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Godmaker: A Novel of Lasniniar (The World of Lasniniar Book 6)

Godmaker: A Novel of Lasniniar (The World of Lasniniar Book 6)

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Iarion never meant to free the Unborn.

Now the humans of Lasniniar worship the host of lawless, magical entities as gods—fueling the Unborn spirits’ insatiable hunger for power while sowing the seeds of chaos.

Iarion finds himself at the center of the would-be gods’ attentions. Attentions that border on obsession.

...And not all of their interests prove friendly.

A new era begins as Iarion and his best friend Barlo struggle for survival on a journey that takes them beyond the known boundaries of the World of Lasniniar in this sixth novel in the epic fantasy series.

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Iarion walked the southern fringes of the Adar Daran, the tall stalks of grass barely registering his passage. A bracing, winter wind tugged at his white braids and brought color to his golden cheeks. A seemingly endless expanse of ancient trees towered to his left, an ocean of green leaves that shimmered with silver and gold, despite the season. He had been wandering the edges of the Light Elves’ domain for hours now, working his way from the hut he shared with Lodariel on the southern border all the way to the northern side of the forest. Now, the peaks of the Jagged Mountains loomed in the distance beneath a bank of clouds. A sprawling shadow to the northeast marked the southern border of Melaralva, the wood where he had been born in his previous incarnation. A lone tower with three jutting spires rose from the grassland to the northwest—Mar Arin.

These familiar sights only added to Iarion’s restlessness. As much as Melaquenya had become his home since his rebirth, he would always be a wanderer at heart. But even though the outside world still looked familiar, Lasniniar was changing. He had seen it in his travels beyond the confines of the wood. Nearly a century had passed since he had destroyed Saviadro’s spirit form that had taken root inside the Void, which lay between the land of the living and the realm of the dead. The Fallen One had set himself up as a god among the human Direlings that lived to the far east, and since his destruction, more spirits had come forth to wreak havoc or claim worship among the mortal races.

Iarion and the elves knew these strange beings were not true gods, but only the ancient souls of light or dark spirits that had chosen not to be born when the elves, dragons, Sea Folk, and the first dark races came into being. The destruction of Saviadro’s spirit palace inside the Void had created tears between the different dimensions that allowed the unborn spirits to make their presence known. But their connection to the land of the living was tenuous, and required either sacrifice or worship to strengthen it. The more they received, the more powerful and godlike they became, bestowing magic powers upon their chosen.

The elves had tried to warn the other races against falling under the thrall of the Unborn. Most of the dwarves had listened, but the humans were skeptical. The elves had always wielded the power of the Quenya, why couldn’t they have some magic as well? Iarion had been among the delegations sent to speak to the humans. The memory of it made him clench his fists in frustration. The elves only wanted to protect the other races, but the humans met their concern with suspicion and thinly veiled hostility.

Even though it galled him, Iarion could understand their reaction. The Shadow Elf tribes enjoyed long life, the Light Elves were immortal unless killed, and any elf who died fulfilling the destiny set out for them by the Quenya would eventually be reborn. A human’s shorter, linear lifespan was paltry by comparison. The Quenya was also the source of the elves’ magic, and could not be wielded by any other race. The way the humans saw it, the power of the Unborn leveled the playing field, which meant they didn’t need any bothersome elves meddling in their affairs, thank you very much.

The rising tension between the elves and the humans had driven the elves back to their insular ways, which meant fewer opportunities for Iarion to leave Melaquenya. He had no fear of being defeated by a human in battle, but he had no desire to harm one either, or draw the wrath of any Unborn guardian spirit. This meant his expeditions beyond Melaquenya were now mostly limited to Southern Lasniniar. The Dune People, who roamed the Shifting Sands, were too suspicious to accept the favor of the Unborn, and the People of the Plains were tied too closely to the elves who lived in nearby Melahalas to dismiss their warnings.

Iarion sighed. He missed the days when he could wander anywhere he pleased without worrying about the consequences, or at least without the fear of having to kill some innocent fool who had been duped by an unknown spirit.

A warning tingle on the back of his neck drew him from his circling thoughts. He whirled, an arrow nocked and his bow already drawn. An arrow sped toward him, skimming the top of his head so closely, the missile parted his hair before landing in the trunk of a tree behind him, quivering. He narrowed his golden-flecked, sapphire eyes, sweeping the grassland for signs of his attacker and finding none. His pointed ears strained to hear movement among the waving stalks, but the whistling wind was the only sound. The sensation of being watched intensified.

