« Warbreaker », Chapter Two   

Chapter Two

            In Kelsier’s opinion, the city of Luthadel--seat of the Lord Ruler--was a gloomy sight.  Most of the buildings had been built from stone blocks, with tile roofs for the wealthy, and simple, peaked wooden roofs for the rest.  The structures were packed closely together, making them seem squat despite the fact that they were generally three-stories high. 

            The tenements and shops were uniform in appearance--this was not a place to draw attention to one’s self.  Unless, of course, you were a member of the high nobility. 

            Interspersed throughout the city were a dozen or so monolithic keeps.  Intricate, with rows of spear-like spires or deep archways, these were the homes of the high nobility.  In fact, they were the mark of a high noble family--any family who could afford to build a keep and maintain a high profile presence in Luthadel was considered to be a Great House.

            Most of the open ground in the city was around these keeps.  The patches of space amidst the tenements were like clearings in a forest, the keeps themselves like solitary mounts rising above the rest of the landscape.  Black mountains.  Like the rest of the city, the keeps were stained by countless years of ashfalls.

            Every structure in Luthadel--virtually every structure Kelsier had ever seen--had been blackened to some degree.  Even the city wall, upon which Kelsier now stood, was blackened by a patina of soot.  Structures were generally darkest at the top, where the ash gathered, but rainwaters and evening condensations had carried the stains over ledges and down walls.  Like paint running down a canvas, the darkness seemed to creep down the sides of buildings in an uneven gradient. 

            The streets, of course, were completely black.  Kelsier stood waiting, scanning the city as a group of skaa workers worked in the street below, clearing away the latest mounds of ash.  They’d take it to the River Channerel, which ran through the center of the city, sending the piles of ash to be washed away, lest it pile up and eventually bury the city.  Sometimes, Kelsier wondered why the entire empire wasn’t just one big mound of ash.  He supposed it must break down into soil eventually.  Yet, it took a ridiculous amount of effort to keep cities and fields clear enough to be used.

            Fortunately, there were always enough skaa to do the work.  The workers below him wore simple coats and trousers, ash-stained and worn.  Like the plantation workers he had left behind several weeks before, they worked with beaten-down, despondent motions.  Other groups of skaa passed the workers, responding to the bells in the distance, chiming the hour and calling them to their morning’s work at the forges or mills.  Luthadel’s main export was metal--the city was home to hundreds of forges and refineries.  However, the surgings of the river provided excellent locations for mills, both to grind grains and make textiles.

            The skaa continued to work.  Kelsier turned away from them, looking up into the distance, toward the city center, where the Lord Ruler’s palace loomed like some kind of massive, multi-spined insect.  Kredik Shaw, the Hill of a Thousand Spires.  The palace was several times the size of any nobleman’s keep, and was by far the largest building in the city.

            Another ashfall began as Kelsier stood contemplating the city, the flakes falling lightly down upon the streets and buildings.  A lot of ashfalls, lately, he thought, glad for the excuse to pull up the hood on his cloak.  The ashmounts must be active.  

            It was unlikely that anyone in Luthadel would recognize him--it had been three years since his capture.  Still, the hood was reassuring.  If all went well, there would come a time when Kelsier would want to be seen and recognized.  For now, anonymity was probably better.

            Eventually, a figure approached along the wall.  The man, Dockson, was shorter than Kelsier, and he had a squarish face that seemed well-suited to his moderately stocky build.  A nondescript brown hooded cloak covered his black hair, and he wore the same short half-beard that he’d sported since his face had first put forth whiskers some twenty years before. 

            He, like Kelsier, wore a nobleman’s suit: colored vest, dark coat and trousers, and a thin cloak to keep off the soot.  The clothing wasn’t rich, but it was aristocratic--indicative of the Luthadel middle class.  Most men of noble birth weren’t wealthy enough to be considered part of a Great House--yet, in the Final Empire, nobility wasn’t just about money.  It was about lineage and history; the Lord Ruler was immortal, and he apparently still remembered the men who had supported him during the early years of his reign.  The descendants of those men, no matter how poor they became, would always be favored. 

            The clothing would keep passing guard patrols from asking too many questions.  In the cases of Kelsier and Dockson, of course, that clothing was a lie.  Neither was actually noble--though, technically, Kelsier was a half-blood.  In many ways, however, that was worse than being just a normal skaa.

