Authors: Brandon Sanderson
Tags: #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #bought-and-paid-for
“Indeed you do. You see, Master Dockson and I just saved your lives. Your rather incompetent crewleader left the Ministry’s Canton of Finance about an hour ago, returning directly to this safe house. He was followed by two Ministry scouts, one high-ranking prelan…and a single Steel Inquisitor.”
No one spoke.
Vin thought. She’d been right—she just hadn’t been fast enough. If there was an Inquisitor—
“I dealt with the Inquisitor,” Kelsier said. He paused, letting the implication hang in the air. What kind of person could so lightly claim to have “dealt” with an Inquisitor? Rumors said the creatures were immortal, that they could see a man’s soul, and that they were unmatched warriors.
“I require payment for services rendered,” Kelsier said.
Camon didn’t get up this time; he had fallen hard, and he was obviously disoriented. The room remained still. Finally, Milev—the dark-skinned man who was Camon’s second—scooped up the coffer of Ministry boxings and dashed forward with it. He proffered it to Kelsier.
“The money Camon got from the Ministry,” Milev explained. “Three thousand boxings.”
Milev is so eager to please him,
This is more than just Luck—either that, or it’s some sort of Luck I’ve never been able to use.
Kelsier paused, then accepted the coin chest. “And you are?”
“Milev, Master Kelsier.”
“Well, Crewleader Milev, I will consider this payment satisfactory—assuming you do one other thing for me.”
Milev paused. “What would that be?”
Kelsier nodded toward the near-unconscious Camon. “Deal with him.”
“Of course,” Milev said.
“I want him to live, Milev,” Kelsier said, holding up a finger. “But I don’t want him to enjoy it.”
Milev nodded. “We’ll make him a beggar. The Lord Ruler disapproves of the profession—Camon won’t have an easy time of it here in Luthadel.”
And Milev will dispose of him anyway as soon as he thinks this Kelsier isn’t paying attention.
“Good,” Kelsier said. Then he opened the coin chest and began counting out some golden boxings. “You’re a resourceful man, Milev. Quick on your feet, and not as easily intimidated as the others.”
“I’ve had dealings with Mistings before, Master Kelsier,” Milev said.
Kelsier nodded. “Dox,” he said, addressing his companion, “where were we going to have our meeting tonight?”
“I was thinking that we should use Clubs’s shop,” said the second man.
“Hardly a neutral location,” Kelsier said. “Especially if he decides not to join us.”
Kelsier looked to Milev. “I’m planning a job in this area. It would be useful to have the support of some locals.” He held out a pile of what looked like a hundred boxings. “We’ll require use of your safe house for the evening. This can be arranged?”
“Of course,” Milev said, taking the coins eagerly.
“Good,” Kelsier said. “Now, get out.”
“Out?” Milev asked hesitantly.
“Yes,” Kelsier said. “Take your men—including your former leader—and leave. I want to have a private conversation with Mistress Vin.”
The room grew silent again, and Vin knew she wasn’t the only one wondering how Kelsier knew her name.
“Well, you heard him!” Milev snapped. He waved for a group of thugs to go grab Camon, then he shooed the rest of the crewmembers up the stairs. Vin watched them go, growing apprehensive. This Kelsier was a powerful man, and instinct told her that powerful men were dangerous. Did he know of her Luck? Obviously; what other reason would he have for singling her out?
How is this Kelsier going to try and use me?
she thought, rubbing her arm where she’d hit the floor.
“By the way, Milev,” Kelsier said idly. “When I say ‘private,’ I mean that I don’t want to be spied on by the four men watching us through peek-holes behind the far wall. Kindly take them up into the alley with you.”
Milev paled. “Of course, Master Kelsier.”
“Good. And, in the alleyway you’ll the find the two dead Ministry spies. Kindly dispose of the corpses for us.”
Milev nodded, turning.
“And Milev,” Kelsier added.
Milev turned back again.
“See that none of your men betray us,” Kelsier said quietly. And Vin felt it again—a renewed pressure on her emotions. “This crew already has the eye of the Steel Ministry—do not make an enemy of me as well.”
Milev nodded sharply, then disappeared into the stairwell, pulling the door closed behind him. A few moments later, Vin heard footsteps from the peek room; then all was still. She was alone with a man who was—for some reason—so singularly impressive that he could intimidate an entire room full of cutthroats and thieves.
