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.
Wayne tugged on his lucky hat. It was a coachman’s hat—something like a wide-brimmed bowler, only one that didn’t have three ounces of fancy shoved up its backside. He nodded to himself in his mirror, then wiped his nose. Sniffles. He’d started storing up health the day before, just after finding all those corpses.
He already had a nice cushion of healing he could draw upon, tucked away in his metalmind bracers. He hadn’t needed much lately, and always spent days when he had a hangover as sickly as he could manage, since he was going to have an awful time of it anyway. But the way things smelled, with all those important folk dead, warned him. He’d soon need some healing. Best to expand that cushion as he could.
He went light at it today, though. Because it was today, a day when he was going to need some luck. He was tempted to call it the worst day of his life, but that would certainly be an exaggeration. The worst day of his life would be the one when he died.
Might die today though, he thought, looping on his belt and slipping his dueling canes into their straps, then wiping his nose again. Can’t be certain yet. Every man had to die. He’d always found it odd that so many died when they were old, as logic said that was the point in their lives when they’d had the most practice not dying.
He wandered out of his room in Wax’s mansion, idly noticing the scent of morning bread coming from the kitchens. He appreciated the room, though he really only stayed because of the free food. Well, that and because of Wax. The man needed company to keep him from going more strange.
Wayne wandered down a carpeted corridor that smelled of polished wood and servants who had too much time. The mansion was nice, but really, a man shouldn’t live in a place that was so big; it just reminded him how small he was. Give Wayne nice, cramped quarters, and he’d be happier. That way he’d feel like a king, with so much stuff it crowded him.
He hesitated outside the door to Wax’s study. What was that sitting on the stand beside the doorway? A new candelabra, pure gold, with a white lace doily underneath. Exactly what Wayne needed.
He fished in his pocket. Rich people didn’t make sense at all. That candelabra was probably worth a fortune, and Wax just left it lying around. Wayne fished in his other pocket, looking for something good to trade, and came out with a pocket watch.
Ah, that, he thought, shaking it and hearing the pieces rattle inside. How long since this thing actually told time? He picked up the candelabra, pocketed the doily underneath, then put the candelabra back in place with the pocket watch hanging from it. Seemed like a fair trade.
Been needing a new handkerchief, he thought, blowing his nose into it, then pushed open the door and wandered in.
Wax stood before an easel, looking at the large artist’s sketch pad he had filled with intricate plans. “Up all night, were you?” Wayne asked with a yawn. “Rusts, man, you make it hard to loaf about properly.”
“I don’t see what my insomnia has to do with your laziness, Wayne.”
“Makes me look bad, ’sall,” Wayne said, looking over Wax’s shoulder. “Proper loafing requires company. One man lying about is being idle; two men lying about is a lunch break.”
Wax shook his head, walking over to look at some broadsheets. Wayne leaned in, inspecting Wax’s paper. It held long lists of ideas, some connected by arrows, with a sketch of the way the bodies had fallen in both the ballroom and the saferoom.
“What’s all this, then?” Wayne asked, picking up a pencil and drawing a little stick figure with a gun shooting at all the dead bodies. His hand trembled as he drew the stick gun, but otherwise it was a right good stick figure.
“Proof to me that a Steelrunner is involved,” Wax said. “Look at the pattern of deaths in the ballroom. Four of the most powerful people in the room were killed with the same gun, and they were the only ones up there killed by that weapon—but it’s the same one that killed the guards outside the saferoom. I’d bet those four above were shot first, dead in an eyeblink, so fast that it sounded like a single long shot. Thing is, judging by the wounds, each shot came from a different location.”
Wayne didn’t know a lot about guns, seeing as how he couldn’t try to use one without his arm doing an impersonation of a carriage on a bumpy road, but Wax was probably right. Wayne moved down to start sketching some stick figures of topless women in the center of the picture, but Wax stepped over and plucked the pencil from his fingers.
“What’s that?” Wayne asked, tapping the center of the sketch pad, where Wax had drawn a bunch of straight lines.
“The pattern the killer used baffles me,” Wax said. “The four people in the party he shot, they all fell while in random conversations— look how they were lying. Everyone else who died was part of the larger shoot-out, but these four, they died while the party was still going on. But why did he shoot them from different directions? See, best I can guess, he fired first here, killing Lady Lentin. Her dropped drink was stomped on many times over the next few minutes. But then the killer used his speed to move quickly over here and fire in another direction. Then he moved again, and again. Why four shots from different places?”
“Who was standing where he shot?”
“The people he killed, obviously.”
“No, I mean, who was standing near him when he fired his gun. Not who did he shoot, but who was he near when he shot?”
“Ahh…” Wax said.
“Yep. Looks to me like he was trying to set them all off,” Wayne said, sniffling. “Get everyone in the room shootin’ at each other. See? It’s like how, to start a bar fight, you throw a bottle at some fellow and then turn to the person next to you and cry out, ‘Hey, why’d you throw that bottle at that nice fellow? Rusts, he looks big. And now he’s comin’ for you, and—’ ”
“I understand the concept,” Wax said dryly. He tapped the drawing pad. “You might have something.”
“It’s not catching.”
Wax smiled, writing some notes on the side of the pad. “So the killer wanted to sow chaos.… He started a firefight by bouncing around the room, making it look like various parties were attacking one another. They would already have been tense, suspicious of one another.…”
“Yup. I’m a genius.”
