In Luthadel, not even death was allowed to disturb the decadent pleasure of the Noble Houses. After all, death meant a redistribution of someone's power, and there were always those eager to seize upon it. So even this funeral reception was as delightful a party as any of the Nobles' festivities, ignoring the steady rain of ash outside and the skaa they forced to work clearing it, and the world at large. Men in multi-layered suits danced with ladies in garishly-colored dresses with enough fabric to clothe a dozen skaa, while Terrisman attendants stood by with food and drink, and among them all, moved a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Or perhaps he was a sheep in wolf's clothing. He considered the matter privately as he sidestepped whirling dancers, his smile always pleasant at minimum. Every individual here had their own agendas, both in the name of their houses and themselves, and all for power that was trivial compared to their Lord Ruler's. He wondered just how many might be tapping into Allomantic powers all around him at that moment. He had no such power, although considering his blood he may have some latent talent. But he had no desire to find out; in fact if he were honest with himself, he felt rather satisfied to do as much as he did without them.
He never gave anyone who recognized more than a passing greeting, until he heard the name of his guise called out over the crowd and the dancing and the music in a shrill voice.
"Lysander! Oh, Lysander!"
Wincing internally, he put on a face of friendly interest and looked about. He knew the voice and had no wish to respond, but the way she'd called attention to him would have made it seem rude. Sure enough, he caught sight of a plump young woman in an orange dress with a man accompanying her, standing quite precariously on her tip-toes to wave at him.
He smiled open-mouthed, feigning enthusiasm as he made his way over indirectly, next to the bottom of grand staircase's balustrade. He took care to step into the ornate railing's shadow to keep anyone else from making note of him in such a way before greeting her.
"Good evening, Portia!" He made sure to annunciate loudly the way she did. "How have you been?"
The woman squealed excitedly, thrusting her escort's hand forward to shake. "Wonderful! This is Reginald, of House Hastings. Reggie, this is the man I was talking about!"
'Lysander' extended a hand. "Charmed, I'm sure. And, what exactly would she be telling you about me?" He asked, only half-jesting.
This other man's mouth had only just opened when he was overridden by Portia's chuckling. "Oh, plenty enough. Go on, Reggie, fetch him a drink! And bring me back some of that sponge cake!"
Her escort's eyes darted between the two of them for a moment, and then he smiled politely and turned away, heading for the buffet. The man watched him go, shaking his head almost imperceptibly. His work at infiltrating this party was amateur, a man of House Hastings wouldn't have even considered Portia as a worthwhile prospect. Not that he wasted much sympathy on most of the nobility, but this girl seemed so . . . weak, to him, compared with the man conning her, that she didn't deserve to be played in such a way.
Portia still smiled blithely. "He's a smart catch, isn't he? And . . ." she leaned in so only he could hear, "a Misting. A Rioter, matter of fact. Gives me a bit of extra enjoyment when we go upstairs." She smiled naughtily, and he joined her in a scandalous laugh.
He took the moment to survey the ballroom, particularly around the coffin of the deceased lady being honored. The body had actually been buried days ago; this reception was merely another reason for House Gabor to flaunt its recent success. He spotted what he was looking for: a woman in a black dress accepting the condolences of one woman after another. There was something about the scene, though, that he hadn't anticipated. The lady in black was far larger than even Portia was. He scowled briefly, but the cordial mask resurfaced.
The man masquerading as Reginald, a cliché name in his opinion, returned with a plate and two glasses, quickly taking a draught of his after he'd handed off the other items. 'Lysander' guessed it was to steady his nerves, and he took his own, smug sip. Pity he wasn't a Soother.
"Well," he said, lowering the glass from his lips, "If you'll excuse me, I'm just going to get some fresh air for a moment."
Both of them smiled and nodded, and he spun around the bottom of the balustrade, making his way quickly up the staircase. Neither of them realized the irony of going outside for fresh air in this ash-choked land. But they didn't give it a second thought, going back to their parties and schemes, and so did he, stepping out onto a vacant balcony. All was silent for a moment, and then something moved from the shadows behind the side of the doorframe.
"What is it, Wes?"
The figure became visible as Wes' eyes adjusted to the dark at their own pace, unaided by Allomancy. There stood a woman in a black dress, who looked strangely similar to the black-garbed woman inside, only much slimmer, lean muscles just visible with the dress' low neckline.
"We've hit a snag, MeLaan."
"A snag?" the Kandra demanded. "Something you overlooked?"
Wes spread his arms wide. "How was I to know her twin was fat?"
That had been the plan. There was unrest among the nobles, and when one of House Gabor's twin heiresses died of a sudden and mysterious illness, there were parties who paid to find out the real details. So Wes had devised something clever, as he always did. Kandra like MeLaan were shape-shifters, but required a body to form the shape they'd impersonate. So use the body of the dead twin to impersonate the live twin.
The first step had been to acquire the body of the deceased Lady Gabor. That had gone easily, although Wes had gotten more than a few glares from MeLaan and Beck, the crew's Pewterarm, when he wouldn't help them dig up the grave. It had been raining after all, and he wasn't about to set foot in the muddy hole they'd created. Once MeLaan had taken the necessary time to assume the new form, they were ready to infiltrate her own memorial service.
