Ancora pochi mesi e la Tor Books, storica casa editrice americana, pubblicherà l'ultima opera di quel geniaccio di nome Brandon Sanderson. Shadows of Self il titolo dell'opera e continuerà la serie Mistborn lasciata in sospeso con La Legge delle Lande. La data di pubblicazione è stata fissa per il 6 Ottobre negli USA, in Italia invece non si hanno ancora notizie.
Sempre sul sito tor, sono disponibili il prologo e il primo capitolo de libro che, per comodità, riporto qui sotto.
Waxillium Ladrian, lawman for hire, swung off his horse and turned to face the saloon.
“Aw,” the kid said, hopping down from his own horse. “You didn’t catch your spur on the stirrup and trip.”
“That happened once,” Waxillium said.
“Yeah, but it was super funny.”
“Stay with the horses,” Waxillium said, tossing the kid his reins. “Don’t tie up Destroyer. I might need her.”
“And don’t steal anything.”
The kid–round-faced and seventeen, with barely a hint of stubble on his face, despite weeks of trying–nodded with a solemn expression. “I promise I won’t swipe nothin’ of yours, Wax.”
Waxillium sighed. “That’s not what I said.”
“Just stay with the horses. And try not to talk to anyone.” Waxillium shook his head, pushing into the saloon, feeling an odd spring to his step. He was filling his metalmind a smidge, decreasing his weight by about ten percent. Common practice for him these days, ever since he’d run out of stored weight during one of his first bounty hunts a few months back.
The saloon, of course, was dirty. Practically everything out here in the Roughs was dusty, worn, or broken. Five years out here, and he still wasn’t used to that. True, he’d spent most of those five years trying to make a living as a clerk, moving farther and farther from population centers in an effort to avoid getting recognized. But in the Roughs, even the larger population centers were dirtier than those back in Elendel.
And here, on the fringes of populated lands, dirty didn’t even begin to describe life. The men he passed in the saloon sat slumped low to their tables, hardly looking up. That was another thing about the Roughs. Both plants and people were more prickly, and they grew lower to the ground, it seemed. Even the fanlike acacias, which did stretch high at times, had this fortified, hardy sense about them.
He scanned the room, hands on hips, hoping he’d draw attention. He didn’t, which nagged at him. Why wear a fine city suit, with a lavender cravat, if nobody was going to notice? At least they weren’t snickering, like those in the last saloon.
Hand on his gun, Waxillium sauntered up to the bar. The barkeep was a tall man who looked to have some Terris blood in him, from that willowy build, though his refined cousins in the Basin would be horrified to see him chewing on a greasy chicken leg with one hand while serving a mug with the other. Waxillium tried not to be nauseated; the local notion of hygiene was another thing he wasn’t yet accustomed to. Out here, the fastidious ones were those who remembered to wipe their hands on their trousers between picking their nose and shaking your hand.
Waxillium waited. Then waited some more. Then cleared his throat. Finally, the barkeep lumbered over to him.
“I’m looking for a man,” Waxillium said under his breath. “Goes by the name of Granite Joe.”
“Don’t know him,” the barkeep said.
“Don’t– He’s only the single most notorious outlaw in these parts.”
“Don’t know him.”
“It’s safer to not know men like Joe,” the barkeep said, then took a bite of his chicken leg. “But I have a friend.”
The barkeep glared at him.
“Ahem,” Waxillium said. “Sorry. Continue.”
“My friend might be willing to know people that others won’t. It will take a little time to get him. You’ll pay?”
“I’m a lawman,” Waxillium said. “I do what I do in the name of justice.”
The barkeep blinked. Slow, deliberate, as if it required conscious effort. “So…you’ll pay?”
“Yes, I’ll pay,” Waxillium said with a sigh, mentally counting what he’d already spent hunting Granite Joe. He couldn’t afford to go in the hole again. Destroyer needed a new saddle, and Waxillium went through suits frightfully quick out here.
“Good,” the barkeep said, gesturing for Waxillium to follow. They wove through the room, around tables and past the pianoforte, which sat beside one of the pillars, between two tables. It didn’t look like it had been played in ages, and someone had set a row of dirty mugs on it. Next to the stairs, they entered a small room. It smelled dusty.
“Wait,” the barkeep said, then shut the door and left.
Waxillium folded his arms, eyeing the room’s lone chair. The white paint was flaking and peeling; he didn’t doubt that if he sat down, he’d end up with half of it stuck to his trousers.
