Mistborn the final empi.., p.84
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.84

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
Page 84

  Vin smiled, and he bowed—winking at her—then was off toward the stairs. Vin walked slowly over to the balcony railing, looking down at the people dancing and dining below.

  So he’s not a revolutionary, she thought. Kelsier was right again. I wonder if he ever gets tired of that.

  But still, she couldn’t feel too disappointed with Elend. Not everyone was so insane that they’d think to overthrow their god-emperor. The mere fact that Elend was willing to think for himself set him apart from the rest; he was a good man, one who deserved a woman who was worthy of his trust.

  Unfortunately, he had Vin.

  So House Venture secretly mines the Lord Ruler’s atium, she thought. They must be the ones who administer the Pits of Hathsin.

  It was a frighteningly precarious position for a house to be in—their ?nances depended directly on pleasing the Lord Ruler. Elend thought that he was being careful, but Vin was worried. He wasn’t taking Shan Elariel seriously enough—of that, Vin was certain. She turned, walking intently from the balcony and down to the main ?oor.

  She found Shan’s table easily; the woman always sat with a large group of attendant noblewomen, presiding like a lord over his plantation. Vin paused. She’d never approached Shan directly. Someone, however, needed to protect Elend; he was obviously too foolish to do it himself.

  Vin strode forward. Shan’s Terrisman studied Vin as she approached. He was so different from Sazed—he didn’t have the same… spirit. This man maintained a ?at expression, like some creature carved of stone. A few of the ladies shot disapproving glances toward Vin, but most of them—Shan included—ignored her.

  Vin stood awkwardly beside the table, waiting for a lull in the conversation. There was none. Finally, she just took a few steps closer to Shan.

  “Lady Shan?” she asked.

  Shan turned with an icy glare. “I didn’t send for you, country girl. ”

  “Yes, but I’ve found some books like you—”

  “I no longer require your services,” Shan said, turning away. “I can deal with Elend Venture on my own. Now, be a good little twit and stop bothering me. ”

  Vin stood, stunned. “But, your plan—”

  “I said that you are no longer needed. You think I was harsh on you before, girl? That was when you were on my good side. Try annoying me now. ”

  Vin wilted re?exively before the woman’s demeaning gaze. She seemed… disgusted. Angry, even. Jealous?

  She must have ?gured it out, Vin thought. She ?nally realized out that I’m not just playing with Elend. She knows that I care for him, and doesn’t trust me to keep her secrets.

  Vin backed away from the table. Apparently, she would have to use other methods to discover Shan’s plans.

  Despite what he often said, Elend Venture did not consider himself to be a rude man. He was more of a…verbal philosopher. He liked to test and turn conversation to see how people would react. Like the great thinkers of old, he pushed boundaries and experimented with unconventional methods.

  Of course, he thought, holding his cup of brandy up before his eyes, inspecting it musingly, most of those old philosophers were eventually executed for treason. Not exactly the most successful role models.

  His evening political conversation with his group was ?nished, and he had retired with several friends to Keep Lekal’s gentlemen’s lounge, a small chamber adjacent to the ballroom. It was furnished in deep green colors, and the chairs were comfortable; it would have been a nice place to read, had he been in a slightly better mood. Jastes sat across from him, puf?ng contentedly on his pipe. It was good to see the young Lekal looking so calm. These last few weeks had been dif?cult for him.

  House war, Elend thought. What terrible timing. Why now? Things were going so well….

  Telden returned with a re?lled drink a few moments later.

  “You know,” Jastes said, gesturing with his pipe, “any one of the servants in here would have brought you a new drink. ”

  “I felt like stretching my legs,” Telden said, settling into the third chair.

  “And you ?irted with no less than three women on your way back,” Jastes said. “I counted. ”

  Telden smiled, sipping his drink. The large man never just “sat”—he lounged. Telden could look relaxed and comfortable no matter what the situation, his sharp suits and well-styled hair enviably handsome.

  Maybe I should pay just a little more attention to things like that, Elend thought to himself. Valette suffers my hair the way it is, but would she like it better if I had it styled?

  Elend often intended to make his way to a stylist or tailor, but other things tended to steal his attention. He’d get lost in his studies or spend too long reading, then ?nd himself late for his appointments. Again.

  “Elend is quiet this evening,” Telden noticed. Though other groups of gentlemen sat in the dim lounge, the chairs were spread out enough to allow for private conversations.

  “He’s been like that a lot, lately,” Jastes said.

  “Ah, yes,” Telden said, frowning slightly.

  Elend knew them well enough to take the hint. “Now, see, why must people be like this? If you have something to say, why not simply say it?”

  “Politics, my friend,” Jastes said. “We are—if you haven’t noticed—noblemen. ”

  Elend rolled his eyes.

