Mistborn the final empi.., p.38
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.38

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 38

  He itched to burn steel and begin jumping toward his destination. Unfortunately, it was very dif?cult to remain inconspicuous when ?ying through the city during the full light of day.

  Kelsier adjusted his hat and continued walking. A nobleman pedestrian was not an irregular sight, especially in the commercial district, where more fortunate skaa and less fortunate noblemen mixed on the streets—though each group did its best to ignore the other.

  Patience. Speed doesn’t matter. If they know about him, he’s already dead.

  Kelsier entered a large crossroad square. Four wells sat in its corners, and a massive copper fountain—its green skin caked and blackened by soot—dominated the square’s center.

  The statue depicted the Lord Ruler, standing dramatically in cloak and armor, a formless representation of the Deepness dead in the water at his feet.

  Kelsier passed the fountain, its waters ?aked from a recent ashfall. Skaa beggars called out from the streetsides, their pitiful voices walking a ?ne line between audibility and annoyance. The Lord Ruler barely suffered them; only skaa with severe dis?gurements were allowed to beg. Their pitiful life, however, was not something even plantation skaa would envy.

  Kelsier tossed them a few clips, not caring that doing so made him stand out, and continued to walk. Three streets over, he found a much smaller crossroads. It was also rimmed by beggars, but no ?ne fountain splashed the center of this intersection, nor did the corners contain wells to draw traf?c.

  The beggars here were even more pathetic—these were the sorry individuals who were too wretched to ?ght themselves a spot in a major square. Malnourished children and age-withered adults called out with apprehensive voices; men missing two or more limbs huddled in corners, their soot-stained forms almost invisible in the shadows.

  Kelsier reached re?exively for his coin purse. Stay on track, he told himself. You can’t save them all, not with coins. There will be time for these once the Final Empire is gone.

  Ignoring the piteous cries—which became louder once the beggars realized he was watching them—Kelsier studied each face in turn. He had only seen Camon brie?y, but he thought that he’d recognize the man. However, none of the faces looked right, and none of the beggars had Camon’s girth, which should have still been noticeable despite weeks of starvation.

  He’s not here, Kelsier thought with dissatisfaction. Kelsier’s order—given to Milev, the new crewleader—that Camon be made a beggar had been carried out. Dockson had checked on Camon to make certain.

  Camon’s absence in the square could simply mean that he’d gained a better spot. It could also mean that the Ministry had found him. Kelsier stood quietly for a moment, listening to the beggars’ haunted moanings. A few ?akes of ash began to ?oat down from the sky.

  Something was wrong. There weren’t any beggars near the north corner of the intersection. Kelsier burned tin, and smelled blood on the air.

  He kicked off his shoes, then pulled his belt free. His cloak clasp went next, the ?ne garment dropping to the cobblestones. That done, the only metal remaining on his body was in his coin pouch. He dumped a few coins into his hand, then carefully made his way forward, leaving his discarded garments for the beggars.

  The smell of death grew stronger, but he didn’t hear anything except scrambling beggars behind him. He edged onto the northern street, immediately noticing a thin alleyway to his left. Taking a breath, he ?ared pewter and ducked inside.

  The thin, dark alley was clogged with refuse and ash. No one waited for him—at least, no one living.

  Camon, crewleader turned beggar, hung quietly from a rope tied far above. His corpse spun leisurely in the breeze, ash falling lightly around it. He hadn’t been hanged in the conventional fashion—the rope had been tied to a hook, then rammed down his throat. The bloodied end of the hook jutted from his skin below the chin, and he swung with head tipped back, rope running out of his mouth. His hands were tied, his still plump body showing signs of torture.

  This isn’t good.

  A foot scraped the cobblestones behind, and Kelsier spun, ?aring steel and spraying forth a handful of coins.

  With a girlish yelp, a small ?gure ducked to the ground, coins de?ected as she burned steel.

  “Vin?” Kelsier said. He cursed, reaching out and yanking her into the alleyway. He glanced around the corner, watching the beggars perk up as they heard coins hit the cobblestones.

  “What are you doing here?” he demanded, turning back. Vin wore the same brown overalls and gray shirt she had before, though she at least had the sense to wear a nondescript cloak with the hood up.

  “I wanted to see what you were doing,” she said, cringing slightly before his anger.

  “This could have been dangerous!” Kelsier said. “What were you thinking?”

  Vin cowered further.

  Kelsier calmed himself. You can’t blame her for being curious, he thought as a few brave beggars scuttled in the street after the coins. She’s just—

  Kelsier froze. It was so subtle he almost missed it. Vin was Soothing his emotions.

  He glanced down. The girl was obviously trying to make herself invisible against the corner of the wall. She seemed so timid, yet he caught a hidden glimmer of determination in her eyes. This child had made an art of making herself seem harmless.

  So subtle! Kelsier thought. How did she get so good so quickly?