“You just recognized this because the killer was making others do his work for him, which is an expertise of yours.”
“As I said. Genius. So how are you going to find him?”
“Well, I was thinking of sending you to the Village to—”
“Not today,” Wayne said.
Wax turned to him, raising his eyebrows.
“It’s the first of the month,” Wayne said.
“Ah. I had forgotten. You don’t need to go every month.”
Wax studied him, as if waiting for a further comment or wisecrack. Wayne said nothing. This was actually serious. Slowly, Wax nodded. “I see. Then why haven’t you left yet?”
“Well, you know,” Wayne said. “It’s like I often say…”
“Greet every morning with a smile. That way it won’t know what you’re planning to do to it?”
“No, not that one.”
“Until you know it ain’t true, treat every woman like she has an older brother what is stronger than you are?”
“No, not… Wait, I said that?”
“Yes,” Wax said, turning back to his notes. “It was a very chivalrous moment for you.”
“Rusts. I should really write these things down.”
“I believe that is another thing you often say.” Wax made a notation. “Unfortunately, you’d first have to learn how to write.”
“Now, that’s unfair,” Wayne said, walking over to Wax’s desk and poking around in its drawers. “I can write—I know four whole letters, and one’s not even in my name!”
Wax smiled. “Are you going to tell me what you always say?”
Wayne found a bottle in the bottom drawer and lifted it up, dropping in the lace he’d taken from outside as a replacement. “If you’re going to have to do something awful, stop by Wax’s room and trade for some of his rum first.”
“I don’t believe you’ve ever said that.”
“I just did.” Wayne took a gulp of the rum.
“I…” Wax frowned. “I have no response to that.” He sighed, setting down his pencil. “However, since you’re going to be indisposed, then I suppose I will have to go visit the Village.”
“Sorry. I know you hate that place.”
“I will survive,” Wax said, grimacing.
“Wanna piece of advice?”
“From you? Probably not. But please feel free.”
“You should stop by Wax’s room before you go,” Wayne said, trailing out toward the door, “and pinch some of his rum.”
“The rum you just pocketed?”
Wayne hesitated, then took the rum out of his pocket. “Ah, mate. Sorry. Tough for you.” He shook his head. Poor fellow. He pulled the door closed behind him, took a pull on the rum, and continued on his way down the stairs and out of the mansion.
* * *
Marasi tugged at the collar of her jacket, glad for the seaborne wind that blew across her. It could get warm in her uniform—a proper one today, with a buttoned white blouse and brown skirt to match the brown coat.
Next to her, the newsman wasn’t so thankful for the wind. He cursed, throwing a heavy chunk of iron—it looked like a piece of an old axle—onto his stack of broadsheets. On the street, the traffic slowed in a moment of congestion. Motorcar drivers and coachmen yelled at one another.
“Ruin break that Tim Vashin,” the newsman grumbled, looking at the traffic. “And his machines.”
“It’s hardly his fault,” Marasi said, digging in her pocketbook.
“It is,” the newsman said. “Motors were fine, nothing wrong with them for driving in the country or on a summer afternoon. But they’re cheap enough now, everyone has to have one of the rusting things! A man can’t take his horse two blocks without being run down half a dozen times.”
Marasi exchanged coins for a broadsheet. The yelling subsided as the traffic clot loosened, horses and machines once again flowing across the cobbles. She raised the broadsheet, scanning above the fold for stories.
“Say,” the newsman said. “Weren’t you just here?”
“I needed the afternoon edition,” Marasi said absently, walking away.
“Cry of Outrage in the Streets!” the headline read.
A cry like that of twisting metal sounds through Elendel as people take to the streets, outraged by government corruption. One week after the governor’s veto of bill 775, the so-called workers’-rights manifesto, his brother Winsting Innate has been found dead after an apparent dealing with known criminals.
Winsting was killed in his mansion, perhaps a casualty of constable action against these criminal elements. Among the fallen is the notorious Dowser Maline, long suspected of running ore-smuggling operations into the city, undercutting the work of honest men. The constables admit no culpability for the deaths, but suspicions about the mysterious circumstances have led to a general outcry.
Marasi reached into her handbag and took out the morning edition of the same paper. “Mystery at Lord Winsting’s Mansion!” the headline read.
Constables have disclosed that Lord Winsting, brother of the governor, was found dead in his mansion home last night. Little is known of the mysterious circumstances of the death, though several members of high society are rumored to have been present.
Every other story in the paper was the same in both editions, save for one report on the floods in the east, which had an extra line updating casualty estimates. The Winsting story had nudged two others off the page, in part because of the size of its headline. The Elendel Daily was hardly the most reputable news source in the Basin, but it did know its market. News stories that people agreed with, or were scared by, sold the most copies.
Marasi hesitated on the steps of the Fourth Octant Precinct of the Constabulary. People flowed on the sidewalks, bustling, anxious, heads down. Others loitered nearby, men in the dark jackets of teamsters, hands shoved in pockets, eyes shaded by peaked hats.
Out of work, Marasi thought. Too many idle men out of work. Motorcars and electric lights were changing life in Elendel so quickly it seemed that the common man had no hope of keeping up. Men whose families had worked for three generations in the same job suddenly found themselves unemployed. And with the labor disputes at the steel mills…
The governor had recently given political speeches to these men, making promises. More coach lines to compete with rail lines, going places the railroad could not. Higher tariffs on imports from Bilming. Empty promises, mostly, but men losing hope clung to such promises. Winsting’s death could dash those promises. How would people react if they began to wonder if the governor, Replar Innate, was as corrupt as his brother?
