Breeze checked his pocket watch three more times before Kelsier ﬁnally arrived. The Mistborn crewleader burst through the door with his cheery enthusiasm, Dockson sauntering along behind. Ham stood immediately, smiling broadly and clasping hands with Kelsier. Breeze stood as well, and while his greeting was a bit more reserved, Vin had to admit that she had never seen any crewleader welcomed so happily by his men.
“Ah,” Kelsier said, looking toward the other side of the room. “Clubs and Yeden too. So, everyone’s here. Good—I absolutely loathe being made to wait.”
Breeze raised an eyebrow as he and Ham settled back into their chairs, Dockson taking a seat at the same table. “Are we to receive any explanation for your tardiness?”
“Dockson and I were visiting my brother,” Kelsier explained, walking toward the front of the lair. He turned and leaned back against the bar, scanning the room. When Kelsier’s eyes fell on Vin, he winked.
“Your brother?” Ham said. “Is Marsh coming to the meeting?”
Kelsier and Dockson shared a look. “Not tonight,” Kelsier said. “But he’ll join the crew eventually.”
Vin studied the others. They were skeptical. Tension between Kelsier and his brother, perhaps?
Breeze raised his dueling cane, pointing the tip at Kelsier. “All right, Kelsier, you’ve kept this ‘job’ secret from us for eight months now. We know it’s big, we know you’re excited, and we’re all properly annoyed at you for being so secretive. So, why don’t you just go ahead and tell us what it is?”
Kelsier smiled. Then he stood up straight, waving a hand toward the dirty, plain-looking Yeden. “Gentlemen, meet your new employer.”
This was, apparently, quite a shocking statement.
“Him?” Ham asked.
“Him,” Kelsier said with a nod.
“What?” Yeden asked, speaking for the ﬁrst time. “You have trouble working with someone who actually has morals?”
“It’s not that, my dear man,” Breeze said, setting his dueling cane across his lap. “It’s just that, well, I was under the strange impression that you didn’t like our types very much.”
“I don’t,” Yeden said ﬂatly. “You’re selﬁsh, undisciplined, and you’ve turned your backs on the rest of the skaa. You dress nicely, but on the inside you’re dirty as ash.”
Ham snorted. “I can already see that this job is going to be great for crew morale.”
Vin watched quietly, chewing on her lip. Yeden was obviously a skaa worker, probably a member of a forge or textile mill. What connection did he have with the underground? And…how would he be able to afford the services of a thieving crew, especially one as apparently specialized as Kelsier’s team?
Perhaps Kelsier noticed her confusion, for she found him looking at her as the others continued to speak.
“I’m still a little confused,” Ham said. “Yeden, we’re all aware of how you regard thieves. So…why hire us?”
Yeden squirmed a bit. “Because,” he ﬁnally said, “everyone knows how effective you are.”
Breeze chuckled. “Disapproving of our morals doesn’t make you unwilling to make use of our skills, I see. So, what is the job, then? What does the skaa rebellion wish of us?”
Skaa rebellion? Vin thought, a piece of the conversation falling into place. There were two sides to the underworld. The far larger portion was made up of the thieves, crews, whores, and beggars who tried to survive outside of mainstream skaa culture.
And then there were the rebels. The people who worked against the Final Empire. Reen had always called them fools—a sentiment shared by most of the people, both underworlders and regular skaa, that Vin had met.
All eyes slowly turned to Kelsier, who leaned back against the bar again. “The skaa rebellion, courtesy of its leader, Yeden, has hired us for something very speciﬁc.”
“What?” Ham asked. “Robbery? Assassination?”
“A little of both,” Kelsier said, “and, at the same time, neither one. Gentlemen, this isn’t going to be a regular job. It’s going to be different from anything any crew has ever tried to pull. We’re going to help Yeden overthrow the Final Empire.”
“Excuse me?” Ham asked.
“You heard me right, Ham,” Kelsier said. “That’s the job I’ve been planning—the destruction of the Final Empire. Or, at least, its center of government. Yeden has hired us to supply him with an army, then provide him with a favorable opportunity to seize control of this city.”
Ham sat back, then shared a glance with Breeze. Both men turned toward Dockson, who nodded solemnly. The room remained quiet for a moment longer; then the silence was broken as Yeden began to laugh ruefully to himself.
“I should never have agreed to this,” Yeden said, shaking his head. “Now that you say it, I realize how ridiculous it all sounds.”
“Trust me, Yeden,” Kelsier said. “These men have made a habit of pulling off plans that seem ridiculous at ﬁrst glance.”
“That may be true, Kell,” Breeze said. “But, in this case, I ﬁnd myself agreeing with our disapproving friend. Overthrow the Final Empire… that is something that skaa rebels have been working toward for a thousand years! What makes you think that we can achieve anything where those men have failed?”
