The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 9)

The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 9)

Pride

The blood bond was wreaking havoc on her.

Maybe the reason none had ever seen or heard of a high-born having gone through a blood bond was because none survived it.

Saa whimpered at the river’s edge, the cup of water in his hands reflecting his worried face back at him. It had been seven turns since they parted company with the Muudok and the Mer.

Eela had tried to persuade him to let her stay with them but he had been too proud. He wanted to show Aloyce that he could care for his own mate without the help of non-Cagets. He wasn’t so sure of that now. He hated being so prideful.

Saa carefully carried the earthen cup back to the hollowed out Tabarcus tree. It was a large sturdy tree; its bark alone was usually used to make boats and walls. The wood usually proved to be too inflexible to manipulate. Only masters of wood working could use it and they rarely did. This particular tree was long dead, making it the perfect temporary den as they were forced to stop. The bark was dried making it impervious to the weather; the wood itself reinforced it making it near fire proof. The entrance was hidden by tangled tuft weeds which he also used for their bedding. And if the weeds were dried well they could be used as smokeless tinder for the fire needed for cooking and heat for when her fever came back. Which was often.

After Aloyce’s teeth fell out to be replaced with new ones, she began to have more serious changes. Her eyes became infected and swelled shut when they arrived in the Muudok territories. Oc stayed with them for another turn, but only to show Saa about a few herbs and roots to use for her pain. Soon after Oc left Aloyce started to slow down, her movements becoming sluggish and she was terribly sore from the way she reacted when touched. Aloyce tried not to complain but she could barely walk by the time Eela came across a familiar pod of Mers when they entered the southern tip of the Water Region.

Saa looked at the mound of furs and badly woven tuft weeds. Aloyce’s bandaged hands and feet peeked from beneath, blood stained due to her nails being painfully pushed out by erupting claws. The first night this new change began was the worse; Eela had been calmer than he had. She was the one that got the herbs necessary to help with pain. Eela was there when they found the Tabarcus tree and she helped them make it livable. She stayed with them for another two turns before Saa’s pride got the best of him. Eela retrieved some supplies for them before leaving their company. Clothing, dried fish and some pretty baubles to please Aloyce when she was able to open her eyes. After Eela said her goodbyes a couple of turns later Aloyce stopped talking and soon after that she couldn’t move.

But her eyes.

They had been beautiful when he first saw them, an uncommon rich brown color. Now they were fiery orange, it was as if her change took the color of his eyes and mixed it with hers to create this new coloration. When she was awake he couldn’t help but look at them, stare into them. They were so beautiful, especially since they were now the only way he knew she was still with him.

Saa carefully sat down near her head, placing the cup to her face watching her reaction to the coolness of the water. Her eyes opened slowly and he purred. Gently he sat her up and helped her drink hiding his frown as he touched her inflamed skin. He wished he hadn’t rushed Eela off. If he had someone to watch her he could leave for a Caget healer. They were only a few turns away from Median. Saa lowered her head to let her rest in his lap and soothingly purred her back to sleep. He could only hope that this was the way of the bond. With the pregnancy changing her body on top of the bonding he wasn’t sure how much she could take. His little mate had been through so much already and he didn’t think he could handle it if it got much worse.

Her slowed breathing told him she was asleep as comfortably as she could be. He put his hand carefully across her already growing belly, Her stomach had already started to harden. Her belly seemed to get bigger each turn while she seemed to only worsen. The previous turn had given him a scare, she was in constant discomfort. Her tears seemed to flow non-stop. Today was better, less tears, but she didn’t eat much. There were times when she would be unresponsive, her beautiful eyes staring out at nothing. His purring would be the only thing that would get her to acknowledge him.

Saa wasn’t sure what he would do if she died on him.

So for the past few turns he refused to sleep. Afraid that she wouldn’t …

Saa blinked and shook his head trying to clear it. He wasn’t too sure how much longer he could do this. Beyond the den’s entrance the sky was already lightening, sunrise was coming again. Had he fallen asleep despite himself? He sighed and looked down at Aloyce’s sleeping face. He gently brushed her braids from around her ear. She remained still. Saa gave a weak smile and purred.

Aloyce still didn’t react. He purred louder waiting for her closed eyes to flutter open giving him the small reassurance of her health.

Still nothing.

His heart thudded painfully in his chest. He caressed her check; her skin was cold. He swallowed hard and then purred once more. Aloyce’s eyes did not open and as the sun’s light filtered into the hollow it showed her skin to be an awful grayish color.

Saa howled mournfully.

It was still dark beyond the den when he opened his eyes. The echo of his howl loud in his ears forcing him to realize it had been a horrible dream. He had fallen asleep. Saa swallowed and looked down at his mate. He couldn’t help but feel greatly relieved and surprised at the tears that flowed from Aloyce’s eyes. Even the smell of her fear and the sight of her anguish at her inability to do anything for him were comforting. Her new teeth, her fangs, had pierced her lips as they were gritted in frustration. Saa bent over her and licked the bit of blood away purring to comfort her. He kissed her forehead trying to calm her.

“Ah sorry, mina. Peace, peace. It was ah dream.” He caressed her face, “A very bad dream, but just dream.”

She groaned and made the attempt to move. He tightened his hold on her.  “Stop.” He mewed, nuzzling her face. “Ahm sorry. Sleep. We both need sleep.”

“I-.” She frowned at him as he put his hand over her mouth.

“Quiet.” He stared into her eyes until her furrowed brows smoothed out. “Ahm good, mina.” He looked to the entrance of their den and searched for anything that gave their presence away. The opening was covered and tall tuft weeds covered the cracks. He wanted to get up and make sure all signs of their being there was hidden, he sighed. His exhaustion was creeping up on him again whether he was ready or not. The heat of her fevered skin and the softness of the the bedding made it difficult. Consciousness was slipping away. “We sleep.” He slurred out as he curled around her. Saa gave in and closed his eyes.

————-

Aloyce’s labored panting was loud as Saa raced to the river’s edge two turns later. Her heated body dangled limply in his arms as he stumbled twice to reach the night cooled water.

When would it be over?

With her suffering worsening every turn, Saa found himself unable to focus on his own issues. He was home. Not home proper, but the feel of the jungle beneath his feet, the air and scent of his birth place had awaken his blood. Soon the abilities that marked him, the reason for his brother’s jealousy would surface. But his control was lacking. Two orbits was more than long enough to forget.

Aloyce would be safe but others wouldn’t. He would mark the area to keep intruders out. Although none of the clans were this far out. He and Aloyce should be safe from discovery. They had to be. They needed time. Time to get used to their new lives and to each other. But only if she survived this. She was so weak and growing weaker every turn. He was quite sure the kit wasn’t getting what it needed with everything she was going through. If she went, his first born would too and he would follow soon after. The Tabarcus tree would become their grave.

But he didn’t want that.

He was trying his hardest to keep her here in the living. She wasn’t even able to eat the food he pre-chewed for her. She had lost weight since his nightmare two turns ago. He had slept well with her wrapped in his arms that night and she had as well. In relative peace they slept through the day, it was the night that brought problems. Her fever began to rise again. Her body was burning off the water faster than he could get it into her, he was losing her.

As Saa splashed into the river, the water soaked his tattered shorts chilling him, but he ignored it. He continued forward until it rose to his chest, covering her motionless limbs. The shock should’ve been enough to awaken her, but her eyes remained closed.

“Aloyce.” He whispered while scooping handfuls of water onto her chest and over her head.

Saa caressed her face watching for the tattoo around her eyes to lighten or darken giving a sign that she felt something. It remained just a couple shades darker than her complexion. “Mina?”

He looked up at the moon attempting a brief reprieve from this misery as his eyes burned with threatening tears. He slowly gazed down at her when the river tugged gently at her body, its currents trying to convince him to let her go, to stop the torture she was suffering because of him. He almost relented. Watching as the water buoyed her listless form out of his arms, he wavered.

Her soft moan convinced him otherwise, he hugged her tightly against his chest to make sure she didn’t get caught up and swept away. Saa sighed as he smoothed his hand over her face and into her hair and froze.

Large clumps of her braided hair came off between his fingers and disappeared into the dark water. His eyes widened as he watched as more continued to float away. What was happening now?

