Main 3-The Hero of Ages

3-The Hero of Ages

Categories: Literature\\Fantasy
Year: 2008
Language: english
Pages: 572
Series: Mistborn #3
File: EPUB, 947 KB
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Brandon Sanderson
The Well of Ascension
The Hero of Ages

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events
portrayed in this novel are either products of the author's imagination
or are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2008 by Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC
All rights reserved.
Edited by Moshe Feder
Maps and interior art by Isaac Stewart
A Tor Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Tor® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
          Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
          Sanderson, Brandon.
              The hero of ages / Brandon Sanderson
                  p. cm.—(Mistborn ; bk. 3)
              "A Tom Doherty Associates book."
              ISBN-13: 978-1-4299-6034-2
              ISBN-10: 1-4299-6034-5
              I. Title.
              PS3619.A533 H47 2008
0    9    8    7    6    5    4    3    2    1
Who can explain to any who ask
What it's like to have a brother
Who spends most of his time dreaming.
(Thanks for putting up with me.)
PART ONE: Legacy of the Survivor
PART TWO: Cloth and Glass
PART THREE: The Broken Skies
PART FOUR: Beautiful Destroyer
1. Metals Quick Reference Chart
2. Names and Terms
3. Summary of Book One
4. Summary of Book Two
As always, I owe a whole lot of people a whole lot of thanks for helping make this book what it is today. First and foremost, my editor and my agent—Moshe Feder and Joshua Bilmes—are to be noted for their exceptional ability to help a project reach its fullest potential. Also, my wonderful wife, Emily, has been a great support and aid to the writing process.
As before, Isaac Stewart ( did the fine map work, chapter symbols, and circle of Allomantic metals. I truly appreciate Jon Foster's artwork as well; this time it's resulted in my personal favorite of the three Mistborn covers. Thanks to Larry Yoder for being awesome, and Dot Lin for her publicity work for me at Tor. Denis Wong and Stacy Hague-Hill for their assistance to my editor, and the—as always—marvelous Irene Gallo for her art direction.
Alpha readers for this book include Paris Elliott, Emily Sanderson, Krista Olsen, Ethan Skarstedt, Eric J. Ehlers, Eric "More Snooty" James Stone, Jillena O'Brien, C. Lee Player, Bryce Cundick/Moore, Janci Patterson, Heather Kirby, Sally Taylor, Bradley Reneer, Steve "Not Bookstore Guy Anymore" Diamond, General Micah Demoux, Zachary "Spook" J. Kaveney, Alan Layton, Janette Layton, Kaylynn ZoBell, Nate Hatfield, Matthew Chambers, Kristina Kugler, Daniel A. Wells, The Indivisible Peter Ahlstrom, Marianne Pease, Nicole Westenskow, Nathan Wood, John David Payne, Tom Gregory, Rebecca Dorff, Michelle Crowley, Emily Nelson, Natalia Judd, Chelise Fox, Nathan Crenshaw, Madison Van-DenBerghe, Rachel Dunn, and Ben OleSoon.
In addition I'm thankf1ul to Jordan Sanderson—to whom this book is dedicated—for his tireless work on the Web site. Jeff Creer, also, did a great job with the art for Stop by and check it out!

His hand trembled as he tried to summon the strength to make himself reach up and pull the spike free from his back and end his monstrous life. He had given up on trying to break free. Three years. Three years as an Inquisitor, three years imprisoned in his own thoughts. Those years had proven that there was no escape. Even now, his mind clouded.
And then It took control. The world seemed to vibrate around him; then suddenly he could see clearly. Why had he struggled? Why had he worried? All was as it should be.
He stepped forward. Though he could no longer see as normal men did—after all, he had large steel spikes driven point-first through his eyes—he could sense the room around him. The spikes protruded from the back of his skull; if he reached up to touch the back of his head, he could feel the sharp points. There was no blood.
The spikes gave him power. Everything was outlined in fine blue Allomantic lines, highlighting the world. The room was of modest size, and several companions—also outlined in blue, the Allomantic lines pointing at the metals contained in their very blood—stood with Marsh. Each one had spikes through his eyes.
Each one, that is, except for the man tied to the table in front of him. Marsh smiled, taking a spike off of the table beside him, then hefting it. His prisoner wore no gag. That would have stopped the screams.
"Please," the prisoner whispered, trembling. Even a Terrisman steward would break down when confronted by his own violent death. The man struggled weakly. He was in a very awkward position, as he had been tied to the table on top of another person. The table had been designed that way, with depressions to allow for the body underneath.
"What is it you want?" the Terrisman asked. "I can tell you no more about the Synod!"
Marsh fingered the brass spike, feeling its tip. There was work to do, but he hesitated, relishing the pain and terror in the man's voice. Hesitated so that he could . . .
Marsh grabbed control of his own mind. The room's scents lost their sweetness, and instead reeked with the stench of blood and death. His joy turned to horror. His prisoner was a Keeper of Terris—a man who had worked his entire life for the good of others. Killing him would be not only a crime, but a tragedy. Marsh tried to take command, tried to force his arm up and around to grab the linchpin spike from his back—its removal would kill him.
Yet, It was too strong. The force. Somehow, it had control over Marsh—and it needed him and the other Inquisitors to be its hands. It was free—Marsh could still feel it exulting in that—but something kept it from affecting the world too much by itself. An opposition. A force that lay over the land like a shield.
It was not yet complete. It needed more. Something else . . . something hidden. And M1arsh would find that something, bring it to his master. The master that Vin had freed. The entity that had been imprisoned within the Well of Ascension.
It called itself Ruin.
Marsh smiled as his prisoner began to cry; then he stepped forward, raising the spike in his hand. He placed it against the whimpering man's chest. The spike would need to pierce the man's body, passing through the heart, then be driven into the body of the Inquisitor tied below. Hemalurgy was a messy art.
That was why it was so much fun. Marsh picked up a mallet and began to pound.
I am, unfortunately, the Hero of Ages.
FATREN SQUINTED UP AT THE RED SUN, which hid behind its perpetual screen of dark haze. Black ash fell lightly from the sky, as it did most days lately. The thick flakes fell straight, the air stagnant and hot, without even a hint of a breeze to lighten Fatren's mood. He sighed, leaning back against the earthen bulwark, looking over Vetitan. His town.
"How long?" he asked.
Druffel scratched his nose. His face was stained black with ash. He hadn't given much thought to hygiene lately. Of course, considering the stress of the last few months, Fatren knew that he himself wasn't much to look at either.
"An hour, maybe," Druffel said, spitting into the dirt of the bulwark.
Fatren sighed, staring up at the falling ash. "Do you think it's true, Druffel? What people are saying?"
"What?" Druffel asked. "That the world is ending?"
Fatren nodded.
"Don't know," Druffel said. "Don't really care."
"How can you say that?"
Druffel shrugged, scratching himself. "Soon as those koloss arrive, I'll be dead. That's pretty much the end of the world for me."
Fatren fell silent. He didn't like to voice his doubts; he was supposed to be the strong one. When the lords had left the town—a farming community, slightly more urban than a northern plantation—Fatren had been the one who had convinced the skaa to go ahead with their planting. Fatren had been the one to keep the press gangs away. In a time when most villages and plantations had lost every able-bodied man to one army or another, Vetitan still had a working population. It had cost much of their crops in bribes, but Fatren had kept the people safe.
"The mists didn't leave until noon today," Fatren said quietly. "They're staying later and later. You've seen the crops, Druff. They're not doing well—not enough sunlight, I'd guess. We won't have food to eat this winter."
"We won't last 'til winter," Druffel said. "Won't last 'til nightfall."
The sad thing—the thing that was really disheartening—was that Druffel had once been the optimist. Fatren hadn't heard his brother laugh in months. That laughter had been Fatren's favorite sound.
Even the Lord Ruler's mills weren't able to grind Druff's laughter out of him, Fatren thought. But these last two y1ears have.
"Fats!" a voice called. "Fats!"
Fatren looked up as a young boy scrambled along the side of the bulwark. They'd barely finished the fortification—it had been Druffel's idea, back before he'd really given up. Their town contained some seven thousand people, which made it fairly large. It had taken a great deal of work to surround the entire thing with a defensive mound.
Fatren had barely a thousand real soldiers—it had been very hard to gather that many from such a small population—with maybe another thousand men who were too young, too old, or too unskilled to fight well. He didn't really know how big the koloss army was, but it was bound to be larger than two thousand. A bulwark was going to be of very little use.
The boy—Sev—finally puffed up to Fatren. "Fats!" Sev said. "Someone's coming!"
"Already?" Fatren asked. "Druff said the koloss were still a while away!"
"Not a koloss, Fats," the boy said. "A man. Come see!"
Fatren turned to Druff, who wiped his nose and shrugged. They followed Sev around the inside of the bulwark, toward the front gate. Ash and dust swirled on the packed earth, piling in corners, drifting. There hadn't been much time for cleaning lately. The women had to work the fields while the men trained and made war preparations.
War preparations. Fatren told himself that he had a force of two thousand "soldiers," but what he really had were a thousand skaa peasants with swords. They'd had two years of training, true, but they had very little real fighting experience.
A group of men clustered around the front gates, standing on the bulwark or leaning against its side. Maybe I was wrong to spend so much of our resources training soldiers, Fatren thought. If those thousand men had worked the mines instead, we'd have some ore for bribes.
Except, koloss didn't take bribes. They just killed. Fatren shuddered, thinking of Garthwood. That city had been bigger than his own, but fewer than a hundred survivors had made their way to Vetitan. That had been three months ago. He'd hoped, irrationally, that the koloss would be satisfied with destroying that city.
He should have known better. Koloss were never satisfied.
Fatren climbed up to the top of the bulwark, and soldiers in patched clothing and bits of leather made way for him. He peered through the falling ash across a dark landscape that looked as if it were blanketed in deep black snow.
A lone rider approached, wearing a dark, hooded cloak.
"What do you think, Fats?" one of the soldiers asked. "Koloss scout?"
Fatren snorted. "Koloss wouldn't send a scout, especially not a human one."
"He has a horse," Druffel said with a grunt. "We could use another of those." The city only had five. All were suffering from malnutrition.
"Merchant," one of the soldiers said.
"No wares," Fatren said. "And it would take a brave merchant to travel these parts alone."
"I've never seen a refugee with a horse," one of the men said. He raised a bow, looking at Fatren.
Fatren shook his head. Nobody fired as the stranger rode up, moving at an unhurried pace. He stopped his mount directly before the city gates. Fatren was prou1d of those. Real, true wooden gates mounted in the earthen bulwark. He'd gotten both wood and fine stone from the lord's manor at the city center.
