"IF... The Middle of..." 1 "Live your life be free," sang Kathy Legham as she drove along in her white Hyundai convertible on her way to pick up Greer Nagalot and Penny 'Will-I-Or-Won't-I?hmm..' from their respective homes while they were home from uni. Soon they were on their way to David Jerker's place where he had promised that he would surprise them. Kathy was an intelligent medical student whose semi-Asian looks and quick wit drew many successful and intelligent men to her side (she wished!). She had become good friends with Penny, Greer and David during her high school years along with the others she would meet later at the gathering. They included Narelle Grade A, the friendly hyperactive German student; Bradl E. Rohodey, the quiet guy who seemed to best friends with every single female he became aquainted with; and Rebecca Short-way (whose personal bodyguard was a brainless brawn called Michael Gender(?)). "I wonder what David's done with his modem now?" said Greer, the tall and slender brunette whose fiery Leo personality sparked within the sarcasm. It wasn't our fault that David was the butt of all of our modem jokes. He was the perfect candidate. He spent every spare moment in front of a computer screen. Even when he was relaxing in front of a TV, his hands were still in the position to start typing over an invisible keyboard. "Probably some dumb program with blonde bimbos in lycra swimsuits prancing around the place! A bit like Michael, you know, the blonde bimbo prancing around?!?!!!" said Penny. Now Penny was a girl who totally adored guys in the physical sense. She had a sense of humour that bordered on the wacky. Just like Kathy actually. But not quite as bad! Soon they were zooming down the driveway of David's place while Greer swore softly about the quality of Kathy's driving. They were met outside by Narelle, Bradl, Rebecca and Michael(the moron). David was apparently too busy to come and greet his guests. Whatever was about to happen sure must be good. As everyone hustled into David's computer and communication room, Narelle had a very narrow escape from an icy cold plunge into David's pool. "Theoretically speaking," began David as usual, "I have stumbled across the exact equation to the riddle of time travel. But in all practicality, it may only move the given object a few seconds forward or backward in time." "In all practicality, it won't work at all!" said Kathy who voiced the opinion of all present in the room. David ignored the comment as he was too busy and excited to answer Kathy's unspoken intellectual challenge of wits at arguing. In the corner stood Michael with his arms folded bouncer like over his chest and had a dazed expression in his eyes. Obviously David's very first word had confused the giant. Penny and Brad were too busy talking about their planned trip overseas; Kathy, Greer and Narelle were busy talking about hot guys they'd met on campus and Rebecca was off in a private daydream where only she and her perfect Deb date existed. Poor David. No-one was listening. Before anyone noticed any real changes, he did some minor adjustments and placed his dog Joe before a weird looking contraption in the middle of the room. He then pressed a button and suddenly the machine started to glow a pulsating pink colour. There was a droning sound and outside, seen through a window near the roof could be seen the endless swirl of colours of Time in a miriad of patterns some too complex for the human eye. Then, everyone seemed snapped to attention and in the shocked silence, there was a sickening drop and the whole room shook. The top window displayed a clear blue sky. "Wha-What's happening?" stuttered Rebecca after she had clambered out of Michael's arms. He still looked slightly dazed. "You moron!" exclaimed Kathy, "What have you done?" Not even David himself knew what was going on, for once, but he had a sinking feeling in his heart that he had stuffed up the experiment big time. "Well, I'm going to see for myself." said Kathy, the one who always took chances regardless of the risk. "I'm tired of waiting for someone to get the guts to check anything out. If I yell, don't come out!" She exited the room with a flourish and was soon screaming. Of course, no one came to see what was happening. David turned on the TV in the room that allowed them to see the view outside (which they should have used in the first place). They saw Kathy floundering in what appeared to be mud! Now she would never again be able to see mud in any form without sending shivers up her spine. So while she was yelling out for Narelle for help, she realised that by now, they were probably all rolling around on the floor in laughter which was quite the truth! So she gathered herself with as much dignity as was possible for the situation, plunged out of the accursed mud and took a good look at their surroundings. From the room, Kathy could