Mistborn the final empi.., p.72
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.72

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 72

  Vin nodded.

  “Ham,” Kelsier said, “we need to keep an eye on the Luthadel Garrison. You’re still planning to visit your soldier contacts tomorrow?”

  Ham nodded. “I can’t promise anything, but I should be able to reestablish some connections. Give me a bit of time, and I’ll ?nd out what the military is up to. ”

  “Good,” Kelsier said.

  “I’d like to go with him,” Vin said.

  Kelsier paused. “With Ham?”

  Vin nodded. “I haven’t trained with a Thug yet. Ham could probably show me a few things. ”

  “You already know how to burn pewter,” Kelsier said. “We’ve practiced that. ”

  “I know,” Vin said. How could she explain? Ham had practiced with pewter exclusively—he was bound to be better at it than Kelsier.

  “Oh, stop pestering the child,” Breeze said. “She’s probably just tired of balls and parties. Let her go be a normal street urchin again for a bit. ”

  “Fine,” Kelsier said, rolling his eyes. He poured himself another drink. “Breeze, how well could your Soothers manage if you were gone for a little while?”

  Breeze shrugged. “I am, of course, the most effective member of the team. But, I did train the others—they’ll recruit effectively without me, especially now that stories about the Survivor are getting so popular. ”

  “We need to talk about that by the way, Kell,” Dockson said, frowning. “I’m not sure if I like all this mysticism about you and the Eleventh Metal. ”

  “We can discuss it later,” Kelsier said.

  “Why ask about my men?” Breeze said. “Have you ?nally grown so jealous of my impeccable fashion sense that you’ve decided to have me disposed of?”

  “You might say that,” Kelsier said. “I was thinking of sending you to replace Yeden in a few months. ”

  “Replace Yeden?” Breeze asked with surprise. “You mean for me to lead the army?”

  “Why not?” Kelsier asked. “You’re great at giving orders. ”

  “From the background, my dear man,” Breeze said. “I don’t stand out in front. Why, I’d be a general. Do you have any idea how ludicrous that sounds?”

  “Just consider it,” Kelsier said. “Our recruitment should be mostly done by then, so you might be most effective if you were to go to the caves and let Yeden come back to prepare his contacts here. ”

  Breeze frowned. “I suppose. ”

  “Regardless,” Kelsier said, rising. “I don’t think I’ve had nearly enough wine. Spook, be a good lad and run down to the cellar for another bottle, eh?”

  The boy nodded, and the conversation turned back to lighter topics. Vin settled back in her chair, feeling the warmth of the coal stove at the side of the room, content for the moment to simply enjoy the peace of not having to worry, ?ght, or plan.

  If only Reen could have known something like this, she thought, idly ?ngering her earring. Perhaps then, things would have been different for him. For us.

  Ham and Vin left the next day to visit the Luthadel Garrison.

  After so many months of playing a noblewoman, Vin had thought that it would feel strange to wear street clothing again. Yet, it really didn’t. True, it was a bit different—she didn’t have to worry about sitting properly or walking so that her dress didn’t brush against dirty walls or ?oors. Yet, the mundane clothing still felt natural to her.

  She wore a simple pair of brown trousers and a loose white shirt, tucked in at the waist, then overlaid by a leather vest. Her still lengthening hair was pulled up under a cap. Casual passersby might think her a boy, though Ham didn’t seem to think it mattered.

  And it really didn’t. Vin had grown accustomed to having people study and evaluate her, but no one on the street even bothered to give her a glance. Shuf?ing skaa workers, unconcerned low noblemen, even high-placed skaa like Clubs— they all ignored her.

  I’d almost forgotten what it was like to be invisible, Vin thought. Fortunately, the old attitudes—looking down when she walked, stepping out of people’s way, slouching to make herself inconspicuous—returned to her easily. Becoming Vin the street skaa felt as simple as remembering an old, familiar melody she used to hum.

  This really is just another disguise, Vin thought as she walked beside Ham. My makeup is a light coat of ash, carefully rubbed on my cheeks. My gown is a pair of trousers, rubbed to make them seem old and well used.

  Who, then, was she really? Vin the urchin? Valette the lady? Neither? Did any of her friends really know her? Did she even really know herself?

  “Ah, I’ve missed this place,” Ham said, walking happily beside her. Ham always seemed happy; she couldn’t imagine him dissatis?ed, despite what he’d said about his time leading the army.

  “It’s kind of strange,” he said, turning to Vin. He didn’t walk with the same careful air of despondence that Vin had cultivated; he didn’t even seem to care that he stood out from other skaa. “I probably shouldn’t miss this place—I mean, Luthadel is the dirtiest, most crowded city in the Final Empire. But, there’s also something about it…. ”

  “Is this where your family lives?” Vin asked.

  Ham shook his head. “They live in a smaller city outside of town. My wife is a seamstress there; she tells people I’m in the Luthadel Garrison. ”

  “Don’t you miss them?”

