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Harbingers: A Novel of Lasniniar (The World of Lasniniar Book 8)

Harbingers: A Novel of Lasniniar (The World of Lasniniar Book 8)

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An unspeakable act. Iarion flees with Barlo in a useless effort to outrun the heinous crime his dwarf friend committed under desperate circumstances.

Meanwhile, the rest of Lasniniar marches to war. Would-be gods drive the humans against the elder races, granting the most devout of their worshipers magic of their own.

Into this chaotic darkness, a new power emerges.

...A power only Iarion can face.

The future of the World of Lasniniar hangs in the balance in this eighth novel in the epic fantasy series.

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Arinwyn looked down at the battlefield far below from her perch on Malarin’s back. The human army raised by the Unborn had massed just out of bowshot of the northern border of Melaquenya, their flickering campfires illuminating them in the darkness like a swarm of fireflies. Arinwyn had to agree with Lodariel—flying by dragonback was a much more relaxing experience than her own method of using her air magic to keep her suspended. While she enjoyed being in control of her movements, this was far less exhausting. Lodariel and Nasir also seemed to find it less unnerving to have something physical beneath them as they soared through the night sky.

“There’s another one!” Lodariel called out to Malarin. She pointed to a figure far below surrounded by a nimbus of power.

“I see him,” Malarin rumbled.

She tilted her large body to alter her course until they were flying directly toward the human mage-priest who was preparing an attack. Malarin opened her mouth. A jet of flame emerged from deep in her throat, outlining her sharp teeth. The fiery blow hit the mage-priest full in the chest. The air filled with the stench of scorched hair and flesh as the man screamed. Arinwyn forced her gaze away. She knew the attack was necessary. The mage-priests were the only ones who could do the dragons any damage. Not only that, but they were a conduit of the Unborn’s power. It had been her idea to target them instead of massacring all the misguided human warriors who had been led to this impasse by creatures they believed to be gods.

She pressed her cheek against Nasir’s shoulder, taking comfort in his solid presence. She thought he might have said something, but his words were lost in the whistle of the wind. Her usually stoic companion was sandwiched between her and Lodariel. Lodariel’s red-gold braids streamed through the air behind her, lashing against his face. Arinwyn had known him long enough to be able to tell he wasn’t anywhere near as comfortable with their current mode of transport as she was. Lodariel could shoot at their targets below with her bow if she wished, and Arinwyn had her magic, but Nasir’s curved sword was useless—not that any other weapon was needed with dragonfire at their disposal.

As Malarin’s victim disappeared into a pile of ash, she flapped her enormous, bat-like wings to climb back up into the sky with the six other dragons that had accompanied them from the fire island off the coast of Southwestern Lasniniar. The ascent brought back a flash of memory from a half-remembered dream.

I have flown like this before—with wings. Or do I only wish it were so?

She was the only Sky Elf to be born without wings, and she had no memory of a life before this one. All her life, she had longed to be anything other than a wingless freak. When Numarin had died after betraying the Free Races, she had gotten her wish—after a fashion. The Learnéd One of Air’s power had transferred to her, the child her mother had raised without revealing her heritage.

It had taken time for Arinwyn to come to terms with that power and what it meant to be the secret daughter of Numarin. Still, she had not returned to her home forest since that fateful day she had fled so very long ago, until now.

If I weren’t Numarin’s daughter, I would never have met Nasir.

That fact was the one thing that helped to make things bearable. And now, her power was responsible for bringing dragons back to Lasniniar.

Malarin had died in battle thousands of years ago, the last of her kind. Thanks to Arinwyn’s magic and the discovery of a clutch of dormant eggs left by the dragon change children of the Khashada, Malarin had been reborn, along with six more of her kind. Their return was more than timely. The Unborn had roused the humans, who had always been more prolific than the elder races, and marched them against all elvenkind, with the full backing of Unborn magic through the mage-priests. The only elves with magic of their own were the Light Elves of Melaquenya, and even then, their magic was not meant for battle. They needed allies like Malarin to help protect them from annihilation. Still, it didn’t make Arinwyn enjoy watching people get burned to a crisp.

“What is that?” Nasir called out from in front of her. He pointed to an approaching shadow in the night sky. It was too small to be a dragon.

Lodariel twisted her neck and leaned over to look, her green eyes squinting. “Is that a flying horse?” Her expression was incredulous.

Arinwyn felt Nasir tense at her sudden movement. She shifted in her seat to see what they were looking at.

Sure enough, the approaching figure appeared to be a horse with wings. Its coat gleamed white in the darkness. Its mane and tail streamed behind it in a river of silver. Its large wings were feathered—like a Sky Elf’s—with blue accents. Arinwyn gaped.