The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 8)

The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 8)

At first Saa thought he had gone blind. It took him a few moments to realize that it was simply dark. Saa took a deep breath, he had been sick; he could smell the fading infection from the bandage around his thigh. Other than that he could smell nothing but earth. So he was definitely in some kind of cave.  How he got here he hadn’t a clue. But he would wonder about that later. The last thing he recalled was escaping with Aloyce –.

“Aloyce!” Saa suddenly remembered that it was her scream that woke him up.

“Oh, you are SO gonna get it!” Aloyce laughed after she resurfaced.

The freshwater river was called Ansui Tears; Aloyce had been told. A sad and depressing story of an Earth Region Balans that had fallen in love with an Avian male far above her station. He used her and betrayed her and it was said she cried this ‘river of tears’. It was further explained to Aloyce that Balans could retain almost three times their body weight in water within their bodies, accessing it when they were in need. The reason why most Balans seemed pleasantly plump.

Aloyce swam closer to the shore. Another turn was soon to come to a close as the sun was going through its last shifts. She was happy to be swimming, a sense of normalcy filling her as the cool waters of the slow moving river washed away the stress of the last few turns, making it feel like a vacation. Aloyce eyed the water thankfully.

She hadn’t made it here alone.

Saa had carried her out of the slaver’s compound as far as he could before he collapsed two turns ago. Aloyce had awakened to find them in the middle of some forest. Saa was burning up with fever besides her when she remembered what had happened. Saa had been in bad shape, thrashing in a sleep he wouldn’t wake up from.  She had promised herself she wouldn’t cry anymore, but then she found herself jumping at every sound and the tears would not be denied. She didn’t know the first thing about first aid. Could Saa die from his wound? Would she starve to death? Would the slavers find them again? She prayed with all that was in her, promising all kinds of things.

Oc and Eela returned to their camp not soon after her proclamation. She hadn’t realized that she and Saa had already been saved and tended to. She thanked them profusely before really getting a look at them.

And she thought Saa looked strange when she first met him.

Oc was a Muudok; a mutate from the Earth Region. Short,stocky, and built like a boulder. He told her that they lived underground,leaving the surface to the light walkers. Their eyes weren’t suited for the bright light of the sun seeing far better in near pitch darkness.

Oc got caught on the surface because the last rains caused his dwellings to flood and collapse. He had grayish – brown skin that was hairless and felt like leather. He had little onyx eyes that constantly glittered and a deep voice that was soft and comforting. His large hands had been caring and tender as he was the one that tended to Saa, for the most part. As the turns passed he taught Aloyce a bit about the flora and their attributes.

Eela on the other hand was a different story. She was older but hadn’t had much experience with other races besides her own, which Aloyce realized from Saa’s description from their first few turns together, were the Mers. Eela had gotten caught because she was too naive.

Eela had greenish – blue skin that was scaled at all her joints. She had plenty of dread-locked hair the color of muddy turquoise,her eyes were a bright teal and she had a smile that would make you nervous if you didn’t know of her overly friendly nature. She was a definite carnivore.

Eela helped by finding the river, edible plants and fish for Aloyce to eat as Oc preferred the roots and mushrooms that were fatally poisonous to others.

“I can’t believe you did that!” Aloyce laughed while she wrung out her stolen top. Eela just chortled before swimming further out. The Mer slowly sank beneath the river’s surface; more than ecstatic to be in her own element.

They had traveled near several towns with an unconscious Saa in tow.  The conscious mutates thinking Aloyce would stay in one of them, but she had refused.  They were confused as to why she had been just as nervous as they had been when coming upon the hiborn settlements.  Aloyce simply told them that she didn’t want to leave Saa and she had no idea how they would act towards her.  She didn’t want to take the chance.

Aloyce finally felt happy; this still wasn’t her time and Kori was still missing, but she wasn’t being beaten or starved or…

Kori.

She wondered what he was doing or for that fact going through. She knew he was probably still beating him self up over her kidnapping, well maybe. That was more than five cycles ago. He would be horrified and guilt ridden if he ever found out what happened to her. She decided then and there not to tell him. If they ever found each other again he would never know; he didn’t need to. It wasn’t like …he …truly cared.

Aloyce blinked and then sighed, pushing the melancholy away. She laid out on the grass at the river’s edge and smiled at the sinking sun as it warmed her. All of that was behind her now.

“Ally, time for your tea.”

Aloyce grimaced as Oc waddled from the camp fire off to the side of the cave. A cave she was still amazed at. It was crude and nothing she ever dealt with in her time.

Oc created it.

Somehow he manipulate the earth and created a temporary place for them to stay safe. She didn’t know what it was that made it possible for …people… regardless what they mutated to in this time to be able to do the things that she read about in fantasy books or seen in movies. She flexed her hands recalling what she had done herself not too long ago. It was still awesome.

Heavy footsteps drew closer and she turned to face Oc who pushed the cup of ‘tea’ toward her.

The walking boulder smirked at the childish look on her face,“Drink it all now.” He placed what used to be a rock, but was now a mug in her hand.

Aloyce had watched amazed as Oc molded the rock into a mug of sorts.

Oc watched her admire his crafting skills again before frowning at the liquid inside of it. “Be happy this is the last of it.”

“It’s still nasty.” Aloyce stared into the liquid. Tea he called it, sludge she considered it. It was thick and it coated her tongue and throat despite making her feel better. She balled her fist, took a deep breath and then downed the ‘tea’.

Oc chuckled at her antics and chuckled more as Eela finally resurfaced from the river laughing at the faces the Exoan was making.

The Mer stood there holding the girl’s dinner; a large Nablood fish. It resembled a monk-fish except that it was bright crimson in color and even more evilly fanged.

“Havyo dinna, ‘loyce.” She took a claw and sliced the fish open then emptied the innards in one of the molded stone bowls near the fire. She smirked as Aloyce’s eyes bugged. “Cahnt see howyo cahn eat dem da way yo do.”

Aloyce couldn’t say anything at the moment because now she was fighting hard to keep the ‘tea’ down.

“Guh!” she stuck out her tongue and then shook her head before she ran toward the river. She ducked her head in the water trying to rinse the horrid taste out of her mouth. She raised her head when Eela started to walk up behind her.

“E cahn’t be tha bahd—.”

Aloyce froze as the sound of growling reached her. She whirled about and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Neither Oc nor Eela seemed to hear it as she stared at the mouth of the cave. She walked past Eela toward their den.

“Whahts wrong?” the Mer asked becoming rather wary at her friend’s sudden serious posture.

The cave was a deep one; it took several minutes to get from their ‘den’ to the surface. Oc made it so he could collapse the entrance if something threatened them.

“Ally?” Oc stopped adding the herbs the Exotic liked to the fish as he watched his two companions walk slowly toward the entrance. Was Saa finally awake?

Aloyce saw the glint of saffron and quickly pushed Eela out of the way as Saa came flying out the cave.

Eela screeched as she watched Aloyce get tackled instead of her. The couple disappeared in a cloud of dust as they went tumbling. Landing hard, Saa ended up on top of Aloyce. The Caget growled softly; annoyed at his mate’s actions. He gently wiped her face of dust and waited for her to acknowledge him. She simply laid there.

“Mina …” He licked blood from a small scratch on the side of her cheek while watching as she finally opened her eyes.

“Ow.” Aloyce peered sheepishly up at Saa feeling his annoyed growl vibrating through her. She gave a frightened squeak when he suddenly slammed his fists against the ground to either side of her head and then roared before quickly getting off of her.

“You can’t do that, Mina!” he hissed after his tantrum.

Aloyce just remained where she lay, her hands clutched to her chest. She counted the stones that were digging into her back as he snapped about how she wouldn’t let him protect her. She mentally assessed the sharp pains from where he grabbed her, more than likely unintentionally digging his claws into her shoulders, while he ranted about how her body was not as resilient as those considered mutates.

“Whath’s happenin?” Eela asked in her little girl voice.

Oc looked at the Mer and sighed. “Stay over here till they finish.”

Saa stopped his pacing, gradually realizing that his mate had yet to get up. He eyed her suspiciously, observing as she remained where she landed. He was quite sure it was uncomfortable.

“Aloyce.”

The Exoan rolled her head to face him. “Hm?”

Something about her calm demeanor put him on edge. Slowly he returned to her side, looking down at her.

“You okay?”

She smiled and her eyes smiled at him, but it wasn’t an innocent one.

“No.”

He bent down to examine her and as soon as he was within arm’s reach she quickly sat up and grabbed him by his sensitive ears.