He was growing more comfortable with the people of the Roughs, if not their particular habits. These few months chasing bounties had shown him that therewere good men and women out here, mixed among the rest. Yet they all had this stubborn fatalism about them. They didn’t trust authority, and often shunned lawmen, even if it meant letting a man like Granite Joe continue to ravage and plunder. Without the bounties set by the railroad and mining companies, nothing would ever–
The window shook. Waxillium stopped, then grabbed the gun at his side and burned steel. The metal created a sharp warmth within him, like the feeling after drinking something too hot. Blue lines sprang up pointing from his chest toward nearby sources of metal, several of which were just outside the shuttered window. Others pointed downward. This saloon had a basement, which was unusual out in the Roughs.
He could Push on those lines if he needed to, Shoving on the metal they connected to. For now, he just watched as a small rod slipped between the windows, then lifted, raising the latch that held them closed. The window rattled, then lifted open.
A young woman in dark trousers hopped in, rifle in one hand. Lean, with a squarish face, she carried an unlit cigar in her teeth, and looked vaguely familiar to Waxillium. She stood up, apparently satisfied, then turned to close the window. As she did, she saw him for the first time.
“Hell!” she said, scrambling backward, dropping her cigar, raising her rifle.
Waxillium raised his own gun and prepared his Allomancy, wishing he’d found a way to protect himself from bullets. He could Push on metal, yes, but he wasn’t fast enough to stop gunfire, unless he Pushed on the gun before the trigger was pulled.
“Hey,” the woman said, looking through the rifle sights. “Aren’t you that guy? The one who killed Peret the Black?”
“Waxillium Ladrian,” he said. “Lawman for hire.”
“You’re kidding. That’s how you introduce yourself?”
“Sure. Why not?”
She didn’t answer, instead looking away from her rifle, studying him for a few moments. Finally she said, “A cravat? Really?”
“It’s kind of my thing,” Waxillium said. “The gentleman bounty hunter.”
“Why would a bounty hunter need a ‘thing’ in the first place?”
“It’s important to have a reputation,” Waxillium said, raising his chin. “The outlaws all have them; people have heard of men like Granite Joe from one side of the Roughs to the other. Why shouldn’t I do the same?”
“Because it paints a target on your head.”
“Worth the danger,” Waxillium said. “But, speaking of targets…” He waved his gun, then nodded toward hers.
“You’re after the bounty on Joe,” she said.
“Sure am. You too?”
“Split it?” Waxillium said.
She sighed, but lowered her rifle. “Fine. The one who shoots him gets a double portion, though.”
“I was planning to bring him in alive…”
“Good. Gives me a better chance of killing him first.” She grinned at him, slipping over to the door. “The name’s Lessie. Granite is in here somewhere, then? Have you seen him?”
“No, I haven’t,” Waxillium said, joining her at the door. “I asked the barkeep, and he sent me in here.”
She turned on him. “You asked the barkeep.”
“Sure,” Waxillium said. “I’ve read the stories. Barkeeps know everything, and… You’re shaking your head.”
“Everyone in this saloon belongs to Joe, Mister Cravat,” Lessie said. “Hell, half the people in this town belong to him. You asked the barkeep?”
“I believe we’ve established that.”
“Rust!” she cracked the door and looked out. “How in Ruin’s name did you take down Peret the Black?”
“Surely it’s not that bad. Everyone in the bar can’t…”
He trailed off as he peeked out the door. The tall barkeep hadn’t run off to fetch anyone. No, he was out in the main room of the saloon, gesturing toward the side room’s door and urging the assembled thugs and miscreants to stand up and arm themselves. They looked hesitant, and some were gesturing angrily, but more than a few had guns out.
“Damn,” Lessie whispered.
“Back out the window?” Waxillium asked.
Her response was to slip the door closed with the utmost care, then shove him aside and scramble toward the window. She grabbed the windowsill to step out, but gunfire cracked nearby, and wood chips exploded off the sill.
Lessie cursed and dropped to the floor. Waxillium dove down beside her.
“Sharpshooter!” he hissed.
“Are you always this observant, Mister Cravat?”
“No, only when I’m being shot at.” He peeked up over the lip of the windowsill, but there were a dozen places nearby that the shooter could be hiding. “This is a problem.”
“There’s that razor-sharp power of observation again.” Lessie crawled across the floor toward the door.
