Mistborn the final empi.., p.83
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.83

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 83

  “Don’t you dare,” Vin said, eyeing the book in his pocket as she joined him on the walkway. “Read when you’re with someone else, not me. ”

  “But that’s how our relationship began!”

  “And that’s how it could end too,” Vin said, taking his arm.

  Elend smiled. They weren’t the only couple walking the balcony, and down below, other pairs spun slowly to the faint music.

  It seems so peaceful. Yet, just a few days ago, many of these people stood and watched idly as women and children were beheaded.

  She felt Elend’s arm, his warmth beside her. Kelsier said that he smiled so much because he felt he needed to take what joy he could in the world—to relish the moments of happiness that seemed so infrequent in the Final Empire. Strolling for a time beside Elend, Vin thought she was beginning to understand how Kelsier felt.

  “Valette…” Elend said slowly.

  “What?”

  “I want you to leave Luthadel,” he said.

  “What?”

  He paused, turning to look at her. “I’ve thought about this a lot. You may not realize it, but the city is becoming dangerous. Very dangerous. ”

  “I know. ”

  “Then you know that a small house without allies has no place in the Central Dominance right now,” Elend said. “Your uncle was brave to come here and try to establish himself, but he chose the wrong time. I…I think things are going to get out of hand here very soon. When that happens, I can’t guarantee your safety. ”

  “My uncle knows what he’s doing, Elend. ”

  “This is different, Valette,” Elend said. “Entire houses are falling. The Tekiel family wasn’t slaughtered by bandits— that was the work of House Hasting. Those won’t be the last deaths we see before this is through. ”

  Vin paused, thinking of Shan again. “But…you’re safe, right? House Venture—it’s not like the others. It’s stable. ”

  Elend shook his head. “We’re even more vulnerable than the rest, Valette. ”

  “But, your fortune is large,” Vin said. “You don’t depend on contracts. ”

  “They may not be visible,” Elend said quietly, “but they’re there, Valette. We put on a good show, and the others assume that we have more than we do. However, with the Lord Ruler’s house taxings…well, the only way we maintain so much power in this city is through income. Secret income. ”

  Vin frowned, and Elend leaned closer, speaking almost in a whisper. “My family mines the Lord Ruler’s atium, Valette,” he said. “That’s where our wealth comes from. In a way, our stability depends almost completely on the Lord Ruler’s whims. He doesn’t like to bother collecting the atium himself, but he gets very perturbed if the delivery schedule is disrupted. ”

  Find out more! instinct told her. This is the secret; this is what Kelsier needs. “Oh, Elend,” Vin whispered. “You shouldn’t be telling me this. ”

  “Why not?” he said. “I trust you. Look, you need to understand how dangerous things are. The atium supply has been having some troubles lately. Ever since…. well, something happened a few years ago. Ever since then, things have been different. My father can’t meet the Lord Ruler’s quotas, and last time that happened…”

  “What?”

  “Well,” Elend said, looking troubled. “Let’s just say that things could soon grow very bad for the Ventures. The Lord Ruler depends on that atium, Valette—it’s one of the prime ways he controls the nobility. A house without atium is a house that can’t defend itself from Mistborn. By keeping a large reserve, the Lord Ruler controls the market, making himself extremely wealthy. He funds his armies by making atium scarce, then selling extra bits for lavish amounts. If you knew more about the economics of Allomancy, this would probably make a lot more sense to you. ”

  Oh, trust me. I understand more than you think. And now I know far more than I should.

  Elend paused, smiling pleasantly as an obligator strolled along the balcony walkway beside them. The obligator looked them over as he passed, eyes thoughtful within their web of tattoos.

  Elend turned back to her as soon as the obligator had passed. “I want you to leave,” he repeated. “People know that I’ve paid attention to you. Hopefully, they’ll assume it was just to spite my father, but they could still try to use you. The Great Houses wouldn’t have any qualms about crushing your entire family just to get at me and my father. You have to go. ”

  “I’ll… think about it,” Vin said.

  “There isn’t much time left for thinking,” Elend warned. “I want you to leave before you get too involved with what is going on in this city. ”

  I’m already involved so much more than you think. “I said I’d think about it,” she said. “Look, Elend, I think you should be more worried about yourself. I think Shan Elariel is going to try something to strike against you. ”

  “Shan?” Elend said with amusement. “She’s harmless. ”

  “I don’t think she is, Elend. You need to be more careful. ”

  He laughed. “Look at us… each one trying to convince the other how dreadfully dire the situation is, each one bullheadedly refusing to listen to the other. ”

  Vin paused, then smiled.

  Elend sighed. “You’re not going to listen to me, are you? Is there anything I can do to make you leave?”