“It’s probably some unnatural creature of the Unborn,” Malarin said. Her serpentine neck had twisted so she could look as well. “I’ll take care of it.” She started to inhale.

“Wait!” The word burst from Arinwyn’s lips, startling Malarin into a sudden coughing fit.

“What is it?” Nasir asked her. His hazel eyes rolled in their sockets so he could look back at her. His weather-beaten skin seemed unnaturally pale.

Arinwyn gave a helpless shake of her head. “I—I think I know him.”

A joyful whinny pierced the air and the flying horse approached.

“You’re here!” it trumpeted in a male voice. He spoke the Elven Tongue. “He was right! I’ve come so far to find you...”

“Are you talking to me?” Arinwyn asked in a weak voice. She felt as if the world had lurched beneath her.

“Of course, I’m talking to you!” The horse snorted. “Granted, you don’t exactly look the way you did the last time I saw you. Not very equine at all.” He tilted his head to take in her pointed ears and golden skin. She felt a breeze ruffle her short crest of spiky, white hair.

Arinwyn stared at him. Not very equine? Another flash of her dreams of flying over a strange land filled her vision. She remembered a pair of feathered wings, not unlike the ones on the horse hovering beside her. She met the creature’s eyes and felt a sudden jolt of recognition.

“Telanadil?” She breathed the name aloud.

The winged horse gave a whinny of triumph. “You do remember!”

The next thing Arinwyn knew, she had slipped her arms from Nasir’s waist to throw herself through the air. She landed on Telanadil’s back and wrapped her arms around his neck. How had she not known him? How could she possibly have forgotten?

“Arinwyn? Is there any chance we could find out what’s going on here?” Nasir asked in a dry voice, speaking Common.

“Your friend doesn’t speak our language?” Telanadil asked in Elvish. “I suppose I should have made more of an effort to learn this other tongue on my way here from that hairy creature...”

“Uh, this isn’t just a language barrier,” Lodariel said in Elvish. She shared a look with Malarin, who nodded in agreement.

“This is Telanadil,” Arinwyn explained in Common. “I knew him in my previous life.”

“And where was that, exactly?” Lodariel asked in Elvish, her eyes narrowing. “Because I don’t think it was here in Lasniniar.”

“Felara’s Realm,” Telanadil said. “Arinwyn was the lead mare of our herd, until she found a way to be born.”

It was Lodariel’s turn to choke. “Felara’s Realm?” Her gaze fastened on Arinwyn. “You were one of the Unborn?” Malarin explained what was happening to Nasir in the Common Tongue in what passed for a low voice among dragons.

Arinwyn shrugged. “I suppose so—or at least, a less powerful one. That would explain why I’ve never been able to remember my previous lives, even though I’m a Sky Elf.” Like their wingless Quenyadain cousins, the Sky Elves enjoyed the close connection with the Quenya reserved for Light Elves. Arinwyn shook her head in amazement. “I—”

The sky started to spin around her. She felt her eyes roll back in her head.

“Arinwyn?” Nasir called out to her, his voice tight with concern.

“Something is happening,” Lodariel said. Her voice seemed to come from far away. “The shield! It’s fluctuating.”

Arinwyn struggled to look down. The magical barrier that protected Melaquenya had turned a strange, violet color. It seemed to buckle under an invisible strain.

“What’s going on?” Lodariel demanded.

Malarin rumbled. “Whatever it is, it does not bode well. I have seen that taint before.”

“When Saviadro corrupted the portion of the Quenya he stole,” Lodariel said. “But Saviadro is dead...”

“Saviadro is not the only one to pervert the Quenya,” Malarin said. “Perhaps someone else has taken control somehow.”

“We need to get down there!” Lodariel said. There was a note of desperation in her voice. “Daroandir is in the forest, and Silvaranwyn and her babies. If anything happens to the Quenya while she’s communing with it...”

Arinwyn gasped as a dagger of pain ripped through her. She felt as if something inside her was being torn apart. She felt Telanadil’s warm breath on her bare arm as he turned his neck to see what was wrong.

“Arinwyn!” Nasir looked on helplessly from his perch on Malarin’s back a few feet away.

“The shield!” Lodariel said. Her green eyes were pinned on the forest below.

Her words were cut off by Arinwyn’s scream. She didn’t need to look to know the shield had collapsed. She slumped helplessly against Telanadil’s neck as an echoing emptiness filled her.

“Arinwyn, please,” Nasir said. “What’s wrong?”

Arinwyn cracked an eye open to look at him. Lodariel was finally paying attention, but she seemed torn between what was happening beside her and what was going on below. She, Nasir, Malarin, and Telanadil waited for her to speak.

“My magic.” Arinwyn’s voice emerged as a harsh whisper. “It’s gone.”

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