Mistborn the final empi.., p.68
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.68

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 68

  One such tidbit was about House Venture. The family was bunkering up for what it expected to be an extended house war; one evidence of this was the fact that Elend attended far fewer balls than he once had. Not that Vin minded. When he did come, he generally avoided her, and she didn’t really want to talk to him anyway. Memories of what Dockson had said made her think that she might have trouble remaining civil toward Elend.

  “Milen?” Lord Rene asked. “Are you still planning on joining us for a game of shelldry tomorrow?”

  “Of course, Rene,” Milen said.

  “Didn’t you promise that last time?” Tyden asked.

  “I’ll be there,” Milen said. “Something came up last time. ”

  “And it won’t come up again?” Tyden asked. “You know we can’t play unless we have a fourth man. If you’re not going to be there, we could ask someone else…. ”

  Milen sighed, then held up a hand, sharply gesturing to the side. The motion caught Vin’s attention—she had only been half listening to the conversation. She looked to the side, and nearly jumped in shock as she saw an obligator approaching the group.

  So far she’d managed to avoid obligators at the balls. After her ?rst run-in with a high prelan, some months ago—and the subsequent alerting of an Inquisitor—she’d been apprehensive to even go near one.

  The obligator approached, smiling in a creepy sort of way. Perhaps it was the arms clasped before him, hands hidden inside the gray sleeves. Perhaps it was the tattoos around the eyes, wrinkled with the aging skin. Perhaps it was the way his eyes regarded her; it seemed like they could see through her guise. This wasn’t just a nobleman, this was an obligator—eyes of the Lord Ruler, enforcer of His law.

  The obligator stopped at the group. His tattoos marked him as a member of the Canton of Orthodoxy, the primary bureaucratic arm of the Ministry. He eyed the group, speaking in a smooth voice. “Yes?”

  Milen pulled out a few coins. “I promise to meet these two for shelldry tomorrow,” he said, handing the coins to the aging obligator.

  It seemed like such a silly reason to call over an obligator—or, at least, so Vin thought. The obligator, however, didn’t laugh or point out the frivolity of the demand. He simply smiled, palming the coins as deftly as any thief. “I witness this, Lord Milen,” he said.

  “Satis?ed?” Milen asked of the other two.

  They nodded.

  The obligator turned, not giving Vin a second glance, and strolled away. She released a quiet breath, watching his shuffing form.

  They must know everything that happens in court, she realized. If nobility call them over to witness things this simple… The more she knew about the Ministry, the more she realized how clever the Lord Ruler had been in organizing them. They witnessed every mercantile contract; Dockson and Renoux had to deal with obligators nearly every day. Only they could authorize weddings, divorces, land purchases, or ratify inheritance of titles. If an obligator hadn’t witnessed an event, it hadn’t happened, and if one hadn’t sealed a document, then it might as well not have been written.

  Vin shook her head as the conversation turned to other topics. It had been a long night, and her mind was full of information to scribble down on her way back to Fellise.

  “Excuse me, Lord Milen,” she said, laying a hand on his arm—though touching him made her shiver slightly. “I think perhaps it is time for me to retire. ”

  “I’ll walk you to your carriage,” he said.

  “That won’t be necessary,” she said sweetly. “I want to refresh myself, and then I have to wait for my Terrisman anyway. I’ll just go sit down at our table. ”

  “Very well,” he said, nodding respectfully.

  “Go if you must, Valette,” Kliss said. “But you’ll never know the news I have about the Ministry…. ”

  Vin paused. “What news?”

  Kliss’s eyes twinkled, and she glanced at the disappearing obligator. “The Inquisitors are buzzing like insects. They’ve hit twice as many skaa thieving bands these last few months as usual. They don’t even take prisoners for executions—they just leave them all dead. ”

  “How do you know this?” Milen asked skeptically. He seemed so straight-backed and noble. You would never know what he really was.

  “I have my sources,” Kliss said with a smile. “Why, the Inquisitors found another band just this afternoon. One headquartered not far from here. ”

  Vin felt a chill. They weren’t that far from Clubs’s shop…. No, it couldn’t be them. Dockson and the rest are too clever. Even without Kelsier in town, they’ll be safe.

  “Cursed thieves,” Tyden spat. “Damn skaa don’t know their place. Isn’t the food and clothing we give enough of a theft from our pockets?”

  “It’s amazing the creatures can even survive as thieves,” said Carlee, Tyden’s young wife, in her normal purring voice. “I can’t imagine what kind of incompetent would let himself get robbed by skaa. ”

  Tyden ?ushed, and Vin eyed him with curiosity. Carlee rarely spoke except to make some jab against her husband.

  He must have been robbed himself. A scam, perhaps?

  Filing away the information for later investigation, Vin turned to go—a motion that put her face-to-face with a newcomer to the group: Shan Elariel.

  Elend’s former betrothed was immaculate, as always. Her long auburn hair had an almost luminous sheen, and her beautiful ?gure only reminded Vin how scrawny she herself was. Self-important in a way that could make even a con?dent person uncertain, Shan was—as Vin was beginning to realize—exactly what most of the aristocracy thought was the perfect woman.

