Aug 24 2011 1:00pm
The Alloy of Law: Chapter Six
We are very excited to offer the 6th and final excerpt from Brandon Sanderson’s fourth Mistborn novel, The Alloy of Law, out November 8th from Tor Books!
This ends our preview of the novel, but come back to Tor.com for all your Alloy of Law coverage leading up to the fall release....
Read through all of the excerpts in order in the Alloy of Law index.
Wayne dropped the speed bubble.
First step, Waxillium thought as he took aim, draw their attention. He began gently Pushing away from himself in the way that created a steel bubble of force to interfere with bullets. It wouldn’t protect him completely, but it would help. Unless they fired aluminum bullets.
Best to be careful. And best to shoot first.
The robbers were eagerly raising their weapons. He could see the lust for destruction in their eyes. They had been armed to the teeth, but so far, their robberies had occurred without a single shot being fired.
Rather than kill a lot of people, most of them probably just wanted to shoot the place up a little, but such situations easily grew more violent than expected. If they weren’t stopped, the Vanishers would leave behind more than shattered windows and broken tables.
Waxillium quickly chose a bandit with a shotgun and dropped him with a bullet to the head. A second followed. Those shotguns were least dangerous to Waxillium, but they’d be deadly to the cowering bystanders.
His shots boomed in the cavernous chamber and the guests screamed. Some took the chance to run for the edges of the room. Most got down beside their tables. In the confusion, the bandits didn’t spot Waxillium at first.
He dropped another man with a bullet to the shoulder. The smart thing to do from here would have been to crouch down beside a table and continue to fire. It would take the bandits precious moments to discover who was attacking them in a room so large and crowded.
Unfortunately, the men behind him opened fire, whooping in delight. They hadn’t noticed what he was doing, though the men in front of him on the other side of the hall had seen their friends fall and were scattering for cover. In moments, the room would be a storm of lead and gunsmoke.
Taking a deep breath, Waxillium flared his steel and tapped his iron metalmind. Filling it made him lighter, but tapping it made him heavier—much heavier. He increased his weight a hundredfold. There was a proportional increase in the strength of his body, or so he’d guessed, as he didn’t crush himself with his own weight.
He raised his guns high over his head to keep them out of the radius, then Pushed outward from himself in a ring. He started carefully, gradually increasing its strength. When you Pushed, it was your weight against that of the object—in this case, the metal screws and bolts in the tables and chairs. They were swept away from him.
He became the epicenter of an expanding ring of force. Tables toppled, chairs scraped against the floor, and people screamed in surprise. Some were caught up in it, shoved away from him. Not so hard that they were hurt, he hoped, but it was better to suffer a few bruises than remain in the center of the room with what was coming.
Just to the side, he saw Wayne—who had been moving carefully toward the back of the room—leap up onto an overturned table, holding to its rim and grinning as he rode it in a rush toward the bandits back there.
Waxillium eased off on the Push. He stood alone in a large empty space at the center of the dining hall, surrounded by patches of spilled wine, food, and fallen dishes.
Then the firing started in earnest, the bandits in front of him letting loose with a barrage. He met the onslaught of bullets with another strong Push. The bullets stopped in the air, rebuffed in a wave. Given their speed, he could stop bullets that way only if he was expecting them.
He let the bullets fly back at their owners, but didn’t Push too hard, lest he strike an innocent partygoer. It was enough to send the bandits scrambling, however, and yelling that there was a Coinshot in the room.
He was in real danger now. Quick as an eyeblink, Waxillium switched from tapping his metalmind to filling it, making himself far lighter. He pointed his revolver down and shot a bullet into the floor just behind himself and Pushed off it, launching into the air. Wind rushed in his ears as he threw himself over the barricade of furniture he’d made, where some of the guests still huddled. Luckily, many were realizing that the perimeters of the room would be much safer, and were scrambling that way.
Waxillium dropped right in the middle of the bandits, who had started taking cover behind the pile of tables and chairs. Men cursed as he spread his arms, guns pointed in opposite directions, and started firing. He spun, dropping four men with a quick spray of bullets.
