Shift World Chapter 5
by Christopher W. Gamsby
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Karp dropped her spear, removed her helmet, and threw it into a bunch of practice staves that then crashed to the ground. She dropped to her knees, placed her hand in the dirt, and impotently punched the ground. She hesitated, and tears rolled down her cheeks.
˝Did something happen?”She patted the ground until she found a spear and raised its tip toward Wili.
˝what are you doing here?”
Wili lifted his hands, palms toward Karp, and waved them as if trying to shake away any allegations.
˝I was here asking for help, and you refused, and then we were in different places. You threw the helmet and...”
but i came and left, and he wasn’t here... is time skipping? something like that?
˝how come you always show up at the worst times?”
˝So will you...”
Karp’s own brash answer and intense voice shocked her. She sat trying to calm herself.
˝listen, my master was just attacked by two powerful opponents. i need to train and find better equipment if i’m going to save him and nort. understand? i don’t have time to help you find your book.”
˝Yeah but, but...you might find what you’re looking for in the book.”
˝how? what’s that book about?”
˝I don’t know... I just know that I need to read it.”
Karp returned to her feet and inventoried the pots that lined the storehouse wall. Under normal circumstances, the dried and preserved foods could last a year. Tightly rationed, the contents could last eighteen to twenty months. Karp carefully weighed her options.
˝What are you going to do?”
˝there are ruins northwest of here, along the mountains. i was exploring those before our first run-in and stopped coming back here. i’m going there. going to explore the houses and the large run-down keep. don’t get excited, that big tower isn’t there.”
˝I’ll go with you.”
˝if i ration my food carefully, it might last a year and a half. with you in tow, it probably won’t last six months. why should i?”
˝Well...I can help with guard duty! You’re looking for weapons, right? I can carry the extra you find. If you want to train, you’ll need a partner, right? Plus, uh, it will be safer too?”
Karp looked him over. He wore tight leathers that didn’t cover his whole upper body, and he carried no weapons.
˝safer? can you even fight?”
˝I don’t know... I don’t think so...but I can learn.”
Karp sighed because Wili’s answers did not fill her with confidence.
˝so you’ll be a pack mule, punching bag, and alarm?”
Karp didn’t like the idea of having a tag-a-long, but she also didn’t want to spend months wandering the desert alone. Even though Wili seemed incompetent, Karp felt an inexplicable sense of familiarity and trustworthiness with him.
˝fine, but you can’t travel like that. you’ll get killed at the first stop.”
Karp motioned to Wili, and he followed her to a small cabinet where she removed a set of Korg’s training leathers. Next, she looked over an iron hauberk, compared it to Wili, and widened the hip and shoulders. Wili took the hauberk, leathers, and an iron helm. Karp walked to a large cabinet, withdrew a pair of steel gauntlets, and slid her hands inside. She then picked up the knocked-over staves, found her helm on the floor, and returned it to her head. She removed a steel and wood staff that was mixed in with the bunch. She picked up the guard spear, gave it to Wili, and motioned for him to get dressed in the back room.
Karp removed two folded canvas bags from the large center cabinet and poured a jar of food into each. She shook two large hollow gourds to verify they could hold water and then affixed one to each bag. Karp shoved a bag into Wili’s chest as he exited the back room.
˝it’s morning now, and we can probably reach the safe house before dark.”
˝What happens if we don’t make it before dark?”
˝i’ve never cared to find out.”