Shift World Chapter 6
by Christopher W Gamsby
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Karp shifted back to the town square in a full set of sunshine armor with her whip on her side. She faced the figure and The Sunflower, who both stood aghast, exchanging looks in between staring at Karp. The Sunflower dropped his riding cloak and drew his sword. Karp's eyes never left her opponents, assessing every move they made. Karp spoke too low for her enemies to hear but loud enough for Nort.
˝listen. the moment i start toward them, run away.”
Nort went to speak, but Karp sensed his hesitation and interrupted him before he could even finish his first word.
˝just do it.”
Karp darted forward, drew her whip, and squared off with the figure and The Sunflower. The pair separated and strafed in opposite directions to flank Karp. She shot the whip's blade at The Sunflower's outer shoulder, and he dodged toward the figure. The whip's blade lashed at the figure's chest. He raised his hand to catch the incoming blow, but with a twist of Karp's wrist, the water dagger drove down and connected with the figure's thigh. The blade couldn't penetrate the water steel plates, though, and slid off, only leaving a scratch. The whip continued along the ground toward The Sunflower's legs, and he jumped toward the incoming whip and rolled. The blade shot skyward and cleaved a section of chainmail on his back. The Sunflower retreated from the whip's range.
Karp continued assaulting the figure. He was not agile enough to dodge the blade, and Karp landed blows on his legs and upper body, but the glancing scrapes couldn't penetrate plate armor. The Sunflower sheathed his sword, removed a gauntlet, and raised his palm. His face twisted into a scowl, and his arm tensed in the air as he concentrated.
Crowds that had gathered around the square again distracted The Sunflower, and he relaxed. Karp swapped the whip's handle to her other hand, drew a knife from her buckler, and threw it at The Sunflower’s outstretched hand. He noticed the incoming blade a second too late. The blade cut along his palm as he withdrew his hand. Karp switched the whip back to her right hand, but the figure was now too close for Karp to effectively attack with the whip's blade. So, Karp wrapped the strap around the figure's legs and pulled. She dropped the handle as the figure fell and ran for The Whitecoat's quad-helix staff.
The figure reached between his legs, and the whip snapped in his glowing clutch. Karp looked at the store's entrance and was relieved to see that Nort had fled. Two store guards were standing with a noble's child. Karp knew it was a noble's child because the child wore mismatching armor which was too big. Karp shouted to the guards.
˝FIND NORT! PROTECT HIM!”
The figure ran to Karp, but fatigue was making his movements sluggish. Karp swung the quad-helix staff at his thigh, and the plate armor bent in under the blow. The figure fell to the ground, screamed, and clutched his leg. Although any individual whip strike didn't produce much damage, the constant barrage of little gouges severely weakened the metal. Karp looked around for The Sunflower. He had headed toward the general store.
The guards at the store ignored her order to find Nort and were protecting the lordling instead. Karp didn't know what reward they expected, but she knew their defiance was going to cost them their lives. She ran to intercept The Sunflower, and when he noticed, he ran as well. In a last-ditch effort, Karp hurled the quad-helix staff. The staff slid between The Sunflower's legs, and he tumbled. He froze on his back with the staff stuck between his legs. He still hadn't moved when Karp got to him. She cautiously clasped the quad-helix staff with both hands. The Sunflower came to life and grabbed her left gauntlet. Karp slid her hand free and pulled the staff with her other hand. The Sunflower sat up and crumbled the gauntlet in his clutch.
The Sunflower then rose and drew his sword. Karp was on the defensive, blocking his incoming sword strikes and waiting for an opening. The figure finished fixing the plate on his thigh and ran by Karp with a slight limp. The figure approached the guards, but Karp was powerless to help them until she dealt with The Sunflower. She parried flawless blow after flawless blow, but the previous champion of the emperor's tournament was showing how he won that title. The figure had already reached the guards by the time Karp had an opening. The Sunflower hesitated to steady himself after a slight misstep, and in that instant, Karp swung her staff upward to his chin. The Sunflower left his feet, spat blood, and lost two teeth when the staff connected. Karp threw the quad-helix staff at the figure but missed, and it slid past the guards.