He yipped as she pinched them brutally unintentionally bringing her to her feet as he tried to escape her hold.

“You actually think you have the friggin’ right to yell at me?” She snapped following him up as he tried to get away from her.“Yeah! I jumped in the way! To keep you from doing something really stupid!”She growled.

Oc raised the area on his forehead where an eye brow would have been …if he had hair. The two outside the relationship watched,slightly alarmed and amused at the Exotic took on an irritated Caget male. They looked at each other more than likely feeling the same thing. Appreciated; which wasn’t something they could honestly say was frequent from one of Aloyce’s kind. Mutates weren’t liked due to their beast like appearances and the fact that some of them shared instincts with some of the animals of the wild.  They were looked upon as savage and simple minded.  Hiborns didn’t realize that their races were born from that of the Mutates.

“Mina, let go— .” Saa snarled only to wince when she snarled back at him getting a better hold on his delicate ears.

She glared into his eyes. “Your misunderstanding would have you hurting one of the ones who saved your life!”

Saa grabbed a hold of his mate’s wrists and pressed on the backs of them till she couldn’t take the pain anymore. She released him angrily. “They saved you!”

Saa rubbed his tender ears, she may not have realized it but her hands had become uncomfortably hot. He massaged his aching ears. “Ah would not have hurt her…much, just enough —.” He tried to explain but cuts himself off as the markings on Aloyce’s face darken rapidly. He stepped back.

“THEY SAVED YOU!” she screamed suddenly angrier than she’s ever been. “You would have died had it been just me alone…” she trailed off.  Tears were threatening, pooling in her eyes as she looked down at her feet. “I couldn’t do anything, but watch…and cry.”

The Caget felt suddenly self conscious and started to move to comfort her when her head snapped up.

“Apologize, now.”

He looked at her a little put out. “Ah’m So—.”

She shook her head, “Not to me, Saa.” She pointed vehemently to the other two, startling them at her sudden movement, “Them!”

Saa continued to rub his ears turning towards the smirking Muudok and the cringing Mer. His saffron eyes looked over the two, his glare lingering on the Mer a little too long for Eela’s comfort.  She was beginning to feel like ‘food’.

“Ah’m sorry.”

“Attacking first is for foyas.” Aloyce didn’t even look at him after saying that, knowing that she had said the curse correctly. She walked away from him, heading back over to the water’s edge.

Saa eyed her annoyed. He rubbed his ears once more before moving to follow after her, joining her when she sat down.  A tiny bit amused at her use of a word in the common language for mutates, but not that it was used in reference to him.

For several drawn out moments they just sat in silence.

“Ah heard you scream.”

Aloyce sighed and then scooted closer to him, smiling when he eyed her warily. She reached up to caress his face and laughed out loud when he quickly covered his ears. She instead softly scratched at the under side of his throat. He had so many cat-like tendencies she couldn’t resist. There action was immediate.

Saa couldn’t control himself, his eyes rolled to the back of his head while a loud rolling purr escaped his throat. He jutted his chin out more to give her easier access to his neck. His tail wrapped itself around her waist.

“I’m/Ah’m sorry,” They said in unison, they smiled at each other. He cocked his head to the side and motioned for her say what she wanted.

“I have a little bit of a temper,” she paused and gawked at him as he seemed to vibrate all of a sudden.

He was laughing!

“What?” she glared. He faced her, showing his fangs in a full grin.

“Know you have a temper, have seen it.”

“Oh,” she turned away from him coyly. He caressed her face, carefully so his claws wouldn’t cut her. Idly he traced the markings on her face. They were warmer than the rest of her face, darkening and lightening with her mood.

“Know you not used to this life,” he cupped her chin.

She froze.

Saa gently turned her to face him and gazed into her eyes, “Know this all new to you.”

“I–” she started but was cut off as he covered her mouth. He breathed deeply under her neck.

“You smell different. Not like most Exoans,” he nuzzled her face. “Your eyes are different, they see everything as new,” he purred against her cheek.

“Th-that’s because of —.” she started to explain the term amnesia again to him; the reason why she hadn’t even known what she was cycles ago.

“This amneesha, yes. You say already. Ah don’t believe.”

She sat there unable to move.

“Mina,” He nuzzled closer to her mouth. “It no problem.”

Aloyce cleared her throat and then eyed him, “How do I smell different?” she whispered.

Saa smiled against her face, “You smell of a city with no air.” He licked her ear and smiled as she shuddered. “Stone and steel and a slow poison. Exoans smell of smoke and fire.”

Aloyce remained still as he continued to nuzzle her,tenderly taking little nips at the underside of her chin.

“So …”

Saa licked her lips and watched her eyes widen. “Not understand how you came to be here,” He purred, “Not really care.”

Saa was giving her his heart and yet somehow she still found it necessary to fight the obvious attraction she had for him. Why? Was it because she was still trying to hold out hope for Kori?

Aloyce sighed. Her heart still hoped that Kori had feelings for her. More than he let on. They dated for over a month! He checked on her, bought her gifts, and learned all her pet peeves and the little things that made her happy. There had to be something more to their relationship than just that damned amulet.

Wow.

She really did fall for him. But even so, what about Saa?

Despite their harsh beginning, Saa was easy to love.Maybe love was too strong a word right now, but there was something there. She cared for him, a lot. For all that he’s done for her and yet again in such a short amount of time.

She looked at her hands, someone loved her without hesitation. And despite what she thought or tried to do to resist, he had pushed himself into her heart. Taking care of her, protecting her, being patient with her, regardless of what happened he was determined to be there for her. Aloyce knew she may never see Kori again. She may never return home.

Saa watched her torment herself mentally. He wasn’t bitter about her feelings for this Kori. He knew it would take her time to get accustomed to the way of this world. Besides; she cared for him. Not as much as he did for her, but enough, at least he hoped to be considered a worthy mate.

“Mina,” he took her hand. “My duty to protect my mate,”he purred “and you fight me,” she pulled her hand away. “Why?”

Aloyce blinked out of her daze and watched as the Caget eyed her with concern.

“You afraid,” he smiled slightly as her head dropped.“Know …your heart wants another.”

Her hands covered her face.

“But mine belongs to you. No matter what or who you choose,” he nuzzled her neck. “Ah am yours.”

A harsh thought suddenly popped into her head. “What brought me here could take me away,” she said quietly.

Saa was silent for a brief moment, “Then enjoy what you have while you have it.”

“Right,” she frowned fiddling with her hands. “And what happens to you?”

Saa couldn’t lie to her, it wasn’t in him.

“Ah’ll die,” he shrugged.

Aloyce stared at him, “What?”

Saa twirled his tail, “Ah’ll die.”

“You mean, like if I disappear, right now, you’ll drop dead?” Her eyes were huge.

He shook his head and gave a mirthless laugh, “No.  It be gradual. Ah won’t hunt, won’t eat, won’t care. Will … waste away,” He said it so nonchalant.

“But—” her brows rose in alarm. He gave her a sad smile.

“Ah won’t want another. Couldn’t if Ah wanted to. Cagets only mate once. If blessed they find a mate they can make a true bond with,” he sighed unconsciously and realized too late its effect on her. The markings on her face went black, he was beginning to understand that the darker the coloration the angrier she was. He pulled away unconsciously.

Aloyce wanted to scream. This was ridiculous! The choice wasn’t even his and he was stuck with her. His chance to find his one true mate and that damned Avian screwed everything up!

“I’m glad that Avian’s dead!” she shouted ignoring the alarmed looks of the others. “This is so not fair!

She was up and pacing back and forth; a low rumbling growl escaping her. Saa paused surprised at its cag-like intonation.

“You didn’t even get the chance to find–,” she continued oblivious.

“Mina, Ah did,” he wondered if she even noticed the small changes happening to her.

“But—.”

“The drug brought on my heat early, yes. But who, Ah choose,” he took her hand and sat her back down next to him. “When you first arrive, Ah wanted you. Ah didn’t befriend you because you were new or scared. Ah’m mutate, you’re hiborn. Natural enemies, Ah was raised to hate your kind.But Ah wanted you.”

She shook her head, “No…”

Saa took a deep breath, “If Avian’s drug had been weaker, my attachment to you would be no less, but Ah would not have blood bonded with you–.”

She looked at him, “Do what?”

