Mistborn the final empi.., p.41
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.41

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 41

  She recognized one of them. Not the one who had taken the money earlier, but his companion, an older man. Short and ?rm-featured, he stood with an imperious air. Even the other obligator seemed deferential to him.

  At ?rst, Vin thought her familiarity came from her visit to the Canton of Finance with Camon, and she felt a stab of panic. Then, however, she realized that this wasn’t the same man. She’d seen him before, but not there. He was…

  My father, she realized with stupefaction.

  Reen had pointed him out once, when they had ?rst come to Luthadel, a year ago; he had been inspecting the workers at a local forge. Reen had taken Vin, sneaking her in, insisting that she at least see her father once—though she still didn’t understand why. She had memorized the face anyway.

  She resisted the urge to shrink down in her chair. There was no way the man would be able to recognize her—he didn’t even know she existed. She forcibly turned her attention away from him, looking up at the windows instead. She couldn’t get that good a look at them, however, because the pillars and overhang restricted her view.

  As she sat, she noticed something she hadn’t seen before—a lofty, inset balcony that ran just above the entire far wall. It was like a counterpart to the alcove beneath the windows, except it ran at the top of the wall, between the stained-glass windows and the ceiling. She could see movement upon it, couples and singles strolling along, looking down upon the party below.

  Her instincts drew her toward the balcony, from where she could watch the party without being seen herself. It would also give her a wonderful view of the banners and the windows directly above her table, not to mention let her study the stonework without seeming to gawk.

  Sazed had told her to stay, but the more she sat, the more she found her eyes drawn toward the hidden balcony. She itched to stand up and move, to stretch her legs and perhaps air them out a bit. The presence of her father—oblivious of her or not—served only as another motivation for her to leave the main ?oor.

  It isn’t like anyone else is asking me to dance, she thought. And I’ve done what Kelsier wanted, I’ve been seen by the nobility.

  She paused, then waved for a serving boy.

  He approached with alacrity. “Yes, Lady Renoux?”

  “How do I get up there?” Vin asked, pointing toward the balcony.

  “There are stairs just to the side of the orchestra, my lady,” the boy said. “Climb them to the top landing. ”

  Vin nodded her thanks. Then, determined, she stood and made her way to the front of the room. No one gave her passing more than a glance, and she walked with more con?dence as she crossed the hallway to the stairwell.

  The stone corridor twisted upward, curling upon itself, its steps short but steep. Little stained glass windows, no wider than her hand, ran up the outside wall—though they were dark in color, lacking backlight. Vin climbed eagerly, working away her restless energy, but she soon began to puff from the weight of the dress and the dif?culty of holding it up so that she didn’t trip. A spark of burned pewter, however, made the climb effortless enough that she didn’t sweat and ruin her makeup.

  The climb proved to be worth the effort. The upper balcony was dark—lit only by several small blue-glassed lanterns on the walls—and it gave an amazing view of the stained-glass windows. The area was quiet, and Vin felt practically alone as she approached the iron railing between two pillars, looking down. The stone tiles of the ?oor below formed a pattern she hadn’t noticed, a kind of freeform curving of gray upon white.

  Mists? she wondered idly, leaning against the railing. It, like the lantern bracket behind her, was intricate and detailed—both had been wrought in the form of thick, curving vines. To her sides, the tops of the pillars were carved into stone animals that appeared frozen in the motion of jumping off of the balcony.

  “Now, see, here’s the problem with going to re?ll your cup of wine. ”

  The sudden voice made Vin jump, and she spun. A young man stood behind her. His suit wasn’t the ?nest she had seen, nor was his vest as bright as most. Both coat and shirt seemed to ?t too loosely, and his hair was just a bit disheveled. He carried a cup of wine, and the outer pocket of his suit coat bulged with the shape of a book that was just a bit too big for its con?nes.

  “The problem is,” the young man said, “you return to ?nd that your favorite spot has been stolen by a pretty girl. Now, a gentleman would move on to another place, leaving the lady to her contemplations. However, this is the best spot on the balcony—it’s the only place close enough to a lantern to have good reading light. ”

  Vin ?ushed. “I’m sorry, my lord. ”

  “Ah, see, now I feel guilty. All for a cup of wine. Look, there’s plenty of room for two people here—just scoot over a bit. ”

  Vin paused. Could she politely refuse? He obviously wanted her to stay near him—did he know who she was? Should she try to ?nd out his name, so she could tell Kelsier?

  She stepped a bit to the side, and the man took a place next to her. He leaned back against the side pillar, and, surprisingly, took out his book and began to read. He was right: The lantern shined directly on the pages. Vin stood for a moment, watching him, but he seemed completely absorbed. He didn’t even pause to look up at her.

  Isn’t he going to pay me any attention at all? Vin thought, puzzled at her own annoyance. Maybe I should have worn a fancier dress.

  The man sipped at his wine, focused on the book.

