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Shadow Stalker: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

Shadow Stalker: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

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Barlo wanders the underground streets of Dwarvenhome with only the wildcat Sinstari for company.

His days of adventure seem long behind him. He misses the thrill of battle, the journey to strange new places...

He misses Iarion.

Bereft of the elven best friend who always accompanied him into danger, Barlo’s life now revolves around a seemingly endless stream of clan meetings.

But fate—and Sinstari—have other plans.

A stand-alone story of action and adventure from the Legends of Lasniniar fantasy series. (Previously published as “Legends of Lasniniar: A Shadow Stalker.” This adventure takes place between the World of Lasniniar novels Soul Seeker and Storm Rider.)

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Barlo walked the streets of Dwarvenhome, his mind wandering elsewhere. Other dwarves passed him in the corridors carved deep into the heart of the Jagged Mountains with a nod or wave of greeting as he went by. Barlo acknowledged them out of habit.

Sinstari trailed behind him. The dwarves who noticed the wildcat gave Barlo a wide berth. Even though Sinstari had become a fixture of the city, the cat still spooked most of the dwarves, who rarely ventured above ground. Barlo shrugged off their reactions. He was used to them by now.

His thoughts returned to the latest round of clan meetings and he suppressed a yawn. With the Third War of the Quenya over and the Free Peoples of Lasniniar liberated from Saviadro and his minions, a new, more peaceful era had begun. Although some of the Marred Races still wandered the lands in scattered groups, they were hardly a threat. As a result, the topics of the meetings had begun to focus on more tedious, internal concerns. After everything Barlo had gone through to help overthrow Saviadro, the meetings held little interest for him.

He missed the days when he could wander the lands in search of adventure, Iarion at his side...

Barlo shook his head, pushing away his familiar grief. Iarion was gone. The elf had died during their quest to reunite the Quenya. After the magical force had been rejoined, Iarion had passed on, leaving Barlo without his best friend. Even though he knew Iarion would eventually be reborn, years had passed since his death. Barlo missed him every day.

The wary glances in Sinstari’s direction only reminded Barlo how different he was from most other dwarves despite his similar to them he might look with his ruddy complexion, brown beard, and thick frame. No one from Dwarvenhome had traveled as much as he had, and none were as close to the elves. Barlo’s adventures had set him apart.

Sinstari ignored the looks. Barlo found himself taking comfort in the cat’s stoicism. Sinstari was even more of an outsider than he was. The cat had been born and raised in the north, in the wood of the Wild Elves, before becoming Iarion’s companion. Iarion had asked Barlo to take care of Sinstari for him before he had died.

In Barlo’s opinion, the cat was more than capable of taking care of himself, but he didn’t have the heart to refuse his friend’s last request. Although Barlo had doubted the cat would stay with him in the underground city, Sinstari had followed him willingly. The creature’s constant presence had become a comfort to Barlo over the years. Sometimes, he felt like Sinstari understood him better than anyone else.

Barlo suddenly found himself at the door to his home with little recollection of how he had gotten there. The realization disturbed him. It wasn’t like him to be so vague. Perhaps he should go above ground for a walk before supper to clear his head. It would give Sinstari a chance to hunt.

Opening the door, Barlo was surprised to hear a strange, but familiar voice speaking. He couldn’t quite place it. The male voice was speaking in Dwarvish, but Barlo couldn’t make out the conversation from where he was standing. His hand resting lightly on the ax at his belt, Barlo entered the room.

A familiar dwarf was lying on the couch. His black beard swiveled toward Barlo. Barlo held the visitor’s green gaze, trying to place him. The lad reminded Barlo of someone...

“Lorugo,” Barlo said, the pieces falling into place. The young dwarf was the nephew of Galhalga, Dwarfhaven’s Chief of Clans. Lorugo had helped Barlo and his companions during their quest to reunite the Quenya.

“Greetings.” Lorugo gave him a weak smile.

For the first time, Barlo noticed he bore bandages on his head and shield arm. Narilga hovered nearby, putting away her medical supplies. Barlo gave his wife a questioning look, which she answered with a small nod. Lorugo’s wounds weren’t serious.

“What are you doing here?” Barlo asked. “Last I heard, you were an emissary for Dwarfhaven at Belierumar.” The human city was the only home to Greater Men in Middle Lasniniar.

“I am. Lord Golaron asked me to deliver a message to you.” Lorugo rummaged in the pouch at his belt and pulled out a nondescript envelope.

Barlo frowned. “Why not send one of his own couriers?”

“Not that we aren’t happy to see you,” Narilga said, giving Barlo a pointed look.

Barlo flushed. “Yes, of course.”

“Golaron gave me the message in secret,” Lorugo said. “Didn’t trust one of his own to deliver it. I was attacked on my way here by a group of Darkling Men.”

“Huh.” Barlo held the envelope unopened. “Where did they attack you?”

“The Narrow Pass.”

Barlo cursed. “What is it about that blasted pass?” The pass was close to Dwarvenhome and the perfect spot for an ambush. It seemed to draw dark creatures like metal filings to a magnet. “How many?”

Lorugo shrugged with a wince. “Five or six. I didn’t stay to count the corpses. I think I killed all of them.”

“Well?” Narilga asked.

Barlo raised an eyebrow. “Well, what?”

“Are you going to read the message?”

“Oh, right.”

Barlo held the envelope for a moment before opening it. A strange feeling had fallen over him. He had been wishing for some adventure in his life. Something told him Golaron’s message would give him more than he had bargained for. With a sigh, he drew the letter from the envelope.

Barlo recognized Golaron’s firm hand, although most of the messages that had come to Dwarvenhome since the war had been in his wife’s script. It was written in the Common Tongue.

We require your advice and assistance in a delicate matter, which would put us in your debt. Please come quickly, for I fear the issue is time-sensitive.

The letter was not addressed to Barlo and was unsigned. He handed it to Narilga to read.

“Golaron gave you no verbal message to go with it?” he asked Lorugo.

Lorugo shook his head. “No. He was very hushed up about it. Didn’t seem to want anyone to overhear.”

Barlo paced. Why would the Lord of Belierumar send him such a letter? Golaron and Silvaranwyn must be in trouble. Barlo had seen little of them since their wartime quest together. The thought of Silvaranwyn being in danger worried him. Barlo had developed a protective fondness for Golaron’s elven wife. But as much as he wanted to go, he knew Narilga worried about him when he was away. Since the war, he had stayed home to allay her fears, but the monotony of life in Dwarvenhome was starting to get to him.

But what if he didn’t go and something happened to his friends? For all it didn’t say, Golaron’s message sounded ominous. Could Barlo live with himself if he didn’t go?

Narilga put a hand on his arm, stopping his pacing. He turned to look into her steady, deep blue gaze.

“You should go,” she said.

“What? But I thought... Are you certain?” Barlo narrowed his eyes.

“They need your help. And you need to get out of the city for a while. Don’t think I haven’t noticed. Belierumar isn’t that far.”

“But—”

Narilga put a finger to his lips. “Go.”

A surge of excitement went through him. He tried to hide it, but Narilga saw it anyway. He looked down at Sinstari. “I guess we’re going to Belierumar.”

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