The Shadowsteel Forge (The Dark Ability Book 5)

BOOK: The Shadowsteel Forge (The Dark Ability Book 5)
12.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
The Shadowsteel Forge
D.K. Holmberg

opyright © 2016 by D.K
. Holmberg

Cover by Rebecca Frank

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Chapter 1

siran Lareth settled
to his knees on the ground, shifting the long, heartstone alloy sword he carried to the side. He’d grown more accustomed to carrying it, now hidden beneath the long cloak of black wool that he chose to wear. Six lorcith knives were tucked loosely into his belt as well, easy enough to
if the need came. He maintained a heartstone-infused shielding over his mind, especially here where Readers might be able to reach through simpler barriers.

A shadow swept past him in the street, moving quickly. He detected no lorcith on the person, though hadn’t expected to. The metal was rare enough in Upper Town; down in Lower Town, the only people who would carry lorcith were those Rsiran had given it to.

“Where is she?” Jessa crouched behind him, buried in the shadows as well, though she carried so much lorcith on her that she nearly glowed. Not only the lorcith charm she wore around her neck, a white flower now pressed into it, but the bracelets that he’d forged for her shone with a white light as well. Thankfully, he was the only one able to see the lorcith light glowing from them.

“I don’t know,” Rsiran answered in a whisper, praying to the Great Watcher that his voice didn’t carry.

With the steady crashing of waves striking the shore farther below him, not much sound managed to carry, but he’d learned to be careful. Those with enhanced hearing, people known as Listeners, might be able to catch what he said, regardless. The ability wasn’t as common as Sight, but common enough, even in Lower Town.

“Tell me again why are we watching her like this?”

Rsiran turned to Jessa. Her hair had grown past her shoulders now, and she tied it back with a loop of lace, accenting her sharp jawline and pointed nose. Her chin tilted toward the flower she kept tucked in her charm, and she sniffed at it softly. He had yet to learn the meaning of the flower, but felt confident it had something to do with what happened to her before she returned to Elaeavn. It was a time she rarely spoke of, even to him. Maybe especially to him, he decided.

“Because I know she won’t ask for my help, and she doesn’t understand the extent of the threat.”

understand the extent of the threat?”

Rsiran turned toward the street again, watching the shadows. Finally, he detected the faint sense of lorcith approaching. This wasn’t one of his forgings, so the tug on his senses wasn’t as strong, but he could still tell when it neared. “I don’t know what I know anymore.”

Jessa reached toward his hand and squeezed it. She said nothing else, but then, there wasn’t anything for her to say.

The lorcith came closer, and gradually the figure carrying it came into view as little more than a shadow down the street. Rsiran crept closer to the street, still keeping himself under the cover of darkness.

When Alyse neared, he recognized her primarily by the way the lorcith necklace that their father had crafted tugged on his senses. Other than that, they had no real connection. She might be his sister, but she had abandoned him long ago, leaving him to the darkness of his father’s punishment.

Rsiran had been watching her for the last two weeks, monitoring her comings and goings to and from her small apartment. Ever since he had learned about the guild, and had done what he could to stop the Forgotten, he had monitored her. The Alchemist Guild had released her once the rest of the smiths had been returned, leaving her back in Lower Town, alone. She had not searched for him in that time.

If she had only taken his offer for direct protection, this wouldn’t be necessary, but Alyse was stubborn. In that, they were more similar than she would ever admit.

The mornings were less worrisome for him. Enough people were out in the streets that it made it less likely that someone would try something against her. Not impossible. Rsiran had learned enough to know that nothing was really impossible. But grabbing her off a street full of people would raise the kinds of questions that the people after him—either the remnants of the Forgotten or Venass—would rather not have asked.

Nighttime was when he worried. He could track her as long as she wore her lorcith necklace, and he’d made a point of ensuring that he remained attuned to it, even if he hadn’t forged it. With enough focus, he was able to follow her throughout the city. Nothing like his connection to the charm Jessa wore, but he was tied to it well enough now that he generally knew when she left.

That was the reason he ended up here. From here, he could follow her all the way back to her apartment. Each night had been uneventful, and he hoped it would stay that way, but he wouldn’t ignore the threat to her, not when she’d already been used against him once.

