Mistborn the final empi.., p.39
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.39
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         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
Page 39

  Vin let out a relieved breath, settling back into her seat. “You could have just asked us to pick you up. ”

  “No need,” Kelsier said, pulling open the carriage door and swinging inside. It was already dark outside, and he wore his mistcloak. “I warned Sazed I’d be dropping by sometime during the trip. ”

  “And you didn’t tell me?”

  Kelsier winked, pulling the door shut. “I ?gured I still owed you for surprising me in that alleyway last week. ”

  “How very adult of you,” Vin said ?atly.

  “I’ve always been very con?dent in my immaturity. So, are you ready for this evening?”

  Vin shrugged, trying to hide her nervousness. She glanced down. “How. . uh, do I look?”

  “Splendid,” Kelsier said. “Just like a noble young lady. Don’t be nervous, Vin—the disguise is perfect. ”

  For some reason, that didn’t feel like the answer she’d wanted to hear. “Kelsier?”

  “Yes?”

  “I’ve been meaning to ask this for a while,” she said, glancing out the window, though all she could see is mist. “I understand that you think this is important—having a spy among the nobility. But…well, do we really have to do it this way?

  Couldn’t we get street informants to tell us what we need to know about house politics?”

  “Perhaps,” Kelsier said. “But those men are called ‘informants’ for a reason, Vin. Every question you ask them gives a clue about your true motives—even meeting with them reveals a bit of information that they could sell to someone else. It’s better to rely on them as little as possible. ”

  Vin sighed.

  “I don’t send you into danger heedlessly, Vin,” Kelsier said, leaning forward. “We do need a spy among the nobility. Informants generally get their information from servants, but most aristocrats are not fools. Important meetings go on where no servant can overhear them. ”

  “And you expect me to be able to get into such meetings?”

  “Perhaps,” Kelsier said. “Perhaps not. Either way, I’ve learned that it’s always useful to have someone in?ltrate the nobility. You and Sazed will overhear vital items that street informants wouldn’t think important. In fact, just by being at these parties—even if you don’t overhear anything—you will get us information. ”

  “How so?” Vin asked, frowning.

  “Make note of the people who seem interested in you,” Kelsier said. “Those will be of the houses we want to watch. If they pay attention to you, they’re probably paying attention to Lord Renoux—and there’s one good reason why they would be doing that. ”

  “Weapons,” Vin said.

  Kelsier nodded. “Renoux’s position as a weapons merchant will make him valuable to those who are planning military action. These are the houses on which I’ll need to focus my attention. There should already be a sense of tension among the nobility—hopefully, they’re starting to wonder which houses are turning against the others. There hasn’t been an all-out war among the Great Houses for over a century, but the last one was devastating. We need to replicate it. ”

  “That could mean the deaths of a lot of noblemen,” Vin said.

  Kelsier smiled. “I can live with that. How about you?”

  Vin smiled despite her tension.

  “There’s another reason for you to do this,” Kelsier said.

  “Sometime during this ?asco of a plan of mine, we might need to face the Lord Ruler. I have a feeling that the fewer people we need to sneak into his presence, the better. Having a skaa Mistborn hiding among the nobility…well, it could be a powerful advantage. ”

  Vin felt a slight chill. “The Lord Ruler. . will he be there tonight?”

  “No. There will be obligators in attendance, but probably no Inquisitors—and certainly not the Lord Ruler himself. A party like this is far beneath his attention. ”

  Vin nodded. She’d never seen the Lord Ruler before— she’d never wanted to.

  “Don’t worry so much,” Kelsier said. “Even if you were to meet him, you’d be safe. He can’t read minds. ”

  “Are you sure?”

  Kelsier paused. “Well, no. But, if he can read minds, he doesn’t do it to everyone he meets. I’ve known several skaa who pretended to be noblemen in his presence—I did it several times myself, before…” He trailed off, glancing down toward his scar-covered hands.

  “He caught you eventually,” Vin said quietly.

  “And he’ll probably do so again,” Kelsier said with a wink. “But, don’t worry about him for now—our goal this evening is to establish Lady Valette Renoux. You won’t need to do anything dangerous or unusual. Just make an appearance, then leave when Sazed tells you. We’ll worry about building con?dences later. ”

  Vin nodded.

  “Good girl,” Kelsier said, reaching out and pushing open the door. “I’ll be hiding near the keep, watching and listening. ”

  Vin nodded gratefully, and Kelsier jumped out of the carriage door, disappearing into the dark mists.

  Vin was unprepared for how bright Keep Venture would be in the darkness. The massive building was enveloped in an aura of misty light. As the carriage approached, Vin could see that eight enormous lights blazed along the outside of the rectangular building. They were as bright as bon?res, yet far more steady, and they had mirrors arranged behind them to make them shine directly on the keep. Vin had trouble determining their purpose. The ball would happen indoors—why light the outside of the building?