“I meant in more way than one,” Waxillium said, crossing the floor in a crouch. “How did they have time to get a sharpshooter into position? They must haveknown that I was going to show up today. This whole place could be a trap.”
Lessie cursed softly as he reached the door and cracked it open again. The thugs were arguing softly and gesturing toward the door.
“They’re taking me seriously,” Waxillium said. “Ha! The reputation is working. You see that? They’re frightened!”
“Congratulations,” she said. “Do you think they’ll give me a reward if I shoot you?”
“We need to get upstairs,” Waxillium said, eyeing a stairwell just outside their door.
“What good will that accomplish?”
“Well, for one thing, all the armed people who want to kill us are down here. I’d rather be somewhere else, and those stairs will be easier to defend than this room. Besides, we might find a window on the other side of the building and escape.”
“Yeah, if you want to jump two stories.”
Jumping wasn’t a problem for a Coinshot; Waxillium could Push off a dropped piece of metal as they fell, slowing himself and landing safely. He was also a Feruchemist, and could use his metalminds to reduce his weight far more greatly than he was doing now, shaving his weight down until he practically floated.
However, Waxillium’s abilities weren’t widely known, and he wanted to keep it that way. He’d heard the stories of his miraculous survivals, and liked the air of mystery around them. There was speculation that he was Metalborn, sure, but so long as people didn’t know exactly what he could do, he’d have an edge.
“Look, I’m going to run for the steps,” he said to the woman. “If you want to stay down here and fight your way out, great. You’ll provide an ideal distraction for me.”
She glanced at him, then grinned. “Fine. We’ll do it your way. But if we get shot, you owe me a drink.”
There is something familiar about her, Waxillium thought. He nodded, counted softly to three, then burst out of the door and leveled his gun at the nearest thug. The man jumped back as Waxillium shot three times–and missed. His bullets hit the pianoforte instead, sounding a discordant note with each impact.
Lessie scrambled out behind him and went for the stairs. The motley collection of thugs leveled weapons with cries of surprise. Waxillium swung his gun back–out of the way of his Allomancy–and Shoved lightly on the blue lines pointing from him toward the men in the room. They opened fire, but his Push had nudged their guns enough to spoil their aim.
Waxillium followed Lessie up the steps, fleeing the storm of gunfire.
“Holy hell,” Lessie said as they reached the first landing. “We’re alive.” She looked back at him, cheeks flushed.
Something clicked like a lock in Waxillium’s mind. “I have met you before,” he said.
“No you haven’t,” she said, looking away. “Let’s keep–”
“The Weeping Bull!” Waxillium said. “The dancing girl!”
“Oh, God Beyond,” she said, leading the way up the stairs. “You remember.”
“I knew you were faking. Even Rusko wouldn’t hire someone that uncoordinated, no matter how pretty her legs are.”
“Can we go jump out a window now, please?” she said, checking the top floor for signs of thugs.
“Why you were there? Chasing a bounty?”
“Yeah, kind of.”
“And you really didn’t know they were going to make you–”
“This conversation is done.”
They stepped out onto the top floor, and Waxillium waited a moment until a shadow on the wall announced someone coming. He fired once at the thug who appeared there, missing again, but driving the man back. He heard cursing and arguing below. Granite Joe might own the men in this saloon, but they weren’t overly loyal. The first few up the steps would almost certainly get shot, and none would be eager to take the risk.
That would buy Waxillium some time. Lessie pushed into a room nearby, passing an empty bed with a pair of boots beside it. She threw open the window, which was on the opposite side of the building from the sharpshooter.
The town of Weathering spread before them, a lonely collection of shops and homes, hunkered down, as if waiting–in vain–for the day when the railroad would stretch its fingers this far. In the middle distance, beyond the humble buildings, a few giraffes browsed lazily, the only sign of animal life in the vast plain.
The drop out the window was straight down, no roof to climb onto. Lessie regarded the ground warily. Waxillium shoved his fingers in his mouth and whistled sharply.
He whistled again.
“What the hell are you doing?” Lessie demanded.
“Calling my horse,” Waxillium said, then whistled again. “We can hop down into the saddle and ride away.”
She stared at him. “You’re serious.”
“Sure I am. We’ve been practicing.”
A lone figure walked out onto the street below, the kid who had been following Waxillium. “Uh, Wax?” the kid called up. “Destroyer’s just standing there, drinking.”
“Hell,” Waxillium said.