“Had drug been weaker, it would have just been sex between us, still attracted to you…would’ve left you after escape,” he paused and looked at her longingly. “But how Ah felt for you and his drug… Ah shared blood with you, change your scent … you no longer simple hiborn…,” he inhaled longingly. “My nature wants only you, always you and this be known to other Cagets.”

She just looked at him.

“My heart belongs to you, regardless of what you say or do, Ah’m yours,” he gave her that sad smile again, “Ah’m yours.”

They remained silent for a while.

Could she do it? There was no telling where Kori was,or if she would ever be returned to her time. Kori might be searching for her,but she was far from where she started. He could be headed in the opposite direction. Aloyce felt hopeless, she had to go on. And Saa, she couldn’t let his sacrifice be for nothing.

“So what do we do now?” Her voice was soft, filled with fear and guilt for him.

The Caget cupped her face. He didn’t want her to feel guilty because of his predicament. It wasn’t her fault, but that was a good question.

“Whatever you–.”

She shook her head sharply, “No. Don’t leave it up tome, Saa,” she didn’t look at him. “I know nothing of this world.”

That made him pause. Heading back to the Fire Region would be bad for the both of them even though it was the home of the Exoans. She would definitely see firsthand the hatred between mutates and hiborns. And for her to be mated to one, he could only imagine what her kind would do.Should they head back to his home? There may be nothing for him there. His mate being an Exoan would be a difficult thing to explain to the elders, but they had a better chance at a life. It wouldn’t be a life she was used to. The main question would be whether or not his status in the clan would be respected being gone for over two orbits.

“We head to the ruins of Median, then,” Saa watched her face, but she didn’t give any sign of negativity.

“Will I be welcomed?” she asked.

Saa shrugged, “Question is; will Ah?”

“Because of me?”

He shook his head, “Ah was betrayed by a sibling … they probably think me dead.”

“And you want to go back,” she got a chill when he gave her a rather dark and toothy grin.

“Yes.”

Oc walked slowly over to the solemn couple. Not wanting to startle Aloyce and definitely not the Caget. He had noticed a while ago the slices in her tunic. It was obviously from when Saa grabbed her by her shoulders. Spots of blood had blossomed and he couldn’t help the concern.

Growling stopped the Muudok’s advance.

“Saa, stop it,” Aloyce chided.

The Caget eyed the walking boulder, annoyed, “What you need?”

Oc held out the small bowl filled with his freshly made ointment, “You’re not a rock-born Caget are you?” he watched Saa’s face scrunchup at the notion and then freeze.

Saa looked at Aloyce who suddenly reached up to scratchat her shoulders. He caught her hand.

“What,” she groaned, “They itch.”

He frowned deeply, upset with himself for being too distracted to not have noticed that yet again hehad hurt her. He eyed the Muudok and then the bowl of scentless ointment.

“Ah’ll tend to her,” He paused as her body stiffened again. She wasn’t too keen on that idea apparently, recalling the last reason he had to tend to her. He took a breath, “Come then.”

She gave him a sidelong glance and before she could apologize for her reaction he put his hand up.

“It going to be a long night, Mina. We have much to discuss,” He got up and hesitantly walked away.

Aloyce wrung her hands. They had already done a lot of talking, what else was there to understand? “I feel like I’m gonna be scolded.”

Oc smirked. “The world of mutates differ much from that of the hiborns.” He stood behind her watching calmly as she undid the ties overher shoulders.

“Like?”

“You are going to have a lot to deal with. Females are strong and independent in hiborn society…in mutate society males mostly rule,” he watched her give a childish pout.

“Not gonna stand being made to do things I don’t wanna do.”

Oc sighed, “You are the strangest Exoan – hiborn I have ever met.”

She looked away, coyly without a word.

“You are technically married.”

“I knew that, Oc,” she frowned. She wiped the attitude from her face as the Muudok gave her a stern look.

“Aloyce. Understand that as it is, you could walk away from this with no problem,” he watched her body language become defensive.“Peace, Aloyce, peace.”

“I know that, too and I hate it. I want him to walk away from this, too.” she cringed in disgust as he slathered the ointment thickly on her skin. She relaxed as the slimy feeling erased the itching andthe burning of the slices.

“Do you love him?”

“No,” No hesitation. Oc frowned.

“Do you care—?”

She almost whirled on him, but his hand stopped her. She growled, “Of course I do! He’s done too much for me not to, Oc!”

“Well, understand this. He’s going to go through a lot more, because of you. There will be many things you won’t like. But it will havea great importance to his standing in his clan.”

Aloyce looked at the darkening sky, “Yes, I get it,It’s gonna be hard…”

Oc touched her face, “You are a fire filled Exoan with a lifestyle that differs from that of your mate. You will either be seen as a threat or as an asset as no other Caget that I’ve heard of have ever mated to an Exoan. Being that Exoans, Hikarians and Avians are the hiborns that are violently opposed to mutates. This could make him a target or reaffirm his status in his clan,” he patted her cheek. “What you say and do will be interpreted as whether or not he is weak or strong.”

“You mean how well he controls me?”

Oc simply nodded.

“Ah.”

“The bad blood between our races will make it hard for them to accept him out right, trusting him will be difficult being that he mated you.”

She gazed at the ground.

“I think you can ‘learn’ your place and remain true to who you are,” He patted her shoulder indicating that he was done. “Be respectful of his ways, but remember that he knows and loves you for you. He is honor bound to you and wouldn’t do anything to change you.”

“Gotcha,” she mumbled knowing he meant for her to be like two people to help Saa. Be herself in private and his duteous mate in public. She covered her face while Oc walked away.

Early morning found the strange couple still discussing their future. Saa determined to make his reluctant mate understand her place in his world. He was willing to compromise, whatever to make the transition easierfor her. He knew there was nothing he could do about that temper of hers. But she had to understand that their mating would cause quite a stir. Things could get really bad if the attempt wasn’t made. He didn’t want to change her, just tame her a little bit.

After all was said and done Aloyce walked away. Not a word spoken when it was discovered that the sun was now high in the sky.

Saa watched after her, still as stone. Her eyes saw much for the first time. Processing it was going to take a while. There would be only so much the elders would let her get away with being that she was an Exoan, and one with power at that.

New mates lived separate from the clan for a full orbit, to get to know each other without interference.  She couldn’t speak to another male till her mate gave permission. She would be shaved bald to signify a new beginning. (It took him a while to calm her down about that.) When he hunted she remained inthe den. When he returned with the kill she would clean it. (She turned surprisingly an awful shade of green when told this, to his surprise.) She would be visited by all the other mated females, to hear their advice or stories.

Saa looked away from her. They would probably have to be mated again, properly. The blood – bond reinforced, she would probably end up with more physical changes. And then whatever changes he may go through when he accepted her blood – bond. This was the true evidence that their mating was real and not just some scheme to gain power. He was quite sure Aloyce would literally kill him if he even tried to use her to gain dominion over his clan. His eyes narrowed at the thought of his return.

His brother would need to be challenged, proof that he would still be a good leader. That would actually be the easy part.

The sound of retching snapped him out of his thoughts. He looked up in time to see Aloyce bent over a bush near the river clutching her stomach.

“Aloyce?” He asked concerned. She looked up after finishing, waving his concern away before she started for the river’s edge until she collapsed.

“Aloyce!” Saa rushed to her side helping her to sit up. Her skin was clammy and ashen. “What’s wrong?”

“Something makes me sick in the mornings, Oc gives me some—.”

He didn’t let her finish before his nose was at her chest and then lower.

“Saa…just get Oc.”

The Caget jerked up and stared at her. A look of worry on his face as realization hit him.

“Aloyce. You’re pregnant.”

She sat in his arms, calmly looking back at him, disbelieving his sudden outburst.

“What’s with all the yelling out here?” Oc came out with Eela following close behind. The Mer’s eyes widened when she saw Aloyce on the ground with a rather alarmed Saa holding her.

“Yuu kays, ‘loyce?”

“Saa … Saa says I’m pregnant, Oc,” she looked at the walking boulder in disbelief. “Tell him it’s just allergies …”

“No, you’re pregnant, Aloyce,” Oc nodded and then became alarmed as she seemed to wilt in her mate’s arms. “I thought you knew! That was what the tea was for.”

Saa tightened his hold as Aloyce passed out.

The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 7)

The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 7)

Aloyce

One.

Aloyce hated this time.

