The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 4)

The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 4)

One.

Ok, this was definitely not the past. In fact, it was almost 700 plus years or orbits as it was referred to at this time, into the future. All Kori could get out of people was that Terra, what Earth was called now, came to life and re-arranged the surface to stop all the fighting. He tried to get more on it but most didn’t know and didn’t care and they always seemed armed with garbage to throw.

Two.

The description he gave of the men who took Aloyce was greeted with grim answers. They were slavers and in the Region, they appeared in, the Wind Region, the business of slaves was legal, especially of Exoans … what they considered Aloyce to be. It took some arguing and being called a nut before it finally sunk in. This was not the world he knew and it was quickly beginning to feel like a totally different planet.

Three.

The jaunt through the wormhole or time warp or time portal or whatever you want to call it changed him to fit this time and he could only guess that Aloyce was going through the same thing. His memory was as it was when he left his own time, but this wasn’t his body. His reflection still held his face, but everything felt … different.

In this era those who looked or resembled him were called Hikarians and Aloyce was Exoan by their description. Hikarians and Exoans; two different races yet they had many similarities. For one, they had thick skin in order to resist the intense heat and frequent sandstorms of their homeland which was run through with volcanic activity and arid deserts. This was the reason most wore very little clothing and no shoes. They also shared the ability to go without water for days longer than normal. Exoans had the strength while the Hiks had the dexterity. Exoans were the ruling population as most of them could control some aspect of their homeland; lava, sand, mostly heat, and fire. That Kori had still yet to see. Those that could were few and usually marked by their ability or so he was told.

There are five major races and four Regions; Exoans and Hikarians, the first and second largest races residing mostly in the Fire Region. Teotians populated the Earth Region they were the third largest population living alongside the Balans, a minor race. The Wind Region had the fourth major race; the Avians, little was known of them, as they didn’t seem to care to travel beyond their mountains. The Water Region had the fifth, the Mers, who were also practicing isolationists. They were still considered a lesser race because they were mutates, acknowledged only because of their fast growing numbers.

Kori wiped his forehead, smudging it with dirt. It had been almost five months, or as they say here, cycles, since Aloyce was kidnapped. He learned that time was not told by clocks and the terminology had changed; everyone knew how to tell time by the sun or the moon. Seconds didn’t exist; minutes didn’t really have a usage. Hours were Shifts of the sun, days were called Turns, weeks didn’t exist but months did, they were called Cycles. The seasons were called Phases and named after the Regions and years were Orbits. He quickly picked up on the slang and local curse words. Money had a global term, Teeals for larger denominations and Onz for the smaller.

Kori looked up at the only thing that hadn’t changed in all this time and that was the blaring ball in the sky. In the third month …ur … cycle of his new life here, his hope in finding Aloyce was near nil. He found himself drinking whenever he could. Kori was never a heavy drinker back in their own time, but the alcohol here was sweet and addictive. There was no bitter taste and the stuff was easy to come by.

Since then Kori had been beaten four times and chased off three, he had been arrested twice and robbed once and not in that order. Aloyce’s trail hadn’t gone cold yet; the men that took her seemed to be well known and made the same trip through the field they had appeared in every orbit. But he didn’t want to wait a whole orbit to catch up with them again.

In the fourth cycle of his stay here, depression hit him hard and he had gotten so blasted with the local alcohol that he passed out in a cart. Two days … or turns later Kori was rudely awakened by a large Exoan man armed with a bucket of cold water. He was the biggest and most threatening man Kori had ever seen, at least until he smiled.

Thalus Douan was a green –eyed giant with skin the color of dark honey. A tattoo of what looked to be a crane in reeds on his left arm, starting at the top of his shoulder and down to his wrist. A marking the rest of Thalus’ family shared Kori found out after he got rid of the hangover. These tattoos, or family markings, were common practice. You got it when you turned five orbits and it changed when one was married or removed when banished. You did NOT want to be banished. Tattoo removal was not available in this era.

Kori had slept for two turns, the time it took Thalus to reach his farm a few miles inside the Fire Region. Thalus’ smile was a friendly one, but his size was threatening and Kori couldn’t dispute Thalus’ want for payment for his unconscious stowaway.

So for the past cycle he’s been working on the Exoan’s farm for free board and food. Not forgetting about Aloyce and her predicament but just taking some time to get himself back in the shape he needed to be able to rescue her when the time came. Not that he had a choice. It was a long trek to the nearest town.

Thalus’ boys; Terk and Jah, had even taken it upon themselves to teach Kori a fighting style using sticks. He picked up on it rather quickly and was becoming almost as good as his teachers.

