Shadows of Self: Prologue

With The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America. The trilogy’s heroes are now figures of myth and legend, even objects of religious veneration. They are succeeded by wonderful new characters, chief among them Waxillium Ladrian, known as Wax, hereditary Lord of House Ladrian but also, until recently, a lawman in the ungoverned frontier region known as the Roughs. There he worked with his eccentric but effective buddy, Wayne. They are “twinborn,” meaning they are able to use both Allomantic and Feruchemical magic.

Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts. This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.

Shadows of Self is available October 6th in the US from Tor Books, and October 9th in the UK from Gollancz. Read an excerpt below, and stay tuned for further sneak peeks at Brandon Sanderson’s latest adventure!

 

Prologue

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.”

“Sure.”

“And dont 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.”

“But . . .”

“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. 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.

“Yeah?”

“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.”

“But—”

“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.”

“That’s surprising.”

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 there were 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 swung 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?”

She nodded.

“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 taproom 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 the way you came in?” 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 where 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 ways than one,” Waxillium said, crossing the floor in a crouch. “How did they have time to get a sharpshooter into position? They must have known 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 do?”

“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 than he was doing now, shaving it 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 were you 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 following them upstairs. 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.

Shadows-of-Self-by-Brandon-Sanderson-UKThat would buy Waxillium some time. Lessie pushed into a room, 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.

Nothing happened.

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 oldfashioned showdown at noon.”

“You think that would work? I—”

“No, it won’t work,” she snapped. “Nobody does that. It’s stupid. Ruin! How did you 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 on to 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 Waxillium hadn’t ducked, he’d likely have been all right.

Why aim high? The moving blue line to the gun had indicated the sharpshooter running to get into position before shooting. Was it just rushed targeting? Or was there a more sinister reason? 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?”

“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 manyfold in an instant. The wooden floor cracked, then burst open beneath them.

Waxillium fell through, his fine clothing getting ripped, and dropped through the air, towing Lessie after him. Eyes squeezed closed, he Pushed the hundreds 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 a puffing groan, but forced himself to twist around, shaking 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 a 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 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 left 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 it 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.”

Joe drew.

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 loosed a bolt, 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 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 seemed 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, 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.

Waxillium 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.”

Waxillium 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, looking 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 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. 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.

 

Excerpted from Shadows of Self © Brandon Sanderson, 2015

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