Shift World I Book III Prologue
by Christopher W. Gamsby
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A young teen boy sat on a lightly-stained powder-blue carpet with crossed legs. Smudges of dust from the Crossroad's rock streets smeared about the floor, creating clouds in the bright day. Hardwood legs sprung through the atmosphere leading to a tabletop overshadowing the scene. The boy sat rigidly to avoid coarse fibers from burning the back of his legs. The youngster couldn't completely control his growing body, and his rambunctious friend wasn't helping.
A long-haired puppy stood on its back legs between the child's knees. Two parallel gray stripes ran down its otherwise jet-black coat which resembled a pair of slashes running down the creature's ribs. The puppy pounced, its paws landed on the boy's chest, and it licked the lad's face between yaps. The boy received the puppy as a congratulations gift for becoming the youngest shifter in the known world. Although people felt that someone randomly became a shifter, his unusually young age drew his parents' admiration. His parents cautiously allowed one of the world's most influential shifters to become his master, but only when the man agreed to certain conditions. He taught their son about shifting and powers and allowed his family to live together in their world. However, the boy lived with his master in the Shift World.
The dog jumped back, growled, and pounced. The puppy nipped the boy and clenched its teeth as he tried to withdraw his hand. Saliva dribbled down the boy's palm. Despite sharp pains from the puppy's tiny, sharp teeth, the boy didn't bleed. The moment the puppy's jaw unclenched, the boy pulled his skin free. Unaware of any wrongdoing, the happy puppy barked, yapped, bounced on its hind legs, and licked the boy's face.
The boy shooed the dog with one hand as he pushed himself off the ground with the other. While the dog confusedly sat on the carpet, the boy reached onto the table and removed a pink square of cloth. He plopped with a low grunt and thud. The dog returned to hopping back and forth. The boy held out the pink napkin, and the puppy grabbed it instead of his hand. The dog growled, pulled back, and slobbered on the cloth.
"Don't do that to our good napkins!"
The boy looked up from his new puppy and turned a light shade of embarrassed red. His mother entered the room, carrying a pair of identical twin girls. The toddlers were just old enough to watch moving, talking people, and reach out for things. Still, they couldn't yet understand the living world or hold a conversation. The boy shrugged without thinking up any excuse that his mother would accept for his careless abuse of the fine linen. The woman looked to a man sitting at the main table. "Why aren't you stopping him?"
The man placed a pencil on a stack of ledgers towering on the table's center. A series of swirling lines, leaves, fruit, and other natural images lined the table's legs and the tabletop's edges. He sat back on a matching chair and sighed. "Well, I'm trying to keep track of stores moving between four locations in two worlds on virtually no sleep."
"So?" She peered at him through eyes with dark bags underneath all while bouncing a pair of toddlers.
"I'm sorry, you're right. Please don't use the napkins. There are some extra washcloths in the kitchen."
"Good enough, I guess." The woman rolled her eyes. The man laughed, and she smiled before continuing on to bring the children to their bedroom.
The boy rocked his body and threw the napkin on the table without getting up. Just as the boy's butt thumped against the floor again, his preteen brother walked in the room. His little brother had an unusual apprehension toward the puppy but pouted whenever the dog ignored him. He clutched a red leather-bound book as he scurried past the yapping dog. He sighed as he slid into a chair next to his father and laid his book across the table.
"What's wrong? You spend so much time reading that poetry that you've become afraid of every little thing?" The teenager clutched his dog as he mocked his brother.
The rebuke stirred anger in the preteen, and he lashed out. "I'm not afraid of your stupid, fat dog!"
The teen thought for a moment and rolled his lower lip, pleased in his decision. "You know, I think you're right. I'm going to call him Huskie from now on!"
