Free Fiction Feature February 2021 | Legends of Lasniniar: Shipwrecked

Feoandir fights to maintain control of his ship in the midst of a magical maelstrom. The lives of his fellow elf passengers and crew depend on him—a mishmash of the various tribes flung together under dire circumstances.

Striking and opinionated, Silvariel suffers no fools. She knows someone must take charge to keep the elves united. Someone willing to listen to her advice and ready to take the blame if things go from bad to worse. Feoandir seems like the perfect choice.

…If she can convince him to take responsibility for more than his battered ship.

A stand-alone, meet cute story from the elves’ past, “Legends of Lasniniar: Shipwrecked” explores the origins of the Lost Elves in the World of Lasniniar epic fantasy series by award-winning author, Jacquelyn Smith.

Now, you can read it for free on this site for one month only. This short story also comes in ebook and paperback format–both on its own, and as part of the Storm Rider Lasniniar Collection.

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Legends of Lasniniar: Shipwrecked

Jacquelyn Smith

Feoandir gripped the ship’s wheel with both hands until his knuckles ached. He knew it was a futile gesture. The rudder had snapped at least an hour ago, leaving them completely at the mercy of wind and wave. Now he clung to the sodden wood in an effort to remain upright as the deck bucked beneath him. A storm of epic proportions raged all around him. Gusts of wind slammed into him from different angles, and rain pelted against his skin.

The almost constant crackle and boom of thunder made it nearly impossible to communicate with the rest of the crew. His throat was ragged and sore from trying to shout over it. Instead, he and the other elves who manned the ship were forced to use rapid hand gestures to communicate during the frequent flashes of lightning that lit up the dark sky.

The rest of the fleet was a mere smudge in the darkness ahead of them. He had lost track of how much time had passed since all the ships’ lanterns had gone out. He lost sight of the other ships for a moment as his own vessel plunged between two enormous waves. As it rose again, he noticed the fleet was dwindling from sight, veering toward the northwest. He shouted a curse of frustration at his own impotence. He could do nothing to change course and follow them. Perhaps if the storm hadn’t forced him to drop sail, he could have compensated for his lost rudder… He contemplated the tightly furled sheets of sailcloth.

Using them now would be suicide.

Even with the sails bound, the ship’s mast swayed in the tempest wind. A prickle of warning traveled down Feoandir’s spine. A deafening crack of thunder sounded directly overhead.

Less than an eyeblink later, a bolt of lightning sizzled down from the heavens, blasting the mast. Startled elves flew backward, disappearing over the side to be swallowed by the waves. Feoandir could do nothing but watch in helpless horror as splinters of scorched wood struck him. The air around him tingled his nostrils with a metallic tang.

His shocked gaze was drawn southward by a flicker of movement on the horizon. Another lightning bolt lit up the churning sky, haloing a large figure in the clouds and burning it across his vision during the split second it appeared. Even after the darkness returned, he could see the silhouette shimmering behind his eyelids.

It took him a few moments to make sense of the image, but the bat-like wings and serpentine neck and tail left little doubt. He had seen a dragon.

Why was a dragon flying to the south of them? All the elves’ dragon allies making the journey were flying in formation with the rest of the fleet. Feoandir had seen them himself. He had spotted Malarin joining them with Iadrawyn and Valanandir atop her back some time ago. Even with the high winds, there was no way any dragons had managed to veer so far off course. Yet he could not doubt what he had seen.

He was distracted from his thoughts by another giant wave that slammed into the ship’s side, rolling it sideways. Feoandir’s feet slipped out from under him and he dangled freely from the ship’s wheel, his heart in his throat. His fingers ached and his shoulders strained. For a moment, time stood still. How long could he hold on?

Screams punctured the endless cacophony of the storm. They were cut short as elves tumbled from the deck into the roiling sea. Just when Feoandir thought his arms were going to give out, the ship righted itself. He stumbled and landed hard on his knees. He knelt against the ship’s wheel for several moments, his breath coming in ragged gasps. He eventually rose on shaky legs to grip the wheel once more.

How long he clung there, he could not say. Time lost all meaning in the storm. After a while, his mind seemed to wander in an effort to flee the terror around him and he stood locked in place in a numb stupor.

A bone-jarring blow against the ship’s hull brought him back to his senses. A horrible scraping sound was immediately followed by a series of dull cracks. Feoandir forced himself to move from his perch to investigate. He used the rigging to secure himself as he swung from one grip to the next toward the foredeck. He realized the ship was starting to tilt on a downward angle as he went, confirming his worst fears.

When he reached the foredeck, he found his remaining crewmates peering over the side. He slid over to join them and suppressed a groan.

The hull had been breached. The ship had struck some uncharted reef and now water was rushing in. Feoandir peered out into the darkness. With the damp of the storm, it was difficult to tell, but he thought he smelled something beyond the salt tang of the sea. He was afraid to give in to false hope, but it seemed like the earthen scent of land. Had they reached the western continent?

The ship groaned and tilted further, sending the elves scrambling for purchase. If they stayed, it would be the end of them.

“Abandon ship!” Feoandir shouted over the storm.

He heard his order relayed by the surrounding crewmates. Some climbed toward the lifeboats to prepare them while others fought to reach the hatch that led belowdecks and usher out their passengers. Frightened elves moved as quickly as they dared across the slick wood, many with children in tow. Each lifeboat was lowered into the water as soon as it was full. Feoandir waited until everyone else had fled the ship, taking the last lifeboat for himself and the few remaining passengers. He and another member of the ship’s crew took the oars and struggled to propel their boat westward.

The waves seemed even larger now that they were in a smaller vessel. Sometimes, the ocean would help them, driving them forward with a heart-dropping swell. The passengers clung to one another in a huddled mass. Feoandir wished he had the luxury of doing the same.

