Mistborn the final empi.., p.28
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.28

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 28

  Vin stood in dumbfounded shock.

  “You want to go look at it?” Kelsier asked.

  “Look at the mistwraith?” Vin asked. “Are you—” She stopped.

  Kelsier chuckled, strolling back to her. “Mistwraiths might be a bit disturbing to look at, but they’re relatively harmless. They’re scavengers, mostly. Come on. ”

  He began to retrace their footsteps, waving her to follow. Reluctant—but morbidly curious—Vin followed. Kelsier walked at a brisk pace, leading her to the top of a relatively scrub-free hill. He crouched down, motioning for Vin to do likewise.

  “Their hearing isn’t very good,” he said as she knelt in the rough, ashen dirt beside him. “But their sense of smell—or, rather, taste—is quite acute. It’s probably following our trail, hoping that we’ll discard something edible. ”

  Vin squinted in the darkness. “I can’t see it,” she said, searching the mists for a shadowed ?gure.

  “There,” Kelsier said, pointing toward a squat hill.

  Vin frowned, imagining a creature crouching atop the hill, watching her as she looked for it.

  Then the hill moved.

  Vin jumped slightly. The dark mound—perhaps ten feet tall and twice as long—lurched forward in a strange, shuf?ing gait, and Vin leaned forward, trying to get a better look.

  “Flare your tin,” Kelsier suggested.

  Vin nodded, calling upon a burst of extra Allomantic power. Everything immediately became lighter, the mists becoming even less of an obstruction.

  What she saw caused her to shiver—fascinated, revolted, and more than a little disturbed. The creature had smoky, translucent skin, and Vin could see its bones. It had dozens upon dozens of limbs, and each one looked as if it had come from a different animal. There were human hands, bovine hooves, canine haunches, and others she couldn’t identify.

  The mismatched limbs let the creature walk—though it was more of a shamble. It crawled along slowly, moving like an awkward centipede. Many of the limbs, in fact, didn’t even look functional—they jutted from the creature’s ?esh in a twisted, unnatural fashion.

  Its body was bulbous and elongated. It wasn’t just a blob, though…there was a strange logic to its form. It had a distinct skeletal structure, and—squinting through tin-enhanced eyes—she thought she could make out translucent muscles and sinew wrapping the bones. The creature ?exed odd jumbles of muscles as it moved, and appeared to have a dozen different rib cages. Along the main body, arms and legs hung at unnerving angles.

  And heads—she counted six. Despite the translucent skin, she could make out a horse head sitting beside that of a deer. Another head turned toward her, and she could see its human skull. The head sat atop a long spinal cord attached to some kind of animal torso, which was in turn attached to a jumble of strange bones.

  Vin nearly retched. “What…? How…?”

  “Mistwraiths have malleable bodies,” Kelsier said. “They can shape their skin around any skeletal structure, and can even re-create muscles and organs if they have a model to mimic. ”

  “You mean…?”

  Kelsier nodded. “When they ?nd a corpse, they envelop it and slowly digest the muscles and organs. Then, they use what they’ve eaten as a pattern, creating an exact duplicate of the dead creature. They rearrange the parts a little bit—excreting the bones they don’t want, while adding the ones they do want to their body—forming a jumble like what you see out there. ”

  Vin watched the creature shamble across the ?eld, following her tracks. A ?ap of slimy skin drooped from its underbelly, trailing along the ground. Tasting for scents, Vin thought. Following the smell of our passing. She let her tin return to normal, and the mistwraith once again became a shadowed mound. The silhouette, however, only seemed to heighten its abnormality.

  “Are they intelligent, then?” Vin asked. “If they can split up a… body and put the pieces where they want?”

  “Intelligent?” Kelsier asked. “No, not one this young. More instinctual than intelligent. ”

  Vin shivered again. “Do people know about these things? I mean, other than the legends?”

  “What do you mean by ‘people’?” Kelsier asked. “A lot of Allomancers know about them, and I’m sure the Ministry does. Regular people…well, they just don’t go out at night. Most skaa fear and curse mistwraiths, but go their entire lives without actually seeing one. ”

  “Lucky for them,” Vin muttered. “Why doesn’t someone do something about these things?”

  Kelsier shrugged. “They’re not that dangerous. ”

  “That one has a human head!”

  “It probably found a corpse,” Kelsier said. “I’ve never heard of a mistwraith attacking a full-grown, healthy adult. That’s probably why everyone leaves them alone. And, of course, the high nobility have devised their own uses for the creatures. ”

  Vin looked at him questioningly, but he said no more, rising and walking down the hillside. She shot one more glance at the unnatural creature, then took off, following Kelsier.

  “Is that what you brought me out here to see?” Vin asked.

  Kelsier chuckled. “Mistwraiths might look eerie, but they’re hardly worth such a long trip. No, we’re heading over there. ”

  She followed his gesture, and was able to make out a change in the landscape ahead. “The imperial highroad? We’ve circled around to the front of the city. ”

  Kelsier nodded. After a short walk—during which Vin glanced backward no less than three times to make certain the mistwraith hadn’t gained on them—they left the scrub and stepped onto the ?at, packed earth of the imperial highroad. Kelsier paused, scanning the road in either direction. Vin frowned, wondering what he was doing.

