Shift World I Book III Chapter 1
by Christopher W. Gamsby
Please use these buttons to change the Font Size on mobile!
A man crunched into a snow pile. Someone else landed on their feet nearby. The man wallowed like a tortoise on its back, trying to right himself. Snaps and pops emanated from under a light tan cloak that covered his body. His movements eased after every snap until he rolled onto his stomach. The panting man planted his feet into piles of powdered snow and pushed himself up with a final creak. The man threw off his cloak to examine the metal armor he wore underneath. Light gray plates stretched and dangled off his chest and arms. He firmly clasped a hanging plate and peeled the metal from his leathers like peeling dead skin from sunburn.
The man threw away the remaining pulp. Finally, he slipped a shield from his back, which somehow avoided severe damage. The man threw the useless armor, and its white seashell steel border blended into the tundra with nothing visible but an emblazon sunshine steel sun. The man slipped a yeti-skinned travel cloak back over his thick training leathers while eyeing an onlooker. A message pounded in his head 'Kill The Mandrake!'
"Who are you?"
The man removed a water steel helm. He looked older than a child, but still not fully a man. His plain, nondescript face puckered. "I'm called Timore..."
The man tried walking, but his feet clipped snow piles, and he sunk down to the frost. The man noticed he felt heavier and more robust than expected, and his body felt older. 'Kill The Mandrake!' pounded in his skull.
"Where are we?"
Timore picked up the man's discarded shield and surveyed the nearby area with a concerned smirk.
"Well... I'm not sure. The Creeping Ice, obviously, but..."
The man eyed Timore standing tall in a full set of water steel plate armor with white piping around the breastplate, greaves, and elbow's edges. 'Kill the Mandrake!' echoed in his ears, but its tenacity diminished.
"You have that type of armor, but don't have a title?"
Timore blushed. Black peaks towered beyond the horizon. His eyes darted from mountain to mountain to stall answering the question. The nondescript mountain ranges could provide relief from the biting cold. Timore frowned. The man thought about being caught deep in the tundra.
"Timore the Manta is my full title. I inherited the armor and name from a distant relation, so I don't feel comfortable using it."
"The Manta? I've heard that name before from my master."
Timore eyed the man. "The Whitecoat? You're The Saint's apprentice!? Nort the Paladin?"
Nort nodded, but the message 'Kill The Mandrake!' tightened his brow. He winced. "Who's the Mandrake, and where is my master?"
"I...don't know how to tell you this... but... he's dead."
"There was a... misunderstanding. My master and The Whitecoat's apprentice, The Mandrake, killed him."
As the realization sunk into Timore's bones, the arctic's frozen air bit into his flesh. The training leathers and light riding cloak could protect him from chilly nights in the Crossroads or The Whitecoat's compound in the Lush Forest, but being exposed in the Creeping Ice would be deadly.
"We need to head toward the mountains. If we don't find a landmark soon..." Timore continued, Nort was unhappy with the shoddy explanation but aware of their precarious situation. "I grew up in the Creeping Ice. The mountains act as sort of a refuge from some of the wind and cold. It might also give us an idea of where we are. It's not like I could recognize these snowdrifts."
Nort folded his arms and pushed onward. Timore caught up, and the pair trudged through the snow. Fog billowed from The Mandrake's helm. Energy drained from the effort, but the horizon drew closer. Within an hour, the pair arrived at a grove cutting through a natural valley. Warm air traveled between the mountain peaks, and cliffs forced it downward.
The pair collapsed in the valley. Chunks of ice melted from Timore's armor sending drips of chilly water creeping between the plates, burning the skin below.
"Once we thaw out, we need to keep moving. We can't stay here forever. If we wait too long, we will lose the energy to move."
"Hmmm... that armor must hurt to wear in all this cold."
"Does it show? It's not really insulated. If we spend too much time outside, the metal will probably burn my skin; even through my leathers."
"Where are we going to go? North or south?"
"South, I think. The Crossroads is in the south corner, and that's probably our best chance to leave the Creeping Ice."
Nort nodded as he slouched against the valley's warm onyx wall. The pair rested another ten minutes, but Timore fidgeted, paced, and couldn't sit still. Nort watched the strange routine. Finally, Timore's head shot up, and he stared at Nort.
"We should get moving. It will be sundown in a few hours, and we don't know how far we have to go."
Nort sighed and pulled himself to his feet. Before the pair attempted to leave the out-cove, a rattling sound disturbed the cold air's silence.
