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sf_fantasySandersonFinal EmpireSanderson, fantasy's newest master tale spinner, author of the acclaimed debut Elantris, dares to turn a genre on its head by asking a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails? What kind of world results when the Dark Lord is in charge? The answer will be found in the Mistborn Trilogy, a saga of surprises and magical martial-arts action that begins in Mistborn.For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler's most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark. Kelsier recruited the underworld's elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel's plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she's a half-Skaa orphan, but she's lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.Readers of Elantris thought they'd discovered someone special in Brandon Sanderson. Mistborn proves they were right.Final Empire, book 1SandersonBETH SANDERSON,’s been reading fantasy For longer than I’ve been alive, And fully deserves To have a grandson as loony as she is.again, I find myself in need of thanking my wonderful agent, Joshua Bilmes, and equally amazing editor, Moshe Feder. They did a wonderful job with this book, and I’m proud to have the opportunity to work with them.always, my tireless writing groups have consistently provided feedback and encouragement: Alan Layton, Janette Layton, Kaylynne ZoBell, Nate Hatfield, Bryce Cundick, Kimball Larsen, and Emily Scorup. Alpha readers, who saw a version of this book in a much rougher form and helped me shape it into what you see now, included Krista Olson, Benjamin R. Olson, Micah Demoux, Eric Ehlers, Izzy Whiting, Stacy Whitman, Kristina Kugler, Megan Kauffman, Sarah Bylund, C. Lee Player, Ethan Skarstedt, Jillena O’Brien, Ryan Jurado, and the incalculable Peter Ahlstrom.are also a few people in particular whom I would like to thank. Isaac Stewart, who did the map work for this novel, was an invaluable resource both in the idea department and with visual cues. Heather Kirby had excellent advice to help me with the mysterious inner workings of a young woman’s mind. The proofreading done by Chersti Stapely and Kayleena Richins was much appreciated.addition, I’d like to acknowledge some of the very important people who work behind the scenes on the books that you buy. Irene Gallo, the art director at Tor, does a brilliant job—it’s because of her that both this book and Elantris have the wonderful covers that they do. Also, David Moench, in the Tor publicity department, went far beyond the call of duty in helping make Elantris a success. Both have my thanks., as always, I am thankful to my family for their continued support and enthusiasm.particular, I’d like to thank my brother, Jordan, for his enthusiasm, support, and loyalty. Check out his handiwork at my Web site: www.brandonsanderson.com., I worry that I’m not the hero everyone thinks I am.philosophers assure me that this is the time, that the signs have been met. But I still wonder if they have the wrong man. So many people depend on me. They say I will hold the future of the entire world on my arms.would they think if they knew that their champion—the Hero of Ages, their savior—doubted himself? Perhaps they wouldn’t be shocked at all. In a way, this is what worries me most. Maybe, in their hearts, they wonder—just as I do.they see me, do they see a liar?FELL FROM THE SKY.Tresting frowned, glancing up at the ruddy midday sky as his servants scuttled forward, opening a parasol over Tresting and his distinguished guest. Ashfalls weren’t that uncommon in the Final Empire, but Tresting had hoped to avoid getting soot stains on his fine new suit coat and red vest, which had just arrived via canal boat from Luthadel itself. Fortunately, there wasn’t much wind; the parasol would likely be effective.stood with his guest on a small hilltop patio that overlooked the fields. Hundreds of people in brown smocks worked in the falling ash, caring for the crops. There was a sluggishness to their efforts—but, of course, that was the way of the skaa. The peasants were an indolent, unproductive lot.didn’t complain, of course; they knew better than that. Instead, they simply worked with bowed heads, moving about their work with quiet apathy. The passing whip of a taskmaster would force them into dedicated motion for a few moments, but as soon as the taskmaster passed, they would return to their languor.turned to the man standing beside him on the hill. “One would think,” Tresting noted, “that a thousand years of working in fields would have bred them to be a little more effective at it.”obligator turned, raising an eyebrow—the motion done as if to highlight his most distinctive feature, the intricate tattoos that laced the skin around his eyes. The tattoos were enormous, reaching all the way across his brow and up the sides of his nose. This was a full prelan—a very important obligator indeed. Tresting had his own, personal obligators back at the manor, but they were only minor functionaries, with barely a few marks around their eyes. This man had arrived from Luthadel with the same canal boat that had brought Tresting’s new suit.

“You should see city skaa, Tresting,” the obligator said, turning back to watch the skaa workers. “These are actually quite diligent compared to those inside Luthadel. You have more... direct control over your skaa here. How many would you say you lose a month?”

“Oh, a half dozen or so,” Tresting said. “Some to beatings, some to exhaustion.”


“Never!” Tresting said. “When I first inherited this land from my father, I had a few runaways—but I executed their families. The rest quickly lost heart. I’ve never understood men who have trouble with their skaa—I find the creatures easy to control, if you show a properly firm hand.”obligator nodded, standing quietly in his gray robes. He seemed pleased—which was a good thing. The skaa weren’t actually Tresting’s property. Like all skaa, they belonged to the Lord Ruler; Tresting only leased the workers from his God, much in the same way he paid for the services of His obligators.obligator looked down, checking his pocket watch, then glanced up at the sun. Despite the ashfall, the sun was bright this day, shining a brilliant crimson red behind the smoky blackness of the upper sky. Tresting removed a handkerchief and wiped his brow, thankful for the parasol’s shade against the midday heat.