            Dockson strolled up next to Kelsier, then leaned against the battlement, resting a pair of stout arms on the stone.  “You’re a few days late, Kell.”

            “I decided to make a few extra stops in the plantations to the north.”

            “Ah,” Dockson said.  “So you did have something to do with Lord Tresting’s death.”

            Kelsier smiled.  “You could say that.”

            “His murder caused quite a stir among the local nobility.”

            “That was kind of the intention,” Kelsier said.  “Though, to be honest, I wasn’t planning anything quite so dramatic.  It was almost more of an accident than anything else.”

            Dockson raised an eyebrow.  “How do you ‘accidentally’ kill a noblemen in his own mansion?”

            “With a knife in the chest,” Kelsier said lightly.  “Or, rather, a pair of knives in the chest--it always pays to be careful.”

            Dockson rolled his eyes.

            “His death isn’t exactly a loss, Dox,” Kelsier said.  “Even among the nobility, Tresting had a reputation for cruelty.”

            “I don’t care about Tresting,” Dockson said.  “I’m just considering the state of insanity that led me to plan another job with you.  Attacking a provincial lord in his manor house, surrounded by guards. . . .  Honestly, Kell, I’d nearly forgotten how foolhardy you can be.”

            “Foolhardy?” Kelsier asked with a laugh.  “That wasn’t foolhardy--that was just a small diversion.  You should see some of the things I’m planning to do!”

            Dockson stood for a moment, then he laughed too.  “By the Lord Ruler, it’s good to have you back, Kell!  I’m afraid I’ve grown rather boring during the last few years.”

            “We’ll fix that,” Kelsier promised.  He took a deep breath, ash falling lightly around him.  Skaa cleaning crews were already back at work on the streets below, brushing up the dark ash.  Behind, a guard patrol passed, nodding to Kelsier and Dockson.  They waited in silence for the men to pass.

            “It’s good to be back,” Kelsier finally said.  “There’s something homey about Luthadel--even if it is a depressing, stark pit of a city.  You have the meeting organized?”

            Dockson nodded.  “We can’t start until this evening, though.  How’d you get in, anyway?  I had men watching the gates.”

            “Hmm?  Oh, I snuck in last night.”

            “But how--”  Dockson paused.  “Oh, right.  That’s going to take some getting used to.”

            Kelsier shrugged.  “I don’t see why.  You always work with Mistings.”

            “Yes, but this is different,” Dockson said.  He held up a hand to forestall further argument.  “No need, Kell.  I’m not hedging--I just said it would take some getting used to.”

            “Fine.  Who’s coming tonight?”

            “Well, Breeze and Ham will be there, of course.  They’re very curious about this mystery job of ours--not to mention rather annoyed that I won’t tell him what you’ve been up to these last few years.”

            “Good,” Kelsier said with a smile.  “Let them wonder.  How about Trap?”

            Dockson shook his head.  “Trap’s dead.  The Ministry finally caught up with him a couple months ago.  Didn’t even bother sending him to the Pits--they beheaded him on the spot.”

            Kelsier closed his eyes, exhaling softly.  It seemed that the Steel Ministry caught up with everyone eventually.  Sometimes, Kelsier felt that a skaa Misting life wasn’t so much about surviving as it was about picking the right time to die.  

            “This leaves us without a Smoker,” Kelsier finally said, opening his eyes.  “You have any suggestions?”
            “Ruddy,” Dockson said.

            Kelsier shook his head.  “No.  He’s a good Smoker, but he’s not a good enough man.”
            Dockson smiled.  “Not a good enough man to be on a thieving crew. . . .  Kell, I have missed working with you.  All right, who then?”

            Kelsier thought for a moment.  “Is Clubs still running that shop of his?”

            “As far as I know,” Dockson said slowly.

            “He’s supposed to be one of the best Smokers in the city.”

            “I suppose,” Dockson said.  “But. . .isn’t he supposed to be kind of hard to work with?”

            “He’s not so bad,” Kelsier said.  “Not once you get used to him.  Besides, I think he might be. . .amenable to this particular job.”

