Fair to Middlin’: Chapter Four

 Chapter Four

 

 

The first crony shifter that rushed Oliver, who sidestepped the charge, got a nice blow to the back of his skull with the Null Stick. Halfway through his change, the Null Stick worked its magic–or rather the lack thereof–and canceled out the energy, magic, or whatever you wanted to call it, of the transformation. The dual-purposes of the Null Stick were for physical violence, as well as canceling all magical energy fields surrounding and/or being used by whoever, or whatever, was the target.

 

Shifters are strong, capable fighters, and since their skeletal structures sport heartier bones the hit did not knock him out. However, being forced to reverse a change and swallow that energy back into his body left him writhing on the ground in agony. One of my rare friends, who happened to be a Snow Leopard shifter, described it as something close to all your bones breaking at once and nerve endings feeling as though they were being flayed. Ouch.

 

Unfortunately for the next two crony shifters, who were close on the heels of the first, they received similar treatment before they had time to register what had happened to their compadre. My breath caught as I watched Oliver move, because shifters are known for their speed–but he was faster, much faster. I knew he wasn’t human, but like my landlord I couldn’t See what he truly was.

 

I’d asked him once what he was, after he’d cajoled me into a highly annoyed state over my penchant for winding up in situations terrible for my continued survival, and he’d simply graced me with an enigmatic smile. The bastard.

 

From five-on-one down to two-on-one, because let’s face it I’m not prize fighter material, Oliver’s chance for victory and mine for walking away with my life had increased. The leader hadn’t charged like the other three, and the one who might be second in command based on the physical position he held in relation to the leader’s, hadn’t either. This meant they were slightly smarter than the average bear, or dog I suppose, and held off from feeling the bite of the Null Stick.

 

“Now, ya’ll can collect your pack mates here and mosey on back to where you came from, or we can draw down and finish this now,” Oliver said companionably, the Null Stick resting nonchalantly on his shoulders, and stance so relaxed you might think he was getting a massage and not fighting a small skirmish.

 

The leader’s eyes narrowed, the same as when I’d mouthed off to him, but he dipped his chin despite the rancor coming off him in waves. Apparently it takes bravado and a Null Stick to get them to back off. I knew I’d been missing something from the equation.

 

Oliver and I backed away so the leader could approach the subordinates, but instead of helping them up, he and the other shifter simply kicked them and let out a few guttural commands. The three downed men, no longer in an altered state, stumbled to their feet in pain and not a little confusion. The pack leader cast one final look my way, and still in his half-shifted state loped toward the other end of the alley, followed by his packmates. This wasn’t over–not by a long shot–and I knew it the way I’d known the Strixes were bad news.

 

“It’d be nice for you to go a week without getting in some kind of trouble. It’s almost a full-time job keeping an eye on you.”

 

“You’d be bored and you know it. Plus, who asked you to go and play ‘knight in shining armor,’ anyway?” I huffed, and turned to face the aggravatingly suave man. He could charm the habit off a nun and not feel an iota of guilt afterward.

 

He chuckled and collapsed the Null Stick, disappearing it back to wherever he had it stashed for quick and easy access. I was always wary of the weapon, because unlike the supernatural community Null Sticks reacted oddly to mids. The one time I’d been touched by one it was like being thrown into a sensory deprivation chamber–I couldn’t see, hear, or feel anything. It was the most terrifying thirty seconds of my life.  

 

Well, at least in the top five, I mulled, coming to the conclusion, and not for the first time, that maybe I needed to reevaluate my situation. I shook my head, partially thankful to be able to put that can of worms off for another day, as well as in response to the man in front of me, and moved to leave the alley.

 

“Care to join me for some lunch?” he asked, halting my escape attempt. I suppressed a grimace; I barely had enough money at the moment to go window shopping, let alone to a restaurant.

 

“Not particularly,” I responded, disinterested tone betrayed by the audible grumbling of my stomach. He didn’t react, which grudgingly earned him some brownie points in my book, though I wouldn’t put it past him to make up for the overlooked opportunity to embarrass me, just at a later date.

 

“I invited you, so it’s only polite that I pay.” He kept his tone and body language mild and neutral, not trying to sway me one way or the other, and it helped me to let go of a fraction of my concern.

 

I made a point to avoid Oliver, though admittedly he was one of the nicer Omnies, as well as anyone that could connect me to the supernatural. It didn’t do well for someone like me, that stood no chance against these things, to advertise I was different. Though with Oliver blabbing my mid nature to the shifters, and the nagging feeling that the omen the Strixes were heralding hadn’t shown its face yet, it was probably better to go with him. Safety in numbers and all that jazz. Also, I’d yet to see anything Oliver couldn’t handle–the man could stay cool as a cucumber in the face of an enraged Minotaur.

 

I let out a long, resigned sigh in regards to the mess I’d landed myself in, and motioned for him to lead the way.

 

“Not particularly,” I responded, disinterested tone betrayed by the audible grumbling of my stomach. He didn’t react, which grudgingly earned him some brownie points in my book, though I wouldn’t put it past him to make up for the overlooked opportunity to embarrass me, just at a later date.

 

“I invited you, so it’s only polite that I pay.” He kept his tone and body language mild and neutral, not trying to sway me one way or the other, and it helped me to let go of a fraction of my concern.

 

I made a point to avoid Oliver, though admittedly he was one of the nicer Omnies, as well as anyone that could connect me to the supernatural. It didn’t do well for someone like me, that stood no chance against these things, to advertise I was different. Though with Oliver blabbing my mid nature to the shifters, and the nagging feeling that the omen the Strixes were heralding hadn’t shown its face yet, it was probably better to go with him. Safety in numbers and all that jazz. Also, I’d yet to see anything Oliver couldn’t handle–the man could stay cool as a cucumber in the face of an enraged Minotaur.

 

I let out a long, resigned sigh in regards to the mess I’d landed myself in, and motioned for him to lead the way.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Author: lotwordsmiths

Hello, there! I'm Toni, and I've been writing and reading primarily fantasy stories most of my life. What really set me on the path to be a writer was my 6th grade English teacher, Mrs. Thomas, who told me she could see me as an author some day. I made Legends of the Wordsmiths to share my stories, and hopefully, (someday), the stories of others, too.!

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