Very little of the stranger was visible beneath the thick, dark cloak he wore to protect himself from the ash. Fatren looked over the top of the bulwark, studying the stranger, and then he glanced up at his brother, shrugging. The ash fell silently.
The stranger leaped from his horse.
He shot straight upward, as if propelled from beneath, cloak whipping free as he soared. Underneath it, he wore a uniform of brilliant white.
Fatren cursed, jumping backward as the stranger crested the top of the bulwark and landed on the top of the wooden gate itself. The man was an Allomancer. A nobleman. Fatren had hoped those would all stick to their squabbles in the North and leave his people in peace.
Or, at least, their peaceful deaths.
The newcomer turned. He wore a short beard, and had his dark hair shorn close. "All right, men," he said, striding across the top of the gate with an unnatural sense of balance, "we don't have much time. Let's get to work." He stepped off the gate onto the bulwark. Immediately, Druffel pulled his sword on the newcomer.
The sword jerked from Druffel's hand, yanked into the air by an unseen force. The stranger snatched the weapon as it passed his head. He flipped the sword around, inspecting it. "Good steel," he said, nodding. "I'm impressed. How many of your soldiers are this well equipped?" He flipped the weapon in his hand, handing it back toward Druffel hilt-first.
Druffel glanced at Fatren, confused.
"Who are you, stranger?" Fatren demanded with as much courage as he could muster. He didn't know a lot about Allomancy, but he was pretty certain this man was Mistborn. The stranger could probably kill everyone atop the bulwark with barely a thought.
The stranger ignored the question, turning to scan the city. "This bulwark goes around the entire perimeter of the city?" he asked, turning toward one of the soldiers.
"Um . . . yes, my lord," the man said.
"How many gates are there?"
"Just the one, my lord."
"Open the gate and bring my horse in," the newcomer said. "I assume you have stables?"
"Yes, my lord," the soldier said.
Well, Fatren thought with dissatisfaction as the soldier ran off, this newcomer certainly knows how to command people. Fatren's soldier didn't even pause to think that he was obeying a stranger without asking for permission. Fatren could already see the other soldiers straightening a bit, losing their wariness. This newcomer talked like he expected to be obeyed, and the soldiers were responding. This wasn't a nobleman like the ones Fatren had known back when he was a household servant at the lord's manor. This man was different.
The stranger continued his contemplation of the city. Ash fell on his beautiful white uniform, and Fatren thought it a shame to see the garment being dirtied. The newcomer nodded to himself, then began to walk down the side of the bulwark.
"Wait," Fatren said, causing the stranger to pause. "Who are you?"
The newcomer turned, meeting Fatren's eyes. "My name is Elend Venture. I'm your emperor."
With that, the man turned and continued down the embankment. The soldiers made way for him; then many of them followed behind.
Fatren glanced at his brother.
"Emperor?" Druffel muttered, then spat.
Fatren agreed with the sentiment. What to do? He'd never fought an Allomancer before; he wasn't even certain how to begin. The "emperor" had certainly disarmed Druffel easily enough.
"Organize the people of the city," the stranger—Elend Venture—said from ahead. "The koloss will come from the north—they'll ignore the gate, climbing over the bulwark. I want the children and the elderly concentrated in the southernmost part of the city. Pack them together in as few buildings as possible."
"What good will that do?" Fatren demanded. He hurried after the "emperor"—he didn't really see any other option.
"The koloss are most dangerous when they're in a blood frenzy," Venture said, continuing to walk. "If they do take the city, then you want them to spend as long as possible searching for your people. If the koloss frenzy wears off while they search, they'll grow frustrated and turn to looting. Then your people might be able to sneak away without being chased."
Venture paused, then turned to meet Fatren's eyes. The stranger's expression was grim. "It's a slim hope. But, it's something." With that, he resumed his pace, walking down the city's main thoroughfare.
From behind, Fatren could hear the soldiers whispering. They'd all heard of a man named Elend Venture. He was the one who had seized power in Luthadel after the Lord Ruler's death over two years before. News from up north was scarce and unreliable, but most of it mentioned Venture. He had fought off all rivals to the throne, even killing his own father. He'd hidden his nature as a Mistborn, and was supposedly married to the very woman who had slain the Lord Ruler. Fatren doubted that such an important man—one who was likely more legend than fact—had made his way to such a humble city in the Southern Dominance, especially unaccompanied. Even the mines weren't worth much anymore. The stranger had to be lying.
But . . . he was obviously an Allomancer . . .
Fatren hurried to keep up with the stranger. Venture—or whoever he was—paused in front of a large structure near the center of the city. The old offices of the Steel Ministry. Fatren had ordered the doors and windows boarded up.
"You found the weapons in there?" Venture asked, turning toward Fatren.
Fatren stood for a moment. Then, finally, shook his head. "From the lord's mansion."
"He left weapons behind?" Venture asked with surprise.
"We think he intended to come back for them," Fatren said. "The soldiers he left eventually deserted, joining a passing army. They took what they could carry. We scavenged the rest."
Venture nodded to himself, rubbing his bearded chin in thought as he stared at the old Ministry building. It was tall and ominous, despite—or perhaps because of—its disuse. "Your men look well trained. I didn't expect that. Do any of them have battle experience?"
Druffel snorted quietly, indicating that he thought this stranger had no business being so nosy.
"Our men have fought enough to be dangerous, stranger," Fatren said. "Some bandits thought to take rule of the city from us1. They assumed we were weak, and would be easily cowed."
If the stranger saw the words as a threat, he didn't show it. He simply nodded. "Have any of you fought koloss?"
Fatren shared a look with Druffel. "Men who fight koloss don't live, stranger," he finally said.
"If that were true," Venture said, "I'd be dead a dozen times over." He turned to face the growing crowd of soldiers and townspeople. "I'll teach you what I can about fighting koloss, but we don't have much time. I want captains and squad leaders organized at the city gate in ten minutes. Regular soldiers are to form up in ranks along the bulwark—I'll teach the squad leaders and captains a few tricks, then they can carry the tips to their men."
Some of the soldiers moved, but—to their credit—most of them stayed where they were. The newcomer didn't seem offended that his orders weren't obeyed. He stood quietly, staring down the armed crowd. He didn't seem frightened, nor did he seem angry or disapproving. He just seemed . . . regal.
"My lord," one of the soldier captains finally asked. "Did you . . . bring an army with you to help us?"
"I brought two, actually," Venture said. "But we don't have time to wait for them." He met Fatren's eyes. "You wrote and asked for my help. And, as your liege, I've come to give it. Do you still want it?"
Fatren frowned. He'd never asked this man—or any lord—for help. He opened his mouth to object, but paused. He'll let me pretend that I sent for him, Fatren thought. Act like this was part of the plan all along. I could give up rule here without looking like a failure.
We're going to die. But, looking into this man's eyes, I can almost believe that we have a chance.
"I . . . didn't expect you to come alone, my lord," Fatren found himself saying. "I was surprised to see you."
Venture nodded. "That is understandable. Come, let's talk tactics while your soldiers gather."
"Very well," Fatren said. As he stepped forward, however, Druffel caught his arm.
"What are you doing?" his brother hissed. "You sent for this man? I don't believe it."
"Gather the soldiers, Druff," Fatren said.
Druffel stood for a moment, then swore quietly and stalked away. He didn't look like he had any intention of gathering the soldiers, so Fatren waved for two of his captains to do it. That done, he joined Venture, and the two walked back toward the gates, Venture ordering a few soldiers to walk ahead of them and keep people back so that he and Fatren could speak more privately. Ash continued to fall from the sky, dusting the street black, clustering atop the city's stooped, one-story buildings.
"Who are you?" Fatren asked quietly.
"I am who I said," Venture said.
"I don't believe you."
"But you trust me," Venture said.
"No. I just don't want to argue with an Allomancer."
"That's good enough, for now," Venture said. "Look, friend, you have ten thousand koloss marching on your city. You need whatever help you can get."
Ten thousand? Fatren thought, feeling stupefied.
"You're in charge of this ci1ty, I assume?" Venture asked.
Fatren shook out of his stupor. "Yes," he said. "My name is Fatren."
"All right, Lord Fatren, we—"
"I'm no lord," Fatren said.
"Well, you just became one," Venture said. "You can choose a surname later. Now, before we continue, you need to know my conditions for helping you."
"What kind of conditions?"
"The nonnegotiable kind," Venture said. "If we win, you'll swear fealty to me."
Fatren frowned, stopping in the street. Ash fell around him. "So that's it? You saunter in before a fight, claiming to be some high lord, so you can take credit for our victory? Why should I swear fealty to a man I only met a few minutes before?"
"Because if you don't," Venture said quietly, "I'll just take command anyway." Then he continued to walk.
Fatren stood for a moment; then he rushed forward and caught up to Venture. "Oh, I see. Even if we survive this battle, we'll end up ruled by a tyrant."
"Yes," Venture said.
Fatren frowned. He hadn't expected the man to be so blunt.
Venture shook his head, regarding the city through the falling ash. "I used to think that I could do things differently. And, I still believe that I'll be able to, someday. But, for now, I don't have a choice. I need your soldiers and I need your city."
"My city?" Fatren asked, frowning. "Why?"
Venture held up a finger. "We have to survive this battle first," he said. "We'll get to other things later."
Fatren paused, and was surprised to realize that he did trust the stranger. He couldn't have explained exactly why he felt that way. This was simply a man to follow—a leader such as Fatren had always wanted to be.
Venture didn't wait for Fatren to agree to the "conditions." It wasn't an offer, but an ultimatum. Fatren hurried to catch up again as Venture entered the small square in front of the city gates. Soldiers bustled about. None of them wore uniforms—their only method of distinguishing a captain from a regular soldier was a red band tied around the arm. Venture hadn't given them much time to gather—but, then, they all knew the city was about to be attacked. They had been gathered anyway.
"Time is short," Venture repeated in a loud voice. "I can teach you only a few things, but they will make a difference.
"Koloss range in size from small ones that are about five feet tall to the huge ones, which are about twelve feet tall. However, even the little ones are going to be stronger than you are. Expect that. Fortunately, the creatures fight without coordination between individuals. If a koloss's comrade is in trouble, he won't bother to help.
"They attack directly, without guile, and try to use blunt force to overwhelm. Don't let them! Tell your men to gang up on individual koloss—two men for the small ones, three or four for the big ones. We won't be able to maintain a very large front, but that will keep us alive the longest.
"Don't worry about creatures that get around our line and enter the city—we'll have the civilians hidden at the very back of your town, and the koloss who bypass our line might turn to pillaging, leaving others to fight alone. That's what we want! Don't chase them down into the1 city. Your families will be safe.
