Mistborn the final empi.., p.55
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.55

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 55

  “And women?” Vin asked. “Are they a waste too?”

  “Women?” Elend asked. “Women are like. . thunderstorms. They’re beautiful to look at, and sometimes they’re nice to listen to—but most of the time they’re just plain inconvenient. ”

  Vin felt her jaw drop slightly. Then she noticed the twinkle in his eye, the smile at the edges of his lips, and she found herself smiling as well. “You say these things just to provoke me!”

  His smile deepened. “I’m charming that way. ” He stood, looking at her fondly. “Ah, Valette. Don’t let them trick you into taking yourself too seriously. It’s not worth the effort. But, I must bid you a good evening. Try not to let months pass between balls you attend in the future. ”

  Vin smiled. “I’ll think about it. ”

  “Please do,” Elend said, bending down and scooting the tall stack of books off the table and into his arms. He teetered for a moment, then steadied himself and peeked to the side. “Who knows—maybe one of these days you’ll actually get me to dance. ”

  Vin smiled, nodding as the nobleman turned and walked off, circling the perimeter of the ballroom’s second tier. He was soon met by two other young men. Vin watched curiously as one of the men clapped Elend on the shoulder in a friendly way, then took half of the books. The three began to walk together, chatting.

  Vin didn’t recognize the newcomers. She sat thoughtfully as Sazed ?nally appeared out of a side hallway, and Vin eagerly waved him forward. He approached with a hurried step.

  “Who are those men with Lord Venture?” Vin asked, pointing toward Elend.

  Sazed squinted behind his spectacles. “Why… one of them is Lord Jastes Lekal. The other is a Hasting, though I don’t know his given name. ”

  “You sound surprised. ”

  “Houses Lekal and Hasting are both political rivals of House Venture, Mistress. Noblemen often visit with each other in smaller, after-ball parties, making alliances…. ” The Terrisman paused, turning back to her. “Master Kelsier will wish to hear of this, I think. It is time we retire. ”

  “I agree,” Vin said, rising. “And so do my feet. Let’s go. ”

  Sazed nodded, and the two of them made their way to the front doors. “What took you so long?” Vin asked as they waited for an attendant to fetch her shawl.

  “I came back several times, Mistress,” Sazed said. “But you were always dancing. I decided I would be of far more use speaking with the servants than I would be standing beside your table. ”

  Vin nodded, accepting her shawl, then walked out the front steps and down the carpeted stairs, Sazed just behind her. Her step was quick—she wanted to get back and tell Kelsier the names she’d memorized before she forgot the whole list. She paused at the landing, waiting for a servant to fetch her carriage. As she did, she noticed something odd. A small disturbance was going on a short distance away in the mists. She stepped forward, but Sazed put a hand on her shoulder, holding her back. A lady wouldn’t wander off into the mists.

  She reached to burn copper and tin, but waited—the disturbance was getting closer. It resolved as a guard appeared from the mists, pulling a small, struggling form: a skaa boy in dirty clothing, face soot-stained. The soldier gave Vin a wide berth, nodding apologetically to her as he approached one of the guard captains. Vin burned tin to hear what was said.

  “Kitchen boy,” the soldier said quietly. “Tried to beg from one of the noblemen inside a carriage when they stopped for the gates to open. ”

  The captain simply nodded. The soldier pulled his captive back out into the mists, walking toward the far courtyard. The boy struggled, and the soldier grunted with annoyance, keeping a tight grip. Vin watched him go, Sazed’s hand on her shoulder, as if to hold her back. Of course she couldn’t help the boy. He shouldn’t have—

  In the mists, beyond the eyesight of regular people, the soldier drew out a dagger and slit the boy’s throat. Vin jumped, shocked, as the sounds of the boy’s struggling tapered off. The guard dropped the body, then grabbed it by a leg and began to drag it away.

  Vin stood, stunned, as her carriage pulled up.

  “Mistress,” Sazed prompted, but she simply stood there.

  They killed him, she thought. Right here, just a few paces away from where noblemen wait for their carriages. As if. . the death were nothing out of the ordinary. Just another skaa, slaughtered. Like an animal.

  Or less than an animal. Nobody would slaughter pigs in a keep courtyard. The guard’s posture as he’d performed the murder indicated that he’d simply been too annoyed with the struggling boy to wait for a more appropriate location. If any of the other nobility around Vin had noticed the event, they paid it no heed, continuing their chatting as they waited. Actually, they seemed a little more chatty, now that the screams had stopped.

  “Mistress,” Sazed said again, pushing her forward.

  She allowed herself to be led into the carriage, her mind still distracted. It seemed such an impossible contrast to her. The pleasant nobility, dancing, just inside a room sparkling with light and dresses. Death in the courtyard. Didn’t they care? Didn’t they know?

  This is the Final Empire, Vin, she told herself as the carriage rolled away. Don’t forget the ash because you see a little silk. If those people in there knew you were skaa, they’d have you slaughtered just as easily as they did that poor boy.

  It was a sobering thought—one that absorbed her during the entire trip back to Fellise.

  Kwaan and I met by happenstance—though, I suppose, he would use the word “providence. ”

  I have met many other Terris philosophers since that day. They are, every one, men of great wisdom and ponderous sagaciousness. Men with an almost palpable importance.