He and his crewmate fought grimly at the oars. Feoandir’s arms were burning with fatigue. He could feel the sting of blisters on his palms. Then with one last surge, a giant wave ran the lifeboat aground. A few moments passed before Feoandir realized they were no longer moving.

He sprang to his feet and urged his charges out of the boat. His legs buckled when his boots sunk into wet sand, but held. He could make out the forms of other elves on the beach fleeing the water. He and the occupants of his lifeboat did the same, and not a moment too soon. The last elf had just stepped out of the lifeboat when the water dragged the vessel back in. A wave hammered into the boat, smashing it to pieces and sending debris flying everywhere. Some of the elves stopped to look in stunned shock. Feoandir did what he could to rouse them, dragging them farther inland.

He was stumbling now. The sand beneath him seemed ridiculously solid and unforgiving after the constant rolling of the ship. His exhausted body was betraying him. He wasn’t alone. Other elves collapsed all around him. He fought against it as long as he could, but eventually he sank down to join them. The rain continued to batter him, but he no longer cared. He realized he was lying on his back, staring up at the sky. Another jagged streak of lightning streaked across the sky before it plunged into darkness once more.

It was the last thing he remembered.

* * *

Feoandir pushed a damp lock of white hair from his eyes and blinked, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. He was lying on his side on a patch of cold, wet sand. The sun had risen, drying the rest of the beach around him. Motionless elves lay scattered around him. Some were starting to move. Every muscle in his body ached.

He looked up. The sky was blue and clear. There was no sign of the storm, but he could see the remains of their ruined ship stuck on a reef out in the water, the aft deck on an angle. The waves lapped gently at the shore and gulls cried out overhead. The storm…

Feoandir’s memories came rushing back, accompanied by a horrible realization. They were lost.

He and his ship had landed on a strange new continent. They had no idea where they were, or where to find the rest of the elves. He suppressed a surge of panic. What were they going to do?

An elven woman approached, and he scrambled to his feet to greet her. Like the rest of the ruined ship’s passengers and crew, she had golden skin, but she was shorter than any full-grown elf Feoandir had ever seen. Her tousled, red-gold tresses shone in the sun. Even in her current disheveled state, she was beautiful. Her reddish hair and pale green eyes told him she had come from Wild Elf stock. She raised her chin to look up at him.

“Are you the captain?” she asked. Feoandir could do nothing but nod. “Well, what are you going to do about all this?” She gestured around the beach.

Feoandir frowned. “What do you mean?”

“You were in charge of the boat and everyone on it, were you not? That means you are responsible for our welfare. You got us into this mess. Now it’s your job to get us out.”

“Excuse me?” Feoandir spluttered. “I’m responsible for all this? Perhaps you weren’t aware, since you were belowdecks, but there was a cataclysmic storm while we were making the crossing.”

The woman sniffed. “It didn’t seem to affect the other boats. I don’t see them here, do you?”

“I couldn’t follow them,” Feoandir said from between clenched teeth. “The rudder broke.”

She gave an airy wave. “I’m sure you did the best you could. I suppose there were too many boats to expect every one of them to have an expert captain.”

“Ships,” Feoandir said, his turquoise eyes narrowing.

“I beg your pardon?” Her brow furrowed.

“The big boats we sailed across the ocean in. They’re called ships.”

The woman shrugged. “Boats, ships, whatever. I’m not a Sea Elf.”

“No, you’re a Light Elf,” Feoandir said. “And so am I. We all are.”

“Speak for yourself,” she said. “Look around. See how people have clustered together?”

Feoandir looked up and down the beach. Sure enough, the elves had fractured into groups to comfort one another. Even though they had all been Light Elves for some time, and the children had been born as Light Elves, the groupings appeared to be based on former tribe lines. Those with Sea Elf heritage stayed closer to the water. The former Earth Elves were huddled behind a barricade they had built in the sand. He spotted some elves a short distance away, where the sand gave way to grass. They were most likely former Wood Elves. Those who had once been Wild Elves were wandering around, clearly anxious to be off.

“The Quenya isn’t here to hold us together,” the woman said, gauging his reaction.

Feoandir closed his eyes and tried to sense the pull of the elves’ source of magic. “It’s somewhere to the north,” he said. “I can barely sense it.”

The woman nodded. “The question is, do we go after it?”

Feoandir gave her a speculative look. “Who are you, anyway?” Perhaps this imperious woman had more of a point than he thought.

“I am Silvariel.”

“Feoandir,” he said, holding out his arm to clasp hands. “What do you think we should do?”

“First of all, I think we need to unite everyone,” Silvariel said. “This land is unknown to us. If we splinter off into tribes, our chance of survival diminishes.”

“Why don’t you take charge?” he asked.

Silvariel shook her head. “I don’t have a position of authority. You are the ship’s captain. You have the best chance of getting everyone to listen to you.”

“But the ship is gone. We are on land now.”

“It does not matter,” she said. “You were put in charge of our welfare. These people want someone to take charge. They are lost and afraid.”

“But I’m not a warrior or a scout,” Feoandir said. “I’m not even a leader among the former Sea Elves. I don’t know what to do.”

“You don’t have to be an expert. We already have scouts among the former Wild Elves, and many of these people are warriors. Delegate and use their skills.”

Feoandir ran a hand through his tangled hair with a sigh. “Yes, but use their skills to do what? Where do we go from here?”

Silvariel shrugged. “We will need to get everyone together and decide. If you try to tell them what to do, it won’t work, but if everyone feels as if their voice is being heard, you can convince them.”

Feoandir gave her a plaintive look. “Will you help me?”

Silvariel smiled. “Of course. You can take charge while I guide you from behind the scenes. That way if anything goes wrong, you can take the blame.”

Feoandir rolled his eyes. “Thanks.”

