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The Wanderer: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

The Wanderer: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

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A hidden obstacle in the tall grass. Between the human zealots, demons, and other dark creatures roaming Lasniniar, Barlo never expected to get taken down by some stupid piece of wood.

But the dwarf and his elf friend Iarion always seem to attract trouble, turning even a simple camping trip into an unexpected adventure.

And the strange staff that tripped him becomes only the first of Barlo’s problems...

A stand-alone misadventure story from the Legends of Lasniniar fantasy series. (Previously published as “Legends of Lasniniar: The Wanderer.” This adventure takes place after the World of Lasniniar novel Harbingers.)

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Barlo blamed the tall grass of the Adar Daran for his fall. The blasted stuff stood almost to his broad shoulders. At least it helped to soften his fall as he landed face-first with a heavy thump. He filled the air with Dwarvish curses as he felt his ankle twist beneath him. The scent of crushed grass filled his nostrils. He heaved himself up onto his forearms and spat out a mouthful of it, along with a decent portion of his long, brown beard. Something cool and damp brushed the back of his calloused hand, making him flinch.

He looked up to see a pair of golden, feline eyes staring down at him. A moment later, a set of large paws began to circle him as Golhura sniffed him over.

“Yes, yes,” Barlo grumbled as he batted his wildcat companion away. “I’m fine, thanks for asking. But I would be better if you had bothered to let me know I was about to trip.”

Golhura sat back on her haunches—a large, charcoal shadow in the tall grass. She looked down at him with one of her unreadable looks, but her tail twitched in amusement.

“Maybe that’s because she assumed you would be watching where you were going,” a familiar voice said from above. “Most people do, you know.”

Barlo craned his neck to scowl at the owner of the voice. He wasn’t surprised to find Iarion smirking down at him. From this angle, the elf’s long, white braids dangled around his golden-skinned face like a beaded curtain. Iarion brushed them behind his pointed ears and extended his arm to offer Barlo a hand up.

Barlo thought about ignoring it, but his ankle was already throbbing, and between his helm, chain mail, and heavy pack, he felt like an oversized turtle. He swallowed his dwarven pride and reached out—only to find his friend’s hand was still beyond his grasp. The blasted elf was too tall. Iarion uttered a wry chuckle and crouched to close the gap.

“You would think standing closer to the ground would give you the advantage when it comes to spotting obstacles,” the elf said with a twitch of his lips.

Barlo cursed him out in Dwarvish as he hauled himself unceremoniously to his feet, nearly knocking the elf over in the process as his boots got tangled again.

“What in the First Father’s name is down there?” Barlo demanded. His ax was still in its usual place on his belt and all his other belongings were relatively in place.

He leaned against Iarion for support and began rooting around the grass with his free hand. His fingers brushed against something long. He pulled his hand away with a stifled yelp. He ignored Iarion’s snort of amusement and forced himself to reach down again as a flush rose from beneath his beard. It couldn’t be a snake. Golhura would have attacked it.

That was what he told himself, anyway.

When he found the mystery item again, he made himself close his fingers around it. Its surface was solid and smooth and fit his hand perfectly. He lifted it from the ground.

“Huh. It’s some kind of staff.”

The long piece of golden-brown wood stood well above Barlo’s head, reaching just below Iarion’s shoulders. Despite its smooth surface, Barlo could make out whorls of bark along its length. One end was narrower than the other, but it seemed perfectly balanced, and both ends were unblemished, with no signs of cutting.

Barlo positioned it with the narrow end against the ground and gave an experimental lean against it. “Well, at least I can use it to help me walk, now that it’s gone and tripped me.”

Iarion’s golden-flecked, sapphire eyes narrowed with an intent look. “May I see it?”

“Fine,” Barlo sighed. “But if I fall over, you’ll have to help me up again.”

He planted a hand on Iarion’s hip for balance, carefully avoiding the long knife that hung from the elf’s belt, and passed him the staff. He should have known Iarion would want to see it.

Barlo eased his weight to his right foot with a hiss. His left boot already felt as if it were two sizes too small. He struggled to take it off one-handed while Iarion inspected the staff. The boots were his most comfortable pair and the only ones he had with him. He didn’t want to have to cut one of them off if he could help it.

Despite his grunting, shifting weight against Iarion’s leg and hip as he worked, the elf seemed oblivious. That in itself was strange. Iarion never missed a chance to bait or tease Barlo if he could help it. Even Barlo’s threadbare left sock didn’t draw a comment. The dwarf wiggled his big toe, which stuck out of a hole in the bright orange fabric. Probably because the toenail needed to be trimmed.

The elf remained silent.

“Um, Iarion?” Barlo looked up at his friend in concern. “Are you all right?”

Iarion’s fine, white brows were knitted, and he gripped the staff with both hands, seemingly oblivious of his surroundings. He shook himself at the sound of Barlo’s voice.

“This wood…” He blinked. “I don’t recognize it.”

“Really?” Barlo shook his head in surprise. Before being reborn as a Light Elf, Iarion had been a Wood Elf, not to mention the most widely traveled one of his kind.

“It feels different.” Iarion ran his fingers along the staff with a distant look. “Foreign.”

Barlo snorted. “Well, it certainly didn’t come from around here.”

The Adar Daran was formed of open grassland that stretched across the width of Middle Lasniniar. He, Iarion, and Golhura had set out from the Light Elf forest of Melaquenya almost two days ago, and the trees of Melaralva were barely a smudge against the northern horizon beneath the looming clouds of the late-spring sky.

Iarion rolled his eyes and seemed to emerge from his trance. “I meant it doesn’t feel like anything in Lasniniar.” His slender nose wrinkled. “Ugh. What’s that smell?”

The elf’s gaze was inevitably drawn to Barlo’s exposed foot. Barlo wriggled his toe again and hid a smirk. That sounded more like the Iarion he knew.

“I couldn’t keep my boot on,” Barlo said with as much dignity as he could muster. “My ankle and foot are all swollen. I need to let them breathe.”

“So much for the rest of us breathing,” Iarion grumbled, just loud enough for Barlo to hear. Golhura snorted in agreement. Iarion thrust the staff at Barlo. “Here. Use this and try to make yourself useful while I set up camp. It doesn’t seem like we’re going any further today.”

Barlo thought about protesting. They had expected to make it to the river today—a much more defensible position to settle for the night, now that the Light Elves’ wood lay more than a day behind them. The trip was meant to be a pleasure jaunt—an escape from the worries that hung over them in Melaquenya. But Lasniniar was still a dangerous place…

Barlo shook his head with a snort of his own and set to work unpacking supplies, leaning on the staff for support. Both he and Iarion were accomplished warriors, and Golhura was no slouch either. He doubted after all the adventures the three of them had been through together they would find anything to give them trouble in the Adar Daran.

Iarion worked around him to pitch their tent, giving him an earful about the state of his socks.

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