With The Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a New York Times bestselling spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America.
Now, with The Bands of Mourning—available January 26th from Tor Books—Sanderson continues the story. The Bands of Mourning are the mythical metalminds owned by the Lord Ruler, said to grant anyone who wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had at his command. Hardly anyone thinks they really exist. A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.
Read chapter four below, or head back to the beginning with chapter one.
Two hours after the strange meeting, Wayne puttered through Wax’s mansion, peeking behind pictures, lifting up vases. Where did he keep the good stuff?
“It is her, Steris,” Wax was saying in the ground-floor sitting room not far away. “And that man with his back turned, holding her by the arm, that could be my uncle. They’re involved in this. I have to go.”
It had always seemed funny to Wayne how rich folk got to decide what was valuable. He inspected a picture frame that was likely pure gold. Why did anyone care about this shiny stuff? Gold could do some fun things with Feruchemy, but it was pure rubbish when it came to Allomancy.
Well, rich folk liked it. So they paid a lot for it, and that made it valuable. No other reason.
How did they decide what was valuable? Did they all just gather together, sit around in their suits and gowns, and say, “Oi. Let’s start eatin’ fish eggs, and make the stuff real expensive. That’ll rust their brains, it will.” Then they’d have a nice round of rich folks’ laughter and throw some servants off the top of a building to see what kind of splats they’d make when they hit.
Wayne put the picture back. He refused to play by rich people’s rules. He’d decide for himself what something was worth. And that frame was ugly. Didn’t help none that Steris’s cousins, who were depicted in the evanotype it held, looked like fish.
“Then you should most certainly go, Lord Waxillium,” Steris said. “Why the concern? We can make arrangements to postpone other duties.”
“It’s infuriating, Steris!” Even from out in the hall, Wayne could hear the I’m pacing in his tone. “Not a word of apology, from them or Harmony regarding what they did to me. VenDell made offhanded comments—referring to me shooting Lessie as a ‘stunt.’ They used me. Lessie was only trying, in a broken way, to free me from them. Now they saunter back, no mention of what I lost, and expect me to just pick up and do their bidding again.”
Poor Wax. That had busted him up right good, it had. And Wayne could see why. Still, an apology? Did people what got killed in a flood expect an apology from God? God did as God wished. You simply hoped to not get on His worse side. Kinda like the bouncer at the club with the pretty sister.
Harmony wasn’t the only god, anyway. And that was what Wayne was about today.
After some silence, Wax continued, more softly. “I have to go. Even after what they did, if my uncle is really involved in this… if I can free Telsin… I have to go. Tomorrow night, there will be a gathering of the outer cities political elite in New Seran. Governor Aradel is rightly concerned, and was going to send a representative anyway. It gives me a plausible excuse to be in the city. Marasi can look for the lost spike; I can hunt down my uncle.”
“It is decided, then,” Steris said. “Will we be leaving immediately?”
Wax was silent for a moment. “We?”
“I assumed… I mean, if you are taking my sister, it would look very odd if I were not accompanying you.” Wayne felt like he could hear her blush. “I don’t mean to be presumptuous. You may, of course, do as you wish, but—”
“No,” he said. “You’re right. It would look odd to go alone. The gathering will include a reception, after all. I don’t want to imply… I mean…”
“I can go, but stay out of your way.”
“It could be dangerous. I can’t ask it of you.”
“If this is what you feel you must do, then I will be happy to take the risk.”
Rusts. Those two were as awkward as a man suddenly splitting his cheeks in church. Wayne shook his head, picking up one of the vases in the entryway. Good pottery, with a nice swirly-dirly pattern. Maybe that would do for his offering.
Someone knocked on the door, and Wayne put the vase back. It didn’t feel right. He took one of the flowers though, and traded it for an extra sock from his back pocket. Huh. He had a silverware set in his other pocket. From the wedding breakfast? Yeah, that was right. They’d put out a place setting for him, had his name and everything. That meant the silverware had been his.
He put the fork, knife, and spoon back in his pocket and tucked the flower behind his ear, then walked to the door, reaching it right before that butler did. He gave the man a glare—it was only a matter of time before he cracked and tried to kill them all—then pulled open the door.