* * *

Feoandir and Silvariel gathered the surviving elves. They sat together on the beach, looking up at him. Feoandir swallowed, trying not to feel nervous. He had never done much public speaking before. Silvariel nudged him from behind, urging him to start.

“Uh, thank you, everyone for your attention,” he began. “My name is Feoandir, and I was the captain of our ship. This is Silvariel. She is my adviser.”

He could feel Silvariel staring daggers at him. The corner of his mouth twitched. He wasn’t about to let her off the hook and take the fall by himself. Murmurs of speculation traveled through the crowd.

Feoandir forced himself to continue. “We gathered you here to help decide what we should do next. The ship is damaged beyond repair, and we are stranded on a strange continent. As near as we can tell, the Quenya is somewhere to the north. If we find it, we will likely find the rest of our people as well. How many of you agree?”

As he had expected, nearly every elf raised their hand. Those who kept their hands down appeared too shocked or stricken to do anything but sit and listen. He couldn’t blame them. They had left behind everything they had ever known to come to this new land and now they were isolated and alone.

“We will need knowledge and supplies to move forward,” Feoandir said, trying his best to sound confident. He had already given the problem some thought. He had decided to use the strengths of the former elf tribes to their advantage. “Any Wild Elves who are scouts will organize an advance party and search the area to the north of here. They will report to Silvariel. Any Sea Elves fit enough to swim will help me salvage what we can from the remains of the ship. The Earth Elves can put together some kind of basic fortification to last us a few days, while the Wood Elves will tend to the wounded and gather whatever food they can find. Does anyone have any questions?”

An elf near the back of the gathering raised his hand. “What if we can’t find the others?”

Feoandir forced himself to hold the elf’s gaze, taking comfort from Silvariel’s presence behind him. “We will deal with that situation if and when we come to it. Now let’s get started. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

To his surprise, the elves obeyed, splitting back into groups to take action. They seemed to take comfort in having some direction, and they threw themselves into their assigned tasks. Feoandir gave Silvariel a nod and headed toward the water to meet the rest of the Sea Elves.

After some discussion, it was decided that the best way to transfer any supplies from the shipwreck was to do it in a relay. That way, each Sea Elf would only have to swim a few feet in either direction to move something down the line, conserving energy. Feoandir was one of the elves to climb through the breached hull to search the ship’s interior. Much of what had been stored had either been washed away or destroyed, but he still managed to find several casks of food and fresh water, as well as some blankets. He also took whatever splintered wood he could find. They could dry it out and use it to build a fire. It wasn’t much, but it gave the rest of the elves heart to see their situation improving.

By the time Feoandir and the other Sea Elves returned to the beach, they were shivering and exhausted, but a fire was already waiting for them, along with a sparse meal. The Earth Elves had expanded their trench wall, which helped to break the wind. The scent of roasting flesh assaulted Feoandir’s nostrils. He frowned, seeking the source. He spotted the large haunch of a creature he did not recognize rotating on a spit over the fire. The air popped and sizzled as drips of fat fell into the flames. He couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten meat. All the elves had given it up when they had united and settled together as Light Elves back on Ralvaniar.

But Ralvaniar was no more.

“We have no choice,” Silvariel said, seeming to read his thoughts as she approached. She stood next to him, leaning against her spear. “The supplies you gathered from the ship cannot keep us all fed. We must supplement our meals with meat if we are going to survive.”

He knew she was right, but he felt his stomach turn. Some of the other elves were already eating. Parents were encouraging their children to try the foreign food while hiding their own distaste. Others ate in silence, forcing their meals down with water. No one complained.

“At least we will only have to live like savages until we reunite with the rest of the elves,” Feoandir said in a low voice.

Silvariel sighed. “That may be longer than you think.”

Feoandir turned to meet her gaze. “What do you mean?”

“We have scouted the area to the north of here. A vast, scorching wasteland stretches as far as the eye can see. There is no grass—only an endless stretch of sand that has been shaped by the wind into a parody of the ocean.”

Feoandir’s mind reeled at the mental image she had painted. “I have never heard of such a thing. Do you think we can cross it?”

Silvariel shook her head. “We would not be able to carry enough water to survive in that kind of heat. It does not seem like an ideal land for hunting or foraging either. We saw few plants, and they were strange, tough-skinned things covered with spines.”

“What do we do?” Feoandir’s spirits plummeted as her words sank in. “The Quenya lies that way, along with the rest of the elves. We have no other place to go!”

“Get a hold of yourself,” Silvariel snapped, giving his arm a shake. “You are our leader. You cannot afford to panic.”

“That’s exactly why I’m panicking!” Feoandir forced himself to keep his voice down. “I didn’t ask to be put in charge. This is an impossible situation. Where am I supposed to lead everyone now that we’ve been cut off from the only other people we know on this Quenya-forsaken continent?”

Silvariel gave him a penetrating look. “What do we need to survive?”

Her question threw him off, but Feoandir held her gaze as it it were a lifeline. “Just to survive? I suppose we would need food, water, and shelter.”

“Thank you.” Silvariel rolled her eyes. “I am glad to learn you haven’t completely taken leave of your senses. Can we survive without the Quenya and the rest of the elves?”

Feoandir’s brow furrowed at the implication. What she was suggesting seemed unthinkable. “If we had to…”

“Of course we can. The elves survived for a long time before the Quenya was discovered, and they were scattered all over Ralvaniar, living in different tribes. We have people from all different tribes now. We have already seen how that can work to our advantage. We know where the Quenya is. We just can’t reach it right now. We need to find a way to survive until we can find a way.”

Feoandir took a steadying breath. “You’re right. I know you are right. It’s just…”

“I know,” Silvariel said. “We have lived with the Quenya for so long. It is difficult to imagine existing without it. But it’s still out there. Perhaps we can learn to reach it from afar. Iadrawyn has done such a thing, so it must be possible.”

