Mistborn the final empi.., p.52
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.52

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
Page 52

  Elend continued to read. He did, however, raise a hand to gesture. “See, now, that’s why I don’t ever use Terrismen servants. They’re an insufferably ef?cient lot, I must say. ”

  “Sazed is hardly insufferable,” Vin said coolly. “He is a good friend, and is probably a better man than you will ever be, Lord Venture. ”

  Elend ?nally looked up. “I’m… sorry,” he said in a frank tone. “I apologize. ”

  Vin nodded. Elend, however, opened his book and began reading again.

  Why sit with me if he’s just going to read? “What did you do at these parties before you had me to pester?” she asked in an annoyed tone.

  “See, now, how can I be pestering you?” he asked. “I mean, really, Valette. I’m just sitting here, reading quietly to myself. ”

  “At my table. I’m certain you could get your own—you’re the Venture heir. Not that you were forthcoming about that fact during our last meeting. ”

  “True,” Elend said. “I do, however, recall telling you that the Ventures were an annoying lot. I’m just trying to live up to the description. ”

  “You’re the one that made up the description!”

  “Convenient, that,” Elend said, smiling slightly as he read.

  Vin sighed in frustration, scowling.

  Elend peeked up over his book. “That’s a stunning dress. It’s almost as beautiful as you are. ”

  Vin froze, jaw hanging open slightly. Elend smiled mischievously, then turned back to his book, eyes sparkling as if to indicate that he’d made the comment simply because he knew the reaction he’d get.

  Sazed loomed over the table, not bothering to mask his disapproval. Yet, he said nothing. Elend was obviously too important to be chastised by a simple steward.

  Vin ?nally found her tongue. “How is it, Lord Venture, that an eligible man like yourself comes to these balls alone?”

  “Oh, I don’t,” Elend said. “My family usually has one girl or another lined up to accompany me. Tonight’s fare is the Lady Stase Blanches—she’s the one in the green dress sitting on the lower tier across from us. ”

  Vin glanced across the room. Lady Blanches was a gorgeous blond woman. She kept glancing up at Vin’s table, covering a scowl.

  Vin ?ushed, turning away. “Um, shouldn’t you be down there with her?”

  “Probably,” Elend said. “But, see, I’ll tell you a secret. The truth is, I’m not really much of a gentleman. Besides, I didn’t invite her—it wasn’t until I got into the carriage that I was informed regarding my accompaniment. ”

  “I see,” Vin said with a frown.

  “My behavior is, nonetheless, deplorable. Unfortunately, I’m quite prone to such bouts of deplorability—take, for instance, my fondness for reading books at the dinner table. Excuse me for a moment; I’m going to go get something to drink. ”

  He stood, tucking the book into his pocket, and walked toward one of the room’s bar tables. Vin watched him go, both annoyed and bemused.

  “This is not good, Mistress,” Sazed said in a low tone.

  “He’s not that bad. ”

  “He’s using you, Mistress,” Sazed said. “Lord Venture is infamous for his unconventional, disobedient attitude. Many people dislike him—precisely because he does things like this. ”

  “Like this?”

  “He is sitting with you because he knows that it will annoy his family,” Sazed said. “Oh, child—I do not wish to bring you pain, but you must understand the ways of the court. This young man is not romantically interested in you. He is a young, arrogant lord who chafes at his father’s restrictions— so he rebels, acting rude and offensive. He knows that his father will relent if he acts spoiled enough for long enough. ”

  Vin felt her stomach twist. Sazed’s probably right, of course. Why else would Elend seek me out? I’m exactly what he needs—someone lowborn enough to annoy his father, but inexperienced enough not to see the truth.

  Her meal arrived, but Vin didn’t have much of an appetite anymore. She began to pick at the food as Elend returned, settling down with a large goblet ?lled with some mixed drink. He sipped as he read.

  Let’s see how he reacts if I don’t interrupt his reading, Vin thought in annoyance, remembering her lessons, and eating her food with a lady’s grace. It wasn’t a large meal—mostly some rich, buttered vegetables—and the sooner she ?nished, the sooner she could get to dancing. At least then she wouldn’t have to sit with Elend Venture.

  The young lord paused several times as she ate, peeking at her over the top of his book. He obviously expected her to say something, but she never did. As she ate, however, her anger faded. She glanced at Elend, studying his slightly disheveled appearance, watching the earnestness with which he read his book. Could this man really hide the twisted sense of manipulation Sazed implied? Was he really just using her?

  Anyone will betray you, Reen whispered. Everyone will betray you.

  Elend just seemed so… genuine. He felt like a real person, not a front or a face. And it did seem like he wanted her to talk to him. It felt like a personal victory to Vin when he ?nally sat the book down and looked at her.

  “Why are you here, Valette?” he asked.

  “Here at the party?”

  “No, here in Luthadel. ”

  “Because it’s the center of everything,” Vin said.

