Authors: Brandon Sanderson
Tags: #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #bought-and-paid-for
Beside Kelsier, Dockson suddenly grew stiff.
The second man was tall with a strong build. As he turned, Kelsier was able to see that a thick metal spike had been pounded tip-first through each of the man’s eyes. With shafts as wide as an eye socket, the nail-like spikes were long enough that their sharp points jutted out about an inch from the back of the man’s clean-shaven skull. The flat spike ends shone like two silvery disks, sticking out of the sockets in the front, where the eyes should have been.
A Steel Inquisitor.
doing here?” Dockson asked.
“Stay calm,” Kelsier said, trying to force himself to do the same. The Inquisitor looked toward them, spiked eyes regarding Kelsier, before turning in the direction that Camon and the girl had gone. Like all Inquisitors, he wore intricate eye tattoos—mostly black, with one stark red line—that marked him as a high-ranking member of the Canton of Inquisition.
“He’s not here for us,” Kelsier said. “I’m not burning anything—he’ll think that we’re just ordinary noblemen.”
“The girl,” Dockson said.
Kelsier nodded. “You say Camon’s been running this scam on the Ministry for a while. Well, the girl must have been detected by one of the obligators. They’re trained to recognize when an Allomancer tampers with their emotions.”
Dockson frowned thoughtfully. Across the street, the Inquisitor conferred with the other obligator, then the two of them turned to walk in the direction that Camon had gone. There was no urgency to their pace.
“They must have sent a tail to follow them,” Dockson said.
“This is the Ministry,” Kelsier said. “There’ll be two tails, at least.”
Dockson nodded. “Camon will lead them directly back to his safe house. Dozens of men will die. They’re not all the most admirable people, but…”
“They fight the Final Empire, in their own way,” Kelsier said. “Besides, I’m not about to let a possible Mistborn slip away from us—I want to talk to that girl. Can you deal with those tails?”
“I said I’d become boring, Kell,” Dockson said. “Not sloppy. I can handle a couple of Ministry flunkies.”
“Good,” Kelsier said, reaching into his cloak pocket and pulling out a small vial. A collection of metal flakes floated in an alcohol solution within. Iron, steel, tin, pewter, copper, bronze, zinc, and brass—the eight basic Allomantic metals. Kelsier pulled off the stopper and downed the contents in a single swift gulp.
He pocketed the now empty vial, wiping his mouth. “I’ll handle that Inquisitor.”
Dockson looked apprehensive. “You’re going to try and take him?”
Kelsier shook his head. “Too dangerous. I’ll just divert him. Now, get going—we don’t want those tails finding the safe house.”
Dockson nodded. “Meet back at the fifteenth crossroad,” he said before taking off down the alley and disappearing around a corner.
Kelsier gave his friend a count of ten before reaching within himself and burning his metals. His body came awash with strength, clarity, and power.
Kelsier smiled; then—burning zinc—he reached out and yanked firmly on the Inquisitor’s emotions. The creature froze in place, then spun, looking back toward the Canton building.
Let’s have a chase now, you and I,
We arrived in Terris earlier this week, and, I have to say, I find the countryside beautiful. The great mountains to the north—with their bald snowcaps and forested mantles—stand like watchful gods over this land of green fertility. My own lands to the south are mostly flat; I think that they might look less dreary if there were a few mountains to vary the terrain.
The people here are mostly herdsmen—though timber harvesters and farmers are not uncommon. It is a pastoral land, certainly. It seems odd that a place so remarkably agrarian could have produced the prophecies and theologies upon which the entire world now relies.
CAMON COUNTED HIS COINS, DROPPING THE
golden boxings one by one into the small chest on his table. He still looked a bit stunned, as well he should have. Three thousand boxings was a fabulous amount of money—far more than Camon would earn in even a very good year. His closest cronies sat at the table with him, ale—and laughter—flowing freely.
