Mistborn the final empi.., p.76
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.76
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         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
Page 76

  “But it didn’t stop you. ”

  “Troublemaking is just about the only thing I’m good at, Mennis. Do you resent what I did there, what I forced you to become?”

  Mennis paused, then nodded. “But, in a way, I’m thankful for that resentment. I believed that my life was over—I awoke each day expecting that I wouldn’t have the strength to rise. But. . well, I found purpose again in the caves. For that, I’m grateful. ”

  “Even after what I did to the army?”

  Mennis snorted. “Don’t think quite so highly of yourself, young man. Those soldiers got themselves killed. You might have been their motivation, but you didn’t make the choice for them.

  “Regardless, this isn’t the ?rst skaa rebellion to get slaughtered. Not by far. In a way, you’ve accomplished a lot—you gathered an army of considerable size, and then you armed and trained it beyond what anyone had a right to expect. Things went a little more quickly than you anticipated, but you should be proud of yourself. ”

  “Proud?” Kelsier asked, standing to work off some of his agitation. “This army was supposed to help overthrow the Final Empire, not get itself killed ?ghting a meaningless battle in a valley weeks outside of Luthadel. ”

  “Overthrow the…” Mennis looked up, frowning. “You really expected to do something like that?”

  “Of course,” Kelsier said. “Why else would I gather an army like this?”

  “To resist,” Mennis said. “To ?ght. That’s why those lads came to the caves. It wasn’t a matter of winning or losing, it was a matter of doing something—anything—to struggle against the Lord Ruler. ”

  Kelsier turned, frowning. “You expected the army to lose from the beginning?”

  “What other end was there?” Mennis asked. He stood, shaking his head. “Some may have begun to dream otherwise, lad, but the Lord Ruler can’t be defeated. Once, I gave you some advice—I told you to be careful which battles you chose to ?ght. Well, I’ve realized that this battle was worth ?ghting.

  “Now, let me give you another piece of advice, Kelsier, Survivor of Hathsin. Know when to quit. You’ve done well, better than any would have expected. Those skaa of yours killed an entire garrison’s worth of soldiers before they were caught and destroyed. This is the greatest victory the skaa have known in decades, perhaps centuries. Now it’s time to walk away. ”

  With that, the old man nodded his head in respect, then began to shuf?e back toward the center of the camp.

  Kelsier stood, dumbfounded. The greatest victory the skaa have known in decades. .

  That was what he fought against. Not just the Lord Ruler, not just the nobility. He fought against a thousand years of conditioning, a thousand years of life in a society that would label the deaths of ?ve thousand men as a “great victory. ” Life was so hopeless for the skaa that they’d been reduced to ?nding comfort in expected defeats.

  “That wasn’t a victory, Mennis,” Kelsier whispered. “I’ll show you a victory. ”

  He forced himself to smile—not out of pleasure, and not out of satisfaction. He smiled despite the grief he felt at the deaths of his men; he smiled because that was what he did. That was how he proved to the Lord Ruler—and to himself— that he wasn’t beaten.

  No, he wasn’t going to walk away. He wasn’t ?nished yet. Not by far.

  THE END OF PART THREE

  PART FOUR

  Dancers in a Sea of Mist

  I am growing so very tired.

  26

  VIN LAY IN HER BED at Clubs’s shop, feeling her head throb.

  Fortunately, the headache was growing weaker. She could still remember waking up on that ?rst horrible morning; the pain had been so strong she’d barely been able to think, let alone move. She didn’t know how Kelsier had kept going, leading the remnants of their army to a safe location.

  That had been over two weeks ago. Fifteen full days, and her head still hurt. Kelsier said it was good for her. He claimed that she needed to practice “pewter dragging,” training her body to function beyond what it thought possible. Despite what he said, however, she doubted something that hurt so much could possibly be “good” for her.

  Of course, it might well be a useful skill to have. She could acknowledge this, now that her head wasn’t pounding quite so much. She and Kelsier had been able to run to the battle?eld in under a single day. The return trip had taken two weeks.

  Vin rose, stretching tiredly. They’d been back for less than a day, in fact. Kelsier had probably stayed up half the night explaining events to the other crewmembers. Vin, however, had been happy to go straight to bed. The nights spent sleeping on the hard earth had reminded her that a comfortable bed was a luxury she’d started to take for granted.

  She yawned, rubbed her temples again, then threw on a robe and made her way to the bathroom. She was pleased to see that Clubs’s apprentices had remembered to draw her a bath. She locked the door, disrobed, and settled into the warm, lightly scented bathwater. Had she ever really found those scents obnoxious? The smell would make her less inconspicuous, true, but that seemed a slim price for ridding herself of the dirt and grime she’d picked up while traveling.

  She still found longer hair an annoyance, however. She washed it, combing out the tangles and knots, wondering how the court women could stand hair that went all the way down their backs. How long must they spend combing and primping beneath a servant’s care? Vin’s hair hadn’t even reached her shoulders yet, and she was already loath to let it get longer. It would ?y about and whip her face when she jumped, not to mention provide her foes with something to grab on to.

