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.
I figure I should write one of these things, the small book read. To tell my side. Not the side the historians will tell for me. I doubt they’ll get it right. I don’t know that I’d like them to anyhow.
Wax tapped the book with the end of his pencil, then scribbled down a note to himself on a loose sheet.
“I’m thinking of inviting the Boris brothers to the wedding,” Steris said from the couch opposite the one Wax sat upon.
He grunted, still reading.
I know Saze doesn’t approve of what I’ve done, the book continued. But what did he expect me to do? Knowing what I know . . .
“The Boris brothers,” Steris continued. “They’re acquaintances of yours, aren’t they?”
“I shot their father,” Wax said, not looking up. “Twice.”
I couldn’t let it die, the book read. It’s not right. Hemalurgy is good now, I figure. Saze is both sides now, right? Ruin isn’t around anymore.
“Are they likely to try to kill you?” Steris asked.
“Boris Junior swore to drink my blood,” Wax said. “Boris the Third—and yes, he’s the brother of Boris Junior; don’t ask—swore to . . . what was it? Eat my toes? He’s not a clever man.”
We can use it. We should. Shouldn’t we?
“I’ll just put them on the list, then,” Steris said.
Wax sighed, looking up from the book. “You’re going to invite my mortal enemies,” he said dryly, “to our wedding.”
“We have to invite someone,” Steris said. She sat with her blonde hair up in a bun, her stacks of papers for the wedding arrangements settled around her like subjects at court. Her blue, flowered dress was fashionable without being the least bit daring, and her prim hat clung to her hair so tightly, it might as well have been nailed in place.
“I’m certain there are better choices for invitations than people who want me dead,” Wax said. “I hear family members are traditional.”
“As a point of fact,” Steris said, “I believe your remaining family members actually do want you dead.”
She had him there. “Well, yours don’t. Not that I’ve heard, anyway. If you need to fill out the wedding party, invite more of them.”
“I’ve invited all of my family, as would be proper,” Steris said. “And all of my acquaintances that merit the regard.” She reached to the side, taking out a sheet of paper. “You, however, have given me only two names of people to invite. Wayne and a woman named Ranette—who, you noted, probably wouldn’t try to shoot you at your own wedding.”
“Very unlikely,” Wax agreed. “She hasn’t tried to kill me in years. Not seriously, at least.”
Steris sighed, setting down the sheet.
“Steris . . .” Wax said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be flippant. Ranette will be fine. We joke about her, but she’s a good friend. She won’t ruin the wedding. I promise.”
“Then who will?”
“I have known you for an entire year now, Lord Waxillium,” Steris said. “I can accept you for who you are, but I am under no illusions. Something will happen at our wedding. A villain will burst in, guns firing. Or we’ll discover explosives in the altar. Or Father Bin will inexplicably turn out to be an old enemy and try to murder you instead of performing the ceremony. It will happen. I’m merely trying to prepare for it.”
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Wax asked, smiling. “You’re actually thinking of inviting one of my enemies so you can plan for a disruption.”
“I’ve sorted them by threat level and ease of access,” Steris said, shuffling through her papers.
“Wait,” Wax said, rising and walking over. He leaned down next to her, looking over her shoulder at her papers. Each sheet contained a detailed biography. “Ape Manton . . . The Dashir boys . . . Rusts! Rick Stranger. I’d forgotten about him. Where did you get these?”
“Your exploits are a matter of public record,” Steris said. “One that is of increasing interest to society.”
“How long did you spend on this?” Wax asked, flipping through the pages in the stack.
“I wanted to be thorough. This sort of thing helps me think. Besides, I wanted to know what you had spent your life doing.”
That was actually kind of sweet. In a bizarre, Steris sort of way.
“Invite Douglas Venture,” he said. “He’s kind of a friend, but he can’t hold his liquor. You can count on him making a disturbance at the after-party.”
“Excellent,” Steris said. “And the other thirty-seven seats in your section?”
“Invite leaders among the seamstresses and forgeworkers of my house,” Wax said. “And the constables-general of the various octants. It will be a nice gesture.”
“If you want me to help more with the wedding planning—”
“No, the formal request to perform the ceremony that you sent to Father Bin was the only task required of you by protocol. Otherwise I can handle it; this is the perfect sort of thing to occupy me. That said, someday I would like to know what is in that little book you peruse so often.”
The front door to the mansion slammed open down below, and booted feet thumped up the steps. A moment later, the door to the study burst open and Wayne all but tumbled in. Darriance—the house butler—stood apologetically just behind him.
