Beautiful Destroyer

Chapter Seven

"Anonymity. Hiding, even when you're with others. Being quiet, unobtrusive. Forcing yourself to stay apart—emotionally, at least. It's a way of life. A protection."
-Well of Ascension

Count Phillip floated above the ground, looking taller than he was. He wore all black and his face was a deathly pale, but his eyes were a vivid shade of blue and when he smiled, he revealed a mouth full of pearlescent white teeth.

"Welcome!" he said, his voice stronger than it should have been. "Guiche, of the noble house of Gramont, and here on business no less! An honor, to be sure." His head hung limply, giving off the impression more of a puppet than someone alive, and he sat down in a red velvet chair.

Two house guards accompanied him into the room, but they waited by the doors. They wore matching suits of armor that looked too heavy to move in without magic, though they seemed unhindered. A light green stone was embedded in each man's breastplate. Their sword-wands were sheathed, but each held a hand near the hilt.

"Count Phillip of Scarborough!" Guiche said, rising from his chair. "The honor is mine. I must thank you for your hospitality, especially on such short notice. Why I was just admiring the fine painting on your wall. The contrast between light and dark is riveting. One of Carravagio's work, I presume?"

The count wagged a bushy white eyebrow. "A patron of the arts, are you?"

"I certainly hope to be. Some family traditions are worth continuing, and I have a sharp eye for beauty, which has brought me up to your lovely kingdom. As the poet Milton wrote, 'Ere hell doth rise to swallow, we do fall, but are ne'er fallen. Two steps from heaven, as we descend, even so we rise.'"

Phillip laughed. "And a scholar, too!" It was a dry, heaving laugh, as though he squeezed his lungs empty with each breath. "Well, I can't say I'm much of a poet, even when it comes to national treasures, but I can say that in times like these, dark times, vicious times ..." He leaned forward and looked Guiche dead in the eye. "People trade gold for iron and sell their fortunes for a copper and a day." He leaned back in his chair and smiled. "It's been a buyer's market since Lord Crommwell stepped up. I got that painting you were admiring at a tenth of what its owner would have sold it for a year ago. Ironic, considering how snuggly it wears our zeitgeist."

Guiche tilted his head. "How so?"

"You were close when you called it Carravagio's. It was done by a rival of his named Baglione. The relationships between artists can become as twisted and cruel as that of any royal family, but that's another matter. That painting, you see, is a message of hope. Now, imagine that you are in that well, in the cold, in the wet, in the dark, waiting to die. Perhaps you'll drown, perhaps you'll freeze, or perhaps, longest of all, you will starve. It all depends on how deep and how cold the water is. And then there's nothing left for you except to poison the well with your own bloated corpse."

Guiche frowned. "And that's the spirit of our time?"

"Yes. Because even in the depths of the well, there is light, and if you look very closely, you can see something blocking that light. A face, perhaps a curious child's. If you can still be heard, you can cry out for help and send that child to fetch someone to get you out. And even though right now you may be cold and wet and waiting do die, you're only a cry away from a hot meal."

Guiche smiled. "Magnificent. What is the masterpiece called?"

"Il Mostro nel Pozzo. Romalian, naturally."

"Naturally. They always do boast the finest painters." Guiche shifted in his seat. "It seems the war has treated you well, Count. And the war is over, is it not?"

Vin burned brass, Soothing away the old man's suspicions. She Soothed Guiche too, to diminish his nervousness. She could have done so sooner, but it was best for him to be a little nervous, as long as he didn't show it.

"In all but name. The old king is dead—good riddance—though his whelp of a son is holed up in Newcastle. If you ask me, Lord Crommwell wants the prince to bend the knee to ease the transition of power. Personally, I'd prefer to drag the bodies of the enemy rulers through the city streets for a few days and leave them to rot, but I'm old fashioned like that." He flashed Guiche a grin, and Guiche forced a chuckle.

"Did ... did people actually do that back then?"

"Oh, all the time. Everyone likes a parade."

"Well, I can't argue with that. In any case, I must congratulate you on your decisive revolution. We had barely heard about the movement down in Tristain and it's already over."