That kandra bloke stood on the other side. His suit now was an even lighter shade of tan. “You,” Wayne said, pointing. “We just got ridda you!” It had only been… what, two hours since he left?
“Good afternoon, young lad,” the kandra said. “Are the adults home?”
Darriance quite politely pushed Wayne aside and gestured for VenDell to enter. “You are expected, sir.”
“He is?” Wayne said.
“Master Ladrian said to send you in,” the butler said, pointing toward the sitting room.
“Thank you,” VenDell said, striding toward the room.
Wayne caught up with him quickly.
“Nice flower,” the kandra said. “Can I have your skeleton when you’re dead?”
“My…” Wayne felt at his head.
“You’re a Bloodmaker, correct? Can heal yourself? Bloodmaker bones tend to be particularly interesting, as your time spent weak and sickly creates oddities in your joints and bones that can be quite distinctive. I’d love to have your skeleton. If you don’t mind.”
Taken aback by this request, Wayne stopped in place. Then he ran past him, pushing into the room where Wax and Steris were talking. “Wax,” he complained, pointing, “the immortal bloke is being creepy again.”
“Greetings, Lord Ladrian,” VenDell said, walking in and holding up a folder. “Your tickets, along with transcripts of everything we’ve been able to pry out of ReLuur. I warn you, most of it isn’t terribly lucid.”
Wayne glanced at Wax’s liquor cabinet. Maybe something in there would work for what he needed for his offering.
“I haven’t said that I’d go,” Wax told the immortal. “You’re roping me into this, sure as sheep in a pen.”
“Yes,” the immortal said. He held out the folder again. “In here is a list of people ReLuur mentions. You’ll find it interesting that he lists several, including the woman holding the party I’m sending you to, as having had interactions with your uncle.”
Wax sighed, then accepted it. He gestured to Steris, who had risen to curtsy. “My fiancée. We were debating whether she should accompany me or not.”
“We have made provisions for whatever you decide,” VenDell said. “Though it will look less suspicious if you go too, Lady Harms, I cannot guarantee your safety.”
“It might be helpful if you accompanied us, VenDell,” Wax said. “We could use an extra Metalborn.”
VenDell’s eyes bulged, and he turned white, like he’d been told his baby had been born with two noses. “Go out into the field? Me? Lord Ladrian, I assure you, that’s not what you want.”
“Why not?” Wax asked, leaning back against the wall. “You’re practically impossible to kill, and you can change your rusting shape into anything you want.”
“Wait,” Wayne said, turning away from the liquor cabinet. “You can turn into anything? Like a bunny?”
“Very small animals are extremely difficult, as we need a certain mass to hold our cognitive functions and—”
“Bunny,” Wayne said. “Can you be a bunny.”
“If absolutely necessary.”
“So that’s what that damn book was about.”
VenDell sighed, looking toward Wax. “MeLaan can perform any transformations you might need. I honor the First Contract, Lord Ladrian. Besides, the outside doesn’t suit me. There’s too much…” He waved his hands in front of him.
“Too much what?” Wax asked, frowning.
“Everything,” VenDell said—though Wayne didn’t miss that the rusting bunny glanced at him when he said it.
Wayne shook his head, trying the liquor cabinet. It was locked, unfortunately. What a fine heap of trust Wax showed in him.
“My sister will meet you at the station,” VenDell said. “Track seventeen, in four hours.”
“Four hours?” Steris said. “I need to send for the maids! And the valet! And…” She raised a hand to her head, looking faint. “And I need to make a list.”
“We’ll be there, VenDell,” Wax said.
“Excellent,” the kandra fellow said, fishing in his pocket. Wayne got interested, until he came out with a dull old bent earring, simple, old-style. “I brought you one of these.”
“But, if you need to—”
“No thanks,” Wax said.
The look between the two of them grew real uncomfortable, like each was accusing the other of having made an unpersonable stench of some sort. “Good, good,” Wayne said, drifting toward the door. “Meet you all at the station.”
“Aren’t you going to pack?” Steris called after him.
“Sack’s in my room,” Wayne called back. “Under my bed. I’m always packed and ready to go, mate. Never can tell when a misunderstandin’ will crop up.” He turned away, popped his hat off the rack, flipped it onto his head, and ducked out the front door.