Kori wiped the sweat from around his neck as it tickled down his chest. He caught Thalus watching him from the open doorway of their long house. Kori sighed, he was becoming comfortable, he didn’t want that. This wasn’t his time, wasn’t their time, and there was no telling when whatever brought them here would jerk them back. If ever. His fingers got tangled in the chain around his neck, the two amulets were still fused together. Kori gave a quick nod to Thalus before he bent back to the chore at hand.

Thalus shook his head and sat down on the front step of his family’s home. He found himself caring about the strange Hik. Not believing the boy’s story of having mild amnesia when he found him passed out in his cart, but there was something off about him.

Thalus recalled the way the boy looked when he told him what had happened to him. How his heart was in every word he spoke except the lie about his memory. He was quite sure the boy was fine, but somehow he didn’t know anything when it came to the ways of the world. Then the fact that he was determined to rescue this … Aloyce, an Exoan by the boy’s description. Hikarians and Exoans didn’t get along well; to listen to how adamant Kori was to find and rescue this girl was moving to say the least.

“He’s not gonna stay forever, Thal.” Jhalla walked up behind her husband, smiling as she rubbed her russet colored hand over his shiny bald head, “You’ve taken to him like a child to a pago.”

Thalus watched as she sauntered over to a large kettle now boiling. Jhalla reached in to grab a tomal. The foul smelling vegetable could only be cooked outside, boiled till the oils leeched out of its skin. The flesh of the vegetable steamed as she tested its firmness with her bare hands. She frowned before she dropped the tuber back into the boiling pot.

“What do you suggest?” Thalus asked while he watched her work.

She gave him a cag full of coo-bird smile, “Jade.”

Thalus frowned before he shook his head, “That girl would eat him alive.”

“He’s not a pet, Thal,” She sat down next to him, “I see determination in him. He’s going to get himself together and go rescue this Aloyce,” She shrugged, “His reasons being his own.”

“You still think he’s lying.”

Jhalla sighed, “Yes.” She looked over at Kori, his tunic was soaked with sweat and covered in dirt. He was the strangest Hik she had ever come across, “This girl is either a favored slave or much more to him.” He didn’t have the deeply tanned skin of a desert born Hik, nor the long queue typical of a mid-land Hik. He was likely from the northern territories, somewhere in the Air Region. Fire Region folk did not travel there, not in their right mind anyway. That was why she couldn’t trust him, why would he be anywhere near the Air Region at all, unless he bought her there?

“That’s not our concern.”

“Oh, but it is,” She suddenly glared at her husband. “I refuse to help anyone who’s out to enslave my people. I refuse, Thal.”

He smirked and then carefully put his arm about her shoulders, “Yes, La. But Jade wouldn’t help him.”

She smirked back at him. “Oh, I wasn’t saying that she would help him in finding the girl. But he’d help her. He’s the opposition she needs.”

“She’s suicidal.”

Jhalla gracefully got up and dusted herself off before heading back to her boiling pot, “And he’s very well grounded.”

Thalus shook his head, “I think he’s in love with this Aloyce.”

Jhalla stared at the steaming tomal in her hand, “All the more reason to introduce him to her.”

The sun went down slowly bringing an end to another turn. Kori dumped the evening chilled water over his head before realizing he had company.

A towel wrapped itself about his head causing him to jump.

“Sands!” he yelled before turning to face his company. He paused nervously when he saw that it was Jhalla. Kori swallowed apprehensively as she calmly looked at him. Since he’s been in this Region, the Fire Region, he’s learned the last person you wanted mad at you was an Exoan female. They were twice as strong as their male counterparts when angry and when pregnant even worse. Ever since he had come here she had watched him, found it totally unnecessary to speak to him and never truly trusted him. And being he was ‘Hikarian’ she never would. He quickly bowed.

“Forgive me, fem. Jhal–.”

“Stop that.” She narrowed her eyes at him, “This Aloyce, what is she to you?”

“Huh? What? Why?” Kori was taken aback by her sudden questioning about Aloyce. He looked nervously toward the long-house; he could hear the rest of the Douans inside. But Jhalla didn’t seem worried about being seen out here with him. Was this a planned ambush?

“Is she a slave to you? Your toy?” she watched his eyes take on an irritated glare. “Why you want—?”

Kori turned away from her. He had been told about what had happened to Tora, Jhalla’s younger sister. Before they were joined, Jhalla and Thal had worked in her family’s inn with her older brother. A ‘friendly’ Hik was hired to fill a position that was suddenly vacated. Only it turned out that he had been surveying the place to rob it. The robbery went bad and Tora was hurt and then kidnapped by the Hik in order to ensure a problem free get away. The Hik was never caught and Tora was never found. Jhalla feared the worst as orbits passed but her brother; he never forgave himself and had yet to give up on finding Tora. Kori understood her wariness, but didn’t appreciate it aimed at him. He shook his head at her, “No.”