Wiry and of medium height, Wayne had a round clean-shaven face and—as usual—wore his old Roughs clothing, though Steris had pointedly supplied him with new clothing on at least three occasions.
“Wayne, you could try the doorbell sometime,” Wax said.
“Nah, that warns the butler,” Wayne said.
“Which is kind of the point.”
“Beady little buggers,” Wayne said, shutting the door on Darriance. “Can’t trust them. Look, Wax. We’ve got to go! The Marksman has made his move!”
Finally! Wax thought. “Let me grab my coat.”
Wayne glanced toward Steris. “ ’Ello, Crazy,” he said, nodding to her.
“Hello, Idiot,” she said, nodding back.
Wax buckled on his gunbelt over his fine city suit, with vest and cravat, then threw on his mistcoat duster. “Let’s go,” he said, checking his ammunition.
Wayne pushed his way out the door and barreled down the stairs. Wax paused by Steris’s couch. “I . . .”
“A man must have his hobbies,” she said, raising another sheet of paper and inspecting it. “I accept yours, Lord Waxillium—but do try to avoid being shot in the face, as we have wedding portraits to sit for this evening.”
“I’ll remember that.”
“Keep an eye on my sister out there,” Steris said.
“This is a dangerous chase,” Wax said, hastening to the door. “I doubt Marasi will be involved.”
“If you think that, then your professional faculties are suspect. It’s a dangerous chase, so she’ll find a way to be involved.”
Wax hesitated by the door. He glanced back at her, and she looked up, meeting his eyes. It felt as if there should be something more to their parting. A send-off of some sort. Fondness.
Steris seemed to sense it too, but neither said anything.
Wax tipped his head back, taking a shot of whiskey and metal flakes, then charged through the doorway and threw himself over the balcony railing. He slowed himself with a Push on the silver in-lays in the marble floor of the entrance hall, hitting with a thump of boots on stone. Darriance opened the front door ahead of him as he raced out to join Wayne at the coach, for the ride to . . .
He froze on the steps down to the street. “What the hell is that?”
“Motorcar!” Wayne said from the back seat of the vehicle.
Wax groaned, hastening down the steps and approaching the vehicle. Marasi sat behind the steering mechanism, wearing a fashionable dress of lavender and lace. She looked much younger than her half sister, Steris, though only five years separated them.
She was a constable now, technically. An aide to the constable-general of this octant. She’d never fully explained to him why she would leave behind her career as a solicitor to join the constables, but at least she’d been hired on not as a beat constable, but as an analyst and executive assistant. She shouldn’t be subjected to danger in that role.
Yet here she was. A glint of eagerness shone in her eyes as she turned to him. “Are you going to get in?”
“What are you doing here?” Wax asked, opening the door with some reluctance.
“Driving. You’d rather Wayne do it?”
“I’d rather have a coach and a good team of horses.” Wax settled into one of the seats.
“Stop being so old-fashioned,” Marasi said, moving her foot and making the devilish contraption lurch forward. “Marksman robbed the First Union, as you guessed.”
Wax held on tightly. He’d guessed that Marksman would hit the bank three days ago. When it hadn’t happened, he’d thought the man had fled to the Roughs.
“Captain Reddi thinks that Marksman will run for his hideout in the Seventh Octant,” Marasi noted, steering around a horse carriage.
“Reddi is wrong,” Wax said. “Head for the Breakouts.”
She didn’t argue. The motorcar thumped and shook until they hit the new section of paving stones, where the street smoothed out and the vehicle picked up speed. This was one of the latest motorcars, the type the broadsheets had been spouting about, with rubber wheels and a gasoline engine.
The entire city was transforming to accommodate them. A lot of trouble just so people can drive these contraptions, Wax thought sourly. Horses didn’t need ground this smooth—though he did have to admit that the motorcar turned remarkably well, as Marasi took a corner at speed.
It was still a horrible lifeless heap of destruction.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Wax said as Marasi took another corner.
She kept her eyes forward. Behind them, Wayne leaned halfway out one of the windows, holding his hat to his head and grinning.
“You’re an attorney,” Wax said. “You belong in a courtroom, not chasing a killer.”
“I’ve done well caring for myself in the past. You never complained then.”
“Each time, it felt like an exception. Yet here you are again.”
Marasi did something with the stick to her right, changing the motor’s gears. Wax never had been able to get the hang of that. She darted around several horses, causing one of the riders to shout after them. The swerving motion pushed Wax against the side of the motorcar, and he grunted.
