Read The Mistborn Trilogy Online

Authors: Brandon Sanderson

Tags: #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #bought-and-paid-for

The Mistborn Trilogy (5 page)

BOOK: The Mistborn Trilogy
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“This is doing very little to persuade me, Your Lordship,” the obligator said.

“Isn’t it?” Camon asked. “Ask yourself this, Your Grace—who will serve you better? Will it be the house that has dozens of contracts to divide its attention, or the house that views your contract as its last hope? The Canton of Finance will not find a more accommodating partner than a desperate one. Let my boats be the ones that bring your acolytes down from the north—let my soldiers escort them—and you will not be disappointed.”

Vin thought.

“I…see,” the obligator said, now troubled.

“I would be willing to give you an extended contract, locked in at the price of fifty boxings a head per trip, Your Grace. Your acolytes would be able to travel our boats at their leisure, and would always have the escorts they need.”

The obligator raised an eyebrow. “That’s half the former fee.”

“I told you,” Camon said. “We’re desperate. My house
to keep its boats running. Fifty boxings will not make us a profit, but that doesn’t matter. Once we have the Ministry contract to bring us stability, we can find other contracts to fill our coffers.”

Laird looked thoughtful. It was a fabulous deal—one that might ordinarily have been suspicious. However, Camon’s presentation created the image of a house on the brink of financial collapse. The other crewleader, Theron, had spent five years building, scamming, and finagling to create this moment. The Ministry would be remiss not to consider the opportunity.

Laird was realizing just that. The Steel Ministry was not just the force of bureaucracy and legal authority in the Final Empire—it was like a noble house unto itself. The more wealth it had, the better its own mercantile contracts, the more leverage the various Ministry Cantons had with each other—and with the noble houses.

Laird was still obviously hesitant, however. Vin could see the look in his eyes, the suspicion she knew well. He was not going to take the contract.

Vin thought.
It’s my turn.

Vin used her Luck on Laird. She reached out tentatively—not even really sure what she was doing, or why she could even do it. Yet her touch was instinctive, trained through years of subtle practice. She’d been ten years old before she’d realized that other people couldn’t do what she could.

She pressed against Laird’s emotions, dampening them. He became less suspicious, less afraid. Docile. His worries melted away, and Vin could see a calm sense of control begin to assert itself in his eyes.

Yet, Laird still seemed slightly uncertain. Vin pushed harder. He cocked his head, looking thoughtful. He opened his mouth to speak, but she pushed against him again, desperately using up her last pinch of Luck.

He paused again. “Very well,” he finally said. “I will take this new proposal to the Council. Perhaps an agreement can still be reached.”

If men read these words, let them know that power is a heavy burden. Seek not to be bound by its chains. The Terris prophecies say that I will have the power to save the world.

They hint, however, that I will have the power to destroy it as well.



Luthadel—seat of the Lord Ruler—was a gloomy sight. Most of the buildings had been built from stone blocks, with tile roofs for the wealthy, and simple, peaked wooden roofs for the rest. The structures were packed closely together, making them seem squat despite the fact that they were generally three stories high.

The tenements and shops were uniform in appearance; this was not a place to draw attention to oneself. Unless, of course, you were a member of the high nobility.

Interspersed throughout the city were a dozen or so monolithic keeps. Intricate, with rows of spearlike spires or deep archways, these were the homes of the high nobility. In fact, they were the
of a high noble family: Any family who could afford to build a keep and maintain a high-profile presence in Luthadel was considered to be a Great House.

Most of the open ground in the city was around these keeps. The patches of space amid the tenements were like clearings in a forest, the keeps themselves like solitary mounts rising above the rest of the landscape. Black mountains. Like the rest of the city, the keeps were stained by countless years of ashfalls.

Every structure in Luthadel—virtually every structure Kelsier had ever seen—had been blackened to some degree. Even the city wall, upon which Kelsier now stood, was blackened by a patina of soot. Structures were generally darkest at the top, where the ash gathered, but rainwaters and evening condensations had carried the stains over ledges and down walls. Like paint running down a canvas, the darkness seemed to creep down the sides of buildings in an uneven gradient.

The streets, of course, were completely black. Kelsier stood waiting, scanning the city as a group of skaa workers worked in the street below, clearing away the latest mounds of ash. They’d take it to the River Channerel, which ran through the center of the city, sending the piles of ash to be washed away, lest it pile up and eventually bury the city. Sometimes, Kelsier wondered why the entire empire wasn’t just one big mound of ash. He supposed the ash must break down into soil eventually. Yet, it took a ridiculous amount of effort to keep cities and fields clear enough to be used.

Fortunately, there were always enough skaa to do the work. The workers below him wore simple coats and trousers, ash-stained and worn. Like the plantation workers he had left behind several weeks before, they worked with beaten-down, despondent motions. Other groups of skaa passed the workers, responding to the bells in the distance, chiming the hour and calling them to their morning’s work at the forges or mills. Luthadel’s main export was metal; the city was home to hundreds of forges and refineries. However, the surgings of the river provided excellent locations for mills, both to grind grains and make textiles.