Huskie grew to the size of a wolf by two years old and shook the whole bed when it leaped onto pelts covering a cotton mattress. The dog walked circles around the unflinching body of a teenager well into his mid-teens. Huskie stopped moving counter-clockwise around the boy, barked twice, and nuzzled him with his long black nose. The boy rolled over, and Huskie strolled clockwise around the static corpse, barked twice, and nudged him again. The teen rolled on his back, opened his eyes, and sighed. "Where did you even learn to do that?"
Huskie whined, hopped off the mattress, and stood at the door, wagging its tail. The teen stifled a yawn as he stretched. Over the last two years, Huskie woke its owner in an increasingly intricate ritual. By now, the teen couldn't even wake up without help. Huskie impatiently paced at the bedroom door until the teen stumbled over and pushed it open.
Huskie trotted from the room and paused at the sound of squealing children. Huskie's ears shot into the air, and he turned toward his attackers. A pair of giggling four-year-old girls grabbed onto Huskie's coat, and he pulled them around as they held on for as long as possible. The girls didn't age as quickly as the rest of their family of shifters, because their mother, father, and two brothers split their time between their world and the Shift World.
The girls released Huskie and bounded for their older brother. The teenager held out his arms, and his sisters latched around his neck, and he lifted them into the air. The girls giggled while the two spun and gripped him tighter.
The children's father cooked eggs and bacon for breakfast. Households traditionally burned softwood in a stone stove and cooked on a contoured counter. Once metal and hardwood became common commodities, kitchen equipment burned hotter and directly heated metal pans and trays. The family's matriarch addressed her husband. "Why do you still use that thing? Why not get a modern one? It will cook much faster."
"I like how these ones work. Plus, those pans lose a little something. It's not quite the same when you cook with metal."
"Still. Why don't we just get a second stove? Metal when we're busy, stone when you 'want a little something.' It's not like we can't afford it."
"It's not that we can't afford it. If we wanted, we could just hire someone to cook every meal, but don't you want to have a more normal life?"
"Having someone else cook all my meals is normal life!"
The husband rolled his eyes. With four shifters in the family, they were most likely the wealthiest family in the world, but he didn't want that fact to go to his children's heads. He turned to the older teenage boy. "Put them down, it's time to eat."
The teen stopped spinning and carried his little sisters to a nearby set of children's chairs, which stood a few feet higher than the adult chairs lining the table. The boy put his first sister down with an exaggerated grunt, and the twins giggled. He placed the second down with equal gusto, and half-jokingly wiped sweat from his forehead. Trying to play with twins as if entertaining only one child drained his energy, but he didn't want them to feel even slightly left out of the family. His worry that they might not be shifters fueled the insecurity, but they wouldn't know for years. The teen faced his little brother, who quietly petted Huskie under the table while reading through a volume of local legends.
"I'm surprised with how close you two are, you didn't ask for a dog of your own when you shifted. Just got more of those dumb books."
The younger teen looked up from his reading and thought about his brother's words. "Well, Huskie is here, and I got my books. So, it's like I got the best of both worlds. In a sense..."
"But he isn't YOUR dog. Huskie! Here!"
Huskie gave a confused whine but continued sitting under the table at his brother's feet. The brother laughed. "See, best of both."
The boys' father delivered plates of bacon and eggs. The little brother snapped a piece of bacon in half and sneaked a half under the table. The older brother shook his head with an annoyed expression.
"Tanager..." a quiet voice called out between light coughs. The young man gripped the girl's childish hand and gave a light squeeze.
"She can't be here right now. You can play when you are all better, OK?" The young man smiled for his sister, but he couldn't be sure if she even noticed it with her hard-to-read face. She looked like she tried to pucker but had such minuscule energy that her lips only slightly trembled instead.
"Huskie?" The girl rolled her eyes toward her brother, and he felt his teeth with his tongue as he thought of a response.
The boy reached his hand out to his sister's forehead, and it still burned. "Once your fever cools down, I'll let you ride around Huskie as much as you want. How does that sound?" The young man returned his hand to hold hers. The little girl's face relaxed slightly when their skin touched again. When he squeezed and released, her tiny fingers curled up slightly and fell back down.
