One late night one would find her on a journey, already 7 miles from her home.. Tucked between two tree trunks, Jadis gazed out at the moonlight field. It shone like silver, so bright against the dark bachround of the forest. She looked also towards the speckled sky, the stars looked like glitterthrown by a child onto black paper. It was a beutiful night, but the darkness held secrets
Pacing hastily along the highway, both arms loaded with suitcases, they were making her journey rather difficult. The weight of the suitcases were becoming unbearable, but she couldn't leave the things here. If someone found out about the contents, her journey would have been pointless. She regretted having made the decision, but there was no turning back.
Suddenly, headlights on the highway pierced Jadis's vision. The solitary hum of some vehicle moaned in her ears, approaching her.
When she uncovered her eyes, the outline of an convertible was before her. Its driver was a young man, with a smooth voice: "Need a lift, kid? I've got room for those bags of yours."
Jadis thought of all the precautions drilled in her head: don't talk to strangers, don't take rides from strangers...but her conscious was no match for her fatigue. "Yes, thank you!" she cried, calling him from his chariot to her aid.
"Name is Jerome Perkington, always soft for a damsel in distress."
The young man broke the ice as he lifted the bags into the trunk.
"You want the back or prefer shotgun?" He turned to smile at the small girl, who had already climbed into the front. "Well...guess that is that." He said as he shut the trunk."
"Where are you headed Jerome?" Jadis inquired as he returned to the driver's seat.
"To be honest, I was looking for some adventure, but I think I found it-"
"-Jadis. I suppose I found it. So what's your story?
Jadis squirmed in her seat. "Um...I don't like thinking about it," she said softly. "I just want to get away from my parents."
"Yeah? Ahh..." Jerome slammed the gas petal, thrusting them forward. "I can see that. Old man got his kicks off you, huh?"
"Hmm? Oh, no, NO! My father was a decent man. He wouldn't do anything to me."
"Oh." He shut up then, and Jadis remained silent. After trudging the countryside for over two hours, this was simply bliss.
"So you're just fleeing, right? Got nowhere else to go?"
Jadis hesistated a second. "I-I was thinking of moving in with my aunt in Thomsville, but...I've really never met her before, and-"
"Thomsville? You said Thomsville?" Jerome's eyes lit up as he spoke. "That's my next stop! A woman there told me she could hook up to this strange new land...I think that's what she said. What an adventure that would be, huh?"
Jadis became a bit alarmed. She had no idea that her aunt had informed other people of the new world. Frankly, she was a bit surprised to have found out about it herself. It was sheer luck that she stumbled upon the aunt's old notes regarding the location. Jerome, of course, took her reaction as a response to the proposal of a "new land".
"Yeah, I know it sounds a bit crazy," he admitted, "I'll drop you off before checking it out." Jadis played coy.
"No... no, it sounds like ... fun." Jerome raised a brow. "Yeah... I think I'll tag along with you for that." She did feel a little bad about playing this kind stranger, but she really needed to get out of "here". He seemed to already know her aunt, which was an easy way to get in with her, and already had knowledge of this place's existence. Aside from that, she knew what lied in the other realm, and Jerome might serve as added protection if not a distraction.
As they rolled on in silence, a sign lit up in the headlights. It wouldn't be long until they reached Thomsville. It was only a few miles away
"Hey! Hey, Jadis! We're here, kid!"
Jadis felt her side being jabbed and awoke reluctantly. Before her was Thomasville-which wasn't that different from her hometown. Just a few crumbling houses, maybe one vandalized convenient store, and that archaic pub...like all the other towns on the Amber Plains, this one, too, was utterly lifeless.
Jerome's car had been parked in front of a house. It was one of the few here with glass on the window panes, or a door still on its hinges. As Jerome strode out of the car, Jadis began to wonder if he came from the plains. Maybe he had some secret he was running away from, too. Why else would someone seek adventure?
Nevertheless, Jadis dragged her things out of the car and followed after Jerome. She swelled with anticipation as Jerome knocked upon the door..
…And that anticipation slowly faded to disappointment as nobody answered the door after repeated knocking by Jerome.
“Guess she’s not home,” he commented. Then he tried to open the door and was surprised to find out it was unlocked all along. “Wha?…”
Jadis meanwhile tried to look in through the windows, but they were covered in too much dust. Giving up, she turned to see Jerome stepping into the house.
“H-Hey, wait!” she called out. “Are you sure it’s OK to just walk in to somebody’s house when nobody is home?”
“I’m sure everything will be all right,” Jerome responded. “We can just get in, rest until someone comes, and then explain everything.”
“Oh…okay,” Jadis said, as she followed him into the house.
