Mistborn the final empi.., p.44
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.44
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         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
Page 44

  The shadow stopped, then Kelsier walked up to it, stopping as well. Suddenly, the shadow reached out and slapped her, and Vin moved re?exively, putting her hand up just as Kelsier’s real hand began to move. She caught his arm midswing.

  “While you’re burning atium,” he said, “nothing can surprise you. You can swing a dagger, knowing con?dently that your enemies will run right into it. You can dodge attacks with ease because you’ll be able to see where every blow will fall. Atium makes you quite nearly invincible. It enhances your mind, making you able to make use of all the new information. ”

  Suddenly, dozens of other images shot from Kelsier’s body. Each one sprang in a different direction, some striding across the roof, others jumping into the air. Vin released his arm, rising and backing away in confusion.

  “I just burned atium too,” Kelsier said. “I can see what you’re going to do, and that changes what I’m going to do— which in turn changes what you’re going to do. The images re?ect each of the possible actions we might take. ”

  “It’s confusing,” Vin said, watching the insane jumble of images, old ones constantly fading, new ones constantly appearing.

  Kelsier nodded. “The only way to defeat someone who is burning atium is to burn it yourself—that way, neither of you has an advantage. ”

  The images vanished.

  “What did you do?” Vin asked with a start.

  “Nothing,” Kelsier said. “Your atium probably ran out. ”

  Vin realized with surprise that he was right—the atium was gone. “It burns so quickly!”

  Kelsier nodded, sitting down again. “That’s probably the fastest fortune you’ve ever blown, eh?”

  Vin nodded, stunned. “It seems like such a waste. ”

  Kelsier shrugged. “Atium is only valuable because of Allomancy. So, if we didn’t burn it, it wouldn’t be worth the fortune that it is. Of course, if we do burn it, we make it even more rare. It’s kind of an interesting relationship—ask Ham about it sometimes. He loves talking about atium economics.

  “Anyway, any Mistborn you face will probably have atium. However, they’ll be reluctant to use it. In addition, they won’t have swallowed it yet—atium is fragile, and your digestive juices will ruin it in a matter of hours. So, you have to walk a line between conservation and effectiveness. If it looks like your opponent is using atium, then you’d better use yours too—however, make sure he doesn’t lure you into using up your reserve before he does. ”

  Vin nodded. “Does this mean you’re taking me tonight?”

  “I’ll probably regret it,” Kelsier said, sighing. “But I don’t see any way to make you stay behind—short of tying you up, perhaps. But, I warn you Vin. This could be dangerous. Very dangerous. I don’t intend to meet the Lord Ruler, but I do intend to sneak into his stronghold. I think I know where we might ?nd a clue on how to defeat him. ”

  Vin smiled, stepping forward as Kelsier waved her toward him. He reached into his pouch and pulled out a vial, which he handed to her. It was like regular Allomantic vials, except the liquid inside held only a single drop of metal. The atium bead was several times larger than the one he had given her to practice on.

  “Don’t use it unless you have to,” Kelsier warned. “You need any other metals?”

  Vin nodded. “I burned up most of my steel getting here. ”

  Kelsier handed her another vial. “First, let’s go retrieve my coin pouch. ”

  Sometimes I wonder if I’m going mad.

  Perhaps it is due to the pressure of knowing that I must somehow bear the burden of an entire world. Perhaps it is caused by the death I have seen, the friends I have lost. The friends I have been forced to kill.

  Either way, I sometimes see shadows following me. Dark creatures that I don’t understand, nor wish to understand. Are they, perhaps, some ?gment of my overtaxed mind?

  14

  IT STARTED RAINING JUST AFTER they located the coin pouch. It wasn’t a hard rain, but it seemed to clear the mist slightly. Vin shivered, pulling up her hood, crouching beside Kelsier on a rooftop. He didn’t pay the weather much heed, so neither did she. A little dampness wouldn’t hurt—in fact, it would probably help, as the rainfall would cover the sounds of their approach.

  Kredik Shaw lay before them. The peaked spires and sheer towers rose like dark talons in the night. They varied greatly in thickness—some were wide enough to house stairwells and large rooms, but others were simply thin rods of steel jutting up into the sky. The variety gave the mass a twisted, off-center symmetry—an almost-balance.

  The spikes and towers had a foreboding cast in the damp, misty night—like the ash-blackened bones of a long-weathered carcass. Looking at them, Vin thought she felt something…a depression, as if simply being close to the building was enough to suck away her hope.

  “Our target is a tunnel complex at the base of one of the far right spires,” Kelsier said, his voice barely carrying over the quiet hush of the falling rain. “We’re heading for a room at the very center of that complex. ”

  “What’s inside?”

  “I don’t know,” Kelsier said. “That’s what we’re going to ?nd out. Once every three days—and today isn’t one of them— the Lord Ruler visits this chamber. He stays for three hours, then leaves. I tried to get in once before. Three years ago. ”

  “The job,” Vin whispered. “The one that…”

  “Got me captured,” Kelsier said with a nod. “Yes. At the time, we thought that the Lord Ruler stored riches in the room. I don’t think that’s true, now, but I’m still curious. The way he visits is so regular, so… odd. Something’s in that room, Vin. Something important. Maybe it holds the secret to his power and immortality. ”

  “Why do we need to worry about that?” Vin asked. “You have the Eleventh Metal to defeat him, right?”