  Not so Kwaan. In a way, he is as unlikely a prophet as I am a hero. He never had an air of ceremonious wisdom—nor was he even a religious scholar. When we ?rst met, he was studying one of his ridiculous interests in the great Khlenni library—I believe he was trying to determine whether or not trees could think.

  That he should be the one who ?nally discovered the great Hero of Terris prophecy is a matter that would cause me to laugh, had events turned out just a little differently.

  19

  KELSIER COULD FEEL ANOTHER ALLOMANCER pulsing in the mists. The vibrations washed over him like rhythmic waves brushing up against a tranquil shore. They were faint, but unmistakable.

  He crouched atop a low garden wall, listening to the vibrations. The curling white mist continued its normal, placid wafting—indifferent, save for the bit closest to his body, which curled in the normal Allomantic current around his limbs.

  Kelsier squinted in the night, ?aring tin and seeking out the other Allomancer. He thought he saw a ?gure crouching atop a wall in the distance, but he couldn’t be certain. He recognized the Allomantic vibrations, however. Each metal, when burned, gave off a distinct signal, recognizable to one who was well practiced with bronze. The man in the distance burned tin, as did the four others Kelsier had sensed hiding around Keep Tekiel. The ?ve Tineyes formed a perimeter, watching the night, searching for intruders.

  Kelsier smiled. The Great Houses were growing nervous. Keeping ?ve Tineyes on watch wouldn’t be that hard for a house like Tekiel, but the noblemen Allomancers would resent being forced into simple guard duty. And if there were ?ve Tineyes on watch, chances were good that a number of Thugs, Coinshots, and Lurchers were on call as well. Luthadel was quietly in a state of alert.

  The Great Houses were growing so wary, in fact, that Kelsier had trouble ?nding cracks in their defenses. He was only one man, and even Mistborn had limits. His success so far had been achieved through surprise. However, with ?ve Tineyes on watch, Kelsier wouldn’t be able to get very close to the keep without serious risk of being spotted.

  Fortunately, Kelsier didn’t need to test Tekiel’s defenses this night. Instead, he crept along the wall toward the outer grounds. He paused near the garden well, and—burning bronze to ma
ke certain no Allomancers were near—reached into a stand of bushes to retrieve a large sack. It was heavy enough that he had to burn pewter to pull it free and throw it over his shoulder. He paused in the night for a moment, straining for sounds in the mist, then hauled the sack back toward the keep.

  He stopped near a large, whitewashed garden veranda that sat beside a small re?ecting pool. Then, he heaved the sack off his shoulder and dumped its contents—a freshly killed corpse—onto the ground.

  The body—which had belonged to one Lord Charrs Entrone—rolled to a stop with its face in the dirt, twin dagger wounds glistening in its back. Kelsier had ambushed the half-drunken man on a street just outside of a skaa slum, ridding the world of another nobleman. Lord Entrone, in particular, would not be missed—he was infamous for his twisted sense of pleasure. Skaa blood?ghts, for instance, were a particular enjoyment of his. That was where he had spent this evening.

  Entrone had, not coincidentally, been a major political ally of House Tekiel. Kelsier left the corpse sitting in its own blood. The gardeners would locate it ?rst—and once the servants knew about the death, no amount of noble obstinacy would keep it quiet. The murder would cause an outcry, and immediate blame would probably be placed upon House Izenry, House Tekiel’s rival. However, Entrone’s suspiciously unexpected death might make House Tekiel wary. If they began poking around, they would ?nd that Entrone’s gambling opponent at the night’s blood?ght had been Crews Geffenry— a man whose house had been petitioning the Tekiels for a stronger alliance. Crews was a known Mistborn, and a very competent knife-?ghter.

  And so, the intrigue would begin. Had House Izenry done the murder? Or, perhaps, had the death been an attempt by House Geffenry to push Tekiel into a higher state of alarm— thereby encouraging them to seek allies among the lesser nobility? Or, was there a third answer—a house that wanted to strengthen the rivalry between Tekiel and Izenry?

  Kelsier hopped off the garden wall, scratching at the fake beard he wore. It didn’t really matter whom House Tekiel decided to blame; Kelsier’s real purpose was to make them question and worry, to make them mistrust and misunderstand. Chaos was his strongest ally in fostering a house war. When that war ?nally came, each noblemen killed would be one less person that the skaa would have to face in their rebellion.

  As soon as Kelsier got a short distance from Keep Tekiel, he ?ipped a coin and went to the rooftops. Occasionally, he wondered what the people in the houses beneath him thought, hearing footsteps from above. Did they know that Mistborn found their homes a convenient highway, a place where they could move without being bothered by guards or thieves? Or, did the people attribute the knockings to the ever-blamable mistwraiths?

  They probably don’t even notice. Sane people are asleep when the mists come out. He landed on a peaked roof, retrieved his pocket watch from a nook to check the time, then stowed it—and the dangerous metal from which it was made—away again. Many nobility blatantly wore metal, a foolish form of bravado. The habit had been inherited directly from the Lord Ruler. Kelsier, however, didn’t like carrying any metal—watch, ring, or bracelet—on him that he didn’t have to.

 
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