Mistborn the final empi.., p.56
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.56
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         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
Page 56

  He launched himself into the air again, making his way toward the Sootwarrens, a skaa slum on the far northern side of town. Luthadel was an enormous, sprawling city; every few decades or so, new sections were added, the city wall expanded through the sweat and effort of skaa labor. With the advent of the modern canal era, stone was growing relatively cheap and easy to move.

  I wonder why he even bothers with the wall, Kelsier thought, moving along rooftops parallel to the massive structure. Who would attack? The Lord Ruler controls everything. Not even the western isles resist anymore.

  There hadn’t been a true war in the Final Empire for centuries. The occasional “rebellion” consisted of nothing more than a few thousand men hiding in hills or caves, coming out for periodic raids. Even Yeden’s rebellion wouldn’t rely much on force—they were counting on the chaos of a house war, mixed with the strategic misdirection of the Luthadel Garrison, to give them an opening. If it came down to an extended campaign, Kelsier would lose. The Lord Ruler and the Steel Ministry could marshal literally millions of troops if the need arose.

  Of course, there was his other plan. Kelsier didn’t speak of it, he barely even dared consider it. He probably wouldn’t even have an opportunity to implement it. But, if the opportunity did arrive. .

  He dropped to the ground just outside of the Sootwarrens, then pulled his mistcloak tight and walked along the street with a con?dent step. His contact sat in the doorway of a closed shop, puf?ng quietly on a pipe. Kelsier raised an eyebrow; tobacco was an expensive luxury. Hoid was either very wasteful, or he was just as successful as Dockson implied.

  Hoid calmly put away the pipe, then climbed to his feet— though that didn’t make him much taller. The scrawny bald man bowed deeply in the misty night. “Greetings, my lord. ”

  Kelsier paused in front of the man, arms tucked carefully inside his mistcloak. It wouldn’t do for a street informant to realize that the unidenti?ed “nobleman” he was meeting with had the scars of Hathsin on his arms.

  “You come highly recommended,” Kelsier said, mimicking the haughty accent of a nobleman.

  “I am one of the best, my lord. ”

  Anyone who can survive as long as you have must be good, Kelsier thought. Lords didn’t like the idea of other men knowing their secrets. Informants generally didn’t live very long.

  “I need to know something, informant,” Kelsier said. “But ?rst you must vow never to speak of this meeting to anyone. ”

  “Of course, my lord,” Hoid said. He’d likely break the promise before the night was out—another reason informants didn’t tend to live very long. “There is, however, the matter of payment…. ”

  “You’ll have your money, skaa,” Kelsier snapped.

  “Of course, my lord,” Hoid said with a quick bob of the head. “You requested information regarding House Renoux, I believe…. ”

  “Yes. What is known about it? Which houses is it aligned with? I must know these things. ”

  “There isn’t really much to know, my lord,” Hoid said. “Lord Renoux is very new to the area, and he is a careful man. He’s making neither allies nor enemies at the moment—he’s buying a large number of weapons and armor, but is probably just purchasing from a wide variety of houses and merchants, thereby ingratiating himself to them all. A wise tactic. He will, perhaps, have an excess of merchandise, but he will also have an excess of friends, yes?”

  Kelsier snorted. “I don’t see why I should pay you for that. ”

  “He’ll have too much merchandise, my lord,” Hoid said quickly. “You could make a clever pro?t, knowing that Renoux is shipping at a loss. ”

  “I’m no merchant, skaa,” Kelsier said. “I don’t care about pro?ts and shipping!” Let him chew on that. Now he thinks I’m of a Great House—of course, if he hadn’t suspected that because of the mistcloak, then he doesn’t deserve his reputation.

  “Of course, my lord,” Hoid said quickly. “There is more, of course…. ”

  Ah, and here we see it. Does the street know that House Renoux is connected to the rumblings of rebellion? If anyone had discovered that secret, then Kelsier’s crew was in serious jeopardy.

  Hoid coughed quietly, holding out his hand.

  “Insufferable man!” Kelsier snapped, tossing a pouch at Hoid’s feet.

  “Yes, my lord,” Hoid said, falling to his knees and searching about with his hand. “I apologize, my lord. My eyesight is weak, you know. I can barely see my own ?ngers held in front of my face. ”

  Clever, Kelsier thought as Hoid found the pouch and tucked it away. The comment about eyesight was, of course, a lie—no man would get far in the underground with such an impediment. However, a nobleman who thought his informant to be half blind would be far less paranoid about being identi?ed. Not that Kelsier himself was worried—he wore one of Dockson’s best disguises. Beside the beard, he had a fake, but realistic, nose, along with platforms in the shoes and makeup to lighten his skin.

  “You said there was more?” Kelsier said. “I swear, skaa, if it isn’t good…”

  “It is,” Hoid said quickly. “Lord Renoux is considering a union between his niece, the Lady Valette, and Lord Elend Venture. ”

  Kelsier paused. Wasn’t expecting that… “That’s silly. Venture is far above Renoux. ”

  “The two youths were seen speaking—at length—at the Venture ball a month ago. ”

  Kelsier laughed derisively. “Everyone knows about that. It meant nothing. ”

  “Did it?” Hoid asked. “Does everyone know that Lord Elend Venture spoke very highly of the girl to his friends, the group of nobleling philosophers that lounge at the Broken Quill?”