She smirked, “Then what do you care? Why is she so important…?”

“I can’t leave her in a slaver’s hands!” he hissed. “I said I wouldn’t let anything happen to her and she was taken from me.” Kori turned to face the woman, her face now a blank slate, “It’s my fault she’s in this mess,” he said more to himself, “I promised.”

“For some reason I just don’t believe you,” Jhalla stared blandly at him, “Something about you screams ‘lie’ to me.”

Kori shrugged, “Doesn’t really matter does it?” He glared at her becoming annoyed, “I’m Hikarian, you’re not gonna trust a word I say regardless.” He watched her smirk and then nod. “So what does it matter if she’s a slave or not to me?” He regretted his words as soon as they left his lips.

He didn’t even see her move before she was attempting to strangle him with one hand. A strange gradual heat flowed from her hand growing more and more uncomfortable.

“Why do you continue to lie to me?” She growled. “You think I’m as stupid as one of your Hikarian cows?” She bared her teeth at him. “I promise you, I’m not.”

His hand grasped at her wrist. “Fem. Jhalla—,” He choked out only to be cut off as she tightened her grip.

“I refuse to allow a slaver to slip through my fingers when I can kill you now. My little sister was taken from me, my sweet Tora. You think I want to see another girl taken from her family because she might be some good tail for you?” She watched in slight surprise as Kori removed her hand from around his throat and shoved her away.

“Aloyce means a lot more to me than some piece of tail as you so rudely put it!” He snarled. “I love her!”

He suddenly stiffened. Jhalla gave him a sad smile realizing immediately that he hadn’t meant to say that. She didn’t know whether to be angry or relieved. Another Hikarian in love with yet another Exoan, she knew it could happen. Tora and the Hik that kidnapped her had been involved. Despite her interference and her brother’s promised threats, they continued to see each other. That was the only reason they knew that the thief had been the Hik they had hired. The Hik had killed his own accomplice when Tora was injured.

People were people and love didn’t care what race you were.

She sighed, Thal will be pleased. Jhalla headed back to the house to let him know.

Kori simply stood there unable to move. His mind working hard to figure out what just happened. Did he really? Did he really just admit that to someone else? He sat down hard. He had known he liked Aloyce, was attracted to her. But love! He felt his face heat up.

How in the world could he have fallen in love with her? They only knew each other for a little over a month and for most of that month he thought he was too mentally set on getting information on her half of the amulet. He went over his feelings in his head…yeah, felt strongly for her, but he still didn’t know how that happened!

They had kissed maybe three times, held hands off and on…couple of hugs thrown in there. Nothing more than that, he hadn’t been planning on getting that deeply involved with her!

No, he was just overly concerned, that had to be it. Because it was his fault that she was here, because of her being kidnapped and because she was the only connection he had to home.

He rolled onto his back. Kori sighed deeply as he stared at the stars above him. The silence of the night wouldn’t let him deceive himself. He was most certainly in love with Al. She was the first girl that he had dated since his father died.

When he and his Uncle had gone to their usual restaurant one night so long ago, they had noticed the pretty Black girl busing their usual table in Golden Buddha. She had bent down to pick up a dropped fork and the amulet slipped from her shirt. Kori about choked on his tongue. Quickly checking if his uncle had noticed and finding to his relief that Uncle had stopped to talk to the manager. After about a week of practically stalking her, Kori had yet to come up with an un-creepy way of asking her about her necklace. Until she stopped by his table with a dazzling smile that made his stomach flutter. He later found out that she liked him from her co-workers and immediately planned to use that to his benefit. Just to find out how she had gotten her half of his family’s heirloom. But even though she was already taken with him she didn’t make it easy for him. Kori had to work hard for her to trust him. He had to get to know her and her likes and dislikes and he knew them well.

He hit himself in the forehead with the heel of his hand. Why in the world would he want to give her up when he got the amulet? After all that work to get her to trust him, she was pleasant and fun to be around. Kori hit himself again.

Aloyce had already ended their ‘relationship’ in her mind. He recalled how dejected she sounded when she realized he was just after her amulet.

What she must think of him now.

***

The turns went by slowly, each without a reason to Kori’s sudden change in temperament. Little things set him off or caused him to withdraw completely. Thalus cornered him after they cleared the first neeri field for the week.

“So. When are you leaving?”

Kori froze. His mouth was poised and ready to tell the Exoan to leave him alone, but the question had him at a loss.

“I-I don’t know,” he stared off into the distance. His ill temper was annoying even himself, but he couldn’t figure out what to do about it. Where did he go?

Thalus smirked a little, he had figured as much.