  Kelsier frowned slightly. Vin waited for an answer, but he didn’t ever give one. “I failed to get in last time, Vin,” he said instead. “We got close, but we got there too easily. When we arrived, there were Inquisitors outside the room. Waiting for us. ”

  “Someone told them you were coming?”

  Kelsier nodded. “We planned that job for months. We were overcon?dent, but we had reason to be. Mare and I were the best—the job should have gone ?awlessly. ” Kelsier paused, then he turned to Vin. “Tonight, I didn’t plan at all. We’re just going in—we’ll quiet anyone who tries to stop us, then break into that room. ”

  Vin sat quietly, feeling the chill rainwater on her wet hands and damp arms. Then she nodded.

  Kelsier smiled slightly. “No objections?”

  Vin shook her head. “I made you take me with you. It’s not my place to object now. ”

  Kelsier chuckled. “Guess I’ve been hanging out with Breeze too long. I just don’t feel right unless someone tells me I’m crazy. ”

  Vin shrugged. However, as she moved on the rooftop, she felt it again—the sense of depression coming from Kredik Shaw.

  “There is something, Kelsier,” she said. “The palace feels…wrong, somehow. ”

  “That’s the Lord Ruler,” Kelsier said. “He radiates like an incredibly powerful Soother, smothering the emotions of everyone who gets close to him. Turn on your copper; that will make you immune. ”

  Vin nodded, burning copper. Immediately, the sensation went away.

  “Good?” Kelsier asked.

  She nodded again.

  “All right, then,” he said, giving her a handful of coins. “Stay close to me, and keep your atium handy—just in case. ”

  With that, he threw himself off the roof. Vin followed, her cloak tassels spraying rainwater. She burned pewter as she fell, and hit the ground with Allomantically strengthened legs.

  Kelsier took off at a dash, and she followed. Her speed on the wet cobblestones would have been reckless, but her pewter-fueled muscles reacted with precision, strength, and balance. She ran in the wet, misty night, burning tin and copper—one to let h
er see, the other to let her hide.

  Kelsier rounded the palace complex. Oddly, the grounds had no outer wall. Of course they don’t. Who would dare attack the Lord Ruler?

  Flat space, covered in cobblestones, was all that surrounded the Hill of a Thousand Spires. No tree, foliage, or structure stood to distract one’s eye from the disturbing, asymmetric collection of wings, towers, and spires that was Kredik Shaw.

  “Here we go,” Kelsier whispered, his voice carrying to her tin-enhanced ears. He turned, dashing directly toward a squat, bunkerlike section of the palace. As they approached, Vin saw a pair of guards standing by an ornate, gatelike door.

  Kelsier was on the men in a ?ash, cutting one down with slashing knives. The second man tried to cry out, but Kelsier jumped, slamming both feet into the man’s chest. Thrown to the side by the inhumanly strong kick, the guard crashed into the wall, then slumped to the ground. Kelsier was on his feet a second later, slamming his weight against the door and pushing it open.

  Weak lanternlight spilled out of a stone corridor within. Kelsier ducked through the door. Vin dimmed her tin, then followed in a crouching dash, her heart pounding. Never, in all her time as a thief, had she done something like this. Hers had been a life of sneaky burgling and scamming, not raids or muggings. As she followed Kelsier down the corridor—their feet and cloaks leaving a wet trail on the smooth stonework— she nervously pulled out a glass dagger, gripping the leather-wrapped handle in a sweaty palm.

  A man stepped into the hallway just ahead, exiting what appeared to be some sort of guard chamber. Kelsier jumped forward and elbowed the soldier in the stomach, then slammed him against the wall. Even as the guard collapsed, Kelsier ducked into the room.

  Vin followed, stepping into chaos. Kelsier Pulled a metal candelabrum from the corner up into his hands, then began to spin with it, striking down soldier after soldier. Guards cried out, scrambling and grabbing staves from the side of the room. A table covered in half-eaten meals was thrown to the side as men tried to make room.

  A soldier turned toward Vin, and she reacted without thinking. She burned steel and threw out a handful of coins. She Pushed, and the missiles shot forward, tearing through the guard’s ?esh and dropping him.

  She burned iron, Pulling the coins back to her hand. She turned with a bloodied ?st, spraying the room with metal, dropping three soldiers. Kelsier felled the last with his impromptu staff.

  I just killed four men, Vin thought, stunned. Before, Reen had always done the killing.

  There was rustling behind. Vin spun to see another squadron of soldiers enter through a door opposite her. To the side, Kelsier dropped his candelabrum and stepped forward. The room’s four lanterns suddenly ripped from their mountings, slamming directly toward him. He ducked to the side, letting the lanterns crash together.

  The room fell dark. Vin burned tin, her eyes adapting to light from the corridor outside. The guards, however, stumbled to a halt.

 
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