"If you're fighting a big koloss, attack the legs, bring it down before you go for the kill. If you're fighting a small one, make certain your sword or spear doesn't get caught in their loose skin. Understand that koloss aren't stupid—they're just unsophisticated. Predictable. They'll come at you the easiest way possible, and attack only in the most direct manner.
"The most important thing for you to understand is that they can be beaten. We'll do it today. Don't let yourselves become intimidated! Fight with coordination, keep your heads, and I promise you that we will survive."
The soldier captains stood in a small cluster, looking at Venture. They didn't cheer at the speech, but they did seem a little more confident. They moved off to pass on Venture's instructions to their men.
Fatren approached the emperor quietly. "If your count is correct, they outnumber us five to one."
Venture nodded.
"They're bigger, stronger, and better trained than we are."
Venture nodded again.
"We're doomed, then."
Venture finally looked at Fatren, frowning, black ash dusting his shoulders. "You're not doomed. You have something they don't—something very important."
"What's that?"
Venture met his eyes. "You have me."
"My lord emperor!" a voice called from atop the bulwark. "Koloss sighted!"
They already call to him first, Fatren thought. Fatren wasn't certain whether to be insulted or impressed.
Venture immediately jumped up to the top of the bulwark, using his Allomancy to cross the distance in a quick bound. Most of the soldiers stooped or hid behind the top of the fortification, keeping a low profile despite the distance of their enemies. Venture, however, stood proud in his white cape and uniform, shading his eyes, squinting toward the horizon.
"They're setting up camp," he said, smiling. "Good. Lord Fatren, prepare the men for an assault."
"An assault?" Fatren asked, scrambling up behind Venture.
The emperor nodded. "The koloss will be tired from marching, and will be distracted by making camp. We'll never have a better opportunity to attack them."
"But, we're on the defensive!"
Venture shook his head. "If we wait, they'll eventually whip themselves into a blood frenzy, then come against us. We need to attack, rather than just wait to be slaughtered."
"And abandon the bulwark?"
"The fortification is impressive, Lord Fatren, but ultimately useless. You don't have the numbers to defend the entire perimeter, and the koloss are generally taller and more stable than men. They'll just take the bulwark from you, then hold the high ground as they push down into the city."
Venture looked at him. His eyes were calm, but his gaze was firm and expectant. The message was simple. I am in charge now. There would be no more arguing.
"Yes, my lord," Fatren said, calling over messengers to pass the orders.
Venture stood 1watching as the messenger boys dashed off. There seemed to be some confusion among the men—they weren't expecting to attack. More and more eyes turned toward Venture, standing tall atop the bulwark.
He really does look like an emperor, Fatren thought despite himself.
The orders moved down the line. Time passed. Finally, the entire army was watching. Venture pulled out his sword and held it high in the ash-scattered sky. Then, he took off down the bulwark in an inhumanly quick dash, charging toward the koloss camp.
For a moment, he ran alone. Then, surprising himself, Fatren gritted his teeth against shaking nerves and followed.
The bulwark exploded with motion, the soldiers charging with a collective yell, running toward death with their weapons held high.
Holding the power did strange things to my mind. In just a few moments, I became familiar with the power itself, with its history, and with the ways it might be used.
Yet, this knowledge was different from experience, or even ability to use that power. For instance, I knew how to move a planet in the sky. Yet, I didn't know where to place it so that it wouldn't be too close, or too far, from the sun.
AS ALWAYS, TENSOON'S DAY began in darkness. Part of that was due, of course, to the fact that he didn't have any eyes. He could have created a set—he was of the Third Generation, which was old, even for a kandra. He had digested enough corpses that he had learned how to create sensory organs intuitively without a model to copy.
Unfortunately, eyes would have done him little good. He didn't have a skull, and he had found that most organs didn't function well without a full body—and skeleton—to support them. His own mass would crush eyes if he moved the wrong way, and it would be very difficult to turn them about to see.
Not that there would be anything to look at. TenSoon moved his bulk slightly, shifting inside his prison chamber. His body was little more than a grouping of translucent muscles—like a mass of large snails or slugs, all connected, somewhat more malleable than the body of a mollusk. With concentration, he could dissolve one of the muscles and either meld it with another one, or make something new. Yet, without a skeleton to use, he was all but impotent.
He shifted in his cell again. His very skin had a sense of its own—a kind of taste. Right now, it tasted the stench of his own excrement on the sides of the chamber, but he didn't dare turn off this sense. It was one of his only connections to the world around him.
The "cell" was actually nothing more than a grate-covered stone pit. It was barely large enough to hold his mass. His captors dumped food in from the top, then periodically poured water in to hydrate him and wash his excrement out through a small drainage hole at the bottom. Both this hole and those in the locked grate above were too small for him to slide through—a kandra's body was supple, but even a pile of muscles could be squeezed only so small.
Most people would have gone mad from the stress of being so confined for . . . he didn't even know how long it had been. Months? But TenSoon had the Blessing of Presence. His mind would not give in easily.
Sometimes he cursed the Blessing for keeping him from the blissful relief of madness.
Focus,1 he told himself. He had no brain, not as humans did, but he was able to think. He didn't understand this. He wasn't certain if any kandra did. Perhaps those of the First Generation knew more—but if so, they didn't enlighten everyone else.
They can't keep you here forever, he told himself. The First Contract says. . .
But he was beginning to doubt the First Contract—or, rather, that the First Generation paid any attention to it. But, could he blame them? TenSoon was a Contract-breaker. By his own admission, he had gone against the will of his master, helping another instead. This betrayal had ended with his master's death.
Yet, even such a shameful act was the least of his crimes. The punishment for Contract-breaking was death, and if TenSoon's crimes had stopped there, the others would have killed him and been done with it. Unfortunately, there was much more at stake. TenSoon's testimony—given to the Second Generation in a closed conference—had revealed a much more dangerous, much more important, lapse.
TenSoon had betrayed his people's secret.
They can't execute me, he thought, using the idea to keep him focused. Not until they find out who I told.
The secret. The precious, precious secret.
I've doomed us all. My entire people. We'll be slaves again. No, we're already slaves. We'll become something else—automatons, our minds controlled by others. Captured and used, our bodies no longer our own.
This was what he had done—what he had potentially set in motion. The reason he deserved imprisonment and death. And yet, he wished to live. He should despise himself. But, for some reason, he still felt he had done the right thing.
He shifted again, masses of slick muscle rotating around one another. Midshift, however, he froze. Vibrations. Someone was coming.
He arranged himself, pushing his muscles to the sides of the pit, forming a depression in the middle of his body. He needed to catch all of the food that he could—they fed him precious little. However, no slop came pouring down through the grate. He waited, expectant, until the grate unlocked. Though he had no ears, he could feel the coarse vibrations as the grate was dragged back, its rough iron finally dropped against the floor above.
Hooks came next. They looped around his muscles, grabbing him and ripping his flesh as they pulled him out of the pit. It hurt. Not just the hooks, but the sudden freedom as his body was spilled across the floor of the prison. He unwillingly tasted dirt and dried slop. His muscles quivered, the unfettered motion of being outside the cell felt strange, and he strained, moving his bulk in ways that he had nearly forgotten.
Then it came. He could taste it in the air. Acid, thick and pungent, presumably in a gold-lined bucket brought by the prison keepers. They were going to kill him after all.
But, they can't! he thought. The First Contract, the law of our people, it—
Something fell on him. Not acid, but something hard. He touched it eagerly, muscles moving against one another, tasting it, testing it, feeling it. It was round, with holes, and several sharp edges . . . a skull.
The acid stink grew sharper. Were they stirring it? TenSoon moved quickly, forming around the skull, filling it. He already had some dissolved flesh stored1 inside of an organ-like pouch. He brought this out, oozing it around the skull, quickly making skin. He left the eyes alone, working on lungs, forming a tongue, ignoring lips for the moment. He worked with a sense of desperation as the taste of acid grew strong, and then . . .
It hit him. It seared the muscles on one side of his body, washing over his bulk, dissolving it. Apparently, the Second Generation had given up on getting his secrets from him. However, before killing him, they knew they had to give him an opportunity to speak. The First Contract required it—hence the skull. However, the guards obviously had orders to kill him before he could actually say anything in his defense. They followed the form of the law, yet at the very same time they ignored its intent.
They didn't realize, however, how quickly TenSoon could work. Few kandra had spent as much time on Contracts as he had—all of the Second Generation, and most of the Third, had long ago retired from service. They led easy lives here in the Homeland.
An easy life taught one very little.
Most kandra took hours to form a body—some younger ones needed days. In seconds, however, TenSoon had a rudimentary tongue. As the acid moved up his body, he forced out a trachea, inflated a lung, and croaked out a single word:
The pouring stopped. His body continued to burn. He worked through the pain, forming primitive hearing organs inside the skull cavity.
A voice whispered nearby. "Fool."
"Judgment!" TenSoon said again.
"Accept death," the voice hissed quietly. "Do not put yourself in a position to cause further harm to our people. The First Generation has granted you this chance to die because of your years of extra service!"
TenSoon paused. A trial would be public. So far, only a select few knew the extent of his betrayal. He could die, cursed as a Contract-breaker but retaining some measure of respect for his prior career. Somewhere—likely in a pit in this very room—there were some who suffered endless captivity, a torture that would eventually break even the minds of those endowed with the Blessing of Presence.
Did he want to become one of those? By revealing his actions in an open forum, he would earn himself an eternity of pain. Forcing a trial would be foolish, for there was no hope of vindication. His confessions had already damned him.
If he spoke, it would not be to defend himself. It would be for other reasons entirely.
"Judgment," he repeated, this time barely whispering.
In some ways, having such power was too overwhelming, I think. This was a power that would take millennia to understand. Remaking the world would have been easy, had one been familiar with the power. Yet, I realized the danger inherent in my ignorance. Like a child suddenly given awesome strength, I could have pushed too hard, and left the world a broken toy I could never repair.
ELEND VENTURE, SECOND EMPEROR of the Final Empire, had not been born a warrior. He'd been born a nobleman—which, in the Lord Ruler's day, had essentially made Elend a professional socialite. He'd spent his youth learning to play the frivolous games of the Great Houses, living the pampered lifestyle of the imperial elite.
It wasn't od1d for him to have ended up a politician. He'd always been interested in political theory, and while he'd been more a scholar than a true statesman, he'd known that someday he'd rule his house. Yet, he hadn't made a very good king at first. He hadn't understood that there was more to leadership than good ideas and honest intentions. Far more.
I doubt you will ever be the type of leader who can lead a charge against the enemy, Elend Venture. The words had been spoken by Tindwyl—the woman who'd trained him in practical politics. Remembering those words made Elend smile as his soldiers crashed into the koloss camp.
Elend flared pewter. A warm sensation—now familiar to him—burst to life in his chest, and his muscles became taut with extra strength and energy. He'd swallowed the metal earlier, so that he could draw upon its powers for the battle. He was an Allomancer. That still awed him sometimes.