Lessie looked at him. “You named your horse–”
“She’s a little too placid, all right?” Waxillium snapped, climbing up onto the windowsill. “I thought the name might inspire her.” He cupped his hand, calling to the boy below. “Wayne! Bring her out here. We’re going to jump!”
“Like hell we are,” Lessie said. “You think there’s something magical about a saddle that will keep us from breaking the horse’s back when we drop into it?”
Waxillium hesitated. “Well, I’ve read about people doing this…”
“Yeah, I’ve got an idea,” Lessie said. “Next, why don’t you call out Granite Joe, and go stand out in the road and have a good, old-fashioned showdown at noon.”
“You think that would work? I–”
“No, it won’t work,” she snapped. “Nobody does that. It’s stupid. Ruin! How didyou kill Peret the Black?”
They stared at each other a moment.
“Well…” Waxillium started.
“Oh hell. You caught him on the crapper, didn’t you?”
Waxillium grinned at her. “Yeah.”
“Did you shoot him in the back too?”
“As bravely as any man ever shot another in the back.”
“Huh. There might be hope for you yet.”
He nodded toward the window. “Jump?”
“Sure. Why not break both my legs before getting shot? Might as well go all in, Mister Cravat.”
“I think we’ll be fine, Miss Pink Garter.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“If you’re going to identify me by my clothing choices,” he said, “then I figure I can do the same.”
“It shall never be mentioned again,” she said, then took a deep breath. “So?”
He nodded, flaring his metals, preparing to hold onto her and slow them as they fell–just enough to make it seem like they’d miraculously survived the jump. As he did, however, he noticed one of his blue lines moving–a faint, but thick one, pointing across the street.
The window in the mill. Sunlight glinted off something inside.
Waxillium immediately grabbed Lessie and pulled her down. A fraction of a second later, a bullet streaked over their heads and hit the door on the other side of the room.
“Another sharpshooter,” she hissed.
“Your power of observation is–”
“Shut it,” she said. “Now what?”
Waxillium frowned, considering the question. He glanced at the bullet hole, gauging the trajectory. The sharpshooter had aimed too high; even if Wax hadn’t ducked, he’d likely have been all right. The moving blue line to the gun before indicated the sharpshooter had run to get into position before shooting.
Why aim high? Was he just a bad aim caused by the quick run? Or was it something more sinister? To knock me out of the sky? When I flew out the window?
He heard footsteps on the stairs, but saw no blue lines. He cursed, scrambling over and peeking out. A group of men were creeping up the steps, and not the normal thugs from below. These men wore tight white shirts, had pencil mustaches, and were armed with crossbows. Not a speck of metal on them.
Rusts! They knew he was a Coinshot, and Granite Joe had a kill squad ready for him.
He ducked back into the room and grabbed Lessie by the arm. “Your informant said Granite Joe was in this building?”
“Yeah,” she said. “He most certainly is. He likes to be close when a gang is being gathered; he likes to keep an eye on his men.”
“This building has a basement.”
“So hang on.
He grabbed her in both hands and rolled onto the ground, causing her to yelp, then curse. Holding her over him, he increased his weight.
He had a great deal of it stored in his metalmind by now, after weeks of siphoning it off. Now he drew it all out, magnifying his weight manifold in an instant. The wooden floor cracked, then burst open beneath them.
Waxillium fell through, his fine clothing getting ripped as he dropped through the air, towing Lessie after him. Eyes squeezed closed, he Pushed the thousands of blue lines behind him, those leading to the nails in the floor below. He blasted them downward to shatter the ground level’s floor and open the way into the basement.
They crashed through the ground floor in a shower of dust and splinters, Waxillium managed to slow their descent with a Steelpush, but they still came down hard, smashing into a table in a basement chamber.
Waxillium let out of puffing groan, but forced himself to twist around, shanking himself free of the broken wood. The basement, surprisingly, was paneled in fine hardwoods and lit by lamps shaped like curvaceous women. The table they had hit bore a rich white tablecloth, though it was now wadded in a bunch, the table legs shattered and the table itself at an angle.
A man sat at the table’s head. Waxillium managed to stand up in the wreckage and level a gun at the fellow, who had a blocky face and dark blue-grey skin–the mark of a man with koloss heritage. Granite Joe. Waxillium appeared to have interrupted his dinner, judging by the napkin tucked into his collar and the spilled soup on the broken table in front of him.