She hated this time with a fiery passion that filled her up to near exploding. She hated that she had to experience slavery in the freaking future!

Why was this allowed?

She hated that she knew Kori was beating himself over her abduction. The look in his eyes when she was snatched from him haunted her when she was able to close her eyes and actually sleep. She hated the future. It sucked royally.

Two.

She learned all she needed to know about this world from another prisoner. What the slavers called a Caget, a mutate, or Saa; as was his name he told her. He was tall and svelte and the color of dark chocolate if you ignored the odd triangular patches of soft, white fur that striped his body. Instead of ten digits he had eight clawed ones. A wild, natural mohawk of snow -white hair topped his otherwise bald head. This matched the rather inquisitive white tail from the end of his spine. He had pointed teeth and very feline eyes the color of saffron. He was exotically gorgeous.

Aloyce also learned why they kept calling her an Exotic and Kori a Hik, when they interrogated her about why she was with one. For months or cycles she’s been berated and abused and then abandoned as she refused to be broken. She gave as well as she got. When she got a busted lip they suffered by having those fingers bitten almost in half. Her dad had taught her to stand up for herself and Saa loved her for it. He told her in that strange almost purring accent of his about how he had yet to see anyone stand up for themselves in this hell hole.

Three.

She hated Avians.

They were cold and arrogant and thought they were better than everyone and everything. It was an Avian’s fault she was suffering like this.

As sleep gradually faded from her, her body was quick to remind her that the past turn really happened. She was aching all over and either burned or stung in key places. She probably wouldn’t be able to walk right for a couple of turns.

Saa was suffering.

She knew he was.

In the few cycles they got to know each other she knew he would never do anything like that freely.

Tears prickled her swollen eyes, her throat was raw from all the screaming she had done. The Avian had given them tainted food after starving them for a couple of turns. Some drug he was experimenting with turned Saa against her…causing his body to betray him. She saw it in his eyes while he tried to fight it. He lost, but apologized before committing the act.

The grogginess vanished as a deep rumbling started at her back and then vibrated through her. Arms tightened around her before she finally felt his rough tongue licking at some unseen spot on her body.

Aloyce screamed.

Saa trapped her scream behind his hand, his reassuring purr faltering for a moment as her fear filled him wholly.

“Ah’m so sorry, mina…”

His voice was soft and piteous. He couldn’t help but hate himself for not being stronger. They had made sure he would go after her by dousing her in the pheromones of a female Caget in heat…how they got that he didn’t want to know. His kind couldn’t ignore instincts…it ended badly when they tried.

Her trembling only made him feel worse. Before this, he would never have hurt her, she was strong and he respected her for being able to stand up for herself. But now, she was afraid of him.

Saa didn’t blame her as he looked her over. Her body was covered with claw marks, bites and bruises. Had it been the way he wanted…he would have been far gentler…

Saa held her tightly, watching as the deeper wounds he had tended to earlier while she slept reopened as she struggled to get away from him. The smell of her blood fanned his ire. Deepening his hatred at the cause of this atrocity.

The Avian would die and by his claws, he had a plan and as arrogant as Avians were he knew it would work. They would leave this place, if not both of them definitely Aloyce. She didn’t need to suffer this hell.

He winced as she did when his rough tongue touched one of many slices in her flesh. “Know it hurt,” he purred watching her eyes flutter in pain. “But it fastest way to heal you.”

His purring was attempting to put her back to sleep and it was working. She just laid there in his arms as he continued to lick her, listening to his apologies in-between. Then he stopped and carefully turned her over. Her body resented this despite his care and she winced. She wasn’t sure how to feel when he cringed with her, how to react to seeing the pain he reflected.

“Ah sorry, Aloyce…”

She simply looked at him.

“A… Ah never leave you,” He mewled. She swallowed while watching his face; his slitted, yellow eyes searched hers.

She sighed, did he think because she was a virgin that he had to stay with her? She was terrified of him still, she hoped that would fade, Saa was a good guy, but he wasn’t the guy for her. What was done wasn’t binding… at least as far as she was concerned.

Her lips pressed together making a tight line. Her hand slowly rose to hover in front of his face. He started to pull back slightly, but made himself still. If she was going to slap him he wouldn’t stop her.

She pressed her hand to his cheek and watched as his large eyes shut tightly.

“I-I’m sorry … for-for being afraid of you.” Her voice was barely a whisper, but he heard her clearly from the reaction he gave.

He whimpered pitifully before turning into her hand and licking it.

“I-I’m tired, Saa.” Her throat burned from the small sentences.

His saffron eyes locked with her brown ones, “Sleep, mina. Rest.”

Saa watched her close her eyes.

***

The crack of bone woke her.

Aloyce popped up ready to run and she regretted it immediately as her body pained her. Mutely she watched a slaver fall next to her after Saa punched him in the jaw.

“Saa!” she started hoarsely, surprised at the sight. Two slavers were down and a third one was scrambling toward the open cell door. The Avian was less than five feet away from her, his gore covered hands tightly holding what she could only guess were his lower intestines. His tunic was crimson with blood and she unconsciously pulled further away in confused fear, what in this world was going on?

Saa pounced on the escaping slaver turning as his mate finally woke. He gave her a toothy smile, “We leave this place–.”

The slaver he was sitting on screamed bloody murder only to be silenced as Saa extended his claws and pushed them through his throat.

Her eyes widened as blood spurted up onto the tattered shorts Saa was wearing. He cursed in his own tongue, knowing that the scream would bring more. Saa watched her face; there was no going back for her now. Aloyce was now welcomed with bloodied arms to the reality of life here.

Saa turned to face the dying Avian.

He had pretended to be suffering from a seizure after arranging the previously sleeping Aloyce to look as if he had killed her during their… encounter. The Avian assumed that his drug was the cause. An incapacitated mutate couldn’t possibly be dangerous.

“Stay back, mina.”

The Avian gurgled something and then raised his head with whatever strength he could muster.

“’Mina’ is she?” His pinched angular face smirked at the Caget that brought him down. “The mutate truly cares…for… his Exotic mate?”

Saa said nothing as he stood over the Avian observing him with his head cocked to one side. Trying to decide whether or not to finish the geiirt or let him die slowly. But just as he realized that the Avian was no longer bleeding as much, yelling could be heard up the hallway, the only way out.

“Umm.” Aloyce started as the slaver nearest her moaned.

The Caget turned to see this and walked over; he quickly slashed his claws across the poor man’s throat. He turned at Aloyce’s gasp. She couldn’t pull her eyes from the amount of ruby liquid that gushed from the man’s neck.

“Ah won’t let them hurt you… will always protect-.” he whispered before heading over to the other slaver.

“Don’t believe …it girl…he’s savage, like all …all mutates…”

“And Avians?” She added. The dying man glared at her.

There was no time for a retort as three other slavers ran into the room and one was armed.

Saa yowled as a bolt went through his thigh. He hit the floor hard causing Aloyce to scream making herself the next target.

“Kill the girl, I don’t need her,” The Avian snapped from his seat near her, his voice stronger than it had been a moment ago.

Saa’s eyes widened as the slaver took aim at her. She fell back against the far wall her fear hitting a level she didn’t even know there was.

Saa got up quickly ignoring the burning in his leg as he plowed through the new comers. The armed slaver was able to shoot but his aim was thrown off when Saa crashed into him.

Aloyce screamed.

Saa froze, his heart stuck in his throat, his own fear making it hard for him to turn and see what new damage was done to his pretty mate.

She hid her face behind her hands, but the scent of her blood sent him into a new rage. He attacked the three slavers without pause.

Trembling, Aloyce looked at her hands as she pulled them away from her. Her blood, thickly, colored one.

She could have died. That bolt would have gone through her head instead of cutting her cheek. If Saa didn’t react like he did, she would be dead.

She would have died.

Dead.

Her hands dropped from her face. The feeling was intense as it filled her.

Saa was knocked to the floor and just as he was about to jump back up something made him pause. There was a sudden change in the air before it suddenly heated up. He remained on the floor.

Eerie, yet fanciful curls and points traced their way from Aloyce toward the men. They scorched the walls and floor in coal black tattoos as their random patterns stretched out-wards. They burned black paths through the pooled blood before reaching the slavers and the Avian. Their screams filled the air as their flesh and limbs fell away in cauterized chunks. The lines turned to leaping flames as they reached the wooden floor boards beyond their confinement.