“Very well, Tresting,” the obligator said. “I will carry your proposal to Lord Venture, as requested. He will have a favorable report from me on your operations here.”held in a sigh of relief. An obligator was required to witness any contract or business deal between noblemen. True, even a lowly obligator like the ones Tresting employed could serve as such a witness—but it meant so much more to impress Straff Venture’s own obligator.obligator turned toward him. “I will leave back down the canal this afternoon.”

“So soon?” Tresting asked. “Wouldn’t you care to stay for supper?”

“No,” the obligator replied. “Though there is another matter I wish to discuss with you. I came not only at the behest of Lord Venture, but to... look in on some matters for the Canton of Inquisition. Rumors say that you like to dally with your skaa women.”felt a chill.obligator smiled; he likely meant it to be disarming, but Tresting only found it eerie. “Don’t worry yourself, Tresting,” the obligator said. “If there had been any real worries about your actions, a Steel Inquisitor would have been sent here in my place.”nodded slowly. Inquisitor. He’d never seen one of the inhuman creatures, but he had heard...stories.

“I have been satisfied regarding your actions with the skaa women,” the obligator said, looking back over the fields. “What I’ve seen and heard here indicate that you always clean up your messes. A man such as yourself—efficient, productive—could go far in Luthadel. A few more years of work, some inspired mercantile deals, and who knows?”obligator turned away, and Tresting found himself smiling. It wasn’t a promise, or even an endorsement—for the most part, obligators were more bureaucrats and witnesses than they were priests—but to hear such praise from one of the Lord Ruler’s own servants...Tresting knew that some nobility considered the obligators to be unsettling—some men even considered them a bother—but at that moment, Testing could have kissed his distinguished guest.turned back toward the skaa, who worked quietly beneath the bloody sun and the lazy flakes of ash. Tresting had always been a country nobleman, living on his plantation, dreaming of perhaps moving into Luthadel itself. He had heard of the balls and the parties, the glamour and the intrigue, and it excited him to no end.’ll have to celebrate tonight, he thought. There was that young girl in the fourteenth hovel that he’d been watching for some time....smiled again. A few more years of work, the obligator had said. But could Tresting perhaps speed that up, if he worked a little harder? His skaa population had been growing lately. Perhaps if he pushed them a bit more, he could bring in an extra harvest this summer and fulfill his contract with Lord Venture in extra measure.nodded as he watched the crowd of lazy skaa, some working with their hoes, others on hands and knees, pushing the ash away from the fledgling crops. They didn’t complain. They didn’t hope. They barely dared think. That was the way it should be, for they were skaa. They were—froze as one of the skaa looked up. The man met Tresting’s eyes, a spark—no, a fire—of defiance showing in his expression. Tresting had never seen anything like it, not in the face of a skaa. Tresting stepped backward reflexively, a chill running through him as the strange, straight-backed skaa held his eyes.smiled.looked away. “Kurdon!” he snapped.burly taskmaster rushed up the incline. “Yes, my lord?”turned, pointing at...frowned. Where had that skaa been standing? Working with their heads bowed, bodies stained by soot and sweat, they were so hard to tell apart. Tresting paused, searching. He thought he knew the place...an empty spot, where nobody now stood., no. That couldn’t be it. The man couldn’t have disappeared from the group so quickly. Where would he have gone? He must be in there, somewhere, working with his head now properly bowed. Still, his moment of apparent defiance was inexcusable.

“My lord?” Kurdon asked again.obligator stood at the side, watching curiously. It would not be wise to let the man know that one of the skaa had acted so brazenly.

“Work the skaa in that southern section a little harder,” Tresting ordered, pointing. “I see them being sluggish, even for skaa. Beat a few of them.”shrugged, but nodded. It wasn’t much of a reason for a beating—but, then, he didn’t need much of a reason to give the workers a beating.were, after all, only skaa.had heard stories.had heard whispers of times when once, long ago, the sun had not been red. Times when the sky hadn’t been clogged by smoke and ash, when plants hadn’t struggled to grow, and when skaa hadn’t been slaves. Times before the Lord Ruler. Those days, however, were nearly forgotten. Even the legends were growing vague.watched the sun, his eyes following the giant red disk as it crept toward the western horizon. He stood quietly for a long moment, alone in the empty fields. The day’s work was done; the skaa had been herded back to their hovels. Soon the mists would come., Kelsier sighed, then turned to pick his way across the furrows and pathways, weaving between large heaps of ash. He avoided stepping on the plants—though he wasn’t sure why he bothered. The crops hardly seemed worth the effort. Wan, with wilted brown leaves, the plants seemed as depressed as the people who tended them.skaa hovels loomed in the waning light. Already, Kelsier could see the mists beginning to form, clouding the air, and giving the moundlike buildings a surreal, intangible look. The hovels stood unguarded; there was no need for watchers, for no skaa would venture outside once night arrived. Their fear of the mists was far too strong.’ll have to cure them of that someday, Kelsier thought as he approached one of the larger buildings. But, all things in their own time. He pulled open the door and slipped inside.stopped immediately. Kelsier closed the door, then turned with a smile to confront the room of about thirty skaa. A firepit burned weakly at the center, and the large cauldron beside it was filled with vegetable-dappled water—the beginnings of an evening meal. The soup would be bland, of course. Still, the smell was enticing.