  “Not right now,” she said quietly. “Look, Elend, can’t we just enjoy the time we have together? If things continue as they are, we might not have many more opportunities like this for a while. ”

  He paused, then ?nally nodded. She could see he was still troubled, but he did turn back to their walk, letting her gently take his arm again as they strolled. They walked together for a time, silent until something drew Vin’s attention. She removed her hands from his arm, instead reaching down to take his hand in her own.

  He glanced at her, frowning in confusion as she tapped the ring on his ?nger. “It really is metal,” she said, a bit surprised, despite what she’d been told.

  Elend nodded. “Pure gold. ”

  “Don’t you worry about. . ”

  “Allomancers?” Elend asked. He shrugged. “I don’t know—they’re not the sort of thing that I’ve ever had to deal with. You don’t wear metal, out on the plantations?”

  Vin shook her head, tapping one of the barrettes in her hair. “Painted wood,” she said.

  Elend nodded. “Probably wise,” he said. “But, well, the longer you stay in Luthadel, the more you’ll realize that little we do here is done in the name of wisdom. The Lord Ruler wears metal rings—and so, therefore, does the nobility. Some philosophers think that’s all part of His plan. The Lord Ruler wears metal because he knows that the nobility will mimic him, and therefore give his Inquisitors power over them. ”

  “Do you agree?” Vin asked, taking his arm again as they walked. “With the philosophers, I mean?”

  Elend shook his head. “No,” he said in a quieter voice. “The Lord Ruler. . he’s just arrogant. I’ve read of warriors, long ago, who would run into battle without armor on, supposedly to prove how brave and strong they were. That’s how this is, I think—though admittedly on a far more subtle level. He wears metal to ?aunt his power, to show how unfrightened—how unthreatened—he is by anything we could do to him. ”

  Well, Vin thought, he’s willing to call the Lord Ruler arrogant. Perhaps I can get him to admit a little more….

  Elend paused, glancing over at the clock. “I’m afraid I don’t have a whole lot of time tonight, Valette. ”

  “That’s right,” Vin said. “You’ll need to go off and meet with your friends. ” She glanced at him, trying to gauge his reaction.

  He didn’t seem very surprised. He simply raised an eyebrow in her direction. “Indeed, I will. You’re very observant. ”

  “It doesn’t take much observing,” Vin said. “Anytime we’re at Keeps Hasting, Venture, Lekal, or Elariel, you run off with the same people. ”

  “My drinking friends,
” Elend said with a smile. “An unlikely group in today’s political climate, but one that helps annoy my father. ”

  “What do you do at these meetings?” Vin asked.

  “We talk philosophy, mostly,” Elend said. “We’re kind of a stuffy lot—which isn’t too surprising, I guess, if you know any of us. We talk about the government, about politics… about the Lord Ruler. ”

  “What about him?”

  “Well, we don’t like some of the things he’s done with the Final Empire. ”

  “So you do want to overthrow him!” Vin said.

  Elend gave her a strange look. “Overthrow him? What gave you that idea, Valette? He’s the Lord Ruler—he’s God. We can’t do anything about him being in charge. ” He looked away as they continued to walk. “No, my friends and I, we just. . wish the Final Empire could be a little different. We can’t change things now, but maybe someday—assuming we all survive the next year or so—we’ll be in positions to in?uence the Lord Ruler. ”

  “To do what?”

  “Well, take those executions a few days ago,” Elend said. “I don’t see that they did any good. The skaa rebelled. In reprisal, the Ministry executed a few hundred random people. What is that going to do besides make the populace even more angry? So, next time the rebellion will be bigger. Does that mean that the Lord Ruler will order more people beheaded? How long can that continue before there just aren’t any skaa left?”

  Vin walked thoughtfully. “And what would you do, Elend Venture?” she ?nally said. “If you were in charge. ”

  “I don’t know,” Elend confessed. “I’ve read a lot of books—some that I’m not supposed to—and I haven’t found any easy answers. I’m pretty certain, however, that beheading people won’t solve anything. The Lord Ruler has been around for a long time—you’d think that he’d have found a better way. But, anyway, we’ll have to continue this later…. ” He slowed, turning to look at her.

  “Time already?” she asked.

  Elend nodded. “I promised I’d meet them, and they kind of look to me. I suppose I could tell them I’ll be late…. ”

  Vin shook her head. “Go drink with your friends. I’ll be ?ne—I have a few more people I need to talk to anyway. ” She did need to get back to work; Breeze and Dockson had spent hours planning and preparing the lies that she was supposed to spread, and they would be waiting for her report back at Clubs’s shop after the party.

  Elend smiled. “Maybe I shouldn’t worry about you so much. Who knows—considering all of your political maneuvering, maybe House Renoux will soon be the power in town, and I’ll just be a lowly beggar. ”

 

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