“Yes, I know,” Elend said. “I wish I could meet one of them, to ask them how they hide so well. They must be fascinating people.”

Vin almost spoke further, but she held her tongue. I’ve probably said too much already.

Elend looked over at her. “You’re fascinating too, Valette. I should have known better than to assume you’d been corrupted by the rest of them. Perhaps you’ll be able to corrupt them instead.”

Vin smiled.

“But,” Elend said, rising. “I need to be leaving. I actually came to the party tonight for a specific purpose—some friends of mine are meeting together.”

That’s right! Vin thought. One of the men Elend met with before—the ones that Kelsier and Sazed thought it was strange that he would associate with—was a Hasting.

Vin stood as well, handing Elend back his handkerchief.

He didn’t take it. “You might want to keep that. It wasn’t intended to be simply functional.”

Vin looked down at the handkerchief. When a nobleman wants to court a lady seriously, he gives her a handkerchief.

“Oh!” she said, pulling the handkerchief back. “Thank you.”

Elend smiled, stepping close to her. “That other man, whoever he is, might have a lead on me because of my foolishness. However, I am not so foolish that I would pass up the chance to give him a little competition.” He winked, bowed slightly, and walked back toward the central ballroom.

Vin waited a moment, then walked forward and slipped through the balcony doorway. Elend met up with the same two as before—a Lekal and a Hasting, political enemies of the Venture. They paused for a moment, then all three walked toward a stairwell at the side of the room.

Those stairwells only lead to one place, Vin thought, slipping back into the room. The auxiliary towers.

“Mistress Valette?”

Vin jumped, turning to find Sazed approaching. “Are we ready to go?” he asked.

Vin moved over to him quickly. “Lord Elend Venture just disappeared down that stairwell with his Hasting and Lekal friends.”

“Interesting,” Sazed said. “And why would…Mistress, what happened to your makeup!”

“Never mind,” Vin said. “I think I should follow them.”

“Is that another handkerchief, Mistress?” Sazed asked. “You have been busy.”

“Sazed, are you listening to me?”

“Yes, Mistress. I suppose you could follow them if you wish, but you would be fairly obvious. I don’t know that it would be the best method of gaining information.”

“I wouldn’t follow them overtly,” Vin said quietly. “I’d use Allomancy. But, I need your permission for that.”

Sazed paused. “I see. How is your side?”

“It’s been healed for ages,” Vin said. “I don’t even notice it anymore.”

Sazed sighed. “Very well. Master Kelsier intended to begin your training in earnest again when he returned, anyway. Just. . be careful. This is a ridiculous thing to say to a Mistborn, I think, but I ask anyway.”

“I will,” Vin said. “I’ll meet you on that balcony over there in an hour.”

“Good luck, Mistress,” Sazed said.

Vin was already rushing back toward the balcony. She stepped around the corner, then stood before the stone railing and the mists beyond. The beautiful, swirling void. It’s been far too long, she thought, reaching into her sleeve and pulling out a vial of metals. She downed it eagerly and got out a small handful of coins.

Then, blissfully, she hopped up onto the railing and threw herself out into the dark mists.

Tin gave her sight as the wind flapped at her dress. Pewter gave her strength as she turned her eyes toward the buttresslike wall running between the tower and the main keep.

Steel gave her power as she threw a coin downward, sending it into the darkness.

She lurched in the air. The air resistance fluttered her dress, and she felt like she was trying to pull a bale of cloth behind her, but her Allomancy was strong enough to deal with that. Elend’s tower was the next one over; she needed to get onto the walltop walkway that ran between it and the central tower. Vin flared steel, Pushing herself up a bit higher, then flung another coin into the mists behind her. When it hit the wall, she used it to shoot herself forward.

She slammed into her target wall just a bit too low—folds of cloth cushioning the blow—but she managed to grab the lip of the walkway above. An unenhanced Vin would have had trouble pulling herself up onto the wall, but Vin the Allomancer easily scrambled over the side.

She crouched in her black dress, moving quietly across the walltop pathway. There were no guards, but the tower ahead of her had a lit sentrypost at its base.

Can’t go that way, she thought, glancing upward instead. The tower appeared to have several rooms, and a couple of them were lit. Vin dropped a coin and catapulted herself upward, then Pulled against a window mounting and yanked herself over to land lightly on the stone window ledge. The shutters were closed against the night, and she had to lean close, flaring tin, to hear what was going on inside.

“. . balls always last well into the night. We’ll probably have to pull double duty.”

Guards, Vin thought, jumping and Pushing against the top of the window. It rattled as she shot up the side of the tower. She caught the base of the next window ledge and pulled herself up.