Leave them to their discussing and their arguing and their creepy immortal bunnies. He had things that needed to be done. Well, one thing at least.
Wayne had a quest.
He whistled as he danced down the steps. A simple tune, easy and familiar, with an accompanying beat playing in his mind. Ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum. Quick, energetic. He strolled down the street, but found himself less and less pleased with his flower. It was not the proper offering for the god with whom he must meet. Too obvious, too soft.
He spun it in his fingers, thoughtful, softly whistling his tune. No better ideas came to him. This area was too fancy, with mansions and gardens and men clipping hedges. The streets didn’t even stink of horse dung. It was hard to think in a place like this; everyone knew the best thinking happened in alleyways and slums. Places where the brain had to be alert, even panicked—where the bugger knew that if it didn’t perk up and get some geniusing done, you were likely to get yourself stabbed, and then where would it be?
Holding your brain hostage against your own stupidity—that was how to get stuff done. Wayne made his way to a nearby canal, and searched out a gondola man who looked bored.
“My good man,” Wayne said to himself. “My good man.” Yeah, that was it. Speak like you couldn’t breathe right—high First Octant accent, with a little Terris stirred in. Rich accent. Very rich.
“You, boatman!” Wayne called, waving. “Hey! Oh, do hurry. I haven’t the time!”
The boatman poled over.
“Quickly now, quickly, my good man!” Wayne shouted. “Tell me. How much for the day?”
“The day?” the boatman said.
“Yes, yes,” Wayne said, hopping into the boat. “I have need of your services for the entire day.” Wayne settled himself without waiting for a response. “Onward, now. Up the Fourth-Fifth Canal, turn right around the Hub, then east up the Irongate. First stop is in the Third Octant. She’s counting on me, you know.”
“The whole day,” the boatman said, eager. “Yes, sir, um… my lord.…”
“Ladrian,” Wayne said. “Waxillium Ladrian. We aren’t moving. Why aren’t we moving?”
The boatman began poling, so gleeful at the prospect of many hours of employment that he forgot to ask for any money up front.
“Fifty,” the man finally said.
“Fifty. For the whole day.”
“Yes, yes, fine,” Wayne said. Dirty thief, he thought. Trying to cheat an upstanding citizen, and a house lord at that, merely because he acted a little distracted? What was this world coming to? When his grandfather Ladrian had been house lord, men had known how to be respectful. Why, a boatman in those days would have dunked himself in the canal before taking a wuzing more than he was due!
“If you don’t mind me asking, my lord,” the boatman said. “And I mean no offense… but your clothing.”
“Yes?” Wayne asked, straightening his Roughs coat.
“Is something wrong with it?”
“Wrong with it?” Wayne said, stuffing his accent so full of noble indignation it was practically bleeding. “Wrong with it? Man, do you not follow fashion?”
“Thomton Delacour himself designed these clothes!” Wayne said. “Northern outlands inspiration. It’s the height, I tell you! The height. A Coinshot couldn’t get higher!”
“Sorry. Sorry, my lord. I said I didn’t want to offend!”
“You can’t just say ‘don’t be offended’ and then say something offensive, man! That’s not how it works.” Wayne settled back, arms folded.
The boatman, wisely, said nothing more to him. After about ten minutes of travel, the time had arrived.
“Now,” Wayne said, as if to himself, “we’ll need to stop at Glimmering Point docks. And then a skid along Stansel Belt.”
He let his accent shift, a little of the Knobs—a slum—slipping in. Dull accent, like a mouth filled with cotton. The folks there used the word “skid” for practically anything. Distinctive word, that. Skiiiid. Sounded like it should be something dirty.
“Um, my lord?”
“Hm?” Wayne said. “Oh, just going over my errands. My nephew is getting married—you might have heard of the wedding, it’s all the talk of the city. So many errands. Yes indeed, the day will be quite the skid.”
That was a ruffian’s accent, but just a hint, like the lemon in a good hot toddy. He slipped it in under the highborn accent.
The boatman started to get uncomfortable. “You said the Stansel Belt? Not a nice area, that.”
“Need to hire some workers,” Wayne said absently.