"Wait a minute." Nort froze and listened, but nothing happened. A warm breeze looped around the cliff-side, warming Nort under his thin leather cloak. The thumping sound continued. Nort and Timore headed deeper into the valley and found a darkened wood slat grate rattling over a small cave's entrance. Nort pulled it away from the wall, and it wiggled and bent almost like he had pulled off a door made of dried reeds.
Although hard to see, enough light flowed for the two to make out the basic shapes of objects, which felt like the bare minimum to start walking around the dark. Nort dreaded waiting until night to enter the cave with adjusted eyes. They were already dangerously cold in the middle of the day and couldn't wait until night if they needed to flee from something dangerous lurking inside. Nort took a deep breath to steel his nerves and walked into the black.
After four steps, he accidentally kicked some kind of boulder, probably one used for sitting on, and sheared the steel plate right off his toes. The steel did no good for someone like him, but if it stayed on, he might have been able to sell it later. He bent down to rub his sore foot and throw away the metal plate.
"Stop there." At Nort's beckon, Timore froze, drew his dragon fire steel sword, and assumed a defensive stance.
"What happened? Are we being attacked? Do you see anything?" Timore panicked, not even waiting for a reply after each question.
"No. If we wait longer near the door, we can let our eyes adjust." Nort shook his head at Timore's response to a calmly stated command.
"Oh. That actually makes a lot of sense." Timore sheathed his sword, folded his arms, and quietly looked around the interior.
"Hmm. It just felt like common sense when I realized it. Actually, I thought you'd scoff at me that you planned to all along." Nort also looked inside. The vestige of a firepit surrounded by wooden chairs started to form in the room's center. In the fringes, he could make out a rack that might have been for skinning animals or making tapestries.
"Common sense? You and The Whitecoat spent so much time wandering around in the dark that it would be obvious?"
"No. We never did anything like that at all. Actually, if we ever did, he would have told me to not go in unless he could start a fire so I didn't break anything, I guess." Nort's vision came into focus as much as possible, so he started toward the firepit hoping to find charcoal or hardwood.
"Seeing what happened to your armor when you got here, that makes a lot of sense. I can imagine his embarrassment if you stepped on an expensive statue, and it tore to pieces." Nort reached the firepit, and his heart sunk. Some kindling remained in a box attached to the pit's side, but he didn't see any fuel.
"I think we are going to have to wait overnight in the cold..." Nort gave an exasperated sigh.
"Do you even know what you are looking for?" Timore's reproachful sigh rebuked Nort. "Also, stand over there! I'll get the fire started and don't want you accidentally touching my armor and destroying it."
Nort skulked off. He had frequently heard orders not to touch valuables, but it still made him feel useless.
Timore felt the cave floor near the firepit's base, concentrating on where his hand made a slight scraping sound. After a moment, a three-foot by three-foot slate slid free. Timore's head lowered into the hole like he strained to see inside.
"There is only some lightwood left. I don't see any oil either. It will burn warm enough that we won't die, but unless we use everything up, we won't exactly be comfortable." Timore reached inside and pulled out several pieces of wood no thicker than a hearty stick and slightly shorter than his forearm. After arranging the initial pile, Timore stuffed cotton-like kindling between the arranged sticks. A pair of fire-starting rocks caught the material.
Fire engulfed the greasy cotton and spread to the sticks almost instantly. Nort started looking around the surprisingly well-illuminated room. Nort picked up a wooden shiv made of small pieces of intertwined lightwood sharpened to a point. It worked well enough against ambushed prey, but almost anything could easily avoid the awkward thrusts needed to land a lethal blow.
"I don't think anyone has been here in a long time."
"I agree, but why do you say that?" Timore casually asked while inventorying the remaining wood.
"This thing would probably be made out of a single hardwood piece or maybe even metal, if made recently. One small mistake and the whole thing falls apart, obviously not reliable at all. Why do you think no one has been here?"
"Pretty much the same line of thinking. A newer way station holds hardwood or maybe even coal for the fire. People don't risk themselves like this if they didn't need to. I wouldn't be." Timore let out a low laugh.
"I remember hearing from The Whitecoat that your family was from the Creeping Ice. Do you remember a lot about it?"
"He would talk about us like that?" Timore's face mask made reading his expressions difficult, but Nort guessed the question came from a place of surprise.
