Mistborn the final empi.., p.51
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.51

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 51

  “How?” Vin asked. “How can you? And, how can you possibly trust people? Didn’t you learn from what she did to you?”

  Kelsier shrugged. “I think…I think given the choice between loving Mare—betrayal included—and never knowing her, I’d choose love. I risked, and I lost, but the risk was still worth it. It’s the same with my friends. Suspicion is healthy in our profession—but only to an extent. I’d rather trust my men than worry about what will happen if they turn on me. ”

  “That sounds foolish,” Vin said.

  “Is happiness foolish?” Kelsier asked, turning toward her. “Where have you been happier, Vin? On my crew, or back with Camon?”

  Vin paused.

  “I don’t know for sure if Mare betrayed me,” Kelsier said, looking back at the sunset. “She always claimed that she didn’t. ”

  “And she was sent to the Pits, right?” Vin said. “That doesn’t make sense, if she sided with the Lord Ruler. ”

  Kelsier shook his head, still staring into the distance. “She showed up at the Pits a few weeks after I was sent there—we were separated, after we were caught. I don’t know what happened during that time, or why she was eventually sent to Hathsin. The fact that she was sent to die hints that maybe she really didn’t betray me, but. . ”

  He turned toward Vin. “You didn’t hear him when he caught us, Vin. The Lord Ruler. . he thanked her. Thanked her for betraying me. His words—spoken with such an eerie sense of honesty—mixed with the way that the plan was set up…well, it was hard to believe Mare. That didn’t change my love, though—not deep down. I nearly died when she did a year later, beaten before the slavemasters at the Pits. That night, after her corpse was taken away, I Snapped. ”

  “You went mad?” Vin asked.

  “No,” Kelsier said. “Snapping is an Allomantic term. Our powers are latent at ?rst—they only come out after some traumatic event. Something intense—something almost deadly. The philosophers say that a man can’t command the metals until he has seen death and rejected it. ”

  “So… when did it happen to me?” Vin asked.

  Kelsier shrugged. “It’s hard to tell. Growing up as you did, there were probably ample opportunities for you to Snap. ”

  He nodded as if to himself. “For me,” he said, “it was that night. Alone in the Pits, my arms bleeding from the day’s work. Mare was dead, and I feared that I was responsible— that my lack of faith took away her strength and will. She died knowing that I questioned her loyalty. Maybe, if I’d really loved her, I wouldn’t have ever questioned. I don’t know. ”

  “But, you didn’t die,” Vin said.

  Kelsier shook his head. “I decided that I’d see her dream ful?lled. I’d make a world where ?owers returned, a world with green plants, a world where no soot fell from the sky…. ” He trailed off, then sighed. “I know. I’m insane. ”

  “Actually,” Vin said quietly, “it kind of makes sense. Finally. ”

  Kelsier smiled. The sun sank beneath the horizon, and while its light was still a ?are in the west, the mists began to appear. They didn’t come from one speci?c place, they just sort of…grew. They extended like translucent, twisting vines in the sky—curling back and forth, lengthening, dancing, melding.

  “Mare wanted children,” Kelsier said suddenly. “Back when we were ?rst married, a decade and a half ago. I… didn’t agree with her. I wanted to become the most famous skaa thief of all time, and didn’t have time for things that would slow me down.

  “It’s probably a good thing that we didn’t have children. The Lord Ruler might have found and killed them. But, he might not have—Dox and the others survived. Now, sometimes, I wish that I had a piece of her with me. A child. A daughter, perhaps, with Mare’s same dark hair and resilient stubbornness. ”

  He paused, then looked down at Vin. “I don’t want to be responsible for something happening to you, Vin. Not again. ”

  Vin frowned. “I’m not spending any more time locked in this mansion. ”

  “No, I don’t suppose you will. If we try and keep you in much longer, you’ll probably just show up at Clubs’s shop one night having done something very foolish. We’re a bit too much alike that way, you and I. Just. . be careful. ”

  Vin nodded. “I will. ”

  They stood for a few more minutes, watching the mists gather. Finally, Kelsier stood up straight, stretching. “Well, for what it’s worth, I’m glad you decided to join us, Vin. ”

  Vin shrugged. “To tell you the truth, I’d kind of like to see one of those ?owers for myself. ”

  You could say that circumstances forced me to leave my home behind—certainly, if I had stayed, I would now be dead. During those days—running without knowing why, carrying a burden I didn’t understand—I assumed that I would lose myself in Khlennium and seek a life of indistinction.

  I am slowly coming to understand that anonymity, like so many other things, has already been lost to me forever.

  18

  SHE DECIDED TO WEAR THE red dress. It was de?nitely the boldest choice, but that felt right. After all, she hid her true self behind an aristocratic appearance; the more visible that appearance was, the easier it should be for her to hide.