She eyed the bolt door. Kelsier was watching her. What would he do if she ran?
He claims to have killed an Inquisitor,
And…he used Luck. I have to stay, if just long enough to find out what he knows.
Kelsier’s smile deepened, then finally he laughed. “That was
too much fun, Dox.”
The other man, the one Camon had called Dockson, snorted and walked toward the front of the room. Vin tensed, but he didn’t move toward her, instead strolling to the bar.
“You were insufferable enough before, Kell,” Dockson said. “I don’t know how I’m going to handle this new reputation of yours. At least, I’m not sure how I’m going to handle it and maintain a straight face.”
“Yes, that’s it,” Dockson said. “I’m terribly jealous of your ability to intimidate petty criminals. If it’s of any note to you, I think you were too harsh on Camon.”
Kelsier walked over and took a seat at one of the room’s tables. His mirth darkened slightly as he spoke. “You saw what he was doing to the girl.”
“Actually, I didn’t,” Dockson said dryly, rummaging through the bar’s stores. “Someone was blocking the doorway.”
Kelsier shrugged. “Look at her, Dox. The poor thing’s been beaten nearly senseless. I don’t feel any sympathy for the man.”
Vin remained where she was, keeping watch on both men. As the tension of the moment grew weaker, her wounds began to throb again. The blow between her shoulder blades—that would be a large bruise—and the slap to her face burned as well. She was still a little dizzy.
Kelsier was watching her. Vin clinched her teeth. Pain. She could deal with pain.
“You need anything, child?” Dockson asked. “A wet handkerchief for that face, perhaps?”
She didn’t respond, instead remaining focused on Kelsier.
Come on. Tell me what you want with me. Make your play.
Dockson finally shrugged, then ducked beneath the bar for a moment. He eventually came up with a couple of bottles.
“Anything good?” Kelsier asked, turning.
“What do you think?” Dockson asked. “Even among thieves, Camon isn’t exactly known for his refinement. I have socks worth more than this wine.”
Kelsier sighed. “Give me a cup anyway.” Then he glanced back at Vin. “You want anything?”
Vin didn’t respond.
Kelsier smiled. “Don’t worry—we’re far less frightening than your friends think.”
“I don’t think they were her friends, Kell,” Dockson said from behind the bar.
“Good point,” Kelsier said. “Regardless, child, you don’t have anything to fear from us. Other than Dox’s breath.”
Dockson rolled his eyes. “Or Kell’s jokes.”
Vin stood quietly. She could act weak, the way she had with Camon, but instincts told her that these men wouldn’t respond well to that tactic. So, she remained where she was, assessing the situation.
The calmness fell upon her again. It encouraged her to be at ease, to be trusting, to simply do as the men were suggesting….
She stayed where she was.
Kelsier raised an eyebrow. “That’s unexpected.”
“What?” Dockson asked as he poured a cup of wine.
“Nothing,” Kelsier said, studying Vin.
“You want a drink or not, lass?” Dockson asked.
Vin said nothing. All her life, as long as she could remember, she’d had her Luck. It made her strong, and it gave her an edge over other thieves. It was probably why she was still alive. Yet, all that time, she’d never really known what it was or why she could use it. Logic and instinct now told her the same thing—that she needed to find out what this man knew.
However he intended to use her, whatever his plans, she needed to endure them. She had to find out how he’d grown so powerful.
“Ale,” she finally said.
“Ale?” Kelsier asked. “That’s it?”
Vin nodded, watching him carefully. “I like it.”
Kelsier rubbed his chin. “We’ll have to work on that,” he said. “Anyway, have a seat.”
Hesitant, Vin walked over and sat down opposite Kelsier at the small table. Her wounds throbbed, but she couldn’t afford to show weakness. Weakness killed. She had to pretend to ignore the pain. At least, sitting as she was, her head cleared.
Dockson joined them a moment later, giving Kelsier a glass of wine and Vin her mug of ale. She didn’t take a drink.
“Who are you?” she asked in a quiet voice.
Kelsier raised an eyebrow. “You’re a blunt one, eh?”
Vin didn’t reply.
Kelsier sighed. “So much for my intriguing air of mystery.”
Dockson snorted quietly.
