Mistborn the final empi.., p.30
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.30
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         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
Page 30

  Vin took a seat in one of the stif?y upholstered maroon chairs, tucking her feet up beneath her. She knew what the problem was. Kelsier had been showing her too much respect, making her feel too important. She was beginning to think that she deserved to be part of his secret con?dences. Reen’s laughter in the back of her mind discredited those thoughts, and she sat, annoyed at both herself and Kelsier, feeling ashamed, but not exactly certain why.

  Renoux’s servants brought her a platter of fruits and breads. They set up a small stand beside her chair, and even gave her a crystalline cup ?lled with a glistening red liquid. She couldn’t tell if it was wine or juice, and she didn’t intend to ?nd out. She did, however, pick at the food—her instincts wouldn’t let her pass up a free meal, even if it was prepared by unfamiliar hands.

  Sazed walked over and took a position standing just behind her chair to the right. He waited with a stiff posture, hands clasped in front of him, eyes forward. The stance was obviously intended to be respectful, but his looming posture didn’t help her mood any.

  Vin tried to focus on her surroundings, but this only reminded her of how rich the furnishings were. She was uncomfortable amid such ?nery; she felt as if she stood out like a black spot on a clean rug. She didn’t eat the breads for fear that she would drop crumbs on the ?oor, and she worried at her feet and legs—which had been stained with ash while walking through the countryside—marring the furnishings.

  All of this cleanliness came at some skaa’s expense, Vin thought. Why should I worry about disturbing it? However, she had trouble feeling outraged, for she knew this was only a front. “Lord Renoux” had to maintain a certain level of ?nery. It would be suspicious to do otherwise.

  In addition, something else kept her from resenting the waste. The servants were happy. They went about their duties with a businesslike professionalism, no sense of drudgery about their efforts. She heard laughter in the outer hallway. These were not mistreated skaa; whether they had been included in Kelsier’s plans or not was irrelevant.

  So, Vin sat and forced herself to eat fruit, yawning occasionally. It was turning out to be a long night indeed. The servants eventually left her alone, though Sazed continued to loom just behind her.

  I can’t eat like this, she ?nally thought with frustration. “Could you not stand over my shoulder like that?”

  Sazed nodded. He took two steps forward so that he stood next to her chair, rather than behind it. He adopted the same stiff posture, looming above her just as he had before.

  Vin frowned in annoyance, then noticed the smile on Sazed’s lips. He glanced down at her, eyes twinkling at his joke, then walked over and seated himself in the chair beside hers.

  “I’ve never known a Terrisman with a sense of humor before,” Vin said dryly.

  Sazed raised an eyebrow. “I was under the impression that you hadn’t known any Terrismen at all, Mistress Vin. ”

  Vin paused. “Well, I’ve never heard of one with a sense of humor. You’re supposed to be completely rigid and formal. ”

  “We’re just subtle, Mistress,” Sazed said. Though he sat with a stiff posture, there was still something… relaxed about him. It was as if he were as comfortable when sitting properly as other people were when lounging.

  That’s how they’re supposed to be. The perfect serving men, completely loyal to the Final Empire.

  “Is something troubling you, Mistress Vin?” Sazed asked as she studied him.

  How much does he know? Perhaps he doesn’t even realize that Renoux is an imposter. “I was just wondering how you… came here,” she ?nally said.

  “You mean, how did a Terrisman steward end up as part of a rebellion intending to overthrow the Final Empire?” Sazed asked in his soft voice.

  Vin ?ushed. Apparently he was well versed indeed.

  “That is an intriguing question, Mistress,” Sazed said. “Certainly, my situation is not common. I would say that I arrived at it because of belief. ”

  “Belief?”

  “Yes,” Sazed said. “Tell me, Mistress. What is it that you believe?”

  Vin frowned. “What kind of question is that?”

  “The most important kind, I think. ”

  Vin sat for a moment, but he obviously expected a reply, so she ?nally shrugged. “I don’t know. ”

  “People often say that,” Sazed said, “but I ?nd that it is rarely true. Do you believe in the Final Empire?”

  “I believe that it is strong,” Vin said.

  “Immortal?”

  Vin shrugged. “It has been so far. ”

  “And the Lord Ruler? Is he the Ascended Avatar of God? Do you believe that he, as the Ministry teaches, is a Sliver of In?nity?”

  “I…I’ve never thought about it before. ”

  “Perhaps you should,” Sazed said. “If, upon examination, you ?nd that the Ministry’s teachings do not suit you, then I would be pleased to offer you an alternative. ”

  “What alternative?”

  Sazed smiled. “That depends. The right belief is like a good cloak, I think. If it ?ts you well, it keeps you warm and safe. The wrong ?t, however, can suffocate. ”

  Vin paused, frowning slightly, but Sazed just smiled. Eventually, she turned her attention back to her meal. After a short wait, the side door opened, and Kelsier and Renoux returned.

  “Now,” Renoux said as he and Kelsier seated themselves, a group of servants bringing another plate of food for Kelsier, “let us discuss this child. The man you were going to have play my heir will not do, you say?”