He grinned again. "Good, isn't it?" He leaned forward. "Would you like to know the secret?"

Guiche's eyes widened and he leaned forward, mirroring Phillip's posture. "I never refuse secrets."

"Lord Crommwell has powers that haven't been seen in thousands of years. They say that he can elevate even the lowest of peasants and transform them into peerless mages. It matters little how many mageknights you lose in battle when you can raise up more out of dross."

Guiche stared at him. "Really?"

Phillip let out a dry chuckle. "So they say, whoever they are. But if you ask me, he tracked down a few unclaimed noble bastards and taught them a few spells. Either way, it did the trick. Commoners have been rushing to him in droves, hoping that he'll reward their loyalty by endowing them with arcane power."

Louise shot Vin a look that she couldn't read. Vin didn't understand the girl at all. The slightest thing set her off, and Vin couldn't even use emotional Allomancy to calm her down because she didn't even know which simmering emotion was triggering her. She only hoped that Louise could keep a lid on whatever her issue was until they were somewhere safe enough to, well, Vin wanted to say talk about what was going on, but realistically she'd probably try to avoid the issue until it went away.

"Well, that makes sense," Guiche said, leaning back. "Commoners will believe anything."

"Isn't that the truth. Crommwell's men have been leaking one outlandish claim after other, that Lord Crommwell can create life, that Lord Crommwell can harness the element of the Void, that he's the return of Founder Brimir himself, and the plebs keep lapping it up."

"Ha! Peasants."

Count Philip chuckled again and shifted in his seat. "Well, enough small talk. Shall we get down to business?"


Business involved a series of numbers that Vin couldn't follow. The general idea was that the Grammont household was going to sell sulfur and iron to Count Phillip's household, and mostly on credit for the first year. Vin would be worried that Phillip was planning a betrayal a year from now so he wouldn't have to follow through on his payments, except that deal itself was a scam that Guiche's father would never see long enough to agree to.

They had what they needed. They knew that Prince Wales was in a place called Newcastle. Now it was just a matter of reaching him, retrieving an embarrassing letter that Henrietta had given him, and leaving the kingdom alive.

Aside from everything imaginable, what could possibly go wrong?

"It's not too far," Wardes said, looking down at an unfolded map on the table after they had returned to their hotel. "About a hundred miles north along the coastline. We could get there in a day, if we could get a ship willing to cross enemy lines."

"If we stole one, would you be able to steer it?" Vin asked.

Wardes raised an eyebrow at her. "Are you suggesting piracy?"

Vin gave him a flat look. We're surrounded by people who would kill us if they knew what we were up to, and you're worried about breaking the law? But the tone of his voice suggested that yes, he was, and the look on Louise's face suggested that she was too. "Could you steer it?"

"If we purchased a ship, yes. But we would still run into the problem of entering Newcastle itself. I doubt the royal prince would hail an unknown ship with much else besides canon fire."

"Then we can walk the rest of the way," Vin said. It would beat walking all the way. Every day they stayed here came with a risk, and walking to Newcastle and back could add the better part of a month to their stay.

Wardes frowned thoughtfully, turning the plan over in his mind. "It's a start. We'll visit the shipyard tomorrow morning to see what they have available."

That was all they could do for now. Louise left the room that Wardes and Guiche shared in the hotel, and Vin followed her out. Louise stopped in the middle of the hallway and turned to look at her. For a long moment neither said a word, then Louise turned again and continued walking.

"You used to do that all the time when I first summoned you," Louise said after they reached their room. "You'd keep your eyes down and your voice lower, and you'd always stay behind me. Then Fouquet happened, you told me about your magic, and you started walking next to me instead of hiding in my shadow. You would sometimes even speak without being spoken to. Now you're back to where you were before."

There was no question to answer, except the one that was implied. The truth was that Vin had spent too long working under people more violent and petty than Kelsier had been, people who would beat her to remind her of her place, or simply if she were in arm's reach when they were in a mood. But Vin hadn't survived people like that through unveiled honesty.

"I'm playing a role. It takes a while to change out of a role like changing out of a costume, and we don't have that sort of time." It was a ridiculous lie, but Vin burned brass and Louise seemed to believe it.

