm clouds gathering ahead of me. Good old reliable monsoons. At least that hadn't changed.
I found a spot on a little hill and dug my tarp out of my duffle bag. I rigged it between a couple of Palo Verde trees and a couple of poles that I cut with my Bowie knife. I sank the poles a good 3 feet into the ground, then lashed the tarp to them and guyed cords out to big rocks to help keep them upright.
Safe enough from the rain, I rigged a plastic drop cloth to act as a rain catcher. If we got enough rain, I could fill my canteens and my water bag. I didn't bother with a fire; I didn't have anything to cook, and nothing to cook in if I did. I munched one of the granola bars that I always kept in my saddlebags. I sat backwards on my bike, my head cushioned by my duffle bag, and my feet crossed on the rear fender. I watched the storm roll in and over me, lightning flashing and the rain coming down like a cow pissing on a flat rock.
The plastic drop cloth held a good 3 or 4 gallons when the rain stopped. I filled the canteens and the water bag first. Then I drank my fill of the clean, cold water.
I left the tarp up and leaned back on the bike again. I had slept on the back of the Harley many times, so this was nothing new.
When I woke up, I sat up and stretched. I had slept a lot better than I had expected. I went to take the tarp down. I took a step towards the trees and stopped. "What the fuck?" I said aloud. I had lived in Tucson for 14 goddamn years. I know Palo Verde trees when I see them. And I had tied the tarp to a couple of Palo Verde trees. Now it was tied to a couple of small oaks. I turned and looked out at the surrounding area. Grasslands dotted with small groves of trees.
I took the tarp down and stowed it. Then drank the last of the water from the plastic sheet. I got everything packed and got on the bike. She started easily and idled smoothly, or at least, as smoothly as any Harley does. I idled for a few minutes, then shut the bike down. I checked the oil and the tire pressure. Both good. I adjusted the chain slightly and then restarted the bike.
The road I had been traveling on was gone. No trace at all. But the grass was short, and the ground firm enough for traction, so I continued on south. There were mountains in the distance in a couple of directions, but they weren't the same mountains that could be seen from Tucson.
I kept going south because I was already pointed in that direction, and it was as good as any other direction at the moment.
I kept the speed low, no more than 30 miles per hour at any time, both to conserve fuel, and to avoid any sudden surprises like unseen drop-offs or big bike eating rocks.
After an hour or so, I finally saw someone.
Several some-ones actually. I had stopped up on top of a hill and shut off the bike to get a look at the surrounding land, hoping to see a town or even a herd of animals. The grass was too uniformly short to be ungrazed, and I had seen piles of dung that looked like the cow chips that I remembered from my West Nebraska boyhood.
I saw something moving out a mile or so away. I dug in my duffle bag and got out my old battered binoculars. I looked through the side that had the uncracked lens. There were several guys on horses chasing a woman or girl who was on foot. She had a good lead on them, but it was shrinking fast.
I fired up the Harley and headed in that direction. The men on horseback either didn't hear me, or just ignored me as I approached. The girl looked up when she heard the big V Twin of the Hawg, then tripped and fell.
I was close enough to see that the horsemen had lances and swords. They wore leather armor with small brass studs all over the leather. I didn't know why they were chasing the girl, but I have always been a sucker for the underdog.
I drove my bike through the group of horsemen, revving the engine and scaring the shit out of the horses. By the time the riders got their mounts under control, I had the Bike stopped next to the girl on the ground. I spared her a quick glance. Her bare feet were bloody and her dress was torn and ragged. She herself looked filthy. I couldn't tell much else since she had her face hidden in her arms as she lay face down.
I drew my .44 and pointed it straight up. "All right, that's far enough!" I yelled at the horsemen. Most of them drew up and stopped. One of them, maybe a little braver, or stupider, than the others, kept coming. He dropped his lance point even with my chest and spurred his horse. I took a two handed grip on the .44 and fired.
I remembered reading something about fighting cavalry, kill the horse, and the rider is easy meat.
