He looked up, staring out into the mists. “I’m notting a fool. I. . knew it wasing not to happen. I see things, Vin. I see lots of things.”
She laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. I see things…. An appropriate statement, for a Tineye like him.
“You’ve been an Allomancer for a long time?” she asked.
Spook nodded. “Wasing the Snap when I was ﬁve. Barely even remember it.”
“And since then you’ve been practicing with tin?”
“Mostly,” he said. “Wasing a good thing for me. Letting me see, letting me hear, letting me feel.”
“Any tips you can pass on?” Vin asked hopefully.
He paused thoughtfully, sitting by the edge of the slanted rooftop, one foot dangling over the side. “Tin burning… Notting about the seeing. Wasing about the not seeing.”
Vin frowned. “What do you mean?”
“When burning,” he said, “everything comes. Lots of everything. Distractions here, there. Ifﬁng the power of wants, ignoring the distractions of both.”
If you want to be good at burning tin, she thought, translating as best she could, learn to deal with distraction. It isn’t about what you see—it’s about what you can ignore.
“Interesting,” Vin said thoughtfully.
Spook nodded. “When looking, seeing the mist and seeing the houses and feeling the wood and hearing the rats below. Choose one, and don’t get distracted.”
“Good advice,” Vin said.
Spook nodded as a sound thumped behind them. They both jumped and ducked down, and Kelsier chuckled as he walked across the rooftop. “We really have to ﬁnd a better way of warning people that we’re coming up. Every time I visit a spynest, I worry that I’m going to startle someone off the rooftop.”
Vin stood, dusting off her clothing. She wore mistcloak, shirt, and trousers; it had been days since she’d worn a dress. She only put in token appearances at Mansion Renoux. Kelsier was too worried about assassins to let her stay there for long.
At least we bought Kliss’s silence, Vin thought, annoyed at the expense. “It’s time?” she asked.
Kelsier nodded. “Nearly so, at least. I want to stop somewhere on the way.”
Vin nodded. For their second meeting, Marsh had chosen a location that he was supposedly scouting for the Ministry. It was a perfect opportunity to meet, since Marsh had an excuse to be in the building all night, ostensibly Seeking for any Allomantic activity nearby. He would have a Soother with him for a good deal of the time, but there would be an opening near the middle of the night when Marsh ﬁgured he would have a good hour alone. Not much time if he had to sneak out and back, but plenty of time for a pair of stealthy Mistborn to pay him a quick visit.
They bid farewell to Spook and Pushed off into the night. However, they didn’t travel the rooftops for long before Kelsier led them down onto the street, landing and walking to conserve strength and metals.
It’s kind of odd, Vin thought, remembering her ﬁrst night practicing Allomancy with Kelsier. I don’t even think of the empty streets as creepy anymore.
The cobblestones were slick from mistwater, and the deserted street eventually disappeared into the distant haze. It was dark, silent, and lonely; even the war hadn’t changed very much. Soldier groups, when they attacked, went in clumps, striking quickly and trying to overrun the defenses of an enemy house.
Yet, despite the emptiness of the nighttime city, Vin felt comfortable in it. The mists were with her.
“Vin,” Kelsier said as they walked. “I want to thank you.”
She turned to him, a tall, proud ﬁgure in a majestic mist-cloak. “Thank me? Why?”
“For the things you said about Mare. I’ve been thinking a lot about that day…about her. I don’t know if your ability to see through copperclouds explains everything, but…well, given the choice, I’d rather believe that Mare didn’t betray me.”
Vin nodded, smiling.
He shook his head ruefully. “It sounds foolish, doesn’t it? As if… all these years, I’ve just been waiting for a reason to give in to self-delusion.”
“I don’t know,” Vin said. “Once, maybe I would have thought you a fool, but…well, that’s kind of what trust is, isn’t it? A willful self-delusion? You have to shut out that voice that whispers about betrayal, and just hope that your friends aren’t going to hurt you.”
Kelsier chuckled. “I don’t think you’re helping the argument any, Vin.”
She shrugged. “Makes sense to me. Distrust is really the same thing—only on the other side. I can see how a person, given the choice between two assumptions, would choose to trust.”
“But not you?” Kelsier asked.
Vin shrugged again. “I don’t know anymore.”
Kelsier hesitated. “This… Elend of yours. There’s a chance that he was just trying to scare you into leaving the city, right? Perhaps he said those things for your own good.”
“Maybe,” Vin said. “But, there was something different about him…about the way he looked at me. He knew I was lying to him, but I don’t think he realized that I was skaa. He probably thought I was a spy from one of the other houses. Either way, he seemed honest in his desire to be rid of me.”
“Maybe you thought that because you were already convinced that he was going to leave you.”
“I…” Vin trailed off, glancing down at the slick, ashen street as they walked. “I don’t know—and it’s your fault, you know. I used to understand everything. Now it’s all confused.”
