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 such 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 amongst 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. Now.”
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 only left 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, tucked the book into her overalls, and pocketed the pebbles. The earring she put in her ear—it was a very simple, steel 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 over-reacting—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 back-stabbing 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.
Just endure, 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.
Please! 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 blonde 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 trap door 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 trap door. 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 blonde newcomer. Camon looked down at the man’s hands, both of which were lined with the 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?”
“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 safehouse. He was followed by two Ministry scouts, one high-ranking prelan . . . and a single Steel Inquisitor.”
No one spoke.
Oh, Lord. . . . 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, Vin thought. 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 coinchest. “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 coinchest 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’ 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 safehouse 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, Vin thought. 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 far 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, like 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. . . .
No! 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. How . . . ?
“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. Never use emotional Allomancy on a 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 Inquisitor . . . 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.”
“You might have slipped something in it,” Vin said.
“Oh, there was no need for me to sneak something into your drink,” Kelsier said with a smile, pulling an object out of his suit coat pocket. “After all, you’re going to drink this vial of mysterious liquid quite willingly.”
He set a small glass vial on the tabletop. Vin frowned, regarding the liquid within. There was a dark residue at its bottom. “What is it?” she asked.
“If I told you, it wouldn’t be mysterious,” Kelsier said with a smile.
Dockson rolled his eyes. “The vial is filled with an alcohol solution and some flakes of metal, Vin.”
“Metal?” she asked with a frown.
“Two of the eight basic Allomantic metals,” Kelsier said. “We need to do some tests.”
Vin eyed the vial.
Kelsier shrugged. “You’ll have to drink it if you want to know any more about this Luck of yours.”
“You drink half first,” Vin said.
Kelsier raised an eyebrow. “A bit on the paranoid side, I see.”
Vin didn’t respond.
Finally, he sighed, picking up the vial pulling off the plug.
“Shake it up first,” Vin said. “So you get some of the sediment.”
Kelsier rolled his eyes, but did as requested, shaking the vial, then downing half of its contents. He sat it back on the table with a click.
Vin frowned. Then she eyed Kelsier, who smiled. He knew that he had her. He had shown off his power, had tempted her with it. The only reason to be subservient to those with power is so that you can learn to someday take what they have. Reen’s words.
Vin reached out and took the vial, then she downed its contents. She sat, waiting for some magical transformation or surge of power—or even signs of poison. She felt nothing.
How . . . anticlimactic. She frowned, leaning back in her chair. Out of curiosity, she felt at her Luck.
And felt her eyes widen in shock.
It was there, like a massive golden hoard. A storage of power so incredible that it stretched her understanding. Always before, she had needed to be a scrimp with her Luck, holding it in reserve, using up morsels sparingly. Now she felt like a starving woman invited to a high nobleman’s feast. She sat, stunned, regarding the enormous wealth within her.
“So,” Kelsier said with a prodding voice. “Try it. Soothe me.”
Vin reached out, tentatively touching her newfound mass of Luck. She took a bit, and directed it at Kelsier.
“Good.” Kelsier leaned forward eagerly. “But we already knew you could do that. Now the real test, Vin. Can you go the other way? You can dampen my emotions, but can you enflame them too?”
Vin frowned. She’d never used her Luck in such a way—she hadn’t even realized that she could. Why was he so eager?
Suspicious, Vin reached for her source of Luck. As she did so, she noticed something interesting. What she had first interpreted as one massive source of power was actually two different sources of power. There were different types of Luck.
Eight. He’d said there were eight of them. But . . . what do the others do?
Kelsier was still waiting. Vin reached to the second, unfamiliar source of Luck, doing as she’d done before and directing it at him.
Kelsier’s smile deepened, and he sat back, glancing at Dockson. “That’s it then. She did it.”
Dockson shook his head. “To be honest, Kell, I’m not sure what to think. Having one of you around was unsettling enough. Two, though. . . .”
Vin regarded them with narrowed, dubious eyes. “Two what?”
“Even among the nobility, Vin, Allomancy is modestly rare,” Kelsier said. “True, it’s a hereditary skill, with most of its powerful lines among the high nobility. However, breeding alone doesn’t guarantee Allomantic strength.
“Many high noblemen only have access to a single Allomantic skill. People like that—those who can only perform Allomancy in one of its eight basic aspects—are called Mistings. Sometimes these abilities appear in skaa—but only if that Skaa has noble blood in his or her near ancestry. You can usually find one Misting in . . . oh, about ten thousand mixed-breed skaa. The better, and closer, the noble ancestry, the more likely the skaa is to be a Misting.”
“Who were your parents, Vin?” Dockson asked. “Do you remember them?”
“I was raised by my half-brother, Reen,” Vin said quietly, uncomfortable. These were not things she discussed with others.
“Did he speak of your mother and father?” Dockson asked.
“Occasionally,” she admitted. “Reen said that our mother was a whore. Not out of choice, but the underworld. . . .” She trailed off. Her mother had tried to kill her, once, when she was very young. She vaguely remembered the event. Reen had saved her.
“What about your father, Vin?” Dockson asked.
Vin looked up. “He is a High Prelan in the Steel Ministry.”
Kelsier whistled softly. “Now that’s a slightly ironic breach of duty.”
Vin looked down at the table. Finally, she reached over and took a healthy pull on her mug of ale.
Kelsier smiled. “Most ranking obligators in the Ministry are high noblemen. Your father gave you rare a gift in that blood of yours.”
“So . . . I’m one of these Mistings you mentioned?”
Kelsier shook his head. “Actually, no. You see, this is what made you so interesting to us, Vin. Mistings only have access to one Allomantic skill. You just proved you have two. And, if you have access to at least two of the eight, then you have access to the rest as well. That’s the way it works—if you’re an Allomancer, you either get one skill or you get them all.”
Kelsier leaned forward. “You, Vin, are what is generally called a Mistborn. Even amongst the nobility, they’re incredibly rare. Amongst skaa . . . well, let’s just say I’ve only met one other skaa Mistborn in my entire life.”
Somehow, the room seemed to grow more quiet. More still. Vin stared at her mug with distracted, uncomfortable eyes. Mistborn. She’d heard the stories, of course. The legends.
Kelsier and Dockson sat quietly, letting her think. Eventually, she spoke. “So . . . what does this all mean?”
Kelsier smiled. “It means that you, Vin, are a very special person. You have a power that most high noblemen envy. It is a power that, had you been born an aristocrat, would have made you one of the most deadly and influential people in all of the Final Empire.”
Kelsier leaned forward again. “But, you weren’t born an aristocrat. You’re not noble, Vin. You don’t have to play by their rules—and that makes you even more powerful.”
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