A fire is kindling in the city, Marasi thought. She could almost feel the heat coming off the page of the broadsheet in her hands.
She turned and entered the constabulary offices, worrying that Lord Winsting might actually do more harm to Elendel dead than he had alive—which was saying something.
* * *
Wax climbed out of the carriage, nodding to his coachman and indicating that the man should continue on home rather than wait for his master.
Wax pulled on his aluminum-lined hat—broad-brimmed, Roughs style, matching his duster, though he wore a fine shirt and cravat underneath. The hat and mistcoat made him stand out like a man who had brought a shotgun to a knife fight. Workers passed in suspenders and caps, bankers in vests and monocles, constables in helms or bowlers and militaristic coats.
No Roughs hats. Maybe Wayne was right about that; he never would shut up about the importance of a hat. Wax took a deep breath, then stepped into the Village.
It had probably once been just an ordinary city street. A wide one, but still just a street. That was before the trees. They sprouted here, pushing cobblestones aside, creating a dense canopy that ran the length of the thoroughfare.
It was a place that felt like it shouldn’t be. No mere park—this was a forest, uncultivated and unmanicured, fresh and primal. You couldn’t bring a carriage or motor into the Village; even without the trees, the ground would be too rough now, rolling and uneven. The buildings along the street had been engulfed and become the property of the Village. He couldn’t help wondering if this was what all of Elendel would be like without the hand of men. Harmony had made the Basin ferociously fecund; men didn’t farm here so much as fight to harvest quickly enough.
Wax strode forward, arrayed as if for battle. Vindication and his Sterrion at his hips, short-barreled shotgun in its holster on his thigh, metal burning inside of him. He pulled the brim of his hat low, and entered another world.
Children wearing simple white smocks played among the trees. Older youths wore the tinningdar, the Terris robe marked with a V pattern running down the front. These looked up from the steps of buildings to watch him pass. The air smelled soft here. Soft air. A stupid metaphor, and yet there it was. That smell reminded him of his mother.
Whispers rose around Wax like spring shoots. He kept his eyes forward, trudging across the too-springy ground. There were no gates into or out of the Village, yet you couldn’t enter or leave without being identified. Indeed, moments after his entry, a young woman with streaming golden hair was sent running ahead of him to bear news of his arrival.
They’ve found peace for themselves here, Wax thought. They’ve made peace for themselves. You shouldn’t resent them so.
After a short walk, he emerged from a stand of trees to find three Terrismen waiting for him, arms folded, all wearing the robes of Brutes, Feruchemists who could increase their strength. Their features were varied enough that one wouldn’t have pegged them as relatives. Two had the height that was often the Terris heritage, and one had skin that was darker—some of the Originators from ancient Terris had been dark of skin; Wax’s own tan probably came from that lineage. None of the men here had the elongated features seen in the ancient paintings. That was a thing of mythology.
“What is it you need, outsider?” one of the men said.
“I want to speak with the Synod,” Wax said.
“Are you a constable?” the man said, looking Wax up and down. Children peeked out from behind nearby trees, watching him.
“Of a sort,” Wax said.
“The Terris police themselves,” another of the men said. “We have an arrangement.”
“I’m aware of the compact,” Wax said. “I just need to speak to the Synod, or at least Elder Vwafendal.”
“You shouldn’t be here, lawman,” the lead Terrisman said. “I—”
“It’s all right, Razal,” a tired voice said from the shadows of a nearby tree.
The three Terrismen turned, then quickly bowed as an old Terriswoman approached. Stately and white-haired, she had darker skin than Wax, and walked with a cane she didn’t need. The woman, Vwafendal, studied Wax. He found himself sweating.
Razal, still bowing, spoke with a stubborn tone. “We tried to send him away, Elder.”
“He has a right to be here,” Vwafendal said. “He has as much Terris blood as you do; more than most.”
The Terrisman Brute started, then rose from his bow, peering again at Wax. “You don’t mean…”
“Yes,” Vwafendal said, looking very tired. “This is he. My grandson.”
* * *
Wayne tipped the rum bottle up and teased the last few drops out into his mouth. Then he tucked the bottle into his coat pocket. It was a good bottle. He should be able to trade it for something.
He hopped off the canal boat, giving a wave to Red, the boatman. Nice chap. He would let Wayne bum rides in exchange for a story. Wayne spat a coin out of his mouth—he’d been keeping it in his cheek—and flipped it to Red.
Red caught the coin. “Why is this wet? Were you sucking on it?”
“Allomancers can’t Push on my coin if it’s in my mouth!” Wayne called.
“You’re drunk, Wayne!” Red said with a laugh, shoving off from the dock with his pole.
“Not nearly drunk enough,” Wayne called back. “That cheapskate Wax didn’t even have the decency to stock a full bottle!”
Red turned the canal boat, poling it out into the waters, wind rippling his cloak. Wayne walked away from the post marking the canal-side mooring, and was faced with the most intimidating sight a fellow could see. The Elendel University.
It was time for Wayne’s three tests.
He reached for the rum, then remembered—a little foggily—that he’d finished it all. “Rust and Ruin,” he muttered. Perhaps he shouldn’t have downed the whole thing. Then again, it made his sniffles easy to ignore. When he was properly smashed, he could take a punch or two to the face and not even feel it. There was a kind of invincibility to that. A stupid kind, but Wayne wasn’t a picky man.