"Really? That ... well, okay. Have you done this sort of thing before?"

"Something like it." It was just a matter of scale. Even overthrowing the Lord Ruler had been just another scam.

"So what did you do exactly before I summoned you?"

Her tone was casual, but in a forced way. Vin hesitated. Why would you ask me that at a time like this? What do you really want to know?

The truth was that Vin was a liar and a thief, and had been working for a man who would have killed Louise, her family, and her household guards with a smile on his face. But if she said that Louise wouldn't understand, not without understanding what it meant to be skaa, and that wasn't something Vin could explain to someone like her.

"I was a pickpocket," she said instead. It was an easy lie, and the only people who knew better were a world away. There was something innocent and petty about being a pickpocket, especially compared to being part of a crew of deicidal con artists. "Part of the job is sleight of hand, but most of it is pretending to be someone not worth noticing."

Louise cocked her head. "I guess I can see that. But that's an odd career path for a mage."

"I ... didn't know about my powers for a long time." That was mostly true. She could tap into a source of power to make people around her easier to scam or to make herself more resilient, but she didn't know what that power was or how to replenish it. "I was still learning what I could do when you summoned me."

Louise considered that for a moment. "Wardes thinks you were an assassin."

Vin stared at her. "Well ... I'm not."

"He says you fight like one."

"How often does he fight assassins in duels?" Vin asked, more sharply than she meant to. It didn't matter what Wardes said ... only, it did. As long as Louise listened to him, what he said mattered.

Louise sat down at the dressing table and turned to her. "You know, for all you don't like him, you and Wardes have been doing most of the planning for this mission. Princess Henrietta gave the mission to me, but I feel like I've been more of a prop than a participant."

"I never said I didn't like him," Vin said. "I just—"

"Don't trust him, I know. Which is completely different." Louise turned to her reflection in the mirror and began brushing her hair. Vin had always kept her own hair short, but Louise's hair went all the way down to her waist and she had to brush it every night to keep it from getting tangled. That used to be one of Vin's jobs, but after Fouquet Louise had resumed doing it herself. Vin didn't have anything to say to that, so she began her own preparations for the night. She changed out of her maid costume and into the shirt and trousers she prefered. Impractical sleepwear like the silk nightdresses Louise always wore was just a way of asking to be attacked in the night.

"You know," Louise said after a moment, "we're going to get m-married, he and I. I didn't think it would happen until after I finished school. I wanted to graduate, make a name for myself beyond what I was born with, and become someone ... someone worth marrying, but Wardes wants to go forward with it sooner. It might happen right after we get back. I, uh, I hope that won't be a problem for you."

"That doesn't have anything to do with me."

Louise turned and threw a hairbrush at her. "Exist, darn it! Back in La Rochelle you were all up in arms when he suggested that I share a room with him! Now you're just a ... just a big lurking eyeball watching things!"

Vin caught the brush, flaring pewter on reflex. "I'm not the one marrying him! What do you want me to say?"

"I don't know! Something! The only other person I can talk to about this is Guiche, and he's ... Guiche. But if I marry him, that's going to affect the rest of my life, and if I turn him away, that's going to affect the rest of my life too. I don't have any choice except to make a choice, and ... and ... gragh!"

"Alright, fine. If you want my advice, don't. He'll let you down if you give them a chance to, anyone will." She turned away. "But what do I know? I'm just a ... what was it you said? A coward, afraid of someone stabbing me in the back."

"Well, you are! You can fight as well as he can, but at least Wardes isn't afraid to-to love people! Keep it up, and you're going to die safe, miserable, and alone, just like you are right now."

Afraid? What do you know about being afraid? The last time her life had been in danger, Loiuse had stumbled forward like a blind man walking off a cliff. For that matter what did she know about being alone? "Do you really think Wardes loves you? You got engaged to him ten years ago, didn't you? In all that time when he didn't speak to you, visit you, or even write to you, did he love you then?"

Louise wilted, but only slightly. "Well, maybe he fell in love with me just recently."

Vin rolled her eyes. "And what makes you think he would fall in love with you?"

