The Guild Secret (The Dark Ability #6)@D.K. Holmberg

Chapter 1

The sun’s light faded as it disappeared behind thick clouds, casting a haze across the late evening sky that reminded Rsiran of when he Slid to the center of the Aisl Forest. A chill hung in the air. It had been that way all day, even under the day’s bright sunshine, and he pulled his cloak tight around him, over the line of knives sheathed at his waist.

“Are you sure that you want to do this?” Valn asked. The dark-haired man crouched next to Rsiran, staring out at the distant city of Thyr with eyes that were a moderate green, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword. His sharp jaw clenched, the tension visible to Rsiran.

“You don’t have to come,” Rsiran said.

Valn turned and shot him a hard look. Since the attack on Elaeavn, Valn had come with Rsiran often on his scouting trips. Having someone accompany him was the only way that Jessa would really let him go.

“Don’t I? After what happened in the city—”

“Are you sure you want to risk yourself again?” Rsiran asked. “The last time…”

“The last time? You mean the time when we caught the three Venass scholars in Eban trying to blend in? The time when you decided to throw around your knives as we caught them, getting the attention of their city watch? That time?”

“I don’t throw my knives. Then my aim would be nearly as bad as yours.”

Valn shook his head.

Rsiran tried to hide his smile as he patted him on the shoulder. It was easy to get Valn on edge, and Rsiran needed to stop taking advantage of it by making fun.

“Coming so close to Thyr… This isn’t our best idea, Rsiran.”

He knew it wasn’t, but their search for scholars of Venass had only turned up a few stragglers. The more they looked, the more it seemed that Venass had tried to disappear, pulling their people back to Thyr. It was the one place he hadn’t risked visiting until now.

“I need to find him.”

“It’s not your fault that Danis escaped,” Sarah said. She shifted the ends of the long cloak she wore, dragging it across the hard stone. Valn had insisted on her coming with them this time, especially as they got closer to Thyr. As one of the Thenar Guild, she could detect Sliding, at least those who did so using their talent. Rsiran still didn’t know whether she could detect Sliding done the way Venass did. “They had enough people with them who Slide that they were in and out of the Forgotten Palace before we could get back there. Besides, you managed to stop the others from destroying any more of the Elder Trees.”

“Still lost the one,” Rsiran said.

Sarah’s deep green eyes wrinkled as she frowned. “Yes, we did. Father still isn’t sure what that means for the alchemists.”

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Valn said. “The trees mattered in times past, but it’s been centuries since they played a relevant role.”

Sarah looked toward Rsiran, as if searching for answers. He didn’t know what to tell her. Should he share that there was still power in the Elder Trees but that he seemed the only one able to reach it? Would that make her feel better, or worse? They hadn’t saved the alchemist tree. The tree itself wasn’t dead, but the power within it had changed, leaving the tree darkened. There didn’t seem to be anything they could do that would restore it.

But he had saved the other that had shown signs of being poisoned, only learning later that it was the smith tree. The Smith Guild had rewarded him for restoring the tree by naming him guildlord, but he still didn’t know if it had been a reward or a punishment, especially with all the meetings he now had to attend.

“They still protect the crystals,” Sarah said when it became clear that Rsiran wouldn’t answer.

“The guilds have them protected,” Valn said. “I should know. I have to take my turn on the rotation, watching the entrances to the room. The last time was so boring, I think I would rather have been back in Eban again with Rsiran.”

Rsiran smiled. “I think you liked Eban.”

“There’s really nothing like having a dozen men with swords surround you,” Valn said.

“You were never in any danger,” Sarah chided. “You can Slide away from swords.”

“And the next time? What if they have crossbows?”

“Slide faster,” Sarah suggested.

She stalked away from them and stood on the peak overlooking Thyr. Rsiran turned his attention there, as