Mistborn the final empi.., p.57
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.57

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 57

  Venture snorted, handing his dueling cane to a guard, then slapped Kelsier smartly across the face.

  Kelsier stumbled to the ground, holding his cheek. “I’m sorry, my lord,” he mumbled again.

  “Next time you make me wait, it will be the cane,” Venture said curtly.

  Well, I know where to go next time I need a corpse to dump on someone’s lawn, Kelsier thought, stumbling to his feet.

  “Now,” Venture said. “Let us get down to business. What is this important news you promised to deliver?”

  “It’s about House Erikell, my lord,” Kelsier said. “I know Your Lordship has had dealings with them in the past. ”

  “And?”

  “Well, my lord, they are cheating you dearly. They have been selling their swords and canes to House Tekiel for half the price you’ve been paying!”

  “Proof?”

  “You need only look to Tekiel’s new armaments, my lord,” Kelsier said. “My word is true. I have nothing but my reputation! If I have not that, I have not my life. ”

  And he wasn’t lying. Or, at least, not completely. It would be useless of Kelsier to spread information that Venture could corroborate or dismiss with ease. Some of what he said was true—Tekiel was giving a slight advantage to Erikell. Kelsier was overstating it, of course. If he played the game well, he could start a rift between Erikell and Venture, while at the same time making Venture jealous of Tekiel. And, if Venture came to Renoux for weapons instead of Erikell…well, that would just be a side bene?t.

  Straff Venture snorted. His house was powerful— incredibly powerful—and relied on no speci?c industry or enterprise to fuel its wealth. That was a very dif?cult position to achieve in the Final Empire, considering the Lord Ruler’s taxes and atium costs. It also made Venture a powerful tool to Kelsier. If he could give this man the right mixture of truth and ?ction…

  “This is of little use to me,” Venture said suddenly. “Let’s see how much you really know, informant. Tell me about the Survivor of Hathsin. ”

  Kelsier froze. “Excuse me, my lord?”

  “You want to get paid?” Venture asked. “Well, tell me about the Survivor. Rumors say he’s returned to Luthadel. ”

  “Rumors only, my lord,” Kelsier said quickly. “I have never met this Survivor, but I doubt he is in Luthadel—if, indeed, he even lives. ”

  “I’ve heard that he’s gathering a skaa rebellion. ”

  “There are always fools whispering rebellion to the skaa, my lord,” Kelsier said. “And there are always those who try to use the name of the Survivor, but I do not believe that any man could have lived through the Pits. I could seek more information on this, if you wish, but I worry you will be disappointed in what I ?nd. The Survivor is dead—the Lord Ruler. . he does not allow such oversights. ”

  “True,” Venture said contemplatively. “But the skaa seem convinced about this rumor of an ‘Eleventh Metal. ’ Have you heard of it, informant?”

  “Ah, yes,” Kelsier said, covering his shock. “A legend, my lord. ”

  “One I’ve never heard of,” Venture said. “And I pay very close attention to such things. This is no ‘legend. ’ Someone very clever is manipulating the skaa. ”

  “An… interesting conclusion, my lord,” Kelsier said.

  “Indeed,” Venture said. “And, assuming the Survivor did die in the Pits, and if someone had gotten ahold of his corpse… his bones…there are ways to imitate a man’s appearance. You know of what I speak?”

  “Yes, my lord,” Kelsier said.

  “Watch for this,” Venture said. “I don’t care about your gossip—bring me something about this man, or whatever he is, that leads the skaa. Then you’ll get some coin of me. ”

  Venture spun in the darkness, waving to his men and leaving a thoughtful Kelsier behind.

  Kelsier arrived at Mansion Renoux a short time later; the spikeway between Fellise and Luthadel made for quick travel between the cities. He hadn’t placed the spikes himself; he didn’t know who had. He often wondered what he would do if, while traveling the spikeway, he met another Mistborn traveling in the opposite direction.

  We’d probably just ignore each other, Kelsier thought as he landed in Mansion Renoux’s courtyard. We’re pretty good at doing that.

  He peered through the mists at the lantern-lit mansion, his recovered mistcloak ?apping slightly in the calm wind. The empty carriage indicated that Vin and Sazed had returned from House Elariel. Kelsier found them inside, waiting in the sitting room and speaking quietly with Lord Renoux.

  “That’s a new look for you,” Vin noted as Kelsier walked into the room. She still wore her dress—a beautiful red gown—though she sat in an unladylike position, legs tucked beneath her.

  Kelsier smiled to himself. A few weeks ago she would have changed out of that gown as soon as she got back. We’ll turn her into a lady yet. He found a seat, picking at the fake, soot-stained beard. “You mean this? I hear beards are going to make a return soon. I’m just trying to stay on the edge of fashionability. ”

  Vin snorted. “The edge of beggar fashion, maybe. ”

  “How did the evening go, Kelsier?” Lord Renoux asked.

  Kelsier shrugged. “Like most others. Fortunately, it appears that House Renoux remains free of suspicion—though I myself am something of a concern to some of the nobility. ”

  “You?” Renoux asked.