"No, not at all. He just mentioned it when we visited you for... well, you know." Nort wasn't sure if Timore's wounds still hurt and didn't want to directly bring up the funeral. Timore seemed to understand Nort's intention but didn't want to talk about it either.
"I actually moved to the Crossroads at a pretty young age, but we made occasional trips out here as a family. For around a year, I also acted as a sort-of-liaison between the different villages. That gave me a pretty good idea of what it's like, but I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination."
"Really? All I want to know is if you can figure out where we are."
"Well. It's possible if we're lucky, though the best case scenario we will only know how far from the Crossroads we are." Timore lit the end of a piece of wood as an improvised torch and walked near the entrance. He held the flame to a small engraving on the inside and frowned. "According to this, we are at the 30th safehouse. That means it will take at least a month to get that far. It might take longer."
"How much longer? What if we just skip over some safehouses?"
"I really hope you don't get us killed... There are 30 safe houses built by some ancient traders. More caves and houses dotted the highway now than when this was made. There will be times when we travel for six hours and find a spot to stay, and what do we do then? If we don't rest and miss the actual safehouse, we could die. If we do stop, we probably lost three hours of travel that day. Without finding any kind of map, it's not going to be worth the risk..."
Timore volunteered to take the first watch. Once the light dimmed, the fire guardian added more wood. Timore used to play with Huskie or sometimes, train him. Most people used the time while fire guarding to learn new skills. His brother, Biporn, used to read, his father, Birn, thought up recipes, and his mother, Jara, seemed to do something different each time.
Although easy work, since this cave only had lightwood, Timore worried that a bored Nort might just keep adding wood until the stockpile ran out. Hence, Timore volunteered to go first. Worst case scenario, they could start to burn furniture, which acted as emergency supplies. However, without furniture remaining, when a different set of desperate travelers came across the haven, they would freeze overnight due to the lack of fuel. Timore wanted to avoid such a meaningless loss.
Timore looked at Nort to make sure he slept. Timore never liked the moniker of 'The Mandrake,' so he didn't give it to Nort when asked his name and now felt glad he hadn't. With such a twisted look on Nort's face, he seemed to want something with The Mandrake, probably revenge, and Timore had to make up a story on the spot. Nort seemed to have believed him or found their situation too dire to concern himself with that detail for the moment. Timore now thought he needed to see just how much The Paladin could know.
He skulked to the cave's far wall and retrieved the morning shield. A shiver rolled down his spine. He didn't know why Nort from the other world decided to make that shield, but it became very worrisome to him and the other Followers of The Mandrake.
His companions became adept at spotting Karp's whip and Nort's shield. That helped them flee before needing to confront such dangerous adversaries. Even with so much caution, sometimes disasters like the Village of the Grain Fort or The Grand's Meadow happened. Since each encounter resulted in a complete loss, it took a long time to piece together something more was happening besides Nort and Karp being skilled fighters. They had no idea for the longest time that Nort simply nullified their powers.
Timore's allies tried to avoid killing as much as possible, but most people refused to give up their stored goods, and they ended up with no choice. Besides, his allies couldn't retrieve gems without death. When a shifter from his world touched people with the intent to kill, a swirling mass of white energy dispersed and solidified into a red gem. Back when his family still tried to be diplomatic, they talked to shifters about that phenomenon. But, none of the shifters from the Shift World understood their meaning. It must have been a power unique to them, much like whatever the Furies did in his world.
Timore grasped the shield and flipped it face down. A book nestled away into a lip that seemed specifically designed to hold it. Timore retrieved the journal and skulked back to the fire to try to read its contents. After sitting, he flipped through the pages. Incomprehensible scribbles filled almost every page. Timore couldn't read any of the many different scripts which had clearly been written. The pages toward the start looked so old that he wondered how the book hadn't fallen apart already.
Around the book's midpoint, Timore noticed some of the Shift World's script describing various creatures like light ravens or cows and their importance. A paragraph even explained dragons and the possibility of other monstrous creatures created by shifter magic. Further still, Timore read a description of shifter powers in general. The book described the abilities of shifters two world's away and the Shift World. A note in the margins read 'World 99's demons seem to have some kind of shield, but world 100's demons have a death touch. Other powers similar.'
Timore flipped through the pages to find the next section. A general description of the Shift World called it a 'medieval decentralized empire.' Without the rest of the book's context, Timore really had no idea what the description meant. He continued on, and in the last section, he found what he feared might be written, a description of the Followers of The Mandrake.
