Mistborn the final empi.., p.89
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.89

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 89

  “Something’s wrong, Sazed,” she whispered as a servant moved off to prepare her table.

  “What do you mean, Mistress?” the tall steward asked, standing behind her and to the side.

  “There are too many people here,” Vin said, realizing one of the things that was bothering her. Ball attendance had been tapering off during the last few months. Yet, it seemed like everyone had returned for the Venture event. And they all wore their ?nest.

  “Something’s going on,” Vin said quietly. “Something we don’t know about. ”

  “Yes…” Sazed said quietly. “I sense it too. Perhaps I should go to the stewards’ dinner early. ”

  “Good idea,” Vin said. “I think I might just skip the meal this evening. We’re a bit late, and it looks like people have already started chatting. ”

  Sazed smiled.


  “I remember a time when you would never skip a meal, Mistress. ”

  Vin snorted. “Just be glad I never tried to stuff my pockets with food from one of these balls—trust me, I was tempted. Now, get going. ”

  Sazed nodded and moved off toward the stewards’ dinner. Vin scanned the chatting groups. No sign of Shan, thankfully, she thought. Unfortunately, Kliss was nowhere to be seen either, so Vin had to choose someone else to go to for gossip. She strolled forward, smiling at Lord Idren Seeris, a cousin to House Elariel and a man she had danced with on several occasions. He acknowledged her with a stiff nod, and she joined his group.

  Vin smiled at the other members of the group—three women and one other lord. She knew them all at least passingly, and had danced with Lord Yestal. However, this evening all four of them gave her cold looks.

  “I haven’t been to Keep Venture in a while,” Vin said, falling into her persona as a country girl. “I’d forgotten how majestic it is!”

  “Indeed,” said one of the ladies. “Excuse me—I’m going to go get something to drink. ”

  “I’ll go with you,” one of the other ladies added, both of them leaving the group.

  Vin watched them go, frowning.

  “Ah,” Yestal said. “Our meal has arrived. Coming, Triss?”

  “Of course,” the ?nal lady said, joining Yestal as they walked away.

  Idren adjusted his spectacles, shooting Vin a halfhearted look of apology, then withdrew. Vin stood, dumbfounded. She hadn’t received such an obviously cold reception since her ?rst few balls.

  What’s going on? she thought with increasing trepidation. Is this Shan’s work? Could she turn an entire room full of people against me?

  No, that didn’t feel right. It would have required too much effort. In addition, the oddity wasn’t just around her. All of the groups of noblemen were…different this evening.

  Vin tried a second group, with an even worse result. As soon as she joined, the members pointedly ignored her. Vin felt so out of place that she withdrew, ?eeing to get herself a cup of wine. As she walked, she noticed that the ?rst group— the one with Yestal and Idren—had re-formed with exactly the same members.

  Vin paused, standing just inside the shade of the eastern overhang and scanning the crowd. There were very few people dancing, and she recognized them all as established couples. There also seemed to be very little mingling between groups or tables. While the ballroom was ?lled, it seemed most of the attendees were distinctly trying to ignore everyone else.

  I need to get a better view of this, she thought, walking to the stairwell. A short climb later, she came out on the long, corridorlike balcony set into the wall above the dance ?oor, its familiar blue lanterns giving the stonework a soft, melancholy hue.

  Vin paused. Elend’s cubbyhole sat between the rightmost column and the wall, well lit by a single lantern. He almost always spent Venture balls reading there; he didn’t like the pomp and ceremony that came from hosting a party.

  The cubbyhole was empty. She approached the railing, then craned out to look toward the far end of the grand hallway. The host’s table sat on an overhang at the same level as the balconies, and she was shocked to see Elend sitting there dining with his father.

  What? she thought incredulously. Never once, during the half-dozen balls she’d attended at Keep Venture, had she seen Elend sit with his family.

  Down below, she caught sight of a familiar, colorful-robed ?gure moving through the crowd. She waved toward Sazed, but he had obviously already seen her. As she waited for him, Vin thought she faintly heard a familiar voice coming from the other end of the balcony. She turned and checked, noticing a short ?gure she’d missed before. Kliss was speaking with a small group of minor lords.

  So that’s where Kliss went, Vin thought. Maybe she’ll talk to me. Vin stood, waiting for either Kliss to ?nish her conversation or Sazed to arrive.

  Sazed came ?rst, leaving the stairwell, breathing heavily. “Mistress,” he said in a low voice, joining her by the railing.

  “Tell me you discovered something, Sazed. This ball feels… creepy. Everyone’s so solemn and cold. It’s almost like we’re at a funeral, not a party. ”

  “It is an apt metaphor, my lady,” Sazed said quietly. “We have missed an important announcement. House Hasting said it is not going to hold its regular ball this week. ”

  Vin frowned. “So? Houses have canceled balls before. ”

  “House Elariel canceled as well. Normally, Tekiel would come next—but that house is defunct. House Shunah has already announced that it won’t be holding any more balls. ”

  “What are you saying?”