            “All right,” Dockson said, shrugging.  “I’ll invite him.  I think one of his relatives is a Tineye.  Do you want me to invite him too?”

            “Sounds good,” Kelsier said.

            “All right,” Dockson said.  “Well, beyond that, there’s just Yeden.  Assuming he’s still interested. . . .”

            “He’ll be there,” Kelsier said.

            “He’d better be,” Dockson said.  “He’ll be the one paying us, after all.”

            Kelsier nodded, then frowned.  “You didn’t mention Marsh.”

            Dockson shrugged.  “I warned you.  Your brother never did approve of our methods, and now. . .well, you know Marsh.  He won’t even have anything to do with Yeden and the rebellion any more, let alone with a bunch of criminals like us.  I think we’ll have to find someone else to infiltrate the obligators.”

            “No,” Kelsier said.  “He’ll do it.  I’ll just have to stop by to persuade him.”

            “If you say so.”  Dockson fell silent then, and the two stood for a moment, leaning against the railing and looking out over the ash-stained city.

            Dockson finally shook his head.  “This is insane, eh?”

            Kelsier smiled.  “Feels good, doesn’t it?”

            Dockson nodded.  “Fantastic.”

            “It will be a job like no other,” Kelsier said, looking north--across the city and toward the twisted building at its center. 

            Dockson stepped away from the wall.  “We have a few hours before the meeting.  There’s something I want to show you.  I think there’s still time--if we hurry.”

            Kelsier turned with curious eyes.  “Well, I was going to go and chastise my prude of a brother.  But. . . .”

            “This will be worth your time,” Dockson promised.


            Vin sat in the corner of the safehouse’s main lair.  She kept to the shadows, as usual--the more she stayed out of sight, the more the others would ignore her.  She couldn’t afford to expend Luck keeping the men’s hands off of her.  She’d barely had time to regenerate what she’d used a few days before, during the meeting with the obligator.

            The usual rabble lounged at tables in the room, playing at dice or discussing minor jobs.  Smoke from a dozen different pipes pooled at the top of the chamber, and the walls were stained dark from countless years of similar treatment.  The floor was darkened with patches of ash--like most thieving crews, Camon’s group wasn’t known for its tidiness.

            There was a door at the back of the room, and beyond it lay a twisting stone stairway that led up to a false rain-grate in an alleyway.  This room, like so many others hidden in the imperial capital of Luthadel, wasn’t supposed to exist. 

            Rough laughter came from the front of the chamber, where Camon sat with a half-dozen cronies enjoying a typical afternoon of ale and crass jokes.  Camon’s table sat beside the bar, where the over-priced drinks were simply another way Camon exploited those who worked for him.  The Luthadel criminal element had learned quite well from the lessons taught by the nobility.

            Vin tried her best to remain invisible.  Six months before, she wouldn’t have believed that her life could actually get worse without Reen.  Yet, despite her brother’s abusive anger, he had kept the other crewmembers from having their way with Vin.  There were relatively few women on thieving crews--generally, those women who got involved with the underworld ended up as whores.  Reen had always told her that a girl needed to be tough--tougher, even, than a man--if she wanted to survive.

            You think some crewleader is going to want a liability like you on his team? he had said.  I don’t even want to have to work with you, and I’m your brother.

            Her back still throbbed--Camon had whipped her the day before.  The blood would ruin her shirt, and she wouldn’t be able to afford another one.  Camon was already retaining her wages to pay the debts Reen had left behind.

            But, I am strong, she thought.

            That was the irony.  The beatings almost didn’t hurt anymore, for Reen’s frequent abuses had left Vin resilient, while at the same time teaching her how to look pathetic and broken.  In a way, the beatings were self-defeating.  Bruises and welts mended, but each new lashing left Vin more hardened.  Stronger.  

            Camon stood up.  He reached into his vest pocket and pulled out his golden pocket watch.  He nodded to one of his companions, then he scanned the room, searching for. . .her. 

            His eyes locked on Vin. “It’s time.”

            Vin frowned.  Time for what?


            The Ministry’s Canton of Finance was an imposing structure--but, then, everything about the Steel Ministry tended to be imposing.

            Tall and blocky, the building had a massive rose-window in the front, though the glass was dark from the outside.  Two large banners hung down beside the window, the soot-stained red cloth proclaiming praises to the Lord Ruler.