So the horse took the first 240-grain hollow-point right in the forehead. Momentum carried it a few feet further, but it was already dead and dropping. The rider broke his neck when he landed with an audible SNAP! The rest of the men milled their horses around. Then one of then shouted something at me in a language I had never heard. "Sprechen se Deutch?" I tried. Nothing. "Parles vous Francais?" Again nada. ""Que Pasa?" Again nothing. I thought hard, "Hoka Hey," Again just puzzled expressions.
One of the men rode forward slowly. When he was still a few yards away, I held up my left hand palm out. I kept the gun trained on him. He understood the gesture and stopped his horse as if he had run into a wall. He gestured at his fallen companion and said something in a pleading tone. I raised the muzzle of the pistol and waved my hand to tell him to go ahead.
The man dismounted and walked over to the dead man. He knelt by the corpse and checked for a pulse. I knew there wouldn't be one, the dead dude's head was damn near torn off.
The man went and looked at the shattered skull of the dead horse, then walked back to his mount.
The man then did something that surprised me. He took off his sword belt and hung it on his saddlebow. He divested himself of a surprising array of cutlery, daggers, knives, etc. even something suspiciously like a shuriken throwing star. If I had known he had those damn things, He would never have gotten that close.
He turned and yelled something at the others, and they jabbed their lances point first into the ground and dismounted.
The closer man held his hands out to show that they were empty and started slowly forward. I holstered the .44 and put the kickstand down on the bike. I stepped off and moved away from the Harley. Making sure that I kept myself and the bike between the men and the girl. She was still lying down, shaking and sobbing.
The rider stopped an arms length from me. He looked me up and down, taking in my red and white beard, my long blonde and white ponytail. I had on my leathers and a black T-shirt with a picture of a wizard shooting lightning from his fingertips over a group of skeletal bikers. I had bought that shirt at a truck stop in New Mexico. I had several more in my duffle bag.
Up close, the man reeked of old sweat and stale piss. Doubtless I didn't smell much better after a desert ride in my heavy leathers.
The rider was clean-shaven, about 30 with short dark hair and a nasty scar on his face. ""In Nomine, Padre, et Fili, Et Espiritu Sanctu." I said. The man shrugged and smiled, showing several broken teeth.
The girl picked this time to sit up and make herself visible again.
I saw the look in the riders face as he saw the girl and his expression changed. I stepped back warily and tossed a glance over my shoulder. The girl was peeking over the seat of the Harley, her long brown hair blowing in the breeze.
I turned my attention back to the rider. He pointed at her and shouted. I stood there until he ran down and then shook my head no. The man grew even angrier and stomped his foot, looking for all the world like a kid having a tantrum.
I suppose I shouldn't have laughed at him, but I just couldn't help it.
The rider spat on the ground at my feet, then spun and stomped back to his horse. "Hey buddy!" I yelled at him as he swung into the saddle. He turned and glared at me, so I gave him a one-finger salute and suggested that his father was into bestiality.
He may not have understood the language, but he caught the insulting tone. The rider got back to his buddies and waited for them to mount up.
I drew the .44 and reloaded the spent chamber. 5 of them, 6 shots for me. I liked the odds.
As soon as the brave one raised his sword, I shot him. At 50 yards, I shot for the horse, and missed high. The bullet meant for the horse hit the rider at the base of the throat and damn near beheaded him. I corrected my aim and brought down the other horses as fast as I could sight and pull the trigger.
I flipped open the cylinder and dumped the empty brass as I reached for a speed loader. Only one of the horsemen had regained his feet by the time I was reloaded. I started walking swiftly towards them, holding my fire until I was closer.
Only 3 were still able to stand when I got within 30 feet of them, and at that range, I didn't miss. The down and injured riders I finished off with their own lances. I didn't want to waste any ammo that I didn't have to.
I scavenged the knives, swords etc. from the corpses. I searched for money, but only found small metal bars about a finger long and wide in their belt pouches, so I took them along.