Some bandits fired on him, but the bullets were off aim, and swerved away from his steel bubble. “Aluminum bullets!” one of the bandits was yelling. “Get out your bloody aluminum!”
Wax spun and fired two shots into that man’s chest. Then he leaped to the side, rolling up next to a table that had been beyond his initial Push. A quick Push against the nails in the top overturned it, giving him cover as the bandits opened fire. He caught blue lines from some of the bullets, moving too quickly for him to Push out of the way.
Other bandits were reloading their guns. He was in luck; it seemed from the curses of the bandit leaders that the men were supposed to have aluminum bullets loaded already, at least in some of the chambers. Shooting aluminum was like shooting gold, however, and many of the bandits appeared to have kept the aluminum in their pockets rather than wanting to have it in the guns, where they might end up firing it by accident.
A bandit ducked around the side of his table, aiming a pistol. Waxillium reacted by reflex, Pushing on the gun, slapping it back into his face. Waxillium dropped him with a bullet to the chest.
Empty, he thought to himself, counting the bullets he’d shot. He had just two left in the other gun. He glanced over the edge of his shelter, noting the locations of two reloading bandits who had hidden behind overturned tables. He took aim quickly, increased his weight, then fired and Pushed with everything he had on the bullet leaving his gun.
The bullet cracked in the air, driving forward into the table shelter and drilling right through it, hitting the bandit on the other side. Waxillium repeated, taking down the other bandit, who was stupefied to see the thick oak table penetrated by a simple revolver bullet. Then Waxillium threw himself over the top of his own table, getting to the other side just as the men behind him got around the wounded and started firing at him.
Bullets snapped against his shelter, but it held. This time, none of them gave off blue lines. Aluminum. He breathed deeply, dropping his revolvers and pulling out the Terringul 27 he had strapped to the inside of his calf. Not the largest-caliber gun, but its long barrel made it precise.
He spared a glance for Wayne, and counted four Vanishers down. His friend was gleefully leaping off a table toward a man with a shotgun. The two became a blur as Wayne activated a speed bubble. In an instant he was in a different place—bullets zipping through the area he’d left—hiding behind an overturned table, the bandit with the shotgun limp on the ground.
Wayne’s favorite tactic was to get close, then catch one person in the speed bubble and fight them alone. He couldn’t move the speed bubble after putting it up, but he could move around inside of it. So when he released the bubble after fighting his chosen foe one-on-one, he’d be standing in a different place than expected. Foes found him incredibly difficult to track and aim at.
But in a long fight, they’d eventually catch on and hold their fire until just after Wayne dropped a bubble. It took a couple of seconds between dropping one and putting up another, the time when Wayne was most vulnerable. Of course, even when the bubble was up, Wayne wasn’t completely safe. It could be nerve-racking to know that his friend was fighting alone, enclosed by a bubble of accelerated time. If Wayne got into trouble while inside, Waxillium couldn’t help. Wayne would be shot and bleeding before the bubble collapsed.
Well, Waxillium had his own troubles. With those aluminum bullets, his own protective bubble was useless. He let it drop. More bullets pelted his table and the floor around him, the pops of gunfire echoing in the grand hall. Fortunately, he could still see blue lines pointing to the ordinary steel of the bandits’ guns, including those of a group of men attempting to flank him.
No time to deal with them, he thought. The bandit boss had sent Steris out with one of his men, but had paused by the door himself. He didn’t seem surprised by the resistance. Something about the way he stood there, imperious and in control . . . Something about the way his eyes—the only visible part of his masked face—found Wax, and locked on to him . . . Something about that voice . . .
Miles? The thought was a shock.
Screams. Marasi’s screams. Wax turned away from the bandit leader, feeling an unfamiliar sense of panic. Steris needed him, but Marasi did too, and she was closer. The koloss-blooded man named Tarson had her; he held her with one arm around the neck, towing her toward the door and cursing. His two companions looked about anxiously, as if expecting constables to come pouring in at any moment.
Marasi had gone limp. Tarson was shouting, and he jammed his revolver in her ear, but she had her eyes squeezed shut and refused to respond. She knew she wasn’t some simple hostage; they wanted her specifically, and therefore wouldn’t shoot her.