“Good evening, everyone,” Kelsier said with a smile, resting his pack beside his feet and leaning against the door. “How was your day?”words broke the silence, and the women returned to their dinner preparations. A group of men sitting at a crude table, however, continued to regard Kelsier with dissatisfied expressions.

“Our day was filled with work, traveler,” said Tepper, one of the skaa elders. “Something you managed to avoid.”

“Fieldwork hasn’t ever really suited me,” Kelsier said. “It’s far too hard on my delicate skin.” He smiled, holding up hands and arms that were lined with layers and layers of thin scars. They covered his skin, running lengthwise, as if some beast had repeatedly raked its claws up and down his arms.snorted. He was young to be an elder, probably barely into his forties—at most, he might be five years Kelsier’s senior. However, the scrawny man held himself with the air of one who liked to be in charge.

“This is no time for levity,” Tepper said sternly. “When we harbor a traveler, we expect him to behave himself and avoid suspicion. When you ducked away from the fields this morning, you could have earned a whipping for the men around you.”

“True,” Kelsier said. “But those men could also have been whipped for standing in the wrong place, for pausing too long, or for coughing when a taskmaster walked by. I once saw a man beaten because his master claimed that he had ‘blinked inappropriately.’ ”sat with narrow eyes and a stiff posture, his arm resting on the table. His expression was unyielding.sighed, rolling his eyes. “Fine. If you want me to go, I’ll be off then.” He slung his pack up on his shoulder and nonchalantly pulled open the door.mist immediately began to pour through the portal, drifting lazily across Kelsier’s body, pooling on the floor and creeping across the dirt like a hesitant animal. Several people gasped in horror, though most of them were too stunned to make a sound. Kelsier stood for a moment, staring out into the dark mists, their shifting currents lit feebly by the cooking pit’s coals.

“Close the door.” Tepper’s words were a plea, not a command.did as requested, pushing the door closed and stemming the flood of white mist. “The mist is not what you think. You fear it far too much.”

“Men who venture into the mist lose their souls,” a woman whispered. Her words raised a question. Had Kelsier walked in the mists? What, then, had happened to his soul?you only knew, Kelsier thought. “Well, I guess this means I’m staying.” He waved for a boy to bring him a stool. “It’s a good thing, too—it would have been a shame for me to leave before I shared my news.”than one person perked up at the comment. This was the real reason they tolerated him—the reason even the timid peasants would harbor a man such as Kelsier, a skaa who defied the Lord Ruler’s will by traveling from plantation to plantation. A renegade he might be—a danger to the entire community—but he brought news from the outside world.

“I come from the north,” Kelsier said. “From lands where the Lord Ruler’s touch is less noticeable.” He spoke in a clear voice, and people leaned unconsciously toward him as they worked. On the next day, Kelsier’s words would be repeated to the several hundred people who lived in other hovels. The skaa might be subservient, but they were incurable gossips.

“Local lords rule in the West,” Kelsier said, “and they are far from the iron grip of the Lord Ruler and his obligators. Some of these distant noblemen are finding that happy skaa make better workers than mistreated skaa. One man, Lord Renoux, has even ordered his taskmasters to stop unauthorized beatings. There are whispers that he’s considering paying wages to his plantation skaa, like city craftsmen might earn.”

“Nonsense,” Tepper said.

“My apologies,” Kelsier said. “I didn’t realize that Goodman Tepper had been to Lord Renoux’s estates recently. When you dined with him last, did he tell you something that he did not tell me?”blushed: Skaa did not travel, and they certainly didn’t dine with lords. “You think me a fool, traveler,” Tepper said, “but I know what you’re doing. You’re the one they call the Survivor; those scars on your arms give you away. You’re a troublemaker—you travel the plantations, stirring up discontent. You eat our food, telling your grand stories and your lies, then you disappear and leave people like me to deal with the false hopes you give our children.”raised an eyebrow. “Now, now, Goodman Tepper,” he said. “Your worries are completely unfounded. Why, I have no intention of eating your food. I brought my own.” With that, Kelsier reached over and tossed his pack onto the earth before Tepper’s table. The loose bag slumped to the side, dumping an array of foods to the ground. Fine breads, fruits, and even a few thick, cured sausages bounced free.summerfruit rolled across the packed earthen floor and bumped lightly against Tepper’s foot. The middle-aged skaa regarded the fruit with stunned eyes. “That’s nobleman’s food!”snorted. “Barely. You know, for a man of renowned prestige and rank, your Lord Tresting has remarkably poor taste. His pantry is an embarrassment to his noble station.”paled even further. “That’s where you went this afternoon,” he whispered. “You went to the manor. You... stole from the master!”

“Indeed,” Kelsier said. “And, might I add that while your lord’s taste in food is deplorable, his eye for soldiers is far more impressive. Sneaking into his manor during the day was quite a challenge.”was still staring at the bag of food. “If the taskmasters find this here...”