“. . don’t regret my tardiness,” a familiar voice said from inside. Elend. “She happens to be far more attractive than you are, Telden.”

A masculine voice laughed. “The mighty Elend Venture, finally captured by a pretty face.”

“She’s more than that, Jastes,” Elend said. “She’s kindhearted—she helped skaa runaways on her plantation. I think we should bring her in to talk with us.”

“Not a chance,” said a deep-voiced man. “Look, Elend, I don’t mind if you want to talk philosophy. Hell, I’ll even share a few drinks with you when you do. But I’m not going to let random people come join us.”

“I agree with Telden,” Jastes said. “Five people is enough.”

“See, now,” Elend’s voice said. “I don’t think you’re being fair.”

“Elend…” another voice said sufferingly.

“All right,” Elend said. “Telden, did you read the book I gave you?”

“I tried,” Telden said. “It’s a bit thick.”

“But it’s good, right?” Elend said.

“Good enough,” Telden said. “I can see why the Lord Ruler hates it so much.”

“Redalevin’s works are better,” Jastes said. “More concise.”

“I don’t mean to be contrary,” said a fifth voice. “But, is this all we’re going to do? Read?”

“What’s wrong with reading?” Elend asked.

“It’s a bit boring,” the fifth voice said.

Good man, Vin thought.

“Boring?” Elend asked. “Gentlemen, these ideas—these words—they’re everything. These men knew that they’d be executed for their words. Can you not sense their passion?”

“Passion, yes,” the fifth voice said. “Usefulness, no.”

“We can change the world,” Jastes said. “Two of us are house heirs, the other three are second heirs.”

“Someday, we’ll be the ones in charge,” Elend said. “If we put these ideas into effect—fairness, diplomacy, moderation— we can exert pressure even on the Lord Ruler!”

The fifth voice snorted. “You might be heir to a powerful house, Elend, but the rest of us aren’t as important. Telden and Jastes will probably never inherit, and Kevoux—no offense—is hardly that influential. We can’t change the world.”

“We can change the way our houses work,” Elend said. “If the houses would stop squabbling, we might be able to gain some real power in the government—rather than just bow to the whims of the Lord Ruler.”

“Every year, the nobility grows weaker,” Jastes said in agreement. “Our skaa belong to the Lord Ruler, as does our land. His obligators determine who we can marry and what we can believe. Our canals, even, are officially ‘his’ property. Ministry assassins kill men who speak out too openly, or who are too successful. This is no way to live.”

“I agree with you there,” Telden said. “Elend’s prattling about class imbalance seems like silliness to me, but I can see the importance of presenting a unified front before the Lord Ruler.”

“Exactly,” Elend said. “This is what we have to—”

“Vin!” a voice whispered.

Vin jumped, nearly falling off the window ledge in shock. She glanced around in alarm.

“Above you,” the voice whispered.

She glanced up. Kelsier hung from another window ledge just above. He smiled, winked, then nodded down toward the wall-walkway below.

Vin glanced back at Elend’s room as Kelsier dropped through the mists beside her. Finally, she pushed herself off and followed Kelsier down, using her same coin to slow her descent.

“You’re back!” she said eagerly as she landed.

“Got back this afternoon.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Checking up on our friend in there,” Kelsier said. “Doesn’t seem like much has changed since the last time.”

“Last time?”

Kelsier nodded. “I’ve spied on that little group a couple of times since you told me about them. I shouldn’t have bothered—they’re not a threat. Just a bunch of noblelings getting together to drink and debate.”

“But, they want to overthrow the Lord Ruler!”

“Hardly,” Kelsier said with a snort. “They’re just doing what noblemen do—planning alliances. It’s not that unusual for the next generation to start organizing their house coalitions before they come to power.”

“This is different,” Vin said.

“Oh?” Kelsier asked with amusement. “You’ve been a noble so long that you can tell that already?”

She flushed, and he laughed, putting a friendly arm around her shoulders. “Oh, don’t get like that. They seem like nice enough lads, for noblemen. I promise not to kill any of them, all right?”

Vin nodded.

“Perhaps we can find a way to use them—they do seem more open-minded than most. I just don’t want you to be disappointed, Vin. They’re still noblemen. Perhaps they can’t help what they are, but that doesn’t change their nature.”

Just like Dockson, Vin thought. Kelsier assumes the worst about Elend. But, did she really have any reason to expect otherwise? To fight a battle like Kelsier and Dockson were, it was probably more effective—and better for the psyche—to assume that all of their enemies were evil.

“What happened to your makeup, by the way?” Kelsier asked.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Vin said, thinking back to her conversation with Elend. Why did I have to cry? I’m such an idiot! And, the way I blurted out that question about him sleeping with skaa.


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