Mistborn the final empi.., p.5
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.5

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 5

  “I told you,” Camon said. “We’re desperate. My house needs to keep its boats running. Fifty boxings will not make us a pro?t, but that doesn’t matter. Once we have the Ministry contract to bring us stability, we can ?nd other contracts to ?ll our coffers. ”

  Laird looked thoughtful. It was a fabulous deal—one that might ordinarily have been suspicious. However, Camon’s presentation created the image of a house on the brink of ?nancial collapse. The other crewleader, Theron, had spent ?ve years building, scamming, and ?nagling to create this moment. The Ministry would be remiss not to consider the opportunity.

  Laird was realizing just that. The Steel Ministry was not just the force of bureaucracy and legal authority in the Final Empire—it was like a noble house unto itself. The more wealth it had, the better its own mercantile contracts, the more leverage the various Ministry Cantons had with each other—and with the noble houses.

  Laird was still obviously hesitant, however. Vin could see the look in his eyes, the suspicion she knew well. He was not going to take the contract.

  Now, Vin thought, It’s my turn.

  Vin used her Luck on Laird. She reached out tentatively—not even really sure what she was doing, or why she could even do it. Yet her touch was instinctive, trained through years of subtle practice. She’d been ten years old before she’d realized that other people couldn’t do what she could.

  She pressed against Laird’s emotions, dampening them. He became less suspicious, less afraid. Docile. His worries melted away, and Vin could see a calm sense of control begin to assert itself in his eyes.

  Yet, Laird still seemed slightly uncertain. Vin pushed harder. He cocked his head, looking thoughtful. He opened his mouth to speak, but she pushed against him again, desperately using up her last pinch of Luck.

  He paused again. “Very well,” he ?nally said. “I will take this new proposal to the Council. Perhaps an agreement can still be reached. ”

  If men read these words, let them know that power is a heavy burden. Seek not to be bound by its chains. The Terris prophecies say that I will have the power to save the world.

  They hint, however, that I will have the power to destroy it as well.

  2

  IN KELSIER’S OPINION, THE CITY of Luthadel—seat of the Lord Ruler—was a gloomy sight. Most of the buildings had been built from stone blocks, with tile roofs for the wealthy, and simple, peaked wooden roofs for the rest. The structures were packed closely together, making them seem squat despite the fact that they were generally three stories high.

  The tenements and shops were uniform in appearance; this was not a place to draw attention to oneself. Unless, of course, you were a member of the high nobility.

  Interspersed throughout the city were a dozen or so monolithic keeps. Intricate, with rows of spearlike spires or deep archways, these were the homes of the high nobility. In fact, they were the mark of a high noble family: Any family who could afford to build a keep and maintain a high-pro?le presence in Luthadel was considered to be a Great House.

  Most of the open ground in the city was around these keeps. The patches of space amid the tenements were like clearings in a forest, the keeps themselves like solitary mounts rising above the rest of the landscape. Black mountains. Like the rest of the city, the keeps were stained by countless years of ashfalls.

  Every structure in Luthadel—virtually every structure Kelsier had ever seen—had been blackened to some degree. Even the city wall, upon which Kelsier now stood, was blackened by a patina of soot. Structures were generally darkest at the top, where the ash gathered, but rainwaters and evening condensations had carried the stains over ledges and down walls. Like paint running down a canvas, the darkness seemed to creep down the sides of buildings in an uneven gradient.

  The streets, of course, were completely black. Kelsier stood waiting, scanning the city as a group of skaa workers worked in the street below, clearing away the latest mounds of ash. They’d take it to the River Channerel, which ran through the center of the city, sending the piles of ash to be washed away, lest it pile up and eventually bury the city. Sometimes, Kelsier wondered why the entire empire wasn’t just one big mound of ash. He supposed the ash must break down into soil eventually. Yet, it took a ridiculous amount of effort to keep cities and ?elds clear enough to be used.

  Fortunately, there were always enough skaa to do the work. The workers below him wore simple coats and trousers, ash-stained and worn. Like the plantation workers he had left behind several weeks before, they worked with beaten-down, despondent motions. Other groups of skaa passed the workers, responding to the bells in the distance, chiming the hour and calling them to their morning’s work at the forges or mills. Luthadel’s main export was metal; the city was home to hundreds of forges and re?neries. However, the surgings of the river provided excellent locations for mills, both to grind grains and make textiles.

  The skaa continued to work. Kelsier turned away from them, looking up into the distance, toward the city center, where the Lord Ruler’s palace loomed like some kind of massive, multi-spined insect. Kredik Shaw, the Hill of a Thousand Spires. The palace was several times the size of any nobleman’s keep, and was by far the largest building in the city.

  Another ashfall began as Kelsier stood contemplating the city, the ?akes falling lightly down upon the streets and buildings. A lot of ashfalls, lately, he thought, glad for the excuse to pull up the hood on his cloak. The Ashmounts must be active.