  A footman opened the carriage door. Vin took a deep breath—chest a little con?ned by the special corset she was wearing to hide her bandages—then accepted the footman’s hand and climbed down. She straightened her dress, nodded to Sazed, then joined the other aristocrats making their way up the steps to Keep Elariel. It was a bit smaller than the keep of House Venture. However, Keep Elariel apparently had a separate party ballroom, while House Venture had its gatherings in the enormous main hall.

  Vin eyed the other noblewomen, and felt a bit of her con?dence vanish. Her dress was beautiful, but the other women had so much more than just gowns. Their long, ?owing hair and self-assured airs matched their bejeweled ?gures. They ?lled out the upper portions of their dresses with voluptuous curves, and moved elegantly in the frilled splendor of the lower folds. Vin occasionally caught glimpses of the women’s feet, and they didn’t wear simple slippers like her own, but rather high-heeled shoes.

  “Why don’t I have shoes like that?” she asked quietly as they climbed the carpet-covered stairs.

  “Heels take practice to walk in, Mistress,” Sazed replied. “Since you’ve only just learned to dance, it might be best if you wore regular shoes for a time. ”

  Vin frowned, but accepted the explanation. Sazed’s mention of dancing, however, increased her discomfort. She remembered the ?owing poise of the dancers at her last ball. She certainly wouldn’t be able to imitate that—she barely even knew the basic steps.

  That won’t matter, she thought. They won’t see me—they’ll see Lady Valette. She’s supposed to be new and uncertain, and everyone thinks she’s been ill lately. It will make sense for her to be a poor dancer.

  That thought in mind, Vin reached the top of the stairs feeling a bit more secure.

  “I must say, Mistress,” Sazed said. “You seem far less nervous this time—in fact, you even seem excited. This is the proper attitude for Valette to display, I think. ”

  “Thank you,” she said, smiling. He was right: She was excited. Excited to be part of the job again—excited, even, to be back among the nobility, with their splendor and grace.

  They stepped up to the squat ballroom building—one of several low wings extending from the main keep—and a servant took her shawl. Vin paused a moment just inside the doorway, waiting as Sazed arranged her table and meal.

  The Elariel ballroom was very different from the majestic Venture grand hall. The dim room was only a single story high, and while it had a lot of stained-glass windows, they were all in the ceiling. Circular rose-window skylights shone from above, lit by small limelights on the roof. Each table was set with candles, and despite the light from above, there was a reserved darkness about the room. It seemed…private, despite the numerous people in attendance.

>   This room had obviously been designed to accommodate parties. A sunken dancing ?oor lay at its center, and this was better lit than the rest of the room. There were two tiers of tables circling the dancing ?oor: The ?rst tier was only a few feet above, the other was farther back and about twice as high.

  A servant led her to a table at the rim of the room. She sat, Sazed taking his customary place beside her, and began to wait for her meal to arrive.

  “How exactly am I supposed to get the information Kelsier wants?” she asked quietly, scanning the dark room. The deep, crystalline colors from above projected patterns across tables and people, creating an impressive atmosphere, yet making it dif?cult to distinguish faces. Was Elend here somewhere amidst the ball-goers?

  “Tonight, some men should ask you to dance,” Sazed said. “Accept their invitations—this will give you an excuse to seek them out later and mingle in their groups. You don’t need to participate in conversations—you just have to listen. At future balls, perhaps some of the young men will begin to ask you to accompany them. Then you’ll be able to sit at their table and listen to all of their discussions. ”

  “You mean, sit with one man the entire time?”

  Sazed nodded. “It’s not uncommon. You would dance only with him that night as well. ”

  Vin frowned. However, she let the matter drop, turning to inspect the room again. He’s probably not even here—he said he avoided balls when possible. Even if he were here, he’d be off on his own. You won’t even—

  A muted thump sounded as someone dropped a stack of books onto her table. Vin jumped in startlement, turning as Elend Venture pulled over a chair, then sat down with a relaxed posture. He leaned back in the chair, angling toward a candelabrum beside her table, and opened a book to begin reading.

  Sazed frowned. Vin hid a smile, eyeing Elend. He still didn’t look as if he had bothered to brush his hair, and again wore his suit without the buttons done up. The garment wasn’t shabby, but nor was it as rich as others at the party. It seemed to have been tailored to be loose and relaxed, defying the traditional sharp, well-cut fashion.

  Elend ?ipped through his book. Vin waited patiently for him to acknowledge her, but he just continued to read. Finally, Vin raised an eyebrow. “I don’t remember giving you permission to sit at my table, Lord Venture,” she said.

  “Don’t mind me,” Elend said, not looking up. “You’ve got a big table—there’s plenty of room for both of us. ”

  “Both of us, perhaps,” Vin said. “But I’m not sure about those books. Where are the servers going to put my meal?”

  “There’s a bit of space to your left,” Elend said offhandedly.

  Sazed’s frown deepened. He stepped forward, gathering up the books and setting them on the ?oor beside Elend’s chair.

 

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