FIVE MONTHS LATER, WAX WALKED through the decorated rooms of a large, lively party, passing men in dark suits with tailcoats and women in colorful dresses with narrow waists and lots of folds through long pleated skirts. They called him “Lord Waxillium” or “Lord Ladrian” when they spoke to him.
He nodded to each, but avoided being drawn into conversation. He deliberately made his way to one of the back rooms of the party, where dazzling electric lights—the talk of the city—produced a steady, too-even glow to ward off the evening’s gloom. Outside the windows, mist tickled the glass.
Defying decorum, Wax pushed his way through the room’s enormous glass double doors and stepped out onto the mansion’s grand balcony. There, he finally felt like he could breathe again.
He closed his eyes, taking the air in and out, feeling the faint wetness of the mists on the skin of his face. Buildings are so … suffocating here in the city, he thought. Had I simply forgotten that, or did I not notice it when I was younger?
He opened his eyes and rested his hands on the balcony railing to look out over Elendel. It was the grandest city in all the world, a metropolis designed by Harmony himself. The city of Wax’s youth. A place that hadn’t been his home for twenty years.
Though it had been five months since Lessie’s death, he could still hear the gunshot, see the blood sprayed on the bricks. He had left the Roughs and moved back to the city, answering the desperate summons to do his duty to his house at his uncle’s passing.
Five months and a world away, and he could still hear that gunshot. Crisp, clean, like the sky cracking.
Behind him, he could hear musical laughter coming from the warmth of the room. Cett Mansion was a grand place, full of expensive woods, soft carpets, and sparkling chandeliers. No one joined him on the balcony.
From this vantage, he had a perfect view of the lights along Demoux Promenade. A double row of bright electric lamps with a steady, blazing whiteness. They glowed like bubbles along the wide boulevard, which was flanked by the even wider canal, the calm and quiet waters reflecting the light. An evening railway engine called a greeting as it chugged through the distant center of the city, hemming the mists with darker smoke.
Down Demoux Promenade, Wax had a good view of both the Ironspine Building and Tekiel Tower, one on either side of the canal. Both were unfinished, but their steelwork lattices already rose high into the sky. Mind-numbingly high.
The architects continued to release updated reports of how high they intended to go, each one trying to outdo the other. Rumors he’d heard at this party, credible ones, claimed that both would eventually top out at over fifty stories. No one knew which would end up proving the taller, though friendly wagers were common.
Wax breathed in the mists. Out in the Roughs, Cett Mansion, at three stories high, would have been as tall as a building got. Here it felt dwarfed. The world had gone and changed on him during his years out of the city. It had grown up, inventing lights that needed no fire to glow and buildings that threatened to rise higher than the mists themselves. Looking down that wide street at the edge of the Fifth Octant, Wax suddenly felt very, very old.
“Lord Waxillium?” a voice asked from behind.
He turned to find an older woman, Lady Aving Cett, peeking out the door at him. Her grey hair was up in a bun and she wore rubies at her neck. “By Harmony, my good man. You’ll take a chill out here! Come, there are some people you will wish to meet.”
“I’ll be along presently, my lady,” Wax said. “I’m just getting a little air.”
Lady Cett frowned, but retreated. She didn’t know what to make of him; none of them did. Some saw him as a mysterious scion of the Ladrian family, associated with strange stories of the realms beyond the mountains. The rest assumed him to be an uncultured, rural buffoon. He figured he was probably both.
He’d been on display all night. He was supposed to be looking for a new wife, and pretty much everyone knew it. House Ladrian was insolvent following his uncle’s imprudent management, and the easiest path to solvency was marriage. Unfortunately, his uncle had also managed to offend three-quarters of the city’s upper crust.
Wax leaned forward on the balcony, the Sterrion revolvers under his arms jabbing his sides. With their long barrels, they weren’t meant to be carried in underarm holsters. They had been awkward all night.
He should be getting back to the party to chat and try to repair House Ladrian’s reputation. But the thought of that crowded room, so hot, so close, sweltering, making it difficult to breathe …
Giving himself no time to reconsider, he swung off over the side of the balcony and began falling three stories toward the ground. He burned steel, then dropped a spent bullet casing slightly behind him and Pushed on it; his weight sent it speeding down to the earth faster than he fell. As always, thanks to his Feruchemy, he was lighter than he should have been. He hardly knew anymore what it felt like to go around at his full weight.