The boatman continued poling, but he was nervous now. Tapping his foot, moving the pole more quickly, ignoring calls from colleagues they passed. Something was wrong. Like the scent of a meat pie left under the sofa for a few days. A whole day’s hiring? An outrageous sum? It might instead be a setup. Pretend to be a lord, then lure him into the slums to be robbed.…
“My lord!” the man said. “I just realized. Gotta get back. Can’t be hired for the whole day. My mother, she’ll need me.”
“What nonsense is this?” Wayne demanded. “I haven’t the time for your prattle, man! And catching another boat will waste my precious time. I’ll double your fee.”
Now, the man was really anxious. “Sorry, my lord,” he said, poling to the side of the canal. “Very sorry. Can’t do it.”
“At least take me to Stansel—”
“No!” the man yelped. “Nope, can’t do it. Gotta go.”
“Well,” Wayne huffed, climbing out. “I’ve never been treated in such a manner! And we’re not even halfway down portway!”
“Sorry, my lord!” the man said, poling away as quickly as he could. “Sorry!”
Wayne cocked his hat, grinned, and checked the sign hanging from the streetlamp. Exactly where he’d wanted to go, and not a clip paid. He started whistling and strolled along the canal, keeping an eye out for a better offering. What would the god want?
Maybe that? he wondered, eyeing a line of people waiting at Old Dent’s roadside cart, wanting to buy some of his fried potatoes. Seemed a good bet.
Wayne wandered over. “Need some help, Dent?”
The old man looked up and wiped his brow. “Five clips a small pouch, eight for a large, Wayne. And don’t eat none of the stock, or I’ll fry your fingers.”
Wayne grinned, slipping behind the cart as the man turned back to his brazier and stirred a batch that was frying. Wayne took the customers’ money—and didn’t eat much of the stock—until the last man in line arrived, a fancy-looking fellow in a doorman’s jacket. Probably worked at one of the hotels down the lane. Good tips at those jobs.
“Three large,” the man said.
Wayne got his potatoes, took the man’s money, then hesitated. “Actually,” Wayne said, holding up a note, “do you have change? We got too many large bills.”
“I suppose,” the man said, digging in his nice eelskin wallet.
“Great, here’s a twenty.”
“I’ve got two fives and ten ones,” the man said, putting them down.
“Thanks.” Wayne took them, then hesitated. “Actually, I’ve got plenty of ones. Could I get that ten I saw in your wallet?” “Fine.”
Wayne gave him a handful of coins and took the ten.
“Hey,” the man said, “there are only seven here.”
“Whoops!” Wayne said.
“What are you doing, Wayne?” Old Dent said. “There’s more change in the box under there.”
“Really?” Wayne glanced. “Rusts. Okay, how about you just give me my twenty back?” He counted the man back thirteen and poured the coins and bills into his hand.
The man sighed, and gave Wayne the twenty. “Can I just get some sauce for my chips?”
“Sure, sure,” Wayne said, squeezing some sauce onto the pouches, beside the potatoes. “That’s a nice wallet. Whaddaya want for it?”
The man hesitated, looking at his wallet.
“I’ll give you this,” Wayne said, plucking the flower off his ear and holding it out with a banknote worth ten.
The man shrugged and handed over the empty wallet, taking the bill and stuffing it in his pocket. He threw the flower away. “Idiot,” the man said, marching off with his potatoes.
Wayne tossed the wallet up and caught it again.
“Did you shortchange that man, Wayne?” Old Dent asked.
“You got him to give you fifty, and you gave him back forty.”
“What?” Wayne said, stuffing the wallet in his back pocket. “You know I can’t count that high, Dent. ’Sides, gave him ten extra at the end.”
“For his wallet.”
“Nah,” Wayne said. “The flower was for the wallet. The bill was ’cuz I somehow ended up with an extra ten completely on accident, very innocent-like.” He smiled, helped himself to a pouch of chips, and went wandering off.
That wallet was nice. His god would like that. Everyone needed wallets, right? He got it out and opened and closed it repeatedly, until he noticed that one side was worn.
Rusts. He’d been cheated! This wouldn’t work at all for an offering. He shook his head, walking along the canal promenade. A pair of urchins sat on one side, hands out for coins. The melancholy sound of a busker rose from a little farther down the path. Wayne was near the Breakouts, a nice slum, and he caught whiffs of their distinctive odor. Fortunately the aroma wafting from a nearby bakery overwhelmed most of it.
