Mistborn the final empi.., p.4
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.4
 

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson  
Page 4

  Vin nodded.

  Camon studied her for a moment, his pudgy face red with anger. Finally, he looked away, muttering to himself.

  He was annoyed about something—something more than just Vin. Perhaps he had heard about the skaa rebellion several days to the north. One of the provincial lords, Themos Tresting, had apparently been murdered, his manor burned to the ground. Such disturbances were bad for business; they made the aristocracy more alert, and less gullible. That, in turn, could cut seriously into Camon’s pro?ts.

  He’s looking for someone to punish,Vin thought. He always gets nervous before a job. She looked up at Camon, tasting blood on her lip. She must have let some of her con?dence show, because he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, and his expression darkened. He raised his hand, as if to strike her again.

  Vin used up a bit of her Luck.

  She expended just a smidgen; she’d need the rest for the job. She directed the Luck at Camon, calming his nervousness. The crewleader paused—oblivious of Vin’s touch, yet feeling its effects nonetheless. He stood for a moment; then he sighed, turning away and lowering his hand.

  Vin wiped her lip as Camon waddled away. The thiefmaster looked very convincing in his nobleman’s suit. It was as rich a costume as Vin had ever seen—it had a white shirt overlaid by a deep green vest with engraved gold buttons. The black suit coat was long, after the current fashion, and he wore a matching black hat. His ?ngers sparkled with rings, and he even carried a ?ne dueling cane. Indeed, Camon did an excellent job of imitating a nobleman; when it came to playing a role, there were few thieves more competent than Camon. Assuming he could keep his temper under control.

  The room itself was less impressive. Vin pulled herself to her feet as Camon began to snap at some of the other crewmembers. They had rented one of the suites at the top of a local hotel. Not too lavish—but that was the idea. Camon was going to be playing the part of “Lord Jedue,” a country nobleman who had hit upon hard ?nancial times and come to Luthadel to get some ?nal, desperate contracts.

  The main room had been transformed into a sort of audience chamber, set with a large desk for Camon to sit behind, the walls decorated with cheap pieces of art. Two men stood beside the desk, dressed in formal stewards’ clothing; they would play the part of Camon’s manservants.

  “What is this ruckus?” a man asked, entering the room. He was tall, dressed in a simple gray shirt and a pair of slacks, with a thin sword tied at his waist. Theron was the other crewleader—this particular scam was actually his. He’d brought in Camon as a partner; he’d needed someone to play Lord Jedue, and everyone knew that Camon was one of the best.

  Camon looked up. “Hum? Ruckus? Oh, that was just a minor discipline problem. Don’t bother yourself, Theron. ” Camon punctuated his remark with a dismissive wave of the hand—there was a reason he played such a good aristocrat.

  He was arrogant enough that he could have been from one of the Great Houses.

  Theron’s eyes narrowed. Vin knew what the man was probably thinking: He was deciding how risky it would be to put a knife in Camon’s fat back once the scam was over. Eventually, the taller crewleader looked away from Camon, glancing at Vin. “Who’s this?” he asked.

  “Just a member of my crew,” Camon said.

  “I thought we didn’t need anyone else. ”

  “Well, we need her,” Camon said. “Ignore her. My end of the operation is none of your concern. ”

  Theron eyed Vin, obviously noting her bloodied lip. She glanced away. Theron’s eyes lingered on her, however, running down the length of her body. She wore a simple white buttoned shirt and a pair of overalls. Indeed, she was hardly enticing; scrawny with a youthful face, she supposedly didn’t even look her sixteen years. Some men preferred such women, however.

  She considered using a bit of Luck on him, but eventually he turned away. “The obligator is nearly here,” Theron said. “Are you ready?”

  Camon rolled his eyes, settling his bulk down into the chair behind the desk. “Everything is perfect. Leave me be, Theron! Go back to your room and wait. ”

  Theron frowned, then spun and walked from the room, muttering to himself.

  Vin scanned the room, studying the decor, the servants, the atmosphere. Finally, she made her way to Camon’s desk. The crewleader sat rif?ing through a stack of papers, apparently trying to decide which ones to put out on the desktop.

  “Camon,” Vin said quietly, “the servants are too ?ne. ”

  Camon frowned, looking up. “What is that you’re babbling?”

  “The servants,” Vin repeated, still speaking in a soft whisper. “Lord Jedue is supposed to be desperate. He’d have rich clothing left over from before, but he wouldn’t be able to afford such rich servants. He’d use skaa. ”

  Camon glared at her, but he paused. Physically, there was little difference between noblemen and skaa. The servants Camon had appointed, however, were dressed as minor noblemen—they were allowed to wear colorful vests, and they stood a little more con?dently.

  “The obligator has to think that you’re nearly impoverished,” Vin said. “Pack the room with a lot of skaa servants instead. ”

  “What do you know?” Camon said, scowling at her.

  “Enough. ” She immediately regretted the word; it sounded too rebellious. Camon raised a bejeweled hand, and Vin braced herself for another slap. She couldn’t afford to use up any more Luck. She had precious little remaining anyway.

