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