Louise slapped her. Vin had been beaten by people stronger, crueler, and more relentless than Louise, but it still stung, and not just on her face. "How dare you! How dare you! I may not be a great mage like you, and I may not be beautiful, or experienced, or ... or a lot of things, but I have a right to be happy just like everyone else! I thought that my own familiar would understand that."

Vin's fingers brushed against her cheek. She knew she hadn't phrased that well. What she had meant was why would Wardes fall in love with her now? What had happened between Wardes' arrival and the point when he declared his love for her? If he fell in love with Louise so recently, then what had Louise done to impress him or endear herself to him, or was it all just wishful thinking on her part? And her thinking was wishful. Anyone who knew her could tell what she wished for most of all.

But that didn't matter anymore. A line had been crossed that could not be uncrossed, and trust had been broken. Louise had hit her, just like so many who had come before her. Vin turned away and unlatched the window. "No one deserves to be happy. No one has that as a right."

"Familiar? Where are you going? I'm not done talking to you!"

Vin climbed out the window and dropped to the street below.


The cobblestones felt cold and grimy beneath her feet. The absence of ash was the only thing that made the streets of Scarborough feel different than the ones of Luthadel.

Not that Luthadel would be so crowded so late at night. Many of the skaa were superstitious about the mists, fearing that creatures of the night would kill you and steal your form. Mistwraiths, they were called, and there was only a kernel of truth to that story.

Kelsier hadn't just taught her Allomancy. He hadn't just given her a place where she could be safe. He had given her the nights themselves.

The mists hide us. They protect us. They give us power.

But there were no mists in Albion. The night belonged to everyone who had enough light to see by, and around her anyone who cared to carried a lantern through the night. Vin followed behind a man and a woman both about twice her age. Not intentionally, but they were simply walking in the same direction.

She heard them talk about their children, the war, the city, and nothing at all. Their son wanted to join the war against the Royalists, worried that the war would be over before he was old enough to enlist. Their daughter had recently started working at a tavern, and neither of them liked that no matter how much they needed the money. The city had grown empty recently, and their neighbor's dog kept them up at night. But most of the time, they walked in content silence.

Vin didn't mean to eavesdrop, but when they talked as openly as they did and when Vin burned her usual amount of tin, it was hard not to hear. They held hands as they walked, their steps in rhythm with each other. There was an old, familiar feeling to their movements and their tone, and Vin wondered how many times they had walked this exact same route.

What secrets did they have from each other? Did the man have a mistress that he kept hidden from his wife? Were all of her children his as well, or had she been playing him for a fool all these years?

Did it even matter? If neither knew the other's secrets and were happy not knowing, what harm was there? Vin imagined Louise and Wardes like that, fifteen years from now. Louise would be loved (as far as she knew), seeing only what she wanted to see and knowing only what she wanted to know, and if she was happy in her ignorance, would that be so much worse than being a lonely cynic?

Go ahead, Louise, she thought bitterly. Drink the poisoned wine. It's a vintage brand.

But what did Vin know? All she knew about love, she learned from Reen. Maybe Louise was right. Maybe Vin was going to die old, miserable, and alone.

Still, if there was one thing she was sure of, it was that Wardes was lying to her. Vin might not know much about love, but she knew a con when she saw one. Every word that came out of the man's lips was precise, planned, and perfect. The only time someone told you exactly what you wanted to hear was when they knew what you wanted to hear, and didn't care much for the truth. Truth was dirty, filled with things you didn't want to admit but couldn't quite get rid of. A lie could be as polished as a knife. What he was lying for was harder to discern.

Vin turned a corner, separating herself from the couple in front of her, and felt the bronze pulse behind her fly closer to catch up. She had noticed a stalker soon after leaving the hotel, floating above the rooftops to not even make a sound to Vin's tin enhanced ears. Her first suspicion was Wardes. Had Louise told him about bronze? Vin had told her, but copper and bronze had never interested the girl as much as iron and steel. Maybe Louise asked him to follow her after their fight to make sure Vin didn't betray them, or maybe Wardes was following her on his own accord. She got the impression that he didn't trust her any more than she trusted him.

