“There are those doubting the existence of my Allomancer.” He swallows, choking on nothing as the grip on his shoulder tightens. “Do you understand?”
“Yes, F- Master.” Another squeeze on his shoulder, directly on the bruise from only a few hours ago. He whimpers.
Ezra rolls his shoulders back, trying to seem at ease as he moves throughout the crowd. The large number of people unsettles him; he’s used to either keeping to himself indoors during the day or to roaming the streets alone at midnight, with only the mists as company. The crowd is stifling, their mass of unknown emotions pressing down on him like the water he’d been forced under in an attempt to Snap. It takes all his energy not to try and Soothe them all, but he knows that that’s not conducive to him getting through this (and through the next week) alive.
“If you fail this, if you act out before I have instructed you to do so, you know what will happen.”
“Of course, Master.”
He nearly avoids stumbling into a skaa carrying a tray with several goblets, almost apologizing before he catches himself.
Watch yourself, Father’ll kill you if he hears you apologized to a skaa. Even if you two aren’t so different.
The skaa gives a muted apology instead, but he’s already moving past, scanning the crowd for a way out of it before he suffocates. He finds it, restraining himself from bolting there, and barely resisting sagging in relief as he slumps into a chair at one of the small tables on the perimeter. Finally, he can breathe.
Lady Pryce slaps him, screaming about some mistake he’s made in the last week that’s only served to push their House farther to the brink of the Lord Ruler’s favor. She’s about to do so again when his father steps in between.
“If he appears like that in public, people will wonder,” he hisses. Huffing, she shoots him a glare he pretends not to notice as he hugs the wall. “Save his discipline for after.”
“Hey, I’m talking to you.”
He jumps at the voice, forcing his racing nerves to settle as he realizes his mistake. Ezra stands quickly, opening his mouth to apologize for sitting at the already-occupied table when the young woman shakes her head, abruptly grabbing his wrist and pulling him back down without ever standing herself. He has to consciously think about stopping himself from flinching back, but she doesn’t seem to notice. Her hair is dark, amber eyes sharp as she takes him in.
“I didn’t- didn’t mean to sit here, didn’t notice you, I can go--”
“Just stop rambling.” He shuts up immediately. “Look, you sitting here is just a further deterrent to the rest of the guys here. I don’t really care, as long as you don’t try anything, okay? Just be quiet.”
He gives a short, sharp nod, glancing over his shoulder to scan the crowd briefly. No sign of his father. Yet.
“So what’s your name? Don’t think I’ve seen you before.”
His head whips around to meet her gaze again. “E- Ezra,” he answers quickly.
“Ezra what? ”
“Bridger,” he answers hesitantly, blinking.
“Oh.” Her mouth twists slightly into a near-frown, and he stiffens. She can’t be seeing through him this quickly. “Sabine Wren,” she offers at long last.
He shakes her hand, silently confused at the callouses he feels on it before she breaks off the contact. She’s clearly a noble, maybe she’s also an Allowmancer? Maybe they’ve taught her how to defend herself in the mists?
Maybe she actually got a teacher, unlike him.
“Wren...don’t think I’ve heard that one before,” he replies at long last.
“Oh, it’s not in Luthadel. It’s...outside.” She gestures vaguely to the window behind them, and Ezra nods slowly. “I’m staying there at the moment because my father’s trying to work out a trade deal. My uncle sent me here, in case the deal works out, so I can get used to Luthadel.”
The story seems off to him. Maybe it’s the way she’s saying it or just that he genuinely hasn’t heard of House Wren, but it puts him on edge more. Its similarity to the story Pryce had fabricated for his presence at the party doesn’t help, either. He nods again.
“Yeah, I’m actually in a similar position...my, um, dad sent me up to my cousin’s father-in-law’s to, ah, ‘learn more about act- actual society.’ So.”
Sabine makes an odd sound, eyes glittering in a way that makes him think she’s withholding a laugh. “Ah.”
“Yeah…” he responds lamely, resisting the urge to run a hand through his now-shortened hair.
“I thought I told you to cut this mess a week ago.”
“I- I guess I didn’t,” he says in a weak attempt at defiance. It only earns him a rough shove between the shoulder blades as he’s pushed to the ground, breath catching.
At the call he jumps, turning though he doesn’t need to see to know who called. He turns back to Sabine, standing. “I- I have to go--”
She nods, gesturing. “By all means.” He nods as well, turning and re-entering the crowd.
He starts burning the metals he ingested earlier, saving copper for last as usual. As he prepares to stop Seeking, however, he catches a flicker of something from behind. Zinc, maybe?
He shrugs it off as the crowd envelopes him again. Sabine hadn’t struck him as a Rioter. But he has much more important things to worry about than some girl from one of the smaller noble houses. Like surviving tonight. And the next week.
He burns his pewter more intensely.