Kelsier smiled. “My name is Kelsier. I’m what you might call a crewleader—but I run a crew that isn’t like any you’ve probably known. Men like Camon, along with his crew, like to think of themselves as predators, feeding off of the nobility and the various organizations of the Ministry.”
Vin shook her head. “Not predators. Scavengers.” One would have thought, perhaps, that so close to the Lord Ruler, such things as thieving crews would not be able to exist. Yet, Reen had shown her that the opposite was true: Powerful, rich nobility congregated around the Lord Ruler. And, where power and riches existed, so did corruption—especially since the Lord Ruler tended to police his nobility far less than he did the skaa. It had to do, apparently, with his fondness for their ancestors.
Either way, thieving crews like Camon’s were the rats who fed on the city’s corruption. And, like rats, they were impossible to entirely exterminate—especially in a city with the population of Luthadel.
“Scavengers,” Kelsier said, smiling; apparently he did that a lot. “That’s an appropriate description, Vin. Well, Dox and I, we’re scavengers too…we’re just a higher quality of scavenger. We’re more well-bred, you might say—or perhaps just more ambitious.”
She frowned. “You’re noblemen?”
“Lord, no,” Dockson said.
“Or, at least,” Kelsier said, “not full-blooded ones.”
“Half-breeds aren’t supposed to exist,” Vin said carefully. “The Ministry hunts them.”
Kelsier raised an eyebrow. “Half-breeds like you?”
Vin felt a shock.
“Even the Steel Ministry isn’t infallible, Vin,” Kelsier said. “If they can miss you, then they can miss others.”
Vin paused thoughtfully. “Milev. He called you Mistings. Those are some kind of Allomancer, right?”
Dockson glanced at Kelsier. “She’s observant,” the shorter man said with an appreciative nod.
“Indeed,” Kelsier agreed. “The man did call us Mistings, Vin—though the appellation was a bit hasty, since neither Dox nor I are technically Mistings. We do, however, associate with them quite a bit.”
Vin sat quietly for a moment, sitting beneath the scrutiny of the two men. Allomancy. The mystical power held by the nobility, granted to them by the Lord Ruler some thousand years before as a reward for their loyalty. It was basic Ministry doctrine; even a skaa like Vin knew that much. The nobility had Allomancy and privilege because of their ancestors; the skaa were punished for the same reason.
The truth was, however, that she didn’t really know what Allomancy was. It had something to do with fighting, she’d always assumed. One “Misting,” as they were called, was said to be dangerous enough to kill an entire thieving team. Yet, the skaa she knew spoke of the power in whispered, uncertain tones. Before this moment, she’d never even paused to consider the possibility that it might simply be the same thing as her Luck.
“Tell me, Vin,” Kelsier said, leaning forward with interest. “Do you realize what you did to that obligator in the Canton of Finance?”
“I used my Luck,” Vin said quietly. “I use it to make people less angry.”
“Or less suspicious,” Kelsier said. “Easier to scam.”
Kelsier held up a finger. “There are a lot of things you’re going to have to learn. Techniques, rules, and exercises. One lesson, however, cannot wait.
use emotional Allomancy on an obligator. They’re all trained to recognize when their passions are being manipulated. Even the high nobility are forbidden from Pulling or Pushing the emotions of a obligator. You are what caused that obligator to send for an Inquisitor.”
“Pray the creature never catches your trail again, lass,” Dockson said quietly, sipping his wine.
Vin paled. “You didn’t kill the Inquisitor?”
Kelsier shook his head. “I just distracted him for a bit—which was quite dangerous enough, I might add. Don’t worry, many of the rumors about them aren’t true. Now that he’s lost your trail, he won’t be able to find you again.”
“Most likely,” Dockson said.
Vin glanced at the shorter man apprehensively.
“Most likely,” Kelsier agreed. “There are a lot of things we don’t know about the Inquisitors—they don’t seem to follow the normal rules. Those spikes through their eyes, for instance, should kill them. Nothing I’ve learned about Allomancy has ever provided an explanation for how those creatures keep living. If it were only a regular Misting Seeker on your trail, we wouldn’t need to worry. An Inquistor…well, you’ll want to keep your eyes open. Of course, you already seem pretty good at that.”
Vin sat uncomfortably for a moment. Eventually, Kelsier nodded to her mug of ale. “You aren’t drinking.”