  Then she saw the carriage. It was parked by the side of the highroad, and Vin could see that there was a man waiting beside it.

  “Ho, Sazed,” Kelsier said, walking forward.

  The man bowed. “Master Kelsier,” he said, his smooth voice carrying well in the night air. It had a higher pitch to it, and he spoke with an almost melodic accent. “I almost thought that you had decided not to come. ”

  “You know me, Saze,” Kelsier said, jovially slapping the man on the shoulder. “I’m the soul of punctuality. ” He turned and waved a hand toward Vin. “This apprehensive little creature is Vin. ”

  “Ah, yes,” Sazed said, speaking in a slow, well-enunciated way. There was something strange about his accent. Vin approached cautiously, studying the man. Sazed had a long, ?at face and a willowy body. He was even taller than Kelsier— tall enough to be a bit abnormal—and his arms were unusually long.

  “You’re a Terrisman,” Vin said. His earlobes had been stretched out, and the ears themselves contained studs that ran around their perimeter. He wore the lavish, colorful robes of a Terris steward—the garments were made of embroidered, overlapping V shapes, alternating among the three colors of his master’s house.

  “Yes, child,” Sazed said, bowing. “Have you known many of my people?”

  “None,” Vin said. “But I know that the high nobility prefer Terrismen stewards and attendants. ”

  “Indeed they do, child,” Sazed said. He turned to Kelsier. “We should go, Master Kelsier. It is late, and we are still an hour away from Fellise. ”

  Fellise, Vin thought. So, we’re going to see the impostor Lord Renoux.

  Sazed opened the carriage door for them, then closed it after they climbed in. Vin settled on one of the plush seats as she heard Sazed climb atop the vehicle and set the horses in motion.

  Kelsier sat quietly in the carriage. The window shades were closed against the mist, and a small lantern, half shielded, hung in the corner. Vin rode on the seat directly across from him—her legs tucked up underneath her, her enveloping mistcloak pulled close, hiding her arms and legs.

  She always does that, Kelsier thought. Wherever she is, she tries to be as small and unnoticeable as possible. So tense. Vin didn’t sit, she crouched.
She didn’t walk, she prowled. Even when she was sitting in the open, she seemed to be trying to hide.

  She’s a brave one, though. During his own training, Kelsier hadn’t been quite so willing to throw himself off of a city wall—old Gemmel had been forced to push him.

  Vin watched him with those quiet, dark eyes of hers. When she noticed his attention, she glanced away, huddling down a little more within her cloak. Unexpectedly, however, she spoke.

  “Your brother,” she said in her soft near-whisper of a voice. “You two don’t get along very well. ”

  Kelsier raised an eyebrow. “No. We never have, really. It’s a shame. We should, but we just. . don’t. ”

  “He’s older than you?”

  Kelsier nodded.

  “Did he beat you often?” Vin asked.

  Kelsier frowned. “Beat me? No, he didn’t beat me at all. ”

  “You stopped him, then?” Vin said. “Maybe that’s why he doesn’t like you. How did you escape? Did you run, or were you just stronger than him?”

  “Vin, Marsh never tried to beat me. We argued, true—but we never really wanted to hurt one another. ”

  Vin didn’t contradict him, but he could see in her eyes that she didn’t believe him.

  What a life… Kelsier thought, falling silent. There were so many children like Vin in the underground. Of course, most died before reaching her age. Kelsier had been one of the lucky ones: His mother had been a resourceful mistress of a high nobleman, a clever woman who had managed to hide the fact that she was skaa from her lord. Kelsier and Marsh had grown up privileged—considered illegitimate, but still noble—until their father had ?nally discovered the truth.

  “Why did you teach me those things?” Vin asked, interrupting his thoughts. “About Allomancy, I mean. ”

  Kelsier frowned. “I promised you that I would. ”

  “Now that I know your secrets, what is to keep me from running away from you?”

  “Nothing,” Kelsier said.

  Once again, her distrusting glare told him that she didn’t believe his answer. “There are metals you didn’t tell me about. Back in our meeting on the ?rst day, you said there were ten. ”

  Kelsier nodded, leaning forward. “There are. But I didn’t leave the last two out because I wanted to keep things from you. They’re just. . dif?cult to get used to. It will be easier if you practice with the basic metals ?rst. However, if you want to know about the last two, I can teach you once we arrive in Fellise. ”

  Vin’s eyes narrowed.

  Kelsier rolled his eyes. “I’m not trying to trick you, Vin. People serve on my crews because they want to, and I’m effective because they can rely on one another. No distrust, no betrayals. ”

  “Except one,” Vin whispered. “The betrayal that sent you to the Pits. ”

  Kelsier froze. “Where did you hear that?”

  Vin shrugged.

  Kelsier sighed, rubbing his forehead with one hand. That wasn’t what he wanted to do—he wanted to scratch his scars, the ones that ran all along his ?ngers and hands, twisting up his arms toward his shoulders. He resisted.

 

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