"Go ahead and squeeze my hand." the boy urged his little sister. The girl's fingers curled a little further than before. Her fingertips chilled the side of the boy's palm. Her hand trembled at the strain and then relaxed again.
"Tanny?" the girl whispered out, but the boy shook his head. "but... I tried so hard..."
The boy caught his breath and tried to think of a response. The family decided to separate the twins to stop one girl from spreading her disease to the other. The girl's eyes slowly closed, and the young man leaned forward and placed his hand on his little sister's chest to check if she still breathed. Her sternum pushed gently against his palm but caught before breathing out. Her diaphragm jerked down in irregular contractions, and a slight wheezing whistle accompanied the expiration.
The boy gently rubbed her chest, and with a slight pat, the girl coughed with violent wet hacking. When she stopped, the boy reached to a cloth napkin on a nightstand. He held it to her chin, and she dribbled phlegm with a light pink tint from the side of her mouth. The door to the bedroom opened as the boy put the napkin in a pile of dirty cloth.
The young man's mother entered, carrying a tray with a bowl of soup and wooden spoon. The girl followed her mother with her eyes as she crossed the room. She looked too tired to move her head, let alone sit up. The young man stood, put a hand under each arm, and lifted her to sitting upright with her back pressed against the headboard. When he finished readjusting the girl so she wouldn't fall forward, he sat back down and retook her hand. A little distress left her face when his skin touched hers.
The girl's mother brought a spoonful of soup to her sweet daughter and gently tilted the handle to dribble some into her mouth. By the time the little girl sucked down half of a spoonful, she panted with an awkward mix of short, shallow breaths and wheezing. The mother might have considered stopping feeding her, but even after a week of partial feedings, the already thin girl had turned gaunt. If the mother abandoned hope, the girl would certainly have been in trouble. The mother looked to her son with wistful eyes.
Everyone at the family meeting discussed what could have caused the girl's illness. They only agreed on two things: she got sick from the family's vacation to the Creeping Ice, and each family member felt responsible. The family had ridden in a cart to a relative's house near a frozen lake. On the journey, the young man sat closest to the cloth flap that blocked the cold air outside. His sister asked to change seats to look at the landscape. The brother humored the precocious girl's curiosity, and now, he believed the flap's cold made her sick.
The girl's mother believed that she hadn't dressed the children warm enough, which made her daughter sick. The girl's father traveled with a minor cold, and believed he transferred a terrible disease. The middle child, the twin's older brother and the young man's younger brother, searched for a cure in every tome and sought wise men for treatment advice. The whole attempt bared no fruit, and he blamed her disease on his lack of knowledge.
A bang clattered from the little brother's room where he must have been restraining Tanny, the other twin. She was still too young to appreciate her sister's condition. Unlike her sick twin who could barely whisper a name, Tanny had been throwing temper tantrums.
"I think that I should let Tanager come visit, or we might regret it." The mother spoke without inflection, and Canary had no reaction despite having asked for hours. The mother numbly cleaned up the uneaten soup while the young man picked up his sister, who still lightly breathed, but felt even hotter. She hung half limply as he maneuvered her back under the bed sheet's.
The mother walked to the door, opened it, and passed outside. The moment the door shut, the tray and soup bowl crashed to the floor with a splash. A chair scraped back, and footsteps rushed to where a loud thump hit the ground. The young man's mother wailed, but his little sister didn't react. She gently turned her eyes to the young man, and with a pathetic attempt to raise her hand, started wheezing his name.
The young man, his little brother, mother, father, and surviving little sister stood outside of a stone door engraved with a 'JB' to represent the family's matriarch and patriarch. They huddled before the entrance facing a crowd of mourners dressed in armor, ceremonial robes, or fine clothing. A woman from the Creeping Ice stepped before the mourners wearing a bear-skin pelt poncho held together by straps of seal leather. Bars of sunshine steel, steel, and water-steel pierced the pelt, creating a beaded image of a lake-shore across her left breast.