The inside was not much more appealing than the outside. Dust lined much of the few pieces of furniture scattered around the place. It was just a one-story house, with only three rooms to it. There was one room with a neatly made bed and a blanket draped over it, most likely the bedroom. Another room had a rather rusty sink, oven, and stove, making it seem like the kitchen. Finally, the main room had a bench wide enough for three, a couple of stray wooden chairs lying around, and a wooden table. The table was curiously more recently used than the rest of the furniture, for it lacked the lining of dust. Jadis guessed that whoever lived in the house was probably working on something on the table, although what it exactly was she didn’t have a clue about. She decided to leave her stuff on the table and then go sit down on the bench.
Jerome had gone to take a quick look through and around the house, and came to sit with Jadis a few minutes later. A bit uncomfortable with waiting in silence, Jadis decided to probe the young man’s knowledge.
“So…what is this ‘new land’ you talked about?” she asked.
“Huh? Well…I don’t really know too much about it, myself,” Jerome answered. Then his eyes lit up as he continued, “But that’s what makes it sound like an adventure, doesn’t it? The fact that the land is a mystery and can be explored.”
“I see…” Jadis said. Then she asked, “Is there any reason why you are looking for adventure?”
“Heh, I just want to spice up my life, that’s all,” Jerome replied. “Otherwise, everything would just be too boring, you know what I mean?”
Jadis nodded, although she wasn’t too sure whether to take his explanation at face value. Then again, she wasn’t sure whether Jerome knew about the dangers present in the other realm when he mentioned his idea of adventure.
Just then, the two were startled by the sounds of someone opening the door
A figure donning a black suit crept through the door and jumped when he saw the pair already in the house. The suit was not formal wear or in any sense dress but more of a uniform or jump suit, complete with a black cap and dark glasses.
"What are you two doing in here?" he snapped with some authority. Jerome took a side step closer to Jadis, putting his arm around her.
"We live here, what do you think?" he sharply retorted, attempting to make himself and Jadis look like a couple of some kind. Despite the shades, he could feel the doubting glance from the entering man. "So, just who are you, and what are you doing here?"
"Well, sir," the mysterious individual answered with a cruel tone, "I received a... complaint from this location. I am just assuring that everything is within order."
"Funny," Jerome inquired, eyeing the man suspiciously, "you don't look like a cop." The man lost more of his patience.
"You live here, you say?" he dodged the question. "Sure are letting things slide around here. This place is a mess."
"We just got back from a long trip," Jerome coldly stated as the two exchanged a fierce stare, each knowing the other was lying. "We haven't had time to tidy up is all."
"Okay, sir," the man in black said, turning to leave, "if everything is in order, I guess I can leave you be." Jerome made sure the suspicious person left the property. When he got to the street, a black van picked him up and drove off. When the door opened for his entry, Jerome could see several other men, identical in garb to the one, inside. Before the door closed, the man a circling motion with his finger.
"I have a bad feeling about this, Jadis," Jerome admitted, squinting through a patch he rubbed on the dirty window. "A bad feeling in a good way." Turning around, he looked about to find himself alone. "Jadis?" A faint light could be seen emitting from the next room. Concerned, he dashed to it to find his passenger leaning over one of her opened briefcases. He could not make out anything in the room except for the darkness and a growing light. "Jadis!" As he threw his hand upon her shoulder, a bright ball of light consumed both of them. When his eyes adjusted themselves, he saw that they were not where they were before
Trees towered high over Jadis and Jerome's heads. Unlike Amber Plains, the air around them smelt and tasted fresh. A pristine lake up ahead glittered from the streaming moonlight, reflecting the duo's image with the clarity of a mirror.
"Wha...is this the place?" Jerome, despite his outgoing manner, could only whisper in awe. Somehow, every object glowed faintly.
Jadis glanced around herself; all her luggage had been left behind. "Yeah...I brought us here," she replied softly. "I've always had one half of this jewel, and...my aunt had the other half, I guess." She sounded modest, but in truth she knew far much more about the jewel. Her parents would hide it from her, because she knew so much...
"Oh, that's right. That woman mentioned a jewel. Said she could take me, but it would be risky." Risky indeed, Jadis thought. "Well, nothing can go wrong now! Let's go." With that, the fearless Jerome began to walk. Jadis almost protested his carelessness, but she realized there would be no point. She followed, with no doubt in her mind that trouble lurked closeby.
As they passed the lake, the man in black stared up at them from the water's surface...
Suddenly, Jadis' eyes turned back to the lake, but all she saw was the moonlight reflecting off a couple ripples in the lake.
"Something wrong?" asked Jerome, looking back at his companion.
"It's nothing," responded Jadis calming down a little, "I just thought I saw someone there."
