Mistborn the final empi.., p.54
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.54
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         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
Page 54

  “Lady Valette Renoux?” the tall man asked in a faintly accented voice.

  “Yes,” Vin said hesitantly.

  “My mistress, Lady Shan Elariel, requires your presence at her table. ”

  Requires? Vin thought. She already didn’t like that tone, and she had little desire to meet with Elend’s former betrothed. Unfortunately, House Elariel was one of the more powerful Great Houses—probably not someone to dismiss offhandedly.

  The Terrisman waited expectantly.

  “Very well,” Vin said, rising with as much grace as she could muster.

  The Terrisman led Vin toward a table a short distance from her own. The table was well attended, with ?ve women seated around it, and Vin picked out Shan immediately. Lady Elariel was obviously the statuesque woman with long dark hair. She wasn’t participating in the conversation, but seemed to dominate it nonetheless. Her arms sparkled with lavender bracelets that matched her dress, and she turned dismissive eyes toward Vin as she approached.

  Those dark eyes, however, were keen. Vin felt exposed before them—stripped of her ?ne dress, reduced to a dirty urchin once again.

  “Excuse us, ladies,” Shan said. The women immediately did as ordered, departing the table in a stately ?urry.

  Shan picked up a fork and began to meticulously dissect and devour a small piece of dessert cake. Vin stood uncertainly, the Terrisman steward taking up a position behind Shan’s chair.

  “You may sit,” Shan said.

  I feel like a skaa again, Vin thought, sitting. Noblemen treat each other this way too?

  “You are in an enviable position, child,” Shan said.

  “How is that?” Vin asked.

  “Address me as ‘Lady Shan,’ ” Shan said, her tone unchanged. “Or, perhaps, ‘Your Ladyship. ’ ”

  Shan waited expectantly, taking petite bites of the cake. Finally, Vin said, “Why is that, Your Ladyship?”

  “Because young Lord Venture has decided to use you in his games. That means you have the opportunity to be used by me as well. ”

  Vin frowned. Remember to stay in character. You’re the easily intimidated Valette.

  “Wouldn’t it be better to not be used at all, Your Ladyship?” Vin said carefully.

  “Nonsense,” Shan replied. “Even an uncultured simpleton like yourself must see the importance of being useful to your betters. ” Shan said the words, even the insult, without vehemence; she simply seemed to take it for granted that Vin would agree.

  Vin sat, dumbfounded. None of the other nobility had treated her in such a manner. Of course, the only member of a Great House she’d met so far was Elend.

  “I trust from your vapid look that you accept your place,” Shan said. “Do well, child, and perhaps I will let you join my retinue. You could learn much from the ladies here in Luthadel. ”

  “Such as?” Vin asked, trying to keep the snappishness out of her voice.

  “Look at yourself sometime, child. Hair like you’ve undergone some terrible disease, so scrawny that your dress hangs like a bag. Being a noblewoman in Luthadel requires…perfection. Not that. ” She said the last word while waving her hand dismissively toward Vin.

  Vin ?ushed. There was a strange power to this woman’s demeaning attitude. With a start, Vin realized that Shan reminded her of some crewleaders she had known, Camon the latest of them—men who would hit a person, fully expecting no resistance. Everyone knew that resisting such men only made the beating worse.

  “What do you want from me?” Vin asked.

  Shan raised an eyebrow as she set aside her fork, the cake only half-eaten. The Terrisman took the plate and walked off with it. “You really are a dull-minded thing, aren’t you?” Shan asked.

  Vin paused. “What does Her Ladyship want from me?”

  “I’ll tell you eventually—assuming Lord Venture decides to keep playing with you. ” Vin caught just the barest ?ash of hatred in her eyes when she said Elend’s name.

  “For now,” Shan continued, “tell me of your conversation with him this evening. ”

  Vin opened her mouth to respond. But. . something felt wrong. She only caught the barest ?icker of it—she wouldn’t have even noticed that much without Breeze’s training.

  A Soother? Interesting.

  Shan was trying to make Vin complacent. So that she would talk, perhaps? Vin began to relate her conversation with Elend, staying away from anything interesting. However, something still felt odd to her—something about the way that Shan was playing with her emotions. From the corner of her eye, Vin saw Shan’s Terrisman return from the kitchens. However, he didn’t walk back toward Shan’s table—he headed in the other direction.

  Toward Vin’s own table. He paused beside it, and began to poke through Elend’s books.

  Whatever he wants, I can’t let him ?nd it.

  Vin stood suddenly, ?nally provoking an overt reaction in Shan as the woman looked up with surprise.

  “I just remembered that I told my Terrisman to ?nd me at my table!” Vin said. “He’ll be worried if I’m not sitting there!”

  “Oh, for the Lord Ruler’s sake,” Shan muttered under her breath. “Child, there is no need—”

  “I’m sorry, Your Ladyship,” Vin said. “I’ve got to go. ”

  It was a bit obvious, but it was the best she could manage. Vin curtsied and withdrew from Shan’s table, leaving the displeased woman behind. The Terrisman was good—by the time Vin was a few steps away from Shan’s table, he had noticed Vin and continued on his way, his motions impressively smooth.