"Tragedies like this befall the rich and poor, the cautious and carefree, the good and bad. A sick child is no longer certain death, but as the disease lingered, our worst fears unfolded. The child's energy returned to her ancestors' sky, and her body now returns to the soil. She will feed wheat that feeds the elk that feed the people. In that way, after death, she will do the good she can no longer accomplish in life."
The woman walked from the crowd, faced the child's grieving parents, and clasped their hands. Next, she grasped the hands of their eldest son and nodded to the massive dog resting at his feet. She gripped the hands of a younger teen, released, and sauntered past mourners.
A man in sunshine steel armor and a green linen riding cloak approached the mourning parents. "I'm so sorry for your loss."
The family's father couldn't even lift his head to make eye contact. "Thank you."
The man sighed and contemplated what to say but shuffled away after failing to think of anything to soothe the grieving parents. He addressed the elder son. "Take what time you need, and then, I will see you in the warehouse. Understood?"
The young man nodded. The next man in line wore leather armor covered with a white cloth under a seashell steel cuirass, hauberk, open face helmet, and chainmail leggings. A white coat with interlaced strands of seashell steel fluttered as he approached the group. His two apprentices followed on his heels, one a young woman in steel chainmail wearing a somber expression and a young man wearing wool.
"I'm sorry for your loss. At least her resting place befits her beauty in life."
The family's mother looked up from her husband's shoulder. "We built this tomb for our family. We thought that we'd be the first ones enshrined inside. We had no idea we'd use it so soon..."
The man nodded, reached out, and touched the woman's elbow. She smiled at the gentle contact, but then, her lips twisted to a frown, and she buried her head back into her husband's shoulder. The man let go and faced the young man who struggled to hold his head up. He tensed as the man spoke but raised his chin to defy the crushing weight of loss.
"I know the pain you feel right now. I've buried people as close as any blood relation. To me, they were barely older than children, and just as cruelly taken. I raised their little girl after that; watched her grow just as old as her parents. Now, she takes on their old responsibilities. She even has a kid of her own. I guess what I'm trying to say is that you should take this time to heal, and once you do, fight to make this world a better place. One day in the future, we may be able to stop sickness from ever killing. Dedicate yourself to creating that world for those who are left behind."
The young man's prideful front melted away to a dumbfounded appreciation. The man in white looked to a little girl who clutched at her father's leg. Throughout the exchange, she longed for her sister to help ease the grief. She stared at the crypt's door, waiting for her twin to emerge, but it didn't move, and she clutched her father's leg harder. The whole situation confounded the youngster's mind, and the young man didn't want any child to feel this pain again.
The young man had aged nearly a year between time spent in the Shift World and his world. He grasped his five-year-old sister's hand as they walked from his family's compound to a nearby general store where they planned to buy rice and vegetables for dinner. He was supposed to buy the supplies the previous day, but his training interfered. At least that's what he told his parents when he didn't show up with the food. Huskie walked next to the young man sniffing the ground. Dust from the nearby bakery filled the dog's nose and he sneezed.
Halfway between their compound and the general store, the little girl giggled. "When am I going to become a shifter?"
Her brother smiled wryly as he eyed a bin of ground flour affixed to the outside of the bakery's lightwood slat panels. Interlaced hardwood sealed with wax kept the powder contained. The recently imported bin contrasted starkly with the building's traditional lightwood structure.
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, you get something you want if you're a shifter, right? I know what I want..."
He sighed, squeezed her hand tightly, and tried using his most reassuring voice. "You know it doesn't work that way."
"I know. I just thought... maybe... never mind. It was dumb."
His eyes narrowed and then widened. He didn't know what fantasies overrode common sense in that little head, but realizing that the girl only mourned her sister for four months created immense guilt over his crassness.