'The followers of The Mandrake are a group of shifters from world 100 who are intent on pillaging world 99. They killed The Whitecoat and countless others. We and Karp the Scorpion, his apprentice, have been hunting the members. Although named after Timore the Mandrake, he is likely not the group's leader. The group's numbers, leadership, methods, and goals are all unknown. If caught in world 100, do not trust anyone associated with The Mandrake.'
Timore glared at the sleeping Nort. Timore felt vindicated in withholding his identity and not telling Nort about the book tucked away in his shield. Timore's gaze moved from Nort to the light wooden knife and crept to the shiv, pulling it from the lightwood bench while eyeing Nort. Timore returned to his seat near the fire and reopened the book. Timore sliced out the page on The Mandrake with the shiv's sharpened edge. He cut close to the book's spine, trying not to damage more than that page. He required many passes, but it finally slid free. Timore balled up the paper and tossed it in the fire. After eyeing the shiv and Nort for a few moments, he bent down and put it in the firepit.
When Nort woke in a few hours, Timore would tell him that, mistaking the weapon for scrap wood, he put it in the fire. Hopefully, with Nort's trusting nature, he'd not question the lie. Timore didn't want to worry about being stabbed in the back if Nort suddenly remembered he was The Mandrake, which made the risk worthwhile.
Keeping the book around would be dangerous if Nort stumbled across it and read an unpurged page with text about Timore written in an unknown script. However, his family already did so much to Nort, that destroying the mysterious tome felt like an unforgivable sin. So, Timore returned it to the shield. He knew the best place to secure the shield and book if the duo could make it to the Crossroads.
The pair followed the mountains' shadows south to find protection from the bitter cold. Timore and Nort couldn't endure much more of the harsh weather. They found another thawed valley, but this time, slender pine trees thrived in fertile soil. With trunks as thick as a man's thigh, the trees grew twenty feet tall. Nort pushed one, and the softwood bent and returned straight when he let go.
Claw marks crisscrossed the tree's lower trunk with a sweet liquid crystallized around the gashes. Nort and Timore pushed further into the wooded valley. Trees trapped a warm breeze flowing in over mountain tops and down cliff faces. The pair warmed in the natural temperate pocket. A crisscrossed wooden grate with smoke wafting from its gaps leaned against the valley's back cliff face.
After removing the cover, light flooded the cave, which previously only scattered fires had illuminated. People obscured by shadows scurried throughout the open floor. Nort and Timore entered cautiously since they didn't know if enemies or friends awaited. A pair of hunters wearing wolf-skin pants and tops stepped into the budding light. The men hunched broadened shoulders in a subconscious response to armored invaders. They pointed steel-tipped spears toward Timore. He gingerly strolled back and raised his hands, palms facing the aggressors.
A growl reverberated around the stone walls. A black dog the size of a wolf bound between the hunters, almost bowling them over on the way to Timore. The barking dog leaped onto Timore's breastplate, knocking him over His metal exoskeleton crashed to the cave's floor. The dog shoved its muzzle into Timore's faceplate and licked the skin underneath. The bedazzled and confused guards fruitlessly eyed Timore's metal armor covered in chunks of ice. Next, their attention turned to the under-dressed Nort standing at the cave's entrance.
The older of the men looked at his younger companion, furled a scraggly white eyebrow, and then returned his gaze to the strangers. "Who are you, boys?"
Timore sat, found his feet, and pushed the dog away as he rose. The men eyed him as a serious threat until he removed his helmet. The dog wagged his tail, barked, and hopped around Timore's feet.
The younger man looked to feel a momentary flicker of understanding. "Timore?"
Timore nodded as he petted Huskie behind the dog's furry ear. The man continued incredulously. "But, you disappeared years ago when your family..."
The older man eyed his companion, but Timore nodded to indicate any rebuke wouldn't be necessary. Timore spoke carefully. "I was trapped in the Shift World after the Furies attacked, and ended up here with The Paladin, somehow."
The men glanced at Nort and noticed he only wore a set of training leathers with no protection against the cold. Embarrassed that they failed to observe beyond the situation's strangeness, the men finally appreciated their guests' dire straits. The older man approached Nort and clasped him by the shoulders. "I'm so sorry, Paladin, you must be freezing to death! Come in! Come in!"