Lessie groaned, rolling over and brushing splinters off her clothing. Waxillium held his gun in a firm grip as he eyed the two duster-wearing bodyguards behind Granite Joe, a man and woman–siblings, he’d heard, and crack shots. They’d been surprised by his fall, obviously, for though they’d rested hands on their guns, they hadn’t drawn.
Waxillium had the upper hand, with the gun on Joe–but if he did shoot, the siblings would kill him in a heartbeat. Perhaps he hadn’t thought through this line of attack quite as well as he should have.
Joe himself scraped at the remnants of his broken bowl, framed by splatters of red soup on the tablecloth. He managed to get some onto his spoon and lifted it to his lips. “You,” he said after sipping the soup, “should be dead.”
“You might want to look at hiring a new group of thugs,” Waxillium said. “The ones upstairs aren’t worth much.”
“I wasn’t referring to them,” Joe said. “How long have you been up here, in the Roughs, making trouble? Two years?”
“One,” Waxillium said. He’d been up here longer, but he had only recently started “making trouble,” as Joe put it.
Granite Joe clicked his tongue. “You think your type is new up here, son? Wide-eyed, with a low-slung gunbelt and bright new spurs? Come to reform us of our uncivilized ways. We see dozens like you every year. The others have the decency to either learn to be bribed, or to get dead before they ruin too much. But not you.”
He’s stalling, Waxillium thought. Waiting for the men upstairs to run down.
“Drop your weapons!” Waxillium said, holding his gun on Joe. “Drop them or I shoot!”
The two guards didn’t move. No metal lines on the guard on the right, Waxillium thought. Or on Joe himself. The one on the right had a handgun, perhaps trusting the speed of his draw against a Coinshot. The other two had fancy hand-crossbows in their holsters, he bet. Single shot, made of wood and ceramic. Built for killing Coinshots.
Even with Allomancy, Waxillium would never be able to kill all three of them without getting shot himself. Sweat trickled down his temple. He was tempted to just pull his trigger and shoot, but he’d be killed if he did that. And they knew it. It was a standoff, but they had reinforcements coming.
“You don’t belong here,” Joe said, leaning forward, elbows on his broken table. “We came here to escape folks like you. Your rules. Your assumptions. We don’t want you.”
“If that were true,” Waxillium said, surprised at how even his voice was, “then people wouldn’t come to me crying because you killed their sons. You might not need Elendel’s laws up here, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need any laws at all. And doesn’t mean men like you should be able to do whatever you want.”
Granite Joe shook his head, standing up, hand to his holster. “This isn’t your habitat, son. Everyone has a price up here. If they don’t, they don’t fit in. You’ll die, slow and painful, just like a lion would die in that city of yours. What I’m doing today, this is a mercy.”
Waxillium reacted quickly, Pushing himself off the wall lamps to his right. They were firmly anchored, so his Allomantic shove Pushed him to the left. He twisted his gun and fired.
Joe got his crossbow out and fired, but the shot missed, zipping through the air where Waxillium had been. Waxillium’s own bullet flew true for once, hitting the female guard, who had pulled out her crossbow. She dropped, and as Waxillium crashed into the wall, he Pushed–knocking the gun out of the other guard’s hand as the man fired.
Waxillium’s Push, unfortunately, also flung his own gun out of his hand–but sent it spinning right toward the second bodyguard. His gun smacked the man right in the face, dropping him.
Waxillium steadied himself, looking across the room at Joe, who looked baffled that both his guards were down. No time to think. Waxillium scrambled toward the large, koloss-blooded man. If he could reach some metal to use as a weapon, maybe–
A weapon clicked behind him. Waxillium stopped and looked over his shoulder at Lessie, who was pointing a small hand-crossbow right at him.
“Everyone up here has a price,” Granite Joe said.
Waxillium stared at the crossbow bolt, tipped with obsidian. Where had she been carrying that? He swallowed slowly.
She put herself in danger, scrambling up the stairs with me! he thought. How could she have been…
But Joe had known about his Allomancy. So had she. Lessie knew he could Push the bullets away, so when she’d joined him in running up the steps.
“Finally,” Joe said, “do you have an explanation of why you didn’t just shoot him in the saloon room, where the barkeep put him?”
She didn’t respond, instead studying Waxillium. “I did warn you that everyone in the saloon was in Joe’s employ,” she noted.
“I…” Waxillium swallowed. “I still think your legs are pretty.”
She met his eyes. Then she sighed, turned the crossbow, and shot Granite Joe in the neck.
Wax blinked as the enormous man dropped to the floor, gurgling as he bled.