“Well, I suggest you make it disappear then,” Kelsier said. “I’d be willing to bet that it tastes a fair bit better than watered-down farlet soup.”dozen sets of hungry eyes studied the food. If Tepper intended further arguments, he didn’t make them quickly enough, for his silent pause was taken as agreement. Within a few minutes, the bag’s contents had been inspected and distributed, and the pot of soup sat bubbling and ignored as the skaa feasted on a meal far more exotic.settled back, leaning against the hovel’s wooden wall and watching the people devour their food. He had spoken correctly: The pantry’s offerings had been depressingly mundane. However, this was a people who had been fed on nothing but soup and gruel since they were children. To them, breads and fruits were rare delicacies—usually eaten only as aging discards brought down by the house servants.

“Your storytelling was cut short, young man,” an elderly skaa noted, hobbling over to sit on a stool beside Kelsier.

“Oh, I suspect there will be time for more later,” Kelsier said. “Once all evidence of my thievery has been properly devoured. Don’t you want any of it?”

“No need,” the old man said. “The last time I tried lords’ food, I had stomach pains for three days. New tastes are like new ideas, young man—the older you get, the more difficult they are for you to stomach.”paused. The old man was hardly an imposing sight. His leathered skin and bald scalp made him look more frail than they did wise. Yet, he had to be stronger than he looked; few plantation skaa lived to such ages. Many lords didn’t allow the elderly to remain home from daily work, and the frequent beatings that made up a skaa’s life took a terrible toll on the elderly.

“What was your name again?” Kelsier asked.

“Mennis.”glanced back at Tepper. “So, Goodman Mennis, tell me something. Why do you let him lead?”shrugged. “When you get to be my age, you have to be very careful where you waste your energy. Some battles just aren’t worth fighting.” There was an implication in Mennis’s eyes; he was referring to things greater than his own struggle with Tepper.

“You’re satisfied with this, then?” Kelsier asked, nodding toward the hovel and its half-starved, overworked occupants. “You’re content with a life full of beatings and endless drudgery?”

“At least it’s a life,” Mennis said. “I know what wages, malcontent, and rebellion bring. The eye of the Lord Ruler, and the ire of the Steel Ministry, can be far more terrible than a few whippings. Men like you preach change, but I wonder. Is this a battle we can really fight?”

“You’re fighting it already, Goodman Mennis. You’re just losing horribly.” Kelsier shrugged. “But, what do I know? I’m just a traveling miscreant, here to eat your food and impress your youths.”shook his head. “You jest, but Tepper might have been right. I fear your visit will bring us grief.”smiled. “That’s why I didn’t contradict him—at least, not on the troublemaker point.” He paused, then smiled more deeply. “In fact, I’d say calling me a troublemaker is probably the only accurate thing Tepper has said since I got here.”

“How do you do that?” Mennis asked, frowning.


“Smile so much.”

“Oh, I’m just a happy person.”glanced down at Kelsier’s hands. “You know, I’ve only seen scars like those on one other person—and he was dead. His body was returned to Lord Tresting as proof that his punishment had been carried out.” Mennis looked up at Kelsier. “He’d been caught speaking of rebellion. Tresting sent him to the Pits of Hathsin, where he had worked until he died. The lad lasted less than a month.”glanced down at his hands and forearms. They still burned sometimes, though he was certain the pain was only in his mind. He looked up at Mennis and smiled. “You ask why I smile, Goodman Mennis? Well, the Lord Ruler thinks he has claimed laughter and joy for himself. I’m disinclined to let him do so. This is one battle that doesn’t take very much effort to fight.”stared at Kelsier, and for a moment Kelsier thought the old man might smile in return. However, Mennis eventually just shook his head. “I don’t know. I just don’t—”scream cut him off. It came from outside, perhaps to the north, though the mists distorted sounds. The people in the hovel fell silent, listening to the faint, high-pitched yells. Despite the distance and the mist, Kelsier could hear the pain contained in those screams.burned tin.was simple for him now, after years of practice. The tin sat with other Allomantic metals within his stomach, swallowed earlier, waiting for him to draw upon them. He reached inside with his mind and touched the tin, tapping powers he still barely understood. The tin flared to life within him, burning his stomach like the sensation of a hot drink swallowed too quickly.power surged through his body, enhancing his senses. The room around him became crisp, the dull firepit flaring to near blinding brightness. He could feel the grain in the wood of the stool beneath him. He could still taste the remnants of the loaf of bread he’d snacked on earlier. Most importantly, he could hear the screams with supernatural ears. Two separate people were yelling. One was an older woman, the other a younger woman—perhaps a child. The younger screams were getting farther and farther away.

“Poor Jess,” a nearby woman said, her voice booming in Kelsier’s enhanced ears. “That child of hers was a curse. It’s better for skaa not to have pretty daughters.”nodded. “Lord Tresting was sure to send for the girl sooner or later. We all knew it. Jess knew it.”