“Here’s the thing,” he said to one of the urchins, a girl not seven. He settled down on his haunches. “I ain’t travailed enough.”
“…Sir?” the girl asked.
“In the old stories of quests, you gotta travail. That’s like traveling, but with an ailment stapled on. Headaches and the like; maybe a sore backside too.”
“Can… can I have a coin, sir?”
“Ain’t got no coins,” Wayne said, thinking. “Damn. In the stories they always tip the urchins, don’t they? Lets ya know they’re the heroes and such. Hold here for a sec.”
He stood up and burst into the bakery, real heroic-like. A woman behind the counter was just pulling a rack of meat buns out of the oven. Wayne slammed his fork down onto the plain wooden countertop, leaving it flourished there like a rusting legendary sword.
“How many buns’ll you give me for this?” he asked.
The baker frowned, looking at him, then taking the fork. She turned it over in her fingers. “Mister,” she said, “this is silver.”
“So… how many?” Wayne asked.
“A bunch’ll do, fair merchant.”
A moment later he emerged from the bakery holding three large paper sacks filled with a dozen buns each. He dropped a handful of change the baker had insisted on giving him into the urchins’ hands, then held up a finger as their jaws dropped.
“You,” he said, “must earn this.”
“Take these,” he said, dropping the sacks. “Go give the stuff inside away.”
“To who?” the girl asked.
“Anyone who needs them,” Wayne said. “But see here, now. Don’t eat more than four yourselves, all right?”
“Four?” the girl said. “All for me?”
“Well, five, but you bargain hard. Little cheat.” He left them stunned and danced along the edge of the canal, passing the busker, who sat strumming an old guitar.
“Something lively, minstrel!” Wayne called, tossing the silver spoon into the man’s overturned hat, which awaited tips.
“Here now,” the man said. “What’s this?” He squinted. “A spoon?”
“Merchants are apparently desperate for the things!” Wayne called. “They’ll give you half a hunnerd meat buns for one, with change to boot. Now, give me ‘The Last Breath,’ minstrel!”
The man shrugged, and started plucking the song from Wayne’s mind. Ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum. Quick, energetic. Wayne rocked back and forth, eyes closed. The end of an era, he thought. A god to be appeased.
He heard the two urchins laughing, and opened his eyes to see them tossing meat buns at the people they passed. Wayne smiled, then kicked himself in a smooth skid along the edge of the canal, which was slippery with a coating of slime. He managed to go a good ten feet before losing his balance and slipping.
Which, of course, plunged him right into the canal.
Coughing, he pulled himself up onto the side. Well, maybe this would count as a travail. If not, it was probably poetry, considering what he’d done to Wax this morning.
He fished out his hat, then put his back to the canal. That was the way to go. Eyes forward, back turned toward the past. No sense getting your nose stuck in things that don’t matter anymore. He continued on his way, trailing water and spinning the last of the silverware—the knife—in his fingers. This was not the right offering for his quest. He was pretty sure of it. But what was?
He stopped at the next canal bridge, then stepped back. A short man in a uniform he didn’t recognize was walking down a nearby street with a little book in hand. Motorcars were parked here in various positions, most partly up onto the sidewalks. The man in the uniform stopped at each one, writing something down in his book.
Wayne followed after him. “Here now,” he asked the man. “What’re you doing?”
The little man in the uniform glanced at him, then back at his notebook. “New city ordinance about the parking of motorcars requires them to be left in an orderly manner, not up on the sidewalks like this.”
“So I’m writing down the registry numbers of each one,” the man said. “And we’ll track down the owners and charge them a fine.”
Wayne whistled softly. “That’s evil.”
“Nonsense,” the man said. “It’s the law.”
“So you’re a conner?”
“Fine enforcement officer,” the man said. “Spent most of my time inspecting kitchens before last month. This is a lot more productive, I’ll tell you. It—”
“That’s great,” Wayne said. “Whaddaya want for the book?”
The man regarded him. “It’s not for trade.”
“I’ve got this here nice wallet,” Wayne said, holding it up, water dripping out the side. “Recently cleaned.”
“Move along, sir,” the man said. “I am not—”
“How ’bout this?” Wayne said, yanking out the knife.
