Mistborn the final empi.., p.40
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.40

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 40

  Vin nodded gratefully.

  “The solitary table will mark you as single,” Sazed warned. “Eat slowly—once your meal is through, men will come to ask you to dance. ”

  “You didn’t teach me to dance!” Vin said in an urgent whisper.

  “There wasn’t time, Mistress,” Sazed said. “Worry not— respectfully and rightly, you can refuse these men. They will assume that you are simply ?ustered by your ?rst ball, and no harm will be done. ”

  Vin nodded, and the serving man led them to a small table near the center of the hallway. Vin seated herself in the only chair while Sazed ordered her meal. He then stepped up to stand behind her chair.

  Vin sat primly, waiting. Most of the tables lay just beneath the overhang of the gallery—up close to the dancing—and that left a corridorlike walkway behind them, near the wall. Couples and groups passed along this, speaking quietly. Occasionally someone gestured or nodded toward Vin.

  Well, that part of Kelsier’s plan is working. She was getting noticed. She had to force herself not to cringe or sink down in her chair, however, as a high prelan strolled along the pathway behind her. He wasn’t the one she had met, fortunately, though he had the same gray robes and dark tattoos around his eyes.

  Actually, there were a fair number of obligators at the party. They strolled about, mingling with the partygoers. And yet, there was an… aloofness to them. A division. They hovered about, almost like chaperones.

  The Garrison watches the skaa, Vin thought. Apparently, the obligators perform a similar function for the nobility. It was an odd sight—she’d always thought of the noblemen as being free. And, truthfully, they were far more con?dent than the skaa. Many seemed to be enjoying themselves, and the obligators didn’t seem to be acting really as police, or even speci?cally as spies. And yet, they were there. Hovering about, joining in conversations. A constant reminder of the Lord Ruler and his empire.

  Vin turned her attention away from the obligators—their presence still made her a bit uncomfortable—and instead focused on something else: the beautiful windows. Sitting where she was, she could see some of the ones directly across and up from where she sat.

  They were religious, like many scenes preferred by the aristocracy. Perhaps it was to show devotion, or perhaps it was required. Vin didn’t know enough—but, likely, that was something Valette wouldn’t know either, so it was all right.

  She did, fortunately, recognize some of the scenes— mostly because of Sazed’s teachings. He seemed to know as much about the Lord Ruler’s mythology as he did about other religions, though it seemed odd to her that he would study the very religion he found so oppressive.

  Central to many of the windows was the Deepness. Dark black—or, in window terms, violet—it was formless, with vengeful, tentaclelike masses creeping across several windows. Vin looked up at it, along with the brilliantly colored depictions of the Lord Ruler, and found herself a little bit trans?xed by the backlit scenes.

  What was it? she wondered. The Deepness? Why depict it so formlessly—why not show what it really was?

  She’d never really wondered about the Deepness before, but Sazed’s lessons left her wondering. Her instincts whispered scam. The Lord Ruler had invented some terrible menace that he’d been able to destroy in the past, therefore “earning” his place as emperor. And yet, staring up at the horrible, twisting thing, Vin could almost believe.

  What if something like that had existed? And, if it had, how had the Lord Ruler managed to defeat it?

  She sighed, shaking her head at the thoughts. Already, she was beginning to think too much like a noblewoman. She was admiring the beauty of the decorations—thinking about what they meant—without giving more than a passing thought to the wealth that had created them. It was just that everything here was so wondrous and ornate.

  The pillars in the hall weren’t just normal columns, they were carved masterpieces. Wide banners hung from the ceiling just above the windows, and the arching, lofty ceiling was crisscrossed by structural buttressings and dotted with capstones. Somehow she knew each of those capstones was intricately carved, despite the fact that they were too far away to be seen from below.

  And the dancers matched, perhaps even outshone, the exquisite setting. Couples moved gracefully, stepping to the soft music with seemingly effortless motions. Many were even chatting with one another while they danced. The ladies moved freely in their dresses—many of which, Vin noticed, made her own frilly garment look plain by comparison. Sazed was right: Long hair was certainly the fashion, though an equal number kept their hair up as left it down.

  Surrounded by the majestic hall, the sharp-suited noblemen looked different, somehow. Distinguished. Were these the same creatures that beat her friends and enslaved the skaa? They seemed too…perfect, too well-mannered, for such horrible acts.

  I wonder if they even notice the outside world, she thought, crossing her arms on the table as she watched the dancing. Perhaps they can’t see beyond their keeps and their balls— just like they can’t see past my dress and makeup.

  Sazed tapped her shoulder, and Vin sighed, adopting a more ladylike posture. The meal arrived a few moments later—a feast of such strange ?avors that she would have been daunted, had she not eaten similar fare often during the last few months. Sazed’s lessons might have omitted dancing, but they had been quite extensive regarding dining etiquette, for which Vin was grateful. As Kelsier had said, her main purpose of the evening was to make an appearance—and so it was important that she make a proper one.

