The Bands of Mourning: Chapter Two

With The Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a New York Times bestselling spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America.

Now, with The Bands of Mourning—available January 26th from Tor Books—Sanderson continues the story. The Bands of Mourning are the mythical metalminds owned by the Lord Ruler, said to grant anyone who wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had at his command. Hardly anyone thinks they really exist. A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.

Read chapter two below, or head back to the beginning with chapter one.

 

 

2

Are you certain you’re all right, my lord?” Wax asked, helping Lord Drapen, constable-general of the Sixth Octant, down the steps toward his carriage. Water trickled beside them in little streams, joining a small river in the gutters.

“Ruined my best pistol, you realize,” Drapen said. “I’ll have to send the thing to be cleaned and oiled!”

“Bill me the expense, my lord,” Wax said, ignoring the fact that a good pistol would hardly be ruined by a little—or, well, a lot of—water. Wax turned the aging gentleman over to his coachman, sharing a resigned look, before turning and climbing back up the steps into the church. The carpet squished when he stepped on it. Or maybe that was his shoes.

He passed the priest bickering with the Erikell insurance assessor—come to do an initial report for when the church demanded payment on their policy—and entered the main dome. The one open section of glass still swung on its hinges up above, and the tipped water tower—its legs on the other side had kept it from crashing down completely—still blocked out much of the sky.

He passed overturned benches, discarded Marewill petals, and general refuse. Water dripped, the room’s only sound other than the echoing voice of the priest. Wax squished his way up to the dais. Steris sat on its edge, wet dress plastered to her body, strands of hair that had escaped from her wedding braids sticking to the sides of her face. She sat with arms crossed on her knees, staring at the floor.

Wax sat down next to her. “So, next time a flood is dumped on our heads, I’ll try to remember that jumping upward is a bad idea.” He pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and squeezed it out.

“You tried to get us backward too. It merely wasn’t fast enough, Lord Waxillium.”

He grunted. “Looks like simple structural failure. If it was instead some kind of assassination attempt… well, it was an incompetent one. There wasn’t enough water in there to be truly dangerous. The worst injury was to Lord Steming, who fell and knocked his head when scrambling off his seat.”

“No more than an accident then,” Steris said. She flopped backward onto the dais, the carpet letting out a soft squish.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.” She sighed. “Do you ever wonder if perhaps the cosmere is out to overwhelm you, Lord Waxillium?”

“The cosmere? You mean Harmony?”

“No, not Him,” Steris said. “Just cosmic chance rolling the dice anytime I pass, and always hitting all ones. There seems to be a poetry to it all.” She closed her eyes. “Of course the wedding would fall apart. Several tons of water falling through the roof? Why wouldn’t I have seen that? It’s so utterly outlandish it had to happen. At least the priest didn’t get murdered this time.”

“Steris,” Wax said, resting a hand on her arm. “We’ll fix this. It will be all right.”

She opened her eyes, looking toward him. “Thank you, Lord Waxillium.”

“For what, exactly?” he asked.

“For being nice. For being willing to subject yourself to, well, me. I understand that it is not a pleasant concept.”

“Steris…”

“Do not think me self-deprecating, Lord Waxillium,” she said, sitting up and taking a deep breath, “and please do not assume I’m being morose. I am what I am, and I accept it. But I am under no illusions as to how my company is regarded. Thank you. For not making me feel as others have.”

He hesitated. How did one respond to something like that? “It’s not as you say, Steris. I think you’re delightful.”

“And the fact that you were gritting your teeth as the ceremony started, hands gripping as tightly as a man dangling for his life from the side of a bridge?”

“I…”

“Are you saddened at the fact that our wedding is delayed? Can you truly say it, and be honest as a lawman, Lord Waxillium?”

Damn. He floundered. He knew a few simple words could defuse or sidestep the question, but he couldn’t find them, despite searching for what was an awkwardly long time—until saying anything would have sounded condescending.

“Perhaps,” he said, smiling, “I’ll just have to try something to relax me next time we attempt this.”

“I doubt going to the ceremony drunk would be productive.”

“I didn’t say I’d drink. Perhaps some Terris meditation beforehand.”

She eyed him. “You’re still willing to move forward?”

“Of course.” As long as it didn’t have to be today. “I assume you have a backup dress?”

“Two,” she admitted, letting him help her to her feet. “And I did reserve another date for a wedding two months from now. Different church—in case this one exploded.”

He grunted. “You sound like Wayne.”

“Well, things do tend to explode around you, Lord Waxillium.” She looked up at the dome. “Considering that, getting drenched must be rather novel.”

 *     *     *

Marasi trailed around the outside of the flooded church, hands clasped behind her back, notebook a familiar weight in her jacket pocket. A few constables—all corporals—stood about looking as if they were in charge. That sort of thing was important in a crisis; statistics showed that if a uniformed authority figure was nearby, people were less likely to panic.

