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Lion's Pride: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

Lion's Pride: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

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Half human. Half feline. All warrior.

Her very existence a crime, Nofret lives in a hidden refugee village—safe from the magic and might of the Lion Folk who rule the island in the name of their cruel goddess.

But Nofret grows tired of hiding. She yearns to do something more. Surely her fighting and tracking skills can serve a greater purpose?

Her noble heart can accept nothing less.

A stand-alone origin story adventure from the far-flung reaches of the Legends of Lasniniar fantasy series. (Previously published as “Legends of Lasniniar: Lion’s Pride.” This story takes place between the World of Lasniniar novels Wave Runners and Godmaker.)

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Nofret slashed at an imaginary enemy with her dagger. The razor-sharp blade whistled through the air. She tightened her clawed fingers around the hilt and changed the direction of her attack midstroke with dazzling speed. Her breath came easily, even though a sheen of sweat was forming beneath her golden fur. A band of dark blue fabric tied around her brow kept it from trickling down into her eyes.

The morning was wearing on, and the heat of the golden disc of Re was beating down on her shoulders. A fine dust filtered through the air, stirred by her movement across the training yard in the heart of the refugee village. Her whiskers twitched as the dust tickled her nose and dried her mouth.

She ignored all these discomforts and continued her barrage against the only enemy that was a match for her now that Ani was away—her own shadow. Her slitted, blue eyes narrowed.

I should have gone with him.

She shoved the thought aside with a snarl as she lashed out again with her dagger. It was hardly the first time the words had taunted her, and she knew it wouldn’t be the last.

She had practically begged Ani to take her with him on his latest secret mission, but he had refused. Her stomach clenched at the memory.

“I need someone to stay here and keep an eye on the village,” he had said. 

“But Thu will be here.” Nofret had done her best to keep the pleading tone from her voice.

Ani gave a rueful shake of his head. “Thu is not the warrior you are.” He had reached out to ruffle the fur between her pointed ears—a gesture she only tolerated from him and Ineni.

At the time, the praise had been enough to placate her. After all, she was the best warrior of the followers of the cat goddess Bastet, aside from Ani. Thu was his mate, and the entire village respected her. The former royal slave woman was no stranger to battle—none of the followers of the cat goddess could afford to be. But Thu only fought when needed, usually in defense of others, or at her beloved Ani’s side.

And so Nofret had watched Ani go, with a small group of trusted warriors.

She didn’t know exactly what their mission was, but she suspected it was the usual—a rendezvous with escaped slaves from Lion’s Hame, or perhaps even an organized uprising, designed to provide a distraction and raise awareness in the city of the human’s and half-breed’s plight.

Not that the Lion Folk would ever admit that half-breeds existed.

Nofret’s jaw tightened. Her blade whistled through the air once more.

The Lion Folk had arrived on the island some time ago, brought by their goddess Sekhmet. Humans had already lived in the jungle for untold years in relative peace.

Until the Lion Folk found them.

The Lion Folk were fashioned in the image of their goddess, with the lower body of a lion, including four paws. Their upper bodies were humanoid, but covered with short fur. Their faces were also those of a lion—a strange mixture that had immediately terrified the native humans, filling them with both fear and awe. Between their strange appearance and the magic of Sekhmet, the Lion Folk had quickly turned the humans into their slaves, a tradition that continued to current day.

Of course, interbreeding was inevitable. Often, a male Lion Folk owner would ‘take liberties’ with his female slaves. If any of the women fell pregnant, they were executed immediately.

But some of the pairings were not totally forced, and some women were resourceful enough to hide their condition and escape.

Nofret was the result of such a pairing. Her mother had known she was pregnant and hidden it for as long as possible to stay alive. She had begged the local apothecary’s slave to give her something that might end the pregnancy before it could become obvious, but it had been too late at that point. 

He had helped her to give birth in secret, but only the half-breed infant had survived. The apothecary’s slave had fled from the city with the newborn Nofret in tow and searched the jungle until he found Ani’s people. Even though he had no blood ties to Nofret, he had stayed with her, and raised her as his own.

Nofret’s half-breed looks had been taken in stride by the refugees. She was not the first true-born daughter of Bastet to find her home among them. But few enough of the half-blooded children survived the persecution of the Lion Folk to make her golden-furred pelt, striped tail, and cat-like facial features stand out among the human refugees, despite the fact that she walked on two legs, just like the rest of them.

Her thoughts wandered back to the man who had rescued her from certain death.

Ineni had been both mother and father to her for as long as she could remember. Even though he was a healer by both nature and training, he respected the need in her to learn how to fight.

How did I let him talk me into staying behind?

Nofret winced at a stab of guilt. If she hadn’t let her pride get in the way…

First, Ani and his team had left the village. When several days passed without anyone sending word, Thu had become anxious. She and Ani had always been close. Even though Thu knew he had left her in charge of the village, she couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that something had gone wrong.

So she had set out with a team of her own, including Ineni. Nofret’s adopted father wasn’t much of a warrior, but if Ani or any of the others were hurt…

Nofret had wanted to go with them, of course. But once again, she found herself relegated to staying behind to keep an eye on the village now that both Ani and Thu were gone.

Not that it needs keeping an eye on.

A bitter taste of disappointment flooded her mouth. She had been somewhat mollified to be left in charge when Thu left, but in retrospect, it didn’t really mean that much. The village pretty much ran itself. Everyone knew where they fit in the whole scheme of things, and they all worked together to keep everyone safe and cared for. No one needed to consult with Nofret about anything. Aside from the followers of Bastet, no one even knew where the village was, so there was no chance of attack from the Lion Folk.

And if someone really did have a problem, they would probably take it to the temple anyway.

She couldn’t help but feel she had been tricked into being left behind. She knew Ani, Thu, and especially Ineni wanted to keep her safe, but they knew how competent a fighter she was. Didn’t they think she could take care of herself?

She lunged forward with her dagger, her lips parting with a grunt as she extended her arm.

Days had passed since Thu had left with Ineni and the others. As much as Nofret wanted to believe they would return at any moment, she was starting to have her doubts. Her dreams had become tormented by visions of them being attacked in the jungle, without her there to defend them.

If anything has happened to Ineni...

She bit her lip. How much longer should she wait?

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