One horse was still standing, and that only because his reins were still clutched in the dead hand of his rider. I pulled the reins loose and led the horse back to the bike. The girl stood up and I got a better look at her. About 5'3", slender and small busted, she looked to be in her early to mid teens. I handed her the reins of the horse. At first she shied away from taking them, but I took her hand and closed her fingers around the leather. She took a step and winced. I cursed myself for not remembering her feet.
I picked her up and sat her sideways on my bike. I tied the reins to the sissy bar and fished my first aid kit out of the duffle bag.
I dug out a box of ammo for the .44 and reloaded the speed loader and the cylinder before I did anything else. I put the empty brass in the box for possible later reloading. When I ran out of ammo for the magnum, I was screwed.
I then used water from the water bag to wash the girls feet before treating them. She trembled at my touch, but did not try to pull away. The soles of her feet were lacerated, but none of the wounds were deep. I slathered them with antibiotic ointment and wrapped them snugly in gauze bandages. I had a pair of socks in the duffle bag, and I got them out and worked them on over her feet.
I went back to the dead men and cut the leather inner shirt off one of them. I brought it back to her and sliced and sewed the shirt into a serviceable pair of moccasins to protect her bandages.
I examined her further and found other minor wounds and treated them. I managed to get her to swallow a couple of aspirin and a couple of vitamin pills. She made a face at the taste, but otherwise cooperated.
Her dress was an unholy mess, so I dug out one of my T-shirts. This one had a beautiful dragon on the front. I cut away the top of her dress and sewed the skirt to the T-shirt. She had made a halfhearted objection when I had cut away her blouse, but she had relaxed when I pulled the shirt over her head and started sewing.
It was getting late and I was thinking about shelter. The girl picked up one of the knives and made her way over to one of the dead horses. She was still limping, but had little trouble cutting out a couple of nice chunks of meat and bringing them back to me in one of the dead men's saddlebags.
I helped her up onto the horse and gestured for her to lead the way. I started the bike and followed slowly.
The girl led me to a ring of standing stones a few miles away. The first thing I thought was 'Stonehenge" But there were only superficial resemblances. I had seen the real Stonehenge during my time in the Army, and this place had a much different feel.
I dug a small hole and built a small fire in it, propping the chucks of horsemeat over the fire on green sticks. While the meat cooked, I went to the altar stone and examined it. On a sudden impulse, I put a few of the metal bars on the altar, and I added a few coins from my own pocket.
The girl watched me as I stood there. I made a small cut on my finger and let a couple of drops fall on the stone.
The girl gasped, but when I looked at her, her face gave nothing away. I went over and cut a piece of the meat and put it on the altar, sprinkling it with some salt from a packet that I had kept from a fast food joint.
When I went back and sat down, the girl scooted over and sat next to me. I gave her a couple of packets of salt and pepper, then got out a couple for me. The girl looked at me confused, then followed suit when I opened mine and sprinkled it over the chunks of meat.
The meat was finally done enough, and the girl and I dug in.
I wiped the grease from her chin with my bandanna. She gave me a shy smile and went back to eating. She finished her portion and the last half of mine. I washed up and then made her stay still while I cleaned her face and hands.
Clean, she was actually very pretty, and looked about 14. Boy was I off by a few decades... I spread out my bedroll, then went out of the stone ring to a small grove a few yards off to leak and take a dump. When I got back, the girl was in my bedding, and her clothing was neatly laid out beside it. I sighed, not that I wasn't flattered, but I was just too damn tired.
I sat down and took off my boots, then I took off the jacket and shirt, I figured that my old clothes badly needed a good airing. I shed my jeans and boxers, and then slid into the blankets with my gun and Bowie next to my head. I turned onto my side and felt the girl snuggle up to my back and put an arm around me. I was asleep in moments. Just before I went under, the thought occurred to me that I might wake up in yet another place and time, but since I couldn't do a thing about it...
In the morning, the girl and the stone rings were still there. The Harley was still parked a few feet away, and the ashes in the fire pit steamed gently from the dew.