"Yeah, it's probably nothing. Anyways, let's get going," commanded Jerome quickly as he dissappeared amongst the trees.
The duo had been walking for a couple hours when they found a clearing amongst the forest around them, a rather large clearing. In the center of the clearing sat the remains of a recently used fire, and animal bones were lying scattered around the circumfrence of the extinguished flame.
"Someone else was here recently," observed Jerome, his eyes suggesting that he was deep in thought.
"Maybe my aunt came here using her half of the jewel?" suggested Jadis. Jerome responded by muttering something, but all Jadis caught were the words, "probably", and "without me".
Suddenly, the man looked up and yawned.
"Should we get some rest?" asked Jadis. She too was having trouble keeping her eyelids open.
"Yeah, sure," agreed Jerome, looking around the clearing for a comfortable position.
"Umm, shouldn't one of us be on lookout while the other sleeps?" suggested Jadis, Jerome's carefree attitude once again becoming nerveracking.
"Alright, I'll guard first!" exclaimed Jerome, the quickness with which he responded somewhat suspicious. Jadis found herself beginning to doubt her partner, a surefire sign that something along this trip was bound to go wrong.
"Fine," she relented, making herself comfortable on the cold, hard ground. That troubling feeling that she was being watched returned to her once more before she finally drifted into deep slumber, her need for sleep far outweighing both her troubles and the uncomfortableness of the earth beneath her
Jadis awoke to a bright morning, with sunlight streaming into her eyes. Squirming around to avoid directly looking into the sun, it took Jadis a while to realize something wasn’t right.
“Jerome!” she cried out.
“Huh? Wha?” Jerome sleepily replied, having been awoken by Jadis’ cry.
“Jerome!” Jadis exclaimed again upon realizing he had been sleeping. “You were supposed to wake me when your turn was up!”
“Huh?” Jerome was still half-asleep.
Jadis jumped to her feet in alarm and looked around the clearing. Nobody else was around, and the clearing was in pretty much the same condition as it had been during the night. Nevertheless, Jadis had trouble calming her rapidly beating heart.
“We could’ve been in danger…” she muttered to herself.
“Hey, Jadis,” Jerome said, getting up and walking to her. “Something wrong?”
Jadis sighed, still trying to calm herself. “I guess it’s just my paranoia,” she replied to Jerome, realizing that her concerns probably wouldn’t register in his mind as important.
“Jadis,” Jerome began in a suddenly different tone with a smile. “You seem all stressed out. I think you need to chill a little. It’s not good for your health, you know what I mean?”
“OK…” was all Jadis could muster herself up to say.
“Anyway, let’s go find something to eat first, and then we can explore this place!”
Jadis suddenly realized she was very hungry, and she replied, “All right. But how are we going to get food?” She herself had never been in such a situation in the alternate realm, and all she could think of from recalling her aunt’s notes was the existence of another civilization in the realm.
“Hmmm. Good question. I suppose we could try to find out who else was here recently,” Jerome answered, gesturing to the bones.
“Whoever was here may have gone anywhere into the forest,” Jadis said.
“Yeah. But we won’t get anywhere just by standing around here. In we go!”
As Jerome marched playfully into the forest, Jadis contemplated utilizing the power of her half of the jewel to get out of the place. Just as she had used it to bring Jerome and herself to the new land, it was possible to use it to get back to the real world. However, she knew that there were many risks to using the powers too often. Countless risks, in fact, only some of which were detailed in her aunt’s notes. Jadis shuddered at the thought, and quickly decided it would be better to follow Jerome and see if they had any luck at running into her aunt. Aside from that, she had brought him with her into the new realm for a purpose.
While Jadis followed Jerome out of the clearing and back into the forest, she suddenly stopped and turned back. The same troubling feeling that she had felt the night before had returned, but she saw nobody else. Fear renewed in her heart, Jadis ran to catch up with Jerome and they traveled deeper into the forest
As Jerome and Jadis left their campsite, a man in black robes appoached it. He peered through his hood at the scene, checking that no one was here. Nothing was out of place, but...the man had heard voices. "Any intruders will perish," he muttered, "as the gods' will states. But I'll decide who lives or dies..."
Silently he walked to the lake. When he stared at it, his reflection faded away, revealing a man and a girl. "That must be them. Must be newcomers..." He looked up to the moon and sighed. "...as I once was."
"Man! This place keeps on going!" Jerome stopped and examined the three paths before him.
"It seems like we've been here," Jadis observed. She stood near a
tall tree that looked vaguely familiar. It was very possible that the forest would keep looping until they found the right way. "Let's try a different path."
"Whatever you say," agreed Jerome, and he started off to the right. The girl followed wondering if her aunt's notes mentioned-
Suddenly, a curved blade was at Jadis's neck. "Jerome!" she cried.