“I know you’re out there,” he called, hoping to draw out his attacker.

Nothing happened.

Iarion mentally traced the path of the arrow that had been aimed at him, using the uncanny feeling of the unseen watcher’s presence to guide his hands. He drew back his arm and loosed an arrow. It disappeared into the grass with a hiss. A female voice spluttered in protest.

“Hey, that would have hit me!”

Iarion was already moving as a tall, lithe form wearing elven hunting gear shimmered into existence. Pale skin glimmered in the weak, afternoon sun, reminding him of a drakhal. Silver hair fluttered above her shoulders in a blunt cut, accentuating her angular features. The short locks seemed to move in an unnatural breeze of their own, revealing glimpses of pointed ears. She abandoned her bow and arrow as Iarion ran toward her, drawing a knife from her belt with a wild grin.

Iarion threw himself at her, wielding a knife of his own. She blocked his attack with a silvery laugh, her weapon seeming to move faster than thought to snake out at his unprotected side. Iarion spun away from the blade at the last moment. He dropped to the ground and rolled toward her in a controlled tumble. She sidestepped him easily.

“Is that the best you can do?” she asked with a hand on her hip and a rueful shake of her head as Iarion rolled back to his feet.

Iarion laughed. “Not by a long shot. And you know it.”

He threw himself into another attack, making several feints so he could get closer to her. He eyed her leather boots carefully as he moved, his gaze flickering between them and her otherworldly violet eyes.

Her eyes narrowed as her lips tightened in a smile. “We’ll see.”

They danced in and out of each other’s guard in a blur of motion, alternately attacking and blocking. Iarion was a fierce warrior with thousands of years of fighting experience, but his opponent was at least his equal. His blood sang with the thrill of battle, even as his mind went back to the day they had first met.

It had been a day much like this one. He had been wandering the outskirts of Melaquenya shortly after the destruction of Saviadro when she had appeared. He had attacked her at first, mistaking her for a drakhal, despite the full light of the sun. They had fought a drawn out battle to a standstill, somehow becoming friends in the process. She had haunted his footsteps ever since, usually appearing when he left the confines of Melaquenya. Sometimes they fought, sometimes they only talked until she decided to leave. Theirs was an odd relationship—one that few others knew about or understood. Iarion had often suspected they had actually met much earlier than their first bout. The tingle of her gaze reminded him of the unseen eyes he had felt watching him inside the Void after Saviadro had fallen.

Iarion’s momentary distraction cost him. His blade was tangled with his opponent’s, but her left hand reached out to stroke his cheek—her way of letting him know she could have struck him with it if she wanted to.

“Say my name, Iarion.” Her voice had a note of longing to it.

Iarion laughed. “Why? It’s not even your true name anyway.”

Her gaze shifted to a gray-tinged mauve of regret. “There is no one in Lasniniar I would rather give my true name than you, but I cannot risk such a thing. Too many of my siblings have learned the mistake of sharing their true name the hard way. I will not be subjected to the command of a mortal.”

Iarion snorted. “As if anyone could presume to command a creature as willful and stubborn as you.”

She preened at his words. “As unlikely as it seems, I cannot take that chance. In the meantime, it pleases me to hear my use-name on your lips. You are the one who gave it to me, after all.”

Iarion felt his cheeks redden despite himself. She knew he didn’t feel that way about her, but it didn’t seem to stop her from pushing the boundaries of their strange friendship. He was only glad Lodariel wasn’t around to hear their exchange. His mate would be furious.

“How can you demand a boon when you haven’t even defeated me yet?” he asked in a bland tone in an effort to steer their conversation to more neutral ground.

Her eyes darkened for a moment before flickering back to their usual violet. Iarion suppressed a shiver, wondering if he’d pushed her too far. He had seen the dark side of her unpredictable temper and he had no wish to be its cause. He stood his ground, keeping his blade pressed against hers while waiting for the other shoe to drop. Their bodies were mere inches apart and were completely motionless except for the rise and fall of Iarion’s chest as he breathed.

In a sudden flash of movement, Iarion’s opponent pulled her knife away, sweeping it downward to rest against his groin. Iarion’s eyes widened and he stifled a curse.

“Felara!” he shouted in protest.

She smiled in satisfaction. “There. Was that so hard?”

Felara drew back her knife, inspecting the blade for nicks as if nothing had happened in one of her mercurial changes of mood. The name Iarion had chosen for her upon their first meeting meant ‘quicksilver’ in ancient Elvish. It suited her perfectly.