Kori simply stared at him. When was he leaving? He was safe here on their farm. No worries just work; eat when Jhalla fixed food, sleep when work was done. No being robbed or getting mixed up in something he didn’t understand.

“I…I don’t—,” Who did he need to talk to get on the right path?

Thal laughed and then gave him a hearty pat across his shoulders, “It’s okay. There’s…,” he released a tired sigh, “a girl coming.”

Kori looked at him. “A girl.”

Thalus dragged his hands over his head and down his face. He couldn’t believe he was suggesting her. He just hoped it didn’t come back to haunt them. He gave Kori an empty smile.

“Yeh-yeh. She’s a little off, this one. But she’s the one you should talk to about underhanded going ons.”

Kori took a deep breath. Regardless of how strongly he felt to getting back on the road and returning to his search for Aloyce, part of him wanted to remain safe, here, on the Douan’s farm. He realized that this was why he had the bitter attitude. But he knew the sharp things he had been saying since the revelation of his feelings for Aloyce would more than likely get worse. He was quite sure one of the Douans would call him out or just flat out hit him eventually. More than likely Fem Jhalla.

“I still don’t know what to do next,” he looked at Thal pitifully.

“Go to the nearest Slaver compound.”

Both males turned in the direction of her stern voice. Jhalla walked toward the small river behind the property. A large, heavily laden basket of wet clothes balanced on her head and another in her arms. Kori’s usual amazement at the woman’s strength was a bit lack luster today.

Thalus shrugged. “That would be a good idea. The nearest one would be two turns back where we first got acquainted,” he smirked. “Maybe four turns north of where you said you lost her,” he looked at the boy apprehensively, knowing his wording was rather cruel, but true.

Kori gave another large sigh.

“Do you trust her?” Kori didn’t really mean to ask this, but looking at the way Thal was reacting to the whole idea himself it couldn’t be helped.

“To watch your back?” Thalus shook his head. “She hates males. You will not get along with her when you first meet,” Thalus smirked. “The girl is suicidal…at least I think so. But she gets the job done, she is determined.”

“Don’t really have any other choice; I would just end up lost on my own,” Kori said mostly to himself but watched as Thalus nodded. “When will she be here?”

The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 3)

The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 3)

They stood there quietly, Kori and Aloyce, holding each other tightly as they looked around their new surroundings.

“Uncle?” Kori called out.

Another five minutes or more passed in silence. Uncle wasn’t answering.

Aloyce whimpered before she pushed Kori away. She searched the grassy field they stood in for any sign of something familiar. Everything was new. The air was different, cleaner, almost sweet smelling. The trees were wrong. The grass that surrounded them was light purple! This was happening! This was Real!

She took a deep breath and blew it out. Calm down, she had to calm down, that’s all. Aloyce closed her eyes, it was stress, if she shut everything out and counted to ten … o-ok, maybe to twenty then. Fifty?

Kori swallowed as Aloyce remained still with her eyes closed. He could hear her slowly counting and he wasn’t sure why. She was calmer than he was and that bothered him. But he was more bothered by the fact that Uncle wasn’t answering him. That he was confused and disoriented and for some reason he couldn’t catch his breath.

Aloyce had reached seventy when she heard something hit the ground behind her and found Kori laid out unconscious. She frowned. That convinced her that this was really happening, but it didn’t help.

Night came quickly and it found Aloyce seated in front of a fire with Kori sleeping soundly at her side. She was covered with dirt and soot from her many attempts at starting the fire. Using what she recalled from the survival shows and movies she had seen. It took a while but, she eventually got a small fire started.

Three years ago her father had come across the yang necklace in a pawnshop. A choice that most would have avoided as it was obvious that it was missing the other half, but it wasn’t for him. He bought it for her knowing how she liked making up stories to amuse herself. He had called it a mystical amulet when he gave it to her. It had the look of one. It was about two inches long and an inch and a half wide, tiny garnets followed along the outside of the Yang symbol’s curve. The yang itself was bright mother of pearl wrapped in antiqued bronze. She loved it.

She was a hard worker, barely had time to enjoy life with all the problems they kept having. Aloyce had never taken a vacation having always worked since she was legally able to. And when her father got sick the workload increased. It had to.

When she had time, she would find solace in her writing. Their little apartment was scattered with her notepads. Some filled with ideas for stories and others with characters. Her imagination made it easy to deal with reality, sometimes. Her father, Lamar had been sure that half an antique amulet would hold a lot of fantasies for her. And it did. Aloyce filled forty notebooks with stories as her father’s health declined. The one story she loved the most and secretly believed was that her soul mate would have the opposite piece. How the pieces would guide their owners to each other. It was embarrassing the number of fantasies she’s had with rich and famous guys.