As Alyse neared the small alley where he and Jessa hid, she glanced in his direction.

Rsiran tensed and prepared to Slide deeper into the shadows, but held off. Jessa had taught him that movement only drew the eye. Remain still, and he was less likely to be spotted, even if he was more out in the open than he would have liked.

Then she moved on. At least she remained alert. That gave him a certain sense of reassurance that she might make it safely through streets that could be dangerous, and for her, likely were.

Rsiran held Jessa’s hand and prepared to Slide.

She squeezed and pulled on him. “How much longer do you intend to watch her?”

“As long as I have to.”

“You know you don’t have to do this.”

Rsiran glanced over to Jessa. “She’s my sister. Alyse might not claim me, but that doesn’t mean I can ignore that, especially after what happened.”

Jessa punched him softly. “That’s not what I mean. There are others, now. We don’t have to do this by ourselves.”

Rsiran sighed. For so long, it had been Jessa, Brusus, and Haern. And Della, but she rarely left her home. Now there were others, though he still struggled with how much he could—and should—trust them. Had Sarah and Valn come to him sooner, had they been willing to bring him into their planning rather than trying to chase him throughout the city, Rsiran might have found Alyse sooner. He might have found a way to even save his father from Venass. But they had not, choosing the secrecy the guilds—especially the Alchemist Guild—were known for.

“Eventually,” he said.

“You know I’ll help with whatever you need,” Jessa said.

When Alyse disappeared from view, they Slid, moving down the street and emerging in the shadows of another alleyway. The street looked little different. Gradients of shadows from the buildings were all he could see. If lorcith were present, it would brighten the street for him, but he hadn’t dared place lorcith so openly around the city. Not yet, anyway. He had planted many of his own forged items for him to anchor to, but they were placed discreetly, out of sight. Now that the lorcith glowed for him, he thought to use the ore to light his way, but had not done so yet. There was always too much to do.

From their new location, he strained to reconnect to the lorcith necklace Alyse wore, but didn’t find it where he expected to.

Rsiran frowned and cast a wider search for the lorcith. When he discovered it, she was two streets from where he would have expected her.

“What is it?” Jessa whispered.

“Probably nothing.” He hoped that was true. Alyse took the same path both ways—to and from her apartment—and had never diverged from it, but it was possible that she needed to stop for food or supplies or… or maybe she hadn’t stopped at all.

Grabbing tightly to Jessa’s hand, Rsiran
her in a Slide. When he emerged this time, he did so along the edge of a wider street. He should be more careful, but sudden worry for Alyse made him a little reckless.

He saw her at the same time that she saw him, her eyes going wide.

A man had her thrown over his shoulder as he carried her down the street. From where Rsiran stood, he could smell the stink from the docks wafting off the man. He was tall, with thick muscles that strained at the rolled up sleeves of his shirt. Even as a smith and working the forge as often as he did, Rsiran hadn’t grown nearly as muscled as this man.

“Not of Elaeavn,” Jessa whispered.

Rsiran couldn’t see the color of his eyes, but he trusted Jessa and her Sight. He could see the outline of scars on his forearms, making Rsiran immediately fear that the man worked with Venass. “Release her,” he said.

The man turned slowly. There was a soft whistle.

Jessa slammed into him, and they tumbled to the ground.

“Some kind of dart,” she said.

himself into a Slide, not needing to stand. When he emerged, he was behind the man, and
a knife at him, aiming for his legs.

Somehow, the man detected the knife and stomped on it, dropping it to the ground.

The man puffed his cheeks and there came another soft whistle.

Rsiran Slid.

He emerged to the left of the man, and
another knife toward him. Without waiting to see if the man would notice him, he Slid again, emerging on his other side, and
another knife. Three knives remained.

Rsiran Slid back to where Jessa waited.

“I think you slowed him,” she said.

The man lumbered toward a darkened alley.

“Doesn’t look like I slowed him much.”

“Have any other ideas?”

He forced a tight smile. “Yeah, but you’re not going to like it.”

Unsheathing the sword, he slammed it into the stone. Jessa started shaking her head as Rsiran Slid again.

