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Wave Runners: A Novel of Lasniniar (The World of Lasniniar Book 5)

Wave Runners: A Novel of Lasniniar (The World of Lasniniar Book 5)

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A dwarf apart. Barlo knows he no longer fits in among the people of Dwarvenhome.

His secret past looms over him.

He longs for a chance to set the heavy burden aside. To feel like himself again. A secret journey to make a new home among the elves seems like the only way. And if he happens to stumble into an adventure with his best friend Iarion once he gets there, even better.

But a force more powerful than Barlo also struggles to find a new life.

And the end of the dwarf’s journey lies much farther than the Light Elves’ wood.

The ongoing saga of Barlo and Iarion continues to lead to strange, new places, fraught with darkness and danger, in this fifth novel in the World of Lasniniar epic fantasy series.

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Barlo crept through the empty streets of Dwarvenhome on silent feet. He suppressed a smile. Even Iarion wouldn’t be able to accuse him of tromping this time. Barlo was of two minds about his stealthy progress. On the one hand, he was pleased to be able to pass unnoticed, without the customary scuffle and heavy footfall of his dwarven boots. On the other hand... well, it only served to remind him how different he had become.

No other dwarf could match the unnatural silence of his movements. Years of being trained and partially raised by an elf had set him apart from the rest of his kind. It had made him something more.

His peculiar training and upbringing weren’t the only things that set him apart. Of all the dwarves that had ever lived in Lasniniar, he was the only one to ever be reborn. That in itself was difficult enough for him to come to terms with. No, the worst part was that he had to keep it a secret.

As they usually did when confronted with the discomfort of his burden, his thoughts drifted back to that fateful day when he had thought his life had come to an end...

* * *

Barlo found himself in an enormous mountain hall with roaring fireplaces, and a long table piled high with food and drink. Other dwarves wandered the hall, having animated conversations and taking their turn at the table. Everyone seemed in high spirits. Barlo smiled. The First Father’s hall was exactly as he thought it would be.

He heard a low cry and turned to see Narilga rushing toward him. There was no sign of the sickness that had claimed her, and the years seemed to have fallen away from her. She was every bit as beautiful as she had been as a young lass when he had first started to court her. Her dark hair streamed behind her as she threw herself at him. He caught her, holding her tightly. She gripped his beard with both hands and pulled him in for a lingering kiss that left him breathless before looking up at him with sparkling, blue eyes.

“Narilga!” he managed to gasp. “You look wonderful. You’re even lovelier than I remember, and that’s saying something!”

His wife blushed and flashed him a smile. “You’re looking rather dashing yourself.”

Barlo looked down and realized the gray was gone from his beard. He ran his fingers over his face. He could feel no signs of the wrinkles and seams that had become a familiar part of his features.

“There’s someone else who wants to say hello,” Narilga said.

She stepped aside to reveal a large wildcat with gray fur marked with patterns of dull gold and silver. The cat padded forward and looked up at him with unblinking green eyes.

Sinstari? How is this possible? You’re not a dwarf...” Barlo shook his head in disbelief.

Narilga shrugged. “He wouldn’t be left behind.”

Barlo fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around the giant cat, holding back tears. “You stubborn beast!”

Sinstari licked Barlo’s forehead with a large, rough tongue, looking quite pleased with himself.

Narilga squeezed Barlo’s hand. “There’s something else,” she said. “The First Father wants to speak with you.”

Barlo rose in a daze. “Galrin?” he asked, uncomprehending.

He got the sense from Narilga’s hushed tone this was an unusual situation. Before he had the chance to question her, the First Father himself arrived, seemingly from nowhere. Galrin’s presence was almost overwhelming. The First Father was both merry and solemn, friendly and awe-inspiring, all at once. He was slightly taller than Barlo, with a magnificent gray beard. His green gaze seemed bottomless.

“Barlo,” he said in a voice that resonated through every bone in Barlo’s body. “Welcome to my hall. I have allowed your cat companion to join us here as a reward for his loyalty.”

“Thank you,” Barlo stammered.

“You did much in the service of Lasniniar in life,” Galrin continued. “Not only did you help to defeat Saviadro and reunite the Quenya, but you also gave your life to prevent a great evil from taking root when you killed the Khashada.”

Barlo nodded. He considered his death to be worth the cost. If the Khashada had not been destroyed... Well, Lasniniar would likely be overrun by her changelings and blood-drinking demons.

“For all you have done, I am now giving you a choice,” Galrin said. “While the dwarves do not serve the Quenya directly as the elves do, it is still a part of us. Without it, Lasniniar would cease to exist. Although it was discovered on Ralvaniar, it is the source of all life and magic.”

“What is the choice?” Barlo asked, almost dreading to hear the answer.

Galrin seemed to sense his unease. He gave Barlo a sympathetic smile. “You can either stay here for the rest of eternity like any other dwarf who has passed from the world of the living, or you can choose to return.”

“Return?” Barlo frowned. “But only elves are reborn.”

“For you, the Quenya has made an exception. I cannot advise you one way or the other. The choice is up to you. Only know that if you decide to return, you must tell no one. Otherwise, you will create chaos and confusion among my other dwarven children, who will be given no such choice.”

Barlo’s mind reeled. “And what happens when I die the next time? If I decide to go back, that is.”

Galrin shrugged. “I do not know. It is unprecedented. The Quenya may offer you this decision again. No matter what happens, you will always be welcome in my hall.”

Barlo turned toward Narilga, feeling utterly lost. He had always thought he had known what awaited him once his life was over. He had been looking forward to being reunited with her. He had missed her desperately. But at the same time, an eternity of feasting and drinking, with all chance of adventure gone beyond recall... Well, it seemed a bit boring. He had never been one to sit idle for too long. Plus, it would be worth it to see the look on Iarion’s face if he went back. Barlo had no doubt his best friend would recognize him. Besides, the foolish elf was probably blaming himself for Barlo’s death.

Narilga held his gaze. “You should go,” she said.

Barlo shook his head. “Do you have any idea how long I’ve waited to see you again? How can I turn around and leave you?”

She held both his hands in hers. “Time has no meaning here. To me, it seems as though I only died yesterday, rather than decades ago. You have a chance to go back and have more adventures. You can see Iarion again. You can see our children! You can live an entire life, and when I see you again, it will almost be as if you had never left.”

“But I would miss you so much!” Barlo said, his throat tightening.

“I know, but if you let this chance pass you by, I think you will regret it. Do you really want to live with that for the rest of eternity?” Narilga’s eyes shone with unshed tears.

“You would not have to leave right away,” Galrin said in a gentle voice. “You would still have some time together.”

Barlo wrapped Narilga in a wordless embrace. He knew she was right. He just hated to think of being without her again.

“No matter what, you are the only woman I will ever love,” Barlo said in a fierce voice, pulling back to look at her.

She gave him a smug look, raising her chin. “Good. I’ll try not to pick up any dwarven men while you’re gone.” She broke into a smile.

“You’d better not...” Barlo gave her a mock threatening look. He turned to face Galrin. “Will I remember any of this?”

The First Father gave him a sad smile. “Perhaps. That will be up to the Quenya.”

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