Saa looked at her, unconsciously smiling. Those burning lines had made a perfect circle around him as he remained still. Her pretty brown face now sported a strange tattoo of curled lines on her cheeks, right beneath her eyes.

“Let’s get out, mina.”

She nodded mutely.

***

The night was filled with cries of freedom and revenge.

The place that they had been caged, be it turns to cycles, was gradually going up in flames as former slaves were freed and the slavers were either being attacked or organizing themselves to recapture their prizes.

Saa carried Aloyce as far as he could before his leg gave out. But he didn’t stop; he dragged the both of them into deeper shadows.

“Saa…you’re bleeding…” her raspy voice still needed time to recoup from the abuse she suffered the previous turn. Despite her concern for his welfare it still pained him more to know that he was the cause of that suffering.

He propped her up against a wall. He could feel her exhaustion as if it were his own. He knew then that she had never used her ability before; the drain would fade with use. Saa raised her face to look into her dark brown eyes; she was having a hard time focusing.

“Ah fine, mina. Worry not for me.”

Aloyce couldn’t concentrate, she couldn’t think simple thoughts she was so tired. The night was filled with running and screaming and she knew some of it had to do with her freeing as many slaves she could on their run out. She shuddered, she had killed them. It didn’t bother her as much as she thought it would, but she didn’t want to do it again. The Avian on the other hand…

“Mina…Aloyce.” Saa patted her face causing her to focus on him. “Stay awake, ‘kay?”

Aloyce shook her head. It was freaking awesome to find out that she had a super power, but it sucked that it pretty much sapped all her energy.

The smell of smoke was getting stronger and the sound of fighting was drawing closer as well. She sighed, she couldn’t make it without drawing attention to Saa, she was a liability in the state she was in now.

Saa felt her worry and looked at her concerned. “What, Aloyce?”

“You’ll get caught trying to carry me—.”

He shook his head disregarding her words, “Ah not leave you, Aloyce.”

“I can barely walk, Saa…and you’re injured–!”

“Ah NOT leaving you, mina!” He growled. He stared into her eyes unable to resist touching the raised skin on her cheeks symbolizing her ability. She was going to be surprised by her own natural tattoo next she saw her reflection. “Ah can’t leave you,” He said softly. They stared at each other for a minute the world muted around them.

“Why?” Aloyce whispered her eyes glittering with new tears.

“Cuz you’re my mate—,” He didn’t want to talk to her like this, not about something that needed a well rested mind. She needed to understand what it meant to be mated. At the moment she was exhausted from over use of her ability and this was only going to make her overly emotional.

“That wasn’t mating, it was forced…neither wanted that…,” tears started to fill her eyes as she recalled the bits and pieces of the previous night.

“…Ah did…,” he put his hand over her mouth as her eyes went wide quickly. “Didn’t want it that way, mina. That was wrong.” He waited till the shocked horror faded from her eyes. He swallowed, if she had just been another Caget this would all be so simple, life would be normal. But she wasn’t and that night happened.

“I don’t understand, Saa. You said you were sorry…that the drug made you…”

He sighed, “Yes. The drug triggered my nature to mate. Not normal. Ah still two orbits too young for that, but…,” he looked away from her. “What is done is done,” He caressed her face, feeling the raised lines that adorned her cheeks.

Big fat tears rolled down her face, but she was no longer miserable as waves of anger rolled off her.

“You just give in? Just like that? You won’t fight it?” She bared her teeth at him not knowing what it meant to him. He shook his head at her, “Aloyce, you too tired—.”

She shook her head back at him, “We are NOT mated, Saa! Understand that! I didn’t choose this and neither did you! We can change this! You don’t have to be stuck with me… don’t tell me that —!”

A strange yet sharp growl and bark cut her off abruptly. He reigned in his anger as fear filled her eyes. He patted her face tenderly, “It hard to explain to hiborn.” He took her hand and put it over his chest. “This is yours. Now and forever. We not just have … sex, mina. We mated. Ah bonded to you…though … you not to me.”

She wanted to scream! She just couldn’t understand that he had no choice but to go with what was decided for him.

“And you’re fine with this? Being mated to a lousy ‘Exoan’?” She panted, catching her breath was becoming harder for some reason and she was sitting down!

“You not lousy, mina!” He was going to lose it with her; she was supposed to be resting, “And ah told you ah love you before….”

“Loved my strength! Not me! You don’t love me! I’m not a Caget!”

Saa’s face moved in to hover centimeters from hers, shutting her up in surprise. His saffron eyes stared into hers before he kissed her; long and deep.

“Ah not mind,” He said against her mouth. “Ah always be yours.”

Aloyce just remained silent, the kiss still searing her inside and out. It was one she would remember.

“We need to go, mina,” He purred against her jaw line, smiling as her anger dissipated altogether. She tried to stand up and her legs gave out surprising them both. He picked her up and then swung her onto his back. His thigh burned but he ignored it. Almost half a shift later found them standing in front of a towering wall. A wall that more than likely encompassed the whole compound.

Saa was dizzy, the wound in his leg was worsening and the blood loss was taking its toll. His tongue hung out between his teeth as he forced himself to continue. It was assured that by now the main gates had been closed and this wall would have been no problem for him to climb over by himself, but his mate…

Before it registered that her hand had come up in front of him; delicate lines and curls formed on the wood before him growing quickly into a large circle.

“Aloyce, no!”

The circle suddenly burst into flames and her arm fell flaccidly over his shoulder.

Voices behind him joined with running filled him with renewed urgency to free himself and his mate. He attacked the circle before him. He kicked at the fire cut exit. Putting all his energy into be free.The wood didn’t budge at first and then as he pushed against it, slowly it slid out. They were free. He couldn’t help but to pause for a moment as the scent of the woods a mile or so away hit him. It’s been two orbits since he was caught and now…

Saa almost fell as Aloyce’s weight seemed to become more. Exhaustion was kicking in now that he was on the other side of the wall. Aloyce was out cold and he wasn’t faring much better. The world spun slowly around him and he took two steps before something grabbed him and lifted him up. He didn’t get the chance to see what it was before blacking out.

The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 6)

The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 6)

Road Trip

The breeze picked up on their return from the river.

Despite the heat Kori shivered violently. Jhalla eyeballed him, “You’ll need to change out of those clothes as soon as you get home. We can’t have you getting sick before your big trip.”

Kori grinned to himself, “Yes fem Jhalla,” he watched one of her eyebrows twitch in irritation. Kori inhaled suddenly, surprising Jhalla before they reached the road to the long house. Jhalla looked from him to see Jade standing there in the middle of the road. The girl had a hand on her hip and a smirk on her lips. Jhalla knew Thal had already told her about Aloyce.

“This is going to be a long trip,” Kori grumbled.

Jhalla started to tell him to have faith when the both of them heard Jade snicker, “You really got them believing you.”

“Why would I lie?” He glared at her, his temper going from mild to fury in less than sixty seconds.

Jade twisted her lips into a sneer, “To get sympathy, you odd boy.”

“I don’t want sympathy!” Kori snapped. The two Hiks looked at Jhalla who found herself actually feeling a little alarmed from the sudden attention.

“I’m not looki’ –“

“You pity the poor—“

Jhalla raised her hands to shut the both of them up, she did not want to deal with their verbal assault. “I don’t have any pity for anyone, Jade.” She glared at the girl, “Do not assume anything about me.”

Jade looked at the ground and then frowned, “You act as if you’re the only one with problems around here, dumping you issues on other folks.”

“I did not!” Kori blared really getting to the point where he was going to flat out refuse to be anywhere near this girl. “What is your problem with me?”

“You. Simple.” She moved closer, “You show up and dump your issues on everybody else, acting all weird and expecting us to believe—“

Jhalla started to interfere before Kori exploded but it’s too late.

“I don’t need this!” he blustered out, “It’s really none of your concern what happens between me and them or anything else that concerns me!” He started toward the house again, “If I knew my way around this crazy world I wouldn’t need your very unwanted help!”

That silenced both women, but he didn’t wait for their reaction to his weird words before heading for his room leaving them behind.

Jade shook her head and looked at Jhalla, “You all adopted the strangest Hik. You know he’s lolo, yes?” She ignored the strange look on the older Exoan’s face, “And you all want to push him off onto me, thanks a lot.”

