Mistborn: The Final Empire (Page 85)
Elend turned and walked into the study. His father sat in his chair, speaking quietly with TenSoon—the Venture Kandra. Elend still wasn’t used to the creature’s most recent body, which had once belonged to a servant in the Hasting household. Elend shivered as it noticed him. It bowed, then quietly retreated from the room.
Elend leaned against the doorframe. Straff’s chair sat in front of several shelves of books—not a single one of which, Elend was conﬁdent, his father had ever read. The room was lit by two lamps, their hoods mostly closed to allow out only a bit of light.
“You attended the ball tonight,” Straff said. “What did you learn?”
Elend reached up, rubbing his forehead. “That I have a tendency to drink far too much brandy.”
Straff was not amused by the comment. He was the perfect imperial nobleman—tall, ﬁrm-shouldered, always dressed in a tailored vest and suit. “You met with that…woman again?” he asked.
“Valette? Hum, yes. Not for as long as I would have liked, though.”
“I forbade you from spending time with her.”
“Yes,” Elend said. “I remember.”
Straff’s expression darkened. He stood, walking over to the desk. “Oh, Elend,” he said. “When are you going to get over this childish temperament you have? Do you think I don’t realize that you act foolishly simply to spite me?”
“Actually, I got over my ‘childish temperament’ some time ago, Father—it just seems that my natural inclinations work even better to annoy you. I wish I had known that earlier; I could have saved a great deal of effort in my younger years.”
His father snorted, then held up a letter. “I dictated this to Staxles a short time ago. It is an acceptance of a lunch appointment with Lord Tegas tomorrow afternoon. If a house war does come, I want to make certain we are in a position to destroy the Hastings as quickly as possible, and Tegas could be a strong ally. He has a daughter. I’d like you to dine with her at the luncheon.”
“I’ll consider it,” Elend said, tapping his head. “I’m not sure what kind of state I’ll be in tomorrow morning. Too much brandy, remember?”
“You’ll be there, Elend. This is not a request.”
Elend paused. A part of him wanted to snap back at his father, to make a stand—not because he cared about where he dined, but because of something far more important.
Hasting is the second-most-powerful house in the city. If we made an allegiance with them, together we could keep Luthadel from chaos. We could stop the house war, not enﬂame it.
That’s what his books had done to him—they had changed him from rebellious fop into would-be philosopher. Unfortunately, he’d been a fool for so long. Was it any wonder that Straff hadn’t noticed the change in his son? Elend himself was only starting to realize it.
Straff continued to glare at him, and Elend looked away. “I’ll think about it,” he said.
Straff waved his hand dismissively, turning.
Trying to salvage something of his pride, Elend continued. “You probably don’t even have to worry about the Hastings—it seems that they’re making preparations to bolt the city.”
“What?” Straff asked. “Where did you hear that?”
“At the ball,” Elend said lightly.
“I thought you said you didn’t learn anything important.”
“Now, see, I never said anything of the sort. I just didn’t feel like sharing with you.”
Lord Venture frowned. “I don’t know why I even care— anything you learn is bound to be worthless. I tried to train you in politics, boy. I really did. But now…well, I hope I live to see you dead, because this house is in for dire times if you ever take control.”
“I know more than you think, Father.”
Straff laughed, walking back to sit in his chair. “I doubt that, boy. Why, you can’t even bed a woman properly—the last, and only, time I know about you trying it, I had to take you to the brothel myself.”
Elend ﬂushed. Careful, he told himself. He’s bringing that up on purpose. He knows how much it bothers you.
“Get to bed, boy,” Straff said with a wave of his hand. “You look terrible.”
Elend stood for a moment, then ﬁnally ducked out into the hallway, sighing quietly to himself.
That’s the difference between you and them, Elend, he thought. Those philosophers you read—they were revolutionaries. They were willing to risk execution. You can’t even stand up to your father.
He walked tiredly up to his rooms—where, oddly, he found a servant waiting for him.
Elend frowned. “Yes?”
“Lord Elend, you have a guest,” the man said.
“At this hour?”
“It’s Lord Jastes Lekal, my lord.”
Elend cocked his head slightly. What in the Lord Ruler’s name…? “He’s waiting in the sitting room, I assume?”
“Yes, my lord,” the servant said.
Elend turned regretfully away from his chambers, walking back down the hallway. He found Jastes waiting impatiently.
“Jastes?” Elend said tiredly, walking into the sitting room. “I hope you have something very important to tell me.”
Jastes shufﬂed uncomfortably for a moment, looking even more nervous than normal.
“What?” Elend demanded, his patience waning.
“It’s about the girl.”
“Valette?” Elend asked. “You came here to discuss Valette? Now?”
“You should trust your friends more,” Jastes said.
Elend snorted. “Trust your knowledge of women? No offense, Jastes, but I think not.”
