I’d almost forgotten about this one. The first time I tried to write a chapter from Vin’s viewpoint, she had a much, much different personality. My original goal was to have her be a very capable thief, leading the con against the priesthood.
This chapter bothered me for a number of reasons. Explanation below:
Vin drummed her fingers against the tabletop, trying to imitate the properly-bored air of a noblewoman. It was difficult not to let her nervousness show.
But, shouldn’t I be a little bit nervous? she wondered. I’m to meet a member of the Steel Priesthood. They make even aristocrats uncomfortable, right?
However, the room around her wasn’t some inquisition dungeon or dark imperial church. It was a lavish waiting chamber, filled with worked woods and plush comforts. All four walls bore full-sized paintings of exotic animals lounging in pastoral settings. There was nothing threatening about the table set with high-backed chairs, its top containing various refreshments both liquid and solid. Several aristocrats lounged in the room—their skaa servants were required to wait out in the more mundane entry chamber, whose only comfort was the wooden bench that ran along one side of the wall.
I’m going to meet a Prelan, Vin thought. A noblewoman, even one of my rank, wouldn’t fund a simple bureaucrat threatening, would she?
All of Vin’s training—old lessons taught by her brother and more recent ones learned by watching members of Camon’s crew—muddled within her mind. Was her posture wrong? Did her eyes betray her guilt? Would the other noblemen see through her ruse? Was she bored enough, or was she too relaxed?
You’re over-analyzing again, she warned herself. The others in the room probably haven’t even noticed you. You’re too—
“Have I seen you somewhere before?”
Vin started, her fingers snapping against the table-top with a sharp crack. The speaker was a middle-aged man in a sharp-looking gray suit. The current fashion called for noblemen to wear darkly-colored vests beneath their long jackets, and his was maroon—it bore rich embroidery.
“Lady Jantret’s party,” the man said, lounging slightly, hand resting on the top of his dueling cane.
An answer from Vin’s training fluttered to her lips. “I don’t think so,” she said. “I’m new in Luthadel. I just came up with one of my caravans to negotiate with the Priesthood.”
That was supposed to put him off. By mentioning that she ran a caravan, Vin immediately placed herself beneath most other aristocrats in Luthadel. Only the richest noblemen could afford to live in the city—if he were a resident of the city, it either meant he had massive plantations or hereditary money. She, on the other hand, had to work at a menial trading job. She wouldn’t be of any political or economic value to this man.
The nobleman smiled charmingly, ignoring the logic she had been taught. “I swear I’ve seen you somewhere before,” he said, leaning down a bit more.
Vin blinked. Lord Ruler! She realized. He’s not interested in political advantage, he’s trying to pick me up! But I have to be half his age!
The nobleman didn’t seem like he was going to acknowledge this other bit of logic either. He would have already known her station—how could he not have, considering the relatively simple black dress she was wearing? He had probably also noticed her nervousness, and to him that meant opportunity.
Suddenly, Vin’s apprehension vanished. Pretending to be a noblewoman, preparing to meet with a member of the Steel Priesthood—these were uncertain, dangerous things. Dealing with a self-important suitor, however . . . well, that was something she knew quite well.
Vin shot the man one of her best icy looks. “Let me save you a bit of trouble, my lord. You’re not going to convince me that we’ve met before, nor are you going to get me to come visit your manor during my stay in Luthadel. Kindly try your charms—such as they are—somewhere else.”
The man stiffened. “Excuse me,” he said, backing away with an embarrassed look and fleeing toward the other side of the room.
Vin smiled, feeling confident for the first time since she had entered the Priesthood Trading Ministry. Her apprehension returned a short time later, however, when a lesser Priesthood scribe called her false name.
“Lady Allette,” the man said as he stepped into the room, “Prelan Lairid will see you now.”
Vin’s heart began to thump quickly, but she controlled herself, rising and following the scribe into the back room. The Prelan sat at a wide desk stacked with ledgers. Bald and overweight, he bore the tattoos of a Senior Priest around his eyes.