Jhalla watched the girl head off back toward the usual camping spot for her caravan in a hard run. She took a deep breath and slowly turned toward the long house. Kori wasn’t what he appeared to be at all. Her temper came to a slow boil, she didn’t appreciate being deceived. She headed into the house after him.

“Dammit dammit dammit!” Kori swore to himself while he paced his room. His temper always got him into more trouble. He couldn’t think when he got angry. He paused at the sound of someone grabbing the handle to his bedroom door. He already knew that Jhalla was furious, but he was going to try and stall her about the truth. It wasn’t going to help.

“I’m not—“ He started.

The handle snapped clean off the door when Jhalla came in.

“Secrets!” She snarled. “I knew there was a reason I couldn’t trust you so easy!” She didn’t give him the chance to deny or admit before she slammed the door shut and was on him.  “You’re not even from this time are you?”  She advanced on him so quickly he stumbled back. “If you don’t explain yourself right now I am going to tie you up and drag you off somewhere and no one will find you since according to your own words this is not your world.” Her finger poked him hard in the chest, the force of it more like a punch. His sudden retreat caused the back of his knees to bang against the bed frame, dumping him onto the bed. She wasn’t holding back.

He couldn’t help the grin and shrugged before proceeding to tell her all about how he met Aloyce and when he came from. It actually turned out to be a rather short story which surprised him when he reached the end.  Afterward they sat quietly in his room.

Jhalla faced him and took a deep breath before closing her eyes in thought. She gave a small laugh, “I knew there was a reason that I just couldn’t trust you.” She shook her head, “Not as Thalus does, but now …” She paused and really looked at him. She took another deep breath, “You have to learn about Hikaris, their…your way.” She began to tell him how a Hik male usually acted and the response he would get if he continued to act the way he did.

Jhalla then smiled and quietly told him: “If she’s anything like you then you two will really stand out.” She patted his shoulder, “When you find your Aloyce bring her back here, you work well and we know how to deal with your weirdness. You’d get yourselves into too much trouble elsewhere.” She stood up, “Just don’t let this world change you too much… I enjoy your strange character.” Her soft smile quickly turned into a frown, “But don’t tell anyone that, you can still end up missing.”

Before she walked out he stopped her, “What do I do with Jade?”

Jhalla looked at him, “She may be a ‘loon’ as you say, but she is knowledgeable. Watch and listen. Treat her the way you are treating her but know when to give in. She’s volatile. She likes you… or at least the way you act. But she’s still a wild one. You never know with her.”

The turn ended with little excitement.

With the boys gone, the three of them had very little to say to each other. Thalus was deep in his thoughts. Kori, unsure of whether or not Jhalla had informed him of their housing a time traveler, remained in his room. Sleep came quickly for all of them.

The next turn Kori awakened to loud thumping and clanging joined by rather hurried footfalls which got him out of bed. He peeked out into the hallway and was startled to see Thal standing just outside his room. The Exoan’s arms were laden with what looked to be gear and supplies.

“Going somewhere?” Kori asked sleepily, pausing when Thalus looked at him a little confused at first and then shook his head.

“Boy, wake up!” Thal bellowed, smiling as Kori nearly jumped out of his skin. “These are for you.”

Kori remained still for a moment his mind slowly sharpening as sleep faded. He then realized that they were trying to send him off immediately. “Trying to be rid of me so early?” he wondered aloud. Thal laughed and then dropped the bags with a loud clamor before enveloping Kori in a big almost suffocating hug.

“No boy,” Thalus rolled his eyes. “I just know that you’ll try to put this off for a few turns and you need to go and find your girl.” Thal released Kori to bend down for the bags he dropped. He wrapped the first bag about Kori’s shoulders, “This is some extra clothes,” he reached for a smaller lighter bag and looped it over the same shoulder, “some emergency supplies.” He bent down again and wrapped the last bag across the other shoulder and gave it a hearty pat causing the substantial weight to nearly take Kori to his knees. “This is food for seven turns, some neeri and tomal seed for trade and money—,” He raised his hand up immediately to shut Kori up when he started to contest. Thal looked Kori in the eyes, “You’ve earned what’s in there and don’t get too excited, and it’s not that much. You eat like a team of Braags.”

Kori smirked and nodded simply. Thalus looked at him as if he was going to say something else and then walked him to the front door of the long house and nearly shoved him out, “Don’t come back without her.” He watched Kori stumble down the steps. “Or with Jade,” he whispered.

“I heard that old man!” Jade snapped from the end of the porch of the long house. Kori’s mood soured but then he thought about it. He would try to be nicer. He was stuck with her. He watched her saunter up toward them and couldn’t help but to wonder if she was ever offered or always refused shelter. He only wondered about it for a moment as his mind was already trying to fathom what he was going to endure in the next turn or so.

He turned to Jade and then thought better of it. Turning back to Thalus he asked; “What’s the original reason for her being here?”

Thalus smirked and watched as Jade crossed her arms ready to be difficult, “She’s supposed to deliver some items for the farm, tools and such and we in turn send her back with goods from the farm, but she always leaves her caravan.” Thal nodded behind her and Kori watched as four or five Hik males made their way through the gate leading the strange six legged horse animals he recalled seeing when Al was snatched from him.

He suffered the pained look on Aloyce’s face when her hand left his.

Kori cleared his throat, “So how is this going to work?” he asked before turning to face Jade.

She eyed him and then jumped off the porch. “I’ll let you know when we reach the separation point of the caravan’s path and ours.” She turned to give him an irritated look. “Until then shut up and stay out of trouble.” She ran off to meet her caravan.

Kori huffed and then looked back at Thal who shook his head. “Sorry. She’s your only choice, I better go and negotiate this trade and then get you on your way before you seriously change your mind.”

Kori removed his bags and sat down on the porch.

By mid-turn Thalus and Jade have finished business and she and her crew are repacking the braags with bags of neeri and tomal seeds as well as bundles of ropeweed. With a solemn sendoff Kori followed after Jade and her caravan. He kept to himself. Staying to the rear of the line out of the way. It is nearing sundown when Jade made her way to where he was. He remained silent as she walked alongside him.

“So,” she started, “did Jhalla tear into you when she found out about your Exotic lover?”

Kori sighed, she was not going to let this be a simple road trip.

The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 5)

The Amulet – Book one of the Regions Series (Part 5)

Jade

Kori’s sour mood returned to normal as the turns crawled by.

Kori couldn’t help but worry about being on his own in this world again. This time being led about by someone he didn’t know.

Jhalla saw his concern and it began to make her nervous about putting the two of them together. She felt Jade needed a leash but something told her that Kori was only going to end up getting hurt.

The main reason she was becoming unsure of this pairing was because Kori didn’t act as a Hikarian male should. In all honesty, the boy didn’t react like most in the first place. Jhalla didn’t care for Hikarians, never had a reason to, but something about this one had her concerned for his well-being. She didn’t like that.

That morning started like any other. Kori rose much earlier than the rest of them, to get in a couple of circuits around the farm before work started, he had told her. Jhalla hadn’t a clue what he meant in the beginning until she watched him do a slow paced run around the fields the first time. She didn’t understand why. Field work was more than enough exercise she thought, but he’s done it every turn since arriving.

It was simply that this time his jog; as he called it, was cut short.

Jade had finally arrived.

“What’s happening?” Thalus asked from behind his wife, both of them peered out the front window. They didn’t bother to hide themselves, knowing that Kori always knew when he was being watched.

Jhalla shrugged as her husband put his hands on her shoulders in an attempt to get a better look. She didn’t want to take her eyes off of the two Hiks, not wanting to miss anything as they stood in the middle of the road that led from the gate to the house.

“They’re just standing there staring at each other,” she whispered.

Outside.

Kori had gotten up as usual to jog around the property. It had been peaceful and cool. The only time where he could feel like he was back in his own era. The chirping birds, the soft breezes, the calming rustle of the leaves of the trees that lined the main road and the crunch of gravel beneath his feet. It was as if he was back at home; if he closed his eyes he could picture the park he usually jogged through. He had already made two circuits around the neeri and tomal fields when he felt as if someone was watching him.

He noticed the girl standing off in the trees on his return to his starting point.  She observed him silently. Her eyes taking in every inch of him. She leaned against a tree with her arms crossed and her eyes stuck on him. Kori came to a halt a couple of meters from where she stood.

She was pretty. Long jet black hair braided down to her waist. She had golden skin and gorgeous grass green eyes. A normal occurrence for Hikarians he was told. She had a boyish build yet was still feminine enough not to get her gender confused.

