Mistborn the final empi.., p.94
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.94
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         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
Page 94

  “Elend, how can you read at times like this?” Jastes asked.

  Elend looked up from his book. “It calms me. ”

  Jastes raised an eyebrow. The young Lekal sat impatiently in the coach, tapping his ?ngers on the armrest. The window shades were drawn, partially to hide the light of Elend’s reading lantern, partially to keep out the mists. Though Elend would never admit it, the swirling fog made him just a bit nervous. Noblemen weren’t supposed to be afraid of such things, but that didn’t change the fact that the deep, caliginous mist was just plain creepy.

  “Your father is going to be livid when you get back,” Jastes noted, still tapping the armrest.

  Elend shrugged, though this comment did make him a little bit nervous. Not because of his father, but because of what had happened this night. Some Allomancers had, apparently, been spying on Elend’s meeting with his friends. What information had they gathered? Did they know about the books he’d read?

  Fortunately, one of them had tripped, falling through Elend’s skylight. After that, it had been confusion and chaos—soldiers and ballgoers running about in a semi-panic. Elend’s ?rst thought had been for the books—the dangerous ones, the ones that if the obligators found he possessed, could get him into serious trouble.

  So, in the confusion, he’d dumped them all in a bag and followed Jastes down to the palace side exit. Grabbing a carriage and sneaking out of the palace grounds had been an extreme move, perhaps, but it had been ridiculously easy. With the number of carriages ?eeing the Venture grounds, not a single person had paused to notice that Elend himself was in the carriage with Jastes.

  It’s probably all died down by now, Elend told himself. People will realize that House Venture wasn’t trying to attack them, and that there wasn’t really any danger. Just some spies who got careless.

  He should have returned by now. However, his convenient absence from the palace gave him a perfect excuse to check on another group of spies. And this time, Elend himself had sent them.

  A sudden knock on the door made Jastes jump, and Elend closed his book, then opened the carriage door. Felt, one of the House Venture chief spies, climbed into the carriage, nodding his hawkish, mustached face respectfully to Elend, then Jastes.

  “Well?” Jastes asked.

  Felt sat down with the keen litheness of his kind. “The building is ostensibly a woodcrafter’s shop, m’lord. One of my men has heard of the place—it’s run by one Master Cladent, a skaa carpenter of no small skill. ”

  Elend frowned. “Why did Valette’s steward come here?”

  “We think that the shop is a front, m’lord,” Felt said. “We’ve been observing it ever since the steward led us here, as you ordered. However, we’ve had to be very careful— there are several watchnests hidden on its roof and top ?oors. ”

  Elend frowned. “An odd precaution for a simple craftsman’s shop, I should think. ”

  Felt nodded. “That’s not the half of it, m’lord. We managed to sneak one of our best men up to the building itself— we don’t think he was spotted—but he had a remarkably dif?cult time hearing what’s going on inside. The windows are sealed and stuffed to keep in sound. ”

  Another odd precaution, Elend thought. “What do you think it means?” he asked Felt.

  “It’s got to be an underground hideout, m’lord,” Felt said. “And a good one. If we hadn’t been watching carefully, and been certain what to look for, we would never have noticed the signs. My guess is that the men inside—even the Terrisman— are members of a skaa thieving crew. A very well-funded and skilled one. ”

  “A skaa thieving crew?” Jastes asked. “And Lady Valette too?”

  “Likely, m’lord,” Felt said.

  Elend paused. “A. . skaa thieving crew. . ” he said, stunned. Why would they send one of their members to balls? To perform a scam of some sort, perhaps?

  “M’lord?” Felt asked. “Do you want us to break in? I’ve got enough men to take their entire crew. ”

  “No,” Elend said. “Call your men back, and tell no one of what you’ve seen this night. ”

  “Yes, m’lord,” Felt said, climbing out of the coach.

  “Lord Ruler!” Jastes said as the carriage door closed. “No wonder she didn’t seem like a regular noblewoman. It wasn’t her rural upbringing—she’s just a thief!”

  Elend nodded, thoughtful, not certain what to think.

  “You owe me an apology,” Jastes said. “I was right about her, eh?”

  “Perhaps,” Elend said. “But. . in a way, you were wrong about her too. She wasn’t trying to spy on me—she was just trying to rob me. ”

  “So?”

  “I… need to think about this,” Elend said, reaching out and knocking for the carriage to start moving. He sat back as the coach began to roll back toward Keep Venture.

  Valette wasn’t the person that she’d said she was. However, he’d already prepared himself for that news. Not only had Jastes’s words about her made him suspicious, Valette herself hadn’t denied Elend’s accusations earlier in the night. It was obvious; she had been lying to him. Playing a part.

  He should have been furious. He realized this, logically, and a piece of him did ache of betrayal. But, oddly, the primary emotion he felt was one of… relief.