Of course, there was also a smaller percentage who were more likely to panic if an authority figure was nearby. Because people were people, and if there was one thing you could count on, it was that some of them would be weird. Or rather that all of them would be weird when circumstances happened to align with their own individual brand of insanity.

That said, today she hunted a very special kind of insane. She’d tried the nearby pubs first, but that was too obvious. Next she checked the gutters, one soup kitchen, and—against her better judgment—a purveyor of “novelties.” No luck, though her backside did get three separate compliments, so there was that.

Finally, running out of ideas, she went to check if he’d decided to steal the forks from the wedding breakfast. There, in a dining hall across the street from the church, she found Wayne in the kitchens wearing a white jacket and a chef’s hat. He was scolding several assistant cooks as they furiously decorated tarts with fruit glaze.

Marasi leaned against the doorway and watched, tapping her notebook with her pencil. Wayne sounded utterly unlike himself, instead using a sharp, nasal voice with an accent she couldn’t quite place. Easterner, perhaps? Some of the outer cities there had thick accents.

The assistant cooks didn’t question him. They jumped at what he said, bearing his condemnation as he tasted a chilled soup and swore at their incompetence. If he noticed Marasi, he didn’t show it, instead wiping his hands on a cloth and demanding to see the produce the delivery boys had brought that morning.

Eventually, Marasi strolled into the kitchen, dodging a short assistant chef bearing a pot almost as big as she was, and stepped up to Wayne.

“I’ve seen crisper lettuce in the garbage heap!” he was saying to a cringing delivery boy. “And you call these grapes? These are so overripe, they’re practically fermenting! And—oh, ’ello, Marasi.” He said the last line in his normal, jovial voice.

The delivery boy scrambled away.

“What are you doing?” Marasi asked.

“Makin’ soup,” Wayne said, holding up a wooden spoon to show her. Nearby, several of the assistant cooks stopped in place, looking at him with shocked expressions.

“Out with you!” he said to them in the chef’s voice. “I must have time to prepare! Shoo, shoo, go!”

They scampered away, leaving him grinning.

“You do realize the wedding breakfast is canceled,” Marasi said, leaning back against a table.

“Sure do.”

“So why…”

She trailed off as he stuffed an entire tart in his mouth and grinned. “Hadda make sure they didn’t welch on their promif an’ not make anyfing to eat,” he said around chewing, crumbs cascading from his lips. “We paid for this stuff. Well, Wax did. ’Sides, wedding being canceled is no reason not to celebrate, right?”

“Depends on what you’re celebrating,” Marasi said, flipping open her notebook. “Bolts securing the water tower in place were definitely loosened. Road below was conspicuously empty, some ruffians—from another octant entirely, I might add—having stopped traffic by starting a fistfight in the middle of the rusting street.”

Wayne grunted, searching in a cupboard. “Hate that little notebook of yours sometimes.”

Marasi groaned, closing her eyes. “Someone could have been hurt, Wayne.”

“Now, that ain’t right at all. Someone was hurt. That fat fellow what has no hair.”

She massaged her temples. “You realize I’m a constable now, Wayne. I can’t turn a blind eye toward wanton property damage.”

“Ah, ’s not so bad,” Wayne said, still rummaging. “Wax’ll pay for it.”

“And if someone had been hurt? Seriously, I mean?”

Wayne kept searching. “The lads got a little carried away. ‘See that the church is flooded,’ I told them. Meant for the priest to open the place in the morning and find his plumbing had gotten a little case of the ‘being all busted up and leaking all over the rusting place.’ But the lads, they got a little excited is all.”

“The ‘lads’?”

“Just some friends.”

“Saboteurs.”

“Nah,” Wayne said. “You think they could pronounce that?”

“Wayne…”

“I slapped ’em around already, Marasi,” Wayne said. “Promise I did.”

“He’s going to figure it out,” Marasi said. “What will you do then?”

“Nah, you’re wrong,” Wayne said, finally coming out of the cupboard with a large glass jug. “Wax has a blind spot for things like this. In the back of his noggin, he’ll be relieved that I stopped the wedding. He’ll figure it was me, deep in his subcontinence, and will pay for the damages—no matter what the assessor says. And he won’t say anything, won’t even investigate. Watch.”

“I don’t know.…”

Wayne hopped up onto the kitchen counter, then patted the spot beside him. She regarded him for a moment, then sighed and settled onto the counter there.

He offered her the jug.

“That’s cooking sherry, Wayne.”

“Yeah,” he said, “pubs don’t serve anything this hour but beer. A fellow has to get creative.”

“I’m sure we could find some wine around—”

He took a swig.

“Never mind,” Marasi said.

