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What the Cat Dragged In: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

What the Cat Dragged In: A Legends of Lasniniar Short

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Death stalks Narilga through the underground city of Dwarvenhome. Sinstari can smell it.

The wildcat’s nose never lies. But no one understands his warnings. Not even his longtime dwarf companion and Narilga’s mate, Barlo.

And only Barlo stands a chance of saving her. (With Sinstari’s help, of course.)

What can Sinstari do?

How can he make Barlo understand, before Narilga’s time runs out?

A stand-alone story from the Legends of Lasniniar fantasy series. If you love cats and adventure, grab this book. (Previously published as “Legends of Lasniniar: What the Cat Dragged In.” This adventure takes place between the prologue and first chapter of the World of Lasniniar novel Storm Rider.)

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Sinstari knew something was wrong. Aside from Barlo, few dwarves spoke with him directly, but he could sense the worried tension that permeated his companion’s home. Fidar—Barlo’s youngest cub—no longer spent his nights off carousing with friends. He moped about the house instead, as if afraid to leave. His older siblings visited more often than was their wont, bringing parcels of food to share. Even Barlo’s behavior had changed. He hadn’t left to work in his forge for days.

Sinstari finished grooming his charcoal and golden fur. He had more silver patches now, but that was to be expected. He was getting older, after all. When he finished smoothing the last errant clump into place, he rose to his feet and padded toward Barlo’s bedroom. He found his dwarven companion there, sitting by the bedside. His face looked wan above his graying face pelt, and his nose was red. Narilga sat propped up in the bed, looking much worse for wear. Her cheeks were sunken, and her skin had a waxy appearance. A sheen of sweat coated her brow. Her salt and pepper hair hung in limp hanks around her face. Barlo stroked her hand as she uttered a series of rattling coughs.

Sinstari’s whiskers quivered. He knew both Barlo and his mate had been fighting off a cold for several days, but something had changed. He inhaled, testing the air. He sneezed. Barlo’s scent was no different, but Narilga’s now carried a familiar undertone.

Death was stalking her.

It wasn’t at her heels yet, but it dogged her nonetheless. If she didn’t get the help she needed... Sinstari had no doubt as to the outcome.

He went to Barlo’s side, sitting on his haunches beside the bed and reaching up with one large paw to tap Barlo’s arm, startling him.

“What do you want, cat?” Barlo demanded. “Can’t you see I’m busy here?”

“Maybe he wants to go outside,” Narilga said in a weak voice. “He’s been cooped up underground for days now.”

Sinstari would appreciate some time in the open air above the underground dwarven city. He sacrificed much of his comfort to live in Dwarvenhome with Barlo. But that wasn’t the only thing he had in mind. He tapped Barlo’s arm again.

“He can go above ground on his own,” Barlo said. “The guards know to let him through.”

Narilga shrugged. “He must want you to go with him. Maybe he thinks you need some fresh air.”

“I’m sure I could use some, but I’m not leaving your side.” Barlo wiped his dripping nose with a tartan handkerchief.

“I know you’re worried about me, but nothing’s going to happen if you’re only gone for a few moments,” Narilga scoffed. “I’m not that delicate.”

“I just hate to leave you like this is all,” Barlo grumbled. “Especially if it’s only to satisfy the whim of a demanding cat.”

“I’ll be fine,” Narilga insisted. “Besides, Sinstari isn’t exactly like other cats, is he? If he wants you to go with him, he probably has a reason.”

Barlo looked from his mate to Sinstari. Sinstari looked up at him with unblinking green eyes, silently agreeing with Narilga’s words.

Barlo sighed. “Very well. I’ll only be gone for a few moments.” He kissed Narilga’s forehead. “Blasted cat,” he grumbled under his breath as he followed Sinstari out the door. “This had better be important. I don’t know why you hang around with a bunch of dwarves anyway when you could be in Melaquenya with Iarion.”

Sinstari understood Barlo’s puzzlement. He had been bred by the Wild Elves to be Iarion’s companion, not a dwarf’s. But after Iarion had died, Sinstari had chosen to stay with Barlo. They both had been close to the elf, and took solace in each other’s company. After Iarion had been reborn, Sinstari decided to remain with Barlo, even though it went against his nature to do so. Despite Barlo’s gruff nature, they had bonded over the years, and Sinstari sensed the dwarf needed him more than Iarion ever had. He knew Iarion would understand.

Now he was glad he had stayed. Narilga was in danger, and Barlo’s judgment appeared to be compromised by his own illness. The entire dwarven city seemed to be living under a shroud of fear. It was up to Sinstari to get Barlo to take action.

The guards at the city gate gave Barlo a nod of respect as he passed, stepping aside for him. Barlo nodded back, with a few brief words of greeting. Sinstari could sense him struggling between annoyance and curiosity over his insistence they leave Dwarvenhome, but Barlo said nothing more of it until they were outside and out from the shadow of the mountains.

It was an early spring day in Middle Lasniniar. The air was still cold, slicking Sinstari’s fur close to his body. The sky was overcast, and the air dense with moisture from a rainstorm he judged had passed less than an hour before. Sinstari took several deep breaths while sitting completely still. Only his tufted ears moved, rotating to and fro as he took in the sounds around him. A bird rustled in the grass, most likely searching for nesting material. A short distance away, a mouse pattered out of its hole. Otherwise, he and Barlo were alone. Sinstari’s tail twitched, but he resisted the urge to run off to hunt. Instead, he looked up at Barlo to be certain he had the dwarf’s attention.

Barlo’s color was already improving in the fresh air, his cheeks returning to their usual ruddy complexion. His brown eyes had brightened, and he seemed more alert than he had in several days. He stroked his face pelt and looked down at Sinstari.

“All right, cat,” he said. “I’ll admit I do feel better for having gotten some fresh air, but is this the only reason you dragged me out here? Narilga is really sick, you know. I’m afraid it’s going to take more than some air to make her well again.” Barlo’s expression grew concerned.

Sinstari bobbed his head in response and rose from his haunches. He trotted a few paces southwest and then stopped to look over his shoulder.

“Where are you going?” Barlo asked. “I can’t go off on a journey now. Narilga needs me.”

Sinstari bobbed his head again. He took another few steps and looked back.

Barlo threw up his arms in frustration. “Blast it, cat, I don’t have time for your riddles! Can’t you see how worried I am? I should be at my wife’s bedside, not traipsing around out here.”

Sinstari uttered a sigh and held Barlo’s gaze, silently willing his companion to understand. Barlo was nowhere near as dense as most other dwarves, but an elf would have read Sinstari’s intent right away. Fortunately, years of living in Dwarvenhome had taught Sinstari patience. He stared at Barlo without blinking.

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