As he'd predicted, the koloss were surprised by the attack. They stood motionless for a few moments, shocked—even though they must have seen Elend's newly recruited army as it charged. Koloss had trouble dealing with the unexpected. They found it hard to comprehend a group of weak, outnumbered humans attacking their camp. So, it took them time to adjust.
Elend's army made good use of that time. Elend himself struck first, flaring his pewter to give himself yet more power as he cut down the first koloss. It was a smaller beast. Like all of its kind, it was human-like in form, though it had oversized, drooping blue skin that seemed detached from the rest of its body. Its beady red eyes showed a bit of inhuman surprise as it died, Elend yanking his sword from its chest.
"Strike quickly!" he yelled as more koloss turned from their firepits. "Kill as many as you can before they frenzy!"
His soldiers—terrified, but committed—charged in around him, overrunning the first few groups of koloss. The "camp" was little more than a place where the koloss had tromped down ash and the plants beneath, then dug firepits. Elend could see his men growing more confident at their initial success, and he encouraged them by Pulling on their emotions with Allomancy, making them braver. He was more comfortable with this form of Allomancy—he still hadn't quite gotten the hang of leaping about with metals the way Vin did. Emotions, however—those he understood.
Fatren, the city's burly leader, stuck near Elend as he led a group of soldiers toward a large pack of koloss. Elend kept an eye on the man. Fatren was the ruler of this small city; if he died, it would be a blow to morale. Together, they rushed a small group of surprised koloss. The largest beast in that group was some eleven feet tall. Like that of all large koloss, this creature's skin—once loose—was now pulled tight around its oversized body. Koloss never stopped growing, but their skin always remained the same size. On the younger creatures, it hung loose and folded. On the big ones, it stretched and ripped.
Elend burned steel, then threw a handful of coins into the air in front of him. He Pushed on the coins, throwing his weight against them, spraying them at the koloss. The beasts were too tough to fall to simple coins with any reliability, but the bits of metal would injure and weaken them.
As the coins flew, Elend charged the large koloss. The beast pulled a huge sword off its back, and it seemed elated at the prospect of a fight.
The koloss swung first, and it had an awesome reach. Elend had to jump backward—pewter making him more nimble. Koloss swords were massive, brutish things, so blunt they were almo1st clubs. The force of the blow shook the air; Elend wouldn't have had a chance to turn the blade aside, even with pewter helping him. In addition, the sword—or, more accurately, the koloss holding it—weighed so much that Elend wouldn't be able to use Allomancy to Push it out of the creature's hands. Pushing with steel was all about weight and force. If Elend Pushed on something heavier than himself, he'd be thrown backward.
So, Elend had to rely on the extra speed and dexterity of pewter. He threw himself out of his dodge, dashing to the side, watching for a backhand. The creature turned, silent, eyeing Elend, but didn't strike. It hadn't quite frenzied yet.
Elend stared down his oversized enemy. How did I get here? he thought, not for the first time. I'm a scholar, not a warrior. Half the time he thought he had no business leading men at all.
The other half the time, he figured that he thought too much. He ducked forward, striking. The koloss anticipated the move, and tried to bring its weapon down on Elend's head. Elend, however, reached out and Pulled on the sword of another koloss—throwing that creature off balance and allowing two of Elend's men to slay it, and also Pulling Elend himself to the side. He just barely evaded his opponent's weapon. Then, as he spun in the air, he flared pewter and struck from the side.
He sheared completely through the beast's leg at the knee, toppling it to the ground. Vin always said that Elend's Allomantic power was unusually strong. Elend wasn't certain about that—he didn't have much experience with Allomancy—but the force of his own swing did send him stumbling. He managed to regain his footing, however, and then took off the creature's head.
Several of the soldiers were staring at him. His white uniform was now sprayed with bright red koloss blood. It wasn't the first time. Elend took a deep breath as he heard inhuman screams sounding through the camp. The frenzy was beginning.
"Form up!" Elend shouted. "Make lines, stay together, prepare for the assault!"
The soldiers responded slowly. They were far less disciplined than the troops Elend was accustomed to, but they did an admirable job of bunching up at his command. Elend glanced across the ground before them. They'd managed to take down several hundred koloss—an amazing feat.
The easy part, however, was over.
"Stay firm!" Elend yelled, running down in front of the soldier line. "But keep fighting! We need to kill as many of them as quickly as possible! Everything depends on this! Give them your fury, men!"
He burned brass and Pushed on their emotions, Soothing away their fear. An Allomancer couldn't control minds—not human minds, at least—but he could encourage some emotions while discouraging others. Again, Vin said that Elend was able to affect far more people than should have been possible. Elend had gained his powers recently, directly from a place he now suspected was the original source of Allomancy.
Under the influence of the Soothing, his soldiers stood up straight. Again, Elend felt a healthy respect for these simple skaa. He was giving them bravery and taking away some of their fear, but the determination was their own. These were good people.
With luck, he'd be able to save some of them.
The koloss attacked. As he'd hoped, a large group of the creatures broke away from the main camp and charged toward the village. Some of the soldiers cried out, but they were too busy defend1ing themselves to follow. Elend threw himself into the fray whenever the line wobbled, shoring up the weak point. As he did so, he burned brass and tried to Push on the emotions of a nearby koloss.
Nothing happened. The creatures were resistant to emotional Allomancy, particularly when they were already being manipulated by someone else. However, when he did break through, he could take complete control of them. That, required time, luck, and a determination to fight tirelessly.
And so, he did. He fought alongside the men, watching them die, killing koloss as his line bent at the edges, forming a half circle to keep his troops from being surrounded. Even so, the fighting was grim. As more and more koloss frenzied and charged, the odds quickly turned against Elend's group. Still, the koloss resisted his emotional manipulation. But they were getting closer . . .
"We're doomed!" Fatren screamed.
Elend turned, a bit surprised to see the beefy lord beside him and still alive. The men continued to fight. Only about fifteen minutes had passed since the start of the frenzy, but the line was already beginning to buckle.
A speck appeared in the sky.
"You've led us to die!" Fatren yelled. He was covered in koloss blood, though a patch on his shoulder looked to be his own. "Why?" Fatren demanded.
Elend simply pointed as the speck grew larger.
"What is it?" Fatren asked over the chaos of battle.
Elend smiled. "The first of those armies I promised you."
Vin fell from the sky in a tempest of horseshoes, landing directly at the center of the koloss army.
Without hesitating, she used Allomancy to Push a pair of horseshoes toward a turning koloss. One took the creature in the forehead, throwing it backward, and the other shot over its head, hitting another koloss. Vin spun, flipping out another shoe, shooting it past a particularly large beast and taking down a smaller koloss behind him.
She flared iron, Pulling that horseshoe back, catching it around the larger koloss's wrist. Immediately, her Pull yanked her toward the beast—but it also threw the creature off balance. Its massive iron sword dropped to the ground as Vin hit the creature in the chest. Then, she Pushed off the fallen sword, throwing herself upward in a backward flip as another koloss swung at her.
She shot some fifteen feet into the air. The sword missed, cutting off the head of the koloss beneath her. The koloss who had swung didn't seem to mind that it had killed a comrade; it just looked up at her, bloodred eyes hateful.
Vin Pulled on the fallen sword. It lurched up at her, but also pulled her down with its weight. She caught it as she fell—the sword was nearly as tall as she was, but flared pewter let her handle it with ease—and she sheared free the attacking koloss's arm as she landed.
She took its legs off at the knees, then left it to die as she spun toward other opponents. As always, the koloss seemed fascinated—in an enraged, baffled way—with Vin. They associated large size with danger and had difficulty understanding how a small woman like Vin—twenty years old, barely over five feet in height and slight as a willow—could pose a threat. Yet, they saw her kill, and this drew them to her.
Vin was just fine with that.
She screamed as she attacked, if only to add 1some sound to the too-silent battlefield. Koloss tended to stop yelling as they entered their frenzy, growing focused only on killing. She threw out a handful of coins, Pushing them toward the group behind her, then jumped forward, Pulling on a sword.
A koloss in front of her stumbled. She landed on its back, attacking a creature beside it. This one fell, and Vin rammed her sword down into the back of the one below her. She Pushed herself to the side, Pulling on the sword of the dying koloss. She caught this weapon, cut down a third beast, then threw the sword, Pushing it like a giant arrow into the chest of a fourth monster. That same Push threw her backward out of the way of an attack. She grabbed the sword from the back of the one she'd stabbed before, ripping the weapon free even as the creature died. And, in one fluid stroke, she slammed it down through the collarbone and chest of a fifth beast.
She landed. Koloss fell dead around her.
Vin was not fury. She was not terror. She had grown beyond those things. She had seen Elend die—had held him in her arms as he did—and had known that she had let it happen. Intentionally.
And yet, he still lived. Every breath was unexpected, perhaps undeserved. Once, she'd been terrified that she would fail him. But, she had found peace—somehow—in understanding that she couldn't keep him from risking his life. In understanding that she didn't want to keep him from risking his life.
So, she no longer fought out of fear for the man she loved. Instead, she fought with an understanding. She was a knife—Elend's knife, the Final Empire's knife. She didn't fight to protect one man, but to protect the way of life he had created, and the people he struggled so hard to defend.
Peace gave her strength.
Koloss died around her, and scarlet blood—too bright to be human—stained the air. There were ten thousand in this army—far too many for her to kill. However, she didn't need to slaughter every koloss in the army.
She just had to make them afraid.
Because, despite what she'd once assumed, koloss could feel fear. She saw it building in the creatures around her, hidden beneath frustration and rage. A koloss attacked her, and she dodged to the side, moving with pewter's enhanced speed. She slammed a sword into its back as she moved, and spun, noticing a massive creature pushing its way through the army toward her.
Perfect, she thought. It was big—perhaps the biggest one she had ever seen. It had to be almost thirteen feet tall. Heart failure should have killed it long ago, and its skin was ripped half free, hanging in wide flaps.
It bellowed, the sound echoing across the oddly quiet battlefield. Vin smiled, then burned duralumin. Immediately, the pewter already burning inside of her exploded to give her a massive, instantaneous burst of strength. Duralumin, when used with another metal, amplified that second metal and made it burn out in a single burst, giving up all of its power at once.
Vin burned steel, then Pushed outward in all directions. Her duralumin-enhanced Push crashed like a wave into the swords of the creatures running at her. Weapons ripped free, koloss were thrown backward, and massive bodies scattered like mere flakes of ash beneath the bloodred sun. Duralumin-enhanced pewter kept her from being crushed as she did this.