  It was unlikely that anyone in Luthadel would recognize him—it had been three years since his capture. Still, the hood was reassuring. If all went well, there would come a time when Kelsier would want to be seen and recognized. For now, anonymity was probably better.

  Eventually, a ?gure approached along the wall. The man, Dockson, was shorter than Kelsier, and he had a squarish face that seemed well suited to his moderately stocky build. A nondescript brown hooded cloak covered his black hair, and he wore the same short half beard that he’d sported since his face had ?rst put forth whiskers some twenty years before.

  He, like Kelsier, wore a nobleman’s suit: colored vest, dark coat and trousers, and a thin cloak to keep off the ash. The clothing wasn’t rich, but it was aristocratic—indicative of the Luthadel middle class. Most men of noble birth weren’t wealthy enough to be considered part of a Great House—yet, in the Final Empire, nobility wasn’t just about money. It was about lineage and history; the Lord Ruler was immortal, and he apparently still remembered the men who had supported him during the early years of his reign. The descendants of those men, no matter how poor they became, would always be favored.

  The clothing would keep passing guard patrols from asking too many questions. In the cases of Kelsier and Dockson, of course, that clothing was a lie. Neither was actually noble— though, technically, Kelsier was a half-blood. In many ways, however, that was worse than being just a normal skaa.

  Dockson strolled up next to Kelsier, then leaned against the battlement, resting a pair of stout arms on the stone. “You’re a few days late, Kell. ”

  “I decided to make a few extra stops in the plantations to the north. ”

  “Ah,” Dockson said. “So you did have something to do with Lord Tresting’s death. ”

  Kelsier smiled. “You could say that. ”

  “His murder caused quite a stir among the local nobility. ”

  “That was kind of the intention,” Kelsier said. “Though, to be honest, I wasn’t planning anything quite so dramatic. It was almost more of an accident than anything else. ”

  Dockson raised an eyebrow. “How do you ‘accidentally’ kill a nobleman in his own mansion?”

  “With a knife in the chest,” Kelsier said lightly. “Or, rather, a pair of knives in the chest—it always pays to be careful. ”

  Dockson rolled his eyes.

  “His death isn’t exactly a loss, Dox,” Kelsier said. “Even among the nobility, Tresting had a reputation for cruelty. ”


  “I don’t care about Tresting,” Dockson said. “I’m just considering the state of insanity that led me to plan another job with you. Attacking a provincial lord in his manor house, surrounded by guards… Honestly, Kell, I’d nearly forgotten how foolhardy you can be. ”

  “Foolhardy?” Kelsier asked with a laugh. “That wasn’t foolhardy—that was just a small diversion. You should see some of the things I’m planning to do!”

  Dockson stood for a moment, then he laughed too. “By the Lord Ruler, it’s good to have you back, Kell! I’m afraid I’ve grown rather boring during the last few years. ”

  “We’ll ?x that,” Kelsier promised. He took a deep breath, ash falling lightly around him. Skaa cleaning crews were already back at work on the streets below, brushing up the dark ash. Behind, a guard patrol passed, nodding to Kelsier and Dockson. They waited in silence for the men to pass.

  “It’s good to be back,” Kelsier ?nally said. “There’s something homey about Luthadel—even if it is a depressing, stark pit of a city. You have the meeting organized?”

  Dockson nodded. “We can’t start until this evening, though. How’d you get in, anyway? I had men watching the gates. ”

  “Hmm? Oh, I snuck in last night. ”

  “But how—” Dockson paused. “Oh, right. That’s going to take some getting used to. ”

  Kelsier shrugged. “I don’t see why. You always work with Mistings. ”

  “Yes, but this is different,” Dockson said. He held up a hand to forestall further argument. “No need, Kell. I’m not hedging—I just said it would take some getting used to. ”

  “Fine. Who’s coming tonight?”

  “Well, Breeze and Ham will be there, of course. They’re very curious about this mystery job of ours—not to mention rather annoyed that I won’t tell him what you’ve been up to these last few years. ”

  “Good,” Kelsier said with a smile. “Let them wonder. How about Trap?”

  Dockson shook his head. “Trap’s dead. The Ministry ?nally caught up with him a couple months ago. Didn’t even bother sending him to the Pits—they beheaded him on the spot. ”

  Kelsier closed his eyes, exhaling softly. It seemed that the Steel Ministry caught up with everyone eventually. Sometimes, Kelsier felt that a skaa Misting’s life wasn’t so much about surviving as it was about picking the right time to die.

  “This leaves us without a Smoker,” Kelsier ?nally said, opening his eyes. “You have any suggestions?”

  “Ruddy,” Dockson said.

  Kelsier shook his head. “No. He’s a good Smoker, but he’s not a good enough man. ”

  Dockson smiled. “Not a good enough man to be on a thieving crew…Kell, I have missed working with you. All right, who then?”

  Kelsier thought for a moment. “Is Clubs still running that shop of his?”

  “As far as I know,” Dockson said slowly.

  “He’s supposed to be one of the best Smokers in the city. ”

 

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