Kelsier smiled. “We’ll succeed because we have vision, Breeze. That’s something the rebellion has always lacked.”
“Excuse me?” Yeden said indignantly.
“It’s true, unfortunately,” Kelsier said. “The rebellion condemns people like us because of our greed, but for all their high morals—which, by the way, I respect—they never get anything done. Yeden, your men hide in woods and in hills, plotting how they’ll someday rise up and lead a glorious war against the Final Empire. But your kind has no idea how to develop and execute a proper plan.”
Yeden’s expression grew dark. “And you have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Oh?” Kelsier said lightly. “Tell me, what has your rebellion accomplished during its thousand-year struggle? Where are your successes and your victories? The Massacre of Tougier three centuries ago, where seven thousand skaa rebels were slaughtered? The occasional raid of a traveling canal boat or the kidnapping of a minor noble ofﬁcial?”
Yeden ﬂushed. “That’s the best we can manage with the people we have! Don’t blame my men for their failures— blame the rest of the skaa. We can’t ever get them to help. They’ve been beaten down for a millennium; they haven’t got any spirit left. It’s difﬁcult enough to get one in a thousand to listen to us, let alone rebel!”
“Peace, Yeden,” Kelsier said, holding up a hand. “I’m not trying to insult your courage. We’re on the same side, remember? You came to me speciﬁcally because you were having trouble recruiting people for your army.”
“I’m regretting that decision more and more, thief,” Yeden said.
“Well, you’ve already paid us,” Kelsier said. “So it’s a little late to back out now. But, we’ll get you that army, Yeden. The men in this room are the most capable, most clever, and most skilled Allomancers in the city. You’ll see.”
The room grew quiet again. Vin sat at her table, watching the interaction with a frown. What is your game, Kelsier? His words about overthrowing the Final Empire were obviously a front. It seemed most likely to her that he intended to scam the skaa rebellion. But…if he’d already been paid, then why continue the charade?
Kelsier turned from Yeden to Breeze and Ham. “All right, gentlemen. What do you think?”
The two men shared a look. Finally Breeze spoke. “Lord Ruler knows, I’ve never been one to turn down a challenge. But, Kell, I do question your reasoning. Are you sure we can do this?”
“I’m positive,” Kelsier said. “Previous attempts to overthrow the Lord Ruler have failed because they lacked proper organization and planning. We’re thieves, gentlemen—and we’re extraordinarily good ones. We can rob the unrobbable and fool the unfoolable. We know how to take an incredibly large task and break it down to manageable pieces, then deal with each of those pieces. We know how to get what we want. These things make us perfect for this particular task.”
Breeze frowned. “And…how much are we getting paid for achieving the impossible?”
“Thirty thousand boxings,” Yeden said. “Half now, half when you deliver the army.”
“Thirty thousand?” Ham said. “For an operation this big? That will barely cover expenses. We’ll need a spy among the nobility to watch for rumors, we’ll need a couple of safe houses, not to mention someplace big enough to hide and train an entire army….”
“No use haggling now, thief,” Yeden snapped. “Thirty thousand may not sound like much to your type, but it’s the result of decades of saving on our part. We can’t pay you more because we don’t have anything more.”
“It’s good work, gentlemen,” Dockson noted, joining the conversation for the ﬁrst time.
“Yes, well, that’s all great,” Breeze said. “I consider myself a nice enough fellow. But. . this just seems a bit too altruistic. Not to mention stupid.”
“Well…” Kelsier said, “there might be a little bit more in it for us….”
Vin perked up, and Breeze smiled.
“The Lord Ruler’s treasury,” Kelsier said. “The plan, as it stands now, is to provide Yeden with an army and an opportunity to seize the city. Once he takes the palace, he’ll capture the treasury and use its funds to secure power. And, central to that treasury…”
“Is the Lord Ruler’s atium,” Breeze said.
Kelsier nodded. “Our agreement with Yeden promises us half of the atium reserves we ﬁnd in the palace, no matter how vast they may be.”
Atium. Vin had heard of the metal, but she had never actually seen any. It was incredibly rare, supposedly used only by noblemen.
Ham was smiling. “Well, now,” he said slowly, “that’s almost a big enough prize to be tempting.”
“That atium stockpile is supposed to be enormous,” Kelsier said. “The Lord Ruler sells the metal only in small bits, charging outrageous sums to the nobility. He has to keep a huge reserve of it to make certain he controls the market, and to make certain he has enough wealth for emergencies.”
“True…” Breeze said. “But, are you sure you want to try something like this so soon after. . what happened the last time we tried getting into the palace?”
“We’re going to do things differently this time,” Kelsier said. “Gentlemen, I’ll be frank with you. This isn’t going to be an easy job, but it can work. The plan is simple. We’re going to ﬁnd a way to neutralize the Luthadel Garrison— leaving the area without a policing force. Then, we’re going to throw the city into chaos.”
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