The skaa continued to work. Kelsier turned away from them, looking up into the distance, toward the city center, where the Lord Ruler’s palace loomed like some kind of massive, multi-spined insect. Kredik Shaw, the Hill of a Thousand Spires. The palace was several times the size of any nobleman’s keep, and was by far the largest building in the city.

Another ashfall began as Kelsier stood contemplating the city, the flakes falling lightly down upon the streets and buildings.
A lot of ashfalls, lately,
he thought, glad for the excuse to pull up the hood on his cloak.
The Ashmounts must be active.

It was unlikely that anyone in Luthadel would recognize him—it had been three years since his capture. Still, the hood was reassuring. If all went well, there would come a time when Kelsier would want to be seen and recognized. For now, anonymity was probably better.

Eventually, a figure approached along the wall. The man, Dockson, was shorter than Kelsier, and he had a squarish face that seemed well suited to his moderately stocky build. A nondescript brown hooded cloak covered his black hair, and he wore the same short half beard that he’d sported since his face had first put forth whiskers some twenty years before.

He, like Kelsier, wore a nobleman’s suit: colored vest, dark coat and trousers, and a thin cloak to keep off the ash. The clothing wasn’t rich, but it was aristocratic—indicative of the Luthadel middle class. Most men of noble birth weren’t wealthy enough to be considered part of a Great House—yet, in the Final Empire, nobility wasn’t just about money. It was about lineage and history; the Lord Ruler was immortal, and he apparently still remembered the men who had supported him during the early years of his reign. The descendants of those men, no matter how poor they became, would always be favored.

The clothing would keep passing guard patrols from asking too many questions. In the cases of Kelsier and Dockson, of course, that clothing was a lie. Neither was actually noble—though, technically, Kelsier was a half-blood. In many ways, however, that was worse than being just a normal skaa.

Dockson strolled up next to Kelsier, then leaned against the battlement, resting a pair of stout arms on the stone. “You’re a few days late, Kell.”

“I decided to make a few extra stops in the plantations to the north.”

“Ah,” Dockson said. “So you
have something to do with Lord Tresting’s death.”

Kelsier smiled. “You could say that.”

“His murder caused quite a stir among the local nobility.”

“That was kind of the intention,” Kelsier said. “Though, to be honest, I wasn’t planning anything quite so dramatic. It was almost more of an accident than anything else.”

Dockson raised an eyebrow. “How do you ‘accidentally’ kill a nobleman in his own mansion?”

“With a knife in the chest,” Kelsier said lightly. “Or, rather, a pair of knives in the chest—it always pays to be careful.”

Dockson rolled his eyes.

“His death isn’t exactly a loss, Dox,” Kelsier said. “Even among the nobility, Tresting had a reputation for cruelty.”

“I don’t care about Tresting,” Dockson said. “I’m just considering the state of insanity that led me to plan another job with you. Attacking a provincial lord in his manor house, surrounded by guards…Honestly, Kell, I’d nearly forgotten how foolhardy you can be.”

“Foolhardy?” Kelsier asked with a laugh. “That wasn’t foolhardy—that was just a small diversion. You should see some of the things I’m
to do!”

Dockson stood for a moment, then he laughed too. “By the Lord Ruler, it’s good to have you back, Kell! I’m afraid I’ve grown rather boring during the last few years.”

“We’ll fix that,” Kelsier promised. He took a deep breath, ash falling lightly around him. Skaa cleaning crews were already back at work on the streets below, brushing up the dark ash. Behind, a guard patrol passed, nodding to Kelsier and Dockson. They waited in silence for the men to pass.

“It’s good to be back,” Kelsier finally said. “There’s something homey about Luthadel—even if it is a depressing, stark pit of a city. You have the meeting organized?”

Dockson nodded. “We can’t start until this evening, though. How’d you get in, anyway? I had men watching the gates.”

“Hmm? Oh, I snuck in last night.”

“But how—” Dockson paused. “Oh, right. That’s going to take some getting used to.”

Kelsier shrugged. “I don’t see why. You always work with Mistings.”

“Yes, but this is different,” Dockson said. He held up a hand to forestall further argument. “No need, Kell. I’m not hedging—I just said it would take some getting used to.”

“Fine. Who’s coming tonight?”

“Well, Breeze and Ham will be there, of course. They’re very curious about this mystery job of ours—not to mention rather annoyed that I won’t tell him what you’ve been up to these last few years.”

“Good,” Kelsier said with a smile. “Let them wonder. How about Trap?”

Dockson shook his head. “Trap’s dead. The Ministry finally caught up with him a couple months ago. Didn’t even bother sending him to the Pits—they beheaded him on the spot.”

Kelsier closed his eyes, exhaling softly. It seemed that the Steel Ministry caught up with everyone eventually. Sometimes, Kelsier felt that a skaa Misting’s life wasn’t so much about surviving as it was about picking the right time to die.

“This leaves us without a Smoker,” Kelsier finally said, opening his eyes. “You have any suggestions?”

“Ruddy,” Dockson said.

