Mistborn the final empi.., p.53
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.53

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 53

  “I don’t know, my lady,” Liese said. “Venture is a very in?uential house. ”

  “Yes, well, Elend doesn’t live up to that reputation. He seems very fond of ignoring those in his company—does he do that to everyone?”

  Liese shrugged, dancing more naturally now that they were talking. “I don’t know. You… seem to know him better than I, my lady. ”

  “I…” Vin trailed off. She felt as if she knew him well—far better than she should know a man after two brief encounters. She couldn’t very well explain that to Liese, however.

  But, maybe… Didn’t Renoux say that he’d met Elend once?

  “Oh, Elend is a friend of the family,” Vin said as they spun beneath a crystalline skylight.

  “He is?”

  “Yes,” Vin said. “It was very kind of my uncle to ask Elend to watch over me at these parties, and so far he’s been quite a dear. I do wish that he’d pay less attention to those books of his and more attention to introducing me, though. ”

  Liese perked up, and he seemed to grow a little less insecure. “Oh. Why, that makes sense. ”

  “Yes,” Vin said, “Elend has been like an older brother to me during my time here in Luthadel. ”

  Liese smiled.

  “I ask you about him because he doesn’t speak much of himself,” Vin said.

  “The Ventures have all been quiet lately,” Liese said. “Ever since the attack on their keep several months back. ”

  Vin nodded. “You know much about that?”

  Liese shook his head. “No one tells me anything. ” He glanced down, watching their feet. “You’re very good at dancing, Lady Renoux. You must have attended many balls back in your home city. ”

  “You ?atter me, my lord,” Vin said.

  “No, really. You’re so… graceful. ”

  Vin smiled, feeling a slight surge of con?dence.

  “Yes,” Liese said, almost to himself. “You’re not at all like Lady Shan said—” He stopped, jerking slightly, as if realizing what he was saying.

  “What?” Vin said.

  “Nothing,” Liese said, his blush rising. “I’m sorry. It was nothing. ”

  Lady Shan, Vin thought. Remember that name.

  She prodded Liese further as the dance progressed, but he was obviously too inexperienced to know much. He did feel that there was a tension rising between the houses; though the balls continued, there were more and more absences as people didn’t attend parties thrown by their political rivals.

  When the dance ended, Vin felt good about her efforts. She probably hadn’t discovered much of value to Kelsier— however, Liese was only the beginning. She’d work up to more important people.

  Which means, Vin thought as Liese led her back to her table, I’m going to have to attend a lot more of these balls. It wasn’t that the balls themselves were unpleasant—especially now that she was more con?dent in her dancing. However, more balls meant fewer chances to be out in the mists.

  Not that Sazed would let me go anyway, she thought with an inward sigh, smiling politely as Liese bowed and retreated.

  Elend had spread his books across the table, and her alcove was lit by several more candelabra—apparently ?lched from other tables.

  Well, Vin thought, we’ve at least got thieving in common.

  Elend hunched over the table, making notations in a small, pocket-sized book. He didn’t look up as she sat. Sazed, she noticed, was nowhere to be seen.

  “I sent the Terrisman to dinner,” Elend said distractedly as he scribbled. “No need for him to go hungry while you twirled down below. ”

  Vin raised an eyebrow, regarding the books that dominated her tabletop. Even as she watched, Elend pushed one tome aside—leaving it open to a speci?c page—and pulled over another. “So, how was the aforementioned twirling, anyway?” he said.

  “It was actually kind of fun. ”

  “I thought you weren’t very good at it. ”

  “I wasn’t,” Vin said. “I practiced. You may ?nd this information surprising, but sitting in the back of a room reading books in the dark doesn’t exactly help one become a better dancer. ”

  “Is that a proposition?” Elend asked, pushing aside his book and selecting another. “It’s unladylike to ask a man to dance, you know. ”

  “Oh, I wouldn’t want to take you away from your reading,” Vin said, turning a book toward her. She grimaced—the text was written in a small, cramped hand. “Besides, dancing with you would undermine all of the work I just did. ”

  Elend paused. Then he ?nally looked up. “Work?”

  “Yes,” Vin said. “Sazed was right—Lord Liese ?nds you intimidating, and he found me intimidating by association. It could be quite disastrous to a young lady’s social life if all of the young men assumed her unavailable simply because an annoying lord decided to study at her table. ”

  “So…” Elend said.