This time, he emerged behind the man. Rather than attacking, he grabbed onto Alyse and Slid.

The man was strong, but Rsiran anchored to the sword, using it to help
him while carrying Alyse. The Slide was an oozing sensation, and then he felt her pop free of the man’s grip as they emerged back near Jessa and his sword.

The large man turned toward him.

Rsiran grabbed the sword, and
as he ripped it free from the stone. Jessa grabbed his hand, and then he Slid all three of them away.

When they emerged near the Wretched Barth, he lowered his sister to the ground, and she backed away from him, mouth agape and seeming a bit wobbly. A deep bruised had formed on her cheek, likely from when the massive man had grabbed her.

He leaned against the side of the tavern and let out a shaky breath.

“Damn, Rsiran,” Jessa whispered. “That was a little too close.”

“How did you… how did you…” Alyse brought her hand to her cheek and rubbed it.

“Are you okay?”

“Okay?” Alyse asked, already regaining the hard edge to her voice that she always managed with him. “I was attacked in the streets, and you’re asking if I’m okay? What do you think, Rsiran, that this happens to me every day?”

Jessa grinned at him. “Seems like she’ll be fine.”

“I’ve been watching to make sure that you stay safe. After what happened the last time, I didn’t want to risk anything else happening to you.”

“You feel some responsibility for me? Since when? I seem to remember that you were the one who abandoned us, Rsiran. Where did this sudden protective streak come from?”

“Enough!” Jessa said. She pulled a knife from a hidden pocket more quickly than Alyse could blink, and jabbed it toward her. “You think to lecture him after what he did to save you? We can take you back and let that man have you if you want. I don’t have to think too hard to imagine how he would use you. Trust me when I say that a man like that only knows one way to treat women.”

Alyse blinked and her shoulders sagged. Whatever fight she had in her faded. “He didn’t say that he wanted anything from me. He grabbed me, and that was it.”

“The silent ones are the worst,” Jessa said. “At first, it’s slaps, but the fists come soon enough.” She pointed to the bruise that bloomed on Alyse’s cheek. “Maybe that one just jumped to the fists. I’m sure Rsiran could Slide you back to him. Won’t take him but a moment.”

Alyse shook her head vigorously. “How do you know?”

Jessa grunted. “Not all of us get to live your charmed life.”

“Charmed? My life is anything but charmed. Ever since
decided to run off, there’s been nothing charmed about it. We’ve had to work for everything and still have nothing.”

Jessa slipped her knife back into its sheath beneath her jacket. “Most of us always had to work for everything.”

Rsiran suppressed a grin. He had been with her long enough to know that she hadn’t necessarily worked the same way that Alyse meant. Sneaking as she did required a certain level of work, but he imagined that what Alyse had been through was worse than what Jessa knew.

“Are we done?” Rsiran asked.

Jessa glared at Alyse. “Depends on
. She didn’t answer whether she wants you to take her back to that big man. You could Slide her there if she wants.”

“No,” Alyse said softly.

“What was that?” Jessa asked, stepping toward Alyse.

“I said no. I don’t want to go back there. Not if he’s there.”

Rsiran tipped his head and studied the bruise again, finally piecing together what Jessa had been saying. He had thought her taunting Alyse, and that might have been a part of it, but not the whole reason. Jessa had seen something that Rsiran had missed. With her Sight, that should not surprise him.

He realized that it wasn’t only the new bruise; there were others that he hadn’t seen at first. In the faint lantern light out on the street, he could make out the edges of the bruising around her right eye, but also scratches to her arms. Then there was the tentative way that she walked, moving slowly, and carefully, as if it hurt when she moved too quickly.

“You’ve met him before,” Rsiran said.

Alyse backed away, looking more uncertain than he’d ever seen her. The defiant way that she had stared at him when he first rescued her took on a different meaning. It wasn’t defiance; it was posturing. “I’ve not met him,” she said. Jessa arched a brow. “There’s another. He doesn’t hold me… after.” She said the last softly, and Rsiran almost missed it. “But this man… I hadn’t seen him before. He grabbed me and said nothing.”

BOOK: The Shadowsteel Forge (The Dark Ability Book 5)
12.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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