When the casing hit the ground, he Pushed against it and sent himself horizontally in a leap over the garden wall. With one hand on its stone top, he vaulted out of the garden, then reduced his weight to a fraction of normal as he fell down the other side. He landed softly.
Ah, good, he thought, crouching and peering through the mists. The coachmen’s yard. The vehicles everyone had used to arrive were arranged here in neat rows, the coachmen chatting in a few cozy rooms that spilled orange light into the mists. No electric lights here; just good, warmth-giving hearths.
He walked among the carriages until he found his own, then opened the trunk strapped to the rear.
Off came his gentleman’s fine dinner coat. Instead he threw on his mistcoat, a long, enveloping garment like a duster with a thick collar and cuffed sleeves. He slipped a short-barreled shotgun into its inner pocket, then buckled on his gun belt and moved the Sterrions into the holsters at his hips.
Ah, he thought. Much better. He really needed to stop carrying the Sterrions and get some more practical weapons for concealment. Unfortunately, he’d never found anything as good as Ranette’s work. Hadn’t she moved to the city though? Perhaps he could look her up and talk her into making him something. Assuming she didn’t shoot him on sight.
A few moments later he was running through the city, the mistcoat light upon his back. He left it open at the front, revealing his black shirt and gentleman’s trousers. The ankle-length mistcoat had been divided into strips from just above the waist, the tassels streaming behind him with a faint rustle.
He dropped a bullet casing and launched himself high into the air, then landed atop the building across the street from the mansion. He glanced over his shoulder at it, the windows ablaze in the evening dark. What kind of rumors was he going to start, vanishing from the balcony like that?
Well, they already knew he was Twinborn—that was a matter of public record. His disappearance wasn’t going to do much to help patch his family’s reputation. For the moment, he didn’t care. He’d spent almost every evening since his return to the city at one social function or another, and this was the first misty night in weeks.
He needed the mists. This was who he was.
Wax dashed across the rooftop and leaped off, toward Demoux Promenade. Right before hitting the ground, he flipped a spent casing down and Pushed on it, slowing his descent. He landed in a patch of decorative shrubs that caught his coat tassels and made a rustling noise.
Damn. No one planted decorative shrubs out in the Roughs. He pulled free of it, wincing at the noise. A few weeks in the city, and he was already getting rusty?
He shook his head and Pushed himself into the air again, moving out over the wide boulevard and parallel canal. He angled his flight so he crested that and landed on one of the new electric lamps. There was one nice thing about a modern city like this; it had a lot of metal.
He smiled, then flared his steel and Pushed off the top of the streetlight to send himself in a wide arc through the air. Mist streamed past him, swirling as the wind rushed against his face. It was thrilling. A man never truly felt free until he’d thrown off gravity’s chains and sought the sky.
As he crested his arc, he Pushed on another streetlight, throwing himself farther forward. The long row of metal poles was like his own personal railway line. He bounded onward, his antics drawing attention from those in passing carriages, both horse-drawn and horseless.
He smiled. Coinshots like him were relatively rare, but Elendel was a major city with an enormous population. He wouldn’t be the first man these people had seen bounding via metal through the city. Coinshots often acted as high-speed couriers in Elendel.
The city’s size still astonished him. Millions lived here, maybe as many as five million. No one had a sure count across all of its wards—they were called octants, and as one might expect, there were eight of them.
Millions; he couldn’t picture that, though he’d grown up here. Before he’d left Weathering, he’d been starting to think it was getting too big, but there couldn’t have been ten thousand people in the town.
He landed atop a lamp directly in front of the massive Ironspine Building. He craned his neck, looking up through the mists at the towering structure. The unfinished top was lost in the darkness. Could he climb something so high? He couldn’t Pull on metals, only Push—he wasn’t some mythological Mistborn from the old stories, like the Survivor or the Ascendant Warrior. One Allomantic power, one Feruchemical power, that was all a Metalborn could have. In fact, having even a single power was a rare privilege—being Twinborn like Wax was truly exceptional.
Wayne claimed to have memorized the names of all of the different possible combinations of Twinborn. Of course, Wayne also claimed to have once stolen a horse that belched in perfect musical notes, so one learned to take what he said with a pinch of copper. Wax honestly didn’t pay attention to all of the definitions and names for Twinborn; a combination of a Coinshot and a Skimmer like him was called a Crasher. He rarely bothered to think of himself that way.