He made his way up to the university gates, hands stuffed in his coat pockets. The etched letters over the top proclaimed, in High Imperial, Wasing the Always of Wanting of Knowing. Deep words. He’d heard them interpreted as, “The eternal desire of a hungry soul is knowledge.” When Wayne’s soul was hungry he settled for scones, but this place was full of smart kids, and they were a strange sort.
Two men in black coats leaned casually against the gates. Wayne hesitated. So they were watching for him out front this time, were they? The first of his three trials was upon him. Rusting wonderful.
Well, after the nature of any great hero from the stories, he was going to do his best to avoid this particular trial. Wayne ducked to the side before the two men could spot him, then followed the wall. The university was surrounded by the thing, like it was some kind of bunker. Were they afraid all their knowledge would leak out, like water from a swimmer’s ears?
Wayne craned his neck, looking for a way in. They’d bricked up the broken part he’d used last time. And the tree he’d climbed that other time had been cut down. Drat on them for that. He decided to follow another great tradition of heroes facing trials. He went looking for a way to cheat.
He found Dims on a nearby corner. The young man wore a bowler hat and a bow tie, but a shirt that had the sleeves ripped off. He was head of one of the more important street gangs in the area, but never stabbed people too badly when he mugged them and was polite with the people he extorted. He was practically a model citizen.
“Hello, Dims,” Wayne said.
Dims eyed him. “You a conner today, Wayne?”
“Ah, good,” Dims said, settling down on the steps. He took something out of his pocket—a little metal container.
“Here now,” Wayne said, wiping his nose. “What’s that?”
“Yeah, you chew it.” Dims offered him a piece of the stuff. It was rolled into a ball, soft to the touch and powdered on the outside.
Wayne eyed the lad, but decided to try it. He chewed for a moment.
“Good flavor,” he said, then swallowed.
Dims laughed. “You don’t swallow it, Wayne. You just chew!”
“What’s the funna that?”
“It just feels good.” He tossed Wayne another ball.
Wayne popped it into his mouth. “How are things,” Wayne said, “with you and the Cobblers?”
The Cobblers were the rival gang in the area. Dims and his fellows went about with their sleeves torn. The Cobblers wore no shoes. It apparently made perfect sense to youths of the street, many of whom were the children of the houseless. Wayne liked to keep an eye on them. They were good lads. He’d been like them once.
Then life had steered him wrong. Boys like this, they could use someone to point them in the right direction.
“Oh, you know,” Dims said. “Some back, some forth.”
“There won’t be trouble now, will there?” Wayne asked.
“I thought you said you wasn’t no conner today!”
“I ain’t,” Wayne said, slipping—by instinct—into a dialect more like that of Dims. “I’m askin’ as a friend, Dims.”
Dims scowled, looking away, but his muttered response was genuine. “We ain’t stupid, Wayne. We’ll keep our heads. You know we will.”
Dims glanced back at him as Wayne settled down. “You bring that money you owe me?”
“I owe you money?” Wayne asked.
“From cards?” Dims said. “Two weeks back? Rusts, Wayne, are you drunk? It ain’t even noon yet!”
“I ain’t drunk,” Wayne said, sniffling. “I’m investigatin’ alternative states of sobriety. How much do I owe you?”
Dims paused. “Twenty.”
“Now see,” Wayne said, digging in his pocket, “I distinctly remember borrowin’ five off you.” He held up a note. It was a fifty.
Dims raised an eyebrow. “You want something from me, I’m guessing?”
“I need into the university.”
“The gates are open,” Dims said.
“Can’t go through the front. They know me.”
Dims nodded. That sort of thing was a common complaint in his world. “What do you need from me?”
A short time later, a man wearing Wayne’s hat, coat, and dueling canes tried to pass through the front of the university. He saw the two men in black, then bolted as they chased after him.
Wayne adjusted his spectacles, watching them go. He shook his head. Ruffians, trying to get into the university! Scandalous. He walked in through the gates, wearing a bow tie and carrying a load of books. Another of those men—who stood in a more hidden spot, watching his companions chase Dims—barely gave Wayne a glance.
Spectacles. They were kind of like a hat for smart people. Wayne ditched the books inside the square, then walked past a fountain with a statue of a lady who wasn’t properly clothed—he idled only a short time—and made his way toward Pashadon Hall, the girls’ dormitory. The building looked an awful lot like a prison: three stories of small windows, stonework architecture, and iron grates that seemed to say “Stay away, boys, if you value your nether parts.”
He pushed his way in the front doors, where he prepared himself for the second of his three tests: the Tyrant of Pashadon. She sat at her desk, a woman built like an ox with a face to match. Her hair even curled like horns. She was a fixture of the university, or so Wayne had been told. Perhaps she had come with the chandeliers and sofas.
She looked up from her desk in the entryway, then threw herself to her feet in challenge. “You!”
“Hello,” Wayne said.
“How did you get past campus security!”
“I tossed them a ball,” Wayne said, tucking the spectacles into his pocket. “Most hounds love having somethin’ to chase.”
The tyrant rumbled around the side of her desk. It was like watching an ocean liner try to navigate city canals. She wore a tiny hat, in an attempt at fashion. She liked to consider herself a part of Elendel upper society, and she kind of was. In the same way that the blocks of granite that made up the steps to the governor’s mansion were a part of civic government.
