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A Solstice Tale: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

A Solstice Tale: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

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Solstice Eve. An unexpected side trip. Barlo and Iarion find themselves looking for a room in the human city of Nal Huraseadro to take shelter from the snow.

During their journey, Barlo only seeks the answer to one question. What did his elf friend get him for Solstice? His endless guesses border on harassment. Iarion refuses to budge.

Despite the approaching holiday, not all remains peaceful in the city.

...And Iarion’s present soon becomes the furthest thing from Barlo’s mind.

A stand-alone story from the Legends of Lasniniar fantasy series. If you love a lighthearted holiday misadventure, grab this book. (Previously published as “Legends of Lasniniar: A Solstice Tale.” This adventure takes place between the prologue and first chapter of the World of Lasniniar novel Storm Rider.)

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“Is it a new pair of boots?” Barlo asked as he walked at Iarion’s side, taking two strides for every one of the elf’s as they traveled along the snow-dusted road.

Sinstari trotted after them on large, silent paws. The wildcat’s green eyes surveyed the northern countryside, his tufted ears alert and his whiskers twitching, a ghostly, charcoal shadow in the swirling snow.

“Nope,” Iarion said, his expression bland.

Barlo sighed, his breath streaming from his lips in a steady plume. He tugged at his graying, brown beard in frustration. “I’ve been guessing for the better part of an hour now! Would you even tell me if I got it right?”

Iarion paused for a moment as if considering before giving his dwarven friend a sidelong glance with golden-flecked, sapphire eyes. 

“Probably not.”

“Well that’s hardly fair! I would tell you, if you guessed your Solstice gift. You haven’t even bothered trying.”

Iarion shook his head. “That’s because it’s supposed to be a surprise.”

Barlo frowned. “Where’s the fun in that? Besides, who made you the boss of Solstice?”

Iarion gave him a long-suffering look. “The elves did invent the holiday, you know.”

“It’s hardly my fault the dwarves were born later. I’m sure we would have thought of it ourselves. Celebrating the longest night of the year isn’t exactly specific to the elves, or even that creative, for that matter.” Barlo snorted.

Iarion’s eyes rolled heavenward. “One more day,” he said in an effort to console himself. “Just one more day. Then all this endless harassment will be over.”

“I wonder what Solstice will be like in Nal Huraseadro,” Barlo mused. “I’ve never spent the holiday among humans before. The snow has really slowed us down. I would usually be at Dwarfhaven by now.”

“I guess we’ll find out,” Iarion said as they passed the city gates. 

The guards gave them a cursory glance before waving them through. In other times, the city’s security hadn’t been as casual, but Lasniniar had been at peace for over forty years since the fall of Saviadro. 

“Are Narilga and the children disappointed you won’t be home with them?” the elf asked.

“No, they know we’ll celebrate when I get back. Besides, I usually find all the best presents for them on this trip.”

Every year since the Third War of the Quenya, the Chief of Clans of Dwarfwatch, Dwarfhaven, or Dwarvenhome made a journey to the other two dwarven cities to renew ties and hammer out trade agreements for the coming year. To keep things fair, the leaders took turns. This year it was Barlo’s responsibility as Chief of Clans for Dwarvenhome.

“I’m glad your mother finally let you come this time,” Barlo said with a grin. “It’s usually just me. No other dwarves are interested in travel, especially at this time of year.”

“I’m glad too,” Iarion said with an answering smile. “Convincing my mother was my father’s Solstice gift.”

Even though Iarion was over thirty years old, he was still young—almost a child by elven standards. His overprotective mother was quick to remind him of the fact. The thought of spending the holiday cooped up with her after a long and boring autumn had been more than Iarion could bear. 

Thankfully, his father understood his need to roam, and treated him as the adult he was—one who had already lived a previous lifetime spanning thousands of years, which more than compensated for his youth in his current incarnation.

Iarion and Barlo wound their way through the crowded city marketplace, which was packed with last-minute shoppers. Vendors hawked their wares from their stalls, ranging from hot food, to jewelry, to toys. The scent of spiced meat filled Iarion’s nostrils, only to be replaced by the smell of freshly carved wood a moment later. Many of the stalls were decorated with pine boughs and ribbons in honor of the holiday.

“I think I’ll drop my armor off for a good scouring,” Barlo said, picking at his chain mail shirt. “This snow is making it rust like crazy. My helm could use a polish too. I don’t want to show up at Dwarfhaven looking like some sort of vagabond when I’m representing Dwarvenhome.”

He shouldered his way through the crowd, leaving Iarion and Sinstari to follow in his wake as he headed for a blacksmith’s stall. Other than a few muttered curses, Barlo’s passage went mostly unnoticed, but Iarion’s angular features, golden skin, and long, white braids drew some interested looks. Elves did not travel to Nal Huraseadro often—especially not Light Elves, who made their home far to the south in Melaquenya. Only those wandering closest noticed Sinstari, giving him a wide berth. The wildcat ignored the shoppers’ discomfort with a sniff of disdain.

After a lively haggling session, Barlo left his armor and helm in the care of the blacksmith, who promised it would be ready the day after Solstice. Barlo left the stall, his brown eyes alight with the thrill of a good bargain. He flashed a smile at Iarion.

“You know,” he began in a deceptively casual voice. “My firestarting kit is looking a bit worse for wear. Maybe I should pick up a new one while we’re here...”

Iarion gave him a pointed look. “I didn’t get you a new firestarting kit. Now stop fishing. I refuse to answer any more Solstice gift-related questions, direct or implied.”

Barlo sighed. “Fine. If that’s the way you’re going to be—”

The rest of his words were cut off by a host of angry voices shouting nearby. He and Iarion shared a wordless glance and began working their way through the press of bodies toward the ruckus until they found themselves standing at the edge of the crowd, which had drawn back to create a ragged circle where two men stood glaring.

“First, your tribe goes running to Saviadro’s side like a pack of whipped dogs as soon as he sends his first delegation. Then, you have the gall to steal our tribe’s totem!” A man with red hair wearing leather armor marked with a familiar, scarlet horn shouted, his pale face flushed. “You are lucky we do not cut you down right here!”

A group of men behind him shouted in agreement, shaking knives and spears. Iarion recognized them as the Tribe of Horn. Hidar—a onetime companion, who had accompanied Iarion and Barlo on their quest to overthrow Saviadro—had been the son of the tribe’s chief. Both Hidar and his father had lost their lives in the war. Even if they hadn’t, they would likely have been dead by now. Lesser Men were not graced with long lifespans, only a few of them reaching their hundredth year. They stood out from Nal Huraseadro’s citizens, whose bronze skin marked them as their Greater cousins.

A hawk-faced, blond man stood across from the Horn tribesman, gripping his spear, nostrils flaring. A claw earring dangled from one ear.

“The men and women of the Claw may have been the first to turn, but you seem to forget your people did the same in the end,” he said in a dangerous voice. “And who are you to accuse my people? You are the ones who stole our totem necklace!”

Pale-skinned, armed men rallied behind the second man, glaring at the Tribe of Horn. The city folk hung back, watching the exchange. Iarion noticed a pale, wiry man with gray eyes, standing apart from both tribes, despite his obvious Lesser Man blood. He wore no armor, and bore no obvious weapon. His ragged, blond hair framed weathered features. He stood among the people of Nal Huraseadro, dressed as one of them, wearing a plain, dark cloak over his tunic and breeches.

The two tribes began shouting at one another once more, drawing Iarion’s attention. By the time he looked back, the man had slipped into the crowd and out of sight.

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