  “Unfortunately,” Kelsier said, making quick work of his food.

  “That complicates things greatly,” Renoux said.

  Kelsier shrugged. “We’ll just have Vin be your heir. ”

  Renoux shook his head. “A girl her age could inherit, but it would be suspicious for me to pick her. There are any number of legitimate male cousins in the Renoux line who would be far more suitable choices. It was going to be dif?cult enough to get a middle-aged man past courtly scrutiny. A young girl… no, too many people would investigate her background. Our forged family lines will survive passing scrutiny, but if someone were to actually send messengers to search out her holdings…”

  Kelsier frowned.

  “Besides,” Renoux added. “There is another issue. If I were to name a young, unmarried girl as my heir, hers would instantly become one of the most sought-after hands in Luthadel. It would be very dif?cult for her to spy if she were to receive that much attention. ”

  Vin ?ushed at the thought. Surprisingly, she found her heart sinking as the old imposter spoke. This was the only part Kelsier gave me in the plan. If I can’t do it, what good am I to the crew?

  “So, what do you suggest?” Kelsier asked.

  “Well, she doesn’t have to be my heir,” Renoux said. “What if, instead, she were simply a young scion I brought with me to Luthadel? Perhaps I promised her parents— distant but favored cousins—that I would introduce their daughter to the court? Everyone would assume that my ulterior motive is to marry her off to a high noble family, thereby gaining myself another connection to those in power. However, she wouldn’t draw much attention—she would be of low status, not to mention somewhat rural. ”

  “Which would explain why she’s a bit less re?ned than other court members,” Kelsier said. “No offense, Vin. ”

  Vin looked up from hiding a piece of napkin-wrapped bread in her shirt pocket. “Why would I be offended?”

  Kelsier smiled. “Never mind. ”

  Renoux nodded to himself. “Yes, this will work much better. Everyone assumes that House Renoux will eventually join the high nobility, so they’ll accept Vin into their ranks out of courtesy. However, she herself will be unimportant enough that most people will ignore her. That is the ideal situation for what we will want her to do. ”

  “I like it,” Kelsier said. “Few people expect a man of your age and mercantile concerns to bother himself with balls and parties, but h
aving a young socialite to send instead of a rejection note will serve as an advantage to your reputation. ”

  “Indeed,” Renoux said. “She’ll need some re?nement, however—and not just in appearance. ”

  Vin squirmed a bit beneath their scrutiny. It looked as if her part in the plan would go forward, and she suddenly realized what that meant. Being around Renoux made her uncomfortable—and he was a fake nobleman. How would she react to an entire room full of real ones?

  “I’m afraid I’ll have to borrow Sazed from you for a while,” Kelsier said.

  “Quite all right,” Renoux said. “He’s really not my steward, but yours. ”

  “Actually,” Kelsier said, “I don’t think he’s anybody’s steward anymore, eh Saze?”

  Sazed cocked his head. “A Terrisman without a master is like a soldier with no weapon, Master Kelsier. I have enjoyed my time attending to Lord Renoux, as I am certain that I shall enjoy returning to your service. ”

  “Oh, you won’t be returning to my service,” Kelsier said.

  Sazed raised an eyebrow.

  Kelsier nodded toward Vin. “Renoux is right, Saze. Vin needs some coaching, and I know plenty of high noblemen who are less re?ned than yourself. Do you think you could help the girl prepare?”

  “I am certain that I could offer the young lady some aid,” Sazed said.

  “Good,” Kelsier said, popping one last cake in his mouth, then rising. “I’m glad that’s settled, because I’m starting to feel tired—and poor Vin looks like she’s about to nod off in the middle of her fruit plate. ”

  “I’m ?ne,” Vin said immediately, the assertion weakened slightly by a sti?ed yawn.

  “Sazed,” Renoux said, “would you show them to the appropriate guest chambers?”

  “Of course, Master Renoux,” Sazed said, rising from his seat in a smooth motion.

  Vin and Kelsier trailed the tall Terrisman from the room as a group of servants took away the remnants of the meal. I left food behind, Vin noticed, feeling a bit drowsy. She wasn’t certain what to think of the occurrence.

  As they crested the stairs and turned into a side hallway, Kelsier fell into place beside Vin. “I’m sorry for excluding you back there, Vin. ”

  She shrugged. “There’s no reason for me to know all of your plans. ”

  “Nonsense,” Kelsier said. “Your decision tonight makes you as much a part of this team as anyone else. Renoux’s words in private, however, were of a personal nature. He is a marvelous actor, but he feels very uncomfortable with people knowing the speci?cs of how he took Lord Renoux’s place. I promise you, nothing we discussed has any bearing on your part in the plan. ”

  Vin continued walking. “I… believe you. ”

  “Good,” Kelsier said with a smile, clapping her on the shoulder. “Saze, I know my way to the men’s guest quarters—I was, after all, the one who bought this place. I can make my way from here. ”

 
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