hear the sounds of people in the last stages of intense laughter. Soon they approached her outside with sparkles in their eyes. Kathy couldn't stay angry at them for long. After all, they were her best friends! Or were they? The view from their vantage point was incredible. In the not too far distance spiralled a graceful castle amid the lush greenery of the surrounding forests. Everyone held their breath as if it was all a fairytale. "How romantic!" breathed Narelle as she threw a grateful look at David for giving them the opportunity to even view such a magical place. "Humpf." was all he could reply. Suddenly he stood as still as a statue as her heard the distant sound similar to that of typing amplified. He shoved them all back from the main track they had congregated on except for Michael who believed he was prepared for almost anything. Out of the trees galloped a knight wearing armour a little worse for wear on an ebony stallion. Mid- stride, he reached a gauntleted hand down and swooped Michael off his feet unmindful of his weak cries for help and mercy. Soon they were riding off into the horizon of sight with Michael over the whithers of the galloping horse. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 2 "Good riddance" said Narelle secretly. It was no surprise about that. But Rebecca and Brad didn't seem to share the same sentiments. "Let's get back to work. I say that we go and check out that castle and then attempt to rescue Michael." said Kathy rather reluctantly. Everyone agreed with her and were soon on their way to the castle on the hill. A dense pinetree forest provided them with enough cover not to be seen for a while, or so they thought. Suddenly in front of the group, near where Kathy was standing, materialised a tall dark figure wearing a heavy black cloak that seemed to shimmer and vibrate with a life of it's own. "By what right of thine do you hereby trespass the lands of the great Sir Gooby-stall?" he boomed in a voice that caused even Bradl to shiver inwardly. "We are a group of travellers by which we are unsure of our own whereabouts. Could you please enlighten us?" said Kathy in a surprisingly courageous voice. Suddenly, David's dog rushed out from where David had previously commanded him to stay and jumped onto the figure. The dog barked joyously as the man was downed and then David took charge with his skills of martial arts. Soon, the stranger was trussed up like a ball of string. "Who the hell are you?" demanded Bradl after he had checked to make sure that the man was fully tied up. "Mumble, mumble, mumble, snort, mumble." was all he could say considering that his mouth was still tied up with one of Bradl's borrowed hankies (and we all know how disgusting guys hankies can get!). "Who cares! Let's get over to that castle! Somehow, I have a feeling that I'm going to know this Sir Gooby-stall before I even meet him!" said Rebecca. Yeah right, I don't think so! They left the stranger bundled up like an embryo in the last stages of development and headed off to the place of many wonders. As they approached castle without any more interruptions, they noticed that there was only one way into the castle itself and that was the main entrance. Obviously, they could not even try and attempt to enter unwanted so they decided to enter as distinguished guests. From the surrounding area, Narelle had told everyone that they were currently in the area of Germany (somehow, they had arrived there). She had been there in their own time and then, it had been known as Neuschwanstein Castle, the one of fairytales long gone. Much like the fairytale they were currently in. The residents of the castle must be very important people then. Bradl couldn't be the person in charge because his clothing was pretty plain. David wore the usual dramatic black so he would seem more like a magician(teacher?!!!) of black magic instead of some exotic prince. Narelle unfortunately was wearing her pastel pink overalls from the days of Binga and Penny wore trendy clothes that seemed quite short for the current era. Kathy wore a long flowing print dress that seemed more suited for a walk in a park but Greer had used her usual flair for clothes and had dressed up with great style in her brand new dress she had bought for a fancy dress ball and had somehow modified it for everyday use. It was THE style of the day (like 'Gone With The Wind' which she totally lived for!) with it's romantic, plunging neckline, elegant puffed sleeves, a cinched waist to give that air of extreme femininity and the long billowing skirt that swished a whisper with the wind. So the rest of the group was to be, for the first and last time, members of Lady Greer's travelling party as her maids and lone soldier and butler (no guesses for who was who!). "Kathy, would thou mind going forth and knocking at the door over yonder?" "Yes, your majesty, whatever you say, your