But her connection with the Quenya is stronger than any other elf alive.

Feoandir kept the words to himself. He knew it was a pointless argument.

“Very well,” he said. “Have your scouts discovered a more promising direction for us? We cannot stay here. There is no shelter, and our fresh water is limited.”

Silvariel gave him a nod of approval. “Now you are thinking like a leader. The area to the west and south is one vast plain. It will provide good hunting, and we will be sure to find fresh springs. The only issue is shelter. We have seen no forests or caves, but we have spotted a glimmer on the southwestern horizon that appears to be a small body of water. Perhaps we will find something there. It’s our best hope.”

Feoandir’s shoulders slumped. “I can’t believe we are actually going to leave the Quenya behind. What if we never find a way back to the others?”

“Then at least we will have done our best to keep our people alive.” Silvariel lips twisted. “Believe me, I don’t like it any better than you.”

“I’m not looking forward to convincing everyone else of this.” Feoandir’s expression was grim.

“Well, there’s no time like the present,” Silvariel said, prodding him closer to the fire with her spear. “You might as well talk to them now before you have too much of a chance to think it over and talk yourself out of it.”

“Are you sure you can’t talk to them?” Feoandir asked. “You did a good job of convincing me.”

“I am not the leader here.” She drew herself up. “I’m only an adviser. Now get going.” She prodded him once more.

Feoandir found himself smiling. “You know, for someone so small, you can be a real bully.”

* * *

Feoandir still didn’t know how he had done it. Somehow, he had managed to convince all the elves to journey southwest, away from the Quenya. He suspected it had something to do with his emphasis on phrases such as ‘temporary’ and ‘stopgap solution.’

I wonder how many of them realize we may never see the rest of the elves or the Quenya again?

He knew the thought must have occurred to some of his followers, but if it had, no one had voiced it. Many had lost friends and family during the crossing from Ralvaniar and were still numb with grief. Perhaps when they finally found a place to settle, a small party could be sent north…

Don’t think too far ahead. We haven’t even found shelter yet.

Fortunately, the skies remained clear, and the weather in the grasslands was warm enough to travel without the luxury of tents or blankets. Feoandir had no idea if this was normal weather for the area, or how long it might last, and he fretted over it constantly. No one blamed him for the maelstrom that had taken so many lives and drastically altered their fate. But if a storm caught them out on the plains and anyone got hurt or sick, he suspected it could be the last straw and people would start doubting his judgment. If that happened, it would trigger a slippery slope into chaos. He knew his leadership was tenuous at best. This didn’t bother him on a personal level, but he feared what would happen if the elves disbanded and went their separate ways. How many of them would survive?

“You’re brooding again,” Silvariel said, breaking his train of thought.

“I’m sorry, is that not allowed?” Feoandir found himself almost snarling the words at her. How did she always manage to strike a nerve with him?

“Of course it is allowed, but if you are going to indulge in such unproductive nonsense, you must keep anyone from knowing you are doing so.” The tossed her head, sending her red-golden curls dancing about her shoulders. “You cannot give anyone reason to doubt you.”

Feoandir shook his head, trying to keep his temper in check. “How do you know so much about being a leader anyway? For someone who didn’t want to be in charge, you seem full of advice.”

Silvariel shrugged. “I am a descendant of the Lord and Lady of the Wild Elves. Why else do you think my former tribemates take orders from me so easily? I’m not exactly an imposing figure.”

Feoandir cocked his head, considering. “That’s not exactly true. But why does your heritage even matter? We have all been Light Elves for so long. Iadrawyn and Valanandir have been our leaders since we united and communed with the Quenya.”

“My heritage might not matter among the other tribes, but it matters to the Wild Elves. We have always been closer knit than the rest of the elves.”

Feoandir tried not to blush. He had heard how open the Wild Elves were with their relationships. It made for a close community, where almost everyone was at least distantly related in some fashion.

Silvariel raised her narrow chin. “No matter what you may think of our ways, we are fiercely loyal to our own, and have always looked to our own rulers before Iadrawyn and Valanandir. I know what being a ruler entails.”

“As much as I hate to admit it, you’ve been keeping me on course so far.” It was the closest he could bring himself to thanking her.

Silvariel said, reaching up to pat his cheek. “You’re welcome. Oh, and don’t worry. I’ll continue to stay close at hand to prevent any other missteps.”

Feoandir rolled his eyes. “How very comforting.”

Their conversation was disrupted by the arrival of a Wild Elf scout whose eyes looked as if they might pop out of his head.

“What is it?” Silvariel asked, all business.

“I beg your pardon,” he said, breathing heavily, “but I’ve been scouting ahead. We have found the water we spotted. It is a freshwater pool. There are people there!”

Feoandir frowned. “What kind of people?”

The scout shook his head. “They are unlike anything I have ever seen. Their skin is very dark. They are broader and more heavily muscled than any elf, and their ears… Their ears are round!”

“What do you mean?” Silvariel asked. “Do their ears stick out from their heads?”

“No, they are like ours, but it is as if someone cut the tips to a rounded edge and then they healed that way.” The scout shuddered.

Silvariel leaned forward. “Did they see you?”

“Yes.” The scout hung his head. “We have encountered no other people as we have traveled, so we have not been as cautious. There was nowhere to hide in this open land once they spotted me, so I ran.”

“But they did not chase you, even though this must be their territory,” Feoandir said. “Perhaps they are peaceful.”

“There’s only one way to find out.” Silvariel summoned another scout with a trilling whistle. “Round everyone up and form a perimeter guard. Try not to alarm anyone. Feoandir and I are going to the pool to meet some of the natives. We do not know whether they are hostile. If we do not return by sundown, I want you to lead everyone as far away from here as possible. Is that understood?”