“That?” Lessie said, glaring at Waxillium. “That’s all you could come up with to win me over? ‘You have nice legs’? Seriously? You are so doomed up here, Cravat.”
Wax breathed out in relief. “Oh, Harmony. I thought you were going to shoot me for sure.”
“Should have,” she grumbled. “I can’t believe–”
She cut off as the stairs clattered, the troop of miscreants from above having finally gathered the nerve to rush down the stairwell. A good half dozen of them burst into the room with weapons drawn.
Lessie dove for the fallen bodyguard’s gun.
Waxillium thought quickly, then did what came most naturally. He struck a dramatic pose in the rubble, one foot up, Granite Joe dead beside him, both bodyguards felled. Dust from the broken ceiling still sprinkled down, illuminated in sunlight pouring through a window above.
The thugs pulled to a stop. They looked down at the fallen corpse of their boss, then gaped toward Waxillium.
Finally, like children who had been caught in the pantry trying to get at the cookies, they lowered their weapons. The ones at the front tried to push through the ones at the back to get away, and the whole clamorous mess of them thumped back up the steps, leaving the forlorn barkeep who retreated last of all.
Waxillium turned and offered his hand to Lessie, who let him pull her to her feet. She looked after the retreating group of bandits, whose boots thumped on wood in their haste to escape. In moments, the building was silent.
“Huh,” she said. “You’re as surprising as a donkey who can dance, Mister Cravat.”
“It helps to have a thing,” Waxillium noted.
“Yeah. You think I should get a thing?”
“Getting a thing has been one of the most important choices I made in coming up to the Roughs.”
Lessie nodded slowly. “I have no idea what we’re talking about, but it sounds kinda dirty.” She glanced past him toward Granite Joe’s corpse, which stared lifelessly, lying in a pool of his own blood.
“Thanks,” Waxillium said. “For not murdering me.”
“Eh. I was gonna kill him eventually anyway and turn him in for the bounty.”
“Yes, well, I doubt you were planning to do it in front of his entire gang, while trapped in a basement with no escape.”
“True. Right stupid of me, that was.”
“So why do it?”
She kept looking at the body. “I’ve done plenty of things in Joe’s name I wish I hadn’t, but as far as I know, I never shot a man who didn’t deserve it. Killing you…well, seems like it would have been killing what you stood for too. Ya know?”
“I think I can grasp the concept.”
She rubbed at a bleeding scratch on her neck, where she’d brushed broken wood during their fall. “Next time, though, I hope it won’t involve making quite so big a mess. I liked this saloon.”
“I’ll do my best,” Waxillium said. “I intend to change things out here. If not the whole Roughs, then at least this town.”
“Well,” Lessie said walking over to Granite Joe’s corpse, “I’m sure that if any evil pianos were thinking of attacking the city, they’ll have second thoughts now, considering your prowess with that pistol.”
Waxillium winced. “You…saw that, did you?”
“Rarely seen such a feat,” she said, kneeling down and going through Joe’s pockets. “Three shots, three different notes, not a single bandit down. That takes skill. Maybe you should spend a little less time with your thing and more with your gun.”
“Now that sounded dirty.”
“Good. I hate being crass on accident.” She came out with Joe’s pocketbook and smiled, tossing it up and catching it. Up above, in the hole Waxillium had made, an equine head poked out, followed by a smaller, teenage one in an oversized bowler hat. Where had he gotten that?
Destroyer blustered in greeting.
“Sure, now you come,” Waxillium said. “Stupid horse.”
“Actually,” Lessie said, “seems to me like staying away from you during a gunfight makes her a pretty damn smart horse.”
Waxillium smiled and held out his hand to Lessie. She took it, and he pulled her close. Then he lifted them out of the wreckage on a line of blue light.
Seventeen Years Later
Winsting smiled to himself as he watched the setting sun. It was an ideal evening to auction himself off.
“We have my saferoom ready?” Winsting asked, lightly gripping the balcony banister. “Just in case?”
“Yes, my lord.” Flog wore his silly Roughs hat along with a duster, though he’d never been outside of the Elendel basin. The man was an excellent bodyguard, despite his terrible fashion sense, but Winsting made certain to Pull on the man’s emotions anyway, subtly enhancing Flog’s sense of loyalty. One could never be too careful.
“My lord?” Flog asked, glancing toward the chamber behind them. “They’re all here, my lord. Are you ready?”