            Camon studied the building with a critical eye.  Vin could sense his apprehension.  The Canton of Finance was hardly the most threatening of Ministry offices--the Canton of Inquisition, or even the Canton of Orthodoxy, had far more ominous reputations.  However, voluntarily entering any Ministry office. . .putting yourself in the power of the obligators. . .well, it was a thing to do only after serious consideration.

            Camon took a deep breath, then strode forward, his dueling cane tapping against the stones as he walked.  He wore his rich nobleman’s suit, and he was accompanied by a half dozen crewmembers--including Vin--to act as his “servants.”

            Vin followed Camon up the steps, then waited as one of the crewmembers jumped forward to pull the door open for his “master.”  Of the six attendants, only Vin seemed to have been told nothing of Camon’s plan.  Suspiciously, Theron--Camon’s supposed partner in the Ministry scam--was nowhere to be seen.

            Vin entered the Canton building.  Vibrant red light, sparkled with lines of blue, fell from the rose window.  A single obligator, with mid-level tattoos around his eyes, sat behind a desk at the end of the extended entryway.

            Camon approached, his cane thumping against the carpet as he walked.  “I am Lord Jedue,” he said. 

            What are you doing, Camon?  Vin thought.  You insisted to Theron that you wouldn’t meet with Prelan Laird in his Canton office.  Yet, now you’re here.

            The obligator nodded, making a notation in his ledger.  He waved to the side.  “You may take one attendant with you into the waiting chamber.  The rest must remain here.”

            Camon’s huff of disdain indicated what he thought of that prohibition.  The obligator, however, didn’t look up from his ledger.  Camon stood for a moment, and Vin couldn’t tell if he were genuinely angry or just playing the part of an arrogant nobleman.  Finally, he jabbed a finger at Vin.

            “Come,” he said, turning and waddling toward the indicated door.

            The room beyond was lavish and plush, and several noblemen lounged in various postures of waiting.  Camon chose a chair and settled into it, then pointed toward a table set with wine and red-frosted cakes.  Vin obediently fetched him a glass of wine and a plate of food, ignoring her own hunger. 

            Camon began to pick hungrily at the cakes, smacking quietly as he ate. 

            He’s nervous.  More nervous, even, than before.

            “Once we get in, you will say nothing,” Camon grumbled between bites.

            “You’re betraying Theron,” Vin whispered.

            Camon nodded. 

            “But, how?  Why?”  Theron’s plan was complex in execution, but simple in concept.  Every year, the Ministry transferred its new acolyte obligators from a northern training facility south to Luthadel for final instruction.  Theron had discovered, however, that those acolytes and their overseers brought down with them large amounts of Ministry funds--disguised as baggage--to be strongholded in Luthadel. 

            Banditry was very difficult in the Final Empire, what with the constant patrols along canal routes.  However, if one were running the very canal boats that the acolytes were sailing upon, a robbery could become possible.  Arranged at just the right time. . .the guards turning on their passengers. . .a man could make quite a profit, then blame it all on banditry.

            “Theron’s crew is weak,” Camon said quietly.  “He expended too many resources on this job.”

            “But, the return he’ll make--” Vin said.

            “Will never happen if I take what I can now, then run,” Camon said, smiling.  “I’ll talk the obligators into a down payment to get my convoy boats afloat, then disappear and leave Theron to deal with the disaster when the Ministry realizes that its been scammed.”

            Vin stood back, slightly shocked. Setting up a scam like this would have cost Theron thousands upon thousands of boxings--if the deal fell through now, he would be ruined.  And, with the Ministry hunting him, he wouldn’t even have time to seek revenge.  Camon would make a quick profit, as well as rid himself of one of his more powerful rivals. 

            Theron was a fool to bring Camon into this, she thought.  But, then, the amount Theron had promised to pay Camon was great--he probably assumed that Camon’s greed would keep him honest until Theron himself could pull a double-cross.  Camon had simply worked faster than anyone, even Vin, had expected.  How could Theron have known that Camon would undermine the job itself, rather than wait and try and steal the entire haul from the convoy?