“Why, you’re only a child!” he said with surprise.
“I’m sixteen, your grace,” Vin said. “Old enough to see to my father’s affairs.”
“Barely,” the priest said. “Have you no brothers or older siblings to attend this duty?”
“None, your grace,” she said. “My father wishes that he did, but the Balance . . .”
The priest nodded. Just as skaa had been created so that they could breed with ease and fertility, the Lord Ruler had created the nobility to have difficulty producing offspring. There always had to be enough skaa to work the fields, but too many noblemen would make the Final Empire bulky and fat at the top. The Balance had to be maintained.
“Very well,” the priest said, gesturing for her to sit in the chair. “Your father’s illness makes this an unenviable situation in many ways. The Priesthood is very uncomfortable with your proposed contract, Lady Allette. There is an element of the board who feels that the Ministry would receive better service if we looked elsewhere.”
Very direct. Vin thought. Good.
“I doubt you will find that the case, your grace,” Vin said. “Let us be frank. We both know that this contract is my family’s last chance. Now that we’ve lost the Farwan Deal, we cannot afford to run our caravans to Luthadel any more. Without the Priesthood’s patronage, House Allette is financially doomed.”
“This is doing very little to persuade me, young lady,” the priest said.
“Isn’t it?” Vin 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? House Allette cannot afford to let you become disgruntled. The Financial Ministry will not find a more accommodating partner than a desperate one. Let my caravan be the one that escorts your acolytes up from the south, and you will not be disappointed.”
Lairid frowned, and Vin looked at him with a reserved pleading expression. This was why Camon had agreed to let her come to this appointment, despite her youth and her relatively low status in the Luthadel underworld. Vin had always been able to make people believe her. Her brother, Reen, had always claimed she had honest eyes. Unfortunately for those she met, the mind that came with those eyes was as devious as a mistwraith.
“My father authorized a new fee,” Vin said carefully.
“Fifty boxings per head, per trip.”
The priest raised an eyebrow. “That’s half the former fee.”
“I told you,” Vin said. “We’re desperate. We need this caravan to keep running. Fifty boxings per head will keep us running, though not at a profit. That doesn’t matter. Once we have the Priesthood contract bringing us stability, we can find other merchants or goods to fill our coffers. However, before any of that can happen, the caravan must continue running.”
He looked thoughtful. It was a fabulous deal—one he would have been suspicious to take if they had given it at first. However, the supposed sickness of her father, mixed with several other invented mishaps, created the image of a family on the brink of financial collapse. The Priesthood would be foolish not to monopolize upon such an opportunity.
Lairid was realizing just that. Now is the moment, Vin thought.
“Your grace,” she said softly, “there is nothing else we can do. Please, reconsider your position.”
The priest sighed. “Very well,” he said. “I will take this new proposal to the Ministry Board.”
Vin bowed her head thankfully, then rose. “We will await the council’s decision,” she said before retreating.
It was amusing for me to read this, since I’ve been writing Vin’s character for three years now—just finishing Mistborn 3—and this is not her. This characterization never made it past this initial chapter (though there’s a second half of it, which I’ll post later.) After I wrote it, it just felt too . . . bland. She was capable, true, but there wasn’t any meat to her personality.
I needed something more. One of the big complaints about Elantris was the lack of growth in two of the characters. While I like that book, this novel didn’t need another Sarene—it needed a character in the lead who was her own person.
I knew that, in this book, I’d want to have Vin infiltrate the nobility. My reasoning for writing her in this chapter like I did was to imply she already had the skills necessary to pull off something like that. However, after this chapter, I began to realize it would be more interesting if the reader got to see her take part.
If I hadn’t changed this chapter, I think the novel would have become more of the traditional “heist” novel I was planning. Vin would have just been another member of the team, though one who was learning to be a Mistborn. The shift away from this, however, made me focus more of the book on her growth of a person—and also more of the book on the ball scenes. So, in a way, reading this I can imagine an entirely different book from the one I wrote.