  She ate delicately, as instructed, and that allowed her to be slow and meticulous. She didn’t relish the idea of being asked to dance; she was half afraid she’d panic again if anyone actually spoke to her. However, a meal could only be extended so long—especially one with a lady’s small portions. She soon ?nished, and set her fork across the plate, indicating that she was done.

  The ?rst suitor approached not two minutes later. “Lady Valette Renoux?” the young man asked, bowing just slightly. He wore a green vest beneath his long, dark suit coat. “I am Lord Rian Strobe. Would you care to dance?”

  “My lord,” Vin said, glancing down demurely. “You are kind, but this is my ?rst ball, and everything here is so grand! I fear that I’ll stumble from nervousness on the dance ?oor. Perhaps, next time…?”

  “Of course, my lady,” he said with a courteous nod, then withdrew.

  “Very well done, Mistress,” Sazed said quietly. “Your accent was masterful. You will, of course, have to dance with him at the next ball. We shall surely have you trained by then, I think. ”

  Vin ?ushed slightly. “Maybe he won’t attend. ”

  “Perhaps,” Sazed said. “But not likely. The young nobility are quite fond of their nightly diversions. ”

  “They do this every night?”

  “Nearly,” Sazed said. “The balls are, after all, a prime reason people come to Luthadel. If one is in town and there is a ball—and there almost always is—one generally attends, especially if one is young and unmarried. You won’t be expected to attend quite so frequently, but we should probably get you up to attending two or three a week. ”

  “Two or three…” Vin said. “I’m going to need more gowns!”

  Sazed smiled. “Ah, thinking like a noblewoman already. Now, Mistress, if you will excuse me…”

  “Excuse you?” Vin asked, turning.

  “To the steward’s dinner,” Sazed said. “A servant of my rank is generally dismissed once my master’s meal is ?nished. I hesitate to go and leave you, but that room will be ?lled with the self-important servants of the high nobility. There will be conversations there that Master Kelsier wishes me to overhear. ”

  “You’re leaving me by myself?”

  “You’ve done well so far, Mistress,” Sazed said. “No major mistakes—or, at least, none that wouldn’t be expected of a lady new to court. ”

  “Like what?” Vin asked apprehensively.

sp; “We shall discuss them later. Just remain at your table, sipping your wine—try not to get it re?lled too often—and wait for my return. If other young men approach, turn them away as delicately as you did the ?rst. ”

  Vin nodded hesitantly.

  “I shall return in about an hour,” Sazed promised. He remained, however, as if waiting for something.

  “Um, you are dismissed,” Vin said.

  “Thank you, Mistress,” he said, bowing and withdrawing. Leaving her alone.

  Not alone, she thought. Kelsier’s out there somewhere, watching in the night. The thought comforted her, though she wished she didn’t feel the empty space beside her chair quite so keenly.

  Three more young men approached her for dances, but each one accepted her polite rejection. No others came after them; word had probably gotten around that she wasn’t interested in dancing. She memorized the names of the four men who had approached her—Kelsier would want to know them—and began to wait.

  Oddly, she soon found herself growing bored. The room was well ventilated, but she still felt hot beneath the layers of fabric. Her legs were especially bad, since they had to deal with her ankle-long undergarments. The long sleeves didn’t help either, though the silky material was soft against her skin. The dancing continued, and she watched with interest for a time. However, her attention soon turned to the obligators.

  Interestingly, they did seem to serve some sort of function at the party. Though they often stood apart from the groups of chatting nobility, occasionally they would join in. And, every so often, a group would pause and seek out an obligator, waving one over with a respectful gesture.

  Vin frowned, trying to decide what she was missing. Eventually, a group at a nearby table waved to a passing obligator. The table was too far away to hear unaided, but with tin…

  She reached inside to burn the metal, but then paused. Copper ?rst, she thought, turning the metal on. She would have to grow accustomed to leaving it on almost all the time, so that she wouldn’t expose herself.

  Her Allomancy hidden, she burned tin. Immediately, the light in the room became blinding, and she had to close her eyes. The band’s music became louder, and a dozen conversations around her turned from buzzes to audible voices. She had to try hard to focus on the one she was interested in, but the table was the one closest to her, so she eventually singled out the appropriate voices.

  “…swear that I’ll share news of my engagement with him before anyone else,” one of the people said. Vin opened her eyes a slit—it was one of the noblemen at the table.

  “Very well,” said the obligator. “I witness and record this. ”

  The nobleman reached out a hand, and coins clinked. Vin extinguished her tin, opening her eyes all the way in time to see the obligator wandering away from the table, slipping something—likely the coins—into a pocket of his robes.

  Interesting, Vin thought.

  Unfortunately, the people at that table soon rose and went their separate ways, leaving Vin without anyone close enough to eavesdrop upon. Her boredom returned as she watched the obligator stroll across the room toward one of his companions. She began to tap on the table, idly watching the two obligators until she realized something.

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