Or maybe it was someone else. Maybe their meeting with Count Philip had aroused more suspicion than the man revealed, and he had sent some men to follow them to investigate. Or maybe it was a member of the local law enforcement, making sure that the group claiming to be from Albion weren't Royalist agents. Or maybe the stalker was a member of a fourth party that Vin didn't know enough about to even suspect.

She continued walking, pretending to not have noticed until she could find an excuse to turn around. She found one soon, a vendor with his wares still on display this late at night.

"A pleasant evening to you, miss," the shopkeeper said. "Can I interest you in a purchase? I have exactly what you need, even if you don't know you need it."

Vin stopped after she had nearly passed him so when she turned, she was nearly facing her stalker. She could see him out of the corner of her eye when she flared tin. He was tall, thin, and floating in the air, wearing a cape like nearly all the nobility did, and a mask. Most concerning was the absence of any metals on him that she could sense. At this distance, metal rings or buttons would be too small to notice with Steelsight, but that still bothered her. Someone who was both following her and taking precautions against Allomancers could not be ignored.

She feigned ignorance all the same. "How do you know what I need? And isn't it a bit late to be running a shop?"

"I don't know what you need any more than you do," the man said. "But I have it. I have what everyone needs, no matter what it is. And why would I run my shop in the daytime when everyone is too busy making money to spend it? No, it's far better to work in times like these, that I may sell to those who wander and those who are lost."

Vin narrowed her eyes at him. He was tall and thin, and though he didn't look old, his hair had already gone white. He smiled at her, as though he had just made a joke at her expense and was waiting for her to catch on. "And which am I? A wanderer or someone who is lost?"

The man shrugged. "If you are here and you are now, then you must be one of the two. Which is your business, not mine, and I always mind my own. Speaking of business, can I interest you in a cabbage?" He gestured toward a green, headsized vegetable on his table. "You never know when you might need a healthy snack at times like these."

She shook her head. "You know, I really should be going."

"No cabbage, then? Not even to hurl at your enemies? Hmm. Perhaps a watch would interest you." He held up a brass pocket watch and dangled it from a chain. "These are wicked times, my dear lost traveler, and you'll want to know when they change."

So I'm lost now? Vin shook away that thought. The mage following her above the skyline was infinitely more important than the thoughts of an eccentric street vendor.

"Nor the watch? Well, it was broken anyway. A symbolic purchase only. Not symbolic of anything, per se, just symbolic." He stroked his beardless chin thoughtfully. "But I know what you truly need. The same thing everyone needs in your situation." He reached under his stand and pulled out a sword. "Have you ever handled a sword before?"

"Once or twice," she said, remembering her meeting with Nightblood. This sword, however, looked old, dull, and composed entirely of rust.

"Well, I guarantee that you have never wielded a sword quite like this one."

Probably not. "What's so special about it?"

"I can talk!" the sword said.

Vin jumped back and flared her metals, growing tense as the world around her burned with light and her body filled with strength. No blue line connected the sword to her. Just like with Nightblood, this rusted weapon was immune to Allomancy. "Lord Ruler, another one!"

"Who?" the vendor asked.

Right, wrong oath. She needed to practice swearing by Founder Brimir until it came out naturally. She burned brass to Sooth away the man's suspicions. "Is it cursed?"

"Am I cursed?" the sword repeated indignantly. "Yeah, sure. Everyone I stab gets lockjaw."

"Don't be rude, Derflinger," the man said.

"I'm rude? She started it. You can't just go around asking people if they're cursed, lady. Honestly."

"Well, you do know all six verses of the Hedgehog Song. If that's not a curse, I don't know what is."

"Culture, Hoid. Culture."

"Culture, curses, you can hardly have one without the other. But I digress. Tell me, traveler, is there room for a reasonably priced and musically inclined weapon in your journey? Because I can promise you that every journey has room for enemies, especially around here."

Speaking of enemies, Vin's stalker landed on a distant roof. She froze, watching him out of the corner of her eye, and burning tin and bronze in equal measure. As soon as he landed, his bronze pulse shifted, pushing against her instead of pulling her toward him. The worst case scenario was that he was trying to kill her. And Vin always assumed the worst.