Vin sat in her corner, trying to understand her feelings of dread. Three thousand boxings. The Ministry should never have let such a sum go so quickly. Prelan Arriev had seemed too cunning to be fooled with ease.
Camon dropped another coin into the chest. Vin couldn’t decide if he was being foolish or clever by making such a display of wealth. Underworld crews worked under a strict agreement: Everyone received a cut of earnings in proportion to their status in the group. While it was sometimes tempting to kill the crewleader and take his money for yourself, a successful leader created more wealth for everyone. Kill him prematurely, and you would cut off future earnings—not to mention earn the wrath of the other crewmembers.
Still, three thousand boxings…that would be enough to tempt even the most logical thief. It was all wrong.
I have to get out of here
, Vin decided.
Get away from Camon, and the lair, in case something happens.
And yet…leave? By herself? She’d never been alone before; she’d always had Reen. He’d been the one to lead her from city to city, joining different thieving crews. She loved solitude. But the thought of being by herself, out in the city, horrified her. That was why she’d never run away from Reen; that was why she’d stayed with Camon.
She couldn’t go. But she had to. She looked up from her corner, scanning the room. There weren’t many people in the crew for whom she felt any sort of attachment. Yet, there were a couple that she would be sorry to see hurt, should the obligators actually move against the crew. A few men who hadn’t tried to abuse her, or—in very rare cases—who had actually shown her some measure of kindness.
Ulef was at the top of that list. He wasn’t a friend, but he was the closest thing she had now that Reen was gone. If he would go with her, then at least she wouldn’t be alone. Cautiously, Vin stood and moved along the side of the room to where Ulef sat drinking with some of the other younger crewmembers.
She tugged on Ulef’s sleeve. He turned toward her, only slightly drunk. “Vin?”
“Ulef,” she whispered. “We need to go.”
He frowned. “Go? Go where?”
“Away,” Vin whispered. “Out of here.”
Vin nodded urgently.
Ulef glanced back at his friends, who were chuckling among themselves, shooting suggestive looks at Vin and Ulef.
Ulef flushed. “You want to go somewhere, just you and I?”
“Not like that,” Vin said. “Just…I need to leave the lair. And I don’t want to be alone.”
Ulef frowned. He leaned closer, a slight stink of ale on his breath. “What is this about, Vin?” he asked quietly.
Vin paused. “I…think something might happen, Ulef,” she whispered. “Something with the obligators. I just don’t want to be in the lair right now.”
Ulef sat quietly for a moment. “All right,” he finally said. “How long will this take?”
“I don’t know,” Vin said. “Until evening, at least. But we have to go.
He nodded slowly.
“Wait here for a moment,” Vin whispered, turning. She shot a glance at Camon, who was laughing at one of his own jokes. Then she quietly moved through the ash-stained, smoky chamber into the lair’s back room.
The crew’s general sleeping quarters consisted of a simple, elongated corridor lined with bedrolls. It was crowded and uncomfortable, but it was far better than the cold alleyways she’d slept in during her years traveling with Reen.
Alleyways that I might have to get used to again,
she thought. She had survived them before. She could do so again.
She moved to her pallet, the muffled sounds of men laughing and drinking sounding from the other room. Vin knelt down, regarding her few possessions. If something did happen to the crew, she wouldn’t be able to come back to the lair. Ever. But, she couldn’t take the bedroll with her now—it was far too obvious. That left only the small box that contained her personal effects: a pebble from each city she’d visited, the earring Reen said Vin’s mother had given her, and a bit of obsidian the size of a large coin. It was chipped into an irregular pattern—Reen had carried it as some kind of good luck charm. It was the only thing he’d left behind when he’d snuck away from the crew half a year before. Abandoning her.
Just like he always said he would,
Vin told herself sternly.
I never thought he’d actually go—and that’s exactly why he had to leave.
She gripped the bit of obsidian in her hand and pocketed the pebbles. The earring she put in her ear—it was a very simple thing. Little more than a stud, not even worth stealing, which was why she didn’t fear leaving it in the back room. Still, Vin had rarely worn it, for fear that the ornamentation would make her look more feminine.