Aloyce grinned slightly; famous singers, movie stars and hot basketball players would come to her job and pretty much whisk her away in the middle of her shift. They’d have a whirlwind romance, dad would love them and then they’d get married and her soul-mate would save her father by getting him the help they couldn’t afford … but that didn’t happen. Lamar died in his asleep in his favorite chair in front of the T. V. After a big dinner she made to celebrate her raise.

A year later she met Kori.

Kori moaned as he turned over, snapping her out of the memory.

Aloyce frowned.

It was all just a fantasy. An incomplete necklace with only the magic of her imagination. Kori wasn’t even interested in her.

Her stomach tightened uncomfortably at that fact. Aloyce stood up and decided to get a better look around the area before that feeling spread.

The crackling of the fire slowly awakened him. Kori rolled over and ended up with a mouthful of dirt. He sat up coughing.

“What the hell…?” Kori started then paused when he realized he was sitting in a small clearing next to a strange campfire. He got to his feet quickly. They were still in the middle of the field, but now it was dark and Aloyce was gone.

“Aloyce!” He started shouting and kept shouting for a whole two minutes before he finally saw her running toward him.

“What in the world is your problem?” She complained, her concern fading to annoyance as she realized nothing was wrong. She dropped her load of firewood. “I’m here, calm down.”

Kori sat down hard, “I’m sorry it’s just…”

“You fainted.”

Kori looked at her, “I what?”

She nodded a small smirk on her face, “You fainted.”

Kori just looked at her while he watched as she sat across from him.

“There’s gotta be a logical…” he started and watched as she calmly cut him off with a shake of her head.

“There is no logic to any of this and yet we are still here,” She tossed in a few sticks. “I searched a good length of this area. None of the foliage I recognize let alone the so called woodland animals,” She picked up another stick and started to poke at the fire.

“I saw something that looked like a rabbit.” She spoke softly.

“Yeah? What do you mean looked?” He moved closer as her voice seemed to fade.

“It had a long ringed tail, looked more like a cross between a rabbit and a raccoon.”

They were quiet for a long time. Kori watched her as she just sat staring into the fire. She was definitely taking it all better than he was but something seemed wrong. She was taking it maybe too well?

“Al,” He started and stopped as she gave him a warning look, “Aloyce.”

“What.”

“You okay?” He moved closer. “I mean, you don’t seem to bothered by this.”

She wiped her face, “I had time to let it sink in. While you were dreaming the day away I saw things that just weren’t normal. The rabcoon or whatever it might be called was just one of what I’ve seen.” She huffed and then shook her head resignedly; “I cried, I yelled…I even yelled at you.” She shrugged and looked at the dirt on her shoes, “I’ve had time to think about everything and have decided to just take it…I mean, fighting it won’t help, will it? I’d probably only end up going nuts if I thought too hard about all this.”

“But…”

“There is no ‘but’, Kori. We have no choice in the matter. You brought us here,” She eyed him, “All you had to do was give your uncle the amulet and he would have been gone.” She looked away from him again, “You would have been gone.”

Kori swallowed hearing how jilted she felt, “I’m sorry it all … came out this way, Aloyce …” He sighed as she hugged herself, “Look, I’m sorry I dragged you into this. I didn’t mean to get you involved this way.”

“So what was your goal? I mean, exactly how did you mean to get me ‘involved’? Did you think that if you …?”

“Stop.” Kori didn’t know what she was going to say, but it wouldn’t have been good or true.

She glared at him.

Kori couldn’t tear his eyes away from her glare. What was he going to do? What had been the plan when he finally got his hands on her half? So far it had only been to get to know her and find out about the necklace. Did he want to take it away from her? It would have been safer to just let her keep it, right?

He took a deep breath as she shut her eyes. A few tears slid down her cheeks and he couldn’t speak.

“When my father died … this necklace became so much more important to me!” She sobbed. “It’s a reminder of how well he knew me!”

“Aloyce, I’m sorry.”

“It hurts me to know that I could give it up so quickly to save myself,” She covered her face.

Kori not only felt bad for involving her, but stupid as well. Uncle would have never known about the other half had he not pursued her. Kori moved till he sat next to her. “You know your father would have rather you gave up the necklace instead of suffering for having it.”

She bowed her head, “I know.” She opened her eyes to see Kori’s face below hers. She started to shove him away and then sighed sitting up.

“I’m too tired to fight,” She mumbled, “I just want to sleep.”

Kori just nodded and started to remove his shirt. She began to protest until she saw that he was wearing an under-shirt. He handed her his shirt.

“It’s not much of a blanket, but you could use it for a pillow.”

She fought the smile as she took the shirt.

“Thanks.”

“I’ll keep watch since I’ve already had my nap.”

He watched as she got as comfortable as she could and then closed her eyes and quickly fell asleep.