Good girl, Waxillium thought. It couldn’t be easy, hearing the Vanisher shout, feeling the barrel on her temple. A few guests hid nearby, a well-dressed woman and her husband holding their hands to their ears and whimpering. The gunfire was loud, chaotic, though he barely noticed these things any longer. He should have slipped his earplugs in, regardless. Too late now.
Waxillium ducked to the side and fired two shots into the wooden floor to cause those flanking him to duck for cover. The Terringul was loaded with hollow-point bullets specifically designed to lodge in wood, giving him a good anchor when he needed one. They also happened to lodge in flesh, reducing the chances of a through-and-through shot that could injure bystanders, which suited him just fine.
He dashed forward in a crouch and leaped onto a large serving platter. He pressed one foot against the lip of the platter, and Pushed on the bullets behind him. The maneuver threw him forward in a skid across the polished wooden floor. He broke out of the tables into open space just before the steps out of the room, then kicked the platter out from under him and increased his weight, hitting the ground and stopping.
The platter flipped out in front of him, and the startled bandits began firing. Metal pinged against metal as some of the bullets hit the platter; Waxillium responded, dropping the men on either side of Tarson with two quick shots. Then he flared his steel and Pushed toward Tarson’s gun to try knocking it away from Marasi.
Only then did Waxillium realize there was no blue line pointing to the man’s gun. Tarson grinned, his ashy face topped by Wayne’s hat. Then he whipped around, placing himself behind Marasi, whom he gripped by the neck with one hand, holding the gun steady against her head with the other.
No blue lines. Rust and Ruin . . . an entire gun made of aluminum?
Waxillium and Tarson both fell still. The bandits behind hadn’t noticed Waxillium’s floor-level escape on the platter; they were closing on the area where he’d been hiding. The boss still stood in the doorway, looking toward Waxillium. Wax had to be wrong about who he was. People could look alike, sound alike. That didn’t mean . . .
Marasi whimpered. And Waxillium found himself unable to move, unable to raise his hand to fire. The shot he’d made to save Lessie played again and again in his mind.
I can make a shot like that, he thought to himself, angry. I’ve done it a dozen times.
He’d only missed once.
He couldn’t move, couldn’t think. He kept seeing her die again and again. Blood in the air, a smiling face.
Tarson apparently realized that Waxillium wouldn’t fire. So he swung his gun away from Marasi’s head and toward Waxillium.
Marasi went rigid. She locked her legs and slammed her head upward into the Vanisher’s chin. Tarson’s shot went wild and he stumbled backward, holding his mouth.
With Marasi mostly out of the way, Waxillium’s mind cleared, and he found himself able to move again. He shot Tarson, though he couldn’t bring himself to aim for the chest, not with Marasi stumbling nearby. He settled on dropping Tarson with a shot to the arm. Marasi raised her hand to her mouth in horror, watching him fall.
“He’s over there!” Voices from behind, the three bandits he’d been fighting among the tables. An aluminum bullet split the air just beside him.
“Hold on,” Waxillium said to Marasi, leaping forward and grabbing her around the waist. He raised his gun and shot the last bullet in his gun toward the doorway, hitting the masked leader of the Vanishers in the head.
The man collapsed in a heap.
Well, there goes that theory, Waxillium thought. Miles wouldn’t have fallen to a mere bullet. He was a Twinborn of a particularly dangerous variety.
Tarson was rolling over, holding his arm and groaning. No time. Guns empty. Waxillium dropped the gun and Pushed on it while holding tightly to Marasi. The Push hurled the two of them into the air; a hail of bullets sprayed through the space where they’d been. Unfortunately, they missed Tarson, who was rolling on the floor.
Marasi cried out, clinging to him as they flew up toward the brilliant chandeliers. Waxillium pushed off one of them, causing it to rock back and forth. That Push threw him and Marasi toward the nearby balcony, which was occupied by a group of cowering musicians.
Waxillium landed hard on the balcony; he was off-balance from carrying Marasi, and hadn’t had time to judge the Push precisely. They rolled in a bundle of red and white fabric. When they came to a rest, Marasi clung to him, shaking and gasping for breath.