  “So I told him that you were simply showing me the ways of court. Kind of like an… older brother. ” “Older brother?” Elend asked, frowning. “Much older,” Vin said, smiling. “I mean, you’ve got to be at least twice my age. ” “Twice your…Valette, I’m twenty-one. Unless you’re a very mature ten-year-old, I’m nowhere near ‘twice your age. ’ ” “I’ve never been good with math,” Vin said offhandedly. Elend sighed, rolling his eyes. Nearby, Lord Liese was speaking quietly with his group of friends, gesturing toward Vin and Elend. Hopefully, one would come ask her to dance soon. “Do you know a Lady Shan?” Vin asked idly as she waited. Surprisingly, Elend looked up. “Shan Elariel?” “I assume so,” Vin said. “Who is she?” Elend turned back to his book. “Nobody important. ” Vin raised an eyebrow. “Elend, I’ve only been doing this for a few months, but even I know not to trust a comment like that. ” “Well…” Elend said. “I might be engaged to her. ” “You have a ?ancée?” Vin asked with exasperation. “I’m not exactly sure. We haven’t really done anything about the situation for a year or so. Everyone’s likely forgotten the matter by now. ” Great, Vin thought. A moment later, one of Liese’s friends approached. Glad to be rid of the frustrating Venture heir, Vin stood, accepting the young lord’s hand. As she walked to the dance ?oor, she glanced at Elend, and caught him peeking over the book at her. He immediately turned back to his research with an overtly indifferent air.

  Vin sat down at her table, feeling a remarkable level of exhaustion. She resisted the urge to pull off her shoes and massage her feet; she suspected that wouldn’t be very ladylike. She quietly turned on her copper, then burned pewter, strengthening her body and washing away a bit of her fatigue.

  She let her pewter, then her copper, lapse. Kelsier had assured her that with copper on, she couldn’t be spotted as an Allomancer. Vin wasn’t so certain. With pewter burning, her reactions were too fast, her body too strong. It seemed to her that an observant person would be able to notice such inconsistencies, whether or not they themselves were an Allomancer.

  With the pewter off, her fatigue returned. She’d been trying to wean herself off constant pewter lately. Her wound was to the point that it only hurt badly if she twisted the wrong way, and she wanted to recover her strength on her own, if she could.

  In a way, her fatigue this evening was a good thing—it was a result of an extended period of dancing. Now that the young men regarded Elend as a guardian, rather than a romantic interest, they had no qualms about asking Vin to dance. And, worried that she would make an unintended political statement by refusing, Vin had agreed to each request. A few months ago, she would have laughed at the idea of exhaustion from dancing. However, her sore feet, aching side, and tired legs were only part of it. The effort of memorizing names and houses—not to mention putting up with her dancing partners’ ?uffy conversation—left her mentally drained.

  It’s a good thing Sazed had me wear slippers instead of heels, Vin thought with a sigh, sipping her chilled juice. The Terrisman hadn’t returned from his dinner yet. Notably, Elend wasn’t a
t the table either—though his books still lay scattered across its top.

  Vin eyed the tomes. Perhaps if she appeared to be reading, the young men would leave her alone for a bit. She reached over, rif?ing through the books for a likely candidate. The one she was most interested in—Elend’s small, leather-bound notebook—was missing.

  Instead, she picked a large, blue tome and hefted it over to her side of the table. She had picked it for its large lettering— was paper really so expensive that scribes needed to cram as many lines to a page as possible? Vin sighed, lea?ng through the volume.

  I can’t believe people read books this big, she thought. Despite the large lettering, each page was ?lled with words. It would take days and days to read the entire thing. Reen had taught her reading so that she would be able to decipher contracts, write notes, and perhaps play a noblewoman. However, her training hadn’t extended to texts this massive.

  Historical Practices in Imperial Political Rule, the ?rst page read. The chapters had titles like “The Fifth Century Governorship Program” and “The Rise of Skaa Plantations. ” She ?ipped through to the end of the book, ?guring it would probably be the most interesting. The ?nal chapter was titled “Current Political Structure. ”

  So far, she read, the plantation system has produced a far more stable government than previous methodologies. The structure of Dominances with each provincial lord taking command of—and responsibility for—his skaa has fostered a competitive environment where discipline is harshly enforced.

  The Lord Ruler apparently ?nds this system troubling because of the freedom it allows the aristocracy. However, the relative lack of organized rebellion is undoubtedly enticing; during the two hundred years that the system has been in place, there hasn’t been a major uprising in the Five Inner Dominances.

  Of course, this political system is only an extension of the greater theocratic rulership. The aristocracy’s independence has been tempered by a renewed vigor in obligator enforcement. No lord, no matter how lofty, would be advised to think himself above their law. The call from an Inquisitor can come to anyone.

  Vin frowned. While the text itself was dry, she was surprised that the Lord Ruler allowed such analytical discussions of his empire. She settled back in her chair, holding up the book, but she didn’t read any more. She was too exhausted from the hours she had spent covertly trying to wiggle information out of her dancing partners.

  Unfortunately, politics didn’t pay heed to Vin’s state of exhaustion. Though she did her best to appear absorbed in Elend’s book, a ?gure soon approached her table.

  Vin sighed, preparing herself for another dance. She soon realized, however, that the newcomer wasn’t a nobleman, but a Terrisman steward. Like Sazed, he wore robes with overlapping V designs, and was very fond of jewelry.

 
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