“You,” she said, spearing Wayne in the chest with a finger. “I thought I told you not to come back.”
“I thought I ignored you.”
“Are you drunk?” She sniffed at his breath.
“No,” Wayne said. “If I were drunk, you wouldn’t look nearly so ugly.”
She huffed, turning away. “I can’t believe your audacity.”
“Really? Because I’m sure I’ve been this audacious before. Every month, in fact. So this seems a right believable thing for me to do.”
“I’m not letting you in. Not this time. You are a scoundrel.”
Wayne sighed. Heroes in stories never had to fight the same beast twice. Seemed unfair he had to face this one each month. “Look, I just want to check in on her.”
“She is fine.”
“I have money,” Wayne said. “To give her.”
“You can leave it here. You distress the girl, miscreant.”
Wayne stepped forward, taking the tyrant by the shoulder. “I didn’t want to have to do this.”
She looked at him. And, to his surprise, she cracked her knuckles. Wow. He reached into his pocket quickly and pulled out a piece of pasteboard.
“One ticket,” Wayne said quickly, “admitting two people to the governor’s spring dinner and policy speech, occurring during a party at Lady ZoBell’s penthouse tonight. This here ticket lists no specific names. Anyone who has it can get in.”
Her eyes widened. “Who’d you steal that from?”
“Please,” Wayne said. “It came delivered to my house.”
Which was perfectly true. It was for Wax and Steris. But they were important enough folk that invitations sent to them had no names, so they could send an emissary if they wished. When it came to someone fancy like Wax, even getting their relative or friend to attend your party could be advantageous.
The tyrant didn’t count as either. But Wayne figured that Wax would be happy to not have to go to the blasted party anyway. Besides, Wayne had left a real nice-looking leaf he’d found in exchange. Rusting beautiful, that leaf was.
The tyrant hesitated, so Wayne waved the ticket in front of her.
“I guess…” she said. “I could let you in one last time. I’m not supposed to allow unrelated men into the visiting room, however.”
“I’m practically family,” he said. They made a big fuss about keeping the young women and young men separated around here, which Wayne found odd. With all of these smart people around, wouldn’t one of them have realized what boys and girls was supposed to do together?
The tyrant let him pass into the visiting room, then sent one of the girls at the desk to run for Allriandre. Wayne sat down, but couldn’t keep his feet from tapping. He’d been stripped of weapons, bribes, and even his own hat. He was practically naked, but he’d made it to the final test.
Allriandre entered a few moments later. She’d brought backup with her in the form of two other young ladies about her age—just shy of twenty. Smart girl, Wayne thought, proud. He rose.
“Madam Penfor says you’re drunk,” Allriandre said, remaining in the doorway.
Wayne tapped his metalmind, drawing forth healing. In a moment, his body burned away its impurities and healed its wounds. It thought alcohol was a poison, which showed that a fellow couldn’t always trust his own body, but today he didn’t complain. It also washed away his sniffles for the moment, though those would return. It was hard to heal from diseases with a metalmind for some reason.
Either way, sobriety hit him like a brick to the chin. He inhaled deeply, feeling even more naked than before. “I just like to play with her,” Wayne said, all hint of slur gone from his voice, eyes focused.
Allriandre studied him intently, then nodded. She did not enter the room.
“I brought this month’s money,” Wayne said, taking an envelope out and setting it on the low, glass-topped table beside him. He stood up straight, then shuffled from one foot to the other.
“Is that really him?” one of the girls asked Allriandre. “They say he rides with Dawnshot. Of the Roughs.”
“It’s him,” Allriandre said, eyes still on Wayne. “I don’t want your money.”
“Your mama told me to bring it to you,” Wayne said.
“You don’t need to bring it in person.”
“I do,” Wayne said quietly.
They stood in silence, neither party moving. Wayne finally cleared his throat. “How’re your studies? Are you treated well here? Is there anythin’ you need?”
Allriandre reached into her handbag and took out a large locket. She spread it open, displaying a strikingly distinct evanotype of a man with a wide mustache and a twinkle in his eyes. He had a long, friendly face, and his hair was thinning on top. Her father.
She made Wayne look at it every time.
“Tell me what you did,” she said. That voice. It could have been the voice of winter itself.
The third trial.
“I killed your daddy,” Wayne said softly, looking at the picture. “I mugged him in an alley for his pocketbook. I shot a better man than me, and because of that, I don’t deserve to be alive.”
“You know you aren’t forgiven.”
“You will never be forgiven.”
“Then I’ll take your blood money,” Allriandre said. “If you care to know, my studies go well. I am thinking of taking up the law.”
Someday, he hoped he might be able to look into the girl’s eyes and see emotion. Hatred, maybe. Something other than that emptiness.
Wayne ducked his head and left.
* * *
There should not have been a thatched log hut in the middle of Elendel, and yet here it was. Wax stooped to enter, seeming to step backward in time hundreds of years. The air inside smelled of old leather and furs.
The enormous firepit in the middle would never be needed in Elendel’s mild weather. Today, a smaller fire had been constructed at its very center, and over it simmered a small kettle of hot water for tea. However, charred stones indicated that the entire firepit was sometimes used. It, the furs, the ancient-style paintings on the wall—of winds, and frozen rain, and tiny figures painted with simple strokes on slopes—were all fragments of a myth.