Kori stifled the bad attitude he’d had for the past few turns. No reason to start a new relationship on a bad note. He gave her a genuine smile only to be greeted with a suspicious sneer. His smile faded quickly.

“Are they talking?” Thalus asked his wife, he was getting a little impatient as neither Hiks moved. Jhalla started to answer him with a smart retort when they both watched Jade dash out from the trees at Kori who didn’t even flinch. Both of them ran for the door.

Kori smirked. The girl was arrogant.

He watched as she spun through the air to give him a back hand chop to the head, he supposed. He dodged with ease, ending up behind her when she landed. Quickly he ducked when she tried to attack him again. Kori simply backed away, wondering if he should ask why she was attacking him. Was there a point? Or should he wait for the older Douans to get here and stop her? Usually Terk and Jah would be out and about, but they had been sent on a delivery.

He kept at least an arm’s length from her attacks. It wasn’t long before he could hear running coming from the direction of the house. He knew Thalus and Jhalla had been watching. Kori waited till they came up behind the girl, thinking that by now she should have heard their approach as well. He dropped his guard when Thalus and Jhalla reached them.

Apparently Jade didn’t find that reason enough to stop. Her fist and elbow struck him across his face and spun him violently away. He hit the ground hard.

Jhalla froze, “Jade!” she snapped.

Thalus grabbed the girl by the back of her neck and snatched her away from the dazed Kori. Jhalla moved quickly to stand in front of Kori as he shook away the shock of being hit and started toward the girl, now angered. Jhalla stopped his advance by putting her hands to either shoulder. “Kori, stop.”

“Why?” Thalus asked simply.

Jade continued to sneer at the boy, “He insulted me with that slutty smile of his.”

Jhalla gave a startled squeak when she realized that Kori had escaped around her.

“Kori!” Thalus barked maneuvering himself between the two Hiks, “Back off!”

Kori snapped in what he thought was Japanese, but he watched as Jade’s eyes went from smug to irate. She yelled back at him in the same strange language that had sprung from his mouth.

Jhalla snaked one arm beneath Kori’s and over the opposite shoulder arresting his movements before gently maneuvering him away from her husband and the seething Jade. Whatever Kori had said was highly insulting. She was going to have to ask him about it later.

“Shut-Up!” Thal bellowed. Jhalla smirked as both Hikarians became silent immediately, glaring at each other.

“Jade,” Thal started calmly, “Apologize now.”

She eyed him for a moment before looking at Kori again, “No.”

Thal closed his eyes, his grip on Jade tightening noticeably, “You attacked my help for no reason.”

Kori observed as her eyes lost their cheeky glare in realization that Thalus was right, but the growing smirk did nothing for the validity of what was asked of her.

“I’m —.”

“Screw you!” Kori snarled pushing away from everyone, “I don’t want your false apology.”

Jhalla glared at the girl before she rolled her eyes. “Kori.”

“No! I don’t want an apology from some loon who doesn’t think that what she did was wrong! It means nothing!” Kori swiped at the side of his face feeling the dribbling of blood from the gash Jade had given him.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Jade said matter-of- fact and grunted a bit when Thalus’ grip tightened more. “But I didn’t, he insulted me.” They all watched as Kori’s eyes nearly popped out his head.

“What!”

Jhalla had never seen an incensed Hik male. The tradition with Hikarian males was that their emotions were to always to be kept in check, at least in public. But Kori didn’t seem to care for tradition. The boy moved toward Thal and Jade causing Jhalla to actually get nervous at his next action. But Kori stood there.

“By doing what?” He forced through clenched teeth.

Jade gave a small laugh as she watched the male before her. He was beyond angry and not ashamed to show it, not typical of what she was used to. She almost didn’t know how to react. “Calm down precious.”

They all watched as the younger male’s face changed colors vibrantly. Jhalla wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to bodily grab Kori and carry him off. At the moment she had a gentle hold of his shirt to restrain him, but with that last remark she wasn’t sure if it was enough.

Kori’s eyes narrowed sharply and his lips became a thin line after pulling them in over his teeth. He clenched and unclenched his fingers, “…going for a swim.” He mumbled before snatching away from Jhalla’s grasp. He stormed off, gesturing wildly while he headed for the river.

“Why did you attack him?” Thal gave Jade a little shove.

She had the decency to give him a sheepish look, “I said he insulted me.”

Jhalla eyed the girl in disbelief, “How?”

“He assumed I was in a good mood,” She informed them, like everyone should have known better. Jhalla rubbed the center of her forehead in disbelief.

“Jade,” She started and then stopped, “Never mind.” She gave her husband a look and then headed toward the river after Kori. Thal wanted to call after his wife; he didn’t want to be left behind with Jade.

“Why is there a Hikari male working here!” Jade snapped at him suddenly. “They’re lousy excuses—!”

“Are you really going to tell me who I can and cannot hire?”

Jade quieted quickly at Thal’s cool tone. She looked at him before taking a deep breath. “Pin tao di-ma…”

“What?” Thal towered over her not caring for the whole situation as it was. She cowed beneath him, putting her hands up pacifically her green eyes wide.

“We wanted you to help him.”

“Do what?” She sighed resignedly.

“Find his lover. She’s been taken by some slavers…” he looked toward the river wondering what was going on.

“So he’s outspoken and has low tastes in women,” She laughed. She paused as the Exoan raised an eyebrow at her, “What?”

“Why do you say that?”

She got nervous, this had to be a trick question, “’Cuz the nearest slave compound deals in loborns and mutates.”

“Really?” Thalus was surprised to hear that, that meant that Kori’s lover was an excellent find for them. “She’s Exoan.”

Jhalla watched while Kori stormed into the river without removing anything but his sandals and he kicked those off with such venom she was sure he wasn’t going to be able to find them later. She watched in silence as Kori waded further into the water.

And then proceeded to go nuts.

Kori sent towers of water into the air while he kicked or punched the water. Jhalla couldn’t help the grin, he looked so ridiculous. She cleared her throat, but he didn’t seem to hear her.

“Kori.”

Kori stopped immediately. His shoulders dropped and he sighed deeply. Aloyce had been the only other person beside his dad that had seen him throw a fit. Without turning to face her, he watched Jhalla move closer to the river and sat down on a large protruding stone. They remained silent for a bit before Kori burst into laughter.

Jhalla couldn’t help but grin wider when Kori laughed whole heartedly, “What is so funny?”

“I just pictured the type of look on your face when you caught me throwing a TT.”

She tilted her head in confusion at another of his weird words. ‘TeeTee?”

“Temper tantrum.”

“Ah.” The both of them were silent again. Jhalla already knew that Kori was going to try to back out of going anywhere with Jade and spoke up before he could get his words together. “She’s your only choice.”

His smile shrank. “Thal said she hated males.”

“Hikari.”

Kori rolled his eyes, “Do you know why?” He watched as she thought it over. A breeze swirled around him, chilling him and reminding him that he was still standing in the middle of the river. He didn’t need to catch a cold so he headed for the bank. Using the edge of his hands he quickly flicked away the excess water on his arms after shaking his hair out.

“Familial abuse,” Jhalla finally answered.

He looked back toward the river and then at his hands. They had tanned since arriving here, but they were still lighter than Jade’s dark gold tone, “Ah.”

The silence between them was growing and making her uncomfortable now. Just as Jhalla started to get up he looked at her, a question ready but reluctant. The boy swallowed and tried to start again.

“Wh-why didn’t they take me?” He didn’t want to meet her look of surprise. “I mean, why just her? Th- the slavers, I mean. They didn’t give me a second glance before snatching her away from me.” His throat threatened to close up, “Why Aloyce?” The horrified look on Al’s face flashed through his mind.

Jhalla couldn’t help but feel surprised at this question. Kori was not a normal Hikari. She mentally went over all the weird things he had said and done since Thal brought him here. It was as if Kori had just appeared in that field from … another time or place.

“The Fire and Wind Regions are at odds with each other.” She answered. “Avians are arrested on sight as spies, most put to death. Controller Sajah is Exoan so Controller Kimino Nahla allows our enslavement. We think there was some disagreement between the two, but there’s no telling. Both women are ancient and known for their stubbornness,” She watched Kori’s face twist in irritation.

“Because of them, this has happened.” He mumbled

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?”