The first guard leaped forward, and in one smooth motion, the figure cut through the guard’s spear and chest. The second guard forced the figure on the defensive. That guard swung and swung. The figure blocked every blow and soon just cut the head of the spear clean off. The guard turned to flee, but a sword flew past Karp and into the guard's back the moment he turned away. The Sunflower cursed and punched the ground. Karp threw a knife that ineffectively bounced off the figure's water steel plate.
One last desperate idea came to Karp.
if they can use powers, why can't i?
Karp raised her hand as she ran. She willed the heat of her body into her palm, but nothing happened. She concentrated and ran harder as the figure approached the noble's child. The figure lifted his arm. Karp closed her eyes, her breath stopped, and she felt a powerful shock wave leave her hand. An explosion louder than anything she'd ever experienced deafened her. Fatigue took out her legs, and she dropped to her knees. She felt guilty that she probably killed the lordling with the figure, but she was relieved that at least Nort would be safe.
Karp panted in a cold sweat. A cacophony of debris crashing to the ground drowned out all other sounds in the world. She had never before created such a massive shock wave, and the burden was immense. Her entire arm shook when she moved her hand. After the sound of falling debris had finished, footsteps approached. They were barely audible and seemed so silent compared to the explosion. Karp tried to stand but faltered and crashed to the ground. The ground felt strange in her bare hand. Smooth grainy sand had replaced the road's packed dirt. Karp opened her eyes, but the world blurred. A man wearing armor approached her. In her current state, she couldn't recognize him. Soon she lost the energy to continue raising her head. The world spun, and Karp gently lowered her head and slept.
Karp woke several hours later and felt hungry, thirsty, and sore all over. Her head pounded, and she was nauseous when sitting upright. She lay in a ring of stone, and Wili sat at her side, intensely staring into a book.
˝so, is the book worth all the trouble?”
˝It's hard to read, but the more I look at it, the more I understand...”
˝what are you talking about?”
Wili handed Karp the tattered journal. She didn't recognize any of the writing as she flipped through the pages. The closer she looked at it, the stranger the characters appeared.
˝it's almost like that book is written in two dozen languages.”
˝I get the same feeling. I kind of understand this writing, the one that appears most in the text.”
˝what's it say?”
˝This section talks about what you called shifters, but you never told me there are three types.”
˝This book calls them angels, demons, and scholars. Angels go to a world, and they don't have magic... As far as I can tell, magic is what you call powers. Although they don't have powers, they tend to 'be blessed' with long lives. Demons are the opposite of angels; they have magic, and that magic seems to vary considerably between shifters of different worlds. It can be something as simple as increased speed or strength, to something as grand as shockwaves or fireballs. Each world is connected to only two others. One world that accepts demons and one that takes angels. So, for you, the Shift World is the world that receives demons, and if the Shift World ever had living humans, then this world would send angels to your world.”
˝does that mean there is a world out there somewhere that sends shifters to our world?”
˝yeah...according to this. And your world would send angels to their world.”
˝that explains how the sunflower and that other man can use powers.”
˝They are probably demons from another world.”
˝can you not call them demons. in my world, the royal family is referred to as demons, and it would be confusing to call them both demons.”
˝uh... OK? How about...since angels fly, we call them 'up-shifters' and since demons are underground, we call them 'down-shifters.'”
Wili looked genuinely pleased with himself, but Karp didn't have the heart to tell him that those names were stupid.
˝i guess that's interesting, but none of this will help me beat those two...ugh...down-shifters. are you an up-shifter from another world? since you don't have powers?”
˝No, I'm a scholar. They are very different from other shifters. Other shifters exist in two worlds, one world where they are just normal people and one world where they have powers. The exact same person has the same bodies, injuries, and memories between worlds. Scholars travel between all worlds. At any given time, I could travel to one of the two worlds connected to this one, but there's a catch. When I travel to a new world, I don't have any memories of the old world. My body also doesn't have any of the damage or aging that occurred in the previous world. On some level, I do remember skills and abilities, and through experience, I quickly relearn them. That's how I improved so quickly at drawing maps and using the shield. I can explicitly remember short phrases, but there's a price. I age about five years for each word.”
˝great and all, but that doesn't help me, does it?”
˝This might. If a scholar shifts near a shifter, they force the shifter into the world they're going to and vice versa.”
˝so if you stood really close to me, and i shifted, you would join me at the battle?”
˝Exactly. And there’s one more thing, do you remember the asaghi, the banshee, and my shield...”