“Still a shame, though,” another man said.screams continued in the distance. Burning tin, Kelsier was able to judge the direction accurately. Her voice was moving toward the lord’s manor. The sounds set something off within him, and he felt his face flush with anger.turned. “Does Lord Tresting ever return the girls after he’s finished with them?”Mennis shook his head. “Lord Tresting is a law-abiding nobleman—he has the girls killed after a few weeks. He doesn’t want to catch the eye of the Inquisitors.”was the Lord Ruler’s command. He couldn’t afford to have half-breed children running around—children who might possess powers that skaa weren’t even supposed to know existed....screams waned, but Kelsier’s anger only built. The yells reminded him of other screams. A woman’s screams from the past. He stood abruptly, stool toppling to the ground behind him.

“Careful, lad,” Mennis said apprehensively. “Remember what I said about wasting energy. You’ll never raise that rebellion of yours if you get yourself killed tonight.”glanced toward the old man. Then, through the screams and the pain, he forced himself to smile. “I’m not here to lead a rebellion among you, Goodman Mennis. I just want to stir up a little trouble.”

“What good could that do?”’s smile deepened. “New days are coming. Survive a little longer, and you just might see great happenings in the Final Empire. I bid you all thanks for your hospitality.”that, he pulled open the door and strode out into the mist.lay awake in the early hours of morning. It seemed that the older he became, the more difficult it was for him to sleep. This was particularly true when he was troubled about something, such as the traveler’s failure to return to the hovel.hoped that Kelsier had come to his senses and decided to move on. However, that prospect seemed unlikely; Mennis had seen the fire in Kelsier’s eyes. It seemed such a shame that a man who had survived the Pits would instead find death here, on a random plantation, trying to protect a girl everyone else had given up for dead.would Lord Tresting react? He was said to be particularly harsh with anyone who interrupted his nighttime enjoyments. If Kelsier had managed to disturb the master’s pleasures, Tresting might easily decide to punish the rest of his skaa by association., the other skaa began to awake. Mennis lay on the hard earth—bones aching, back complaining, muscles exhausted—trying to decide if it was worth rising. Each day, he nearly gave up. Each day, it was a little harder. One day, he would just stay in the hovel, waiting until the taskmasters came to kill those who were too sick or too elderly to work.not today. He could see too much fear in the eyes of the skaa—they knew that Kelsier’s nighttime activities would bring trouble. They needed Mennis; they looked to him. He needed to get up.so he did. Once he started moving, the pains of age decreased slightly, and he was able to shuffle out of the hovel toward the fields, leaning on a younger man for support.was then that he caught a scent in the air. “What’s that?” he asked. “Do you smell smoke?”—the lad upon whom Mennis leaned—paused. The last remnants of the night’s mist had burned away, and the red sun was rising behind the sky’s usual haze of blackish clouds.

“I always smell smoke, lately,” Shum said. “The Ash-mounts are violent this year.”

“No,” Mennis said, feeling increasingly apprehensive. “This is different.” He turned to the north, toward where a group of skaa were gathering. He let go of Shum, shuffling toward the group, feet kicking up dust and ash as he moved.the center of the group of people, he found Jess. Her daughter, the one they all assumed had been taken by Lord Tresting, stood beside her. The young girl’s eyes were red from lack of sleep, but she appeared unharmed.

“She came back not long after they took her,” the woman was explaining. “She came and pounded on the door, crying in the mist. Flen was sure it was just a mistwraith impersonating her, but I had to let her in! I don’t care what he says, I’m not giving her up. I brought her out in the sunlight, and she didn’t disappear. That proves she’s not a mistwraith!”stumbled back from the growing crowd. Did none of them see it? No taskmasters came to break up the group. No soldiers came to make the morning population counts. Something was very wrong. Mennis continued to the north, moving frantically toward the manor house.the time he arrived, others had noticed the twisting line of smoke that was just barely visible in the morning light. Mennis wasn’t the first to arrive at the edge of the short hilltop plateau, but the group made way for him when he did.manor house was gone. Only a blackened, smoldering scar remained.

“By the Lord Ruler!” Mennis whispered. “What happened here?”

“He killed them all.”turned. The speaker was Jess’s girl. She stood looking down at the fallen house, a satisfied expression on her youthful face.

“They were dead when he brought me out,” she said. “All of them—the soldiers, the taskmasters, the lords... dead. Even Lord Tresting and his obligators. The master had left me, going to investigate when the noises began. On the way out, I saw him lying in his own blood, stab wounds in his chest. The man who saved me threw a torch in the building as we left.”

“This man,” Mennis said. “He had scars on his hands and arms, reaching past the elbows?”girl nodded silently.

“What kind of demon was that man?” one of the skaa muttered uncomfortably.

“Mistwraith,” another whispered, apparently forgetting that Kelsier had gone out during the day.he did go out into the mist, Mennis thought. And, how did he accomplish a feat like this...? Lord Tresting kept over two dozen soldiers! Did Kelsier have a hidden band of rebels, perhaps?’s words from the night before sounded in his ears.days are coming....

“But, what of us?” Tepper asked, terrified. “What will happen when the Lord Ruler hears this? He’ll think that we did it! He’ll send us to the Pits, or maybe just send his koloss to slaughter us outright! Why would that troublemaker do something like this? Doesn’t he understand the damage he’s done?”

“He understands,” Mennis said. “He warned us, Tepper. He came to stir up trouble.”

“But, why?”