Reality set in and his soft smile faded as he realized that this was his entire fault. True, he still felt this all to be some elaborate dream or some hypnotic trick of his uncle in a way. But the feel of the air, the grit in his clothes and present company made it hard for him to feel it wasn’t a hundred percent real. He removed the necklace from about his neck and stared at it. He had honestly thought that he had lost Aloyce’s half only now to find that somehow after he put them together they had become fused. He looked closer at their point of contact and tried to pull them apart. Nothing. He sighed, now to suffer for his stupidity.

He cocked his arm back and started to chuck the necklace into the woods that surrounded them, but quickly stopped before he regretted another rash decision. It couldn’t be just one way maybe sooner or later they would come across a way to make the necklace take them back. His eyes widened, or better yet maybe uncle was trying new spells now! He frowned, he hoped not. Uncle would be beyond being pissed. He replaced the necklace about his neck and sat down.

If Uncle Yeoh was casting a spell would he know? There were times the necklace would get heavy and other times it would feel as if he was wearing an ice cube. Were all those strange instances the result of his uncle’s spell-casting? Kori scratched his head and wondered if his uncle was casting a new spell, would it affect them now? As they were either in the future, which would mean that he was long dead, or they were in the past, which would mean that he wasn’t even born yet.

Kori found himself across from Aloyce, not remembering when he moved. He wondered what possessed her to keep her half. Most wouldn’t bother with half of an amulet in the first place. He bet that she probably came up with some fantastic story, something romantic. That thought made him pause. Kori wondered if the original story behind the amulet was true and if it was then that would mean that…

Kori shook his head and leaned back against the rather impressive pile of firewood Aloyce had gathered. The story didn’t matter, it was just that. A story.

Aloyce moaned softly curling herself into a ball as he watched her. He was very sorry for involving her into this. He shut his eyes.

*****

Aloyce sat up abruptly not sure of what startled her awake. She looked about not at all surprised that her surroundings had not changed. The field was still a sea of light purple grasses, more than waist high and dotted with fragrant bushes of brightly colored flowers. Feathered clouds moved drowsily across the brightening sky. That was the only thing normal to her.

She rolled her eyes as she stood up and stretched and saw Kori less than two feet away from her … asleep. Her stomach clinched painfully as the true reason for their so called relationship. She had been happy, growing to love him. She knew her father would have had a field day if she had told him that, but it had been true. Warning her about falling for someone with a honeyed tongue and the ability to pick up on the little things that counted. But it had all been a farce. She started to ball her fist and slug him when she could have sworn she heard what sounded like horses. She squatted down quickly as she moved next to him.

“Kori!” She elbowed him and knocked him over. He started to yell out when she planted her hand over his mouth.

“Mmpf?”

She swallowed. “I think we’re being watched.”

Kori sat up, “Are you sure?” He watched as she nodded fervently squeezing her eyes shut, she then hugged him tight scaring him as well as bowling him over.

“I don’t know if I’m ready to meet the folks of this world! Hell! What if we’re in some alternate past?” She cried into his chest.

Kori swallowed now more frightened than before. He peeled her away from him.

“Don’t worry; I’m not going to let anything happen to you … we’ll get out of this.” He started to retrieve his shirt when he knew he heard voices. Aloyce did too as her grip tightened around his arm.

“Which way?” He whispered and watched alarmed as she pointed one way and he looked in another.

“They’ve got us surrounded!” She started biting on her nails.

Aloyce almost screamed as Kori snatched her hand away from her mouth. “Stop that!” He snapped actually angry.

There was a sudden pounding, like something or several things running towards them. Both of them stood up as the sound grew closer and saw five or six mounted animals coming their way. Kori grabbed Aloyce’s hand and dragged her after him. The men on top of the horse-like beasts began to holler and whoop.

The chase was on.

He couldn’t believe this! This definitely was not the past not with those strange animals! They looked like horses but their colors were spectacular. They had six legs instead of four, reds and blues in hues too vivid to be real. The sounds they made were more of whoops and yips rather than whinnying.

Al’s hand nearly escaped his grip and he turned to fuss only to watch one of the men finish wrapping some strange vine-like rope about her waist.

“Al!” He yelled as he grabbed her wrist with his other hand and she grabbed him.

Her eyes were huge with fear as she pleaded with Kori not to let her go. Tears filled her eyes causing him to become frantic, “No…,”

With an anguished scream she was snatched away from him. Kori ran hard after them watching as Aloyce fought and kicked. Screaming as she struggled to get free from her kidnapper. They disappeared into the woods leaving him alone. He continued to run after them not ready to accept that she had just been snatched from him. He called her name over and over, following the faint echoes of her screams until he came out of the woods again on the other side. He fell to his knees the truth hitting him hard.