She hopped up on the vendor's table and Steelpushed off the pocket watch. The table collapsed under the force, and immediately afterward in a flash of light, it exploded. Wh-what was that? she thought as the vendor scrambled away. It was too fast and too bright to be fire. Lightning? Could this mage shoot lightning at people?

Blinded by the spell, Vin flared tin hoping not to crash into anything before her vision returned. She landed on a roof, dislodging loose shingles onto the street below, and she had a choice to make.

Fight? she thought. Or hide? Hide where? In the hotel? No, her assassin would already know where she was staying. In fact, any competent assassin would make a coordinated strike against every member of the group at once.

Her blood ran cold. If she was right, she was too late already. Why had she thought she could do something like go out for a walk at a time like this? What was she thinking?

No. She didn't have time for ... for anything besides what was right in front of her. She dropped off the roof down into an alley and ran toward her attacker at ground level, tracking him with bronze and keeping a line of buildings between him and her whenever she could.

He cast a pulling spell again, flight she guessed, based on how fast his pulsed moved. He was coming toward her instead of running away, which worked in her favor. She spotted him flying past her overhead, and he seemed to think that Vin was either still where he had seen her land or running away.

She coinjumped into the air behind him, threw a handful of coppers in front of her, and Steelpushed them, shooting them into the assassin. He dropped like a struck bird, rolled down a roof, and nearly fell off the edge before Vin was able to catch him. She ripped his mask off, a dozen suspicions already in her mind about who he was.

But it wasn't a face she recognized beneath the mask. It wasn't a face at all. Just ... mist. There was no blood where her coins had struck him, just more mist leaking out. His body deflated like an empty sack as the mist faded into the night, and soon even his clothes dissolved into white vapor, leaving Vin with nothing.

The mists hide us. They protect us. They give us power.

No, Vin thought. Not anymore.


Vin stopped for a moment outside the hotel window to burn tin and bronze, but heard nothing. She pulled herself through into Louise's room, and saw nothing. No Louise, no blood, no sign of a struggle—unless you counted a chair that had been knocked over. But what kind of struggle could Louise put up when she was in danger? What kind of danger could she even recognize?

She darted down the hallway to the men's room and wanted to kick the door off its hinges and charge in. Instead she stopped, waited, and listened as time slipped through her fingers. No bronze pulse, no light under the doorway, and the only sound was one person breathing.

Just one? She slipped through the unlocked door and looked around. Guiche was uninjured and slept peacefully, though there was no sign of Wardes. No sign of a struggle here either, no fight, no Louise, and no Wardes. It wasn't adding up.

She shook Guiche to wake him, and when that didn't work she shook him harder and burned zinc.

"Wha-what?" he slurred. He stared into the darkness of the room, looking at her without seeing more than her silhouette. "Who's there?"

"It's me," she said softly. "Wake up. What happened here?"

"What happened where? Nothing happened here." He blinked owlishly. "Hold on. Vin, you're in my bedroom. Um, how interesting."

"Louise is gone." She burned more zinc to Riot his sense of urgency. "Wardes isn't here either."

"What? Oh yes. They went out for a walk. I expect they'll be back soon." He sat up. "Or they might be a while. Which means we have the place to ourselves until they get back. I have been working on something that I would treasure your opinion on. Would you consider yourself an aesthete of the poetic word?"

"What? What? We're not safe here, Guiche. Someone tried to kill me five minutes ago, someone may try to kill you any second now, and someone may already have killed Louise and Wardes right after they left! We need to find them, and we need to leave."

His face fell. "Really? Well, that's unfortunate." He glanced down at his nightshirt. "Just give me a few minutes to get dressed."


Guiche took far longer than a few minutes, or at least it felt that way to Vin. She stared into the night as the seconds dripped by, wondering what she would find.

Anyone will betray you, her brother had always said.

Had Wardes lured Louise out with the promise of a romantic evening only to steal her away for his own purposes? He knew how to tell the girl what she wanted to hear, and Vin still had no idea what he was after.