  “Of course I do,” Ham said. “It’s hard—I only get to spend a few months at a time with them—but it’s better this way. If I were to get killed on a job, the Inquisitors would have a tough time tracking my family. I haven’t even told Kell which city they live in. ”

  “You think the Ministry would go to that much trouble?” Vin asked. “I mean, you’d already be dead. ”

  “I’m a Misting, Vin—that means that all of my descendants will have some noble blood. My children might turn out to be Allomancers, as might their children. No, when the Inquisitors kill a Misting, they make certain to wipe out his children too. The only way to keep my family safe is to stay away from them. ”

  “You could just not use your Allomancy,” Vin said.

  Ham shook his head. “I don’t know if I could do that. ”

  “Because of the power?”

  “No, because of the money,” Ham said frankly. “Thugs—or, Pewterarms, as the nobility prefer to call them—are the most sought-after Mistings. A competent Thug can stand against a half-dozen regular men, and he can lift more, endure more, and move faster than any other hired muscle. Those things mean a lot when you have to keep your crews small. Mix a couple of Coinshots with ?ve or so Thugs, and you’ve got yourself a small, mobile army. Men will pay a lot for protection like that. ”

  Vin nodded. “I can see how the money would be tempting. ”

  “It’s more than tempting, Vin. My family doesn’t have to live in packed skaa tenements, nor do they have to worry about starving. My wife only works to keep up appearances—they have a good life, for skaa. Once I have enough, we’ll move away from the Central Dominance. There are places in the Final Empire that a lot of people don’t know about—places where a man with enough money can live the life of a nobleman. Places where you can stop worrying and just live. ”

  “That sounds… appealing. ”

  Ham nodded, turning and leading them down a larger thoroughfare toward the main city gates. “I got the dream from Kell, actually. That’s what he always said he wanted to do. I just hope I have more luck than he did…. ”

  Vin frowned. “Everyone says he was rich. Why didn’t he leave?”

  “I don’t know,” Ham said. “There was always another job—each one bigger than the last. I guess when you’re a crewleader like him, the game can get addicting. Soon, money didn’t even seem to matter to him. Eventually, he heard that the Lord Ruler was storing some incalculable secret in that hidden sanctum of his. If he and Mare had walked away before that job…But, well, they didn’t. I don’t know—maybe they wouldn’t have been happy living lives where they didn
t have to worry. ”

  The concept seemed to intrigue him, and Vin could see another of his “questions” working within his mind.

  I guess when you’re a crewleader like him, the game can get addicting….

  Her earlier apprehensions returned. What would happen if Kelsier seized the imperial throne for himself? He couldn’t possibly be as bad as the Lord Ruler, but. . she was reading more and more of the logbook. The Lord Ruler hadn’t always been a tyrant. He’d been a good man, once. A good man whose life had gone wrong.

  Kelsier’s different, Vin told herself forcefully. He’ll do the right thing.

  Still, she wondered. Ham might not understand, but Vin could see the enticement. Despite noble depravity, there was something intoxicating about high society. Vin was captivated by the beauty, the music, and the dancing. Her fascination wasn’t the same as Kelsier’s—she wasn’t as interested in political games or even scams—but she could understand why he would have been reluctant to leave Luthadel behind.

  That reluctance had destroyed the old Kelsier. But, it had produced something better—a more determined, less self-serving Kelsier. Hopefully.

  Of course, his plans before also cost him the woman he loved. Is that why he hates the nobility so much?

  “Ham?” she asked. “Has Kelsier always hated the nobility?”

  Ham nodded. “It’s worse now, though. ”

  “He frightens me sometimes. It seems like he wants to kill all of them, no matter who they are. ”

  “I’m concerned about him too,” Ham said. “This Eleventh Metal business…it’s almost like he’s making himself out to be some kind of holy man. ” He paused, then he looked toward her. “Don’t worry too much. Breeze, Dox, and I have already talked about this. We’re going to confront Kell, see if we can rein him in a bit. He means well, but he has a tendency to go a little overboard sometimes. ”

  Vin nodded. Ahead, the customary crowded lines of people waited for permission to pass through the city gates. She and Ham walked quietly past the solemn group—workers being sent out to the docks, men off to work one of the outer mills alongside the river or lake, lesser noblemen wishing to travel. All had to have a good reason to leave the city; the Lord Ruler strictly controlled travel inside his realm.

  Poor things, Vin thought as she passed a ragged band of children carrying pails and brushes—probably on duty to climb the wall and scrub mist-grown lichen off the parapets. Ahead, up near the gates, an of?cial cursed and shoved a man out of the line. The skaa worker fell hard, but eventually picked himself back up and shuf?ed to the end of the line. It was likely that if he wasn’t let out of the city, he wouldn’t be able to do his day’s work—and no work meant no food tokens for his family.

  Vin followed Ham past the gates, heading down a street parallel to the city wall, at the end of which Vin could see a large building complex. Vin had never studied the Garrison headquarters before; most crewmembers tended to stay a good distance away from it. However, as they approached, she was impressed by its defensive appearance. Large spikes were mounted on the wall that ran around the entire complex. The buildings within were bulky and forti?ed. Soldiers stood at the gates, eyeing passersby with hostility.


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