Her pewter and steel both disappeared, burned away in single flash of power. She pulled out a small vial of liquid—an alcohol so1lution with metal flakes—and downed it in a single gulp, restoring her metals. Then, she burned pewter and leaped over fallen, disoriented koloss toward the massive creature she had seen earlier. A smaller koloss tried to stop her, but she caught its arm by the wrist, then twisted, breaking the joint. She took the creature's sword, ducking beneath another koloss's attack, and spun, felling three different koloss in one sweep by cutting at their knees.
As she completed her spin, she rammed her sword into the earth point-first. As expected, the large, thirteen-foot-tall beast attacked a second later, swinging a sword that was so large that it made the air roar. Vin planted her sword just in time, for—even with pewter—she never would have been able to parry this enormous creature's weapon. That weapon, however, slammed into the blade of her sword, which was stabilized by the earth below. The metal quivered beneath her hands, but she held against the blow.
Fingers still stinging from the shock of such a powerful block, Vin let go of the sword and jumped. She didn't Push—she didn't need to—but landed on the cross guard of her sword and leaped off it. The koloss showed that same, characteristic surprise as it saw her leap thirteen feet into the air, leg drawn back, tasseled mist-cloak flapping.
She kicked the koloss directly in the side of the head. The skull cracked. Koloss were inhumanly tough, but her flared pewter was enough. The creature's beady eyes rolled back in its head, and it collapsed. Vin Pushed slightly on the sword, keeping herself up long enough so that when she fell, she landed directly on the felled koloss's chest.
The koloss around her froze. Even in the midst of the blood fury, they were shocked to see her drop such an enormous beast with only a kick. Perhaps their minds were too slow to process what they had just seen. Or, perhaps in addition to fear, they really could feel a measure of wariness. Vin didn't know enough about them to tell. She did understand that in a regular koloss army, what she'd just done would have earned her the obedience of every creature that had watched her.
Unfortunately, this army was being controlled by an external force. Vin stood up straight, could see Elend's small, desperate army in the distance. Under Elend's guidance, they held. The fighting humans would have an effect on the koloss similar to Vin's mysterious strength—the creatures wouldn't understand how such a small force could hold against them. They wouldn't see the attrition, or the dire situation of Elend's group; they would simply see a smaller, inferior army standing and fighting.
Vin turned to resume combat. The koloss approached her with more trepidation, but they still came. That was the oddity about koloss. They never retreated. They felt fear, they just couldn't act on it. It did, however, weaken them. She could see it in the way they approached her, the way they looked. They were close to breaking.
And so, she burned brass and Pushed on the emotions of one of the smaller creatures. At first, it resisted. She shoved harder. And, finally, something broke within the creature and he became hers. The one who had been controlling him was too far away, and was focused on too many koloss at once. This creature—its mind confused because of the frenzy, emotions in a turmoil because of its shock, fear, and frustration—came completely under Vin's mental control.
Immediately, she ordered the creature to attack his companions. He was cut down a moment later, but not before he killed two other koloss. As Vin fought, she snatched up another koloss, then another. She struck randomly, fighting with her sword to keep the koloss distracted as 1she plucked members from their group and turned them. Soon, the area around her was in chaos, and she had a small line of koloss fighting for her. Every time one fell, she replaced it with two more.
As she fought, she spared a glanced for Elend's group again, and was relieved to find a large segment of koloss fighting alongside the group of humans. Elend himself moved among them, no longer fighting, focused on snatching koloss after koloss to his side. It had been a gamble for Elend to come to this city on his own, one she wasn't sure she approved of. For the moment, she was just glad she'd managed to catch up in time.
Taking Elend's cue, she stopped fighting, and instead concentrated on commanding her small force of koloss, snatching up new members one at a time. Soon, she had a group of almost a hundred fighting for her.
Won't be long now, she thought. And, sure enough, she soon caught sight of a speck in the air, shooting toward her through the falling ash. The speck resolved into a figure in dark robes, bounding over the army by Pushing down on koloss swords. The tall figure was bald, its face tattooed. In the ash-darkened light of midday, Vin could make out the two thick spikes that had been driven point-first through its eyes. A Steel Inquisitor, one she didn't recognize.
The Inquisitor hit hard, cutting down one of Vin's stolen koloss with a pair of obsidian axes. It focused its sightless gaze on Vin, and despite herself she felt a stirring of panic. A succession of distinct memories flashed in her mind. A dark night, rainy and shadowed. Spires and towers. A pain in her side. A long night spent captive in the Lord Ruler's palace.
Kelsier, the Survivor of Hathsin, dying on the streets of Luthadel.
Vin burned electrum. This created a cloud of images around her, shadows of possible things she could do in the future. Electrum, the Allomantic complement of gold. Elend had started calling it "poor man's atium." It wouldn't affect the battle much, other than to make her immune to atium, should the Inquisitor have any.
Vin gritted her teeth, dashing forward as the koloss army overwhelmed her few remaining stolen creatures. She jumped, Pushing slightly on a fallen sword and letting her momentum carry her toward the Inquisitor. The specter lifted its axes, swinging, but at the last moment Vin Pulled herself to the side. Her Pull wrenched a sword from the hands of a surprised koloss, and she caught this while spinning in the air, then Pushed it at the Inquisitor.
He Pushed the massive wedge of a weapon aside with barely a glance. Kelsier had managed to defeat an Inquisitor, but only after a great deal of effort. He himself had died moments later, struck dead by the Lord Ruler.
No more memories! Vin told herself forcefully. Focus on the moment.
Ash whipped past her as she spun in the air, still flying from her Push against the sword. She landed, foot slipping in koloss blood, then dashed at the Inquisitor. She'd deliberately lured him out, killing and controlling his koloss, forcing him to reveal himself. Now she had to deal with him.
She whipped out a glass dagger—the Inquisitor would be able to Push away a koloss sword—and flared her pewter. Speed, strength, and poise flooded her body. Unfortunately, the Inquisitor would have pewter as well, making them equal.
Except for one thing. The Inquisitor had a weakness. Vin ducked an axe swipe, Pulling on a koloss sword to give herself the speed to get out of the way. Then, she Pushed on the same weapon,1 throwing herself forward as she jabbed for the Inquisitor's neck. He fended her off with a swipe of the hand, blocking her dagger arm. But, with her other hand, she grabbed the side of his robe.
Then she flared iron and Pulled behind her, yanking on a dozen different koloss swords at once. The sudden Pull propelled her backward. Steelpushes and Ironpulls were jolting, blunt things that had far more power than subtlety. With pewter flared, Vin hung on to the robe, and the Inquisitor obviously stabilized himself by Pulling on koloss weapons in front of him.
The robe gave, ripping down the side, leaving Vin holding a wide section of cloth. The Inquisitor's back lay exposed, and she should have been able to see a single spike—similar to those in the eyes—protruding from the creature's back. However, that spike was hidden by a metal shield that covered the Inquisitor's back and ran underneath his arms and around his front. Like a formfitting breastplate, it covered his back, something like a sleek turtle's shell.
The Inquisitor turned, smiling, and Vin cursed. That dorsal spike—driven directly between every Inquisitor's shoulder blades—was their weakest point. Pulling it free would kill the creature. That, obviously, was the reason for the plate—something Vin suspected the Lord Ruler would have forbidden. He had wanted his servants to have weaknesses, so that he could control them.
Vin didn't have much time for thought, for the koloss were still attacking. Even as she landed, tossing aside the ripped fabric, a large, blue-skinned monster swung at her. Vin jumped, cresting the sword as it swung beneath her, then Pushed against it to give herself some height.
The Inquisitor followed, now on the attack. Ash spun in the air currents around Vin as she bounded across the battlefield, trying to think. The only other way she knew to kill an Inquisitor was to behead it—an act more easily contemplated than completed, considering that the fiend would be toughened by pewter.
She let herself land on a deserted hill on the outskirts of the battlefield. The Inquisitor thumped to the ashen earth behind her. Vin dodged an axe blade, trying to get in close enough to slash. But the Inquisitor swung with his other blade, and Vin took a gash in the arm as she turned the weapon aside with her dagger.
Warm blood dribbled down her wrist. Blood the color of the red sun. She growled, facing down her inhuman opponent. Inquisitor smiles disturbed her. She threw herself forward, to strike again.
Something flashed in the air.
Blue lines, moving quickly—the Allomantic indication of nearby bits of metal. Vin barely had time to twist herself out of her attack as a handful of coins surprised the Inquisitor from behind, cutting into his body in a dozen different places.
The creature screamed, spinning, throwing out drops of blood as Elend hit the ground atop the hill. His brilliant white uniform was soiled with ash and blood, but his face was clean, his eyes bright. He carried a dueling cane in one hand, the other rested against the earth, steadying him from his Steeljump. His physical Allomancy still lacked polish.
Yet, he was Mistborn, like Vin. And now the Inquisitor was wounded. Koloss were crowding around the hill, clawing their way toward the top, but Vin and Elend still had a few moments. She dashed forward, raising her knife, and Elend attacked as well. The Inquisitor tried to watch both of them at once, its smile finally fading. It moved to jump away.
Elend flipped a co1in into the air. A single, sparkling bit of copper spun through the flakes of ash. The Inquisitor saw this, and smiled again, obviously anticipating Elend's Push. It assumed that its weight would transfer through the coin, then hit Elend's weight, since Elend would be Pushing as well. Two Allomancers of near-similar weight, shoving against each other. They would both be thrown back—the Inquisitor to attack Vin, Elend into a pile of koloss.
Except, the Inquisitor didn't anticipate Elend's Allomantic strength. How could it? Elend did stumble, but the Inquisitor was thrown away with a sudden, violent Push.
He's so powerful! Vin thought, watching the surprised Inquisitor fall. Elend was no ordinary Allomancer—he might not have learned perfect control yet, but when he flared his metals and Pushed, he could really Push.
Vin dashed forward to attack as the Inquisitor tried to reorient himself. He managed to catch her arm as her knife fell, his powerful grip throwing a shock of pain up her already wounded arm. She cried out as he threw her to the side.
Vin hit the ground and rolled, throwing herself back up to her feet. The world spun, and she could see Elend swinging his dueling cane at the Inquisitor. The creature blocked the swing with an arm, shattering the wood, then ducked forward and rammed an elbow into Elend's chest. The emperor grunted.
Vin Pushed against the koloss who were now only a few feet away, shooting herself toward the Inquisitor again. She'd dropped her knife—but, then, he'd also lost his axes. She could see him glancing to the side, toward where the weapons had fallen, but she didn't give him a chance to go for them. She tackled him, trying to throw him back to the ground. Unfortunately, he was much larger—and much stronger—than she was. He tossed her down in front of him, knocking the breath from her.
The koloss were upon them. But Elend had grabbed one of the fallen axes, and he struck for the Inquisitor.