He sat up, and held her for a moment. “Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it,” he said. “That was very brave, stopping the bandit as you did.”
“Seven out of ten kidnappings can be foiled by appropriate resistance on the part of the target,” she said, words tumbling out of her mouth. She squeezed her eyes closed again. “Sorry. That was just very, very unsettling.”
“I—” He froze.
“What?” she asked, opening her eyes.
Waxillium didn’t respond. He rolled to the side, pulling loose from her grip as he noticed the blue lines moving to the left. Someone was coming up the steps to the balcony.
Waxillium came up beside a large harp as the balcony door burst open to reveal two Vanishers—one with a rifle, the other with a pair of pistols. Waxillium increased his weight by tapping his metalmind, then heaved with a desperate flare of steel, Pushing against the harp’s metal mountings, nails, and strings. The instrument crashed into the wooden doorway and smashed the men against the wall. They slumped down, dropping to the stairs under the broken harp.
Waxillium ran to check their vitals. Convinced they wouldn’t be dangerous any time soon, he grabbed the handguns and dashed back to the edge of the balcony, scanning the room below. The furniture he’d Pushed out of the way made a strange perfectly circular open space on the ballroom floor. Partygoers were making for the kitchens in increasingly large numbers. He looked for Wayne, but saw only the broken bodies of fallen bandits where he’d been.
“Steris?” Marasi asked, crawling up beside him.
“I’ll go after her right now,” Waxillium said. “Some men towed her outside, but they won’t have had time to . . .” He trailed off as he noticed a blur beside the far door. It stopped, and suddenly Wayne was lying on the ground, blood pooling around him. A bandit stood above him looking quite pleased with himself, holding a smoking pistol.
Damn! Waxillium thought, feeling a spike of fear. If Wayne had been hit in the head . . .
Steris or Wayne?
She’ll be safe, he thought. They took her for a reason; they need her.
“Oh no!” Marasi said, pointing at Wayne. “Lord Ladrian, is that—”
“He’ll be all right if I can get to him,” Waxillium said, hastily shoving a pistol into Marasi’s hands. “Can you use one of these?”
“Just start firing it if someone threatens you. I’ll come.” He leaped up onto the balcony railing. His way was mostly blocked by the chandeliers; he couldn’t make a direct jump to Wayne. He’d have to jump down, then up again, and bound to—
No time. Wayne was dying.
Waxillium threw himself off the balcony. As soon as his feet were free, he tapped his metalmind and drew forth as much weight as he could. That didn’t tow him to the ground; an object fell at the same speed, no matter its weight. Only air resistance mattered.
However, weight did matter a great deal when Pushing—which Waxillium did, throwing everything he had against the chandeliers. They ripped apart in a line, the metal inside them twisting upon itself, crystal exploding outward in a shower. That gave him plenty of room along the upper portion of the room to jump in an arc toward Wayne.
In a heartbeat, Waxillium stopped tapping his metalmind and started filling it instead, decreasing his weight to almost nothing. He Pushed on the broken harp behind, and a simultaneous quick Push against the nails in the floor kept him high.
The result was that he soared across the room in a graceful arc, passing through the space the large chandeliers had occupied. The glittering smaller chandeliers continued to shine on either side of him while crystal showered beneath, each tiny piece splintering the light into a spray of colors. His suit coat flapped, and he lowered the single revolver in his hand as he fell, pointing it at the bandit standing over Wayne.
Waxillium emptied six chambers at the thief. He couldn’t afford to take chances.
The pistol was slick in Waxillium’s hand as he hit the ground, Pushing on the floor nails to keep from breaking his legs. The thief slumped back against the wall, dead.
Just as Waxillium reached Wayne, a speed bubble sprang up around them. Waxillium exhaled in relief as Wayne stirred; he knelt to turn his friend face upward. Wayne’s shirt was soaked with blood, a bullet hole visible in his belly. As Waxillium watched, it slowly closed up, healing itself.
“Damn,” Wayne said, groaning. “Gut wounds hurt.”
Wayne couldn’t have kept the bubble up while the bandit was alive—that would have told him Wayne wasn’t dead. Outlaws and lawmen alike were accustomed to Metalborn; if the bubble had stayed up, the bandit would have quickly shot Wayne in the head.