Iarion gripped his knife, frustrated to be outmaneuvered by such a crude tactic. He launched himself at her without warning, knowing full well his weapon couldn’t harm her. Felara looked up from her blade as he slammed into her, her eyes glimmering with amused surprise. They toppled into the grass in a tangle, both of them struggling to control the direction of their rolling bodies in an effort to gain supremacy. For a moment, Iarion found himself on top, but his victory was short lived. In a swift move that shouldn’t have been physically possible, Felara managed to twist out from under him. The next thing Iarion knew, he was lying on his back with her straddling his chest. She held her knife against his throat with a smug look.

“Do you yield?” she demanded.

Iarion struggled to move, but she had him firmly pinned. “You cheated!”

She smiled down at him. “Life’s full of little injustices, isn’t it? Now, do you yield or do I have to keep you down there all day? I rather like you in this position, so either one works for me.”

“Ahem.”

A familiar voice cleared his throat from nearby. Felara’s expression flattened at the interruption. Iarion snapped his mouth shut on his retort and swiveled his neck to look. A dwarf stood only a few feet away, his hand resting casually on the ax on his belt.

“Barlo.” Felara’s voice dripped with annoyance.

Barlo bobbed his head in greeting, his long, brown beard sliding down his chest. “Felara. Am I interrupting something?” He cocked a bushy eyebrow in inquiry.

Felara opened her mouth to respond, but Iarion cut her off. “Nothing important,” he said, blushing once more. He switched from Elvish to Common for his friend’s benefit. Barlo understood Elvish well enough, but his speaking skills left much to be desired.

Barlo’s steady, brown gaze held Iarion’s. “Good. Because I would hate to have to tell Lodariel anything was going on here.”

Felara sniffed. “Even if there were something going on, what would she be able to do about it?”

“Felara...” Iarion shook his head in warning.

Barlo planted his hands on his hips. “Look, lass, you might have some special powers, but you really don’t understand how people work, do you? Lodariel is Iarion’s mate. Not only have they been through a lot together, but they’ve been together for a long time. They were a couple long before you came along. She hasn’t asked Iarion to stop seeing you yet, but that could easily change. Now, that would put Iarion in a difficult position, but he would do it if she asked it of him.”

“Really.” Felara did not sound convinced.

“I personally guarantee it,” Barlo said. He gave Iarion a pointed look. “I would make sure of it.”

Felara laughed. “What would you do? Try to hit me over the head and drag me off in a sack?” In the blink of an eye, she was off Iarion and looming over Barlo. The dwarf didn’t even flinch.

“No, I would probably hit him over the head and drag him off in a sack, for his own good.” He jerked his chin in Iarion’s direction. “Then I would come looking for you. I wouldn’t be alone either.”

“Yes, I’m sure your precious Lodariel would come with you,” Felara said with a smirk.

“Her, her brother, Silvaranwyn, and other members of Iarion’s extended family, which just so happens to include Iadrawyn.” Felara paled a bit at Barlo’s words. “You’re no match for the Lady of the Light Elves.”

Felara blew out a sigh. “Barlo, you are more than a nuisance. Your bluster is admirable, but I would obliterate you in a heartbeat if Iarion didn’t hold you so dear. Why are you even interrupting us?”

Barlo’s gaze slid from Felara to Iarion. “Nothing important. I just have a bit of news for Iarion.”

“You’re a terrible liar, Barlo,” Felara said with an amused shake of her head. “What is it? You can trust me. I always have Iarion’s best interests at heart.”

“No, you have what you think Iarion’s best interests should be at heart,” Barlo said with a scowl.

Felara blinked. “How is that any different?”

“Ah, maybe I should see what Barlo has to tell me,” Iarion said, joining his friend in an attempt to head off another argument. Felara was a completely self-centered creature. Barlo would never be able to convince her to become otherwise.

“Very well,” Felara said with a hint of impatience. “Shall I stand over there?” She pointed to a spot to the northwest.

“Um, it’s actually something I have to show Iarion,” Barlo said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. “It’s inside the forest.” He gave Iarion a pointed look which left the elf baffled.

“I suppose this is farewell then,” Felara said. She didn’t sound as saddened by the prospect as she usually did. She darted in to embrace Iarion before he could stop her. “Until your next journey.” Her last words were a whisper in his ear that sent a shiver down his spine.

“Come on, Iarion.” Barlo’s voice pulled him back to the present. Iarion blinked.

Felara was gone.

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