  “You don’t have to use Allomancy, Vin,” Kelsier said softly. “I’m not going to hurt you. You know that. ”

  She ?ushed. “I didn’t mean it…it’s just habit. Even still. ”

  “It’s all right,” Kelsier said, laying a hand on her shoulder. “Just remember—no matter what Breeze says, it’s bad manners to touch the emotions of your friends. Plus, the noblemen consider it an insult to use Allomancy in formal settings. Those re?exes will get you into trouble if you don’t learn to control them. ”

  She nodded, rising to study Camon. Kelsier expected her to turn away in disgust, but she just stood quietly, a look of grim satisfaction on her face.

  No, this one isn’t weak, Kelsier thought. No matter what she’d have you believe.

  “They tortured him here?” she asked. “Out in the open?”

  Kelsier nodded, imagining the screams reverberating out to the uncomfortable beggars. The Ministry liked to be very visible with its punishments.

  “Why the hook?” Vin asked.

  “It’s a ritual killing reserved for the most reprehensible of sinners: people who misuse Allomancy. ”

  Vin frowned. “Camon was an Allomancer?”

  Kelsier shook his head. “He must have admitted to something heinous during his torture. ” Kelsier glanced at Vin. “He must have known what you were, Vin. He used you intentionally. ”

  She paled slightly. “Then… the Ministry knows that I’m a Mistborn?”

  “Perhaps. It depends on whether Camon knew or not. He could have assumed you were just a Misting. ”

  She stood quietly for a moment. “What does this mean for my part in the job, then?”

  “We’ll continue as planned,” Kelsier said. “Only a couple of obligators saw you at the Canton building, and it takes a very rare man to connect the skaa servant and the well-dressed noblewoman as the same person. ”

  “And the Inquisitor?” Vin asked softly.

  Kelsier didn’t have an answer to that one. “Come on,” he ?nally said. “We’ve already attracted too much attention. ”

  What would it be like if every nation—from the isles in the South to the Terris hills in the North—were united under a single government? What wonders could be achieved, what progress could be made, if mankind were to permanently set aside its squabblings and join together?

  It is too much, I suppose, to even hope for. A single, uni?ed empire of man? It could never happen.

  12

  VIN RESISTED THE URGE TO pick at her noblewoman’s dress. Even after a half week of being forced to wear one— Sazed
’s suggestion—she found the bulky garment uncomfortable. It pulled tightly at her waist and chest, then fell to the ?oor with several layers of ruf?ed fabric, making it dif?cult to walk. She kept feeling as if she were going to trip— and, despite the gown’s bulk, she felt as if she were somehow exposed by how tight it was through the chest, not to mention the neckline’s low curve. Though she had exposed nearly as much skin when wearing normal, buttoning shirts, this seemed different somehow.

  Still, she had to admit that the gown made quite a difference. The girl who stood in the mirror before her was a strange, foreign creature. The light blue dress, with its white ruf?es and lace, matched the sapphire barrettes in her hair. Sazed claimed he wouldn’t be happy until her hair was at least shoulder-length, but he had still suggested that she purchase the broochlike barrettes and put them just above each ear.

  “Often, aristocrats don’t hide their de?ciencies,” he had explained. “Instead, they highlight them. Draw attention to your short hair, and instead of thinking you’re unfashionable, they might be impressed by the statement you are making. ”

  She also wore a sapphire necklace—modest by noble standards, but still worth more than two hundred boxings. It was complemented by a single ruby bracelet for accentuation. Apparently, the current fashion dictated a single splash of a different color to provide contrast.

  And it was all hers, paid for by crew funds. If she ran, taking the jewelry and her three thousand boxings, she could live for decades. It was more tempting than she wanted to admit. Images of Camon’s men, their corpses twisted and dead in the quiet lair, kept returning to her. That was probably what waited for her if she remained.

  Why, then, didn’t she go?

  She turned from the mirror, putting on a light blue silken shawl, the female aristocrat’s version of a cloak. Why didn’t she leave? Perhaps it was her promise to Kelsier. He had given her the gift of Allomancy, and he depended on her. Perhaps it was her duty to the others. In order to survive, crews needed each person to do their separate job.

  Reen’s training told her that these men were fools, but she was tempted, enticed, by the possibility that Kelsier and the others offered. In the end, it wasn’t the wealth or the job’s thrill that made her stay. It was the shadowed prospect— unlikely and unreasonable, but still seductive—of a group whose members actually trusted one another. She had to stay. She had to know if it lasted, or if it was—as Reen’s growing whispers promised—all a lie.

  She turned and left her room, walking toward the front of Mansion Renoux, where Sazed waited with a carriage. She had decided to stay, and that meant she had to do her part.

  It was time to make her ?rst appearance as a noblewoman.

  The carriage shook suddenly, and Vin jumped in surprise. The vehicle continued normally, however, and Sazed didn’t move from his place in the driver’s seat.

  A sound came from above. Vin ?ared her metals, tensing, as a ?gure dropped down off the top of the carriage and landed on the footman’s rest just outside her door. Kelsier smiled as he peeked his head in the window.

 
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