  “Head inside, please, Mistress Vin,” Sazed said from his position above. “Proper young ladies do not gawk. ”

  Vin shot him a glare he couldn’t see, but ducked her head back inside, waiting with impatient nervousness as the carriage pulled up to the massive keep. It eventually rolled to a stop, and a Venture footman immediately opened her door. A second footman approached and held out a hand to help her down.

  Vin accepted his hand, trying with as much grace as possible to pull the frilled, bulky bottom of her dress out of the carriage. As she carefully descended—trying not to trip—she was grateful for the footman’s steadying hand, and she ?nally realized why men were expected to help a lady out of her carriage. It wasn’t a silly custom after all—the clothing was the silly part.

  Sazed surrendered the carriage and took his place a few steps behind her. He wore robes even more ?ne than his standard fare; though they still maintained the same V-like pattern, they had a belted waist and wide, enveloping sleeves.

  “Forward, Mistress,” Sazed coached quietly from behind. “Up the carpet, so that your dress doesn’t rub on the cobbles, and in through the main doors. ”

  Vin nodded, trying to swallow her discomfort. She walked forward, passing noblemen and ladies in various suits and gowns. Though they weren’t looking at her, she felt exposed. Her steps were nowhere near as graceful as those of the other ladies, who looked beautiful and comfortable in their gowns. Her hands began to sweat inside her silky, blue-white gloves.

  She forced herself to continue. Sazed introduced her at the door, presenting her invitation to the attendants. The two men, dressed in black and red servant’s suits, bowed and waved her in. A crowd of aristocrats was pooling slightly in the foyer, waiting to enter the main hall.

  What am I doing? she thought frantically. She could challenge mist and Allomancy, thieves and burglaries, mist-wraiths and beatings. Yet, facing these noblemen and their ladies…going amongst them in the light, visible, unable to hide… this terri?ed her.

  “Forward, Mistress,” Sazed said in a soothing voice. “Remember your lessons. ”

  Hide! Find a corner! Shadows, mists, anything!

  Vin kept her hands clasped rigidly before her, walking forward. Sazed walked beside her. Out of the corner of her eyes, she could see concern on his normally calm face.

  And well he should worry! Everything he had taught her seemed ?eeting—vaporous, like the mists themselves. She couldn’t remember names, customs, anything.
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  She stopped just inside the foyer, and an imperious-looking nobleman in a black suit turned to regard her. Vin froze.

  The man looked her over with a dismissive glance, then turned away. She distinctly heard the word “Renoux” whispered, and she glanced apprehensively to the side. Several women were looking at her.

  And yet, it didn’t feel like they were seeing her at all. They were studying the gown, the hair, and the jewelry. Vin glanced to the other side, where a group of younger men were watching her. They saw the neckline, the pretty dress and the makeup, but they didn’t see her.

  None of them could see Vin, they could only see the face she had put on—the face she wanted them to see. They saw Lady Valette. It was as if Vin weren’t there.

  As if…she were hiding, hiding right in front of their eyes.

  And suddenly, her tension began to retreat. She let out a long, calming breath, anxiety ?owing away. Sazed’s training returned, and she adopted the look of a girl amazed by her ?rst formal ball. She stepped to the side, handing her shawl to an attendant, and Sazed relaxed beside her. Vin shot him a smile, then swept forward into the main hall.

  She could do this. She was still nervous, but the moment of panic was over. She didn’t need shadows or corners—she just needed a mask of sapphires, makeup, and blue fabric.

  The Venture main hall was a grand and imposing sight. Four or ?ve daunting stories high, the hall was several times as long as it was wide. Enormous, rectangular stained-glass windows ran in rows along the hall, and the strange, powerful lights outside shone on them directly, throwing a cascade of colors across the room. Massive, ornate stone pillars were set into the walls, running between the windows. Just before the pillars met the ?oor, the wall fell away, indenting and creating a single-story gallery beneath the windows themselves. Dozens of white-clothed tables sat in this area, shadowed behind the pillars and beneath the overhang. In the distance, at the far end of the hallway, Vin could make out a low balcony set into the wall, and this held a smaller group of tables.

  “The dining table of Lord Straff Venture,” Sazed whispered, gesturing toward the far balcony.

  Vin nodded. “And those lights outside?”

  “Limelights, Mistress,” Sazed explained. “I’m not certain the process used—somehow, the quicklime stones can be heated to brilliance without melting them. ”

  A string orchestra played on a platform to her left, providing music for the couples who danced in the very center of the hall. To her right, serving tables held platter upon platter of foods being attended by scurrying serving men in white.

  Sazed approached an attendant and presented Vin’s invitation. The man nodded, then whispered something in a younger servant’s ear. The young man bowed to Vin, then led the way into the room.

  “I asked for a small, solitary table,” Sazed said. “You won’t need to mingle during this visit, I think. Just be seen. ”

 
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