  “What?” Jastes asked, studying Elend with a frown.

  Elend shook his head. “You’ve had me worrying over this for days, Jastes. I felt so sick that I could barely function—all because I thought that Valette was a traitor. ”

  “But she is. Elend, she’s probably trying to scam you!”

  “Yes,” Elend said, “but at least she probably isn’t a spy for another house. In the face of all the intrigue, politics, and backbiting that has been going on lately, something as simple as a robbery feels slightly refreshing. ”

  “But…”

  “It’s only money, Jastes. ”

  “Money is kind of important to some of us, Elend. ”

  “Not as important as Valette. That poor girl… all this time, she must have been worrying about the scam she would have to pull on me!”

  Jastes sat for a moment, then he ?nally shook his head. “Elend, only you would be relieved to ?nd out that someone was trying to steal from you. Need I remind you that the girl has been lying this entire time? You might have grown attached to her, but I doubt her own feelings are genuine. ”

  “You may be right,” Elend admitted. “But…I don’t know, Jastes. I feel like I know this girl. Her emotions…they just seem too real, too honest, to be false. ”

  “Doubtful,” Jastes said.

  Elend shook his head. “We don’t have enough information to judge her yet. Felt thinks she’s a thief, but there have to be other reasons a group like that would send someone to balls. Maybe she’s just an informant. Or, maybe she is a thief—but not one who ever intended to rob me. She spent an awful lot of time mixing with the other nobility—why would she do that if I was her target? In fact, she spent relatively little time with me, and she never plied me for gifts. ”

  He paused—imagining his meeting Valette as a pleasant accident, an event that had thrown a terrible twist into both of their lives. He smiled, then shook his head. “No, Jastes. There’s more here than we’re seeing. Something about her still doesn’t make sense. ”

  “I… suppose, El,” Jastes said, frowning.

  Elend sat upright, a sudden thought occurring to him—a thought that made his speculations about Valette’s motivation seem far less important. “Jastes,” he said. “She’s skaa!”

  “And?”

  “And she fooled me—fooled us both. She acted the part of an aristocrat almost perfectly. ”

  “An inexperienced aristocrat, perhaps. ”

  “I had a real skaa thief with me!” Elend said. “Think of the questions I could have asked her. ”

  “Questions? What kind of questions?”

  “Questions about being skaa,” Elend said. “That’s not the poi
nt. Jastes, she fooled us. If we can’t tell the difference between a skaa and a noblewoman, that means that the skaa can’t be very different from us. And, if they’re not that different from us, what right do we have treating them as we do?”

  Jastes shrugged. “Elend, I don’t think you’re looking at this in perspective. We’re in the middle of a house war. ”

  Elend nodded distractedly. I was so hard on her this evening. Too hard?

  He had wanted her to believe, totally and completely, that he didn’t want anything more to do with her. Part of that had been genuine, for his own worries had convinced him that she couldn’t be trusted. And she couldn’t be, not at the moment. Either way, he’d wanted her to leave the city. He’d thought that the best thing to do was break off the relationship until the house war was through.

  But, assuming she’s really not a noblewoman, then there’s no reason for her to leave.

  “Elend?” Jastes asked. “Are you even paying attention to me?”

  Elend looked up. “I think I did something wrong tonight. I wanted to get Valette out of Luthadel. But, now I think I hurt her for no reason. ”

  “Bloody hell, Elend!” Jastes said. “Allomancers were listening to our conference this night. Do you realize what could have happened? What if they’d decided to kill us, rather than just spy on us?”

  “Ah, yes, you’re right,” Elend said with a distracted nod. “It’s best if Valette leaves anyway. Anyone close to me will be in danger during the days to come. ”

  Jastes paused, his annoyance deepening, then he ?nally laughed. “You’re hopeless. ”

  “I try my best,” Elend said. “But, seriously, there’s no use worrying. The spies gave themselves away, and likely got chased off—or even captured—in the chaos. We now know some of the secrets that Valette is hiding, so we’re ahead there too. It’s been a very productive night!”

  “That’s an optimistic way of looking at it, I guess…. ”

  “Once again, I try my best. ” Even still, he would feel more comfortable when they got back to Keep Venture. Perhaps it had been foolhardy to sneak away from the palace before hearing the details of what had happened, but Elend hadn’t exactly been thinking carefully at the time. Besides, he’d had the previously arranged meeting with Felt to attend, and the chaos had made a perfect opportunity to slip away.

  The carriage slowly pulled up to the Venture gates. “You should go,” Elend said, slipping out of the carriage door. “Take the books. ”

  Jastes nodded, grabbing the sack, then bidding Elend farewell as he shut the carriage door. Elend waited as the carriage rolled back away from the gates, then he turned and walked the rest of the way to the keep, the surprised gate guards letting him pass with ease.

 
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