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A Close Shave: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

A Close Shave: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

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A cold welcome in Dwarvenhome. Even after a few years as Barlo’s friend, Iarion still feels like an intruder in the underground city.

The dwarves’ usual wariness toward elves does not bother him. But Iarion senses something more at work. All of the dwarves seem on edge. Barlo included.

And when Iarion learns the real reason behind the rising tensions, he knows he has his work cut out for him.

A stand-alone story of friendship, beards, and magic from the Legends of Lasniniar fantasy series. (Previously published as “Legends of Lasniniar: A Close Shave.” This adventure takes place between the World of Lasniniar novels Kinslayer and Soul Seeker.)

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Iarion walked briskly along the underground streets of Dwarvenhome,
eager to reach Barlo’s front door. He did his best to ignore looks
of askance as he passed. He knew he shouldn’t be surprised by the
lack of welcome—he was an elf, after all—but this was
hardly his first visit to the dwarven city. He had thought most of
the dwarves had come to tolerate him. He felt painfully conspicuous
among the short, bulky figures and bearded faces with his tall, lean
frame. His complete lack of facial hair did nothing to disguise his
angular features, and the tips of his pointed ears poked out from
under his long, silver braids. The streets were well lit by rows of
torches, so even his silent tread and dusky skin could not help him
blend in.

He found his fingers drifting toward the knife at
his belt and forced them away. The guards at the mountain gate had
argued about allowing him to enter the city with his blade and bow,
but in the end, they had grudgingly permitted him to remain armed. In
all the years since his first visit to Dwarvenhome, he had never
encountered such a dubious welcome.

What’s going on here? Everyone seems to be
on edge.

In fact, the suspicious glares the dwarves were
throwing about weren’t limited to Iarion. He passed several knots
of dwarven men, women, and children on the streets who spoke to one
another with tense expressions in their own hash tongue, their fists
clenching as if spoiling for a fight. Iarion walked past them as
quickly as he dared, not wanting to draw any more attention to
himself.

A flood of relief washed over him as he reached
Barlo’s familiar front door, marked by his clan’s tartan flag.
Iarion’s nervous knock was a bit more frantic than he had intended.
He heard shuffling feet approaching from the other side of the door,
accompanied by muffled grumbling, punctuated by curses. Iarion
stepped back, preparing himself to greet Barlo. The door jerked
inward to reveal a flush-faced Narilga instead. Barlo’s wife wore a
waspish expression Iarion had never seen on her before, her long,
dark hair in tangles.

“Thank the First Father you’re here,” she
said without preamble. “I can’t deal with him anymore.”

A child’s voice rose into a wail from inside the
home. Moments later, a second one rose to join it.

Narilga heaved an exasperated sigh. “And now the
children are fussing. Honestly, do I have to do everything myself
around here?” She disappeared inside, leaving Iarion to gape after
her from the doorstep.

Iarion frowned in confusion, wondering how to
proceed when he heard heavy, tromping footsteps approaching the open
door. Barlo’s familiar figure appeared, his bushy brows knitted
together in a scowl. Iarion’s gaze lowered and he found himself
recoiling. Barlo’s entire beard was covered with a white, foamy
substance. Barlo’s scowl turned into a grin, filling the air with
small bubbles.

“You’re finally here!” he said. “Thank the
First Father. Narilga is practically useless. Now get in here. We
have a lot of work to do. There’s only an hour before Bristle Brawl
starts.”

Iarion shook his head, starting to wonder if he
had somehow consumed a large quantity of strong wine and was now
suffering the consequences.

“Bristle Brawl?”

“It’s a facial hair competition,” Barlo
said, flushing above his frothing beard. “We have it once a year.”

“Why haven’t I heard about it before?”
Iarion asked.

“Well, it’s a Dwarvenhome tradition. I never
invited you to visit me while it was running before. This was the
first year I could convince everyone to allow an elven spectator. It
took a while for all the judges and entrants in each category to
agree.”

“There are categories?” Iarion
uttered a surprised chuckle before he could stop himself.

“Of course there are categories!” Barlo
scowled at him. “We aren’t a pack of frolicking, smooth-cheeked
elves, who can’t even grow a mustache to save their lives. Every
male dwarf over the age of ten already has their whiskers starting to
come in. We can hardly have half the population of the city compete
against one another head-to-head. It would be impossible to judge!”
He threw up his arms in agitation, sending another spray of bubbles
into the air.

“I see,” Iarion said, schooling his
expression. Normally, he enjoyed teasing Barlo, and an opening like
this was priceless, but his friend seemed far too tense to make it a
good idea. “What category are you competing in?”

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