So Wayne had been forced to drop the bubble and play dead. Luckily, the bandit hadn’t turned him over to check his vitals and noticed that the wound was healing. Wayne was a Bloodmaker, a type of Feruchemist who could store health in the way that Waxillium stored weight. If Wayne spent some time being sickly and weak—his body healing itself much more slowly than normal—he could store up the health and healing ability in a metalmind. Then, when he tapped it, he healed at a greatly increased rate.
“How much do you have left in your metalmind?” Waxillium asked.
“That was the second bullet wound of the night,” Wayne said. “I can maybe heal one more.” Wayne stood as Waxillium pulled him to his feet. “Took me a good two weeks in bed to store up that much. Hope that girl of yours is worth it.”
“Girl of mine?”
“Oh, c’mon, mate. Don’t think I didn’t see how you were looking at her during dinner. You always did like ’em smart.” He grinned.
“Wayne,” Waxillium said. “Lessie hasn’t even been gone a year.”
“You have to move on eventually.”
“I’m done with this conversation,” Waxillium said, looking over the nearby tables. Vanisher bodies lay strewn about, bones broken by Wayne’s dueling canes. Waxillium spotted a few living ones hiding behind tables for cover, as if they hadn’t realized yet that Wayne didn’t carry guns.
“Five left?” Waxillium asked.
“Six,” Wayne said, picking up and spinning his dueling canes. “There’s another in the shadows over there. I brought down seven. You?”
“Sixteen, I think,” Waxillium said distractedly. “Haven’t been counting carefully.”
“Sixteen? Damn, Wax. I was hoping you’d have rusted a bit, was thinkin’ maybe I’d be able to catch you this time.”
Waxillium smiled. “It’s not a competition.” He hesitated. “Even if I am winning. Some men got out the door with Steris. I shot the guy who took your hat, though he lived. He’s probably gone by now.”
“You didn’t grab the hat for me?” Wayne asked, sounding offended.
“I was a little busy being shot at.”
“Busy? Aw, mate. It doesn’t take any effort at all to get shot at. I think you’re just makin’ excuses on account of being jealous of my lucky hat.”
“That’s it entirely,” Waxillium said, fishing in his pocket. “How much time you have left?”
“Not much,” Wayne said. “Bendalloy’s almost gone. Maybe twenty seconds.”
Waxillium took a deep breath. “I’m going for the three on the left. You go right. Get ready to jump.”
Wayne ran forward and leaped onto a table in front of them. He dropped the speed bubble right as he launched himself off, and Waxillium braced himself by increasing his weight, then Pushed on Wayne’s metalminds, sending the man soaring through the air in an arc toward the bandits. Once Wayne was airborne, Waxillium flipped from tapping his metalmind to filling it, then Pushed on some nails, launching himself into the air in a slightly different trajectory.
Wayne hit first, probably landing so hard he had to heal himself as he rolled between a pair of hiding bandits. He came up to his feet and slammed his dueling canes down on one bandit’s arm. He then spun and smashed a cane into the second man’s neck.
Waxillium tossed his gun as he fell, Pushing it hard into the face of a startled thief. He landed, then tossed the empty cartridge that Wayne had given him earlier—the one that had contained the message—at a second man. Pushing on it, he turned the casing into an improvised bullet, slamming it into the man’s forehead and piercing his skull.
Waxillium shoved on the casing hard enough that it tossed him to the side. He plowed his shoulder into the chest of the man he’d thrown his gun at. The man stumbled back, and Waxillium slammed his forearm—and its metalmind bracer—into the man’s head, dropping him.
One more, he thought. Behind me to the right. It was going to be close. Waxillium kicked the gun he’d dropped, intending to Push it toward the final bandit.
A gunshot sounded.
Waxillium froze, anticipating the pain of a bullet hitting him. Nothing happened. He spun to find the final bandit slumped over a table, bleeding, a gun dropping from his fingers.
What by the Survivor’s scars . . . ?
