Mistborn the final empi.., p.6
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.6

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 6

  “I suppose,” Dockson said. “But. . isn’t he supposed to be kind of hard to work with?”

  “He’s not so bad,” Kelsier said. “Not once you get used to him. Besides, I think he might be… amenable to this particular job. ”

  “All right,” Dockson said, shrugging. “I’ll invite him. I think one of his relatives is a Tineye. Do you want me to invite him too?”

  “Sounds good,” Kelsier said.

  “All right,” Dockson said. “Well, beyond that, there’s just Yeden. Assuming he’s still interested…”

  “He’ll be there,” Kelsier said.

  “He’d better be,” Dockson said. “He’ll be the one paying us, after all. ”

  Kelsier nodded, then frowned. “You didn’t mention Marsh. ”

  Dockson shrugged. “I warned you. Your brother never did approve of our methods, and now…well, you know Marsh. He won’t even have anything to do with Yeden and the rebellion anymore, let alone with a bunch of criminals like us. I think we’ll have to ?nd someone else to in?ltrate the obligators. ”

  “No,” Kelsier said. “He’ll do it. I’ll just have to stop by to persuade him. ”

  “If you say so. ” Dockson fell silent then, and the two stood for a moment, leaning against the railing and looking out over the ash-stained city.

  Dockson ?nally shook his head. “This is insane, eh?”

  Kelsier smiled. “Feels good, doesn’t it?”

  Dockson nodded. “Fantastic. ”

  “It will be a job like no other,” Kelsier said, looking north—across the city and toward the twisted building at its center.

  Dockson stepped away from the wall. “We have a few hours before the meeting. There’s something I want to show you. I think there’s still time—if we hurry. ”

  Kelsier turned with curious eyes. “Well, I was going to go and chastise my prude of a brother. But. . ”

  “This will be worth your time,” Dockson promised.

  Vin sat in the corner of the safe house’s main lair. She kept to the shadows, as usual; the more she stayed out of sight, the more the others would ignore her. She couldn’t afford to expend Luck keeping the men’s hands off of her. She’d barely had time to regenerate what she’d used a few days before, during the meeting with the obligator.

  The usual rabble lounged at tables in the room, playing at dice or discussing minor jobs. Smoke from a dozen different pipes pooled at the top of the chamber, and the walls were stained dark from countless years of similar treatment. The ?oor was darkened with patches of ash. Like most thieving crews, Camon’s group wasn’t known for its tidiness.

  There was a door at the back of the room, and beyond it lay a twisting stone stairway that led up to a false rain grate in an alleyway. This room, like so many others hidden in the imperial capital of Luthadel, wasn’t supposed to exist.

  Rough laughter came from the front of the chamber, where Camon sat with a half-dozen cronies enjoying a typical afternoon of ale and crass jokes. Camon’s table sat beside the bar, where the overpriced drinks were simply another way Camon exploited those who worked for him. The Luthadel criminal element had learned quite well from the lessons taught by the nobility.

  Vin tried her best to remain invisible. Six months before, she wouldn’t have believed that her life could actually get worse without Reen. Yet, despite her brother’s abusive anger, he had kept the other crewmembers from having their way with Vin. There were relatively few women on thieving crews; generally, those women who got involved with the underworld ended up as whores. Reen had always told her that a girl needed to be tough—tougher, even, than a man—if she wanted to survive.

  You think some crewleader is going to want a liability like you on his team? he had said. I don’t even want to have to work with you, and I’m your brother.

  Her back still throbbed; Camon had whipped her the day before. The blood would ruin her shirt, and she wouldn’t be able to afford another one. Camon was already retaining her wages to pay the debts Reen had left behind.

  But, I am strong, she thought.

  That was the irony. The beatings almost didn’t hurt anymore, for Reen’s frequent abuses had left Vin resilient, while at the same time teaching her how to look pathetic and broken. In a way, the beatings were self-defeating. Bruises and welts mended, but each new lashing left Vin more hardened. Stronger.

  Camon stood up. He reached into his vest pocket and pulled out his golden pocket watch. He nodded to one of his companions, then he scanned the room, searching for…her.

  His eyes locked on Vin. “It’s time. ”

  Vin frowned. Time for what?

  The Ministry’s Canton of Finance was an imposing structure— but, then, everything about the Steel Ministry tended to be imposing.

  Tall and blocky, the building had a massive rose window in the front, though the glass was dark from the outside. Two large banners hung down beside the window, the soot-stained red cloth proclaiming praises to the Lord Ruler.

  Camon studied the building with a critical eye. Vin could sense his apprehension. The Canton of Finance was hardly the most threatening of Ministry of?ces—the Canton of Inquisition, or even the Canton of Orthodoxy, had a far more ominous reputation. However, voluntarily entering any Ministry of?ce…putting yourself in the power of the obligators… well, it was a thing to do only after serious consideration.