  “It appears, Mistress, that this will be the last ball for a time…perhaps a very long time. ”

  Vin glanced down at the hall’s magni?cent windows, which stood above the independent—almost hostile—groups of people.

  “That’s what’s going on,” she said. “They’re ?nalizing alliances. Everyone is standing with their strongest friends and supporters. They know this is the last ball, and so they all came to put in an appearance, but they know they’ve no time left for politicking. ”

  “It seems that way, Mistress. ”

  “They’re all going on the defensive,” Vin said. “Retreating behind their walls, so to speak. That’s why no one wants to talk to me—we made Renoux too neutral a force. I don’t have a faction, and it’s a bad time to be gambling on random political elements. ”

  “Master Kelsier needs to know this information, Mistress,” Sazed said. “He planned on pretending to be an informant again tonight. If he’s ignorant of this situation, it could seriously damage his credibility. We should leave. ”

  “No,” Vin said, turning toward Sazed. “I can’t go—not when everyone else is staying. They all thought it was important to come and be seen at this last ball, and so I shouldn’t leave until they start to. ”

  Sazed nodded. “Very well. ”

  “You go, Sazed. Hire a carriage and go tell Kell what we’ve learned. I’ll stay for a little longer, then leave when it won’t make House Renoux look weak. ”

  Sazed paused. “I… don’t know, Mistress. ”

  Vin rolled her eyes. “I appreciate the help you’ve given me, but you don’t need to keep holding my hand. Plenty of people come to these balls without their stewards to watch after them. ”

  Sazed sighed. “Very well, Mistress. I shall return, however, after I have located Master Kelsier. ”

  Vin nodded, bidding him farewell, and he retreated down the stone stairwell. Vin leaned against the balcony in Elend’s spot, watching until Sazed appeared below and disappeared toward the front gates.

  Now what? Even if I can ?nd someone to talk to, there’s really no point in spreading rumors now.

  She felt a feeling of dread. Who would have thought that she would come to enjoy noble frivolity so much? The experience was tainted by her knowledge of what many noblemen were capable of, but even still, there had been a… dreamlike joy to the entire experience.

  Would she ever attend balls like these again? W
hat would happen to Valette the noblewoman? Would she have to put away her dresses and makeup, and return to simply being Vin the street thief? There probably wouldn’t be room for things like grand balls in Kelsier’s new kingdom, and that might not be a bad thing—what right did she have to dance while other skaa starved? Yet…it seemed like the world would be missing something beautiful without the keeps and dancers, the dresses and the festivities.

  She sighed, leaning back from the railing, glancing down at her own dress. It was of a deep shimmering blue, with white circular designs sewn around the base of the skirt. It was sleeveless, but the blue silk gloves she wore ran all the way past her elbows.

  Once she would have found the out?t frustratingly bulky. Now, however, she found it beautifying. She liked how it was designed to make her look full through the chest, yet accentuated her thin upper torso. She liked how it ?ared at the waist, slowly fanning out into a wide bell that rustled as she walked.

  She’d miss it—she’d miss it all. But, Sazed was right. She couldn’t stop the progression of time, she could only enjoy the moment.

  I’m not going to let him sit up there at the high table all evening and ignore me, she decided.

  Vin turned and walked along the balcony, nodding to Kliss as she passed. The balcony ended in a corridor that turned, and—as Vin had correctly guessed—led out onto the ledge that held the host’s table.

  She stood inside the corridor for a moment, looking out. Lords and ladies sat in regal out?ts, basking in the privilege of being invited up to sit with Lord Straff Venture. Vin waited, trying to get Elend’s attention, and ?nally one of the guests noticed her, then nudged Elend. He turned with surprise, saw Vin, then ?ushed slightly.

  She waved brie?y, and he stood, excusing himself. Vin ducked back into the stone corridor a bit so they could speak more privately.

  “Elend!” she said as he walked into the corridor. “You’re sitting with your father!”

  He nodded. “This ball has turned into something of a special event, Valette, and my father was fairly insistent that I obey protocol. ”

  “When are we going to have time to talk?”

  Elend paused. “I’m not sure that we will. ”

  Vin frowned. He seemed… reserved. His usual, slightly worn and wrinkled suit had been replaced by a sharp, well-?tted one. His hair was even combed.

  “Elend?” she said, stepping forward.

  He raised a hand, warding her back. “Things have changed, Valette. ”

  No, she thought. This can’t change, not yet! “Things? What ‘things’? Elend, what are you talking about?”

  “I am heir to House Venture,” he said. “And dangerous times are coming. House Hasting lost an entire convoy this afternoon, and that’s only the beginning. Within the month, the keeps will openly be at war. These aren’t things I can ignore, Valette. It’s time I stopped being a liability to my family. ”

  “That’s ?ne,” Vin said. “That doesn’t mean—”


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