MeLaan sighed irritably. "You should have done more research beforehand. Or this wouldn't be happening, as usual."
Wes shrugged, thinking. It was a flaw of his. He came up with brilliant concepts, though he counted far too much on chance. But that was what separated men like him from amateurs like 'Reginald'. He could adapt, and improvise when it was needed. Like right now.
"Well, then. C'mon." He said, setting his glass on the balcony rail and extending his arm.
She shrank back into the shadow of the door. "Wait! What am I going to do?"
Wes put on his most charming smile and winked. "You're going to be my date."
The pair walked quickly along the inside balcony over the ballroom, not wanting the other Lady Gabor to catch sight of her supposedly-dead twin. The guards were supposed to keep the guests from wandering through the house beyond the ballroom, but they were more than happy with stepping aside for the Gabor sisters' distant cousin. They stepped quickly through each hall; it was unlikely any of House Gabor wouldn't be in attendance downstairs, but if one of the house's members happened to bump into them, their deception would be over very quickly.
All they needed to do was find the departed Noble Lady's chambers, and they'd find what Wes was looking for. But the trouble with Noble Houses was they had so many damn rooms. Each passage was the same length, and had the same identical doors lining them. No one was about, and Wes began to feel as if they'd get lost in this building when they happened upon a Skaa maid just exiting a room.
She looked up at them in surprise, and by her disheveled clothes Wes imagined there had been someone else inside. He suppressed a smile as MeLaan asked her where the Lady's rooms had been, wondering which Gabor had a mistress. Soon, they were walking again, the maid hurrying in the other direction.
"Do you think she's the only mistress the unspecified Mr. Gabor has?" He chortled.
MeLaan shot him a stern glance. It wasn't petulant annoyance, her voice held a very serious tone. "You think it's funny? That woman is more than likely to be killed once whatever noble in there has had his fun with her."
"You're right." Wes' smile dropped immediately. "I'm sorry."
She shook her head reproachfully. "For all the things you want to do to the nobility, you're still thinking like one. How are you ever going to change anything like that?"
He didn't want to think about it at the moment. "Can we just focus on our own potential troubles for the moment, and get this job over with before we're given away?"
MeLaan said nothing, simply looking forward again until they approached the wing the maid had indicated, and found themselves before two different, identical doors.
"Which one's which?" MeLaan asked.
Wes stepped towards one. "No time for searching one after the other. I'll take this one."
"Alright. Use the window to get around if you have the wrong one." MeLaan was just stepping towards her door as Wes got his open with the set of hardwood lockpicks he always had, disguised as the arms of the glasses he didn't need, and she was lost to his sight. Again, his eyes had to adjust to darkness as he closed the door behind him, the room's lamps sitting dark. He pulled his coat closer as he realized how cold it was, and that meant this room hadn't been used in a while and wasn't intended to soon. Which probably meant he was in the right place.
His first move was to go to the window and unlock it, in case MeLaan needed to come through. Then he moved about the dark shapes of lavish chairs and a four-poster bed, overturning blankets and casting aside empty drawers without hesitation, searching for something.
At last he found it, in a trunk at the foot of the grand bed. It was a folded cloth garment, the gray material simple and cheap for a noble's tastes, and the thousand overlapping streamers made it look almost like it had been shredded.
This was a Mistborn cloak.
He knew it. It hadn't been a sudden illness that took Lady Mariel Gabor. She had been the Mistborn who'd attacked House Erikell a week ago, and who had purportedly been grievously wounded. It also meant Gabor was weakened at the moment, which was why it had gone through such effort for the reception: in an effort to make more connections. Gabor was low in the standings and had precious few Mistborn. Mariel's loss would leave the house weakened, and that was something certain people would want to know.
Just then the door rattled, and Wes froze. It flung open, revealing two back-lit figures in armor. The skaa guardsmen stared into the room for a split second before he registered in their minds, and muttering shocked curses, lowered the sharpened ends of wood staves at him.
Wes was just mustering the good sense to run when the window sprang open. Curling tendrils of mist invaded from the outside, and standing as a dark shadow against the gray night was a rather confused-looking Kandra . . . who happened to be in the guise of a dead woman.
"Look out!" Wes shouted. "It's the ghost of Lady Gabor, reborn as a Mistwraith! Run, you fools, RUN!"
These were men in the service of the nobility, but they'd still been born and raised as superstitious skaa. Both of them screamed in terror and pushed past each other for the door, leaving Wes to have his soul devoured by the 'Mistwraith', or whatever they believed the creatures did. The door slammed closed behind them.
Wes stood still a moment more in the once-again darkened room before uttering, "I can't believe that worked."
"Neither can I." MeLaan agreed. "Did you find anything?"
"Yes. But we have to leave, now, before those idiots come back."
MeLaan nodded and ushered him over to join her at the window. Fortunately, they didn't fear the mists, and shuffled along the ledge until they got as close as they could to a skeletal tree devoid of leaves, and jumped into its branches to climb down. They fled across the keep grounds as a commotion began inside, arriving at the western wall gate as planned. Two men normally guarded the door, but both had been knocked out and moved somewhere discreet by Beck. The big man nodded as they reached him.
With their mission completed, the three of them ran out into the night as three more dark, anonymous figures in the mists.