The Inquisitor moved with a sudden jolt of speed. Its form became a blur, and Elend swung only at empty air. Elend spun, shock showing on his face as the Inquisitor came up, wielding not an axe, but—oddly—a metal spike, like the ones in his own body but sleeker and longer. The creature raised the spike, moving inhumanly fast—faster even than any Allomancer should have managed.
That was no pewter run, Vin thought. That wasn't even duralumin. She scrambled to her feet, watching the Inquisitor. The creature's strange speed faded, but it was still in a position to hit Elend directly in the back with the spike. Vin was too far away to help.
But the koloss weren't. They were cresting the hill, mere feet from Elend and his opponent. Desperate, Vin flared brass and grabbed the emotions of the koloss closest to the Inquisitor. Even as the Inquisitor moved to attack Elend, her koloss spun, swinging its wedge-like sword, hitting the Inquisitor directly in the face.
It didn't separate the head from the body. It just crushed the head completely. Apparently, that was sufficient, for the Inquisitor dropped without a sound, falling motionless.
A shock ran through the koloss army.
"Elend!" Vin said. "Now!"
The emperor turned away from the dying Inquisitor, and she could see the look of concentration on his face. Once, Vin had seen the Lord Ruler affect an entire city square full of people with his emotional Allomancy. He had been stronger than she was; far stronger—even—than 1Kelsier.
She couldn't see Elend burn duralumin, then brass, but she could feel it. Feel him pressing on her emotions as he sent out a general wave of power, Soothing thousands of koloss at once. They all stopped fighting. In the distance, Vin could make out the haggard remnants of Elend's peasant army, standing in an exhausted circle of bodies. Ash continued to fall. It rarely stopped, these days.
The koloss lowered their weapons. Elend had won.
This is actually what happened to Rashek, I believe. He pushed too hard. He tried to burn away the mists by moving the planet closer to the sun, but he moved it too far, making the world far too hot for the people who inhabited it.
The ashmounts were his solution to this. He had learned that shoving a planet around required too much precision, so instead he caused the mountains to erupt, spewing ash and smoke into the air. The thicker atmosphere made the world cooler, and turned the sun red.
SAZED, CHIEF AMBASSADOR OF THE NEW EMPIRE, studied the sheet of paper in front of him. The tenets of the Canzi people, it read. On the beauty of mortality, the importance of death, and the vital function of the human body as a partaker of the divine whole.
The words were written in his own hand, copied out of one of his Feruchemical metalminds—where he had storages containing literally thousands of books. Beneath the heading, filling most of the sheet in cramped writing, he had listed the basic beliefs of the Canzi and their religion.
Sazed settled back in his chair, holding up the paper and going over his notes one more time. He'd been focusing on this one religion for a good day now, and he wanted to make a decision about it. Even before the day's study, he'd known much about the Canzi faith, for he'd studied it—along with all of the other pre-Ascension religions—for most of his life. Those religions had been his passion, the focus of all of his research.
And then the day had come where he'd realized that all of his learning had been meaningless.
The Canzi religion contradicts itself, he decided, making a notation with his pen at the side of the paper. It explains that all creatures are part of the "divine whole" and implies that each body is a work of art created by a spirit who decides to live in this world.
However, one of its other tenets is that the evil are punished with bodies that do not function correctly. A distasteful doctrine, in Sazed's mind. Those who were born with mental or physical deficiencies deserved compassion, perhaps pity, but not disdain. Besides, which of the religion's ideals were true? That spirits chose and designed their bodies as they wished, or that they were punished by the body chosen for them? And what of the influence of lineage upon a child's features and temperament?
He nodded to himself, made a note at the bottom of the sheet of paper. Logically inconsistent. Obviously untrue.
"What is that you have there?" Breeze asked.
Sazed looked up. Breeze sat beside a small table, sipping his wine and eating grapes. He wore one of his customary nobleman's suits, complete with a dark jacket, a bright red vest, and a dueling cane—with which he liked to gesture as he spoke. He'd gained back most of the weight he'd lost during Luthadel's siege and its aftermath, and could reasonably be describ1ed as "portly" once again.
Sazed looked down. He carefully placed the sheet alongside some hundred others inside his portfolio, then closed the cloth-wrapped board cover and did up the ties. "It is nothing of consequence, Lord Breeze," he said.
Breeze sipped quietly at his wine. "Nothing of consequence? You seem to always be puttering around with those sheets of yours. Whenever you have a free moment, you pull one of them out."
Sazed set the portfolio beside his chair. How to explain? Each of the sheets in the thick portfolio outlined one of the over three hundred different religions the Keepers had collected. Each and every one of those religions was now effectively "dead," as the Lord Ruler had stamped them out very early in his reign, some thousand years before.
One year ago, the woman Sazed loved had died. Now, he wanted to know . . . no, he had to know . . . if the religions of the world had answers for him. He would find the truth, or he would eliminate each and every faith.
Breeze was still looking at him.
"I would rather not talk about it, Lord Breeze," Sazed said.
"As you wish," Breeze said, raising his cup. "Perhaps you could use your Feruchemist's powers to listen in on the conversation happening in the next room . . ."
"I do not think it would be polite to do so."
Breeze smiled. "My dear Terrisman—only you would come to conquer a city, then worry about being 'polite' to the dictator you're threatening."
Sazed glanced down, feeling slightly abashed. But, he could not deny Breeze's remarks. Though the two of them had brought no army with them to Lekal City, they had indeed come to conquer. They simply intended to do it with a piece of paper rather than a sword.
It all hinged on what was happening in the next room. Would the king sign the treaty or not? All Breeze and Sazed could do was wait. He itched to get his portfolio out, to look over the next religion in the stack. He'd been considering the Canzi for over a day, and now that he'd made a decision about it, he wished to move on to the next sheet. During the last year, he'd gotten through about two-thirds of the religions. Barely a hundred remained, though the number was closer to two hundred if he took into account all of the sub-sects and denominations.
He was close. Over the next few months, he'd be able to get through the rest of the religions. He wanted to give each one fair consideration. Surely, one of the remaining ones would strike him as containing the essence of truth he was searching for. Surely one of them would tell him what had happened to Tindwyl's spirit without contradicting itself on a half-dozen different points.
But, for the moment, he felt self-conscious reading in front of Breeze. So, Sazed forced himself to sit and wait patiently.
The room around him was ornate, after the fashion of the old imperial nobility. Sazed wasn't used to such finery, not anymore. Elend had sold or burned most of his lavish trappings—his people had needed food and warmth during the winter. King Lekal hadn't done the same, it appeared, though perhaps that was because the winters were less harsh here in the South.
Sazed glanced out the window beside his chair. Lekal City didn't have a true palace—it had been just a country estate until about two years ago. The manor house, however, did have a nice view over the growing town—which was more of a large shanty1town than it was a true city.
Still, that shantytown controlled lands that were dangerously inside Elend's defensive perimeter. They needed the security of King Lekal's allegiance. And so, Elend had sent a contingent—including Sazed, who was his chief ambassador—to secure the loyalty of the Lekal king. That man deliberated in the next room with his aides, trying to decide whether or not to accept the treaty—which would make them subjects of Elend Venture.
Chief ambassador of the New Empire . . .
Sazed was not very fond of his title, for it implied that he was actually a citizen of the empire. His people, the Terris people, had sworn to call no man master again. They had spent a thousand years being oppressed, being bred like animals and turned into perfect, docile servants. Only with the fall of the Final Empire had the Terris become free to rule themselves.
So far, the Terris people hadn't done a very good job of that. Of course, it didn't help that the Steel Inquisitors had slaughtered the entire Terris ruling council, leaving Sazed's people without direction or leadership.
In a way, we're hypocrites anyway, he thought. The Lord Ruler was secretly a Terrisman. One of our own did those horrible things to us. What right do we have to insist on calling no foreigner master? It wasn't a foreigner that destroyed our people, our culture, and our religion.
And so, Sazed served as Elend Venture's chief ambassador. Elend was a friend—a man Sazed respected like few others. To Sazed's mind, even the Survivor himself hadn't possessed Elend Venture's strength of character. The emperor hadn't tried to assume authority over the Terris people, even after he had accepted the refugees into his lands. Sazed wasn't sure if his people were free or not, but they owed Elend Venture a large debt. Sazed would gladly serve as the man's ambassador.
Even if there were other things Sazed felt he should be doing. Such as leading his people.
No, Sazed thought, glancing at his portfolio. No. A man with no faith cannot lead them. I must find the truth for myself first. If such a thing exists.
"It certainly is taking them long enough," Breeze said, eating a grape. "One would think that after all the talking we did to get to this point, they'd know by now whether they intended to sign the thing or not."
Sazed glanced toward the elaborately carved door on the other side of the room. What would King Lekal decide? Did he really have a choice? "Did we do the right thing here, do you think, Lord Breeze?" Sazed found himself asking.
Breeze snorted. "Right and wrong don't come into it. If we hadn't come to bully King Lekal, someone else would have. It comes down to basic strategic necessity. Or, that's how I see it—perhaps I'm just more calculating than others."
Sazed eyed the stocky man. Breeze was a Soother—in fact, he was the most brazen, flagrant Soother Sazed had ever known. Most Soothers used their powers with discrimination and subtlety, nudging emotions only at the most opportune times. Breeze, however, played with everyone's emotions. Sazed could feel the man's touch on his own feelings at that moment, in fact—though only because he knew what to look for.
"If you will excuse the observation, Lord Breeze," Sazed said, "you do not fool me as easily as you believe you do."
Breeze raised an eyebrow.
"I 1know you are a good man," Sazed said. "You work very hard to hide it. You make a great show of being callous and selfish. Yet, to those watching what you do and not just what you say, you become far more transparent."
Breeze frowned, and Sazed got a little stab of pleasure at surprising the Soother. He obviously hadn't expected Sazed to be so blunt.
"My dear man," Breeze said, sipping his wine, "I'm disappointed in you. Weren't you just speaking about being polite? Well, it's not at all polite to point out a crusty old pessimist's dark inner secret."
"Dark inner secret?" Sazed asked. "That you're kindhearted?"
"It's an attribute in myself that I've worked very hard to discourage," Breeze said lightly. "Unfortunately, I prove too weak. Now, to completely divert us from this subject—which I find far too discomforting—I shall return to your earlier question. You ask if we are doing the right thing? Right thing how? By forcing King Lekal to become a vassal to Elend?"
Sazed nodded.
"Well then," Breeze said, "I'd have to say that yes, we did the right thing. Our treaty will give Lekal the protection of Elend's armies."
"At the cost of his own freedom to govern."
"Bah," Breeze said with a wave of his hand. "We both know that Elend is a far better ruler than Lekal could ever hope to be. Most of his people are living in half-finished shacks, for the Lord Ruler's sake!"