Nort's face blanched into a mosaic of white and red splotches where he hoped the cold hadn't irreparably damaged his skin. The men ushered their shuddering guests to a smoldering fire enclosed in a round stone firepit. The older man waved over a pair of children huddled behind a stack of wood. "Here! Bring wood! Restart the fire!"
The younger man guided Nort onto a log next to the pit. Nort felt so weak that the man may as well have dropped him down. Glowing red embers eased some discomfort, but concern for his numb body override any potential enjoyment. Timore crashed in his armor onto a log near Nort, and Huskie shoved his head into Timore's lap but pulled away from the burning cold metal. Huskie pouted with his nuzzle toward the ground, eyes looking up at Timore. He paced toward Nort, whimpered, and then looped back. Nort surveyed the cave's interior while children busied themselves restarting the fire.
Shabby wooden dividers dotted the cave creating the only semblance of privacy. Families divvied up space the best they could, but everyone needed to share the fire's warmth while sleeping which meant it was still mostly connected. Nort still saw people huddled behind the dividers, peering through natural gaps. Elk, deer, or dogs rested on improvised straw beds piled in front of dividers. Huskie likely had been sleeping in a hay pile near his master, but the way he rested at Timore's feet made it clear that he intended to follow the boy who raised him as a puppy. An elderly woman trudged using a knotted wooden cane. She raised a gray eyebrow as she moved and looked to the older hunter who met the pair at the cave's entrance. "Bring them blankets and food."
The younger man stammered. "Baba Luan?"
The old woman looked at him. "We must protect the children of this world as though they were from our clan. This unity shall bring us to the times past the Furies. We must hold this bond, which those monsters can never overcome because they do not understand."
The young man sulked off to a partitioned area on the cave's far side. A few moments later, he emerged carrying a bundle of woolen clothing and approached Nort, who no longer shivered. The young man handed over woolen pants, a shirt, socks, and gloves. Nort stripped his leathers, donned the warm clothing, and returned the leathers on top. The young man looked at Timore. "I'm sorry, I only have one pair."
A young woman approached and handed Timore a similar-looking set with a tearful smile. "These were my husband's. He won't need them any longer. I think they might be a little too big, but..."
Timore reached for the clothing and nodded as he received the bundle. Timore set the package on a log near the fire. His fingers fumbled while trying to remove armor pieces in a vain attempt to wear the generous gift. "How did you end up here?"
Baba Luan nodded. "This answer stretches before the days of our fathers. Before The Whitecoat shone onto the world, we lived hard off of the land. The bending trees gave us life with the breath of fire. The snow preserved food and returned precious water as nature melted. The wolf and the bear ate our people, and sometimes our ancestor's energy returned as we consumed from the pack or the den."
People trickled from their hiding places and crept to seats next to Nort and Timore. A knife clanged against a wooden block as a man chopped a deer carcass near the cave's rear entrance. People listened as the wise woman continued her story. "Metal shone upon the world, and we left these ancestral halls to find our place beside the great thawed lakes. We hunted predators until we had extra pelts to trade our brothers and sisters for fish and rice. Our houses of rotting wood sheltered the body from storms and cold but blocked our hearts from community and love. Our ancestors abandoned us, and now we face nature's fury."
Nort no longer hid his confusion about how such a simple question became a flowing river of non sequiturs. "I'm afraid I don't understand..."
The woman nodded in the same way a parent might while trying to convince a toddler that touching fire would hurt despite knowing the childish mind couldn't comprehend even such an obvious state of the world.
"Yes, of course. Nature seeks revenge for our transgressions, and we must return the balance between our easy lives and the old ways. You see, our private homes offered no protection from the horrors to come! We stopped hearing from the Crossroads, but no one noticed for weeks that a problem may have formed. As we searched for knowledge, those we sent lost their way in the snow between hearth and answers. As nature's fury increased, the wrath closed in our sheltered houses. Friends disappeared under the white dust beneath our feet, dragged back to the earth to repay all we'd taken. Friends, family, loved ones, all stabbed beneath the white, but nature held its prizes. We fled from the rotting houses, back into our ancestral homes, and the Furies didn't follow. Look now! The Whitecoat's and Sunflower's apprentices return to us. A true gift out of respect for our piety. A gift I know will save this world."
Nort and Timore sighed at the almost prophetic way she described their coming. Ancestors, fate, or nature made no sense in their worldview, but they felt too polite to argue. Baba Luan seemed to appreciate the young men's humor. A few moments of silence passed, and Baba Luan rested in a seat of honor close to the fire. Huskie wandered toward the cave's rear, and Timore used the excuse to follow.