The second scout nodded and ran off to relay the orders. Silvariel turned to face the first scout.

“You will take us to where you found these people,” she said. “We will travel openly. Keep your weapon ready, but do not make any threatening movements.”

The scout composed himself and turned to lead them.

“Are you ready?” Silvariel asked Feoandir.

Feoandir nodded, loosening his knife in its scabbard. It was the only personal item he still owned after the shipwreck. He had remained quiet while Silvariel gave her instructions. He knew she was competent, and the scouts would take orders better from her than from him.

“No point in risking more than three of us,” he said in a low voice as they walked.

Silvariel gave him a look of approval. “That was my reasoning. Three people is also too few to be considered a threat if the natives prove peaceful.”

Feoandir did his best to get his nerves under control. He was no stranger to battle. He had fought his share of drakhalu on Ralvaniar. But he had no idea what manner of creatures they would be facing or whether they were hostile. What if they were worse than the blood-drinking demons they had left behind?

He forced the idea from his mind and focused on scanning the area ahead. As they neared the pool, he saw a small cluster of crude huts. One of the people the scout had described stood near the perimeter, looking their way. He uttered a wild shout and more people began to pour from the huts to join him. All of them had the same dark hair and skin and strange, rounded ears. They wore rough loincloths formed of animal skins. Some of the males carried weapons of sharpened stone.

Feoandir, Silvariel, and the scout stopped to stare. Silence fell over the crowd, and for several long moments, no one moved. Then the first native who had spotted them fell to his knees, prostrating himself while babbling in an unfamiliar tongue. The rest of the villagers followed suit.

Feoandir and Silvariel looked at each other in confusion.

“What are they doing?” Feoandir asked.

“I—I don’t know,” Silvariel said. “I think they are worshiping us.” She looked just as stunned as he felt.

“Well, that’s not right.”

Feoandir walked forward and reached down to offer his hand to the man who had started the groveling. The man stared. Feoandir gently took his wrist and raised him to his feet. He noticed another figure step forward from the shadow of the huts—someone who had not fallen to the ground like the others. It took Feoandir a moment to realize it was a woman. Her head was completely bare. How she had managed to shave it without a metal razor, he had no idea. She spoke softly to the man standing in front of Feoandir in soothing tones before stepping forward to face the elves.

The woman inclined her head and began to speak. Feoandir frowned. Whatever she was saying, it was in no language he had heard before. It bore no similarities to Elvish or the Black Tongue. He shook his head in incomprehension.

“Well this is getting us nowhere,” Silvariel muttered. She caught the woman’s eye and waited for her to fall silent.

“We,” Silvariel said, gesturing to herself, Feoandir, and the scout, “are from a land to the east.” She pointed eastward and mimed a wave of the ocean moving from east to west with her arm. “We are looking for food, water, and shelter.” She rubbed her belly, pointed to the pool and then one of the huts.

“Ah,” the woman said, her brown eyes lighting. She said something else that sounded like a question. She pointed at the elves and held up three fingers.

Only three?

“No.” Silvariel shook her head. “Many.” She flashed all ten of her fingers several times.

The woman’s eyes widened. She shook her head in amazement before nodding and making a beckoning gesture. She turned to speak to the others. They rose slowly, listening before breaking off into a buzz of excited conversation.

“That wasn’t too hard, was it?” Silvariel said.

Feoandir frowned. “Are you sure she understood?”

The woman turned to Feoandir, pointed past him to where the rest of the elves were waiting and made the beckoning gesture with emphasis.

“Of course she understood.” Silvariel rolled her eyes. “Weren’t you paying attention? Honestly, I’m starting to wonder how you ever got by without me.” She started walking back to the rest of the elves.

Feoandir followed in her wake, wondering the same thing.

* * *

The elves spent the next few days living in happy confusion among the natives—who they had taken to calling Nunpelo in their own tongue—Plains People. They had managed to determine that the Plains People were mortal, living only a short time by elven standards. A few of the men and women showed signs of aging that was unfamiliar to their kind, with gray hair and withered features.

Despite the lack of a common tongue, the Plains People made the elves feel welcome, sharing what little they had to offer. Other than the woman who had invited them to their village, the rest of them continued to treat the elves with a reverence that Feoandir found uncomfortable. He did what he could to encourage them to treat the elves as equals, but he had no way to explain to them that their golden skin was only an effect of having lived in close proximity to the Quenya—something that was bound to wear off with time. Only the children seemed immune, running and playing with the young elves who had survived the crossing. Feoandir sat near the edge of the pool watching their antics while wondering what to do next.

As friendly as the Plains People were, their village was no place for the elves to settle. It was too open, and there were few trees nearby. Besides, Feoandir didn’t like the idea of living with people who seemed convinced the elves were gods. It was bound to cause problems sooner or later.

“What did I tell you about brooding?” Silvariel said as she sat beside him.

Feoandir gave her a wry smile. “I’m not brooding. I’m… contemplating.”

Silvariel snorted. “Well it looks like brooding to me. I’m assuming you are worrying about where we should go from here.”

Feoandir flashed her a look of surprise. “How…?”

“Please,” she scoffed, “I know as well as you do that this place isn’t suitable for the long term. It has been good for everyone to feel safe again and get back their bearings, but they will get restless soon.”

“And we need to stay one step ahead of them,” Feoandir said. “But we know nothing of this area.”

“What does the Quenya tell you?” She held his gaze.

“The Quenya is leagues from here. How can it tell me anything?”

Silvariel shook her head in mock despair. “Can you feel the direction of the sun with your eyes closed?” Feoandir frowned and nodded. “Then you don’t have to be right next to the Quenya to sense it, do you?”

“I suppose that makes sense…”

“Just try it,” she said. “Close your eyes and concentrate.”