He had lost her.

The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 2)

His stride is slow, but before Kori realizes it, he is at the cliff’s crest. Silently he nears a set of stones that had formed a natural bench for the perfect panoramic seascape. The Tauplu trees here were in full bloom, their gossamer petals drifting through the air on soft, fragrant breezes. Their soothing perfume weaving their influence of peace. It is the perfect spot for a romantic meeting … or whatever.

She would have loved it, smiling in that way that made his heart skip a beat. He was going to bring her here when … when they were …

Kori finally sits upon the natural bench, his body registering the ache of his long walk with Aloyce’s body. His arms have gone numb, his back aches and his lungs demanded time to catch his breath. He frees one arm from beneath her and stretches it carefully before he re-situates Aloyce in order to stretch the other. In doing so her face turns toward him. He whimpers and caresses it, smiling softly as she looks to only be sleeping. He takes a hitching breath and then another before softly speaking.

“I’m sorry, Al. I’m so sorry for dragging you into this. It’s all my fault that this has happened to you. You didn’t even…” Another hitching sigh and his eyes get blurry. Kori wipes his face. “But,” He smiles at her, “I’m not sorry for running into you that day … for meeting you … for falling in love with you without even knowing it.” He caresses her face again hoping that something will ‘magically’ happen and suddenly remembers the amulet.

He reaches down into his shirt and pulls up the amulet that started it all. As he frees it, the once fused pieces fall apart with a soft clink. He laughs bitterly as the troublesome artifact dangles before him in two pieces. “I think it’s trying to say something.” He says to no one in particular.

Carefully Kori removes the half of the amulet that had belonged to her; the yang. He puts it around her neck and makes sure it’s centered before he touches her face again.

“They weren’t meant to be separated.…” he fondles the yin piece about his neck. “The amulet was supposed to be one piece, but last minute the creator decided to make it into a courting gift for his daughter.”

Kori takes a deep breath as the story of the amulet comes to mind. “She was said to be very beautiful,” He fingers one of Aloyce’s braids. The tears begin to slide down his face when he continues, “He took the ‘male’ half and told his daughter that he had imbued it with only the purest wish for her to find a good husband. The father then took the ‘female’ and tossed it into the nearest river. A year later a fisherman arrived to their village, claiming to have been drawn by the stories of a great white salmon or something like that,” Kori laughs, “He had the amulet tucked away in his belongings. The two met and fell deeply in love and then it was revealed that they shared the same amulet. They were married the next year,” he pauses sadly, “…she was killed by a band of bandits and he being so in love with her …” Kori looks out at the sea beyond the cliff before continuing, “… he took his own life soon after her death,” He whispers quietly.

Ryin watched his son rock with Aloyce in his arms in silence. His hiding place not far from Kori. The soft grass muffling his movements. Ryin is tense and ready to run to prevent his son from making a grave choice. The edge of the cliff is no more than ten or so feet from where Kori is sitting. Yes, he was sorry that this had happened. But Ryin had just been reunited with his time-lost son and he didn’t want to lose him again. Ryin looked at Aloyce’s relaxed face. Her markings faded and her caget features now more human. The way things worked in this time, Aloyce could always come back … somehow …in his experience. Stranger things have happened.

“You didn’t know that…I’m sure you felt …or dreamed up something that probably came close though. You were a bit of a romantic.” Kori smiles as he continues, “I remember the look on your face when we first met. I remember the look on your face when we were running from my uncle…you…” He sighs. “That was almost two years ago … or is it hundreds … I never did find out exactly how far into the future this thing sent us.”

Kori pulls the neck of his shirt down to look at the mark above his sternum. It was an almost perfect replicated brand of his amulet. He remembered that night clearly. The night he first joined their amulets together and it brought them here.

——————-

The Beginning …

“Aaugh!” Kori Ito yelled out in pain before he released Aloyce Campbell’s wrist. He fell against a tree, frantically trying to get at whatever was hurting him.

“What’s wrong with you?” Aloyce panted while she watched her so-called boyfriend fight with his shirt. They had been dating for maybe over a month, happily or so she thought. The last few days she was forced to realize just how much more interested in her amulet he was rather than in her. An antique amulet her deceased father had given to her about two years ago; one that strangely matched his exactly. She somehow doubted that it was a coincidence.

Kori pulled his half of the amulet out and held it away from his skin.

“How … it burned me!” He exclaimed not realizing how quiet his company had become. He stared at the yin symbol as it dangled before him. Was it glowing slightly? Kori was fighting it, but little by little he was beginning to believe in his uncle’s so called ‘magical’ abilities.