Huskie passed a man carving a deer and exited. He roamed concentric circles between trees in a glade cut through a natural valley. Warm air rushed down the mountainside and blew across his uncovered head. The breeze circled, blowing tree branches to and fro before the energy dissipated, and the area rested again. Huskie continued on to a little community garden being tended by children making a game of yanking out weeds.
"The small patch of arable land must have inspired the same joy in Nomads as an oasis brought joy to Clay Workers." Timore's observation sounded uncharacteristically poetic. Labels such as 'Nomad' or 'Clay Worker' didn't mean anything to the people in Timore's world. Nort guessed that having spent the last few years exiled from his homeland, Timore's mind adapted to thinking in that foreign way. People living in the Creeping Ice in his world might scoff at the idea of calling people by different names. Identifying yourself by one product would probably confuse those who lived in the desert, especially a product as dull as clay.
A girl no older than four, with blond hair hanging just above her shoulders, struggled to pull a particularly stubborn root free. Exasperated, she pouted and looked up from her task long enough to see Huskie bounding toward the garden. The girl smiled, laughed, and flung herself at the dog, who easily side-stepped her attempt. The girl had only one arm. The tale-tell signs of frostbite disfigured a stump. Even though she managed to flee from the Furies, she hadn't escaped unscathed from the perilous journey through the Creeping Ice.
Timore motioned to a woman walking between the sheltered valley and cave. She dutifully approached.
"That's from frostbite?" Timore pointed to the girl's stump. The woman nodded, and Timore continued, "Are the parents still here?"
The woman saddened and shook her head. "No, we've been watching her since her father passed in our village. The trip took her arm, but he got bit where we couldn't heal."
"Were they fleeing from the Furies?"
"Yes. That man is the one who warned us about the danger. If Baba Luan didn't believe him, maybe we would have ended up like the rest of the world."
"What did they tell you about the Furies?"
"A bunch of nonsense. They came from a village outside of the Crossroads. The kind of place covered in snow, but not deadly like out here. He said that they arrived at the Crossroads and found people panicking, running around with drawn weapons attacking strangers. They even attacked burning houses or puddles. He said they must have been poisoned or something but didn't stick around to find out.
"They turned and hightailed it out of there, but his wife got caught while trudging through the snow. She fought to free herself, but something dragged her under, and she screamed. Something gnawed her feet as she sunk. He tried to pull her up with all his might, but failed and lost her hand. After she got sucked underground, they fled.
"They got the warmest clothing they owned and headed into the tundra. They wandered from place to place, trying to get the people to take them seriously. Most people wouldn't. Near the Crossroads, the towns are close together, but not near our old village. If you don't travel the old village route, you don't make it before dark. Well, they were exposed to cold for three days straight by the time they reached our home.
"We couldn't help the man, so we heard his story before he returned to nature, and we stopped the death from spreading in her arm. After reflecting for two days, Baba Luan decided the community should move back to our ancestral home. We reluctantly dismantled the village, at first, at least. As we took apart the houses, others came with similar stories. We moved faster and came here to safety.
"The poor thing. She won't go near snow anymore. She will only work in the valley and rest in the cave. She is in a better mood now that nature has returned The Manta and The Paladin."
The woman left Nort and Timore to think about her words.
"We should go to The Whitecoat's compound to see if he came back as well."
Timore looked irked at how easily Nort seemed to be buying into the talk of nature or its will. "I told you, The Whitecoat is gone and not coming back. I saw him die myself."
"You say you saw him, but we came back! What if something similar happened?"
Even though he spoke quietly, Timore looked around to make sure he wouldn't offend any of the locals. "I don't know how much of that nature nonsense you believe, but we never died, just became trapped in the other world. The Whitecoat and Jorn both died, they aren't coming back."
"What about saving the world from the Furies? Do you believe that's not possible as well?"
"Possible? We don't even know what they are, besides shifters. How could we possibly beat them?"
"As we traveled together, I remembered you more. Not just from our brief meetings, but from reputation too. The Timore I knew was a coward who ran from problems. Is that still true?"
The jibe must have hit too close to home, and Timore scowled. He not only ran from training and work but ultimately from the enemy once already, and the world nearly collapsed. "Fine, we'll go to The Whitecoat's, but I don't think you'll find what you are looking for."