Feoandir obeyed. Even with his eyes closed, he was still overwhelmed by the background sounds of the village. He took several deep breaths and turned his focus inward until he reached a level of stillness. At first, he felt nothing. Then he found that internal spark that connected him to the Quenya. It pulled him in, surrounding him for a fleeting moment with an overwhelming sense of completeness. Before he could fully bask in the sensation, it pulled away, drawing his consciousness with it. He found himself rising to his feet and turning. He opened his eyes. He was facing west.

The moment had passed, but Feoandir could still feel a slight pull somewhere deep inside him. He met Silvariel’s gaze, his eyes wide.

“We are meant to go west,” he said in awe.

She nodded. “That is what I have felt as well.”

“What lies in that direction? We have no idea.”

“I will ask the village headwoman,” Silvariel said.

“But why would the Quenya lead us west?” Feoandir shook his head.

“Does it matter? It’s where we need to go. You wanted an answer. Now you have it.”

Feoandir sighed. “I suppose this means it’s time for another meeting.”

Silvariel gave him a friendly slap on the back. “I’m sure you will do fine. After all, you’re practically an expert at them now.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

* * *

Silvariel and her scouts rounded up all the elven survivors and had them wait a short distance from the village, away from any potential distractions. She arrived with the headwoman in tow, who seemed to accept the turn of events without having them explained. Feoandir tried to steady his frazzled nerves.

Will I ever get used to being a leader?

He waited until Silvariel joined him at the front of the gathering to begin. He started by raising his hand in a request for silence. He wasn’t certain whether it would work, but it seemed better than trying to shout over everyone. To his surprise, the murmuring crowd fell silent.

“Thank you,” he said. “We have gathered you here to talk of our future in this new land. Thanks to the Plains People, we have had several days to rest and regroup in comfort.” He made a shallow bow in the headwoman’s direction. She gave him a nod in response, understanding his intentions, if not his words.

“I think we all know we cannot stay, even though the village has been a haven for us,” he continued. “The land is too open for our kind, and we are overcrowding the natives. We need a place of our own that we can defend, and where we can return to our own ways before they are forgotten. It is time to discuss where we will go from here until we can find a way back to the Quenya.”

Feoandir felt as if he had kicked a hornet’s nest. A buzz of conversation followed his words as the elves began to argue among themselves, tribe against tribe.

“Enough!” Silvariel’s ringing voice cut the arguments short. “Feoandir has done well by us so far. Show him some respect.”

“But where should we go?” an elf called out from somewhere in the crowd. “We are lost without the Quenya.”

“He probably wants us to settle near the sea,” an Earth Elf scoffed. “It’s all Sea Elves can ever talk about.”

“And you probably want to hole up in some dank cave, I suppose,” a Sea Elf retorted.

“But what about trees?” a Wood Elf asked. “We all love trees. I can’t imagine living in a place without them.”

“A Wood Elf would say something like that.”

Silvariel shot Feoandir a meaningful look. He was losing control of the meeting.

“Elves, please!” Feoandir raised his arm again and the argument dissolved into harsh glares. “Why are we arguing like this? We were all once Light Elves. Now it seems we have become something else, even though we have been apart from the Quenya for less than a week.

“We cannot continue like this. We will need all our strengths if we are going to thrive in this new land. I don’t care what tribe you are descended from. We are all in this together. We are Lost Elves now—a new tribe that will settle in a place where there is something for everyone, and we can learn to work together again, just as we did on Ralvaniar.”

“Yes, but where?” a voice called out.

“You believe we have been separated from the Quenya,” Feoandir said. “That is not entirely true. I want all of you to close your eyes.”

He led them through the same exercise Silvariel had walked him through. A deep silence fell over the gathering as each elf fumbled to find a connection they had thought lost. Several long moments passed, and Feoandir feared his plan would fail. Then almost as one, every elf stood and turned with one arm extended. Feoandir was too stunned to speak.

“Open your eyes,” Silvariel said.

The elves looked around in wonder. Every one of them was pointing west. Everyone began talking at once.

“What lies in that direction?” Silvariel asked the headwoman, pointing.

The woman began speaking in her own tongue, mimicking the rising and setting of the sun several times before pointing to a slender-trunked tree that stood nearby.

“A forest?” Silvariel asked with a frown, pointing at the same tree.

The woman pointed at the tree again before flashing all ten fingers several times and pretending to wipe her brow as if she were very warm.

“Many trees, but very hot,” Feoandir muttered.

“Water?” Silvariel asked. “Is there water there?” She pointed to the nearby pool before pointing west.

The woman nodded, moving her arm like a snake. A river, yes.

“What about caves?” Feoandir picked up a rock to show her and mimed a dome over his head with his arms.

The woman tilted her hand from side to side before making a repeated, overhand wave.

“A few caves, but deep in the forest,” Silvariel said, breathless with excitement. “Are there any people there?” She pointed at the woman and the village, then toward the west.

The woman violently shook her head.

“So several days’ journey from here is a warm forest with a river and some caves,” Silvariel said to Feoandir.

“It’s not perfect, but it sounds about right,” Feoandir said, considering. “I think we can get everyone to agree. Isn’t it odd that she seems to understand us so well?” He indicated the headwoman with a jerk of his chin. “None of the other villagers seem to communicate with us as easily as she does.”

“There is something different about her,” Silvariel mused. “I don’t know what though, and we don’t have the luxury of investigating it further. We need to keep the momentum going if we want to get everyone moved to our new home. Perhaps we can look into it after we have settled down. The Plains People will be our neighbors, after all.”

“I suppose you’re right. How soon do you think we can get everyone ready to leave?”

Silvariel stared off into the distant west with a determined expression on her face. “We will set out first thing tomorrow.”

