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The Devil You Know: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

The Devil You Know: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

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Merchants peddle fear in Belierumar.

Mothers cling to their children as they walk through the crowded marketplace. Eyes dart as people hurry to make their dubious purchases.

Demon-warding amulets. Herbs guaranteed to help victims of possession. Paige inspects them all with a jaundiced eye.

The young dwarf woman knows how to deal with demons. Probably better than anyone else in Lasniniar.

...With good reason.

In the aftermath of war, a new era begins in this stand-alone story from the Legends of Lasniniar fantasy series. (Previously published as “Legends of Lasniniar: The Devil You Know.” This adventure takes place after the World of Lasniniar novel Harbingers.)

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“Amulets! Get your demon-warding amulets here!” a man in an obnoxiously bright-blue tunic called out over the muddled voices of the milling crowd.

A woman’s harsh voice competed from across the narrow, cobblestone street of the marketplace. “Magic herbs! Gathered fresh this morning—guaranteed to cast out any demon!”

Paige’s blue eyes roved the offerings as she passed. She suppressed a snort at the amulets. They were crude (by dwarven standards), human work. The various metal trinkets the hawker was selling looked like the symbols used by the various Unborn spirits who had been worshiped by the humans as gods—spirits that had just recently left the mortal plane. Did their symbols even matter anymore?

Paige shrugged to herself, her pair of honey-blond braids rustling against her chain mail from beneath her polished helm. Even if the symbols still had some residual power, her experienced eye told her the metal itself was a sub-par mix of lesser elements, polished to look like starsilver. The rare metal came from the mines of the dwarves and the Earth Elves, and was one of the few things that actually did the demons any harm.

The herbs on the other hand… Paige had little knowledge of herb lore. At least the woman’s offerings smelled decent. Piney scents mixed with musky, rich ones, helping to alleviate some of the smell of the press of bodies around her. Despite the crowded marketplace, a trace of fear still lingered in the air, revealing itself in a sour miasma of sweat.

The people of Belierumar were afraid.

Paige saw it in the way mothers clung to the hands of their children, keeping them close. Eyes darted constantly, searching for any sign of one of the demons walking among them. Their gazes paused when they saw Paige.

Her short, but broad stature made her dwarven heritage clear. Between her chain mail and the ax strapped to her belt that bumped against her hip with each step, no one would mistake her for a child. Most of the humans flushed and looked away when they noticed her, but a few of the children stared.

The dwarves had been long-time allies of the humans of Middle and Northern Lasniniar, and traded regularly with Belierumar.

But they had sided with the elves against the humans in the recent war.

Truth be told, the dwarves hadn’t so much sided against the humans as they had against the demons that had misled and possessed them. It was only on the battlefield that the demons had finally been revealed for what they were, and the humans had fled in panic—those that had survived at least. Many of them had been possessed, forced to fight against their former allies to the death.

Paige suppressed a shudder. She couldn’t imagine what that must have been like—to be shunted into a passenger role in your own body while someone else controlled you like a puppet…

Her gaze drifted inexorably to the hooded figure walking beside her.

Paige waded through the crowded marketplace, using her elbows to bull her way along. Meanwhile, her companion walked at a leisurely pace, casually slipping between people who seemed to naturally give her a wider berth, as if some subconscious part of them sensed what lay beneath her cloak.

Paige doubted any of the people around them would have recognized a demon if they saw one. After all, that was how their entire embroilment with the fallen angel Focalor and the Unnamed Lord’s host had come about in the first place. The reason for her companion to hide her features was far more mundane.

She was wearing a dead woman’s body.

Well, not dead, exactly. That is, the body itself was still alive and functional. But the original soul that had inhabited it had died of illness. Claire had moved into the empty shell shortly afterward—a consideration not observed by most Snatcher demons (or any other snatcher demons, as far as Paige knew).

The original inhabitant of Claire’s vessel had been a woman of Belierumar. If anyone recognized her, it would likely raise awkward questions, and with the populace already so paranoid… Well, it might lead to a messy situation. And the last thing Paige wanted was to be forced to fight off a mob of frightened humans, who were lashing out against an actual demon.

“Does any of that stuff actually work?” she asked Claire in a low voice as they passed the amulet and herb sellers.

“No.” Claire’s smooth, contralto voice spoke from the depths of her hood without hesitation in its usual, factual tone. She paused before continuing. “None of those symbols have any meaning where my kind come from. The herbs here are different as well.”

Paige suppressed another shiver.

‘Where my kind come from.’

Paige still had a hard time imagining an entire other world somewhere beyond the Void that surrounded Lasniniar—a world that sounded very different from her own. She could only be grateful that after the battle against Focalor’s demon and human army, the Unborn had left Lasniniar to act as protectors against any other intruders that might try to take advantage of the new rift between worlds.

…Even if it was the only decent thing the Unborn had ever done.

The problem was that no matter how used to Claire Paige became, she still found herself itching between her shoulder blades when her back was turned.

Yes, Claire was a demon. But she had betrayed her own kind several times over to help Paige and those who knew of the demon presence in Lasniniar. And according to Claire, she had only been the victim of circumstance. As a child, her younger sister had been dying of plague when Claire had offered to make a deal with a demon for her sister’s life—in exchange for her own soul.

Claire had been a demon ever since, forced to follow the orders of any foul creature who outranked her in the Unnamed Lord’s host. When Focalor had led the first wave of infiltrators into Lasniniar, Claire had taken the opportunity to slip free of her leash.

And then Paige had found her.

That was the story, at least. It all made perfect sense, and Paige knew that Claire had put herself in grave danger to save her more than once, she still couldn’t shake off the last remnants of her stubborn, dwarven suspicion. Claire was a demon, after all. Maybe she was just biding her time…

Paige forced the uneasy thought aside. Claire had offered to help Paige hunt down any remaining demons now that Focalor had fallen and the battle was over. Belierumar seemed like the perfect place to start. And who better than a demon to recognize its own kind? Still…

Paige shook her head again and followed through the crowd in Claire’s wake.

I hope I’m not making a mistake.

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