“Because he knew we’d never rebel on our own, so he gave us no choice.”paled.Ruler, Mennis thought. I can’t do this. I can barely get up in the mornings—I can’t save this people.what other choice was there?turned. “Gather the people, Tepper. We must flee before word of this disaster reaches the Lord Ruler.”

“Where will we go?”

“The caves to the east,” Mennis said. “Travelers say there are rebel skaa hiding in them. Perhaps they’ll take us in.”paled further. “But ...we’d have to travel for days. Spend nights in the mist.”

“We can do that,” Mennis said, “or we can stay here and die.”stood frozen for a moment, and Mennis thought the shock of it all might have overwhelmed him. Eventually, however, the younger man scurried off to gather the others, as commanded.sighed, looking up toward the trailing line of smoke, cursing the man Kelsier quietly in his mind.days indeed.ONESurvivor of Hathsinconsider myself to be a man of principle. But, what man does not? Even the cutthroat, I have noticed, considers his actions “moral” after a fashion.another person, reading of my life, would name me a religious tyrant. He could call me arrogant. What is to make that man’s opinion any less valid than my own?guess it all comes down to one fact: In the end, I’m the one with the armies.

FELL FROM THE SKY.watched the downy flakes drift through the air. Leisurely. Careless. Free. The puffs of soot fell like black snowflakes, descending upon the dark city of Luthadel. They drifted in corners, blowing in the breeze and curling in tiny whirlwinds over the cobblestones. They seemed so uncaring. What would that be like?sat quietly in one of the crew’s watch-holes—a hidden alcove built into the bricks on the side of the safe house. From within it, a crewmember could watch the street for signs of danger. Vin wasn’t on duty; the watch-hole was simply one of the few places where she could find solitude.Vin liked solitude. When you’re alone, no one can betray you. Reen’s words. Her brother had taught her so many things, then had reinforced them by doing what he’d always promised he would—by betraying her himself. It’s the only way you’ll learn. Anyone will betray you, Vin. Anyone.ash continued to fall. Sometimes, Vin imagined she was like the ash, or the wind, or the mist itself. A thing without thought, capable of simply being, not thinking, caring, or hurting. Then she could be...free.heard shuffling a short distance away, then the trapdoor at the back of the small chamber snapped open.

“Vin!” Ulef said, sticking his head into the room. “There you are! Camon’s been searching for you for a half hour.”’s kind of why I hid in the first place.

“You should get going,” Ulef said. “The job’s almost ready to begin.”was a gangly boy. Nice, after his own fashion—naive, if one who had grown up in the underworld could ever really be called “naive.” Of course, that didn’t mean he wouldn’t betray her. Betrayal had nothing to do with friendship; it was a simple fact of survival. Life was harsh on the streets, and if a skaa thief wanted to keep from being caught and executed, he had to be practical.ruthlessness was the very most practical of emotions. Another of Reen’s sayings.

“Well?” Ulef asked. “You should go. Camon’s mad.”is he not? However, Vin nodded, scrambling out of the cramped—yet comforting—confines of the watch-hole. She brushed past Ulef and hopped out of the trapdoor, moving into a hallway, then a run-down pantry. The room was one of many at the back of the store that served as a front for the safe house. The crew’s lair itself was hidden in a tunneled stone cavern beneath the building.left the building through a back door, Ulef trailing behind her. The job would happen a few blocks away, in a richer section of town. It was an intricate job—one of the most complex Vin had ever seen. Assuming Camon wasn’t caught, the payoff would be great indeed. If he was caught...Well, scamming noblemen and obligators was a very dangerous profession—but it certainly beat working in the forges or the textile mills.exited the alleyway, moving out onto a dark, tenementlined street in one of the city’s many skaa slums. Skaa too sick to work lay huddled in corners and gutters, ash drifting around them. Vin kept her head down and pulled up her cloak’s hood against the still falling flakes.. No, I’ll never be free. Reen made certain of that when he left.

“There you are!” Camon lifted a squat, fat finger and jabbed it toward her face. “Where were you?”didn’t let hatred or rebellion show in her eyes. She simply looked down, giving Camon what he expected to see. There were other ways to be strong. That lesson she had learned on her own.growled slightly, then raised his hand and backhanded her across the face. The force of the blow threw Vin back against the wall, and her cheek blazed with pain. She slumped against the wood, but bore the punishment silently. Just another bruise. She was strong enough to deal with it. She’d done so before.