* * *

The Plains People poured out of the village to see the elves off on their journey. They had provisioned Feoandir and his followers with dried meat and waterskins. The supplies were generous, but not enough to get them to their destination. They would have to hunt and forage along the way. Feoandir knew it was as much as the Plains People could spare at such short notice.

A Wood Elf bestowed the headwoman with a carved staff as a token of thanks. Even though it had only been created by idle hands in an effort to while away the time since the elves’ arrival, the villagers marveled at the workmanship. The headwoman smiled, bowing low.

Many of the Plains People were distressed the elves were leaving. They wept openly, throwing themselves at Feoandir’s feet to speak in pleading tones in their own, strange tongue. Feoandir wanted to comfort them, but he didn’t know how. The headwoman sensed his unease and reached out to give his shoulder a comforting squeeze before making a shooing motion. It was time to go.

The first two days of travel passed without incident, but as time wore on, the elves began to fracture and bicker once more. Traveling into the unknown was nerve racking, and the constant heat made everyone irritable. Feoandir and Silvariel did what they could to keep the elves busy and distracted, but by the end of each day, most had forgotten the feeling of certainty they had experienced when they had made the decision to journey west. The strange, barking laughs they heard in the distance each night when they made camp didn’t help matters.

The one silver lining of the trip was that game was plentiful. The only problem was the elves were unfamiliar with most of the creatures they encountered. This made hunting a challenging exercise at best. After a few attempts at larger targets, the scouts stuck to deer-like creatures with twisting horns, and whatever fowl they could find.

After a few days of such travel with no end in sight, the elves made camp for the night, grumbling all the while. Each former tribe claimed their own spot. This made patrolling the perimeter difficult and a task Silvariel’s scouts were coming to begrudge more with each passing day. Feoandir understood their annoyance, but he didn’t know how to solve the problem. He knew if not for Silvariel, the scouts wouldn’t bother to patrol the other tribes’ camps at all.

“This isn’t working,” he said as he settled beside Silvariel in front of the fire in the Wild Elves’ camp.

“I know.” Silvariel closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. “When the complaining and bickering starts, it’s all I can do to keep my temper in check.”

“We can’t keep going like this or we’ll have a mutiny on our hands. What do we do?” He watched the play of the firelight on her hair, allowing it to soothe him.

Silvariel’s brow furrowed. “We need something that will unite us. An outside enemy would be best.”

Feoandir shook his head. “We’re the only ones out here. Where will we find—”

A piercing scream cut his words short.

Both he and Silvariel leaped to their feet, weapons in hand.

“What was that?” he asked in a hushed voice.

A barking howl was followed by another scream.

“Only one way to find out,” Silvariel said before pelting in the direction of the sounds.

Feoandir ran after her, clutching his knife. His heart thundered in his ears. They reached the edge of the Earth Elf camp and found an elf woman hovering protectively over a child, her sword drawn. The child’s leg was bleeding. She was surrounded by a pack of animals that made Feoandir think of a cross between a wolf and a mountain cat. They snapped and snarled like wolves, but their snouts were shorter, and they had rounded ears. Their short coats were covered with spots. He watched them, mesmerized as they circled. One opened its muzzle to utter a barking laugh. A shiver went through him.

Before he could think to do anything, he suddenly realized every able-bodied elf had joined him, drawn by the racket. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their weapons drawn, no longer concerned with petty, tribal squabbles. Feoandir met Silvariel’s gaze. She gave him a nod. This was the enemy they needed.

“Attack!” he cried, urging the elves forward.

They fell on the strange creatures, not needed to be told twice. The beasts were large and well-muscled. It took several elves to handle each one. Even then, many were wounded by their long, pointed teeth. Feoandir found himself fighting next to Silvariel. Although she was small, she made up for her size with speed and agility. While he distracted one of the creatures, she pierced its heart with her spear, pinning it to the ground. It uttered a final yelp and twitched for a moment before going still.

He turned to face the next one only to realize the fight was already over. With everyone working together, the elves had made quick work of their attackers. More than twenty carcasses littered the ground.

“At least we’ll eat well for the next few days,” Silvariel said in a dry voice.

“You really want to eat one of those things?” Feoandir asked, wrinkling his nose. Some of those beasts had undigested bites of elf inside them.

Silvariel shrugged. “Food is food. We cannot afford to be picky.”

He knew she was right. He pushed the thought from his mind and watched the elves around him. A few were wounded, but no one had died. The elves mingled, working together to deal with the injured and the carcasses without having to be ordered. Feoandir couldn’t believe the change.

I wonder how long it will last.

But when he woke the next morning, all the elves were still on speaking terms. In fact, everyone seemed even more friendly than the night before. A hum of excitement ran through the camp. He rubbed his eyes and went to find Silvariel to find out what was happening. He found her at the western edge of the camp.

“Look,” she said as soon as she saw him, pointing into the distance.

The morning light had revealed what they had not been able to see when they had made camp the night before—a dark smudge of green on the western horizon that stretched as far as the eye could see.

* * *

This isn’t at all what I expected.

Feoandir trudged beside Silvariel at the head of the elven procession. His long hair hung against the back of his neck like a damp, white blanket, and his scalp prickled. His arms were throbbing with insect bites and his clothes clung to his skin. He dodged a vine hanging overhead, only to learn it was a snake. He bit back a yelp of surprise and pushed forward, forcing his way through the dense undergrowth.

The forest they had been expecting was something else entirely. Unfamiliar trees clung together in a tight canopy, holding in all the heat and turning it into a dense humidity. Strange birds and animals called from unseen perches as they passed, making the elves nervous. The Wood Elves seemed somewhat more at ease than the others, inspecting the plants and debating their properties, but even they weren’t entirely comfortable.