“What’s wrong with you lately?” Marasi demanded. “You complain about the motorcar, about me being here, about your tea being too hot in the morning. One would almost think you’d made some horrible life decision that you regret deep down. Wonder what it could be.”
Wax kept his eyes forward. In the mirror, he saw Wayne lean back in and raise his eyebrows. “She might have a point, mate.”
“You’re not helping.”
“Wasn’t intending to,” Wayne said. “Fortunately, I know which horrible life decision she’s talkin’ about. You really should have bought that hat we looked at last week. It was lucky. I’ve got a fifth sense for these things.”
“Fifth?” Marasi asked.
“Yeah, can’t smell worth a heap of beans. I—”
“There,” Wax said, leaning forward and looking through the windscreen. A figure bounded out of a side street soaring through the air, landed in the street, then launched himself down the thoroughfare ahead of them.
“You were right,” Marasi said. “How did you know?”
“Marks likes to be seen,” Wax said, slipping Vindication from her holster at his side. “Fancies himself a gentleman rogue. Keep this contraption moving steadily, if you can.”
Marasi’s reply was cut off as Wax threw open the door and leaped out. He fired down and Pushed on the bullet, launching himself upward. A Push on a passing carriage sent it rocking and nudged Wax to the side, so that when he came down, he landed on the wooden roof of Marasi’s motorcar.
He grabbed the roof’s front lip in one hand, gun up beside his head, wind blowing his mistcoat out behind him. Ahead, Marks bounded down the thoroughfare in a series of Steelpushes. Deep within, Wax felt the comforting burn of his own metal.
He propelled himself off the motorcar and out over the roadway. Marks always performed his robberies in daylight, always escaped along the busiest roadways he could find. He liked the notoriety. He probably felt invincible. Being an Allomancer could do that to a man.
Wax sent himself into a series of leaps over motorcars and carriages, passing the tenements on either side. The rushing wind, the height and perspective, cleared his mind and calmed his emotions as surely as a Soother’s touch. His worries dissolved, and for the moment there was only the chase.
The Marksman wore red, an old busker’s mask covering his face—black with white tusks, like a demon of the Deepness from old stories. And he was connected to the Set, according to the appointment book Wax had stolen from his uncle. After so many months the usefulness of that book was waning, but there were still a few gems to exploit.
Marks Pushed toward the industrial district. Wax followed, bounding from motorcar to motorcar. Amazing how much more secure he felt while hurtling through the afternoon air, as opposed to being trapped in one of those horrible motorized boxes.
Marks spun in midair and released a handful of something. Wax Pushed himself off a lamppost and jerked to the side, then shoved Marks’s coins as they passed, sending them out of the way of a random motorcar below. The motor swerved anyway, running toward the canal, the driver losing control.
Rust and Ruin, Wax thought with annoyance, Pushing himself back toward the motorcar. He tapped his metalmind, increasing his weight twentyfold, and came down on the hood of the motorcar.
The smash crushed the front of the motorcar into the ground, grinding it against the stones, slowing and then stopping its momentum before it could topple into the canal. He caught a glimpse of stunned people inside, then released his metalmind and launched himself in a Push after Marks. He almost lost the man, but fortunately the red clothing was distinctive. Wax spotted him as he bounded up off a low building, then Pushed himself high along the side of one of the city’s shorter skyscrapers. Wax followed, watching as the man Pushed himself in through a window on the top floor, some twelve or fourteen stories up.
Wax shot up into the sky, windows passing him in a blur. The city of Elendel stretched out all around, smoke rising from coal plants, factories, and homes in countless spouts. He neared the top floor one window to the left of where Marks had entered, and as he landed lightly on the stonework ledge, he tossed a coin toward the window Marks had used.
The coin bounced against the glass. Gunfire sprayed out of the window. At the same time, Wax increased his weight and smashed through his own window by leaning against it, entering the building. He skidded on glass, raising Vindication toward the plaster wall separating him from Marks.
Translucent blue lines spread around him, pointing in a thousand different directions, highlighting bits of metal. The nails in a desk behind him, where a frightened man in a suit cowered. The metal wires in the walls, leading to electric lamps. Most importantly, a few lines pointed through the wall into the next room. These were faint; obstructions weakened his Allomantic sense.
One of those lines quivered as someone in there turned and raised a gun. Wax rolled Vindication’s cylinder and locked it into place.
He fired, then Pushed, flaring his metal and drilling that bullet forward with as much force as he could. It tore through the wall as if it were paper.