The man jumped back in alarm, dropping his notebook. Wayne snatched it, dropping the knife.
“Great trade. Thanks. Bye.” He took off at a dash.
“Hey!” the man shouted, chasing after him. “Hey!”
“No tradebacks!” Wayne shouted, hand on his wet hat, running for all he was worth.
“Come back here!”
Wayne dashed out onto the main street along the canal, passing a couple of old men sitting on a tenement’s steps near the entrance to the slums.
“That’s Edip’s boy,” one of them said. “Always gettin’ himself into trouble, that one is.”
The man got hit in the face by a meat bun a second later.
Wayne ignored that, holding his hat to his head and running all-out. The conner was a determined one. Followed Wayne a good ten streets before slowing, then stopping, hands on his knees. Wayne grinned and ducked around one last corner before slamming his back against the bricks of a building, beside a window. He was pretty winded himself.
He’ll probably file a report, Wayne thought. Hope the fine they make Wax pay ain’t too large.
He ought to find something to bring back as an apology. Maybe Wax needed a wallet.
Wayne heard something beside him, and turned to see a woman with spectacles leaning out the window to look at him curiously. She was holding a pen, and just inside the window a half-finished letter lay on the desk in front of her. Perfect.
Wayne tipped his hat, snatching the pen from her hand. “Thanks,” he said, opening the notebook and scribbling some words. As she cried out, he tossed the pen back to her, then continued on his way.
The final destination, the god’s dwelling, was not far now. He veered down a street lined with trees and quaint smaller townhomes. He counted them off, then turned to the right and stood facing it. The god’s new temple. She’d moved here a few months ago.
He took a deep breath, banishing the music in his head. This had to be quiet. He crept carefully up the long walk to the front door. There, he quietly tucked the book into the spot between the doorknob and the door. He didn’t dare knock. Ranette was a jealous god, known for shooting people—for her, it was practically a governmental mandate. If the constables didn’t find a few corpses on her doorstep every week, they’d start to wonder if she wasn’t feeling well.
Wayne slipped away. He smiled, imagining Ranette’s reaction when she opened the door, and was so distracted that he almost ran right into Ranette herself walking up the path to her house.
Wayne stumbled back. Perfect brown hair, pulled back to expose a gorgeous face, weathered from her time in the Roughs. A fantastic figure, round in all the right places. Tall. Taller than Wayne. So he had something to look up to.
“Wayne! What were you doing at my door?”
“Idiot,” she said, shoving past him. “You’d better not have broken in. Tell Wax I delivered those cords to him just now. He needn’t have sent someone to check on me.”
“Cords?” Wayne asked. What cords?
She ignored the question, muttering. “I swear, I am going to shoot you, you little maggot.”
He watched her go, smiled to himself, then turned and continued walking away.
“What’s this?” she said from behind him.
He kept walking.
“Wayne!” she shouted at him. “I’ll shoot you, right now. I swear I will. Tell me what you’ve done.”
He turned around. “It’s just a gift, Ranette.”
“A notebook?” she asked, flipping the pages.
He shoved his hands into his trouser pockets and shrugged. “Writin’ book,” he said. “You’re always writin’ stuff down, thinkin’ about things. Figured if there’s one thing you could always use more of, it’s a writin’ book. All those ideas you have must get pretty crowded up there. Makes sense you’d need places to store them.”
“Why’s it damp?”
“Sorry,” he said. “Forgot and stuck it in my pocket for a moment. But I got it right back out. I fought ten constables for that, I’ll have you know.”
She flipped through it, eyes narrowed in suspicion, until she reached the last page. “What’s this?” She held it up close and read the words he’d scrawled on the back page. “ ‘Thank you and goodbye’? What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothin’s wrong,” Wayne said. “I just figured it was time.”
“For a little, but that’s not what the words mean. I’m sure we’ll see each other again. Perhaps frequently and such. I’ll see you… but I won’t be seein’ you again. See?”
She looked at him for a long moment, then seemed to relax. “You mean it?”
“Gotta grow up sometime, right? I’ve found that… well, a man wantin’ something don’t make it true, you know?”
Ranette smiled. Seemed an awful long time since he’d seen her do that. She walked to him, and he didn’t even flinch when she extended her hand. He was proud of that.