Feoandir wished he knew where they were going. Without the sun overhead, it was nearly impossible to tell one direction from another. Since crossing the forest threshold, he had been forced to rely on the faint pull of the Quenya. The rest of the elves grumbled, but followed willingly, each of them sensing the same pull. He stifled a curse as he smacked yet another insect from his arm.

“The Wood Elves think they can find some sap that will repel the bugs,” Silvariel said as she walked. “That should help make things somewhat more comfortable.”

“Yes, well it’s still not quite the haven we thought it would be,” Feoandir said. “I had hoped since there were trees and caves here to satisfy the Wood, Wild, and Earth elves, it would at least be near the southern coast of this continent, but I can sense nothing nearby. The ocean is behind us, and we are far inland. The Sea Elves will not be happy.”

“You will have to make do with the river, I suppose. It must run to the sea. That’s something, isn’t it?”

Feoandir sighed. “It’s not the same.”

Silvariel gave him a sharp look. “You’re not planning on leaving for greener pastures, are you? Because that would be foolish.”

“Of course not. I led everyone here. I can’t leave now. Besides, I cannot ignore the Quenya. It wants us to settle here for some reason.”

“Good. I would hate to lose—that is, we would hate to lose our leader.”

Feoandir gave her a wry smile. “So you wouldn’t miss me at all if I left?”

Silvariel snorted. “I might miss pulling you out of trouble and saving your—uh oh.”

Feoandir rolled his eyes. “My what?”

“Don’t move,” Silvariel said, casting her spear aside.

“Do you always have to be so bossy?”

“Feoandir, this isn’t the time for that.”

Silvariel looked from side to side. She was standing in a small clearing with open space around her. She and Feoandir had gotten ahead of the group. He could hear the others somewhere in the distance behind them.

“And why can’t it be time for this discussion?” Feoandir asked. “It seems like you always have time to discuss my shortcomings.”

“Be quiet,” Silvariel snapped. “I’m thinking.”

“If you’re having a problem coming up with a list of your faults, I’d be happy to help.”

Silvariel threw her arms up in disgust. “I can’t believe this.”

Feoandir gave her a bemused smile. “You can’t believe what?” He suddenly felt as if they were having two different conversations.

“Feoandir, do I seem short to you?” She made an irritated gesture at her height.

He frowned. “I think you took ‘shortcomings’ too literally…”

“I’m standing in quicksand, you dolt! I’m sinking.”

Feoandir looked down. Now that she mentioned it, Silvariel did seem shorter than usual. She was knee-deep in a green bog that was indistinguishable from the solid turf Feoandir was standing on.

He shook his head in confusion. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I did say something.” Silvariel spoke from between clenched teeth. “I warned you not to move.”

“But why didn’t you ask for help?”

“Because I’m mortified a Wild Elf scout like me could get herself into this situation,” she said. “I wanted to get out on my own, but there’s nothing to grab on to. The more I move, the faster I’ll sink.”

“I’m right here,” Feoandir said. “You could grab on to me.”

“I didn’t want you to think I was weak. Look, can we talk about this some other time?” Silvariel was now waist-deep in quicksand.

Feoandir sighed. “Now who’s being a dolt? You’ve been my partner and supported me since we shipwrecked. I could never think you are weak.”

“I appreciate that,” Silvariel said. “Really I do. But I would feel much more comfortable talking to you on firmer ground.”

“Are you asking for my help?” Feoandir raised an eyebrow. “Because I would be happy to give it to you if you are.”

“Feoandir, please!” Silvariel had sunk to her chest.

Feoandir cocked his head. “‘Please,’ what?”

“Help me!” Silvariel sounded both panicked and angry at once.

Feoandir dropped to his belly and shimmied forward to the edge of the bog. He seized Silvariel’s arms and pulled, drawing her onto solid land. Her body was coated with murky green sediment from the armpits down. When he finally got her all the way out, they lay side by side on the grass, panting.

“I would never have let you sink, you know,” he said, brushing a red-gold lock from her brow. “I just needed to you trust me the way I trust you.”

She gave him a small smile. “I know. Thank you.”

The moment passed, but Feoandir sensed something had changed between them. He tried to ignore a sudden flutter in the pit of his stomach.

Silvariel rolled to her feet and held out a hand to help him to rise. “We’d best go back to the others. We cannot continue on this route.”

“A bog like this will be a good defense against intruders,” he said, returning her spear.

Silvariel wrinkled her nose. “I just hope we find the site of our future home soon. I really need a bath.”

Feoandir made a show of covering his nose. “Agreed.”

Silvariel punched him on the arm.

* * *

A few hours later, they reached their destination. There was no doubt in Feoandir’s mind they had found the place they were meant to settle. The trees opened into a large clearing domed by the high canopy. He could hear the rush of the river somewhere nearby. He spotted a tumble of rocks in the distance. Even without the physical evidence before him, he knew. The song of the Quenya rose inside him, filling him for a suspended moment before fading entirely. He wondered if he would ever hear it again.

He looked at the faces of the elves around him. He knew they had felt the same thing. Against all odds, they had survived the cataclysm that had destroyed Ralvaniar and being separated from the Quenya. Now the real work would begin. As time went by, they would fade. Their skin and hair would dim, and eventually, the Quenya would become only a distant memory. They would be Light Elves no more. He would do what he could to preserve their heritage, but he sensed a long future ahead of them in this land—some hidden purpose yet to be discovered. They would be Lost Elves in truth.

“This is it,” Silvariel breathed. “Our new home.”

Feoandir took her hand and she smiled up at him.

“Home.”

* * *

Legends of Lasniniar: Shipwrecked

Copyright © 2021 by Jacquelyn Smith

Cover design by Jacquelyn Smith

Cover art copyright © Akv2006, Anna Merkulova, Chorazin3d, Wimstime/Dreamstime

 

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