Shadows of Self

Paperback Spotlight: Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

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Shadows of Self by Brandon SandersonWhen family obligations forced Waxillium Ladrian to forsake the frontier lands and return to the metropolis of his birth to take his place as head of a noble House, he little imagined that the crime-fighting skills acquired during twenty years in the dusty plains would be just as applicable in the big city. He soon learned that there too, just being a talented Twinborn —one who can use both Allomancy and Feruchemy, the dominant magical modes on Scadrial —would not suffice.

This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society will now face its first test by terrorism and assassination, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax, his eccentric sidekick Wayne, and brilliant, beautiful young Marasi, now officially part of the constabulary, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife can stop Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.

The paperback edition of Shadows of Self will become available October 4th. Please enjoy this excerpt.

1

SEVENTEEN YEARS LATER

Winsting smiled to himself as he watched the setting sun. It was an ideal evening to auction himself off.

“We have my saferoom ready?” Winsting asked, lightly gripping the balcony banister. “Just in case?”

“Yes, my lord.” Flog wore his silly Roughs hat along with a duster, though he’d never been outside of the Elendel Basin. The man was an excellent bodyguard, despite his terrible fashion sense, but Winsting made certain to Pull on the man’s emotions anyway, subtly enhancing Flog’s sense of loyalty. One could never be too careful.

“My lord?” Flog asked, glancing toward the chamber behind them. “They’re all here, my lord. Are you ready?”

Not turning away from the setting sun, Winsting raised a finger to hush the bodyguard. The balcony, in the Fourth Octant of Elendel, overlooked the canal and the Hub of the city—so he had a nice view of the Field of Rebirth. Long shadows stretched from the statues of the Ascendant Warrior and the Last Emperor in the green park where, according to fanciful legend, their corpses had been discovered following the Great Catacendre and the Final Ascension.

The air was muggy, slightly tempered by a cool breeze off Hammondar Bay a couple of miles to the west. Winsting tapped his fingers on the balcony railing, patiently sending out pulses of Allomantic power to shape the emotions of those in the room behind him. Or at least any foolish enough not to be wearing their aluminum-lined hats.

Any moment now …

Initially appearing as pinprick spots in the air, mist grew before him, spreading like frost across a window. Tendrils stretched and spun about one another, becoming streams—then rivers of motion, currents shifting and blanketing the city. Engulfing it. Consuming it.

“A misty night,” Flog said. “That’s bad luck, it is.”

“Don’t be a fool,” Winsting said, adjusting his cravat.

“He’s watching us,” Flog said. “The mists are his eyes, my lord. Sure as Ruin, that is.”

“Superstitious nonsense.” Winsting turned and strode into the room. Behind him, Flog shut the doors before the mists could seep into the party.

The two dozen people—along with the inevitable bodyguards—who mingled and chatted there were a select group. Not just important, but also very much at odds with one another, despite their deliberate smiles and meaningless small talk. He preferred to have rivals at events like this. Let them all see one another, and each know the cost of losing the contest for his favor.

Winsting stepped among them. Unfortunately many did wear hats, whose aluminum linings would protect them from emotional Allomancy—though he had personally assured each attendee that none of the others would have Soothers or Rioters with them. He’d said nothing of his own abilities, of course. So far as any of them knew, he wasn’t an Allomancer.

He glanced across the room to where Blome tended bar. The man shook his head. Nobody else in the room was burning any metals. Excellent.

Winsting stepped up to the bar, then turned and raised his hands to draw everyone’s attention. The gesture exposed the twinkling diamond cuff links he wore on his stiff white shirt. The settings were wooden, of course.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “welcome to our little auction. The bidding begins now, and it ends when I hear the offer I like most.”

He said nothing more; too much talk would kill the drama. Winsting took the drink one of his servers offered and stepped out to mingle, then hesitated as he looked over the crowd. “Edwarn Ladrian is not here,” he said softly. He refused to call the man by his silly moniker, Mister Suit.

“No,” Flog said.

“I thought you said everyone had arrived!”

“Everyone who said they were coming,” Flog said. He shuffled, uncomfortable.

Winsting pursed his lips, but otherwise hid his disappointment. He’d been certain his offer had intrigued Edwarn. Perhaps the man had bought out one of the other crime lords in the room. Something to consider.

Winsting made his way to the central table, which held the nominal centerpiece of the evening. It was a painting of a reclining woman; Winsting had painted it himself, and he was getting better.

The painting was worthless, but the men and woman in this room would still offer him huge sums for it.

The first one to approach him was Dowser, who ran most of the smuggling operations into the Fifth Octant. The three days of scrub on his cheeks was shadowed by a bowler that, conspicuously, he had not left in the cloakroom. A pretty woman on his arm and a sharp suit did little to clean up a man like Dowser. Winsting wrinkled his nose. Most everyone in the room was a despicable piece of trash, but the others had the decency not to look like it.

“It’s ugly as sin,” Dowser said, looking over the painting. “I can’t believe this is what you’re having us ‘bid’ on. A little cheeky, isn’t it?”

“And you’d rather I was completely forthright, Mister Dowser?” Winsting said. “You’d have me proclaim it far and wide? ‘Pay me, and in exchange you get my vote in the Senate for the next year’?”