There was a thick fog everywhere but inside the ring. Sounds were strangely muffled and the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end. I slipped out of the blankets and pulled fresh pants, socks and a shirt out of the duffle bag. I dressed quickly and stomped into my boots. I sheathed the knife and slung my gun belt around my waist and buckled it. I checked the loads in the cylinder and re-holstered the gun. When I looked around, the girl was dressed and lacing on her makeshift moccasins. I felt a sting on my shoulder and rubbed it. I could feet two small punctures near my neck.
"What the fuck?" I said. I looked back at the girl. "What the hell are you? A goddamn vampire?"
She looked up at me. "Not quite."
"So you do speak my language." I said.
"Not until last night." She said calmly. "I needed to connect with you to join minds long enough to learn to communicate with you."
"So you bit me on the frigging neck?"
"Well, you did not accept the other form of connection offered." She said with a sly smile.
Great, I pass up a piece of ass, trying to be a gentleman, and what do I get? Fangs in my neck.
I parked my butt on the seat of the bike. "So just what are you?"
"I am one of the Free Folk."
"Free Folk, right." I said. "And just why were the jokers on horseback chasing you?"
The girl looked down at her feet. "One of the men thought I was a simple village girl and decided that he wanted me. When I objected, he tried to rape me. I killed him."
"So who were they? Soldiers?"
The girl spat. "A band of mercenaries out for whatever they could get."
"My name is Bill." I said. "What's yours?"
She was silent for a long time. "The way I see it, you owe me the courtesy of telling me your name." I said.
The girl glanced nervously at the altar stone. The coins and meat were gone. She took a deep breath and started to say something. She jumped as if stung, then looked like she was listening to a chewing out from someone, wincing now and then and looking as guilty as a kid with her hand in the cookie jar.
"My name is Jessie." She said at last.
"Can't lie around here huh?" I gibed.
She snarled at me. "Don't mock what you don't understand."
"No mockery intended." I assured her. "At least, not of any beings here that I cannot see. But you," and I fixed her with a glare of my own. "You are another story. I save your ass and you try to repay my kindness with bullshit and half truths."
Jessie cringed at that. "I apologize." She said. "I am in your debt far more than you know."
I grinned at her. "No harm, No foul."
I made her sit on the bike again and unwrapped her feet. They already looked better. I put on more antibiotic ointment and put on new gauze. I laced her moccasins on again, a little more snugly this time.
"Do you know of a safe place to go?" I asked Jessie. "We need someplace to lay up for a few days to let you heal, and I need to figure out how to get fuel for my bike."
Jessie bit her lip, then nodded. "I know of a place, but it is about 30 miles from here, and the rest of the mercenaries will be out looking for their friend."
I just gave her an evil grin. "Not a problem." I told her. "But we'll be leaving the horse here."
She looked at me like I had 3 heads. "You want me to ride this thing?" she waved her hand at my bike.
"You and I will ride Cindy here," I told Jessie. "She's a hunk of old iron, but she's a lot more dependable than the bitch I named her after."
I showed Jessie where the rear foot pegs were. "We'll tuck up your skirts and you'll sit behind me and hold on to my waist."
Jessie grimaced. "If I must."
"As soon as the fog lifts, we'll go." I said.
Jessie glanced at the altar and then scrambled to put her feet on the proper pegs. "We have about 1 minute." She said.
I swung my leg over the bike and kicked her to life. As soon as the big V Twin roared, the fog vanished. Jessie pointed over my shoulder. "That way!" she cried.
I popped the clutch and we roared off down the slope in the direction she pointed. "Thanks!" I called back over my shoulder.
I raced across the flatlands at almost 60 miles an hour. I steered in the directions Jessie pointed out to me as we jounced along. I saw some horsemen off in the distance, but we were gone long before they got close enough to get a good look at us. I started seeing signs of habitation, cultivated fields etc. But I didn't see any people except at real long distances. I figured the sound of the Harley spooked them. I laughed aloud at that thought. Much the same thing happened back home when people heard the big V Twin talkin' at them.