“Yes, we’ve messed you up right properly,” Kelsier said with a smile.
“You don’t seem bothered by the fact.”
“Nope,” Kelsier said. “Not a bit. Ah, here we are.”
He stopped beside a large, wide building—probably another skaa tenement. It was dark inside; skaa couldn’t afford lamp oil, and they would have put out the building’s central hearth after preparing the evening meal.
“This?” Vin asked uncertainly.
Kelsier nodded, walking up to tap lightly on the door. To Vin’s surprise, it opened hesitantly, a wiry skaa face peeking out into the mists.
“Lord Kelsier!” the man said quietly.
“I told you I’d visit,” Kelsier said, smiling. “Tonight seemed like a good time.”
“Come in, come in,” the man said, pulling the door open. He stepped back, careful not to let any of the mist touch him as Kelsier and Vin entered.
Vin had been in skaa tenements before, but never before had they seemed so… depressing. The smell of smoke and unwashed bodies was almost overpowering, and she had to extinguish her tin to keep from gagging. The wan light of a small coal stove showed a crowd of people packed together, sleeping on the ﬂoor. They kept the room swept of ash, but there was only so much they could do—black stains still covered clothing, walls, and faces. There were few furnishings, not to mention far too few blankets to go around.
I used to live like this, Vin thought with horror. The crew lairs were just as packed—sometimes more so. This…was my life.
People roused as they saw that they had a visitor. Kelsier had his sleeves rolled up, Vin noticed, and the scars on his arms were visible even by emberlight. They stood out starkly, running lengthwise up from his wrist past his elbows, crisscrossing and overlapping.
The whispers began immediately.
“Kelsier, the Lord of the Mists…”
That’s a new one, Vin thought with a raised eyebrow. She stayed back as Kelsier smiled, stepping forward to meet the skaa. The people gathered around him with quiet excitement, reaching out to touch his arms and cloak. Others just stood and stared, watching him with reverence.
“I come to spread hope,” Kelsier said to them quietly. “House Hasting fell tonight.”
There were murmurs of surprise and awe.
“I know many of you worked in the Hasting smithies and steel mills,” Kelsier said. “And, honestly, I cannot say what this means for you. But it is a victory for all of us. For a time, at least, your men won’t die before the forges or beneath the whips of Hasting taskmasters.”
There were murmurs through the small crowd, and one voice ﬁnally spoke the concern loud enough for Vin to hear. “House Hasting is gone? Who will feed us?”
So frightened, Vin thought. I was never like that …wasI?
“I’ll send you another shipment of food,” Kelsier promised. “Enough to last you for a while, at least.”
“You’ve done so much for us,” another man said.
“Nonsense,” Kelsier said. “If you wish to repay me, then stand up just a little straighter. Be a little less afraid. They can be beaten.”
“By men like you, Lord Kelsier,” a woman whispered. “But not by us.”
“You’d be surprised,” Kelsier said as the crowd began to make way for parents bringing their children forward. It seemed like everyone in the room wanted their sons to meet Kelsier personally. Vin watched with mixed feelings. The crew still had reservations regarding Kelsier’s rising fame with the skaa, though they kept their word and remained silent.
He really does seem to care for them, Vin thought, watching Kelsier pick up a small child. I don’t think it’s just a show. This is how he is—he loves people, loves the skaa. But…it’s more like the love of a parent for a child than it is like the love of a man for his equals.
Was that so wrong? He was, after all, a kind of father to the skaa. He was the noble lord they always should have had. Still, Vin couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable as she watched the faintly illuminated, dirty faces of those skaa families, their eyes worshipful and reverent.
Kelsier eventually bid the group farewell, telling them he had an appointment. Vin and he left the cramped room, stepping out into blessedly fresh air. Kelsier remained quiet as they traveled toward Marsh’s new Soothing station, though he did walk with a bit more of a spring in his step.
Eventually, Vin had to say something. “You visit them often?”
Kelsier nodded. “At least a couple of houses a night. It breaks up the monotony of my other work.”
Killing noblemen and spreading false rumors, Vin thought. Yes, visiting the skaa would be a nice break.
The meeting place was only a few streets away. Kelsier paused in a doorway as they approached, squinting in the dark night. Finally, he pointed at a window, just faintly lit. “Marsh said he’d leave a light burning if the other obligators were gone.”
“Window or stairs?” Vin asked.
“Stairs,” Kelsier said. “The door should be unlocked, and the Ministry owns the entire building. It will be empty.”
Kelsier was right on both counts. The building didn’t smell musty enough to be abandoned, but the bottom few ﬂoors were obviously unused. Vin and he quickly climbed up the stairwell.
“Marsh should be able to tell us the Ministry reaction to the House War,” Kelsier said as they reached the top ﬂoor. Lanternlight ﬂickered through the door at the top, and he pushed it open, still speaking. “Hopefully, that Garrison won’t get back too quickly. The damage is mostly done, but I’d like the war to go on for—”
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