Not turning away from the setting sun, Winsting raised a finger to hush the bodyguard. The balcony, in the Fourth Octant of Elendel, overlooked the canal and hub of the city–so had a nice view of the Field of Rebirth. Long shadows stretched from the statues of the Ascendant Warrior and the Last Emperor in the green park where, according to fanciful legend, their corpses had been discovered following the Great Catacendre and the Last Ascension.
The air was muggy, slightly tempered by a cool breeze off Hammondar Bay a couple miles to the west. Winsting tapped his fingers on the balcony railing, patiently sending out pulses of Allomantic power to shape the emotions of those in the room behind him. Or at least any foolish enough to leave behind their aluminum-lined hats.
Any moment now…
Initially appearing as pinprick spots in the air, mist grew before him, spreading like frost across a window. Tendrils spread and spun about one another, becoming streams–then rivers of motion, currents shifting and blanketing the city. Engulfing it. Consuming it.
“A misty night,” Flog said. “That’s bad luck, it is.”
“Don’t be a fool,” Winsting said, adjusting his cravat.
“He’s watching us,” Flog said. “The mists are his eyes, my lord. Sure as Ruin, that is.”
“Superstitious nonsense.” Winsting turned and strode into the room. Behind him, Flog shut the doors before the mists could seep into the party room.
The two dozen people–along with the inevitable bodyguards–who mingled and chatted in the room beyond were a select group. Not just important, but also very much at odds with one another, despite their deliberate smiles and meaningless small talk. He preferred to have rivals at events like this. Let them all see one another, and each know the cost of losing the contest for his favor.
Winsting stepped among them. Unfortunately, many did wear hats, which would be lined with aluminum to protect them from emotional Allomancy., though he had personally assured each attendee that none of the others would have Soothers or Rioters with them. He’d said nothing of his own abilities, of course. So far as any of them knew, he wasn’t an Allomancer.
He glanced across the room to where Blome tended bar. The man shook his head. Nobody else in the room was burning any metals. Excellent.
Winsting stepped up to the bar, then turned and raised his hands to draw everyone’s attention. The gesture exposed the twinkling diamond cufflinks he wore on his stiff white shirt. The settings were wooden, of course.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “welcome to our little auction. The bidding begins now, and it ends when I hear the offer I like the most.”
He said nothing more; too much talk would kill the drama. Winsting took the drink one of his servers offered and stepped out to mingle, then hesitated as he looked over the crowd. “Edwarn Ladrian is not here,” he said softly. He refused to call the man by his silly moniker, Mister Suit.
“No,” Flog said.
“I thought you said everyone had arrived!”
“Everyone who said they were coming,” Flog said. He shuffled, uncomfortable.
Winsting pursed his lips, but otherwise hid his disappointment. He’d beencertain his offer had intrigued Edwarn. Perhaps the man had bought out one of the other crime lords in the room. Something to consider.
Winsting made his way to the central table, which held the nominal centerpiece of the evening. It was a painting of a reclining woman; Winsting had painted it himself, and he was getting better.
The painting was worthless, but the men and woman in this room would still offer him huge sums for it.
The first one to approach him was Dowser, who ran most of the smuggling operations into the Fifth Octant. The three days of scrub on his cheeks were shadowed by a bowler that, conspicuously, he had not left in the cloak room. A sharp suit did little to clean up a man like Dowser. Winsting wrinkled his nose. Most everyone in the room was a despicable piece of trash, but the others had the decency not to look like it.
“It’s ugly as sin,” Dowser said, looking over the painting. “I can’t believe this is what you’re having us ‘bid’ on. A little cheeky, isn’t it?”
“And you’d rather I was completely forthright, Mister Dowser?” Winsting said. “You’d have me proclaim it far and wide? ‘Pay me, and in exchange you get my vote on the high council for the next year’?”
Dowser glanced to the sides, as if expecting the constables to burst into the room at any moment.
Winsting smiled. “You’ll notice the shades of grey on her cheeks. A representation of the ashen nature of life in a pre-Catacendric world, hmmm? My finest work yet. Do you have an offer? To get the bidding started?”
Dowser said nothing. He would eventually make a bid. Each person in this room had spent weeks posturing before agreeing to this meeting. Half were crime lords like Dowser. The others were Winsting’s own counterparts, high lords and ladies from prominent noble houses, though no less corrupt than the crime lords.
“Aren’t you frightened, Winsting?” asked the woman on Dowser’s arm.