Jessie was a good passenger, not trying to lean and just following my movements. I spotted a creek up ahead and to the right. I pulled over at a clump of trees near the water and shut down the bike. "Is this place safe to rest and maybe clean up a bit?" I asked my passenger.
"For now." Jessie said as she climbed down stiffly. "You ride this thing all the time?"
"Whenever possible." I shrugged as I started to undress. "Don't worry, you'll get used to it in time."
Jessie muttered something suspiciously like," Not if I can help it." But I ignored her while I fished a bar of soap from the duffle bag.
The water was cold as hell, but better than the gritty and grimy feel of several days without a shower or a bath.
My time in prison had gotten me used to showering every other day at least.
Jessie watched me swim around for a little, then gave into the temptation and stripped off her clothes and the bandages on her feet and dove off a rock into the pool of water. She surfaced near me, teeth chattering at the shock of the cold water. "Nice of you to join me." I smirked.
She splashed me. I turned her around and lathered her hair with the bar of soap. She sputtered a bit, but I just dunked her to rinse the soap out. After that, she just let me scrub her clean. We climbed out onto the bank and stretched out to let the sun and warm breeze dry us off.
I put on the old clothes again once I was dry, and Jessie dressed as well. I checked her feet, but they were healed enough that I just put my oversized socks and the moccasins back on her feet again.
Once back on the bike, Jessie pointed us in the right direction.
Another 30 minutes of riding found us traveling down a dirt road bordered by stone walls.
Farmhouses and cottages were everywhere now, but still only fleeting glimpses of people as the roar of the Harley echoed from the stone walls.
We wheeled into a town laid out much like those I had seen in Europe in my Army days.
I pulled into the town square and killed the engine. "Is this the place?" I asked Jessie.
"We can stop for a meal here, and to pick up supplies, but our destination is a few miles further along the east road."
"Where's the food?" I asked Jessie. She pointed at a building with a cup painted above the door.
"You might want to order for us." I told Jessie. "You might understand me, but I don't speak the lingo here."
"True." Jessie said as I lifted her from the Harley.
She led the way into the inn. We found a seat easily enough, the place was nearly deserted.
I gave Jessie a handful of the metal bars that apparently passed for money here. "This should cover our bill." I told her.
The innkeeper came over nervously, wiping his hands on his apron. Jessie chattered something at him, and he answered back sharply. Jessie turned to me. "He says he doesn't serve my kind in here." She said.
"Tell the tub of lard that I am not ordering one of your kind, and that if I don't see food on the table in two minutes, I'm gonna turn his fat ass into dog-meat."
Jessie looked at me, then turned to the innkeeper and repeated what I had said. The man paled, but stood firm.
"Tell the man that time is running out. And I am hungry and irritable." I said. "And if he does not start bringing food, I am sure his widow or heirs will be much more reasonable."
Jessie spoke to the man again, and then tossed him a gold ingot. The innkeeper bit the metal and inspected the dents his teeth left.
Suddenly he was smiling and eager to please. Wooden mugs full of rather flat beer arrived within moments, followed seconds later by a platter of roast beef and a savory stew.
A girl I took to be the innkeeper's daughter brought out hot, steaming loaves of bread. Jessie and I ate like a couple of starving wolves.
The beer may have been lousy, but the food was wonderful. I had Jessie tell the innkeeper that his cooks were the most talented I had come across in many years, and that the food was fit for the Gods. This made him preen and strut a bit, and he was definitely much friendlier.
Jessie and I decided to forgo buying supplies since our destination was so close.
Back on the road, we headed towards the nearby mountains. The surface of the road went from dirt and gravel to cobblestones, then to solid rock.
A few miles into the mountains, we came to a huge gate set in a wall that stretched from one side of the pass to the other. I stopped, and Jessie called up to the guard towers.
I didn't see anyone, but I figured that hidden bowmen from the arrow slits high above us were covering us. That's how I would have done it.
Whatever Jessie said to them, the gates creaked open. "Go ahead and pass through, do not stop until we are around the next bend in the road."