"Yes, but you must admit that we bullied him."
Breeze frowned. "That's how all politics is. Sazed, this man's nephew sent an army of koloss to destroy Luthadel! He's lucky Elend didn't just come down and wipe out the entire city in retribution. We have bigger armies, more resources, and better Allomancers. This people will be far better off once Lekal signs that treaty. What is wrong with you, my dear man? You argued all these same points not two days ago at the negotiating table."
"I apologize, Lord Breeze," Sazed said. "I . . . seem to find myself feeling contrary of late."
Breeze didn't respond at first. "It still hurts, does it?" he asked.
That man is far too good at understanding the emotions of others, Sazed thought. "Yes," he finally whispered.
"It will stop," Breeze said. "Eventually."
Will it? Sazed thought, looking away. It had been a year. It still felt . . . as if nothing would ever be right again. Sometimes, he wondered if his immersion in the religions was simply a way of hiding from his pain.
If that were so, then he'd chosen a poor way to cope, for the pain was always there waiting for him. He had failed. No, his faith had failed him. Nothing was left to him.
It was all. Just. Gone.
"Look," Breeze said, drawing his attention, "sitting here and waiting for Lekal to make up his mind is obviously making us anxious. Why don't we talk about something else? How about telling me about one of those religions you have memorized. You haven't tried to convert me in months!"
"I stopped wearing my copperminds nearly a year ago, Breeze."
"But surely you remember a bit," Breeze said. "Why don't you try to convert me? You know, for old times' sake and all that."
"I don't think so, Breeze."
It felt like a betrayal. As a Keeper—a Terris Feruchemist—he could store memories inside of pieces of copper, then withdraw them later. During the time of the Final Empire, Sazed's kind had suffered much to gather their vast stores of information—and not just about religions. They had gathered every shred of information they could find about the time before the Lord Ruler. They'd memorized it, passed it on to others, depending on their Feruchemy to maintain accuracy.
Yet they'd never found the one thing they sought most urgently, the thing that had begun their quest: the religion of the Terris people. It had been erased by the Lord Ruler during the first century of his reign.
Still, so many had died, worked, and bled so that Sazed could have the vast storages he'd inherited. And he had taken them off. After retrieving his notes about each religion, writing them down on the pages he now carried in his portfolio, he'd removed each and every one of his metalminds and stored them away.
They just . . . didn't seem to matter anymore. At times, nothing did. He tried not to dwell too much on that. But the thought lurked in his mind, terrible and impossible to banish. He felt tainted, unworthy. As far as Sazed knew, he was the last living Feruchemist. They didn't have the resources to search right now, but in a year's time, no Keeper refugees had made their way to Elend's domain. Sazed was it. And, like all Terris stewards, he'd been castrated as a child. The hereditary power of Feruchemy might very well die with him. There would be some small trace of it left in the Terris people, but given the Lord Ruler's efforts to breed it away and the deaths of the Synod . . . things did not look good.
The metalminds remained packed away, carried along wherever he went, but never used. He doubted he would ever draw upon them again.
"Well?" Breeze asked, rising and walking over to lean against the window beside Sazed. "Aren't you going to tell me about a religion? Which is it going to be? That religion where people made maps, maybe? The one that worshipped plants? Surely you've got one in there that worships wine. That might fit me."
"Please, Lord Breeze," Sazed said, looking out over the city. Ash was falling. It always did these days. "I do not wish to speak of these things."
"What?" Breeze asked. "How can that be?"
"If there were a God, Breeze," Sazed said, "do you think he'd have let so many people be killed by the Lord Ruler? Do you think he'd have let the world become what it is now? I will not teach you—or anyone—a religion that cannot answer my questions. Never again."
Breeze fell silent.
Sazed reached down, touching his stomach. Breeze's comments pained him. They brought his mind back to that terrible time a year before, when Tindwyl had been killed. When Sazed had fought Marsh at the Well of Ascension, and had nearly been killed himself. Even through his clothing, he could feel the scars on his abdomen, where Marsh had hit him with a collection of metal rings, piercing Sazed's skin and nearly killing him.
He'd drawn upon the Feruchemical power of those very rings to save his life, healing his body, engulfing them within him. Soon after, however, he'd stored up some health and then had a surgeon remove the rings from his body. Despite Vin's protests that having them inside him would be an advantage, Sazed was worried that it was unhealthy to keep them embedded in his own flesh. Besides, he had just wanted them gone.
Breeze turned to look out the window. "You were always the best of us, Sazed," he said quietly. "Because you believed in something."
"I am sorry, Lord Breeze," Sazed said. "I do not mean to disappoint you."
"Oh, you don't disappoint me," Breeze said. "Because I don't believe what you've said. You're not meant to be an atheist, Sazed. I have a feeling you'll be no good at it—doesn't suit you at all. You'll come around eventually."
Sazed looked back out the window. He was brash for a Terrisman, but he did not wish to argue further.
"I never did thank you," Breeze said.
"For what, Lord Breeze?"
"For pulling me out of myself," Breeze said. "For forcing me to get up, a year ago, and keep going. If you hadn't helped me, I don't know that I would ever have gotten over . . . what happened."
Sazed nodded. On the inside, however, his thoughts were more bitter. Yes, you saw destruction and death, my friend. But the woman you love is still alive. I could have come back too, if I hadn't lost her. I could have recovered, as you did.
The door opened.
Sazed and Breeze both turned. A solitary aide entered, bearing an ornate sheet of parchment. King Lekal had signed the treaty at the bottom. His signature was small, almost cramped, in the large space allotted. He knew he was beaten.
The aide set the treaty on the table, then retreated.
Each time Rashek tried to fix things, he made them worse. He had to change the world's plants to make them able to survive in the new, harsh environment. Yet, that change left the plants less nutritious to mankind. Indeed, the falling ash would make men sick, causing them to cough like those who spent too long mining beneath the earth. And so Rashek changed mankind itself as well, altering them so that they could survive.
ELEND KNELT BESIDE THE FALLEN INQUISITOR, trying to ignore the mess that was left of the thing's head. Vin approached, and he noted the wound on her forearm. As usual, she all but ignored the injury.
The koloss army stood quietly on the battlefield around them. Elend still wasn't comfortable with the idea of controlling the creatures. He felt . . . tainted by even associating with them. Yet, it was the only way.
"Something's wrong, Elend," Vin said.
He looked up from the body. "What? You think there might be another one around?"
She shook her head. "Not that. That Inquisitor moved too quickly at the end. I've never seen a person—Allomancer or not—with that kind of speed."
"He must have had duralumin," Elend said, looking down. For a time, he and Vin had held an edge, since they'd had access to an Allomantic metal the Inquisitors hadn't known about. Reports now indicated that edge was gone.
Fortunately, they still had electrum. The Lord Ruler was to be thanked for that, actually. Poor man's atium. Normally, an Allomancer who was burning atium was virtually invincible—only another Allomancer burning the metal could fight him. Unless, of course, one had electrum. Electrum didn't grant the same invincibility as atium—which allowed an Allomancer to see slightly into the future—but it d1id make one immune to atium.
"Elend," Vin said, kneeling, "it wasn't duralumin. The Inquisitor was moving too quickly even for that."
Elend frowned. He had seen the Inquisitor move only out of the corner of his eye, but surely it hadn't been that fast. Vin had a tendency to be paranoid and assume the worst.
Of course, she also had a habit of being right.
She reached out and grabbed the front of the corpse's robe, ripping it free. Elend turned away. "Vin! Have respect for the dead!"
"I have no respect for these things," she said, "nor will I ever. Did you see how that thing tried to use one of its spikes to kill you?"
"That was odd. Perhaps he felt he couldn't get to the axes in time."
"Here, look."
Elend glanced back. The Inquisitor had the standard spikes—three pounded between the ribs on each side of the chest. But . . . there was another one—one Elend hadn't seen in any other Inquisitor corpse—pounded directly through the front of this creature's chest.
Lord Ruler! Elend thought. That one would have gone right through its heart. How did it survive? Of course, if two spikes through the brain didn't kill it, then one through the heart probably wouldn't either.
Vin reached down and yanked the spike free. Elend winced. She held it up, frowning. "Pewter," she said.
"Really?" Elend asked.
She nodded. "That makes ten spikes. Two through the eyes and one through the shoulders: all steel. Six through the ribs: two steel, four bronze. Now this, a pewter one—not to mention the one he tried to use on you, which appears to be steel."
Elend studied the spike in her hand. In Allomancy and Feruchemy, different metals did different things—he could only guess that for Inquisitors, the type of metal used in the various spikes was important as well. "Perhaps they don't use Allomancy at all, but some . . . third power."
"Maybe," Vin said, gripping the spike, standing up. "We'll need to cut open the stomach and see if it had atium."
"Maybe this one will finally have some." They always burned electrum as a precaution; so far, none of the Inquisitors they'd met had actually possessed any atium.
Vin shook her head, staring out over the ash-covered battlefield. "We're missing something, Elend. We're like children, playing a game we've watched our parents play, but not really knowing any of the rules. And . . . our opponent created the game in the first place."
Elend stepped around the corpse, moving over to her. "Vin, we don't even known that it's out there. The thing we saw a year ago at the Well . . . perhaps it's gone. Perhaps it left, now that it's free. That could be all it wanted."
Vin looked at him. He could read in her eyes that she didn't believe that. Perhaps she saw that he didn't really believe it either.
"It's out there, Elend," she whispered. "It's directing the Inquisitors; it knows what we're doing. That's why the koloss always move against the same cities we do. It has power over the world—it can change text that has been written, create miscommunications and confusion. It knows our plans."
Elend put a hand on her shoulder. "But today we beat it—and, it sent u1s this handy koloss army."
"And how many humans did we lose trying to capture this force?"
Elend didn't need to speak the answer. Too many. Their numbers were dwindling. The mists—the Deepness—were growing more powerful, choking the life from random people, killing the crops of the rest. The Outer Dominances were wastelands—only those closest to the capital, Luthadel, still got enough daylight to grow food. And even that area of livability was shrinking.
Hope, Elend thought forcefully. She needs that from me; she's always needed that from me. He tightened his grip on her shoulder, then pulled her into an embrace. "We'll beat it, Vin. We'll find a way."
She didn't contradict him, but she obviously wasn't convinced. Still, she let him hold her, closing her eyes and resting her head against his chest. They stood on the battlefield before their fallen foe, but even Elend had to admit that it didn't feel like much of a victory. Not with the world collapsing around them.
Hope! he thought again. I belong to the Church of the Survivor, now. It has only one prime commandment.
"Give me one of the koloss," Vin finally said, pulling out of the embrace.
