The Book of Haplo – Stryke’s Last Gasp – Debinani Rahl

–==Official Submission==–
FROM: General Debinani Rahl
RE: Stryke”s Last Gasp

—- A New Soul —-

Stryke curses as he rummages through the backpack of the
recently fallen Ophidian. So far, this hunting trip has
produced very little in the way of loot.

“Ah, well,” he thinks. “64 gold is 64 gold.”

Dropping the gold pieces into his own pack, Stryke stands
and stretches, wincing at the sound of creaking bones. He
is getting too old for this. He looks around to reorient
himself and then sets off in the general direction of
Papua.

As he makes his way around a particularly large rock
formation, a familiar hissing interrupts his whistling. He
turns to face the Ophidian, eager to rid the lost lands of
another snake-fiend. The beast draws closer and Stryke
catches his breath as he recognizes the markings of an
Ophidian Avenger.

“Perhaps ‘twould be best to let this one be,” he thinks,
turning and sprinting for the break in the embankment that
will allow him to climb to safety. Just before he reaches
the haven, a second Ophidian slithers out of the brush to
block his path.

“Aw, hell!” he says aloud, staring into the cold eyes of
the Matriarch. This is not good. Pulling his lute from its
place at his side, Stryke calmly places his fingers on the
strings. He is never sure of the tune that will come to
him, but one always comes, familiar, yet somehow new at the
same time. A melody springs forth from his instrument as
the notes form words in his head. The Avenger is almost
upon him.

“Anger, Ophidian, I sing to thee, upon another thy anger
turns, a Terathan is about, dost thou not see? Recall the
hatred that in thee burns!”

Overcome by the music, the Avenger furiously lunges past
Stryke and sinks its blade into the shoulder of the
Matriarch. Screaming in agony, she quickly overcomes her
confusion at being attacked by one of her own kind, and her
sibilant chanting engulfs the Avenger in a column of flame.
A wry grin crosses Stryke’s face as his fingers trace the
scar across his throat. Ever since his run-in with a
murderer’s dagger he hasn’t been able to sing a note.
Luckily the music from the lute is enough.

He climbs the small cliff and watches the two Ophidians
engage in a dance of gleaming metal and magical energy.
This will not take long. The Avenger falls first and the
Matriarch soon after, with the help of a few finely placed
arrows from Stryke’s bow. Descending from the embankment,
he sorts through the items on the corpses. There is plenty
of gold and gems to collect this time, but his attention is
particularly drawn to a small golden box engraved with
strange symbols. As he removes it from the Ophidian’s pack
and examines it more closely, he is surprised to find it
warm to the touch. Curiosity getting the better of his
common sense, he opens the box. A blinding light pours
forth and he loses consciousness.

——–

He wakes, blinking up at the cloud filled sky. He tries to
sit up, but his body does not respond. He blinks again.
What has happened to him? He cannot remember. What is his
name? “Stryke.” The name that echoes in his head is foreign
to him, but it is the only answer he gets. Feeling returns
to his limbs and he slowly, painfully stands. He staggers
but retains his balance. Looking down, he shakes his head
in confusion. These are not his clothes. This is not his
body. He holds his hands, that are not his hands, in front
of his face, examining both sides. He touches his face,
finding an unexpected Vandyke beard. He picks up a musical
instrument that he thinks is called a lute. Almost as if
they have a mind of their own, his fingers begin to play a
tune he’s sure he’s never heard. He drops the instrument in
surprise.

“By the virtues! What has happened to me!” he screams.

He receives no answer. It is beginning to get dark.
Instinctively, he starts walking toward Papua. The land is
familiar, yet his body is not. Perhaps he will find answers
in town. Behind him, a golden box shimmers in the fading
light. Not noticing, he presses on to Papua.

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