Stealing Sorcery
got a new assignment. A rather important one, in fact.”
    Jonan quirked a brow.
    “What sort of assignment?”
    “Come sit down first. There’s a great couch back here – it’s very comfortable.” She finally released his arm, but continued to lead the way. He followed her into another room. There were three long sofas, laid out as three lines of a square.
    Rialla sat on one of the couches, folded her legs, and gestured toward the one across from her. Jonan dutifully followed, taking a seat.
    “What do you think of our new home?”
    He scratched his chin. “It’s...big. What’s this about a mission?”
    “I meant in terms of security. But yes, I suppose it is ‘comfortable’. In terms of our mission, we’re going to be tracking someone.”
    “Cassius Morn. A former Thornguard. He was a member of the Bladebreakers.”
    Jonan whistled appreciatively. The Bladebreakers were one of the most famous Thornguard units, generally working under one of the Vae’kes to eliminate high profile enemy targets. They were, in part, why the Thornguard were often confused for being assassins.
    “He’s missing? What happened?”
    Rialla lifted a hand and ran it through her hair. “He failed to check in after a mission.”
    Seems like a good reason to find him. “How long ago?”
    “Three and a half years.”
    Jonan groaned. “And they’re just sending someone to look for him now?”
    “Oh, no. They’ve sent people before. Six times, in fact.”
    He was pretty sure he knew where this was going. “What happened to the first six squads?”
    “Well,” Rialla replied, “The four and a half squads they’ve found so far were dead.”
    Jonan closed his eyes, taking a deep breath.
    Why does this always hap- oh, right. I’m expendable.
    “Great. What kind of sorcery does he specialize in?”
    Rialla grinned brightly. “That’s the fun part. None.”
    Jonan narrowed his eyes. “None?”
    “He’s not a sorcerer. To date, he’s killed more than thirty of our agents. Without a single spell.”

Chapter V – Velas II – Murder Is Such a Strong Word
    Some nights, sleep could be as elusive as Symphony herself. Velas Jaldin was having one of those nights.
    Sitting up in her bed, the former member of the Queensguard of Orlyn massaged her own shoulders, working at unrelenting knots. Asking someone else to help occurred to her, but it invited more complications than she was willing to deal with.
    Gods, what’s wrong with me?
    She sprung from the bed with more energy than necessary, snatching her sword belt down from where it hung on the wall. She pulled on her trousers and a light green vest, slipped her feet into boots ill-fitting boots she’d never bothered to replace, and strode out of the apartment.
    Velthryn had, thus far, not been what she had expected. She had grown up on stories of towering spires flashing with sorcerous light and legendary warriors dueling in the streets. The city had towers, but their radiance had been somewhat… overstated. There were no mighty battles being fought, and the ‘heroes’ she had once idolized were relics of a former age, more likely to be found drunk on the street than displaying their talents in an arena.
    Herod, at least, had some faint spark of his former glory. Though he had retired after the fall of Xixis, she never saw him far from the training grounds, his failing eyes always searching for someone who could measure up to the memories of his long deceased companions.
    I will not disappoint you in the days to come, Master Herod.
    The nightfrost had just begun to recede from the sky when Velas arrived at the training ground. She was not the first one to arrive. This was not surprising in itself, but the sight that greeted her was unexpected.
    Taelien knelt in the center of a raised wooden platform near the center of the field, tracing his fingers across the surface of a red-bladed sword. Velas had seen the unusual weapon before, but not for several months,

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