He looked up. Marasi knelt on the balcony where he’d left her. She’d fetched the rifle from the bandit he’d crushed, and she obviously knew how to use it. Even as he watched, she fired again, dropping the bandit in the shadows Wayne had mentioned.
Wayne stood up from finishing off his two assailants. He looked confused until Waxillium pointed toward Marasi.
“Wow,” Wayne said, stepping up to him. “I’m liking her more and more. Definitely the one of the two I’d pick if I were you.”
The one of the two.
Waxillium cursed and leaped forward, throwing himself in a Steelpush across the room toward the other exit. He hit the ground running, noting with concern that the boss’s body wasn’t where he’d dropped it. There was blood in the entryway. Had they dragged him away?
Unless . . . Maybe his theory wasn’t wrong after all. But damn it, he couldn’t be facing Miles. Miles was a lawman. One of the best.
Waxillium burst out into the night—this ballroom exit led directly to the street. Some horses stood here tied to a fence, and what looked like a group of grooms lay gagged and bound on the ground.
Steris, and the bandits who had carried her out, were gone. He did find a large group of constables riding into the courtyard, however.
“Great timing, chaps,” Waxillium said, sitting down on the steps, exhausted.
“I don’t care who you are or how much money you have,” Constable Brettin said. “This is a total mess you’ve created, sir.”
Waxillium sat on his stool, listening with only half an ear as he rested with his back against the wall. He was going to ache in the morning. He hadn’t pushed his body so hard in months. He was lucky he hadn’t twisted anything or thrown out a muscle.
“This isn’t the Roughs,” Brettin continued. “You think you can do anything you want? You think you can just pick up a gun and take the law into your own hands?”
They sat in the kitchens of Yomen Manor, in a side area that the constables had partitioned off for interviews. It hadn’t been long since the end of the fight. Just long enough for the trouble to begin.
Though his ears still rang from the noise of the gunfire, Waxillium could also hear moans and cries from the ballroom as the partygoers were seen to. Beyond that, he could hear the clopping of hooves and the racket of the occasional automobile out in the mansion courtyard as the city’s elite fled in groups as they were released. The constables would be speaking to each person, making certain they were well and checking their names off the guest list.
“Well?” Brettin demanded. He was the constable-general, head of the constabulary in their octant. He was probably feeling very threatened by the robberies happening under his watch. Waxillium could imagine what it would be like in his position, getting thunder each day from powers above him who were not pleased.
“I’m sorry, constable,” Waxillium said calmly. “Old habits make for strong steel. I should have restrained myself, but would you have done any different? Would you have watched women being kidnapped and done nothing?”
“I have a legal right and responsibility you do not.”
“I have a moral right and responsibility, constable.”
Brettin harrumphed, but the calm words mollified him somewhat. He glanced to the side as a brown-suited constable wearing one of their domelike hats entered and saluted.
“Well?” Brettin asked. “What’s the news, Reddi?”
“Twenty-five dead, Captain,” the man said.
Brettin groaned. “You see what you’ve caused, Ladrian? If you’d just kept your head down like everyone else, then those poor folks would still be alive. Ruination! This is a mess. I could hang for this—”
“Captain,” Reddi interrupted. He stepped in and spoke softly. “Excuse me, sir. But those were the bandit casualties. Twenty-five of them dead, sir. Six captured alive.”
“Oh. And how many civilians killed?”
“Just one, sir. Lord Peterus. He was shot before Lord Ladrian started fighting back. Sir.” Reddi was regarding Waxillium with a mixture of awe and respect.
Brettin glanced at Waxillium, then grabbed his lieutenant by the arm and towed him a little farther off. Waxillium closed his eyes, breathed softly, and caught some of the conversation.
“You mean . . . two men . . . thirty-one by themselves?”
“. . . else wounded . . . ?”
“. . . broken bones . . . not too serious . . . bruises and scrapes . . . going to open fire . . .”
There was silence, and Waxillium opened his eyes to find the constable-general staring at him. Brettin waved Reddi away, then walked back.
“Well?” Waxillium asked.
“You appear to be a lucky man.”
“My friend and I drew their attention,” Waxillium said. “And most of the partygoers already had their heads down when the shooting began.”