He lowered the jug and pulled off his chef’s hat, tossing it onto the counter. “What’re you so uptight for today, anyway? I figured you’d be whooping for joy and runnin’ around the street pickin’ flowers and stuff. He’s not marrying her. Not yet, anyway. You still got a chance.”

“I don’t want a chance, Wayne. He’s made his decision.”

“Now, what kinda talk is that?” he demanded. “You’ve given up? Is that how the Ascendant Warrior was? Huh?”

“No, in fact,” Marasi said. “She walked up to the man she wanted, slapped the book out of his hand, and kissed him.”

“See, there’s how it is!”

“Though the Ascendant Warrior also went on and murdered the woman Elend was planning to marry.”

“What, really?”

“Yeah.”

“Gruesome,” Wayne said in an approving tone, then took another swig of sherry.

“That’s not the half of it,” Marasi said, leaning back on the counter, hands behind her. “You want gruesome? She also supposedly ripped out the Lord Ruler’s insides. I’ve seen it depicted in several illuminated manuscripts.”

“Kind of graphic for a religious-type story.”

“Actually, they’re all like that. I think they have to put in lots of exciting bits to make people read the rest.”

“Huh.” He seemed disbelieving.

“Wayne, haven’t you ever read any religious texts?”

“Sure I have.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, lots of the things I read have religious texts in them. ‘Damn.’ ‘Hell.’ ‘Flatulent, arse-licking git.’”

She gave him a flat stare.

“That last one is in the Testimony of Hammond. Promise. Least, all the letters are.” Another swig. Wayne could outdrink anyone she knew. Of course, that was mostly because he could tap his metalmind, heal himself, and burn away the alcohol’s effects in an eyeblink—then start over.

“Here now,” he continued, “that’s what you’ve gotta do. Be like the Lady Mistborn. Get your murderin’ on, see. Don’t back down. He should be yours, and you gotta let people know.”

“My… murderin’ on?”

“Sure.”

“Against my sister.”

“You could be polite about it,” Wayne said. “Like, give her the first stab or whatnot.”

“No, thank you.”

“It doesn’t have to be real murderin’, Marasi,” Wayne said, hopping off the counter. “It can be figurative and all. But you should fight. Don’t let him marry her.”

Marasi leaned her head back, looking up at the set of ladles swinging above the counter. “I’m not the Ascendant Warrior, Wayne,” she said. “And I don’t particularly care to be. I don’t want someone I have to convince, someone I have to rope into submission. That sort of thing is for the courtroom, not the bedroom.”

“Now, see, I think some people would say—”

“Careful.”

“—that’s a right enlightened way to think of things.” He took a swig of sherry.

“I’m not some tortured, abandoned creature, Wayne,” Marasi said, finding herself smiling at her distorted reflection in a ladle. “I’m not sitting around pining and dreaming for someone else to decide if I should be happy. There’s nothing there. Whether that’s due to actual lack of affection on his part, or more to stubbornness, I don’t care. I’ve moved on.”

She looked down, meeting Wayne’s eyes. He cocked his head. “Huh. You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“Damn right.”

“Moved on…” he said. “Rusted nuts! You can do that?”

“Certainly.”

“Huh. You think… I should… you know… Ranette…”

“Wayne, if ever someone should have taken a hint, it was you. Yes. Move on. Really.”

“Oh, I took the hint,” he said, taking a swig of sherry. “Just can’t remember which jacket I left it in.” He looked down at the jug. “You sure?”

“She has a girlfriend, Wayne.”

“ ’S only a phase,” he mumbled. “One what lasted fifteen years.…” He set the jug down, then sighed and reached into the cupboard from before, taking out a bottle of wine.

“Oh, for Preservation’s sake,” Marasi said. “That was in there all along?”

“Tastes better iffen you drink something what tastes like dishwater first,” Wayne said, then pulled the cork out with his teeth, which was kind of impressive, she had to admit. He poured her a cup, then one for himself. “To moving on?” he asked.

“Sure. To moving on.” She raised her cup, and saw reflected in the wine someone standing behind her.

She gasped, spinning, reaching for her purse. Wayne just raised his cup to the newcomer, who rounded the counter with a slow step. It was the man in the brown suit and bow tie. No, not the man. The kandra.

“If you’re here to persuade me to persuade him,” Wayne said, “you should know that he doesn’t ever listen to me unless he’s pretty drunk at the time.” He downed the wine. “ ’S probably why he’s lived so long.”

“Actually,” the kandra said, “I’m not here for you.” He turned to Marasi, then tipped his head. “My first choice for this endeavor has rejected my request. I hope you don’t take offense at being my second.”

Marasi found her heart thumping quickly. “What do you want?”

The kandra smiled broadly. “Tell me, Miss Colms. What do you know about the nature of Investiture and Identity?”

Excerpted from The Bands of Mourning © Brandon Sanderson

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