majesty, get a life your majesty..." "Now?!" "Alright. No need to have a cow, steer, bull, steer, beast..." she mumbled as she walked with as much dignity as possible while still having mud plastered all over herself. She quickly invented a story while she went along. Once upon a time, there lived a moron called Michael. He was a guy, naturally (or so he wants us to think!). One day while he was trying, with great difficulty, to decide whether or not he should eat cold pizza with extra garlic and anchovies or a piping hot bowl of yoghurt, he... Knock, knock, knock "Who goes yonder?" bellowed a harsh scratchy male voice. They saw a head looking over the thick grate in front of the main door that had about 5 days of stubble (something they don't usually see back home either because they're very tidy or the majority of them don't grow facial hair. It makes you think why?!!). "My lady Nagalot and her party sir. We ask permission for rest and peace in thine abode with thine master," said Kathy in a demure voice that certainly did not sound like her usual self. Naturally, when the guard saw the group of mismatched young adults, he sensed that something was amiss. He was about to do something very silly, like call for the rest of the guard when he was called by his mistress Lady Megan Cranky (who actually wasn't cranky). He had always been in awe of her because she had an air of superiority above anyone else without even trying. She set a standard for the whole castle and keep. And yet she was also quite friendly. It was quite unfortunate that she was married to such a moron as Sir Gooby-stall. He had only received his title through birth. Lady Megan, in conjunction with her wickedly funny witch Samlet Knows-It-All did their best to keep the kingdom under as much order as possible. After all, the Sir was usually too busy searching for good looking men to be placed under his employment. Anyway, the Lady had called down in her soft voice that she had been expecting these visitors and she wanted them sent up to her quarters as soon as possible. When they had all sat down upon soft velvet cushions (even Kathy with her mud encrusted clothes) the Lady, who had told them to call her Megan, and her witch, Samlet, started by saying the sacred secret phrase 'In the last test match to South Africa...' They were quite surprised to see the majority of the 'travelling' party to burst into loud, exuberant laughter. So much, that a few of them were in tears. Megan and Samlet had known that there was something important about these strangers and that somehow they could change the pitiful outcome for the destiny of the lands of the castle owners. They had used a scrying bowl, and had seen these people and the phrase they had just uttered. It seemed to be a good start. Megan and Samlet seemed to be quite honest, honourable people, so the group decided to tell them their tale. Or their predicament. Especially when David suddenly told everyone that he couldn't fix the components right away. He didn't have sufficient information or parts. They all groaned. What about their uni bachelors, diplomas and everything else back home? Just then there was a knock on the door to the apartment. Megan gracefully arose and answered it. It was a maid announcing that there was a young lord there to meet her. A childhood friend in all actuality. When he entered the room, Greer just stood there and stared. The lord did as well. Before anyone could introduce the two, he split into a gorgeous grin, held up his arm for her to take, said a quick hello to Megan and Samlet and then glided out of the door all the while smiling down at Greer (yes, he was taller than her). Everyone else just stared after the young Adonis with his waved blonde hair, muscular body and boyish charm. Narelle sighed with slight jealousy. Megan noticed this, and being a kind soul, she told Narelle that he had an even better looking, nicer younger brother who was due home any week now. In fact, why didn't she visit there right now? So she sent a maid with her to meet this other extremely gorgeous creature. Then, they continued their discussion. The kids had, as yet, no means of a way to go home. Not to mention the fact that perhaps they weren't even in the right dimension. If they were, they wouldn't have existed on the same planet centuries later (as they had been doing). So there they were, on some country on the middle of who-knows-where. The only consolation they had was that they had each other, but who knew how long that would last. "So are you saying that we are to stay here, for better or worse, until you either fix up the machine, or we all die?" demanded Kathy. "Yes. Well I hadn't anticipated this bizarre twist in my calculations. My dog Joe is just outside this room. He was the one that was to be the experiment object." counterattacked David. "Would time have changed as we progress? What are the theories of quantum leaps through time, space, and dimensions? What am I doing here? I can't handle this...I'm having an overload..overload...overload........" and with that, he fainted into the soft cushions. David always did stress over menial things. So while some quite a few maids carried him a room next door to revive him, the rest, which included Penny, Bradl, Kathy, Narelle and Rebecca were shown to other rooms nearby after being briefed by Megan and Samlet the story they had fabricated for them. They were to be the travelling party which went with Greer who was the cousin of Megan. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 3 It was well into the next day when David awoke to see the most delicate and beautiful feminine face looming over him rather anxiously. Her worried expression evaporated into one of extreme happiness when she saw that her charge had awoken without any rolling eyes or foam coming from the mouth (which she had seen plenty of previously from 'intellectuals' of her time as well). "Hello," she said rather shyly, "My name is Chandra, and since you seem to be in no condition to speak yet, I'll tell you about myself..." As Chandra went to explain the details of her life as an apprentice alchemist, David finally knew that he now was in love with something else in his life apart from an IBM Compatible.........A bimbotic babe, if you will!!!!! Well, he wouldn't be much use for the group electronically anymore. *********************************************************** Meanwhile, the rest of the group had become well adjusted to their new situation, Narelle returned with a lovesick smile on her face. She had come to help us to try and assess the situation. Greer had made it quite clear she was going to stay, as did David and Narelle. But Narelle, being our resident philosopher wanted to depart with some knowledge. The journey of a million miles ends with very sore feet. The moral of the story is.... only move towards the undiscovered country-the future- when you have a fair idea of what's going on and you can plan ahead. That just left Kathy, Bradl, Penny and Rebecca to plan with Lady Megan and Samlet something to over throw the current crappy, labor-like government system of things. Then, they'd attempt to return home. Suddenly, into the room burst a fairly tall, lean male with a thatch of curly brown hair. His ears seemed to be deemed as separate lifeforms in their own right! He looked almost uncaringly at the Lady Megan and Samlet but headed straight for Rebecca. Between them, a fleeting moment of recognition passed but was then gone as he yelled at the top of his still broken voice "Who among you owns the blonde imbecile who believes he is so wonderful and 'cool', as he says?" Rebecca shuddered quickly at the description. There was no doubt about who he were talking about. It was a shame really too, if she were to get on this guys bad side cause he had a majorly cute butt (or so she thought, so did Penny for a while...). She said in a timid voice, "I guess I do, but only because my parents know his parents and..." He interrupted her with a rather devilish grin. Then he grabbed her arm and propelled her to the doorway. "I was wondering if both of you would mind staying with me in my hideaway castle in the mountains?" Her mouth fell open and she just stared. This guy, no this gorgeous male specimen (or so only she now thought) wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Or was it Michael he wanted to stay with? It didn't really matter. Either way, she was going to be rich and happy forever. She decided to follow him. With an apologetic smile at her friends, she departed, but that wouldn't be the last time they'd see her, or him. This put the matter in a different light, thought Megan and Samlet. So they adjourned to another room while Kathy, Penny and Bradl made good use of their borrowed clothing and went outside the castle into the keep to the markets. It was all hustle and bustle with the smell of wonderful pastries, meats and...Bradl's favourites, sweets! He practically dragged Penny and Kathy over to the stall where confectionary was sold. Using their token showing they were residing with the Lady, they were given stuff to be charged onto the royal account, Penny's dream come true! So while Bradl and Kathy demolished taffy, toffee and other such delights, Penny had found her way to the fabric stalls and was currently deciding whether she wanted the black or the blue silk. They had been approaching the bakery stalls when suddenly Penny tripped and began to walk rather woozily. She couldn't be drunk, none of the taverns had opened yet, and she wasn't the type anyway. Kathy helped her slowly back towards the castle while Bradl summoned for help. Penny mentioned that it could have been something she ate. She did have some of those meatballs that everyone was eating (except for her two