  The men in Vin’s group nodded their heads in respect, and the women curtsied, honored to have their conversation joined by one so important. Vin glanced to the side, trying to escape, but Shan was standing right before her.

  Shan smiled. “Ah, Lord Milen,” she said to Vin’s companion, “it’s a pity that your original date this evening took sick. It appears you were left with few other options. ”

  Milen ?ushed, Shan’s comment expertly placing him in a dif?cult position. Did he defend Vin, possibly earning the ire of a very powerful woman? Or, did he instead agree with Shan, thereby insulting his date?

  He took the coward’s way out: He ignored the comment. “Lady Shan, it is a pleasure to have you join us. ”

  “Indeed,” Shan said smoothly, eyes glittering with pleasure as she regarded Vin’s discomfort.

  Cursed woman! Vin thought. It seemed that whenever Shan grew bored, she would seek out Vin and embarrass her for sport.

  “However,” Shan said, “I am afraid I didn’t come to chat. Unpleasant though it may be, I have business with the Renoux child. Will you excuse us?”

  “Of course, my lady,” Milen said, backing away. “Lady Valette, thank you for your company this evening. ”

  Vin nodded to him and the others, feeling a little like a wounded animal being abandoned by the herd. She really didn’t want to deal with Shan this evening.

  “Lady Shan,” Vin said once they were alone. “I think your interest in me is unfounded. I haven’t really been spending much time with Elend lately. ”

  “I know,” Shan said. “It appears I overestimated your competence, child. One would think that once you’d gained favor with a man so much more important than yourself, you wouldn’t have let him slip away so easily. ”

  Shouldn’t she be jealous? Vin thought, suppressing a cringe as she felt the inevitable touch of Shan’s Allomancy on her emotions. Shouldn’t she hate me for taking her place?

  But, that wasn’t the noble way. Vin was nothing—a momentary diversion. Shan wasn’t interested in recapturing Elend’s affection; she just wanted a way to strike back at the man who had slighted her.

  “A wise girl would put herself in a position where she could make use of the only advantage she has,” Shan said. “If you think any other important nobleman will ever pay any attention to you, then you are mistaken. Elend likes
to shock the court—and so, naturally, he chose to do so with the most homely and lumpish woman he could ?nd. Take this opportunity; you shall not soon ?nd another. ”

  Vin gritted her teeth against the insults and the Allomancy; Shan had obviously made an art out of forcing people to take whatever abuse she sought ?t to deliver.

  “Now,” Shan said, “I require information regarding certain texts Elend has in his possession. You can read, can’t you?”

  Vin nodded curtly.

  “Good,” Shan said. “All you need to do is memorize the titles of his books—don’t look on the outside covers, they can be misleading. Read the ?rst few pages, then report back to me. ”

  “And if I should instead tell Elend what you’re planning?”

  Shan laughed. “My dear, you don’t know what I’m planning. Besides, you seem to be making some headway in court. Surely you realize that betraying me is not something you want to even contemplate. ”

  With that, Shan walked off, immediately gathering a collection of hangers-on from the surrounding nobility. Shan’s Soothing weakened, and Vin felt her frustration and anger rise. There had been a time when she would have simply scampered away, ego already too beaten down to be bothered by Shan’s insults. This night, however, she found herself wishing for a way to strike back.

  Calm yourself. This is a good thing. You’ve become a pawn in Great House plans—most lesser nobility probably dream of such an opportunity.

  She sighed, retreating toward the now empty table she had shared with Milen. The ball this evening was being held at the marvelous Keep Hasting. Its tall, round central keep was attended by six auxiliary towers, each set off from the main building a short distance and connected to it by walltop walkways. All seven towers were set with winding, curving patterns of stained glass.

  The ballroom was at the top of the wide central tower. Fortunately, a system of skaa-powered pulley platforms kept noble guests from having to walk all the way to the top. The ballroom itself wasn’t as spectacular as some Vin had visited—just a squarish chamber with vaulted ceilings and colored glass running around the perimeter.

  Funny, how easily one can become jaded, Vin thought. Perhaps that’s how the noblemen can do such terrible things. They’ve been killing for so long that it doesn’t unsettle them anymore.

  She asked a servant to go fetch Sazed, then sat down to rest her feet. I wish Kelsier would hurry up and get back, she thought. The crew, Vin included, seemed less motivated without him around. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to work; Kelsier’s snappy wit and optimism just helped keep her moving.

  Vin looked up idly, and her eyes caught sight of Elend Venture standing just a short distance away, chatting with a small group of young noblemen. She froze. Part of her—the Vin part—wanted to scurry away and hide. She’d ?t beneath a table, dress and all.

  Oddly, however, she found her Valette side stronger. I have to talk to him, she thought. Not because of Shan, but because I have to ?nd out the truth. Dockson was exaggerating. He had to be.

 

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