  Camon took a deep breath, then strode forward, his dueling cane tapping against the stones as he walked. He wore his rich nobleman’s suit, and he was accompanied by a half-dozen crewmembers—including Vin—to act as his “servants. ”

  Vin followed Camon up the steps, then waited as one of the crewmembers jumped forward to pull the door open for his “master. ” Of the six attendants, only Vin seemed to have been told nothing of Camon’s plan. Suspiciously, Theron— Camon’s supposed partner in the Ministry scam—was nowhere to be seen.

  Vin entered the Canton building. Vibrant red light, sparkled with lines of blue, fell from the rose window. A single obligator, with midlevel tattoos around his eyes, sat behind a desk at the end of the extended entryway.

  Camon approached, his cane thumping against the carpet as he walked. “I am Lord Jedue,” he said.

  What are you doing, Camon? Vin thought. You insisted to Theron that you wouldn’t meet with Prelan Laird in his Canton of?ce. Yet, now you’re here.

  The obligator nodded, making a notation in his ledger. He waved to the side. “You may take one attendant with you into the waiting chamber. The rest must remain here. ”

  Camon’s huff of disdain indicated what he thought of that prohibition. The obligator, however, didn’t look up from his ledger. Camon stood for a moment, and Vin couldn’t tell if he was genuinely angry or just playing the part of an arrogant nobleman. Finally, he jabbed a ?nger at Vin.

  “Come,” he said, turning and waddling toward the indicated door.

  The room beyond was lavish and plush, and several noblemen lounged in various postures of waiting. Camon chose a chair and settled into it, then pointed toward a table set with wine and red-frosted cakes. Vin obediently fetched him a glass of wine and a plate of food, ignoring her own hunger.

  Camon began to pick hungrily at the cakes, smacking quietly as he ate.

  He’s nervous. More nervous, even, than before.

  “Once we get in, you will say nothing,” Camon grumbled between bites.

  “You’re betraying Theron,” Vin whispered.

  Camon nodded.

  “But, how? Why?” Theron’s plan was complex in execution, but simple in concept. Every year, the Ministry transferred its new acolyte obligators from a northern training facility south to Luthadel for ?nal instruction. Theron had discovered, however, that those acolytes and their overseers brought down with them large amounts of Ministry funds— disguised as baggage—to be strongholded in Luthadel.

  Banditry was very dif?cult in the Final Empire, what with the constant patrols along canal routes
. However, if one were running the very canal boats that the acolytes were sailing upon, a robbery could become possible. Arranged at just the right time… the guards turning on their passengers…a man could make quite a pro?t, then blame it all on banditry.

  “Theron’s crew is weak,” Camon said quietly. “He expended too many resources on this job. ”

  “But, the return he’ll make—” Vin said.

  “Will never happen if I take what I can now, then run,” Camon said, smiling. “I’ll talk the obligators into a down payment to get my caravan boats a?oat, then disappear and leave Theron to deal with the disaster when the Ministry realizes that it’s been scammed. ”

  Vin stood back, slightly shocked. Setting up a scam like this would have cost Theron thousands upon thousands of boxings—if the deal fell through now, he would be ruined. And, with the Ministry hunting him, he wouldn’t even have time to seek revenge. Camon would make a quick pro?t, as well as rid himself of one of his more powerful rivals.

  Theron was a fool to bring Camon into this, she thought.

  But, then, the amount Theron had promised to pay Camon was great; he probably assumed that Camon’s greed would keep him honest until Theron himself could pull a double cross. Camon had simply worked faster than anyone, even Vin, had expected. How could Theron have known that Camon would undermine the job itself, rather than wait and try and steal the entire haul from the caravan boats?

  Vin’s stomach twisted. It’s just another betrayal, she thought sickly. Why does it still bother me so? Everyone betrays everyone else. That’s the way life is….

  She wanted to ?nd a corner—someplace cramped and secluded—and hide. Alone.

  Anyone will betray you. Anyone.

  But there was no place to go. Eventually, a minor obligator entered and called for Lord Jedue. Vin followed Camon as they were ushered into an audience chamber.

  The man who waited inside, sitting behind the audience desk, was not Prelan Laird.

  Camon paused in the doorway. The room was austere, bearing only the desk and simple gray carpeting. The stone walls were unadorned, the only window barely a handspan wide. The obligator who waited for them had some of the most intricate tattoos around his eyes that Vin had ever seen. She wasn’t even certain what rank they implied, but they extended all the way back to the obligator’s ears and up over his forehead.

  “Lord Jedue,” the strange obligator said. Like Laird, he wore gray robes, but he was very different from the stern, bureaucratic men Camon had dealt with before. This man was lean in a muscular way, and his clean-shaven, triangular head gave him an almost predatory look.

  “I was under the impression that I would be meeting with Prelan Laird,” Camon said, still not moving into the room.

  “Prelan Laird has been called away on other business. I am High Prelan Arriev—head of the board that was reviewing your proposal. You have a rare opportunity to address me directly. I normally don’t hear cases in person, but Laird’s absence has made it necessary for me to share in some of his work. ”


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