"Don't worry. You're almost definitely a shifter! I was, what 12, maybe, when I shifted for the first time! You will be about that age too, and get whatever you want!"
The girl smiled while her brother indulged her. The young man and girl arrived at the store's open lanai. The region used lanais instead of doors to let customers access buildings since the area's flimsy wood cracked and splintered under the pressure of continually opening and closing. The young man side-stepped a crate of kale and approached the store's keeper. "The new counter looks nice!"
The storekeeper leaned against a newly built imported wood counter-top. The original store counter bent under the least amount of pressure, which made it more decorative than functional. Scraggly white eyebrows arched as he smiled through a well-trimmed salt and pepper beard. His body retained a degree of strength despite his old age because of the physical work of running the grocery store.
"Haha. Yeah. I can lean on this one and put containers on it without the damn thing buckling under pressure.” The storekeeper laughed and turned to Tanny, “Hi there, princess."
The little girl smiled and waved. The storekeeper knew their parents since childhood and felt a closeness to the children he saw grow every week. He opened a jar and removed a piece of candy with a slight orange tint. He placed it in the girl's outstretched hands.
"Now, don't tell your parents, or they'll be mad at me for spoiling dinner!"
The girl giggled and shoved the candy in her mouth. The young man laughed.
"That's easier than when I was younger! He used to have to wait until mother and father turned away to give me a piece! You have it so easy." The girl sucked on the sweet without paying attention to his words.
"We're here for the supplies I forgot to pick up yesterday." The man placed a wicker basket on the counter. "One ten-pound bag of rice and an assortment of vegetables? Please sign here."
The young man could have searched the contents to account for everything, but laziness overtook him, and he signed the manifest. In his entire life, the store owner only turned over the wrong merchandise a few times, and the young man didn't even know the exact order's contents. He signed the bill and picked up the basket.
"Wow! This is heavy!"
"It couldn't be more than twenty pounds. Don't be such a wimp." The man chuckled, and the boy's face reddened. He thought for a moment and came up with a better plan. He shifted the basket into the Shift World.
"I'll just get them once we get home."
"You, mom, dad, and big brother are always so amazing. I can't wait to do it!" The girl smiled as she watched the basket disappear.
The young man took his sister's hand and walked toward the exit. Before departing, the pair turned to the shopkeeper, waved goodbye, and headed out. The little girl almost skipped along as she matched her brother's strides. Although only slightly taller than average, he may have been a giant to a five-year-old. Huskie jumped in front of the pair and barked at a trash heap in the bakery's alley.
"Stop it!" the young man scolded. One time, Huskie ran up the alley and ate bread until he got sick. The boy wanted to prevent that from happening again.
A shadow traveled up the alleyway, and Huskie chased only as far as the alley's mouth. The little girl broke free from her brother's grasp, and he instinctively reached out but couldn't find her hand. He pulled back in a panic but relaxed when she arrived at Huskie. The dog stopped barking to face her. She petted the short, fuzzy fur around the base of his ears, and he yelped. This happy bark didn't resemble the defensive gesture of a minute ago but reflected the animal's acceptance of a baby in the pack.
Huskie and the girl ran circles around the young man as they strolled the street between their compound and the general store. After a few minutes, they reached the trade compound's outer wall. A 10-foot-tall lightwood frame holding hardwood planks extended 100 yards down the road. When constructed, the fence couldn't be anchored into the Crossroad's stone ground. So, when metal first arrived in the world, the wall's sheer weight and size let the compound's owners construct it on top of the ground to keep the compound safe. Although enough time passed since metal arrived in the world to replace the structure with a more secure wall anchored into bedrock, the compound's owners never bothered.