            Vin’s stomach twisted.  It’s just another betrayal, she thought sickly.  Why does it still bother me so?  Everyone betrays everyone else.  That’s the way life is. . . .

            She wanted to find a corner--someplace cramped and secluded--and hide.  Alone. 

            Anyone will betray you.  Anyone.

            But there was no place to go.  Eventually, a minor obligator entered and called for Lord Jedue.  Vin followed Camon as they were ushered into an audience chamber.

            The man who waited inside, sitting behind the audience desk, was not Prelan Laird.

            Camon paused in the doorway.  The room was austere, bearing only the desk and simple gray carpeting.  The stone walls were unadorned, the only window barely a handspan wide.  The obligator who waited for them had some of the most intricate tattoos around his eyes that Vin had ever seen--she wasn’t even certain what rank they implied, but they extended all the way back to the obligator’s ears and up over his forehead.

            “Lord Jedue,” the strange obligator said.   Like Laird, he wore gray robes, but he was very different from the stern, bureaucratic men Camon had dealt with before.  This man was lean in a muscular way, and his clean-shaven, triangular head gave him an almost predatory look.

            “I was under the impression that I would be meeting with Prelan Larid,” Camon said, still not moving into the room.

            “Prelan Laird has been called away on other business.  I am High Prelan Arriev---head of the board that was reviewing your proposal.  You have a rare opportunity to address me directly.  I normally don’t hear cases in person, but Laird’s absence has made it necessary for me to share in some of his work.”

            Vin’s instincts made her tense.  We should go.  Now.

            Camon stood for a long moment, and Vin could see him considering.  Run now?  Or, take a risk for the greater prize?  Vin didn’t care about prizes--she just wanted to live.  Camon, however, had not become crewleader without the occasional gamble.  He slowly moved into the room, eyes cautious as he took the seat opposite the obligator.

            “Well, High Prelan Arriev,” Camon said with a careful voice.  “I assume that since I have been called back for another appointment, the board is considering my offer?”

            “Indeed we are,” the obligator said.  “Though I must admit, there are some Council members who are apprehensive about dealing with a family that is so near to economic disaster.  The Ministry generally prefers to be conservative in its financial operations.”

            “I see.”

            “But,” Arriev said, “there are others on the board who are quite eager to take advantage of the savings you offered us.”

            “And with which group do you identify, your grace?”

            “I, as of yet, have not made my decision.”  The obligator leaned forward.  “Which is why I noted that you have a rare opportunity.  Convince me, Lord Jedue, and you will have your contract.”

            “Surely Prelan Laird outlined the details of our offer,” Camon said.

            “Yes, but I would like to hear the arguments from you personally.  Humor me.”

            Vin frowned.  She remained near the back of the room, standing near the door, still half-convinced she should run. 

            “Well?” Arriev asked.

            “We need this contract, your grace,” Camon said.  “Without it we won’t be able to continue our canal shipping operations.  Your contract would give us a much-needed period of stability--a chance to maintain our convoy boats for a time while we search for other contracts.”

            Arriev studied Camon for a moment.  “Surely you can do better than that, Lord Jedue.  Laird said that you were very persuasive--let me hear you prove that you deserve our patronage.”

            Vin prepared her Luck.  She could make Arriev more inclined to believe. . .but, something restrained her.  The situation felt wrong.

            “We are your best choice, your grace,” Camon said.  “You fear that my house will suffer economic failure?  Well, if it does, what have you lost?  At worst, my narrowboats would stop running, and you would have to find other merchants to deal with.  Yet, if your patronage is enough to maintain my house, then you have found yourself an enviable long-term contract.”

            “I see,” Arriev said lightly.  “And why the Ministry?  Why not make your deal with someone else?  Surely there are other options for your boats--other groups who would jump at such rates.”

            Camon frowned.  “This isn’t about money, your grace, it is about the victory--the showing of confidence--that we would gain by having a Ministry contract.  If you trust us, others will too.  I need your support.”  Camon was sweating now.  He was probably beginning to regret this gamble.  Had he been betrayed?  Was Theron behind the odd meeting? 

            The obligator waited quietly.  He could destroy them, Vin knew.  If he even suspected that they were scamming him, he could give them over to the Canton of Inquisition.  More than one nobleman had entered a Canton building and never returned.