companions). Back at the castle, Megan and Samlet had finished their conversing and a physician had assisted Penny. She had been poisoned! If things were kept up, she would be dead within a month...unless..an antidote could be found before then. Samlet thought for a moment and said that the castle could spare her for a while and since she knew everywhere better than they did, she would help Kathy and Bradl in their search. Meanwhile, the Lady Megan would be planning and strateging how to overthrow her husbands rule while he was at his mountain retreat. *********************************************************** At that moment, Rebecca was in a warm firelit room among colourful and soft cushions and watching her new 'friend'. Michael was in the corner of the room with his usual defensive stance, twisted features and the 'oh, so cool' look. "So, what's life really like where you both came from?" "Well," began Rebecca nervously, "there are fast carriages without horses, there are machines that can think and even things around the house like washing machines, they wash your clothes, television and telephone." "What are the tele...?" "Television and telephone. They are like plays that show up on the screen, and the other allows us to speak to each other over long distances. But I don't know much how to work them. I think David does though." "David? He was one of your party?" "Yes. The one that's recovering from the chicken pox. He was pale white and had red spots..." "I remember now. The weird one (in black). Could you arrange a meeting between him and me?" he asked while giving a heart-stopping grin at her. "Sure!" ************************************************************ The horses started snorting and prancing nervously in the misty dawn. Their breath puffed clouds of fog in front of them and they stamped to get rid of the cold. Poor Penny, she would have loved to ride these lovely horses, thought Kathy. But she was dying and if they got back in time, of course she'd be able to ride them. So they mounted their horses. Samlet got an ebony stallion. Bradl got a hardy old, predictable dapple mare and Kathy got a spirited chestnut mare. They were going to take along a donkey to carry their food and sleeping rolls. As for weapons, they were travelling under the pretence of being the nomadic gypsies with their loud singing, joyous laughter and mysterious demeanour. They were making a pilgrimage towards a place that was held sacred for those worshipping mother Earth. That shouldn't have been too hard for Kathy and Bradl. After all, they had come from Christian schools where they sang praises for Him. They'd just have to change 'he' to 'she'. "When this earth was created, it was She who spoke the word and it was done; Gave her warmth to the cold earth; all was new and all was young; time had begun.. Make me warm, when I am cold Make me young when I am old Move me, touch me inside; Let your love burn in me now." They were dressed in dark mysterious clothes that shimmered in the heat of the midday sun. Poor David, he would probably have liked to check out their wardrobe for himself! They ambled along only stopping occasionally to converse with fellow travellers and for Kathy to read their palms for one gold coin (well, she was accurate!). It was a windy night when they pulled up into a small clearing where they would have the scant shelter from the elements after trying to make as much headway as possible. Samlet whipped out her magic staff in the form of a smoking apparatus (a pretty ingenious disguise!) and made a smokeless fire in the centre. While Bradl prepared some culinary delights for the weary trio, Kathy set up their sleeping rolls and spoke with Samlet about their position from their destination. It should only take another couple of days travel until they reach the outskirts of the city called Kantiana. This would be where their apparent 'god' resided in her now dead physical form. It was transformed into a kind of shrine. But their true destination would be on the other side of the large city and towards the Herb Forest. There would be a kind of pharmacist who could help them. By then, Bradl had finished cooking and was serving out plates that gave off steam good enough to eat. Kathy's last thought was one of gratitude to have a peaceful nights sleep under the wide, open sky without any snorers in the vicinity (only a talker) and to be partially out of the wind. But that seemed not to be.... ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 4 The full moon had risen and had cast an unearthly glow over the trees while a thin mist wafted in and out between them. A piercing scream cut through the air like a sharp knife which awoke the trio. While Bradl ran for his cast iron frying pan, Samlet found her magical staff and Kathy armed herself with her sword nearby. They could see nothing through the suffocating haze from within the trees. They threw alarmed glances at one another and decided that they had better prepare themselves for whatever horror lay in the night. Samlet deserted her protective stance and hurried around to calm the horses with their foaming mouths and rolling eyes. Kathy hefted the unfamiliar weight in her hands and sliced the air in front of her in unfamiliar practise. She walked over to where Bradl was scuffling about by the fire and motioned for him to listen to her. "Did you hear the noise?" "Of course I did. What do you think it was?" "I was just about to ask you the same question." "Maybe Samlet knows. I'll go and ask. Maybe we'd better start packing and get ready to leave this place," Kathy said as a chill went down her spine. This was getting weirder and weirder. Bradl hurried to his sleeping bag and started to pull everything together. He turned as he heard a sound behind him. All he could see was the remains of the group's uneaten food and the dying embers glowing faintly in reverence to the moonlight. "Kathy? Samlet? Anyone?" maybe they had gone to use the toilet they'd hastily constructed the night before. He walked there, modestly mind you, and called out for them. "Samlet? Come on, if this is some kind of joke, it's pretty tasteless. We have a quest to perform. It's at the expense of someone's life!" Bradl tried to listen intently at the recalcitrant wind. "Kathy?" Still nothing. He looked as keenly as his eyes could allow and still believed they had played some big joke on him. "Bradl......" it seemed to whisper a hoarse cry along the wind. "Bradl...save us! Help us quickly before it's too late for us and Penny." That bit was in his mind! "Where are you?" But it was too late. They were gone too far away to be able to help him anymore than he could help them. He sat down and knew he would not be able to sleep anymore that night. How could this have happened to him? Why hadn't it been him who was taken away. At least Samlet would have had a greater chance to have rescued them. She knew her way around and had her magic. No, she didn't. Bradl spied her magic staff lying upon the ground near the calmed horses. he reverently picked it up and brushed the clinging mosses off it. It seemed to shimmer gently in the moonlight even more so when he thought about it's owner. ********************************************************* Penny twisted and turned on her soft silk bed. Her features were twisted in silent agony and she muttered the same words over and over again. "In the name of love..." Lady Megan sat over her an hour every day trying to offer any comfort she could to the woman who could only see through a hazy cloud. Megan also began to plan how she could overthrow the castle. the peasants were tired of the tyrant and knew his time was up because of the oracle drawn by Samlet herself. 'There would come a time of great peace when the boar would become a piglet once more content to suckle sustenance of its own and all would be merry. But then, evil would return in the form of a woman this time who would ensure a battle would occur that could either destroy the peacemakers from afar of enlighten them to a kind of immortality so they could continue the overthrow of darkness and nurturing of light.' Megan had gambled much herself to prepare for these peacemakers. She had begged her father to arrange a marriage to the Sir with the big ears. It would be a prosperous match so it did not really matter if she did not love him would it? No one but Samlet knew of this sacrifice. Their only consolation was that if their plan succeeded, they would have freed the lands from the tyrant and be free to do whatever they wanted for as long as they lived. That was five years ago. Luckily no child had ensued from the match and that provided the Sir with much excuse to go philandering about. But even Megan knew that it wouldn't help him much to gain an heir if he was to have such companions as the blonde lout he was currently involved with. Obviously the girl was just a cover up. But that did not matter. They were timely away from the castle and that gave Megan time to think. Maybe she would call on Samlet when she reached the holy grounds. They'd be able to speak via the entwined staffs of power. Until then, she would content herself with learning quantum physics and the theory of relativity from David. Oh, she had to tell the trio that both Narelle and Greer's marriage to their respective husbands(that were brothers to die for) was to be held when they returned from their journey. It would be a huge elaborate affair since the two men had recently been very eligible, rich bachelors. Megan giggled to herself. If only she hadn't had the 'honour' to fulfil the destiny of her land, she might have turned her thoughts to the eldest of the brothers. But she was brushed out of her reverie as Penny muffled a groan in the thick blankets piled around her shiver