Or maybe Louise had finally decided that Vin was more trouble than a familiar was worth and was discussing with Wardes ways to dispose of her. Not likely, but it was a possibility that she couldn't ignore.

And speaking of disposing of people, why had the princess sent Louise on this mission in the first place? Out of the entire kingdom of Tristain, why pick Louise? To deliver a secret message to a foreign prince in a war torn kingdom? It seemed preposterous, like a story a child would make up. And if they died here, would anyone know that the princess had sent them? No. It was, after all, a secret mission. Maybe the princess simply wanted Louise dead, and this was her way of killing her far away.

Guiche finally came outside, dressed and packed. He stomped on the ground to call his familiar Verdandi, who could track Louise by the jewelry she wore. As he followed behind the dirt-covered, waddling creature, Vin wondered if even Guiche was all he seemed to be. Was his constant foppish idiocy genuine, or just an act? And if his meeting with Count Phillip today was any indication, the boy could act when he needed to. Besides, why had he been listening at the door when the princess showed up?

Still, she needed him. She needed all of them, but she could only trust herself, and that had always been her trouble. Without Guiche she'd have no metals and have to track Louise through tin and bronze. Without Louise she'd have no place to live and none of the protections that Louise's title granted her. And without Wardes she'd have no experience to rely on, no knowledge of the workings of Albion or of magic in general.

Vin watched Guiche and his familiar from above, mistcloak around her shoulders on a night with no mists, jumping from rooftop to rooftop and watching for Louise, Wardes, and the assassin who had tried to kill her.

Finally, Vin spotted her. Louise's bright pink hair could help her hide in a field of flowers and nothing else. She was alive, unharmed, and walking back to the hotel arm in arm with Wardes.

Vin landed in front of them, making Louise jump and Wardes tense. "Oh," Louise said after a moment. "It's you."

Vin hesitated in the face of Louise's tone, but pressed forward. "We need to leave. It's not safe here."

Louise let out a heavy sigh. "Really? That's what you're going with? Okay, fine. We'll leave tomorrow morning."

"That's not good enough. We need to leave right now." Vin scanned the skyline, watching for possible watchers. Grouping up like this where all four of them could be surrounded was a mistake.

Louise narrowed her eyes at her and her lip curled in distaste. "You forget yourself, familiar. While I may choose to listen to your advice, you are not in charge of this mission, I am. I do not take orders from you, you take orders from me."

Vin's first instinct was to submit, or at least to feign submission. That was how she had survived for as long as she had. When people saw that you were already beaten down, they stopped wasting their strength. But Vin had grown proud over the past few months, and she would not grovel before someone she was trying to help.

Vin looked Louise straight in the eye. "I was attacked," she said. "Just this night, someone tried to kill me while I was walking down the street. It—is not—safe here."

"You were attacked?" Wardes said. "By whom?"

"I don't know."

"What did he look like?"

"I don't know. He wore a mask, and—"

"Why wear a mask?" Wardes said. "If our enemies knew our true business, why not alert the watch to arrest us? Why the cloak and dagger in their own land?"

"I don't know!" Gritting her teeth, she turned back to Louise. "I don't know why anything happens. I only know what I saw. I ..." Her voice broke. "... Do you trust me?"

And that was it. That was the only question Vin needed to ask. Because if the answer was no, then Vin had no reason to stay. She'd slip into the night like the mist-form assassin she had fought with nothing but her coin pouch and her anonymity. She had survived for so long on so much less.

Louise threw her hands in the air and let out an exasperated sigh. "Alright."

Vin blinked. "What?" she said. Wardes stared at Louise, but he didn't say anything. He was the sort who said only what he meant to say.

"Alright," Louise said again. "This town was boring me anyway. I suppose we'll spend another night sleeping on a ship, but the sooner we reach Newcastle, the sooner we can all go home."

Her tone was flippant, as though it didn't matter to her one way or another. She turned and started walking toward the docks, and Vin followed right behind her.


A/n And here's another chapter. Once again, thank you Exiled Immortal for proof reading this, and thank you to Exiled Immortal and Pv2 for supporting me on .