"Gotcha." I said. I let the clutch out and putted through the gate, then sped up slightly until we were well away from the gate. There was a second gate ahead, but it opened as well when my passenger stood on her foot pegs and shouted something.
I motored through that gate as well. A mile or so further, we passed through gates that were already open and into a city. People scattered as the Hawg's engine echoed off the stone walls of the buildings.
Jessie pointed over my shoulder and I swung off the street into the courtyard of an impressive building. I stopped near the marble steps leading to the big bronze doors. I put the kickstand down and got off the bike.
I lifted Jessie down and waited for her to make the next move.
"Bring the swords and booty from the mercenaries inside with us." She said.
I unstrapped the leather bundle from the sissy bar. I slung it over my left shoulder and we started up the steps.
As we approached the top of the stairs, the doors opened and a handsome man and a stunningly lovely woman came out. Jessie ran to them and hugged them both. I followed more slowly, the weight of all that metal on my shoulder was slowing me down.
"Come on inside." Jessie said gaily. The good-looking couple stepped aside to let us pass.
"Are these your parents?" I asked Jessie.
"Oh no," she laughed. "Marcus and Penelope are the heads of the household staff. They've been with us for ages."
"Well, who are we here to meet?" I asked. "My brother should be home. Our parents are away at our other home."
A youthful man came out of a side room and walked up to Jessie, holding out his hands to her. He barely gave me a glance until Jessie spoke to him. Then he looked me over carefully. He spoke to Jessie, but I didn't like the tone. She snapped back at him. Her brother raised his hand as if to slap her.
I wasn't aware I had moved until I saw the muzzle of the .44 pressing up under his chin. Jessie spoke to him rapidly and urgently. His face paled and he put both hands up in plain view. I uncocked the .44 and shoved it into the holster.
"Tell your brother that if he hits you, or even looks like he's going to, I'll remove his head and shit down the stump of his neck."
I handed him the bundle of hardware and turned to Jessie. "Go ahead. Tell him just what I told you."
Jessie spoke to her brother at length. When she was done, he gestured at me and asked her a question. Jessie blushed beet red and stammered out a one-word answer. Her brother looked at me with a new respect. He bowed slightly and smiled. "Ok, What did he ask?" I wanted to know.
Jessie blushed again. "He asked why you would protect me so fiercely." She said.
"And what did you tell him?"
She blushed even more. "He wanted to know if we were lovers." She hesitated again. "I said you were my betrothed."
I threw back my head and laughed. "Well why the hell not!" And I pulled her to me with my left arm and kissed her soundly.
Her brother watched all this with great amusement. Then he began examining the stuff taken from the mercenaries.
He asked Jessie a question, then looked at me. "He wants to know how you managed to kill the mercenaries." Jessie translated for me. "He wants to know where the rest of your men are."
"Tell him how it went down." I told her.
Jessie turned to her brother and they chattered back and forth for a while. Jessie looked back at me. "He wants to know how you killed all of them by yourself."
"There were only seven of them." I said. "And I caught them off balance and never let them get set again."
Jessie translated for her brother. He laughed and clapped me on the shoulder. "He likes you." Jessie told me.
Jessie took my hand and led me to a large suite of rooms on the south wing of the house. "These are our rooms," she said.
"Can I get the bike brought inside? Someplace well ventilated and lit where I can work on it?"
"Of course." Jessie said. "I'll have it taken to the inner courtyard by the stables."
"Do your people understand distillation?" I asked Jessie.
She nodded. "We make grain alcohol for medicines and other purposes. Why?"
"Because I'll need pure alcohol to run my bike on when the gasoline runs out."
"I can get you a few barrels of pure alcohol." Jessie said. "But for right now, we have some unfinished business."
When I looked over at her, She was by the bed and was pulling her makeshift dress off over her head.
The last time I had passed up a chance to get a piece, she fanged my neck. I may be slow sometimes, but I seldom make the same mistake twice.
I shed my clothing as quickly as possible and joined Jessie on the bed. "Before we get started, just how old are you? The last thing I need is a statutory rape charge."