Old Terris. A legendary land of snow and ice, with white-furred beasts and spirits that haunted frozen storms. During the early days following the Catacendre, refugees from Terris had written down memories of their homeland, as no Keepers had remained.
Wax settled down beside his grandmother’s firepit. Some said that Old Terris waited for this people, hidden somewhere in this new world of Harmony’s design. To the faithful, it might as well have been paradise; a frozen, hostile paradise. Living in a land naturally lush with bounteous fruit, where little cultivation was required, could warp one’s vision.
Grandmother V settled down opposite him, but did not start the fire. “Did you remove your guns before entering the Village this time?”
“I did not.”
She snorted. “So insolent. During your long absence, I often wondered if the Roughs might temper you.”
“They made me more stubborn, is all.”
“A land of heat and death,” Grandmother V said. She crinkled a handful of herbs, flakes dropping into a tea strainer above her cup. She poured steaming water over them, then placed the lid with a gnarled hand. “Everything about you stinks of death, Asinthew.”
“That isn’t what my father named me.”
“Your father didn’t have the right. I would demand you remove the weapons, but it would be meaningless. You could kill with a coin, or with a button, or with this pot.”
“Allomancy is not so evil as you make it out to be, Grandmother.”
“Neither power is evil,” she said. “It is mixing those powers that is dangerous. Your nature is not your fault, but I cannot help but see it as a sign. Another tyrant in our future, too powerful. It leads to death.”
Sitting in this hut… the scent of Grandmother’s tea… Memories grabbed Wax by his collar and shoved him face-first up against his past. A young man who had never been able to decide what he was. Allomancer or Feruchemist, city lord or humble Terrisman? His father and uncle pushing him one way, his grandmother another.
“A Feruchemist slaughtered people in the Fourth Octant last night, Grandmother,” Wax said. “He was a Steelrunner. I know you track everyone in the city with Feruchemical blood. I need a list of names.”
Grandmother V swished around her tea. “You’ve visited the Village on… what, a mere three occasions since your return to the city? Nearly two years, and you’ve made time for your grandmother only twice before today.”
“Can you blame me, considering how these meetings usually go? To be blunt, Grandmother, I know how you feel about me. So why torture either of us?”
“You cling to your images of me from two decades ago, child. People change. Even one such as I.” She sipped her tea, then added more herbs to the strainer and lowered it back into the water. She would not drink until it was right. “Not one such as you, it appears.”
“Trying to bait me, Grandmother?”
“No. I am better at insults than that. You haven’t changed. You still don’t know who you are.”
An old argument. She’d said it to him both times they’d met during the last two years. “I am not going to start wearing Terris robes, speaking softly, quoting proverbs at people.”
“You will shoot them instead.”
Wax took a deep breath. A mixture of scents lingered in the air. From the tea? Scents like that of freshly cut grass. His father’s estates, sitting on the lawn, listening to his father and grandmother argue.
Wax had lived here in the Village for only a single year. It had been all his father had agreed to give. Even that had been surprising; Uncle Edwarn had wanted Wax and his sister to both stay away from the place. Before his official heir, the late Hinston Ladrian, had been born when Wax was eighteen, Edwarn had basically appropriated his brother’s children and tried to raise them. Even still, it was hard to separate Wax’s parents’ will in his head from that of Edwarn.
One year among these trees. Wax had been forbidden Allomancy during his days in the Village, but had learned something far greater. That criminals existed, even among the idyllic Terris.
“The only times I’ve truly known who I am,” Wax said, looking up at his grandmother, meeting her eyes, “are when I’ve put on the mistcoat, strapped guns to my waist, and hunted down men gone rabid.”
“You should not be defined by what you do, but by what you are.”
“A man is what he does.”
“You came looking for a Feruchemist killer? You need only look in the mirror, child. If a man is what he does… think of what you’ve done.”
“I’ve never killed a man who didn’t deserve it.”
“Can you be absolutely certain of that?”
“Reasonably. If I’ve made mistakes, I’ll pay for them someday. You won’t distract me, Grandmother. To fight is not against the Terris way. Harmony killed.”
“He slew beasts and monsters only. Never our own.”
Wax breathed out. This again? Rusts. I should have forced Wayne to come here instead of me. He says she actually likes him.
A new scent struck him. Crushed blossoms. In the darkness of that chamber, he imagined himself again, standing among the trees of the Terris Village. Looking up at a broken window, and feeling the bullet in his hand.
And he smiled. Once that memory had brought him pain—the pain of isolation. Now he saw only a budding lawman, remembered the sense of purpose he’d felt.
Wax stood up, grabbing his hat, mistcoat rustling. He almost wanted to believe that the scents to the room, the memories, were his grandmother’s doing. Who knew what she put into that tea?
“I’m going to hunt down a murderer,” Wax said. “If I do it without your help, and he kills again before I can stop him, you will be partially to blame. See how well you sleep at night then, Grandmother.”
“Will you kill him?” she asked. “Will you shoot for the chest when you could aim for the leg? People die around you. Do not deny it.”
“I don’t,” he said. “A man should never pull a trigger unless he’s willing to kill. And if the other fellow is armed, I’m going to aim for the chest. That way, when people do die around me, it’s the right ones.”
Grandmother V stared at her teapot. “The one you’re looking for is named Idashwy. And she is not a man.”
“Yes. She is not a killer.”