Dowser glanced to the sides, as if expecting the constables to burst into the room at any moment.

Winsting smiled. “You’ll notice the shades of grey on her cheeks. A representation of the ashen nature of life in a pre-Catacendric world, hmmm? My finest work yet. Do you have an offer? To get the bidding started?”

Dowser said nothing. He would eventually make a bid. Each person in this room had spent weeks posturing before agreeing to this meeting. Half were crime lords like Dowser. The others were Winsting’s own counterparts, high lords and ladies from prominent noble houses, though no less corrupt than the crime lords.

“Aren’t you frightened, Winsting?” asked the woman on Dowser’s arm.

Winsting frowned. He didn’t recognize her. Slender, with short golden hair and a doe-eyed expression, she was uncommonly tall.

“Frightened, my dear?” Winsting asked. “Of the people in this room?”

“No,” she said. “That your brother will find out … what you do.”

“I assure you,” Winsting said. “Replar knows exactly what I am.”

“The governor’s own brother,” the woman said. “Asking for bribes.”

“If that truly surprises you, my dear,” Winsting said, “then you have lived too sheltered a life. Far bigger fish than I have been sold on this market. When the next catch arrives, perhaps you will see.”

That comment caught Dowser’s attention. Winsting smiled as he saw the gears clicking behind Dowser’s eyes. Yes, Winsting thought, I did just imply that my brother himself might be open to your bribery.Perhaps that would up the man’s offer.

Winsting moved over to select some shrimp and quiche from a server’s tray. “The woman with Dowser is a spy,” Winsting said softly to Flog, who was always at his elbow. “Perhaps in constabulary employ.”

Flog started. “My lord! We checked and double-checked each person attending.”

“Well you missed one,” Winsting whispered. “I’d bet my fortune on it. Follow her after the meeting. If she splits from Dowser for any reason, see that she meets with an accident.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“And Flog,” Winsting said, “do be straightforward about it. I won’t have you trying to find a place where the mists won’t be watching. Understand?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Excellent,” Winsting said, smiling broadly as he strolled over to Lord Hughes Entrone, cousin and confidant to the head of House Entrone.

Winsting spent an hour mingling, and slowly the bids started to come in. Some of the attendees were reluctant. They would rather have met him one-on-one, making their covert offers, then slipping back into Elendel’s underbelly. Crime lords and nobles alike, these all preferred to dance around a topic, not discuss it openly. But they did bid, and bid well. By the end of his first circuit of the room, Winsting had to forcibly contain his excitement. No longer would he have to limit his spending. If his brother could—

The gunshot was so unexpected, he at first assumed that one of the servers had broken something. But no. That crack was so sharp, so earsplitting. He’d never heard a gun fired indoors before; he hadn’t known just how stunning it could be.

He gaped, the drink tumbling from his fingers as he tried to find the source of the shot. Another followed, then another. It became a storm, various sides firing at one another in a cacophony of death.

Before he could cry for help, Flog had him by the arm, towing him toward the stairs down to the saferoom. One of his other bodyguards stumbled against the doorway, looking with wide eyes at the blood on his shirt. Winsting stared for too long at the dying man before Flog was able to tear him away and shove him into the stairwell.

“What’s happening?” Winsting finally demanded as a guard slammed the door behind them and locked it. The bodyguards hurried him down the dim stairway, which was weakly lit by periodic electric lights. “Who fired? What happened?”

“No way of knowing,” Flog said. Gunfire still sounded above. “Happened too fast.”

“Someone just started firing,” another guard said. “Might have been Dowser.”

“No, it was Darm,” another said. “I heard the first shot from his group.”

Either way, it was a disaster. Winsting saw his fortune dying a bloody death on the floor above them, and he felt sick as they finally reached the bottom of the stairs and a vaultlike door, which Flog pushed him through.

“I’m going to go back up,” Flog said, “see what I can salvage. Find out who caused this.”

Winsting nodded and shut the door, locking it from the inside. He settled into a chair to wait, fretting. The small bunker of a room had wine and other amenities, but he couldn’t be bothered. He wrung his hands. What would his brother say? Rusts! What would the papers say? He’d have to keep this quiet somehow.

Eventually a knock came at the door, and Winsting glanced through the peephole to see Flog. Behind him, a small force of bodyguards watched the stairwell. It seemed the gunfire had stopped, though from down here it had sounded only like faint popping.

Winsting opened the door. “Well?”

“They’re all dead.”

All of them?”

“Every last one,” Flog said, walking into the room.

Winsting sat heavily in his chair. “Maybe that’s good,” he said, searching for some glimmer of light in this dark disaster. “Nobody can implicate us. Maybe we can just slip away. Cover our tracks somehow?”

A daunting task. He owned this building. He’d be connected to these deaths. He’d need an alibi. Hell, he was going to have to go to his brother. This could cost him his seat, even if the general public never discovered what had happened. He slumped in his chair, frustrated. “Well?” he demanded. “What do you think?”

In response, a pair of hands grabbed Winsting by the hair, pulled his head back, and efficiently slit his exposed throat.

Copyright © 2015 by Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC

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