"I'm 40." Jessie said as she snuggled closer under the blankets.
"You're 40 years old? You don't look it." I said.
Jessie chuckled as she trailed kisses down my belly. "Not years silly, 40 decades." Then her mouth was too full to talk any more, and I was too distracted to continue the conversation.
Well, except for things like, "Watch those damn teeth," etc.
Jessie was definitely not a novice at this, and I think I acquitted myself well, bringing her to climax at least three times.
I was so tired though, that I fell asleep with Jessie wrapped in my arms.
It was still light out when I went to sleep, but it was mid morning when I woke again. Sure enough, my neck ached again, and I found small scabs covering another set of fang marks.
Oh well, for sex like last night, she could bite me now and then if she wanted.
The beautiful woman came silently into the room and gathered up the discarded clothing. "Ring when you want breakfast." she said softly when she saw that I was awake.
I looked over at Jessie, who was still sound asleep. "Breakfast can wait. Where is the garderobe?"
Garderobe? And I could understand her!
I fingered the punctures on my neck again. Unfinished business. Right.
The woman drew aside a curtain to reveal a door. "Right through here." She said.
Jessie pulled the covers over her head.
The woman smiled fondly at her and then left as silently as she had come. I got out of bed and opened the door behind the curtain. I could recognize a toilet with a tank atop a pipe over the toilet, and a dangling chain to flush it. There were soft corncobs to wipe with. I shrugged and just used the toilet. I felt much better after I was done. My morning breath would have to wait until I got at my duffle bag.
When I went back into the bedroom, I saw that my duffle was in the corner, as were my saddlebags.
I got out my toothbrush and the container that held the baking soda and salt mixture that I brushed with. I took care of that, then went back over to the bed.
I slipped under the covers and up to Jessie's back. I put my arm over her and she snuggled her backside more firmly against me. Well, I wasn't about to pass up an opportunity like this. And I was definitely rising to the occasion. Jessie woke up in the middle of some rather energetic sex, and picked up the pace considerably. When we were finished, Jessie scrambled out of the bed and trotted over to the bathroom.
I went and got out my old jeans and shirts, but couldn't bring myself to put them on. I piled them all on a chair, and then sat down on the bed. Jessie came out of the toilet looking entirely too chipper.
"How do I go about getting this stuff washed?"
Jessie pulled on a tasseled rope hanging near the wall. A cute girl in a mini-dress came in a moment later. "Yes mistress?" She said to Jessie.
Jessie pointed at the pile of clothes on the floor. "Take these and have them cleaned. Have a tailor come to the house to outfit Bill here with clothing suitable to his station."
The maid nodded and gathered up the clothes. As she closed the door behind her, I looked up at Jessie. "And what is my station?"
Jessie came and sat next to me on the bed. She placed her hand on my thigh and squeezed. "As my fiancée, you have status equal to a minor lord." She said. "Above that, you are a warrior, and I think, we will also call you a sorcerer."
"Great. And what does that mean in terms I can understand?"
"Your social rank will be slightly above my brother's. And roughly equal to my father."
"Where does your father's rank stand at court? How does he compare to the ruler here?" I wanted to know.
Jessie thought it over. "Picture a staircase," she said. "If the king is the top step, our father is the next step down."
I had to think about that one. "And how will your parents feel about all this?"
Jessie blinked. "We are about to find out. The maid who answered the bell serves my mother.
Now the part I have always dreaded in any relationship since I was a teen was meeting the parents of my girlfriend. For some reason, this had never once gone real well. "I thought your parents were gone away to your other home."
Jessie smiled happily. "My brother must have sent word that I was back and with a prospective husband in tow."
"Right. Couldn't let a thing like that go by without telling the folks." I said dryly.
Jessie covered her mouth with her hands and giggled. "I wonder what he told them." She said.
I walked over to my saddlebags and dug out the cleaning kit for the .44 mag. I sat at a small table and started to clean the pistol. "Hey sweetheart, not that I mind being naked... but I really want to have some clothes on when I meet your folks. If your mother is as beautiful as you, I'd be standing there with a hard-on you could do chin-ups on."