            Gritting her teeth, Vin reached out and used her Luck on the obligator, making him less suspicious.

            Arriev smiled.  “Well, you have convinced me,” he suddenly declared.

            Camon sighed in relief.

            Arriev continued, “Your most recent letter suggested that you need three thousand boxings as an advance to refurbish your equipment and resume shipping operations.  See the scribe in the main hallway to finish the paperwork so that you may requisition the necessary funds.”

            The obligator pulled a sheet of thick bureaucratic paper from a stack, then stamped a seal at the bottom.  He proffered it toward Camon.  “Your contract.”

            Camon smiled deeply.  “I knew coming to the Ministry was the wise choice,” he said, accepting the contract.  He stood, nodding respectfully to the obligator, then motioned for Vin to open the door for him.

            She did so.  Something is wrong.  Something is very wrong.  She paused as Camon left, looking back at the obligator.  He was still smiling.

            A happy obligator was always a bad sign.

            Yet, no one stopped them as they passed through the waiting room with its noble occupants.  Camon sealed and delivered the contract to the appropriate scribe, and no soldiers appeared to arrest them.  The scribe pulled out a small chest filled with coins, and then handed it to Camon with an indifferent hand.

            Then, they simply left the Canton building, Camon gathering his other attendants with obvious relief.  No cries of alarm.  No tromping of soldiers.  They were free.  Camon had successfully scammed both the Ministry and another crewleader.



            Kelsier stuffed another one of the little red-frosted cakes into his mouth, chewing with satisfaction.  The fat thief and his scrawny attendant passed through the waiting room, entering the entryway beyond.  The obligator who had interviewed the two thieves remained in his office, apparently awaiting his next appointment

            “Well?” Dockson asked.  “What do you think?”

            Kelsier glanced at the cakes.  “They’re quite good,” he said, taking another one.  “The Ministry has always had excellent taste--it makes sense that they would provide superior snacks.”

            Dockson rolled his eyes.  “About the girl, Kell.”

            Kelsier smiled as he piled four of the cakes in his hand, then nodded toward the doorway.  The Canton waiting room was growing too busy for the discussion of delicate matters.  On the way out, he paused and told the obligator secretary in the corner that they needed to reschedule.

            Then, the two crossed through the entry chamber--passing the overweight crewleader, who stood speaking with a scribe.  Kelsier stepped out onto the street, pulled his hood up against the still-falling ash, then led the way across the street.  He paused beside a alleyway, standing where he and Dockson could watch the Canton building’s doors.

            Kelsier munched contentedly on his cakes.  “How’d you find out about her?” he asked between bites. 

            “Your brother,” Dockson replied.  “Camon tried to swindle Marsh a few months ago, and he brought the girl with him then, too.  Actually, Camon’s little good-luck charm is becoming moderately famous in the right circles.  I’m still not sure if he knows what she is or not.  You know how superstitious thieves can get.”

            Kelsier nodded, dusting off his hands.  “How’d you know she’d be here today?”

            Dockson shrugged.  “A few bribes in the right place.  I’ve been keeping an eye on the girl ever since Marsh pointed her out to me.  I wanted to give you an opportunity to see her work for yourself.”

            Across the street, the Canton building’s door finally opened, and Camon made his way down the steps surrounded by a group of “servants.”  The small, short-haired girl was with him.  The sight of her made Kelsier frown.  She had a nervous anxiety to her step, and she jumped slightly whenever someone made a quick move.  The right side of her face was still slightly discolored from a partially-healed bruise.

            Kelsier eyed the self-important Camon.  I’ll have to come up with something particularly suitable to do to that man.

            “Poor thing,” Dockson muttered.

            Kelsier nodded.  “She’ll be free of him soon enough.  It’s a wonder no one discovered her before this.”

            “Your brother was right then?”

            Kelsier nodded.  “She’s at least a Misting, and if Marsh says she’s more, I’m inclined to believe him.  I’m a bit surprised to see her using Allomancy on a member of the Ministry, especially inside a Canton building.  I’d guess that she doesn’t know that she’s even using her abilities.”

            “Is that possible?” Dockson asked.