  “Young men speak of girls,” Kelsier said. “It means nothing. You will be returning those coins. ”

  “Wait!” Hoid said, sounding apprehensive for the ?rst time. “There is more. Lord Renoux and Lord Venture have had secret dealings. ”

  What?

  “It is true,” Hoid continued. “This is fresh news—I heard it barely an hour ago myself. There is a connection between Renoux and Venture. And, for some reason, Lord Renoux was able to demand that Elend Venture be assigned to watch over Lady Valette at balls. ” He lowered his voice. “It is even whispered that Lord Renoux has some kind of…leverage over House Venture. ”

  What happened at that ball tonight? Kelsier thought. Out loud, however, he said, “This all sounds very weak, skaa. You have nothing more than idle speculations?”

  “Not about House Renoux, my lord,” Hoid said. “I tried, but your worry over this house is meaningless! You should pick a house more central to politics. Like, say, House Elariel. . ”

  Kelsier frowned. By mentioning Elariel, Hoid was implying that he had some important tidbit that would be worth Kelsier’s payment. It seemed that House Renoux’s secrets were safe. It was time to move the discussion along to other houses, so that Hoid wouldn’t get suspicious of Kelsier’s interest in Renoux.

  “Very well,” Kelsier said. “But if this isn’t worth my time…”

  “It is, my lord. Lady Shan Elariel is a Soother. ”

  “Proof?”

  “I felt her touch on my emotions, my lord,” Hoid said. “During a ?re at Keep Elariel a week ago, she was there calming the emotions of the servants. ”

  Kelsier had started that ?re. Unfortunately, it hadn’t spread beyond the guardhouses. “What else?”

  “House Elariel has recently given her leave to use her powers more at court functions,” Hoid said. “They fear a house war, and wish her to make whatever allegiances possible. She always carries a thin envelope of shaved brass in her right glove. Get a Seeker close to her at a ball, and you shall see. My lord, I do not lie! My life as an informant depends solely upon my reputation. Shan Elariel is a Soother. ”

  Kelsier paused, as if musing. The information was useless to him, but his true purpose—?nding out about House Renoux—had already been ful?lled. Hoid had earned his coins, whether he realized it or not
.

  Kelsier smiled. Now to sow a little more chaos.

  “What of Shan’s covert relationship with Salmen Tekiel?” Kelsier said, picking the name of a likely young nobleman. “Do you think that she used her powers to gain his favor?”

  “Oh, most certainly, my lord,” Hoid said quickly. Kelsier could see the glimmer of excitement in his eyes; he assumed that Kelsier had given him a luscious bit of political gossip free of charge.

  “Perhaps she was the one who secured Elariel the deal with House Hasting last week,” Kelsier said musingly. There had been no such deal.

  “Most likely, my lord. ”

  “Very well, skaa,” Kelsier said. “You have earned your coins. Perhaps I shall call upon you another time. ”

  “Thank you, my lord,” Hoid said, bowing very low.

  Kelsier dropped a coin and launched himself into the air. As he landed on a rooftop, he caught a glimpse of Hoid scuttling over to pluck the coin off the ground. Hoid didn’t have any trouble locating it, despite his “weak eyesight. ” Kelsier smiled, then kept moving. Hoid hadn’t mentioned Kelsier’s tardiness, but Kelsier’s next appointment would not be so forgiving.

  He made his way eastward, toward Ahlstrom Square. He pulled off his mistcloak as he moved, then ripped off his vest, revealing the tattered shirt hidden beneath. He dropped to an alleyway, discarding cloak and vest, then grabbed a double handful of ash from the corner. He rubbed the crusty, dark ?akes on his arms, masking his scars, then ground them onto his face and false beard.

  The man who stumbled out of the alleyway seconds later was very different from the nobleman who had met with Hoid. The beard, once neat, now jutted out in an unkempt frazzle. A few, select bits had been removed, making it look patchy and sickly. Kelsier stumbled, pretending to have a lame leg, and called out to a shadowed ?gure standing near the square’s quiet fountain.

  “My lord?” Kelsier asked in a raspy voice. “My lord, is that you?”

  Lord Straff Venture, leader of House Venture, was a domineering man, even for a nobleman. Kelsier could make out a pair of guards standing at his side; the lord himself didn’t seem the least bit bothered by the mists—it was openly known that he was a Tineye. Venture stepped forward ?rmly, dueling cane tapping the ground beside him.

  “You are late, skaa!” he snapped.

  “My lord, I…I…I was waiting in the alley, my lord, like we agreed!”

  “We agreed to no such thing!”

  “I’m sorry, my lord,” Kelsier said again, bowing—then stumbling because of his “lame” leg. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I was just in the alley. I didn’t mean to make you wait. ”

  “Couldn’t you see us, man?”

  “I’m sorry, my lord,” Kelsier said. “My eyesight…it isn’t very good, you know. I can barely see my own hands in front of my face. ” Thanks for the tip, Hoid.

 
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