He took her hand, and she raised his, then kissed it on the back. “Thank you, Wayne.”
He smiled, let go, and turned to leave. One step into it, though, he hesitated, then shifted his weight to his other foot and leaned toward her again. “Marasi says you’re courtin’ another girl.”
“. . . I am.”
Wayne nodded. “Now, I don’t want to go wrong, seein’ as I’m being so gentlemanly and grown-up and the like. But you can’t blame a man for gettin’ ideas when hearing something such as that. So… I don’t suppose that there’s a chance for the three of us to—”
“I don’t mind none if she’s fat, Ranette. I likes a girl what has something to hold on to.”
He looked back at her, noting the storm in her expression. “Right,” he said. “Right. Okay. Yeah. I don’t suppose, when we’re lookin’ fondly on this conversationalizing and our memorable farewell, we could both just forget I said that last part?”
“I’ll do my best.”
He smiled, took off his hat, and gave her a deep bow he’d learned off a sixth-generation doorman greeter at Lady ZoBell’s ballroom in the Fourth Octant. Then he stood up straight, replaced his hat, and put his back toward her. He found himself whistling as he went on his way.
“What is that song?” she called after him. “I know it.”
“‘The Last Breath,’” he said without turning back. “The pianoforte was playin’ it when we first met.”
He turned the corner, and didn’t look back. Didn’t even check if she’d sighted on him with a rifle or something. Feeling a spring in his step, he made his way to the nearest busy intersection and tossed the empty wallet into the gutter. It wasn’t long before a carriage-forhire pulled up, and its coachman glanced to the side, saw the wallet, and scrambled down to grab it.
Dashing out from an alley, Wayne beat the man to it, diving for the wallet and rolling on the ground. “It’s mine!” he said. “I seen it first!”
“Nonsense,” the coachman said, swatting Wayne with his horse reed. “I dropped it, you ruffian. It’s mine!”
“Oh, is that so?” Wayne said. “How much is innit?”
“I need not answer to you.”
Wayne grinned, holding up the wallet. “I tells you what. You can have it and everything that’s inside. But you take me to the Fourth Octant west train station.”
The coachman eyed him, then held out his hand.
Half an hour later, the coach rolled up to the rail station—a bleak-looking building with peaked towers and tiny windows, as if to taunt those trapped inside with a scant view of the sky. Wayne sat on the back footman’s stand, legs swinging over the side. Trains steamed nearby, rolling up to platforms to gorge themselves on a new round of passengers.
Wayne hopped down, tipped his hat to the grumbling coachman— who seemed well aware he’d been had—and strolled in through the open doors. He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked about until he found Wax, Marasi, and Steris standing amid a small hill of suitcases, with servants waiting at the ready to carry them.
“Finally!” Wax snapped. “Wayne, our train is nearly boarding. Where have you been?”
“Makin’ an offering to a beautiful god,” Wayne said, looking up toward the building’s high ceiling. “Why do you suppose they made this place so big? Ain’t like the trains ever come in here, eh?”
“Wayne?” Steris asked, wrinkling her nose. “Are you drunk?”
He put a bit of a slur into his speech. “Course not. Why… why’d I be drunk at this hour?” He looked at her lazily.
“You’re insufferable,” she said, waving to her lady’s maid. “I can’t believe you risked being late for a little liquor.”
“Wasn’t a little,” Wayne said.
When the train arrived, he joined the others in climbing aboard— Steris and Wax had ordered an entire car set aside for the lot of them. Unfortunately, the last-minute hiring meant it had to be hitched all the way at the back, and Wayne had to share a room with Herve the footman. Bugger that. He knew for a fact the man snored. He’d find someplace else to sleep, or else just stay up. The train to New Seran wasn’t going to take that long. They’d arrive before sunrise.
In fact, as the thing finally started to chug into motion, he swung out his compartment’s window—much to Herve’s consternation— and climbed up onto the roof. He sat there whistling softly, watching Elendel pass for a time, wind ruffling his hair. A simple tune, easy and familiar, and the accompanying beat played on the tracks below. Ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum. Quick… energetic.
He lay down then, staring at the sky, the clouds, the sun.
Eyes forward, back turned toward the past.
Excerpted from The Bands of Mourning © Brandon Sanderson, 2016