  Vin arrived back at her table, wondering if she’d made a blunder by leaving Shan so rudely. However, she was growing too tired to care. As she noticed another group of young men eyeing her, she hurriedly sat, plopping open one of Elend’s books.

  Fortunately, the ploy worked better this time. The young men eventually trailed away, leaving Vin in peace, and she sat back, relaxing slightly with the book open before her. The evening was growing late, and the ballroom was slowly beginning to empty.

  The books, she thought with a frown, picking up her cup of juice to take a sip. What did the Terrisman want with them?

  She scanned the table, trying to notice if anything had been disturbed, but Elend had left the books in such a state of disarray that it was hard to tell. However, a small book sitting beneath another tome caught her eye. Most of the other texts lay open to a speci?c page, and she had seen Elend perusing them. This particular book, however, was closed—and she couldn’t remember him ever opening it. It had been there before—she recognized it because it was so much thinner than the others— so the Terrisman hadn’t left it behind.

  Curious, Vin reached over and slid the book out from underneath the larger book. It had had a black leather cover, and the spine read Weather Patterns of the Northern Dominance. Vin frowned, turning the book over in her hands. There was no title page, nor was an author listed. It launched directly into text.

  When regarding the Final Empire in its entirety, one certain fact is unmistakable. For a nation ruled by a self-proclaimed divinity, the empire has experienced a frightening number of colossal leadership errors. Most of these have been successfully covered up, and can only be found in the metalminds of Feruchemists or on the pages of banned texts. However, one only need look to the near past to note such blunders as the Massacre at Devanex, the revision of the Deepness Doctrine, and the relocation of the Renates peoples.

  The Lord Ruler does not age. That much, at least, is undeniable. This text, however, purports to prove that he is by no means infallible. During the days before the Ascension, mankind suffered chaos and uncertainty caused by an endless cycle of kings, emperors, and other monarchs. One would think that now, with a single, immortal governor, society would ?nally have an opportunity to ?nd stability and enlightenment. It is the remarkable lack of either attribute in the Final Empire that is the Lord Ruler’s most grievous oversight.

  Vin stared at the page. Some of t
he words were beyond her skill, but she was able to grasp the author’s meaning. He was saying…

  She snapped the book closed and hurriedly put it back in its place. What would happen if the obligators discovered that Elend owned such a text? She glanced to the sides. They were there, of course, mingling with the crowds like at the other ball, marked by their gray robes and tattooed faces. Many sat at tables with noblemen. Friends? Or spies for the Lord Ruler? Nobody seemed quite as comfortable when an obligator was nearby.

  What is Elend doing with a book like that? A powerful nobleman like himself? Why would he read texts that malign the Lord Ruler?

  A hand fell on her shoulder, and Vin spun re?exively, pewter and copper ?aring in her stomach.

  “Whoa,” Elend said, stepping back and raising his hand. “Has anyone ever told you how jumpy you are, Valette?”

  Vin relaxed, sitting back in her chair and extinguishing her metals. Elend sauntered over to his place and sat down. “Enjoying Heberen?”

  Vin frowned, and Elend nodded to the larger, thick book that still sat before her.

  “No,” Vin said. “It’s boring. I was just pretending to read so that the men would leave me alone for a bit. ”

  Elend chuckled. “Now, see, your cleverness is coming back to snap at you. ”

  Vin raised an eyebrow as Elend began to gather up his books, stacking them on the table. He didn’t appear to notice that she’d moved the “weather” book, but he did carefully slide it into the middle of the stack.

  Vin turned her eyes from the book. I probably shouldn’t tell him about Shan—not until I talk to Sazed. “I think my cleverness did its job well,” she said instead. “After all, I came to the ball to dance. ”

  “I ?nd dancing overrated. ”

  “You can’t remain aloof from the court forever, Lord Venture—you’re the heir of a very important house. ”

  He sighed, stretching and leaning back in his chair. “I suppose you’re right,” he said with surprising frankness. “But the longer I hold out, the more annoyed my father will become. That, in itself, is a worthy goal. ”

  “He’s not the only one you hurt,” Vin said. “What of the girls that never get asked to dance because you’re too busy rummaging through your books?”

  “As I recall,” Elend said, setting the last book on the top of his pile, “someone was just pretending to read in order to avoid dancing. I don’t think the ladies have any trouble ?nding more amicable partners than myself. ”

  Vin raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t have trouble because I’m new and I’m low-ranked. I suspect that the ladies closer to your station have trouble ?nding partners, amicable or not. As I understand it, noblemen are uncomfortable dancing with women above their station. ”

  Elend paused, obviously searching for a comeback.

  Vin leaned forward. “What is it, Elend Venture? Why are you so intent on avoiding your duty?”

  “Duty?” Elend asked, leaning toward her, his posture earnest. “Valette, this isn’t duty. This ball… this is ?uff and distraction. A waste of time. ”

 
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