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A Solstice Feast: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

A Solstice Feast: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

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A Solstice tradition continues… Once again, Barlo and Iarion travel toward the human city of Nal Huraseadro on their way to Dwarfhaven.

The dwarf and elf make an effort to spend the holiday in the city every time Barlo’s rounds to the other dwarven outposts bring them to the area. The trips consist mainly of banter and misadventure. The perfect way to spend Solstice.

Only this time, their journey takes them on an unexpected detour.

A fun holiday story from the Legends of Lasniniar fantasy series and a follow-up to Father Solstice. (Previously published as “Legends of Lasniniar: A Solstice Feast.” This adventure takes place between the prologue and first chapter of the World of Lasniniar novel Storm Rider.)

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“...I tried to wound it with arrows, of course, but its shell deflected all of them.” Iarion’s fingers twitched as if itching to handle the bow and battered quiver slung over his shoulder as he spoke.

The elf had launched into an elaborate tale of his exploits among the Sea Elves as he and Barlo traveled the Great North Road to pass the time as they walked south from Dwarfwatch. The air was chill and clear, but the sky above them was a solid mass of gray. Barlo gave the looming clouds a sour look. They were full of snow, no doubt.

If it can just hold off until we reach Nal Huraseadro...

A single white flake spiraled downward to land on his long, brown beard that was already flecked with matching white and gray hairs. He glared at it until it melted.

“Alfiabalas threw me a trident and distracted the beast with one of his own,” Iarion continued. “Its pincers jabbed toward him from every angle, forcing him to fend it off.” The elf’s golden-skinned hands formed a pair of pinching claws in the air to demonstrate.

Barlo raised a bushy eyebrow at him but didn’t bother to interrupt. Sinstari gave the elf no notice. The wildcat ranged alongside them as they walked, unbothered by the cold or impending snow. He moved like a shadow, his gold and silver marked charcoal fur blending into the gloom. His tufted ears were pricked forward, alert for any sign of danger as he padded along in silence.

“I dove beneath it with my trident as Alfiabalas held it at bay. I jabbed the trident at its underbelly again and again, until I finally found a weak spot.” Iarion made animated gestures with an imaginary trident. “The beast let out a hideous shriek and started to fall over. Alfiabalas grabbed my ankles and yanked me backward, just before it landed on top of me.”

Iarion gave Barlo a sideways glance as if to measure the dwarf’s reaction. Barlo gave him a skeptical look.

“So this beast you and Alfiabalas fought—”

“A larae. Yes?” Iarion lifted a slender, white brow of his own. His golden-flecked sapphire eyes gave nothing away.

“Whatever you call it in Elvish.” Barlo gave a dismissive wave. “It was a giant lobster?”

Iarion gave him an injured look. “The larae are ancient monsters of the sea.”

“M-hm. And how is it I’ve never heard of them before?”

“Well they’re not exactly something you’re going to find underneath a mountain in a dwarven hall, are they?”

“Iarion, I’ve been to sea before, as you know full well.” He gave the elf a level look. “I’ve never seen a giant lobster.”

Iarion sighed. “Larae.” His eyes danced with mischief. “And maybe you would have if you didn’t spend all your time losing your lunch over the side of the ship.”

“Dwarves were never meant to sail.” Barlo jutted out his chin, making his beard bristle. “Anyway, my point is, I’ve spent enough time looking down at the water while I’m decorating the side of the ship with my innards to have noticed a beast like that.”

“They’re very rare,” Iarion said. His expression was serious. “And their shells are an iridescent purple, so they’re difficult to see in the water.”

Barlo frowned. “You never mentioned their color before. I was imagining some big, red brute.”

“Didn’t I?” Iarion shrugged. “I suppose I forgot that not everyone has seen a larae before.”

“I see.”

“They do turn red when you cook them though. They’re considered a delicacy on Mar Ras.”

“I’m sure they are,” Barlo said in a dry voice.

“We had a grand feast when Alfiabalas and I returned in triumph after the battle.”

“And I’m sure they still sing songs about it even now.”

“You’re not doubting me, are you?” Iarion frowned.

Was the elf teasing him? Barlo was fairly certain he was, but sometimes it was hard to tell...

“Of course not, Iarion. I just never knew I was traveling with a slayer of giant lobsters. Maybe we should see about making you a badge or something.”

Iarion rolled his eyes with another sigh. “Larae. And I’m sure there are creatures that live beneath the ground that only dwarves know about.”

“Oh, yes.” Barlo gave an enthusiastic nod. “I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier. I would have invited you to join the annual hunt at Dwarfhaven. It’s how we keep the flying slug population under control.” His voice was heavy with sarcasm.

Iarion sniffed. “Well if you’re going to be that way about it, I won’t bother telling any more stories.” He sounded offended, but Barlo could have sworn he saw a twinkle in his friend’s eye.

“Did you get your Solstice shopping done already, or are you going to leave it until the last minute again?” Barlo asked in an effort to change the subject. A few more flakes were starting to fall from the sky to swirl in the air.

“I don’t know what you’re complaining about.” Iarion tossed his head, sending his long, white braids rustling around his shoulders. “I’ve never been late with your gift.”

Barlo gave him a level look. “You cut it pretty close the last time we spent the holiday out on the road.”

“Sometimes the perfect gift takes a bit longer. We usually wait until Nal Huraseadro to shop anyway.” Iarion eyed Barlo’s bulging pack. “Did you have anything for me in all that? Or are you planning on buying me another tumble at the local bawdy house this year?”

Barlo flushed and shrugged under the weight of his pack. “Most of it’s stuff I picked up for Narilga and the children,” he said evasively. “And I don’t recall hearing any complaints.”

His ‘children’ were all grown now, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t spoil them at Solstice. That was part of the fun of having to go away for these meetings with the chiefs of the other dwarven cities every two out of three years. Different cities tended to specialize in different goods. Besides, it was much easier to surprise his family when he didn’t have to worry about bumping into them at the market at Dwarvenhome.

“Is your costume somewhere in there as well?” Iarion’s lips twitched.

Barlo flushed. “Maybe. I am the inspiration behind Father Solstice, after all, and the children at Nal Huraseadro seem to like it...”

Iarion’s mother—who had never set foot outside of the temperate climes of Melaquenya—had fashioned her idea of winter gear for her son and Barlo several years back. They consisted of heavy velvet pants and coats, and long, stocking hats—all trimmed in white fur. Barlo’s set was bright red and Iarion’s was green. They had caused quite a stir in the human city of Nal Huraseadro during their visits there, in addition to spawning a new Solstice legend.

Barlo’s eyes narrowed. “And do you have your costume in your pack?”

Iarion’s lips twitched again. “Where would Father Solstice be without his elf assistant?”

“Terrified of being attacked by roving, giant lobsters, no doubt—”

Barlo’s words died on his lips as Sinstari uttered a low growl from beside him. He looked down at the wildcat. Sinstari’s tufted ears were flat against his skull as he glared at the Wild Lands that lay to the south of the road and across the northern fork of the Sunset River. Barlo followed the line of his green gaze.

Iarion and Barlo were the only ones on the road, but Barlo could make out a mass of bodies in the gloom shrouding the open grassland between the two forks of the river. They didn’t seem to be moving toward the road. He heard the faint sound of death cries.

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