  However, Camon didn’t hit her. Instead, he sighed and rested a pudgy hand on her shoulder. “Why do you insist on provoking me, Vin? You know the debts your brother left when he ran away. Do you realize that a less merciful man than myself would have sold you to the whoremasters long ago? How would you like that, serving in some nobleman’s bed until he grew tired of you and had you executed?”

  Vin looked down at her feet.

  Camon’s grip grew tight, his ?ngers pinching her skin where neck met shoulder, and she gasped in pain despite herself. He grinned at the reaction.

  “Honestly, I don’t know why I keep you, Vin,” he said, increasing the pressure of his grip. “I should have gotten rid of you months ago, when your brother betrayed me. I suppose I just have too kindly a heart. ”

  He ?nally released her, then pointed for her to stand over by the side of the room, next to a tall indoor plant. She did as ordered, orienting herself so she had a good view of the entire room. As soon as Camon looked away, she rubbed her shoulder. Just another pain. I can deal with pain.

  Camon sat for a few moments. Then, as expected, he waved to the two “servants” at his side.

  “You two!” he said. “You’re dressed too richly. Go put on something that makes you look like skaa servants instead— and bring back six more men with you when you come. ”

  Soon, the room was ?lled as Vin had suggested. The obligator arrived a short time later.

  Vin watched Prelan Laird step haughtily into the room. Shaved bald like all obligators, he wore a set of dark gray robes. The Ministry tattoos around his eyes identi?ed him as a prelan, a senior bureaucrat in the Ministry’s Canton of Finance. A set of lesser obligators trailed behind him, their eye tattoos far less intricate.

  Camon rose as the prelan entered, a sign of respect— something even the highest of Great House noblemen would show to an obligator of Laird’s rank. Laird gave no bow or acknowledgment of his own, instead striding forward and taking the seat in front of Camon’s desk. One of the crewmen impersonating a servant rushed forward, bringing chilled wine and fruit for the obligator.

  Laird picked at the fruit, letting the servant stand obediently, holding the platter of food as if he were a piece of furniture. “Lord Jedue,” Laird ?nally said. “I am glad we ?nally have the opportunity to meet. ”

  “As am I, Your Grace,” Camon said.

  “Why is it, again, that you were unable to come to the Canton building, instead requiring that I visit you here?”

 
My knees, Your Grace,” Camon said. “My physicians recommend that I travel as little as possible. ”

  And you were rightly apprehensive about being drawn into a Ministry stronghold, Vin thought.

  “I see,” Laird said. “Bad knees. An unfortunate attribute in a man who deals in transportation. ”

  “I don’t have to go on the trips, Your Grace,” Camon said, bowing his head. “Just organize them. ”

  Good, Vin thought. Make sure you remain subservient, Camon. You need to seem desperate.

  Vin needed this scam to succeed. Camon threatened her and he beat her—but he considered her a good-luck charm. She wasn’t sure if he knew why his plans went better when she was in the room, but he had apparently made the connection. That made her valuable—and Reen had always said that the surest way to stay alive in the underworld was to make yourself indispensable.

  “I see,” Laird said again. “Well, I fear that our meeting has come too late for your purposes. The Canton of Finance has already voted on your proposal. ”

  “So soon?” Camon asked with genuine surprise.

  “Yes,” Laird replied, taking a sip of his wine, still not dismissing the servant. “We have decided not to accept your contract. ”

  Camon sat for a moment, stunned. “I’m sorry to hear that, Your Grace. ”

  Laird came to meet you, Vin thought. That means he’s still in a position to negotiate.

  “Indeed,” Camon continued, seeing what Vin had. “That is especially unfortunate, as I was ready to make the Ministry an even better offer. ”

  Laird raised a tattooed eyebrow. “I doubt it will matter. There is an element of the Council who feels that the Canton would receive better service if we found a more stable house to transport our people. ”

  “That would be a grave mistake,” Camon said smoothly. “Let us be frank, Your Grace. We both know that this contract is House Jedue’s last chance. Now that we’ve lost the Farwan deal, we cannot afford to run our canal boats to Luthadel anymore. Without the Ministry’s patronage, my house is ?nancially doomed. ”

  “This is doing very little to persuade me, Your Lordship,” the obligator said.

  “Isn’t it?” Camon asked. “Ask yourself this, Your Grace— who will serve you better? Will it be the house that has dozens of contracts to divide its attention, or the house that views your contract as its last hope? The Canton of Finance will not ?nd a more accommodating partner than a desperate one. Let my boats be the ones that bring your acolytes down from the north—let my soldiers escort them—and you will not be disappointed. ”

  Good, Vin thought.

  “I… see,” the obligator said, now troubled.

  “I would be willing to give you an extended contract, locked in at the price of ?fty boxings a head per trip, Your Grace. Your acolytes would be able to travel our boats at their leisure, and would always have the escorts they need. ”

  The obligator raised an eyebrow. “That’s half the former fee. ”

 
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