“She is the only Steelrunner I know of who could possibly be involved in something like this. She vanished about a month ago after acting… very erratically. Claimed that she was being visited by the spirit of her dead brother.”
“Idashwy,” he said. It was pronounced in the Terris manner, eyedash-wee. The syllables felt thick in his mouth, another reminder of his days in the Village. The Terris language had been dead once, but Harmony’s records included it, and many Terris now learned to speak it in their youths. “I swear I know that name.”
“You did know her, long ago,” Grandmother V said. “You were with her that night, actually, before…”
Ah yes. Slender, golden hair, shy and didn’t speak much. I didn’t know she was a Feruchemist.
“You don’t even have the decency to look ashamed,” Grandmother V said.
“I’m not,” Wax said. “Hate me if you must, Grandmother, but coming to live with you changed my life, just as you always promised it would. I’m not going to be ashamed that the transformation wasn’t the one you expected.”
“Just… try to bring her back, Asinthew. She’s not a killer. She’s confused.”
“They all are,” Wax said, stepping out of the hut. The three men from before stood outside, glaring at him with displeasure. Wax tipped his hat to them, dropped a coin, then launched himself into the air between two trees, passing their canopies and seeking the sky.
* * *
Each time Marasi entered the precinct offices, she got a little thrill.
It was the thrill of bucked expectations, of a future denied. Even though this room didn’t look like she’d imagined—as the clerical and organizational center for the octant’s constables, it felt more like a business office than anything else—the mere fact that she was here excited her.
This wasn’t supposed to have been her life. She’d grown up reading stories of the Roughs, of lawmen and villains. She’d dreamed of six-guns and stagecoaches. She’d even taken up horseback riding and rifle shooting. And then, real life had intervened.
She’d been born into privilege. Yes, she was illegitimate, but the generous stipend from her father had set her and her mother up in a fine home. Money for an education had been guaranteed for her. With that kind of promise—and with her mother’s determination that Marasi should enter society and prove herself to her father— one did not choose a profession so lowly as that of a constable.
Yet here she was. It was wonderful.
She passed through the room full of people at desks. Though a jail was attached to the building, it had its own entrance, and she rarely visited it. Many of the constables she passed on her way through the main chamber were the type who spent most of their days at a desk. Her own spot was a comfortable nook near Captain Aradel’s office. His room felt like a closet inside, and Aradel rarely spent time there. Instead, he stalked through the main chamber like a prowling lion, always in motion.
Marasi set her handbag on her desk next to a stack of last year’s crime reports—in her spare time, she was trying to judge to what extent petty crimes in a region foretold greater ones. Better that than reading the politely angry letters from her mother, which lay underneath. She peeked into the captain’s office and found his waistcoat thrown across his desk, right beside the pile of expense reports he was supposed to be initialing. She smiled and shook her head, dug his pocket watch out of his waistcoat, then went hunting.
The offices were busy, but they didn’t have the bustle of the prosecutor’s offices. During her internship there beneath Daius, everyone had always seemed so frantic. People worked all hours, and when a new case was posted, every junior solicitor in the room rushed over in a flurry of papers, coats, and skirts, craning to see who had posted the case and how many assistants they would be taking.
The opportunities for prestige, and even wealth, had been bountiful. And yet she hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that nobody was actually doing anything. Cases that could make a difference languished because they weren’t high-profile enough, while anything under the patronage of a prominent lord or lady was seen to immediately. The rush had been less about fixing the city’s problems, and more about making certain the senior solicitors saw how much more eager you were than your colleagues.
She’d probably still be there, if she hadn’t met Waxillium. She’d have done as her mother wanted, seeking validation through her child. Proof, perhaps, that she could have married Lord Harms, if it had been in the cards, despite her low birth. Marasi shook her head. She loved her mother, but the woman simply had too much time on her hands.
The constables’ offices were so different from the solicitors’. Here, there was a true sense of purpose, but it was measured, even thoughtful. Constables leaned back in chairs and described evidence to other officers, looking for help on a case. Junior corporals moved through the room, delivering cups of tea, fetching files, or running some other errand. The competition she’d felt among the solicitors barely existed here. Perhaps that was because there was little prestige, and even less wealth, to go around.
She found Aradel with sleeves rolled up, one foot on a chair, bothering Lieutenant Caberel. “No, no,” Aradel said. “I’m telling you, we need more men on the streets. Near the pubs, at nights, where the foundry workers congregate after the strike line breaks up. Don’t bother guarding them during the day.”
Caberel nodded placidly, though she gave Marasi a roll of the eyes as she walked up. Aradel did tend to micromanage, but at least he was earnest. In Marasi’s experience, they were almost all fond of him, eyerolls notwithstanding.
She plucked a cup of tea off the plate of a passing corporal, who was delivering them to the desks. He quickly moved on, eyes forward, but she could almost feel him glaring at her. Well, it wasn’t her fault she’d landed this position, and the rank of lieutenant, without ever having to deliver tea.
All right, she admitted to herself, sipping the tea and stepping up beside Aradel. Maybe there is a bit of competition around here.
“You’ll see this done, then?” Aradel asked.
“Of course, sir,” Caberel said. She was one of the few in the place who treated Marasi with any measure of respect. Perhaps it was because they were both women.
There were fewer women in the constabulary than among the solicitors. One might have guessed that the reason for this was that ladies weren’t interested in the violence—but having done both jobs, Marasi felt she knew which profession was bloodier. And it wasn’t the one where people carried guns.