Kelsier shook his head. “No. He’s a good Smoker, but he’s not a good enough man.”

Dockson smiled. “Not a good enough man to be on a thieving crew…Kell, I
missed working with you. All right, who then?”

Kelsier thought for a moment. “Is Clubs still running that shop of his?”

“As far as I know,” Dockson said slowly.

“He’s supposed to be one of the best Smokers in the city.”

“I suppose,” Dockson said. “But…isn’t he supposed to be kind of hard to work with?”

“He’s not so bad,” Kelsier said. “Not once you get used to him. Besides, I think he might be…amenable to this particular job.”

“All right,” Dockson said, shrugging. “I’ll invite him. I think one of his relatives is a Tineye. Do you want me to invite him too?”

“Sounds good,” Kelsier said.

“All right,” Dockson said. “Well, beyond that, there’s just Yeden. Assuming he’s still interested…”

“He’ll be there,” Kelsier said.

“He’d better be,” Dockson said. “He’ll be the one paying us, after all.”

Kelsier nodded, then frowned. “You didn’t mention Marsh.”

Dockson shrugged. “I warned you. Your brother never did approve of our methods, and now…well, you know Marsh. He won’t even have anything to do with Yeden and the rebellion anymore, let alone with a bunch of criminals like us. I think we’ll have to find someone else to infiltrate the obligators.”

“No,” Kelsier said. “He’ll do it. I’ll just have to stop by to persuade him.”

“If you say so.” Dockson fell silent then, and the two stood for a moment, leaning against the railing and looking out over the ash-stained city.

Dockson finally shook his head. “This is insane, eh?”

Kelsier smiled. “Feels good, doesn’t it?”

Dockson nodded. “Fantastic.”

“It will be a job like no other,” Kelsier said, looking north—across the city and toward the twisted building at its center.

Dockson stepped away from the wall. “We have a few hours before the meeting. There’s something I want to show you. I think there’s still time—if we hurry.”

Kelsier turned with curious eyes. “Well, I
going to go and chastise my prude of a brother. But…”

“This will be worth your time,” Dockson promised.



Vin sat in the corner of the safe house’s main lair. She kept to the shadows, as usual; the more she stayed out of sight, the more the others would ignore her. She couldn’t afford to expend Luck keeping the men’s hands off of her. She’d barely had time to regenerate what she’d used a few days before, during the meeting with the obligator.

The usual rabble lounged at tables in the room, playing at dice or discussing minor jobs. Smoke from a dozen different pipes pooled at the top of the chamber, and the walls were stained dark from countless years of similar treatment. The floor was darkened with patches of ash. Like most thieving crews, Camon’s group wasn’t known for its tidiness.

There was a door at the back of the room, and beyond it lay a twisting stone stairway that led up to a false rain grate in an alleyway. This room, like so many others hidden in the imperial capital of Luthadel, wasn’t supposed to exist.

Rough laughter came from the front of the chamber, where Camon sat with a half-dozen cronies enjoying a typical afternoon of ale and crass jokes. Camon’s table sat beside the bar, where the overpriced drinks were simply another way Camon exploited those who worked for him. The Luthadel criminal element had learned quite well from the lessons taught by the nobility.

Vin tried her best to remain invisible. Six months before, she wouldn’t have believed that her life could actually get worse without Reen. Yet, despite her brother’s abusive anger, he had kept the other crewmembers from having their way with Vin. There were relatively few women on thieving crews; generally, those women who got involved with the underworld ended up as whores. Reen had always told her that a girl needed to be tough—tougher, even, than a man—if she wanted to survive.

You think some crewleader is going to want a liability like you on his team?
he had said.
I don’t even want to have to work with you, and I’m your brother.

Her back still throbbed; Camon had whipped her the day before. The blood would ruin her shirt, and she wouldn’t be able to afford another one. Camon was already retaining her wages to pay the debts Reen had left behind.

But, I am strong,
she thought.

That was the irony. The beatings almost didn’t hurt anymore, for Reen’s frequent abuses had left Vin resilient, while at the same time teaching her how to look pathetic and broken. In a way, the beatings were self-defeating. Bruises and welts mended, but each new lashing left Vin more hardened. Stronger.

Camon stood up. He reached into his vest pocket and pulled out his golden pocket watch. He nodded to one of his companions, then he scanned the room, searching for…her.

His eyes locked on Vin. “It’s time.”

Vin frowned.
Time for what?



The Ministry’s Canton of Finance was an imposing structure—but, then,
about the Steel Ministry tended to be imposing.

Tall and blocky, the building had a massive rose window in the front, though the glass was dark from the outside. Two large banners hung down beside the window, the soot-stained red cloth proclaiming praises to the Lord Ruler.

Camon studied the building with a critical eye. Vin could sense his apprehension. The Canton of Finance was hardly the most threatening of Ministry offices—the Canton of Inquisition, or even the Canton of Orthodoxy, had a far more ominous reputation. However, voluntarily entering any Ministry office…putting yourself in the power of the obligators…well, it was a thing to do only after serious consideration.

BOOK: The Mistborn Trilogy
6.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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