The trio reached the main gate where a pair of guards lazily leaned against pillars. One of them straightened at seeing people approach, but slowly sank back into apathy at realizing their identities. One guard gave a slight nod. The young man smiled and waved. One minute later, they passed a massive silk storage facility. Hardwood supports plunged into holes drilled into the Crossroad's stone. Two-inch-thick hardwood slats covered an interlocking web of boards built upon the supports. Workers buzzed in and out of a pair of barn doors, which remained open during the busiest parts of the day.
Workers in the compound operated in fixed groups of people, so workers in one group commonly didn't know anyone from a different cohort despite working in the same location. Their brother's group worked today, and except for him, the young man didn't recognize any of the shifters or warehouse workers buzzing around the building. After passing a series of smaller buildings necessary for running the compound, the trio arrived home. Huskie barked as they approached.
"Bring everything here!" As soon as they entered the cottage, their father's voice rang out from the kitchen.
The young man shifted the groceries into his hands, and his face slightly flushed. He had exercised in the Shift World to pretend he carried them the entire distance from the store. His mom and dad didn't like him needlessly shifting to accomplish goals he should be able to do without it. His father finished talking to their mother as the children approached.
"...all I'm saying is that if dogs really wanted to, they could take over the whole world."
His wife shook her head. "Where do you even come up with this stuff? and why?"
The mother and father's eyes softened as they viewed their little girl and gave her a big hug when she entered the room. They tried not to accidentally dwell on her dead sister, but every time they saw her face, the pain came back anew. The girl's father spoke as he retrieved the box from her brother. "How did everything go at the store?"
"Great! Mr. Tiron is always so nice!" The little girl smiled.
"Are you just saying that because he gave you a piece of candy?"
The girl's mother laughed. "She lies as well as you do, dear."
The father shook his head. "Some things never change, I guess. He used to sneak candy to your brothers all the time too. What's with that look? You don't think I knew? When I first moved here after becoming a shifter, he'd give me candy too. Apparently, the store had become quite famous for spoiling the children of its patrons. I guess you could say it became a tradition."
The children's mother nodded. "The same thing happened to me! Every time my little sister and I visited the store, she'd have a piece of candy or a little toy. I used to apologize so much before I found out they just gave small things away."
The father sliced the skins off of miniature red potatoes with a thin, convexly curved knife as he spoke. "Did you do anything fun today, baby?"
The girl thought for a moment and perked up before answering. "I decided I'm definitely going to be a shifter! I thought about my gift and played with everything I got!"
"That's great, baby, but you still have a long time before that happens."
The parents couldn't help but feel a pang of regret and worry that she might not make it to become a shifter. They pushed it from their minds, but despair still lingered.
A few months later, the young man stood in his family's warehouse, transferring goods between his world and the Shift World. The tedious work didn't allow for creativity or initiative, or challenge him in the slightest, but only a shifter could do it. So every shifter performed this duty at some point. He wore a full set of steel chainmail armor because his master insisted that he wore armor until he fought as well as The Whitecoat's apprentice. He carried a sunshine steel sword for the same reason, even though he couldn't possibly need to attack or defend while transferring goods between worlds. A pair of steel gauntlets laid across a nearby table to let the young man slide in his hands in the unlikely event his master returned. His master had commanded him to wear the cumbersome hand gear, but it made handling boxes awkward.
Huskie walked around, panting in the late afternoon's heat. The young man reached down, brushed around the dog's shaggy neck hair, and it barked and rubbed against his legs. The uncomfortable metal irritated the animal, so it laid at the young man's feet instead. After three years, Huskie became a young adult in his own right, but still acted like a puppy when it didn't get its own way.
The young man bent down, reached for a wooden ball, grasped it and stood with a light grunting pant.
"OK, boy. I got it." The young man threw the ball to the warehouse's corner. Huskie shot up to follow the clanking toy and almost bowled over a middle-aged woman carrying a crate of shirts. She brought the shirts to the young man and handed it over. The box disappeared as he brought it to the Shift World for storage. The woman walked back toward the shirt storage room. This time, she petted Huskie as he trotted back, holding the ball up high. The man removed Huskie's ball and threw it toward pants storage.