  “Do you always read at balls?” she asked.

  The young man looked up. “Whenever I can get away with it. ”

  “Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of coming?” Vin asked. “Why attend if you’re just going to avoid socializing?”

  “You’re up here too,” he pointed out.

  Vin ?ushed. “I just wanted to get a brief view of the hall. ”

  “Oh? And why did you refuse all three men who asked you to dance?”

  Vin paused. The man smiled, then turned back to his book.

  “There were four,” Vin said with a huff. “And I refused them because I don’t know how to dance very well. ”

  The man lowered his book slightly, eyeing her. “You know, you’re a lot less timid than you look. ”

  “Timid?” Vin asked. “I’m not the one staring at his book when there’s a young lady standing by him, never having properly introduced himself. ”

  The man raised a speculative eyebrow. “Now, see, you sound like my father. Far better looking, but just as grumpy. ”

  Vin glared at him. Finally, he rolled his eyes. “Very well, let me be a gentleman, then. ” He bowed to her with a re?ned, formal step. “I am Lord Elend. Lady Valette Renoux, might I have the pleasure of sharing this balcony with you whilst I read?”

  Vin folded her arms. Elend? Family name or given name? Should I even care? He just wanted his spot back. But… how did he know that I’d refused dancing partners? Somehow, she had a suspicion that Kelsier would want to hear about this particular conversation.

  Oddly, she didn’t feel a desire to shrug this man away as she had the others. Instead, she felt another stab of annoyance as he again raised his book.

  “You still haven’t told me why you would rather read than participate,” she said.

  The man sighed, lowering the book again. “Well, see, I’m not exactly the best dancer either. ”

  “Ah,” Vin said.

  “But,” he said, raising a ?nger, “that’s only part of it. You may not realize this yet, but it’s not that hard to get overpartied. Once you attend ?ve or six hundred of these balls, they start to feel a bit repetitive. ”

  Vin shrugged. “You’d probably learn to dance better if you practiced. ”

  Elend raised an eyebrow. “You’re not going to let me get back to my book, are you?”

  “I wasn’t intending to. ”

  He sighed, tucking the book back into his jacket pocket— which was beginning to show signs of book-shaped wear. “We
ll, then. Do you want to go dance instead?”

  Vin froze. Elend smiled nonchalantly.

  Lord! He’s either incredibly smooth or socially incompetent. It was disturbing that she couldn’t determine which.

  “That’s a no, I assume?” Elend said. “Good—I thought I should offer, since we’ve established that I’m a gentleman. However, I doubt the couples below would appreciate us trampling their toes. ”

  “Agreed. What were you reading?”

  “Dilisteni,” Elend said. “Trials of Monument. Heard of it?”

  Vin shook her head.

  “Ah, well. Not many have. ” He leaned over the railing, looking below. “So, what do you think of your ?rst experience at court?”

  “It’s very…overwhelming. ”

  Elend chuckled. “Say what you will about House Venture—they know how to throw a party. ”

  Vin nodded. “You don’t like House Venture, then?” she said. Perhaps this was one of the rivalries Kelsier was watching for.

  “Not particularly, no,” Elend said. “They’re an ostentatious lot, even for high nobility. They can’t just have a party, they have to throw the best party. Never mind that they run their servants ragged setting it up, then beat the poor things in retribution when the hall isn’t perfectly clean the very next morning. ”

  Vin cocked her head. Not words I’d expect to hear from a nobleman.

  Elend paused, looking a little embarrassed. “But, well, never mind that. I think your Terrisman is looking for you. ”

  Vin started, glancing over the side of the balcony. Sure enough, Sazed’s tall form stood by her now-empty table, speaking to a serving boy.

  Vin yelped quietly. “I’ve got to go,” she said, turning toward the stairwell.

  “Ah, well then,” Elend said, “back to reading it is. ” He gave her a half wave of farewell, but he had his book open before she passed the ?rst step.

  Vin reached the bottom out of breath. Sazed saw her immediately.

  “I’m sorry,” she said, chagrined as she approached.

  “Do not apologize to me, Mistress,” Sazed said quietly. “It is both unseemly and unnecessary. Moving about a bit was a good idea, I think. I would have suggested it, had you not seemed so nervous. ”

  Vin nodded. “Is it time for us to go, then?”

  “It is a proper time to withdraw, if you wish,” he said, glancing up at the balcony. “May I ask what you were doing up there, Mistress?”

  “I wanted to get a better look at the windows,” Vin said. “But I ended up talking to someone. He seemed interested in me at ?rst, but now I don’t think he ever intended to pay me much attention. It doesn’t matter—he didn’t seem important enough to bother Kelsier with his name. ”

  Sazed paused. “Who was it you were speaking to?”

  “The man in the corner there, on the balcony,” Vin said.

  “One of Lord Venture’s friends?”

  Vin froze. “Is one of them named Elend?”

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