  Once ?nished bathing, she returned to her room, dressed in something practical, and made her way downstairs. Apprentices bustled in the workroom and housekeepers worked upstairs, but the kitchen was quiet. Clubs, Dockson, Ham, and Breeze sat at the morning meal. They looked up as Vin entered.

  “What?” Vin asked grumpily, pausing in the doorway. The bath had soothed her headache somewhat, but it still pulsed slightly in the back of her head.

  The four men exchanged glances. Ham spoke ?rst. “We were just discussing the status of the plan, now that both our employer and our army are gone. ”

  Breeze raised an eyebrow. “Status? That’s an interesting way of putting it, Hammond. I would have said ‘unfeasibility’ instead. ”

  Clubs grunted his assent, and the four turned to her, apparently waiting to see her reaction.

  Why do they care so much what I think? she thought, walking into the room and taking a chair.

  “You want something to eat?” Dockson said, rising. “Clubs’s housekeepers ?xed some baywraps for us to—”

  “Ale,” Vin said.

  Dockson paused. “It’s not even noon. ”

  “Ale. Now. Please. ” She leaned forward, folding her arms on the table and resting her head on them.

  Ham had the nerve to chuckle. “Pewter drag?”

  Vin nodded.

  “It’ll pass,” he said.

  “If I don’t die ?rst,” Vin grumbled.

  Ham chuckled again, but the levity seemed forced. Dox handed her a mug, then sat, glancing at the others. “So, Vin. What do you think?”

  “I don’t know,” she said with a sigh. “The army was pretty much the center of everything, right? Breeze, Ham, and Yeden spent all their time recruiting; Dockson and Renoux worked on supplies. Now that the soldiers are gone…well, that only leaves Marsh’s work with the Ministry and Kell’s attacks on the nobility—and neither are things he needs us for. The crew is redundant. ”

  The room fell silent.

  “She has a depressingly blunt way of putting it,” Dockson said.

  “Pewter drag will do that to you,” Ham noted.

  “When did you get back, anyway?” Vin asked.

  “Last night, after you were asleep,” Ham said. “The Garrison sent us part-time soldiers back early, so they wouldn’t have to pay us. ”

  “They’re still out there, t
hen?” Dockson asked.

  Ham nodded. “Hunting down the rest of our army. The Luthadel Garrison relieved the Valtroux troops, who were actually pretty beat up from the ?ghting. The majority of the Luthadel troops should be out for a long while yet, searching for rebels—apparently, several very large groups broke off of our main army and ?ed before the battle started. ”

  The conversation lulled into another period of silence. Vin sipped at her ale, drinking it more out of spite than any belief that it would make her feel better. A few minutes later, footsteps sounded on the stairs.

  Kelsier swept into the kitchen. “Good morning, all,” he said with customary cheerfulness. “Baywraps again, I see. Clubs, you really need to hire more imaginative housemaids. ” Despite the comment, he grabbed a cylindrical baywrap and took a large bite, then smiled pleasantly as he poured himself something to drink.

  The crew remained quiet. The men exchanged glances. Kelsier remained standing, leaning back against the cupboard as he ate.

  “Kell, we need to talk,” Dockson ?nally said. “The army is gone. ”

  “Yes,” Kelsier said between bites. “I noticed. ”

  “The job is dead, Kelsier,” Breeze said. “It was a good try, but we failed. ”

  Kelsier paused. He frowned, lowering his baywrap. “Failed? What makes you say that?”

  “The army is gone, Kell,” Ham said.

  “The army was only one piece of our plans. We’ve had a setback, true—but we’re hardly ?nished. ”

  “Oh, for the Lord’s sake, man!” Breeze said. “How can you stand there so cheerfully? Our men are dead. Don’t you even care?”

  “I care, Breeze,” Kelsier said in a solemn voice. “But what is done is done. We need to move on. ”

  “Exactly!” Breeze said. “Move on from this insane ‘job’ of yours. It’s time to quit. I know you don’t like that, but it’s the simple truth!”

  Kelsier set his plate on the counter. “Don’t Soothe me, Breeze. Never Soothe me. ”

  Breeze paused, mouth open slightly. “Fine,” he ?nally said. “I won’t use Allomancy; I’ll just use truth. Do you know what I think? I think you never intended to grab that atium.

  “You’ve been using us. You promised us wealth so we’d join you, but you never had any intention of making us rich. This is all about your ego—it’s about becoming the most famous crewleader that ever lived. That’s why you’re spreading all these rumors, doing all this recruitment. You’ve known wealth—now you want to become a legend. ”

  Breeze fell quiet, eyes hard. Kelsier stood with his arms folded, regarding the crew. Several glanced aside, shamed eyes proving that they had considered what Breeze was saying. Vin was one of those. The silence persisted, all of them waiting for a rebuttal.

  Footsteps sounded on the stairs again, and Spook burst into the kitchen. “Willing the care and upping to see! A gathering, in the fountain square!”

 
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