            Kelsier nodded.  “Trace minerals in the water can be burned, if just for a tiny bit of power.  That’s one of the reasons the Lord Ruler built his city here--lots of metals in the ground.  I’d say that. . . .”

            Kelsier trailed of, frowning slightly.  Something was wrong.  He glanced toward Camon and his crew.  They were still visible in the near distance, crossing the street and heading south.

            A figure appeared in the Canton Building’s doorway.  Lean with a confident air, he bore the tattoos of a high prelan of the Canton of Finance around his eyes.  Probably the very man Camon had met with shortly before.  The obligator stepped out of the building, and a second man exited behind him. 

            Beside Kelsier, Dockson suddenly grew stiff.

            The second man was tall with a strong build.  As he turned, Kelsier was able to see that a thick metal spike had been pounded tip-first through each of the man’s eyes.  With shafts as wide as an eye socket, the nail-like spikes were long enough that their sharp points jutted out about an inch from the back of the man’s clean-shaven skull.  The flat spike-ends shone like two silvery disks, sticking out of the sockets in the front, where the eyes should have been. 

            A Steel Inquisitor.

            “What’s that doing here?” Dockson asked.

            “Stay calm,” Kelsier said, trying to force himself to do the same.  The Inquisitor looked toward them, spiked eyes regarding Kelsier, before turning in the direction that Camon and the girl had gone.  Like all Inquisitors, he wore intricate eye tattoos--mostly black, with one stark red line--that marked him as a high-ranking member of the Canton of Inquisition.

            “He’s not here for us,” Kelsier said.  “I’m not burning anything--he’ll think that we’re just ordinary noblemen.”

            “The girl,” Dockson said.

            Kelsier nodded.  “You say Camon’s been running this scam on the Ministry for a while.  Well, the girl must have been detected by one of the obligators.  They’re trained to recognize when an Allomancer tampers with their emotions.”

            Dockson frowned thoughtfully.  Across the street, the Inquisitor conferred with the other obligator, then the two of them turned to walk in the direction that Camon had gone.  There was no urgency to their pace.

            “They must have sent a tail to follow them,” Dockson said.

            “This is the Ministry,” Kelsier said.  “There’ll be two tails, at least.”

            Dockson nodded.  “Camon will lead them directly back to his safehouse.  Dozens of men thieves will die.  They’re not all the most admirable people, but. . . .”

            “They fight the Final Empire, in their own way,” Kelsier said.  “Besides, I’m not about to let a possible Mistborn slip away from us--I want to talk to that girl.  Can you deal with those tails?”

            “I said I’d become boring, Kell,” Dockson said.  “Not sloppy.  I can handle a couple of Ministry flunkies.”

            “Good,” Kelsier said, reaching into his cloak pocket and pulling out a small vial.  A collection of metal flakes floated in an alcohol solution within.  Iron, steel, tin, pewter, copper, bronze, zinc, and brass--the eight basic Allomantic metals.  Kelsier pulled off the stopper and downed the contents in a single swift gulp. 

            He pocketed the now-empty vial, wiping his mouth.  “I’ll handle that Inquisitor.”

            Dockson looked apprehensive.  “You’re going to try and take him?”

            Kelsier shook his head.  “Too dangerous.  I’ll just divert him.  Now, get going--we don’t want those tails finding the safehouse.”

            Dockson nodded.  “Meet back at the fifteenth crossroad,” he said before taking off down the alley and disappearing around a corner. 

            Kelsier gave his friend a count of ten before reaching within himself and burning his metals.  His body came awash with strength, clarity, and power.

            Kelsier smiled, then--burning zinc--he reached out and yanked firmly on the Inquisitor’s emotions.  The creature froze in place, then spun, looking back toward the Canton building.

            Let’s have a chase now, you and I, Kelsier thought.


            We arrived in Terris earlier this week, and, I have to say, I find the countryside beautiful.  The great mountains to the north--with their bald snowcaps and forested mantles--stand like watchful gods over this land of green fertility.  My own lands to the south are mostly flat; I think that they might look less dreary if there were a few mountains to vary the terrain. 

            The people here are mostly herdsmen--though timber harvesters and farmers are not uncommon.  It is a pastoral land, certainly.  It seems odd that a place so remarkably agrarian could have produced the prophecies and theologies upon which the entire world now relies.