Aloyce looked about her surroundings; sadly wishing she had never met Kori now. They had run far from the rinky-dink carnival they had been enjoying. The cheerful sounds of the crowd and carnival games was barely audible at this distance. The carnival was one that came to town every year and traditionally she would come with her dad. She thought it could be a new tradition to start with Kori. He had been against it at first, but she cajoled him into it. She should have known something was wrong when he kept searching about nervously. Aloyce watched disappointed as he blew down his shirt. He still hadn’t explained why his uncle was following them.

“Can you tell me why your uncle wants my amulet?” Aloyce looked at him. “Our amulet?”

Kori looked at her slightly offended that she wasn’t concerned with why his half of the amulet was burning him and hers wasn’t doing the same. He shrugged it off.

“He claims that he has spent five years ‘casting’ a temporal spell on it.” Kori explained. “My uncle believes himself to be a sorcerer of some sort.”

Aloyce covered her face, “So we’re running from a nut who thinks he knows magic.” She stared at him irritated, “You knew what you were doing from the beginning, didn’t you?”

Kori sighed. Her eyes were his favorite thing about her. They were a warm whiskey-brown when she smiled and laughed. Right now they were cold and dull. He simply nodded.

“You weren’t interested in me at all,” Aloyce whispered to herself.

“What?” He asked, knowing exactly what she said, but not wanting to have to answer.

“What was the…,” she started and watched as Kori’s eyes widened before he grabbed her wrist again. She groaned as they were on the run again.

“Kori! Just give me the amulet! Nothing will happen to you or Aloyce!” Uncle Yeoh called after them.

Kori shook his head as he dragged Aloyce behind him. “You’ve been tearing the house apart looking for this thing since Dad disappeared. He didn’t want you to have it either when he was alive!” He called back.

Kori recalled how his uncle would spend every day locked in his room with the amulet. How uncle Yeoh would barely eat or sleep. Finally Ryin’s, Kori’s father, concern for his younger brother’s health had to take drastic measures. Ryin broke into uncle’s ‘laboratory’ and took the bauble, hiding it from him. Uncle Yeoh had been beside himself with anger at first and then grief. For a year he begged, pleaded, and then threatened Ryin for the return of the amulet. But it remained hidden until three years ago.

On a return trip from a business meeting, Ryin’s plane crashed in the forests somewhere near Washington. The oddest thing about the crash was that everyone on board had disappeared. The pilots, the stewardesses and the passengers, including Ryin Ito, were missing. Kori remembered that day clearly. The day the police came to the door handing him only the yin half of the amulet. Uncle Yeoh had been distraught when he saw that the amulet was incomplete, mumbling something about there being only two charges in the bauble.

Insistent tugging from Aloyce snapped Kori out of his reverie, “Aloyce … what are you…?”

“Let me go! I don’t want anything to do with this!” She screamed. “He can have my half!” she said trying to snatch her arm from him. “I don’t want anything to do with any of this … or you!”

Kori looked at her in disbelief. His speed slowed for a few moments before it picked up again. For weeks they had gotten to know each other. Of course he originally sought Aloyce out because he noticed her wearing the yang symbol when he and his uncle ate at the restaurant she happened to be working at. He followed her around for two weeks before deciding to introduce himself to her. Kori couldn’t help but feel a little hurt… he thought-

“No.” Kori shook his head.

Aloyce dug her feet into the ground causing them to stumble.

“I’m not asking your permission!” She snapped.

Kori pushed her off of him, “I promised my father that I would not give my uncle the amulet…”

“I made no such promise!” She snatched her arm from him. “I have nothing to do with this crap!”

Kori glared at her, “Technically your half belongs to me as well so that means…” He watched as she quickly removed the necklace from around her neck and threw it at him.

“Have it!” She started to run away from him only to have him grab her again. This time she was pissed, “Let me go!”

“Kori,” Uncle Yeoh panted as he and two strange men finally caught up with them.

Kori and Aloyce froze as they were surrounded. She elbowed him.

“Stupid jerk! I could’ve gotten away!” She glared at the ground. “I would’ve come back with the police…” she mumbled.

“Not likely,” Kori whispered, “You know too much.”

Uncle Yeoh shook his head as he started towards them, “Don’t scare her like that, Kori.”

Kori glared at him, “Scare her? Me? I’m not the one hunting her down!” He held Aloyce close as he brought both pieces up to show his uncle.

“Kori, don’t,” Yeoh said nervously watching his nephew hold the pieces inches apart.

“I’m just going to show you that the story behind this piece of jewelry is just a story, Uncle.”

“You can do that without me!” Aloyce shouted while she struggled to get his arm from around her when he started to bring the pieces together.

Uncle Yeoh ran at him, “No! Kori don’t-!”

There was a sudden feeling of disorientation as everything began to spin.