Elend released one of the medium-large creatures, letting Vin take control of it. He still didn't quite understand how they controlled the creatures. Once he had control of a koloss, he could control it indefinitely—whether sleeping or awake, burning metals or not. There were many things he didn't understand about Allomancy. He'd had only a year to use his powers, and he had been distracted by ruling an empire and trying to feed his people, not to mention the wars. He'd had little time for practice.
Of course, Vin had less time than that to practice before she killed the Lord Ruler himself. Vin, however, was a special case. She used Allomancy as easily as other people breathed; it was less a skill to her than an extension of who she was. Elend might be more powerful—as she always insisted—but she was the true master.
Vin's lone koloss wandered over and picked up the fallen Inquisitor and the spike. Then, Elend and Vin walked down the hill—Vin's koloss servant following—toward the human army. The koloss troops split and made a passage at Elend's command. He suppressed a shiver even as he controlled them.
Fatren, the dirty man who ruled the city, had thought to set up a triage unit—though Elend wasn't very confident in the abilities of a group of skaa surgeons.
"Why'd they stop?" Fatren asked, standing in front of his men as Vin and Elend approached across the ash-stained ground
"I promised you a second army, Lord Fatren," Elend said. "Well, here it is."
"The koloss?" he asked.
Elend nodded.
"But they're the army that came to destroy us."
"And now they're ours," Elend said. "Your men did very well. Make certain they understand that this victory was theirs. We had to force that Inquisitor out into the open, and the only way to do that was to turn his army against itself. Koloss become afraid when they see something small defeating something large. Your men fought bravely; because of them, these koloss are ours."
Fatren scratched his chin. "So," he said slowly, "they got afraid of us,1 so they switched sides?"
"Something like that," Elend said, looking over the soldiers. He mentally commanded some koloss to step forward. "These creatures will obey orders from the men in this group. Have them carry your wounded back to the city. However, make certain not to let your men attack or punish the koloss. They are our servants now, understand?"
Fatren nodded.
"Let's go," Vin said, eagerness sounding in her voice as she looked over at the small city.
"Lord Fatren, do you want to come with us, or do you want to supervise your men?" Elend asked.
Fatren's eyes narrowed. "What are you going to do?"
"There is something in your city we need to claim."
Fatren paused. "I'll come, then." He gave some orders to his men while Vin waited impatiently. Elend gave her a smile, then finally Fatren joined them, and the three walked back toward the Vetitan gate.
"Lord Fatren," Elend said as they walked, "you should address me as 'my lord' from now on."
Fatren looked up from his nervous study of the koloss standing around them.
"Do you understand?" Elend said, meeting the man's eyes.
"Um . . . yes. My lord."
Elend nodded, and Fatren fell a little behind him and Vin, as if showing an unconscious deference. He didn't seem rebellious—for now, he was probably happy to be alive. Perhaps he would eventually resent Elend for taking command of his city, but by then, there would be little he could do. Fatren's people would be accustomed to the security of being part of a larger empire, and the stories of Elend's mysterious command of the koloss—and therefore salvation of the city—would be too strong. Fatren would never rule again.
So easily I command, Elend thought. Just two years ago, I made even more mistakes than this man. At least he managed to keep his city's people together in a time of crisis. I lost my throne, until Vin conquered it back for me.
"I worry about you," Vin asked. "Did you have to start the battle without me?"
Elend glanced to the side. There was no reproach in her voice. Just concern.
"I wasn't sure when—or even if—you'd arrive," he said. "The opportunity was just too good. The koloss had just marched an entire day. We probably killed five hundred before they even decided to start attacking."
"And the Inquisitor?" Vin asked. "Did you really think you could take him on your own?"
"Did you?" Elend asked. "You fought him for a good five minutes before I was able to get there and help."
Vin didn't use the obvious argument—that she was by far the more accomplished Mistborn. Instead, she just walked silently. She still worried about him, even though she no longer tried to protect him from all danger. Both her worry and her willingness to let him take risks were part of her love for him. And he sincerely appreciated both.
The two of them tried to stay together as much as possible, but that wasn't always feasible—such as when Elend had discovered a koloss army marching on an indefensible city while Vin was away delivering orders to Penrod in Luthadel. Elend had hoped she would return to his army camp in time to find out where he had gone, then come help, but he hadn't1 been able to wait. Not with thousands of lives at stake.
Thousands of lives . . . and more.
They eventually reached the gates. A crowd of soldiers who had either arrived late to the battle or been too afraid to charge stood atop the bulwark, looking down with awe. Several thousand koloss had gotten past Elend's men and tried to attack the city. These now stood motionless—by his silent command—waiting outside the bulwark.
The soldiers opened the gates, letting in Vin, Elend, Fatren, and Vin's single koloss servant. Most of them eyed Vin's koloss with distrust—as well they should. She ordered it to put down the dead Inquisitor, then made it follow as the three of them walked down the ash-piled city street. Vin had a philosophy: the more people who saw koloss and grew accustomed to the creatures, the better. It made the people less frightened of the beasts, and made it easier to fight should they have to face koloss in battle.
They soon approached the Ministry building that Elend had first inspected upon entering the city. Vin's koloss walked forward and began to rip the boards off of its doors.
"The Ministry building?" Fatren said. "What good is it? We already searched it."
Elend eyed him.
"My lord," Fatren said belatedly.
"The Steel Ministry was linked directly to the Lord Ruler," Elend said. "Its obligators were his eyes across the empire, and through them he controlled the nobility, watched over commerce, and made certain that orthodoxy was maintained."
The koloss yanked the door open. Moving inside, Elend burned tin, enhancing his eyesight so that he could see in the dim light. Vin, obviously doing the same, had little trouble picking her way across the broken boards and furniture littering the floor. Apparently, Fatren's people hadn't just "searched" the place—they'd ransacked it.
"Yeah, I know about obligators," Fatren said. "There aren't any of them here, my lord. They left with the nobility."
"The obligators saw to some very important projects, Fatren," Elend said. "Things like trying to discover how to use new Allomantic metals, or like searching for lines of Terris blood that were breeding true. One of their projects is of particular interest to us."
"Here," Vin said, calling out from beside something set in the floor. A hidden trapdoor.
Fatren glanced back toward the sunlight, perhaps wishing that he'd decided to bring a few soldiers with him. Beside the trapdoor, Vin lit a lantern she'd salvaged from somewhere. In the blackness of a basement, even tin wouldn't provide sight. Vin opened the trapdoor, and they made their way down the ladder. It eventually ended in a wine cellar.
Elend walked to the center of the small cellar, surveying it as Vin began to check the walls. "I found it," she said a second later, rapping her fist on a certain portion of the stone block wall. Elend walked forward, joining her. Sure enough, there was a thin slit in the stones, barely visible. Burning steel, Elend could see two faint blue lines pointing to metal plates hidden behind the stone. Two stronger lines pointed behind him, toward a large metal plate set into the wall, affixed very securely with enormous bolts bored into the stone.
"Ready?" Vin asked.
Elend nodded, flaring his iron. They both Pulled on the plate buried in the stone wall, steadying themselves by Pulling back against 1the plates on the back wall.
Not for the first time, the foresight of the Ministry impressed Elend. How could they have known that someday, a group of skaa would take control of this city? And yet, this door had not only been hidden—it had been crafted so that only someone with Allomancy could open it. Elend continued to Pull in both directions at once, feeling as if his body were being stretched between two horses. But, fortunately, he had the power of pewter to strengthen his body and keep it from ripping apart. Vin grunted in effort beside him, and soon a section of the wall began to slide open toward them. No amount of prying would have been able to wedge the thick stone open, and only a lengthy, arduous effort would have been enough to break through. Yet, with Allomancy, they opened the door in a matter of moments.
Finally, they let go. Vin exhaled in exhaustion, and Elend could tell that it had been more difficult for her than it was for him. Sometimes, he didn't feel justified in having more power than she—after all, he'd been an Allomancer for far less time.
Vin picked up her lantern, and they moved into the now-open room. Like the other two Elend had seen, this cavern was enormous. It extended into the distance, their lantern's light making only a faint dent in the blackness. Fatren gasped in wonder as he joined them in the doorway. The room was filled with shelves. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them.
"What is it?" Fatren asked.
"Food," Elend said. "And basic supplies. Medicines, cloth, water."
"So much," Fatren said. "Here, all along . . ."
"Go get more men," Elend said. "Soldiers. We'll need them to guard the entrance, to keep people from breaking in and stealing the contents."
Fatren's face hardened. "This place belongs to my people."
"My people, Fatren," Elend said, watching Vin walk into the room, bearing the light with her. "This city is mine, now, as are its contents."
"You came to rob us," Fatren accused. "Just like the bandits who tried to take the city last year."
"No," Elend said, turning toward the soot-stained man. "I came to conquer you. There's a difference."
"I don't see one."
Elend gritted his teeth to keep himself from snapping at the man—the fatigue, the draining effect of leading an empire that seemed doomed—put him on edge so often lately. No, he told himself. Men like Fatren need more than another tyrant. They need someone to look up to.
Elend approached the man, and intentionally didn't use emotional Allomancy on him. Soothing was effective in many situations, but it wore off quickly. It was not a method to make permanent allies.
"Lord Fatren," Elend said. "I want you to think carefully about what you're arguing for. What would happen if I did leave you? With this much food, this much wealth down here? Can you trust your people not to break in, your soldiers not to try selling some of this to other cities? What happens when the secret of your food supply gets out? Will you welcome the thousands of refugees who will come? Will you protect them, and this cavern, against the raiders and bandits who will follow?"
Fatren fell silent.
Elend laid a hand on the man's shoulder. "I meant what I said above, Lord Fatren. Your people fought well—I was very impressed. They owe thei1r survival today to you—your foresight, your training. Mere hours ago, they assumed they would be slaughtered by koloss. Now, they are not only safe, but under the protection of a much larger army.
"Don't fight this. You've struggled well, but it is time to have allies. I won't lie to you—I'm going to take the contents of this cavern, whether you resist me or not. However, I intend to give you the protection of my armies, the stability of my food supplies, and my word of honor that you can continue to rule your people under me. We need to work together, Lord Fatren. That's the only way any of us are going to survive the next few years."
Fatren looked up. "You're right, of course," he said. "I'll go get those men you asked for, my lord."
"Thank you," Elend said. "And, if you have anyone who can write, send them to me. We'll need to catalogue what we have down here."
Fatren nodded, then left.
"Once, you couldn't do things like that," Vin said from a short distance away, her voice echoing in the large cavern.
"Like what?"
"Give a man such forceful commands," she said. "Take control away from him. You'd have wanted to give these people a vote on whether or not they should join your empire."
Elend looked back at the doorway. He stood silently for a moment. He hadn't used emotional Allomancy, and