“Good, good,” Aradel said. “I have a debriefing with Captain Reddi in…” He patted at his pocket.
Marasi held out his watch, which he grabbed and checked for the time.
“…fifteen minutes. Huh. More time than I expected. Where’d you get that tea, Colms?”
“Want me to have someone fetch you some?” she asked.
“No, no. I can do it.” He bustled off, and Marasi nodded to Caberel, then hurried after him.
“Sir,” she said, “have you seen the afternoon broadsheets?”
He held out his hand, which she filled with paper. He held up the stack of broadsheets, and almost ran over three different constables on his way to the stove and the tea. “Bad,” he muttered. “I’d hoped they’d spin this against us.”
“Us, sir?” Marasi asked, surprised.
“Sure,” he said. “Nobleman dead, constables not giving the press details. This reads like they started to pin the death on the constables, but then changed their minds. By the end, the tone is far more outraged against Winsting than us.”
“And that’s worse than outrage at us for a cover-up?”
“Far worse, Lieutenant,” he said with a grimace, reaching for a cup. “People are used to hating conners. We’re a magnet for it, a lightning rod. Better us than the governor.”
“Unless the governor deserves it, sir.”
“Dangerous words, Lieutenant,” Aradel said, filling his cup with steaming tea from the large urn kept warm atop the coal stove. “And likely inappropriate.”
“You know there are rumors that he’s corrupt,” Marasi said softly.
“What I know is that we are civil servants,” Aradel said. “There are enough people out there with the mindset and the moral position to monitor the government. Our job is to keep the peace.”
Marasi frowned, but said nothing. Governor Innate was corrupt, she was almost sure of it. There were too many coincidences, too many small oddities in his policy decisions. It wasn’t by any means obvious, but trends were Marasi’s specialty, and her passion.
It wasn’t as if she’d wanted to discover that the leader of Elendel was trading favors with the city’s elite, but once she’d spotted the signs, she’d felt compelled to dig in. On her desk, carefully hidden under a stack of ordinary reports, was a ledger in which she’d assembled all the information. Nothing concrete, but the picture it drew was clear to her—even though she understood that it would look innocent to anyone else.
Aradel studied her. “You disagree with my opinion, Lieutenant?”
“One doesn’t change the world by avoiding the hard questions, sir.”
“Feel free to ask them, then. In your head, Lieutenant, and not out loud—particularly not to people outside the precinct. We can’t have the men we work for thinking we are trying to undermine them.”
“Funny, sir,” Marasi said. “I thought we worked for the people of the city, not their leaders.”
Aradel stopped, cup of steaming tea halfway to his lips. “Suppose I deserved that,” he said, then took a gulp, shaking his head. He didn’t flinch at the heat. People in the office figured he’d seared his taste buds off years ago. “Let’s go.”
They wove through the room toward Aradel’s office, passing Captain Reddi at his desk. The lanky man rose, but Aradel waved him down, pulling out his watch. “I still have… five minutes until I have to deal with you, Reddi.”
Marasi shot the captain an apologetic smile. She got a scowl in return.
“Someday,” she noted, “I’m going to figure out why that man hates me.”
“Hmmm?” Aradel said. “Oh, you stole his job.”
Marasi missed a step, stumbling into Lieutenant Ahlstrom’s desk. “What?” she demanded, hurrying after Aradel. “Sir?”
“Reddi was going to be my assistant,” Aradel said as they reached his office. “Had a damn fine bid for the job; I was all but priced into hiring him, until I got your application.”
Marasi blushed deeply. “Why would Reddi want to be your assistant, sir? He’s a field constable, a senior detective.”
“Everyone has this idea that in order to move up, you need to spend more time in the office and less on the street,” Aradel said. “Stupid tradition, even if the other octants follow it. I don’t want my best men and women turning into desk slugs. I want the assistant position to be for nurturing someone fresh who shows promise, rather than letting some practiced constable gather moss.”
The realization made a lot of things lock into place for Marasi. The hostility she felt from many of the others wasn’t just because she’d skipped the lower ranks—many with noble titles did that. It was because they’d solidified behind Reddi, their friend who’d been slighted.
“So…” Marasi said, taking a deep breath and grasping for something to keep her from a panic. “You think I show promise then?”
“Of course I do. Why would I have hired you otherwise?” Corporal Maindew walked by, saluting, and Aradel threw the wadded broadsheets into his face. “No saluting indoors, Maindew. You’ll knock yourself unconscious slapping your forehead every time I walk past.” He glanced back at Marasi as Maindew mumbled an apology and rushed off.
“There’s something in you, Colms,” Aradel told her. “Not the gloss and glint of the application. I don’t care about your grades, or what those zinctongues in the solicitors’ office thought of you. The words you wrote about changing the city, those made sense. They impressed me.”
“I… Thank you for the praise, sir.”
“I’m not flattering you, Colms. It’s just a fact.” He pointed toward the door. “That broadsheet said the governor was going to address the city later this afternoon. I’ll bet the Second Octant constables ask us for help managing the crowds; they always do. So I’m going to send a street detail. Go with them and listen, then report back to me what Governor Innate says, and pay attention to how the crowd reacts.”
“Yes, sir,” Marasi said, stopping herself from saluting as she snatched her handbag and ran to follow the orders.
Excerpted from Shadows of Self © Brandon Sanderson, 2015