“I had her followed, Elend,” Jastes blurted out.
Elend paused. “What?”
“I had her carriage followed. Or, at least, I had someone watch for it at the city gates. She wasn’t in it when it left the city.”
“What do you mean?” Elend asked, his frown deepening.
“She wasn’t in the carriage, Elend,” Jastes repeated. “While her Terrisman was producing papers for the guards, my man snuck up and peeked through the carriage window, and there was nobody inside.
“The carriage must have dropped her off somewhere in town. She’s a spy from one of the other houses—they’re trying to get at your father through you. They created the perfect woman to attract you—dark-haired, a bit mysterious, and outside of the regular political structure. They made her lowborn enough that it would be a scandal for you to be interested in her, then set her on you.”
“Jastes, this is ridicu—”
“Elend,” Jastes interrupted. “Tell me one more time: How did you meet her the ﬁrst time?”
Elend paused. “She was standing on the balcony.”
“In your reading spot,” Jastes said. “Everyone knows that’s where you usually go. Coincidence?”
Elend closed his eyes. Not Valette. She can’t be part of all this. But, immediately, another thought occurred to him. I told her about the atium! How could I be so stupid?
It couldn’t be true. He wouldn’t believe that he had been duped so easily. But…could he risk it? He was a bad son, true, but he was no traitor to the house. He didn’t want to see Venture fall; he wanted to lead it someday, so that perhaps he’d be able to change things.
He bid Jastes farewell, then walked back to his rooms with a distracted step. He felt too tired to think about house politics. However, when he ﬁnally got into bed, he found that he couldn’t sleep.
Eventually, he rose, sending for a servant.
“Tell my father I want to make a trade,” Elend explained to the man. “I’ll go to his luncheon tomorrow, just as he wants.” Elend paused, standing in his evening robe by his bedroom door.
“In exchange,” he ﬁnally said, “tell him I want to borrow a couple of spies so that they can follow someone for me.”
The others all think I should have had Kwaan executed for betraying me. To tell the truth, I’d probably kill him this moment if I knew where he’d gone. At the time, however, I just couldn’t do it.
The man had become like a father to me. To this day, I don’t know why he suddenly decided that I wasn’t the Hero. Why did he turn against me, denouncing me to the entire Conclave of Worldbringers?
Would he rather that the Deepness win? Surely, even if I’m not the right one—as Kwaan now claims—my presence at the Well of Ascension couldn’t possibly be worse than what will happen if the Deepness continues to destroy the land.
IT’S ALMOST OVER, VIN READ.
We can see the cavern from our camp. It will take a few more hours of hiking to reach it, but I know that it is the right place. I can feel it somehow, feel it up there…pulsing, in my mind.
It’s so cold. I swear that the rocks themselves are made of ice, and the snow is deep enough in places that we have to dig our way through. The wind blows all the time. I fear for Fedik—he hasn’t been quite the same since the creature made of mist attacked him, and I worry that he will wander off a cliffside or slip through one of the many icy rifts in the ground.
The Terrismen, however, are a wonder. It is fortunate that we brought them, for no regular packmen would have survived the trip. The Terrismen don’t seem to mind the cold— something about their strange metabolisms gives them a supernatural ability to resist the elements. Perhaps they have “saved up” heat from their bodies for later use?
They won’t talk about their powers, however—and I am sure that Rashek is to blame. The other packmen look to him for leadership, though I don’t think he has complete control over them. Before he was stabbed, Fedik feared that the Terrismen would abandon us up here in the ice. I don’t think that will happen, however. I am here by providence of Terris prophecies—these men will not disobey their own religion simply because one of their number has taken a dislike to me.
I did ﬁnally confront Rashek. He did not want to speak to me, of course, but I forced him. Unleashed, he spoke at great length regarding his hatred of Khlennium and my people. He thinks that we have turned his people into little more than slaves. He thinks that Terrismen deserve far more—he keeps saying that his people should be “dominant” because of their supernatural powers.
I fear his words, for I see some truth in them. Yesterday, one of the packmen lifted a boulder of enormous size, then tossed it out of our way with an almost casual throw. I have not seen such a feat of strength in all my days.
These Terrismen could be very dangerous, I think. Perhaps we have treated them unfairly. However, men like Rashek must be contained—he irrationally believes that all people outside of Terris have oppressed him. He is such a young man to be so angry.
It is so cold. When this is ﬁnished, I think I should like to live where it is warm all year. Braches has told of such places, islands to the south where great mountains create ﬁre.
What will it be like, when this is all over? I will be just a regular man again. An unimportant man. It sounds nice— more desirable, even, than a warm sun and a windless sky. I am so tired of being the Hero of Ages, tired of entering cities to ﬁnd either armed hostility or fanatic adoration. I am tired of being loved and hated for what a bunch of old men say I will eventually do.