Winsting frowned. He didn’t recognize her. Slender, with short golden hair and a doe-eyed expression, she was uncommonly tall.
“Frightened, my dear?” Winsting asked. “Of the people in this room?”
“No,” she said. “That your brother will find out…what you do.”
“I assure you,” Winsting said. “Replar knows exactly what I am.”
“The governor’s own brother,” the woman said. “Asking for bribes.”
“If that truly surprises you, my dear,” Winsting said, “then you have lived too sheltered a life. Far bigger fish than I have been sold on this market. When the next catch arrives, perhaps you will see.”
That comment caught Dowser’s attention. Winsting smiled as he saw the gears clicking behind Dowser’s eyes. Yes, Winsting thought, I did just imply that my brother himself might be open to your bribery. Perhaps that would up the man’s offer.
Winsting moved over to select some shrimp and quiche from a server’s tray. “The woman with Dowser is a spy,” Winsting said softly to Flog, who was always at his elbow. “Perhaps in constabulary employ.”
Flog started. “My lord! We checked and double-checked each person attending.”
“Well you missed one,” Winsting whispered. “I’d bet my fortune on it. Follow her after the meeting. If she splits from Dowser for any reason, see that she meets with an accident.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“And Flog,” Winsting said, “do be straightforward about it. I won’t have you trying to find a place where the mists won’t be watching. Understand?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Excellent,” Winsting said, smiling broadly as he strolled over to Lord Hughes Entrone, cousin and confidant to the head of House Entrone.
Winsting spent an hour mingling, and slowly the bids started to come in. Some of the attendees were reluctant. They would have preferred to meet him one on one, making their covert offers, then slipping back into Elendel’s underbelly. Crime lords and nobles alike, these all preferred to dance around a topic, not discuss it openly. But they did bid, and bid well. By the end of his first circuit of the room, Winsting had to forcibly contain his excitement. No longer would he have to limit his spending. If his brother could–
The gunshot was so unexpected, he at first assumed that one of the servers had broken something. But no. That crack was so sharp, so ear-splitting. He’d never heard a gun fired indoors before; he hadn’t known just how stunning it could be.
He gaped, the drink tumbling from his fingers as he tried to find the source of the shot. Another followed, then another. It became a storm, various sides firing at one another in a cacophony of death.
Before he could cry for help, Flog had him by the arm, towing him toward the stairs down to the saferoom. One of his bodyguards fell, stumbling against the doorway, looking with wide eyes at the blood on his shirt. Winsting stared for too long at the dying man before Flog was able to tear him away and shove him down into the stairwell.
“What’s happening?” Winsting finally demanded as a guard slammed the door behind them and locked it. They hurried down the dark stairway, which was lit by periodic electric lights. “Who fired? What happened?”
“No way of knowing,” Flog said. Gunfire still sounded above. “Happened too fast.”
“Someone just started firing,” another guard said. “Might have been Dowser.”
“No, it was Darm,” another said. “I heard the first shot from his group.”
Either way, it was a disaster. Winsting saw his fortune dying a bloody death on the floor above them, and he felt sick as they finally reached the bottom of the stairs and a vaultlike door, which Flog pushed him through.
“I’m going to go back up,” Flog said, “see what I can salvage. Find out who caused this.”
Winsting nodded, and they shut the door and locked it. He settled down to wait, fretting. The small bunker of a room had wine and other amenities, but he couldn’t be bothered. He wrung his hands. What would his brother say? Rusts! What would the papers say? He’d have to keep this quiet somehow.
Eventually a knock came at the door, and Winsting glanced through the peephole to see Flog. Behind him, a small force of bodyguards watched the stairwell. It seemed the gunfire had stopped, though from down here it had sounded only like faint popping.
Winsting opened the door. “Well?”
“They’re all dead.”
“All of them?”
“Every last one,” Flog said, walking into the room.
Winsting slumped back down into his chair. “Maybe that’s good,” he said, searching for some glimmer of light in this dark disaster. “Nobody can implicate us. Maybe we can just slip away. Cover our tracks somehow?”
A daunting task. He owned this building. He’d be connected to these deaths. He’d need an alibi. Hell, he was going to have to go to his brother. This could cost him his seat, even if the general public never discovered what had happened. He slumped back in his chair, frustrated. “Well?” he demanded. “What do you think?”
In response, a pair of hands grabbed Winsting by the hair, pulled his head back, and efficiently slit his exposed throat.