He began to fill his metalminds—the iron bracers he wore on his upper arms—draining himself of more weight, making him even lighter. That weight would be stored away for future use. Then, ignoring the more cautious part of his mind, he flared his steel and Pushed.
He shot upward. The wind became a roar, and the lamp was a good anchor—lots of metal firmly attached to the ground—capable of pushing him quite high. He’d angled slightly, and the building’s stories became a blur in front of him. He landed about twenty stories up, just as his Push on the lamp was reaching its limit.
This portion of the building had been finished already, the exterior made of a molded material that imitated worked stone. Ceramics, he’d heard. It was a common practice for tall buildings, where the lower levels would be actual stone, but the higher reaches would use something lighter.
He grabbed hold of an outcropping. He wasn’t so light that the wind could push him away—not with his weapons and the metalminds on his forearms. His lighter body did make it easier to hold himself in place.
Mist swirled beneath him. It seemed almost playful. He looked upward, deciding his next step. His steel revealed lines of blue to nearby sources of metal, many of which were the structure’s frame. Pushing on any of them would send him away from the building.
There, he thought, noting a decent-sized ledge about five feet up. He climbed up the side of the building, gloved fingers sure on the complexly ornamented surface. A Coinshot quickly learned not to fear heights. He hoisted himself up onto the ledge, then dropped a bullet casing, stopping it with his booted foot.
He looked upward, judging his trajectory. He drew a vial from his belt, then uncorked it and downed the liquid and steel shavings inside it. He hissed through his teeth as the whiskey burned his throat. Good stuff, from Stagin’s still. Damn, I’m going to miss that when my stock runs out, he thought, tucking the vial away.
Most Allomancers didn’t use whiskey in their metal vials. Most Allomancers were missing out on a perfect opportunity. He smiled as his internal steel reserves were restored; then he flared the metal and launched himself.
He flew up into the night sky. Unfortunately, the Ironspine was built in set-back tiers, the upper stories growing progressively narrower as you went higher. That meant that even though he Pushed himself directly upward, he was soon soaring in open darkness, mists around him, the building’s side a good ten feet away.
Wax reached into his coat and removed his short-barreled shotgun from its long, sleevelike pocket. He turned—pointing it outward—braced it against his side, and fired.
He was light enough that the kick flung him toward the building. The boom of the blast echoed below, but he had spray shot in the shells, too small and light to hurt anyone when it fell dispersed from such a height.
He slammed into the wall of the tower five stories above where he’d been, and grabbed hold of a spiked protrusion. The decoration up here really was marvelous. Who did they think would be looking at it? He shook his head. Architects were curious types. Not practical at all, like a good gunsmith. Wax climbed to another shelf and jumped upward again.
The next jump was enough to get him to the open steelwork lattice of the unfinished upper floors. He strolled across a girder, then shimmied up a vertical member—his reduced weight making it easy—and climbed atop the very tallest of the beams jutting from the top of the building.
The height was dizzying. Even with the mists obscuring the landscape, he could see the double row of lights illuminating the street below. Other lights glowed more softly across the town, like the floating candles of a seafarer’s ocean burial. Only the absence of lights allowed him to pick out the various parks and the bay far to the west.
Once, this city had felt like home. That was before he’d spent twenty years living out in the dust, where the law was sometimes a distant memory and people considered carriages a frivolity. What would Lessie have thought of one of these horseless contraptions, with the thin wheels meant for driving on a city’s fine paved streets? Transportation that ran on oil and grease, not hay and horseshoes?
He turned about on his perch. It was difficult to judge locations in the dark and the mists, but he did have the advantage of a youth spent in this section of the city. Things had changed, but not that much. He judged the direction, checked his steel reserves, then launched himself out into the darkness. He shot outward in a grand arc above the city, flying for a good half a minute on the Push off those enormous girders. The skyscraper became a shadowed silhouette behind him, then vanished. Eventually his impetus ran out, and he dropped back through the mists. He let himself fall, quiet. When the lights neared—and he could see that no one was below him—he pointed his shotgun at the ground and pulled the trigger.
Copyright © 2011 by Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC
Copyright © 2022 by Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC