Home > Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5)

Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5)
Brandon Sanderson

PROLOGUE

Waxillium Ladrian, lawman for hire, swung off his horse and turned to face the saloon.

“Aw,” the kid said, hopping down from his own horse. “You didn’t catch your spur on the stirrup and trip.”

“That happened once,” Waxillium said.

“Yeah, but it was super funny.”

“Stay with the horses,” Waxillium said, tossing the kid his reins. “Don’t tie up Destroyer. I might need her.”

“Sure.”

“And don’t steal anything.”

The kid—round-faced and seventeen, with barely a hint of stubble on his face despite weeks of trying—nodded with a solemn expression. “I promise I won’t swipe nothin’ of yours, Wax.”

Waxillium sighed. “That’s not what I said.”

“But…”

“Just stay with the horses. And try not to talk to anyone.” Waxillium shook his head, pushing into the saloon, feeling a spring in his step. He was filling his metalmind a smidge, decreasing his weight by about ten percent. Common practice for him these days, ever since he’d run out of stored weight during one of his first bounty hunts a few months back.

The saloon, of course, was dirty. Practically everything out here in the Roughs was dusty, worn, or broken. Five years out here, and he still wasn’t used to that. True, he’d spent most of those five years trying to make a living as a clerk, moving farther and farther from population centers in an effort to avoid getting recognized. But in the Roughs, even the larger population centers were dirtier than those back in Elendel.

And here, on the fringes of populated lands, dirty didn’t even begin to describe life. The men he passed in the saloon sat slumped low to their tables, hardly looking up. That was another thing about the Roughs. Both plants and people were more prickly, and they grew lower to the ground. Even the fanlike acacias, which did stretch high at times, had this fortified, hardy sense about them.

He scanned the room, hands on hips, hoping he’d draw attention. He didn’t, which nagged at him. Why wear a fine city suit, with a lavender cravat, if nobody was going to notice? At least they weren’t snickering, like those in the last saloon.

Hand on his gun, Waxillium sauntered up to the bar. The barkeep was a tall man who looked to have some Terris blood in him, from that willowy build, though his refined cousins in the Basin would be horrified to see him chewing on a greasy chicken leg with one hand while serving a mug with the other. Waxillium tried not to be nauseated; the local notion of hygiene was another thing he wasn’t yet accustomed to. Out here, the fastidious ones were those who remembered to wipe their hands on their trousers between picking their nose and shaking your hand.

Waxillium waited. Then waited some more. Then cleared his throat. Finally, the barkeep lumbered over to him.

“Yeah?”

“I’m looking for a man,” Waxillium said under his breath. “Goes by the name of Granite Joe.”

“Don’t know him,” the barkeep said.

“Don’t— He’s only the single most notorious outlaw in these parts.”

“Don’t know him.”

“But—”

“It’s safer to not know men like Joe,” the barkeep said, then took a bite of his chicken leg. “But I have a friend.”

“That’s surprising.”

The barkeep glared at him.

“Ahem,” Waxillium said. “Sorry. Continue.”

“My friend might be willing to know people that others won’t. It will take a little time to get him. You’ll pay?”

“I’m a lawman,” Waxillium said. “I do what I do in the name of justice.”

The barkeep blinked. Slowly, deliberately, as if it required conscious effort. “So … you’ll pay?”

“Yes, I’ll pay,” Waxillium said with a sigh, mentally counting what he’d already spent hunting Granite Joe. He couldn’t afford to go in the hole again. Destroyer needed a new saddle, and Waxillium went through suits frightfully quick out here.

“Good,” the barkeep said, gesturing for Waxillium to follow. They wove through the room, around tables and past the pianoforte, which sat beside one of the pillars, between two tables. It didn’t look like it had been played in ages, and someone had set a row of dirty mugs on it. Next to the stairs, they entered a small room. It smelled dusty.

“Wait,” the barkeep said, then shut the door and left.

Waxillium folded his arms, eyeing the room’s lone chair. The white paint was flaking and peeling; he didn’t doubt that if he sat down, he’d end up with half of it stuck to his trousers.

He was growing more comfortable with the people of the Roughs, if not their particular habits. These few months chasing bounties had shown him that there were good men and women out here, mixed among the rest. Yet they all had this stubborn fatalism about them. They didn’t trust authority, and often shunned lawmen, even if it meant letting a man like Granite Joe continue to ravage and plunder. Without the bounties set by the railroad and mining companies, nothing would ever—

The window shook. Waxillium stopped, then grabbed the gun at his side and burned steel. The metal created a sharp warmth within him, like the feeling after drinking something too hot. Blue lines sprang up pointing from his chest toward nearby sources of metal, several of which were just outside the shuttered window. Others pointed downward. This saloon had a basement, which was unusual out in the Roughs.

He could Push on those lines if he needed to, shoving on the metal they connected to. For now, he just watched as a small rod slipped between the window casements, then lifted, raising the latch that held them closed. The window rattled, then swung open.

A young woman in dark trousers hopped in, rifle in one hand. Lean, with a squarish face, she carried an unlit cigar in her teeth and looked vaguely familiar to Waxillium. She stood up, apparently satisfied, then turned to close the window. As she did, she saw him for the first time.

“Hell!” she said, scrambling backward, dropping her cigar, raising her rifle.

Waxillium raised his own gun and prepared his Allomancy, wishing he’d found a way to protect himself from bullets. He could Push on metal, yes, but he wasn’t fast enough to stop gunfire, unless he Pushed on the gun before the trigger was pulled.

“Hey,” the woman said, looking through the rifle sights. “Aren’t you that guy? The one who killed Peret the Black?”

“Waxillium Ladrian,” he said. “Lawman for hire.”

“You’re kidding. That’s how you introduce yourself?”

“Sure. Why not?”

She didn’t answer, instead looking away from her rifle, studying him for a few moments. Finally she said, “A cravat? Really?”

“It’s kind of my thing,” Waxillium said. “The gentleman bounty hunter.”

“Why would a bounty hunter need a ‘thing’ in the first place?”

“It’s important to have a reputation,” Waxillium said, raising his chin. “The outlaws all have them; people have heard of men like Granite Joe from one side of the Roughs to the other. Why shouldn’t I do the same?”

“Because it paints a target on your head.”

“Worth the danger,” Waxillium said. “But speaking of targets…” He waved his gun, then nodded toward hers.

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