  Elend frowned. “I suppose it is. But, the empire is a big place to have such a small center. I don’t think we really understand how large it is. How long did it take you to get here?”

  Vin felt a moment of panic, but Sazed’s lessons snapped quickly into her mind. “Almost two months by canal, with some stops. ”

  “Such a long time,” Elend said. “They say it can take half a year to travel from one end of the empire to the other, yet most of us ignore everything but this little bit at the center. ”

  “I…” Vin trailed off. With Reen, she’d been all across the Central Dominance. It was the smallest of the dominances, however, and she’d never visited the more exotic places in the empire. This central area was good for thieves; oddly, the place closest to the Lord Ruler was also the one with the most corruption, not to mention the most riches.

  “What do you think of the city, then?” Elend asked.

  Vin paused. “It’s. . dirty,” she said honestly. In the dim light, a servant arrived to remove her empty plate. “It’s dirty, and it’s full. The skaa are treated terribly, but I guess that’s true everywhere. ”

  Elend cocked his head, giving her a strange look.

  I shouldn’t have mentioned the skaa. That wasn’t very noble-like.

  He leaned forward. “You think the skaa here are treated worse than the ones on your plantation? I always thought they would be better off in the city. ”

  “Um…I’m not sure. I didn’t go to the ?elds very often. ”

  “So, you didn’t interact with them very much?”

  Vin shrugged. “Why does it matter? They’re just skaa. ”

  “See, now, that’s what we always say,” Elend said. “But I don’t know. Maybe I’m too curious, but they interest me. Did you ever hear them talk to one another? Did they sound like regular people?”

  “What?” Vin asked. “Of course they did. What else would they sound like?”

  “Well, you know what the Ministry teaches. ”

  She didn’t. However, if it was regarding the skaa, it probably wasn’t ?attering. “I make it a rule to never completely believe anything the Ministry says. ”

  Elend paused again, cocking his head. “You’re…not what I expected, Lady Valette. ”

  “People rarely are. ”

  “So, tell me about the plantation skaa. What are they like?”

  Vin shrugged. “Like skaa everywhere else. ”

  “Are they intelligent?”

  “Some are. ”

  “But, not like you and me, right?” Elend asked.

  Vin paused. How would a noblewoman respond? “No
, of course not. They’re just skaa. Why are you so interested in them?”

  Elend seemed… disappointed. “No reason,” he said, sitting back in his chair and opening his book. “I think some of those men over there want to ask you to dance. ”

  Vin turned, noticing that there was indeed a group of young men standing a short distance from her table. They looked away as soon as she turned. After a few moments, one of the men pointed at another table; then he walked over and asked a young lady to dance.

  “Several people have noticed you, my lady,” Sazed said. “However, they never approach. Lord Venture’s presence intimidates them, I think. ”

  Elend snorted. “They should know that I am anything but intimidating. ”

  Vin frowned, but Elend just continued to read. Fine! she thought, turning back toward the young men. She caught one man’s eye, smiling slightly.

  A few moments later, the young man approached. He spoke to her in a stiff, formal tone. “Lady Renoux, I am Lord Melend Liese. Would you care to dance?”

  Vin shot a glance at Elend, but he didn’t look up from his book.

  “I would love to, Lord Liese,” Vin said, taking the young man’s hand and rising.

  He led her down to the dance ?oor, and as they approached, Vin’s nervousness returned. Suddenly, one week of practice didn’t seem like enough. The music stopped, allowing for couples to leave or enter the ?oor, and Lord Liese led her forward.

  Vin fought down her paranoia, reminding herself that everyone saw the dress and the rank, not Vin herself. She looked up into Lord Liese’s eyes and saw, surprisingly, apprehension.

  The music began, as did the dancing. Lord Liese’s face took on a look of consternation. She could feel his palm sweating in her hands. Why, he’s just as nervous as I am! Perhaps even more.

  Liese was younger than Elend, closer to her own age. He probably wasn’t very experienced with balls—he certainly didn’t look like he’d danced much. He focused so much on the steps that his motions felt rigid.

  It makes sense, Vin realized, relaxing and letting her body move in the motions Sazed had taught. The experienced ones wouldn’t ask me to dance, not when I’m so new. I’m beneath their notice.

  But, why is Elend paying attention to me? Is it simply what Sazed said—a ploy to annoy his father? Why, then, does he seem interested in what I have to say?

  “Lord Liese,” Vin said. “Do you know much of Elend Venture?”

  Liese looked up. “Um, I…”

  “Don’t focus so much on the dancing,” Vin said. “My instructor says that it will ?ow more naturally if you don’t try too hard. ”

  He blushed.

  Lord Ruler! Vin thought. How fresh is this boy?

  “Um, Lord Venture…” Liese said. “I don’t know. He’s a very important person. Far more important than I am. ”

  “Don’t let his lineage intimidate you,” Vin said. “From what I’ve seen, he’s pretty harmless. ”

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