Jessie agreed that might not make a good first impression. She slipped into a dress and went to go find out where my clothes were.
I found a bowl of fruit on a table close to the other side of the bed. I took an orange and some grapes and took them back to munch on as I finished cleaning the gun. When the .44 was clean and oiled, I put the cleaning kit away and broke out my sharpening kit for the Bowie. I love a sharp edge on a knife, and I had not touched the blade up as much as I should.
I put a razor edge on my knife, then coated the blade lightly with oil and slipped it back into place in my boot.
I used the toilet again, then used the water I found in a pitcher to wash up as best I could.
Jessie popped back in a half hour later by my watch. She had a pair of my black jeans, my wizard T-shirt, and socks and a pair of boxers. All was neatly cleaned and pressed. Even my Kevlar lined leather jacket was softer and cleaner than it had ever been.
I thanked her with a kiss and got dressed. I settled my gun belt on again, this time letting the gun ride at an angle in front of my left hip. I always favored a cross-draw whenever possible. Not as fast as a strong side draw, but easier to access when sitting down, and the gun is easily available to either hand.
I pulled my hair back into a ponytail at the nape of my neck, using one of my few remaining hair ties. I cleaned my glasses and I was ready to go. "So let's get this done." I told Jessie.
She smiled up at me and tucked her hand into the crook of my arm as we went out and down to where her parents awaited us.
I had a mental picture of good old Darth Vader in my minds eye, and I deliberately copied the confident stride and body language.
Head up and eyes straight, I entered the room with Jessie matching me step for step. The older man who looked to be about my age could only be her father. Her mother was so lovely that I would have been flying the flag if I weren't dressed.
We walked up to the couple. I bowed to Jessie's mother and looked her father in the eyes and held my hand out for him to shake. He met my gaze calmly, then shook my hand with a firm, confident grip.
"I am Ranal." He said in a vibrant baritone. "This is my wife, Cassandra." Jessie's mother nodded at me, her eyes friendly.
"I am Bill." I said. "It was my pleasure to aid your daughter when she was in need. And it is my great honor that she has chosen me for a husband."
"A warrior and a wizard my daughter tells us." Said Cassandra in a voice that put me in mind of angels.
"Marcus says that you are very protective of our daughter, to the point of threatening to remove his head and use his neck as a toilet." Ranal said conversationally.
"He was going to strike her." I said. "Jessie is a treasure to be cherished, not abused."
"Well said." came a voice from behind me. I turned slightly to see Marcus approaching. "Indeed, he came bearing the arms of 6 mercenaries that he slew single handed to save my dear sister." Marcus continued as he joined us.
Ranal visibly re-assessed me. "I would like to hear more about that fight." he said. Jessie tugged on her mother's sleeve. "Mother, at the altar of the Goddess in the circle stones, he placed coins, meat, blood and salt upon the altar. And the goddess spoke to me!"
Cassandra looked at her daughter with her eyes wide. "And what did the Goddess tell you?"
"That Bill was to be my protector, my lover, and my mate." Jessie said. "She forbade me to ever lie to him or to disobey him. She said that our destinies are linked, and that he was brought here as a world walker to bring order and change." Ranal placed his hand on his daughter's head and closed his eyes. A moment later, she opened her mouth and spoke. "The time of war is upon us. A time when one man may save a world or drag it to ruin. One shall stand beside him, another at his back, the triad will be complete within the year, by then, the world walkers purpose will be known."
Jessie's eyes opened wide and rolled back up in her head. I caught her as she fell. Ranal leapt to pull a chair over for me to put her in. Cassandra sped off to fetch water.
Marcus looked at us in something like awe. "Well I'll be damned." he said.
Jessie revived quickly. She opened her eyes and threw herself into my arms, crying. I held her and stroked her hair and back.
I looked up at Ranal with a crooked smile. "Pre-wedding jitters?"
Ranal stared at me, then gave a great shout of laughter. " I think I like you after all." he said.