She had no money, but Reen had taught her how to scavenge and beg. Both were difficult in the Final Empire, especially in Luthadel, but she would find a way, if she had to.
Vin left her box and bedroll, slipping back out into the common room. Maybe she was overreacting; perhaps nothing would happen to the crew. But, if it did…well, if there was one thing Reen had taught her, it was how to protect her neck. Bringing Ulef was a good idea. He had contacts in Luthadel. If something happened to Camon’s crew, Ulef could probably get her and him jobs on—
Vin froze just inside the main room. Ulef wasn’t at the table where she had left him. Instead, he stood furtively near the front of the room. Near the bar. Near…Camon.
“What is this!” Camon stood, his face red as sunlight. He pushed his stool out of the way, then lurched toward her, half drunk. “Running away? Off to betray me to the Ministry, are you!”
Vin dashed toward the stairwell door, desperately scrambling around tables and past crewmembers.
Camon’s hurled wooden stool hit her square in the back, throwing her to the ground. Pain flared between her shoulders; several crewmembers cried out as the stool bounced off of her and thumped against the floorboards nearby.
Vin lay in a daze. Then…something within her—something she knew of but didn’t understand—gave her strength. Her head stopped swimming, her pain becoming a focus. She climbed awkwardly to her feet.
Camon was there. He backhanded her even as she stood. Her head snapped to the side from the blow, twisting her neck so painfully that she barely felt herself hit the floor again.
Camon bent over, grabbing her by the front of her shirt and pulling her up, raising his fist. Vin didn’t pause to think or to speak; there was only one thing to do. She used up all of her Luck in a single furious effort, pushing against Camon, calming his fury.
Camon teetered. For a moment, his eyes softened. He lowered her slightly.
Then the anger returned to his eyes. Hard. Terrifying.
“Damn wench,” Camon muttered, grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her. “That backstabbing brother of yours never respected me, and you’re the same. I was too easy on you both. Should have…”
Vin tried to twist free, but Camon’s grip was firm. She searched desperately for aid from the other crewmembers—however, she knew what she would find. Indifference. They turned away, their faces embarrassed but not concerned. Ulef still stood near Camon’s table, looking down guiltily.
In her mind, she thought she heard a voice whispering to her. Reen’s voice.
Fool! Ruthlessness—it’s the most logical of emotions. You don’t have any friends in the underworld. You’ll never have any friends in the underworld!
She renewed her struggles, but Camon hit her again, knocking her to the ground. The blow stunned her, and she gasped, breath knocked from her lungs.
she thought, mind muddled.
He won’t kill me. He needs me.
Yet, as she turned weakly, she saw Camon looming above her in the caliginous room, drunken fury showing in his face. She knew this time would be different; it would be no simple beating. He thought that she intended to betray him to the Ministry. He wasn’t in control.
There was murder in his eyes.
Vin thought with desperation, reaching for her Luck, trying to make it work. There was no response. Luck, such as it was, had failed her.
Camon bent down, muttering to himself as he grabbed her by the shoulder. He raised an arm—his meaty hand forming another fist, his muscles tensing, an angry bead of sweat slipping off his chin and hitting her on the cheek.
A few feet away, the stairwell door shook, then burst open. Camon paused, arm upraised as he glared toward the door and whatever unfortunate crewmember had chosen such an inopportune moment to return to the lair.
Vin seized the distraction. Ignoring the newcomer, she tried to shake herself free from Camon’s grip, but she was too weak. Her face blazed from where he’d hit her, and she tasted blood on her lip. Her shoulder had been twisted awkwardly, and her side ached from where she’d fallen. She clawed at Camon’s hand, but she suddenly felt weak, her inner strength failing her just as her Luck had. Her pains suddenly seemed greater, more daunting, more…demanding.