A teenage boy walked from the loading area dragging a large crate of clothing that, upon arrival, the young man put his hand on, and it disappeared. He held a bundle of assorted metal weapons wrapped together by a leather strap and handed it to the teen.
"Take this to the sorting room and then, go to bolt storage and get a large canvas bolt." Bolt storage consisted of a labyrinthine series of tunnels carved into the bedrock under the compound. When operations continually expanded, the compound's owners decided between cutting ever-expanding shafts to accommodate the growth or build more warehouses. The couple ultimately decided on the former, since worker's houses had already begun springing up in the area, which meant limited space for new development.
"You mean the kind that's for rugs and stuff?"
"No. The kind you'd use to make a tent."
The teen nodded and bent over to pet Huskie before heading east to the sorting room. The young man stretched, yawned, and looked down to Huskie, who sat on his hind legs, wagging his tail while holding a ball.
"You think we are going to have anything fun for dinner?" The young man bent over to take the ball from Huskie's mouth, but it fell out just before he grasped it. "Really, guy?"
A series of three quick clacks rang from outside —fire towers in the Crossroads communicated by slapping together two flat boards of softwood. The boards wore out quickly but could be heard for miles within the still air. Three more clacks intruded on their playtime, followed by silence.
"A fire?" The young man walked to the warehouse's open barn doors and surveyed the skyline. Smoke rose from his family's house, and he instinctively rushed to find out if they were safe. The young man sprinted through the streets, past his neighbor's houses, servant quarters, and sheds that held workers' gear. At his home, the outer hardwood shingles hadn't caught on fire yet, but smoke billowed from open windows. He heard the sound of a little voice coughing.
He ran to the door, kicked it open, and rushed inside. A flame hovered over the living room's ornate table, but it didn't spread like normal. Instead, it loitered on the table spinning in circles, almost as if it couldn't decide on the next path. The young man's sister laid on the floor, struggling to pull herself to safety. The young man bound for her, but the fire shot in his direction, striking the floor between the siblings. The young man fell onto his backside and stared at the licking flames. The table darkened as its surfaces singed.
The young man raised off the ground and drew his sunshine steel sword. He slid his left leg toward his sister and bent to reach her still body. The flames licked for him again, and he swung at it, but the blade passed through the air. Some of the fire lurched close enough to singe his chainmail. The flame recoiled and regrouped on top of the table before oozing down the leg to the floor. Something resembling a head with sunken eye sockets and a discernible nose protruded from the ball of flames creeping across the floor. The young man slid further toward his sister. She remained just out of reach. The little girl pathetically raised her hand and wheezed out her brother's name, "Timore!"
The flames double backed and shot toward the young man, but if he took the fire wearing his armor, he'd be burned to a crisp. If he dodged away, his sister would roast in his stead. He shifted to the warehouse in the Village of the Bog Djinn with a terribly un-thought-out plan.
A woman in the warehouse screamed and jumped back at the sight of a shifter from the upper world holding an unsheathed sword, covered in soot.
"Oh, no! What's wrong, Tomire? What's going on?"
Tomire, or Timore as he was known in his world, rose and faced the woman. Emotion and urgency made him bark his words, even though he meant to speak normally.
"Where's The Manta? I need his armor! I need his best armor!" He threw his arms to the ground as he shouted. "WHERE!"
The woman balked at the sudden demand. He completely lost control of his emotions, which made his shifting powers unstable and a bolt of energy shot from his hand. A wave smashed into the warehouse's floor and exploded loud enough for the whole village to hear the commotion despite most people already sleeping for the night. The woman dropped to her knees and clutched her chest, unable to breathe. Blood trickled from her mouth as she writhed.
Doubt, panic, and rage twisted Timore into a figure of desperation. A man who had been standing at the doorway flew from the warehouse and into the main village.
The figure pursued the man through the Village of The Bog Djinn.
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