“You still broke bones with your Allomantic stunt,” the constable-general said. “There will be bruised egos and angry lords. They’ll come to me when they complain.”
Waxillium said nothing.
Brettin crouched down before Waxillium, getting in close. “I know about you,” he said softly. “I knew eventually I’d be having this talk with you. So let me be clear. This is my city, and I have the authority here.”
“Is that so?” Waxillium asked, feeling very tired.
“So where were you when the bandits started shooting people in the head?”
Brettin’s face grew red, but Waxillium held his eyes.
“I’m not threatened by you,” Brettin said.
“Good. I haven’t said anything threatening yet.”
Brettin hissed softly, then pointed at Waxillium, tapping a finger against his chest. “Keep your tongue civil. I’ve half a mind to toss you into jail for the night.”
“Then do it. Maybe by morning you’ll have found the other half of your mind, and we’ll be able to have a reasonable conversation.”
Brettin face grew even redder, but he knew—as Waxillium did— that he wouldn’t dare throw a house lord into jail without significant justification. Brettin finally broke away, waving a dismissive hand at Waxillium and stalking out of the kitchen.
Waxillium sighed, standing up and taking his bowler off the counter where he’d left it. Harmony protect us from small-minded men with too much power. He donned the hat and walked out into the ballroom.
The room had been mostly cleared of guests, the wedding party itself taken in Lord Yomen’s carriage to a place where they could recover from the ordeal. The ballroom swarmed with an almost equal number of constables and physicians. The wounded were sitting on the raised wooden floor just before the exit; there looked to be about twenty or thirty people there. Waxillium noticed Lord Harms sitting at a table off to the side, staring down with a morose expression, Marasi trying to comfort him. Wayne was at the table too, looking bored.
Waxillium walked over to them, removing his hat, and sat down. He found that he didn’t exactly know what to say to Lord Harms.
“Hey,” Wayne whispered. “Here.” He handed Waxillium something under the table. A revolver.
Waxillium looked at him, confused. It wasn’t his.
“Figured you’d want one of these.”
Wayne smiled, eyes twinkling. “Snatched it out of the collection the constables made. Apparently there were ten of these. Figured you could sell it. I spent a lot of bendalloy fighting these gits. Need some money to replace it. But don’t worry, I left a real nice drawing I did in the gun’s place when I took it. Here.”
He handed over something else. A handful of bullets. “Grabbed these too.”
“Wayne,” Waxillium said, fingering the long, narrow cartridges, “you realize these are rifle rounds?”
“So they won’t fit a revolver.”
“They won’t? Why not?”
“Kind of a dumb way to make bullets, innit?” He seemed baffled. Of course, most things about guns baffled Wayne, who was generally better off throwing a gun at someone than trying to fire it at them.
Waxillium shook his head in amusement, but didn’t turn the gun down. He had wanted one. He slipped the revolver into one of his shoulder holsters and turned to Lord Harms.
“My lord,” Waxillium said. “I have failed you.”
Harms dabbed his face with his handkerchief, looking pale. “Why would they take her? They’ll let her go, won’t they? They said they would.”
Waxillium fell silent.
“They won’t,” Lord Harms said, looking up. “They haven’t let any of the others go, have they?”
“No,” Waxillium said.
“You have to get her back.” Harms took Waxillium’s hand. “I care nothing for the money or jewelry they took from me. It can be replaced, and most of it was insured anyway. But I’ll pay any price for Steris. Please. She is to be your fiancée! You have to find her!”
Waxillium looked into the older man’s eyes, and saw fear there. Whatever bravado this man had shown in earlier meetings, it was an act.
Funny, how quickly someone can stop calling you a miscreant and a rogue when they want your help, Waxillium thought. But if there was something he couldn’t ignore, it was a sincere request for help.
“I’ll find her,” Waxillium said. “I promise it, Lord Harms.”
Harms nodded. Then, he slowly pushed himself to his feet.
“Let me help you to the carriage, my lord,” Marasi said.
“No,” Harms said, waving her down. “No. Just let me . . . just let me go and sit by myself. I won’t leave without you, but please give me some time alone.” He walked away, leaving Marasi standing with her hands clasped.