  “All right, I’ll say it,” Jastes replied, running his hand through his hair—a nervous habit that Elend was sure contributed somewhat to the young man’s growing baldness. “You’ve been spending a lot of time with that Renoux girl, Elend. ”

  “There is a simple explanation for that,” Elend said. “You see, I happen to like her. ”

  “Not good, Elend,” Telden said with a shake of his head. “Not good. ”

  “Why?” Elend asked. “You seem pleased enough to ignore class variances yourself, Telden. I’ve seen you ?irt with half the serving girls in the room. ”

  “I’m not heir to my house,” Telden said.

  “And,” Jastes said, “these girls are trustworthy. My family hired these women—we know their houses, their backgrounds, and their allegiances. ”

  Elend frowned. “What are you implying?”

  “Something’s strange about that girl, Elend,” Jastes said. He’d gone back to his normal nervous self, his pipe sitting unnoticed in its holder on the table.

  Telden nodded. “She got too close to you too quickly, Elend. She wants something. ”

  “Like what?” Elend asked, growing annoyed.

  “Elend, Elend,” Jastes said. “You can’t just avoid the game by saying you don’t want to play. It’ll ?nd you. Renoux moved into town just as house tensions began to rise, and he brought with him an unknown scion—a girl who immediately began to woo the most important and available young man in Luthadel. Doesn’t that seem odd to you?”

  “Actually,” Elend noted, “I approached her ?rst—if only because she had stolen my reading spot. ”

  “But, you have to admit that it’s suspicious how quickly she latched on to you,” Telden said. “If you’re going to dabble with romance, Elend, you need to learn one thing: You can play with women if you want, but don’t let yourself get too close to them. That’s where the trouble starts. ”

  Elend shook his head. “Valette is different. ”

  The other two shared a look, then Telden shrugged, turning back to his drink. Jastes, however, sighed, then stood and stretched. “Anyway, I should probably be going. ”

  “One more drink,” Telden said.

  Jastes shook his head, running a hand through his hair. “You know how my parents are on ball nights—if I don’t go out and bid farewell to at least some of the guests, I’ll be nagged about it for weeks. ”

  The younger man wished them good night, walking back toward the main ballroom. Telden sipped his drink, eyeing Elend.

  “I’m not thinking about her,” Elend said testily.

  “What, then?”

bsp; “The meeting tonight,” Elend said. “I’m not sure if I like how it went. ”

  “Bah,” the large man said with a wave of his hand. “You’re getting as bad as Jastes. What happened to the man who attended these meetings just to relax and enjoy time with his friends?”

  “He’s worried,” Elend said. “Some of his friends might end up in charge of their houses sooner than he expected, and he’s worried that none of us are ready. ”

  Telden snorted. “Don’t be so melodramatic,” he said, smiling and winking to the serving girl who came to clear away his empty cups. “I have a feeling that this is all just going to blow over. In a few months, we’ll look back and wonder what all the fretting was about. ”

  Kale Tekiel won’t look back, Elend thought.

  The conversation waned, however, and Telden eventually excused himself. Elend sat for a while longer, opening The Dictates of Society for another read, but he had trouble concentrating. He turned the cup of brandy in his ?ngers, but didn’t drink much.

  I wonder if Valette’s out yet…. He’d tried to ?nd her once his meeting was over, but apparently she’d been in a private gathering of her own.

  That girl, he thought lazily, is far too interested in politics for her own good. Perhaps he was just jealous—only a few months in court, and she already seemed to be more competent than he was. She was so fearless, so bold, so… interesting. She didn’t ?t any of the courtly stereotypes he’d been taught to expect.

  Could Jastes be right? he wondered. She certainly is different from other women, and she did imply there were things about her I didn’t know.

  Elend pushed the thought out of his mind. Valette was different, true—but she was also innocent, in a way. Eager, full of wonder and spunk.

  He worried about her; she obviously didn’t know how dangerous Luthadel could be. There was so much more to politics in the city than simple parties and petty intrigues. What would happen if someone decided to send a Mistborn to deal with her and her uncle? Renoux was poorly connected, and none of the court’s members would blink twice at a few assassinations in Fellise. Did Valette’s uncle know how to take the proper precautions? Did he even worry about Allomancers?

  Elend sighed. He’d just have to make certain that Valette left the area. That was the only option.

  By the time his carriage reached Keep Venture, Elend had decided that he’d drunk too much. He made his way up to his rooms, looking forward to his bed and pillows.

  The hallway to his bedroom, however, passed by his father’s study. The door was open, and light still spilled out despite the late hour. Elend tried to walk quietly on the carpeted ?oor, but he’d never really been all that stealthy.

  “Elend?” his father’s voice called from the study. “Come in here. ”

  Elend sighed quietly. Lord Straff Venture didn’t miss much. He was a Tineye—his senses were so keen that he’d probably heard Elend’s carriage approaching outside. If I don’t deal with him now, he’ll just send the servants to pester me until I come down to speak with him….

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