She turned toward the door desperately. She was close—painfully close. She had nearly escaped. Just a little farther…
Then she saw the man standing quietly in the stairwell doorway. He was unfamiliar to her. Tall and hawk-faced, he had light blond hair and wore a relaxed nobleman’s suit, his cloak hanging free. He was, perhaps, in his mid-thirties. He wore no hat, nor did he carry a dueling cane.
And he looked very, very angry.
“What is this?” Camon demanded. “Who are you?”
How did he get by the scouts…?
Vin thought, struggling to get her wits back. Pain. She could deal with pain.
The obligators…did they send him?
The newcomer looked down at Vin, and his expression softened slightly. Then he looked up at Camon and his eyes grew dark.
Camon’s angry demands were cut off as he was thrown backward as if had been punched by a powerful force. His arm was ripped free from Vin’s shoulder, and he toppled to the ground, causing the floorboards to shake.
The room fell quiet.
Have to get away,
Vin thought, forcing herself up to her knees. Camon groaned in pain from a few feet away, and Vin crawled away from him, slipping beneath an unoccupied table. The lair had a hidden exit, a trapdoor beside the far back wall. If she could crawl to it—
Suddenly, Vin felt an overwhelming peace. The emotion slammed into her like a sudden weight, her emotions squished silent, as if crushed by a forceful hand. Her fear puffed out like an extinguished candle, and even her pain seemed unimportant.
She slowed, wondering why she had been so worried. She stood up, pausing as she faced the trapdoor. She breathed heavily, still a little dazed.
Camon just tried to kill me!
the logical part of her mind warned.
And someone else is attacking the lair. I have to get away!
However, her emotions didn’t match the logic. She felt…serene. Unworried. And more than a little bit curious.
Someone had just used Luck on her.
She recognized it somehow, even though she’d never felt it upon her before. She paused beside the table, one hand on the wood, then slowly turned around. The newcomer still stood in the stairwell doorway. He studied her with a critical eye, then smiled in a disarming sort of way.
What is going on?
The newcomer finally stepped into the room. The rest of Camon’s crew remained sitting at their tables. They looked surprised, but oddly unworried.
He’s using Luck on them all. But…how can he do it to so many at once?
Vin had never been able to store up enough Luck to do more than give the occasional, brief push.
As the newcomer entered the room, Vin could finally see that a second person stood in the stairwell behind him. This second man was less imposing. He was shorter, with a dark half beard and close-cropped straight hair. He also wore a nobleman’s suit, though his was less sharply tailored.
On the other side of the room, Camon groaned and sat up, holding his head. He glanced at the newcomers. “Master Dockson! Why, uh, well, this is a surprise!”
“Indeed,” said the shorter man—Dockson. Vin frowned, realizing she sensed a slight familiarity to these men. She recognized them from somewhere.
The Canton of Finance. They were sitting in the waiting room when Camon and I left.
Camon climbed to his feet, studying the blond newcomer. Camon looked down at the man’s hands, both of which were lined with strange, overlapping scars. “By the Lord Ruler…” Camon whispered. “The Survivor of Hathsin!”
Vin frowned. The title was unfamiliar to her. Should she know this man? Her wounds still throbbed despite the peace she felt, and her head was dizzy. She leaned on the table for support, but did not sit.
Whoever this newcomer was, Camon obviously thought him important. “Why, Master Kelsier!” Camon sputtered. “This is a rare honor!”
The newcomer—Kelsier—shook his head. “You know, I’m not really interested in listening to you.”
Camon let out an “urk” of pain as he was thrown backward again. Kelsier made no obvious gesture to perform the feat. Yet, Camon collapsed to the ground, as if shoved by some unseen force.
Camon fell quiet, and Kelsier scanned the room. “The rest of you know who I am?”
Many of the crewmembers nodded.
“Good. I’ve come to your lair because you, my friends, owe me a great debt.”
The room was silent save for Camon’s groans. Finally, one of the crewmen spoke. “We…do, Master Kelsier?”