The metal in the next room dropped to the floor. Wax threw himself against the wall, increasing his weight, cracking the plaster. Another slam with his shoulder smashed through, and he broke into the next room, weapon raised, looking for his target.
He found only a pool of blood soaking into the carpet and a discarded submachine gun. This room was some kind of clerk’s office. Several men and women pressed against the floor, trembling. One woman raised a finger, pointing out a door. Wax gave her a nod and crouched against the wall next to the doorway, then cautiously glanced out.
With a painful grating sound, a filing cabinet slid down the hallway toward him. Wax ducked back out of the way as it passed, then leaped out and aimed.
His gun immediately lurched backward. Wax grabbed it with both hands, holding tight, but a second Push launched his other pistol out of its holster. His feet started to skid, his gun hauling him backward, and he growled, but finally dropped Vindication. She tumbled all the way down the hall to fetch up beside the ruins of the filing cabinet, which had crashed into the wall there. He would have to come back for her once this was over.
Marks stood at the other end of the hallway, lit by soft electric lights. He bled from a shoulder wound, his face hidden by the black-and-white mask.
“There are a thousand criminals in this city far worse than I am,” a muffled voice said from behind the mask, “and yet you hunt me, lawman. Why? I’m a hero of the people.”
“You stopped being a hero weeks ago,” Wax said, striding forward, mistcoat rustling. “When you killed a child.”
“That wasn’t my fault.”
“You fired the gun, Marks. You might not have been aiming for the girl, but you fired the gun.”
The thief stepped back. The sack slung on his shoulder had been torn, either by Wax’s bullet or some shrapnel. It leaked banknotes.
Marks glared at him through the mask, eyes barely visible in the electric light. Then he dashed to the side, holding his shoulder as he ran into another room. Wax Pushed off the filing cabinet and threw himself in a rush down the hallway. He skidded to a stop before the door Marks had gone in, then Pushed off the light behind, bending it against the wall and entering the room.
Open window. Wax grabbed a handful of pens from a desk before throwing himself out the window, a dozen stories up. Banknotes fluttered in the air, trailing behind Marks as he plummeted. Wax increased his weight, trying to fall faster, but he had nothing to Push against and the increased weight helped only slightly against air resistance. Marks still hit the ground before him, then Pushed away the coin he’d used to slow himself.
A pair of dropped pens—with metal nibs—Pushed ahead of himself into the ground was enough, barely, to slow Wax.
Marks leaped away, bounding out over some streetlamps. He bore no metal on his body that Wax could spot, but he moved a lot more slowly than he had earlier, and he trailed blood.
Wax followed him. Marks would be making for the Breakouts, a slum where the people still covered for him. They didn’t care that his robberies had turned violent; they celebrated that he stole from those who deserved it.
Can’t let him reach that safety, Wax thought, Pushing himself up over a lamppost, then shoving on it behind him to gain speed. He closed on his prey, who checked on Wax with a frantic glance over his shoulder. Wax raised one of the pens, gauging how risky it would be to try to hit Marks in the leg. He didn’t want a killing blow. This man knew something.
The slums were just ahead.
Next bound, Wax thought, gripping the pen. Bystanders stared up from the sidewalks, watching the Allomantic chase. He couldn’t risk hitting one of them. He had to—
One of those faces was familiar.
Wax lost control of his Push. Stunned by what he’d seen, he barely kept himself from breaking bones as he hit the street, rolling across cobbles. He came to a rest, mistcoat tassels twisted around his body.
He drew himself up on hands and knees.
No. Impossible. NO.
He scrambled across the street, ignoring a stomping black destrier and its cursing rider. That face. That face.
The last time he had seen that face, he had shot it in the forehead. Bloody Tan.
The man who had killed Lessie.
“A man was here!” Wax shouted, shoving through the crowd. “Long-fingered, thinning hair. A face almost like a bare skull. Did you see him? Did anyone see him?”
People stared at him as if he were daft. Perhaps he was. Wax raised his hand to the side of his head.
He spun. Marasi had stopped her motorcar nearby, and both she and Wayne were climbing out. Had she actually been able to tail him during his chase? No . . . no, he’d told her where he thought Marks would go.
“Wax, mate?” Wayne asked. “You all right? What did he do, knock you from the air?”
“Something like that,” Wax mumbled, glancing about one last time.
Rusts, he thought. The stress is digging into my mind.
“So he got away,” Marasi said, folding her arms, looking displeased.
“Not yet he didn’t,” Wax said. “He’s bleeding and dropping money. He’ll leave a trail. Come on.”
Excerpted from Shadows of Self © Brandon Sanderson, 2015