  Kelsier nodded as a servant brought him a warm, damp cloth to clean his face and arms—though Kelsier wasn’t certain if the servants were worried about his comfort or the ash he might get on the furniture. He wiped off his arms, exposing the pale white scratch scars, then began to pick off the beard.

  “It seems that the general skaa have gotten wind of the Eleventh Metal,” he continued. “Some of the nobility have heard the building rumors, and the more intelligent ones are growing worried. ”

  “How does this affect us?” Renoux asked.

  Kelsier shrugged. “We’ll spread opposite rumors to make the nobility focus more on each other and less on me. Though, amusingly, Lord Venture encouraged me to search out information about myself. A man could get very confused from this kind of playacting—I don’t know how you do it, Renoux. ”

  “It is who I am,” the kandra said simply.

  Kelsier shrugged again, turning to Vin and Sazed. “So, how did your evening go?”

  “Frustratingly,” Vin said with a surly tone.

  “Mistress Vin is a tad annoyed,” Sazed said. “On the way back from Luthadel, she told me the secrets she’d gathered while dancing. ”

  Kelsier chuckled. “Not much of interest?”

  “Sazed already knew it all!” Vin snapped. “I spent hours twirling and twittering for those men, and it was all worthless!”

  “Hardly worthless, Vin,” Kelsier said, pulling off the last bit of false beard. “You made some contacts, you were seen, and you practiced your twittering. As for information—well, nobody’s going to tell you anything important yet. Give it some time. ”

  “How much time?”

  “Now that you’re feeling better, we can have you start attending the balls regularly. After a few months, you should have gathered enough contacts to begin ?nding the kind of information we need. ”

  Vin nodded, sighing. She didn’t seem quite as opposed to the idea of regularly attending balls as she once had, however.

  Sazed cleared his throat. “Master Kelsier, I feel that I must mention something. Our table was attended by Lord Elend Venture for most of the evening, though Mistress Vin did ?nd a way to make his attentions less threatening to the court. ”

  “Yes,” Kelsier said, “so I understand. What did you tell those people, Vin? That Renoux and Venture are friends?”

  Vin paled slightly. “How do you know?”

  “I’m mysteriously powerful,” Kelsier said with a wave of his hand. “Anyway, everyone thinks that House Renoux and House Venture have had secret business dealings. They probably
assume that Venture has been stockpiling weapons. ”

  Vin frowned. “I didn’t mean it to go that far…. ”

  Kelsier nodded, rubbing the glue from his chin. “That’s the way court is, Vin. Things can get out of hand quickly. However, this isn’t much of a problem—though it does mean that you’re going to have to be very careful when dealing with House Venture, Lord Renoux. We’ll want to see what kind of reaction they have to Vin’s comments. ”

  Lord Renoux nodded. “Agreed. ”

  Kelsier yawned. “Now, if there isn’t anything else, playing both nobleman and beggar in one evening has made me dreadfully tired…. ”

  “There is one other thing, Master Kelsier,” Sazed said. “At the end of the evening, Mistress Vin saw Lord Elend Venture leaving the ball with young lords of Houses Lekal and Hasting. ”

  Kelsier paused, frowning. “That’s an odd combination. ”

  “So I thought,” Sazed said.

  “He’s probably just trying to annoy his father,” Kelsier said musingly. “Fraternizing with the enemy in public…”

  “Perhaps,” Sazed said. “But the three did seem to be good friends. ”

  Kelsier nodded, standing. “Investigate this further, Saze. There’s a chance that Lord Venture and his son are playing us all for fools. ”

  “Yes, Master Kelsier,” Sazed said.

  Kelsier left the room, stretching and handing his mistcloak to a servant. As he walked up the eastern stairway, he heard quick footsteps. He turned to ?nd Vin scooting up behind him, shimmering red dress held up as she climbed the steps.

  “Kelsier,” she said quietly. “There was something else. Something I’d like to talk about. ”

  Kelsier raised an eyebrow. Something she doesn’t even want Sazed to hear? “My room,” he said, and she followed him up the stairs and into the chamber.

  “What is this about?” he asked as she shut the door behind her.

  “Lord Elend,” Vin said, looking down, seeming a bit embarrassed. “Sazed already doesn’t like him, so I didn’t want to mention this in front of the others. But, I found something strange tonight. ”

  “What?” Kelsier asked curiously, leaning back against his bureau.

  “Elend had a stack of books with him,” Vin said.

  First name, Kelsier thought with disapproval. She is falling for the boy.

  “He’s known to read a lot,” Vin continued, “but some of these books…well, when he was gone, I picked through them. ”

  Good girl. The streets gave you at least a few good instincts.

  “One of them drew my attention,” she said. “The title said something about the weather, but the words inside spoke about the Final Empire and its ?aws. ”

  Kelsier raised an eyebrow. “What exactly did it say?”

  Vin shrugged. “Something about how since the Lord Ruler is immortal, his empire should be more advanced and peaceful. ”

 

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