“Listen,” Camon hissed. “This is an important job. It’s worth thousands of boxings—worth more than you a hundred times over. I won’t have you fouling it up. Understand?”nodded.studied her for a moment, his pudgy face red with anger. Finally, he looked away, muttering to himself.was annoyed about something—something more than just Vin. Perhaps he had heard about the skaa rebellion several days to the north. One of the provincial lords, Themos Tresting, had apparently been murdered, his manor burned to the ground. Such disturbances were bad for business; they made the aristocracy more alert, and less gullible. That, in turn, could cut seriously into Camon’s profits.’s looking for someone to punish,Vin thought. He always gets nervous before a job. She looked up at Camon, tasting blood on her lip. She must have let some of her confidence show, because he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, and his expression darkened. He raised his hand, as if to strike her again.used up a bit of her Luck.expended just a smidgen; she’d need the rest for the job. She directed the Luck at Camon, calming his nervousness. The crewleader paused—oblivious of Vin’s touch, yet feeling its effects nonetheless. He stood for a moment; then he sighed, turning away and lowering his hand.wiped her lip as Camon waddled away. The thiefmaster looked very convincing in his nobleman’s suit. It was as rich a costume as Vin had ever seen—it had a white shirt overlaid by a deep green vest with engraved gold buttons. The black suit coat was long, after the current fashion, and he wore a matching black hat. His fingers sparkled with rings, and he even carried a fine dueling cane. Indeed, Camon did an excellent job of imitating a nobleman; when it came to playing a role, there were few thieves more competent than Camon. Assuming he could keep his temper under control.room itself was less impressive. Vin pulled herself to her feet as Camon began to snap at some of the other crewmembers. They had rented one of the suites at the top of a local hotel. Not too lavish—but that was the idea. Camon was going to be playing the part of “Lord Jedue,” a country nobleman who had hit upon hard financial times and come to Luthadel to get some final, desperate contracts.main room had been transformed into a sort of audience chamber, set with a large desk for Camon to sit behind, the walls decorated with cheap pieces of art. Two men stood beside the desk, dressed in formal stewards’ clothing; they would play the part of Camon’s manservants.

“What is this ruckus?” a man asked, entering the room. He was tall, dressed in a simple gray shirt and a pair of slacks, with a thin sword tied at his waist. Theron was the other crewleader—this particular scam was actually his. He’d brought in Camon as a partner; he’d needed someone to play Lord Jedue, and everyone knew that Camon was one of the best.looked up. “Hum? Ruckus? Oh, that was just a minor discipline problem. Don’t bother yourself, Theron.” Camon punctuated his remark with a dismissive wave of the hand—there was a reason he played such a good aristocrat.was arrogant enough that he could have been from one of the Great Houses.’s eyes narrowed. Vin knew what the man was probably thinking: He was deciding how risky it would be to put a knife in Camon’s fat back once the scam was over. Eventually, the taller crewleader looked away from Camon, glancing at Vin. “Who’s this?” he asked.

“Just a member of my crew,” Camon said.

“I thought we didn’t need anyone else.”

“Well, we need her,” Camon said. “Ignore her. My end of the operation is none of your concern.”eyed Vin, obviously noting her bloodied lip. She glanced away. Theron’s eyes lingered on her, however, running down the length of her body. She wore a simple white buttoned shirt and a pair of overalls. Indeed, she was hardly enticing; scrawny with a youthful face, she supposedly didn’t even look her sixteen years. Some men preferred such women, however.considered using a bit of Luck on him, but eventually he turned away. “The obligator is nearly here,” Theron said. “Are you ready?”rolled his eyes, settling his bulk down into the chair behind the desk. “Everything is perfect. Leave me be, Theron! Go back to your room and wait.”frowned, then spun and walked from the room, muttering to himself.scanned the room, studying the decor, the servants, the atmosphere. Finally, she made her way to Camon’s desk. The crewleader sat riffling through a stack of papers, apparently trying to decide which ones to put out on the desktop.

“Camon,” Vin said quietly, “the servants are too fine.”frowned, looking up. “What is that you’re babbling?”

“The servants,” Vin repeated, still speaking in a soft whisper. “Lord Jedue is supposed to be desperate. He’d have rich clothing left over from before, but he wouldn’t be able to afford such rich servants. He’d use skaa.”glared at her, but he paused. Physically, there was little difference between noblemen and skaa. The servants Camon had appointed, however, were dressed as minor noblemen—they were allowed to wear colorful vests, and they stood a little more confidently.

“The obligator has to think that you’re nearly impoverished,” Vin said. “Pack the room with a lot of skaa servants instead.”

“What do you know?” Camon said, scowling at her.

“Enough.” She immediately regretted the word; it sounded too rebellious. Camon raised a bejeweled hand, and Vin braced herself for another slap. She couldn’t afford to use up any more Luck. She had precious little remaining anyway., Camon didn’t hit her. Instead, he sighed and rested a pudgy hand on her shoulder. “Why do you insist on provoking me, Vin? You know the debts your brother left when he ran away. Do you realize that a less merciful man than myself would have sold you to the whoremasters long ago? How would you like that, serving in some nobleman’s bed until he grew tired of you and had you executed?”looked down at her feet.’s grip grew tight, his fingers pinching her skin where neck met shoulder, and she gasped in pain despite herself. He grinned at the reaction.

“Honestly, I don’t know why I keep you, Vin,” he said, increasing the pressure of his grip. “I should have gotten rid of you months ago, when your brother betrayed me. I suppose I just have too kindly a heart.”finally released her, then pointed for her to stand over by the side of the room, next to a tall indoor plant. She did as ordered, orienting herself so she had a good view of the entire room. As soon as Camon looked away, she rubbed her shoulder. Just another pain. I can deal with pain.sat for a few moments. Then, as expected, he waved to the two “servants” at his side.