Jerome turned at the cry. A black-clad figure had hooked the girl with his scythe. "There's nothing stopping me," he remarked coolly.
"W-what do ya wnat?" Jerome stuttered, losing his careless demeanor. Jadis closed her eyes in fear.
There was a chilling pause. The kidnapper's scythe trembled in his grip. "...and nothing forcing me..." Blood trickled off Jadis's neck.
Jerome stood shivering, utterly useless in this one-sided standoff. "L-let her go!" was all he could think to say, and none too strongly, either.
"...I can't." The scythe fell from his hand, and Jadis nervously opened her eyes. "Newcomers like you get a cold reception here. I know that firsthand."
Jerome was speechless, so Jadis spoke for the duo. "Thank you for letting us go, sir. But...are you saying you're..."
"30 years ago, yes, I was in the 'real' world. I have not aged, only withered. Enough of me; I'm a sad existance. Allow me to show you the way..."
"I do not believe you shall be doing that, my disciple," a voice rang from behind with a familiar ring. "Unless you are showing them to way to their death." The three turned about to spot a man dressed in a black jump suit, just as they saw before. The cloaked man immediately dropped to his knees, sinking down further than even that until he laid flat on the bare ground.
"My Lord, I did know you were present," the robed man humbled himself, "else I would have honored you sooner."
"You are forgiven, child," the standing man stated without a single movement on his rigid body. "If you wish to honor me, you may dispose of these... vermin. They are not welcomed in our world."
"If it is the gods' will," the cloaked man started.
"And we wish it," finished the man in black. As mysteriously as he appeared, the man was already gone.
"I must apologize to the two of you," the hooded man told as he rose to his feet, "but what the gods' will cannot be undone, and I must do what the gods' wil-" A loud thud landed him back onto the earth as Jerome planted a solid kicked on the side of his head. His quick, reckless actions overwhelmed him and continued to as he grabbed Jadis' wrist and dashed off.
"Hey, wait, what are you doing?" she demanded while trying to keep from tripping over the ground to match his pace.
"What does it look like?" he rhetorically put. "I'm getting us the hell away from that maniac."
"But to where?"
"Does it matter?" he replied between pants. "It's not there." The image of the two dashing across the lush, green landscape rippled in a pool of water as they were being watched by a small group through a stone well.
"This is unfortunate," one of them spoke.
"An unforeseen event," a second stated. "This is not typical."
"Why was there coming not foretold? Where was their herald?"
"This was not within our control," yet another spoke. "The female possesses the other half of the crystal."
"Could it be? Is she in league with our nemesis, the one known as Jadis?"
"Do not speak that name in this sacred hall," hissed the first. "Such is blasphemy.
"Regardless, this new threat shares the same name," the third stated. "They are undoubtedly working together to overthrow us."
"Your paranoia is unfounded at best," spoke the second. "Why basis do you have to this belief?"
"For I have seen it," boomed the voice of the man in black, who had just entered the dark room. "I have seen the face of this enemy myself, and I would have sworn I saw the face of the Nemesis before me. This problem must be dealt with immediately."
"If you feel so strongly upon it," the second rationed. "Let us commune upon the matter. But, please, remove your revolting form. It sickens me."
"My apologies," the man in black offered with a bow before losing his human form and becoming something beyond the comprehension of man. Joining his brethren in the circle, they fell into a deep trance as the matters presented were analyzed deeply.
"It is agreed, then," spoke the first after the ritual was complete. "The intruders must be destroyed at all costs.
Jadis and Jerome ran through the forest in search of safety.
"Can you get us out of here?" Jerome asked between his panting breaths.
"I think its safer here, even with those people after us.
She replied while trying to keep up.
"I think I see a tree we can climb up!"
"over there, past the muddy area" he said while pointing at their destination.
When they were at the tree, Jerome picked Jadis up and raised her up, where she found a strong piece of wood and moved herself upward higher into the tree.
Jerome followed quickly, unsure if they were being followed closely.
When Jadis and Jerome had caught their breath, Jadis broke the ice. "whats with all this god buisness?"
"How should I know?" Jerome replied deep into thought.
"we still have to find something to eat.. I cant think when I'm hungry"
"alright, do you know how to find food in the woods? I dont" Jadis replied.
Looking around, Jerome saw mushrooms nearby and knew how to find out if they were poisonous. "stay here, I'll find us something"
"alright" Jadis stated while trying to recall anything useful her aunt might of told her.
After making his way down the tree. Jerome walked over to the mushrooms by a tree not too far away. When he bent down someone pulled him behind a tree, The unknown person grabbed Jerome's hands and held them behind his back and with a rock, knocked Jerome unconcious