What Once Was Lost:  The First Glimpse


            The staff came down, hard, cracking me on the top of the head.  I sat down, seeing stars.  The world was spinning around me, the greens and browns and grays of the forest surrounding us merging and unmerging before my very eyes.  A face swam into view over me.  “Are you all right, Shai?”
          It was Craig’s voice, Craig’s face, but the clothes were all wrong.  Looks like he’s in garb again, but his isn’t that nice.  He offered me his arm, which was encased in a leather gauntlet and bracers to match.  As I reached up and gripped it, thinking to ask him when he’d upgraded that get-up, I noticed my own hand and arm were encased in similar accouterments.  What the heck is going on here?  He pulled me to my feet, then stooped to pick up something I’d apparently dropped.
          My staff.  I dropped my staff.  I didn’t know where the thought came from.  The last I’d known, I was on my bike, racing my best friend, Craig Malcolm, to Kleiner Commons, and now here I was in the middle of this clearing out in the middle of nowhere, dressed in attire better suited to a fantasy novel or a renaissance festival, and getting hit in the head with a staff.  As if my life couldn’t get any weirder.
          I began to dust myself off, frowning slightly to myself, trying to puzzle out my situation.  I felt his hand on my shoulder, his other hand offering my staff to me.  I took it and stared at him.  He looks exactly like Craig, but for some reason, I begin to wonder if it’s really him.  “Thanks,” I said quietly.
          He frowned heavily at me.  “Shai, are you sure you’re all right?”  Even the voice was the same, if with a trace of an accent that I just couldn’t place.
          I nodded.  “I’m fine.”  My own voice, I noted, had the same sort of accent, if only slightly different.  It was an accent I recognized, one that I sometimes found myself inadvertently slipping into when I was tired or frustrated or angry.  “I’m fine,” I repeated, my voice a little louder this time.
          He nodded, but turned away from me at the sound of a voice.
          “Lord Malcolm!  Sha’dan Tyree has arrived to speak with you about a treaty!”
          “I’m coming,” he shouted back, then turned back to me, dropping his voice low.  “I have to go.  You know what a peace treaty with the Dan’ling could mean for us.”  He kissed me tenderly and then darted off.
          What’s going on here?
          Shai!  Slow that bike down or you’ll--!”
          In an eye blink, I found myself back on my bike and slamming one foot down onto the pavement to avoid crashing into Craig, who was standing in the middle of the sidewalk in front of Kleiner.  I almost went over with the bike.  Shaking all over, I got off my bike and just hugged him.
          “Shai, are you all right?”
          “I don’t know, Craig,” I whispered.  “I just don’t know.”


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