“You two!” he said. “You’re dressed too richly. Go put on something that makes you look like skaa servants instead— and bring back six more men with you when you come.”, the room was filled as Vin had suggested. The obligator arrived a short time later.watched Prelan Laird step haughtily into the room. Shaved bald like all obligators, he wore a set of dark gray robes. The Ministry tattoos around his eyes identified him as a prelan, a senior bureaucrat in the Ministry’s Canton of Finance. A set of lesser obligators trailed behind him, their eye tattoos far less intricate.rose as the prelan entered, a sign of respect— something even the highest of Great House noblemen would show to an obligator of Laird’s rank. Laird gave no bow or acknowledgment of his own, instead striding forward and taking the seat in front of Camon’s desk. One of the crewmen impersonating a servant rushed forward, bringing chilled wine and fruit for the obligator.picked at the fruit, letting the servant stand obediently, holding the platter of food as if he were a piece of furniture. “Lord Jedue,” Laird finally said. “I am glad we finally have the opportunity to meet.”

“As am I, Your Grace,” Camon said.

“Why is it, again, that you were unable to come to the Canton building, instead requiring that I visit you here?”

“My knees, Your Grace,” Camon said. “My physicians recommend that I travel as little as possible.”you were rightly apprehensive about being drawn into a Ministry stronghold, Vin thought.

“I see,” Laird said. “Bad knees. An unfortunate attribute in a man who deals in transportation.”

“I don’t have to go on the trips, Your Grace,” Camon said, bowing his head. “Just organize them.”, Vin thought. Make sure you remain subservient, Camon. You need to seem desperate.needed this scam to succeed. Camon threatened her and he beat her—but he considered her a good-luck charm. She wasn’t sure if he knew why his plans went better when she was in the room, but he had apparently made the connection. That made her valuable—and Reen had always said that the surest way to stay alive in the underworld was to make yourself indispensable.

“I see,” Laird said again. “Well, I fear that our meeting has come too late for your purposes. The Canton of Finance has already voted on your proposal.”

“So soon?” Camon asked with genuine surprise.

“Yes,” Laird replied, taking a sip of his wine, still not dismissing the servant. “We have decided not to accept your contract.”sat for a moment, stunned. “I’m sorry to hear that, Your Grace.”came to meet you, Vin thought. That means he’s still in a position to negotiate.

“Indeed,” Camon continued, seeing what Vin had. “That is especially unfortunate, as I was ready to make the Ministry an even better offer.”raised a tattooed eyebrow. “I doubt it will matter. There is an element of the Council who feels that the Canton would receive better service if we found a more stable house to transport our people.”

“That would be a grave mistake,” Camon said smoothly. “Let us be frank, Your Grace. We both know that this contract is House Jedue’s last chance. Now that we’ve lost the Farwan deal, we cannot afford to run our canal boats to Luthadel anymore. Without the Ministry’s patronage, my house is financially doomed.”

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

“I told you,” Camon said. “We’re desperate. My house needs 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.”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.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.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.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.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., 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.paused again. “Very well,” he finally said. “I will take this new proposal to the Council. Perhaps an agreement can still be reached.”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.hint, however, that I will have the power to destroy it as well.

KELSIER’S OPINION, THE CITY of 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.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.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 mark 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.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.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.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., 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.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.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.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., 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., 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.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.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 did have something to do with Lord Tresting’s death.”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.”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.”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 planning to do!”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?”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.”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?”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.”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.shook his head. “No. He’s a good Smoker, but he’s not a good enough man.”smiled. “Not a good enough man to be on a thieving crew ...Kell, I have missed working with you. All right, who then?”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.”nodded, then frowned. “You didn’t mention Marsh.”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.finally shook his head. “This is insane, eh?”smiled. “Feels good, doesn’t it?”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.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.”turned with curious eyes. “Well, I was going to go and chastise my prude of a brother. But . . .”

“This will be worth your time,” Dockson promised.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.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.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.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.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.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.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., I am strong, she thought.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.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.eyes locked on Vin. “It’s time.”frowned. Time for what?Ministry’s Canton of Finance was an imposing structure— but, then, everything about the Steel Ministry tended to be imposing.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.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.took a deep breath, then strode forward, his dueling cane tapping against the stones as he walked. He wore his rich nobleman’s suit, and he was accompanied by a half-dozen crewmembers—including Vin—to act as his “servants.”followed Camon up the steps, then waited as one of the crewmembers jumped forward to pull the door open for his “master.” Of the six attendants, only Vin seemed to have been told nothing of Camon’s plan. Suspiciously, Theron— Camon’s supposed partner in the Ministry scam—was nowhere to be seen.entered the Canton building. Vibrant red light, sparkled with lines of blue, fell from the rose window. A single obligator, with midlevel tattoos around his eyes, sat behind a desk at the end of the extended entryway.approached, his cane thumping against the carpet as he walked. “I am Lord Jedue,” he said.are you doing, Camon? Vin thought. You insisted to Theron that you wouldn’t meet with Prelan Laird in his Canton office. Yet, now you’re here.obligator nodded, making a notation in his ledger. He waved to the side. “You may take one attendant with you into the waiting chamber. The rest must remain here.”’s huff of disdain indicated what he thought of that prohibition. The obligator, however, didn’t look up from his ledger. Cam

Date: 2015-02-28; view: 663

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