She sat back down, looking sick. “He wishes it were she you had rescued and not me,” she said softly.
“So, Wax,” Wayne butted in. “Where did you say that bloke was who had my hat?”
“I told you that he got away after I shot him.”
“I was hoping he’d dropped my hat, you know. Getting shot makes people drop stuff.”
Waxillium sighed. “He still had it on when he left, I’m afraid.”
Wayne started cursing.
“Wayne,” Marasi said. “It’s only a hat.”
“Only a hat?” he asked, aghast.
“Wayne’s a little attached to that hat,” Waxillium said. “He thinks it’s lucky.”
“It is lucky. I ain’t never died while wearing that hat.”
Marasi frowned. “I . . . I’m not sure I know how to respond.”
“That’s a common reaction to Wayne,” Waxillium said. “I did want to thank you for your timely intervention, by the way. Do you mind if I ask where you learned to shoot like that?”
Marasi blushed. “Ladies’ target club at the university. We’re quite well ranked against other clubs in the city.” She grimaced. “I don’t suppose . . . either of those fellows I shot pulled through?”
“Nah,” Wayne said. “You plugged them right good, you did. The one near me left brains all over the door!”
“Oh dear.” Marasi grew pale. “I never expected . . .”
“It’s what happens when you shoot someone,” Wayne pointed out. “At least, usually someone has the good sense to get dead when you go to all the trouble to shoot them. Unless you miss anything vital. That bloke what took my hat?”
“I hit him in the arm,” Waxillium said. “But it should have brought him down better than it did. He has koloss blood for sure. Might be a Pewterarm as well.”
That quieted Wayne. He was probably thinking the same thing as Waxillium—a band like this, with these numbers and such nice weapons, was likely to have at least a couple of Allomancers or Feruchemists among them.
“Marasi,” Waxillium said, as something occurred to him, “is Steris an Allomancer?”
“What? No. She isn’t.”
“You certain?” Waxillium asked. “She might have been hiding it.”
“She’s not an Allomancer,” Marasi said. “Nor a Feruchemist. I can promise it.”
“Well, there’s a theory rusted away,” Wayne said.
“I need to think,” Waxillium said, tapping the table with his fingernail. “Too much about these Vanishers doesn’t make sense.” He shook his head. “But, for now, I should bid you a good evening. I’m exhausted, and if I may be bold enough to say it, you look the same.”
“Yes, of course,” Marasi said.
They stood, walking toward the exit. The constables didn’t stop them, though some did shoot Waxillium hostile looks. Others seemed disbelieving. A few looked awed.
This night, like the four previous, lacked any mists. Waxillium and Wayne walked Marasi to her uncle’s carriage. Lord Harms sat inside, staring straight ahead.
As they arrived, Marasi took Waxillium’s arm. “You really should have gone for Steris first,” she said softly.
“You were closer. Logic dictated I save you first.”
“Well, whatever the reason,” she said, voice even more soft, “thank you for what you did. I just . . . Thank you.” She looked like she wanted to say more, staring up into his eyes, then went onto her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek. Before he could react, she turned away and climbed into the carriage.
Wayne stepped up to him as the carriage moved off into the dark street, horses’ shoes clattering on the paving stones. “So,” Wayne said, “you’re going to marry her cousin?”
“Such is the plan.”
“She is an impulsive young woman half my age,” Waxillium said. An apparently brilliant, beautiful, intriguing young woman who also happens to be an excellent shot. Once, that combination would have left him completely smitten. Now, he barely gave it a passing thought.
He turned away from the carriage. “Where are you staying?”
“Not sure yet,” Wayne said. “I found this house where the folks who lives there is away, but I think they might be back tonight. Left ’em some bread as a thanks.”
Waxillium sighed. I should have guessed. “I’ll give you a room, assuming you promise not to steal too much.”
“What? I never steal, mate. Stealing’s bad.” He ran a hand through his hair and grinned. “Might need to trade you for a hat to wear till I get my other one back, though. Do you need any bread?”
Waxillium just shook his head, waving for his carriage to drive them back to Ladrian Mansion.
Mistborn: The Alloy of Law © Brandon Sanderson 2011