The Hero of Ages (Page 100)

The two had an uneasy truce, but the field of koloss outside was more than enough of a motivation to keep them working together. Elend had the larger army of the two, but not by much—and they were growing increasingly outnumbered as more and more koloss arrived.

“We should be working on the sanitation problem,” Yomen continued once they were out of the men’s earshot. “An army exists on two principles: health and food. Provide those two things, and you will be victorious.”

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Elend smiled, recognizing the reference. Trentison’s Supplying in Scale. A few years earlier, he would have agreed with Yomen, and the two would probably have spent the afternoon discussing the philosophy of leadership in Yomen’s palace. However, Elend had learned things in the last few years that he simply hadn’t been able to get from his studies.

Unfortunately, that meant he really couldn’t explain them to Yomen—particularly not in the time they had. So, instead, he nodded down the street. “We can move on to the infirmary now, if you wish, Lord Yomen.”

Yomen nodded, and the two turned toward another section of the city. The obligator had a no-nonsense approach to just about everything. Problems should be dealt with quickly and directly. He had a good mind, despite his fondness for making snap judgments.

As they walked, Elend was careful to keep an eye out for soldiers—on duty or off—in the streets. He nodded to their salutes, met their eyes. Many were working to repair the damages caused by the increasingly powerful earthquakes. Perhaps it was just in Elend’s mind, but it seemed that the soldiers walked a little taller after he passed.

Yomen frowned slightly as he watched Elend do this. The obligator still wore the robes of his station, despite the little bead of atium at his brow that he used to mark his kingship. The tattoos on the man’s forehead almost seemed to curl toward the bead, as if they had been designed with it in mind.

“You don’t know much about leading soldiers, do you, Yomen?” Elend asked.

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The obligator raised an eyebrow. “I know more than you ever will about tactics, supply lines, and the running of armies bet1ween distinct points.”

“Oh?” Elend said lightly. “So, you’ve read Bennitson’s Armies in Motion, have you?” The “distinct points” line was a dead giveaway.

Yomen’s frown deepened.

“One thing that we scholars tend to forget about, Yomen, is the impact emotion can have on a battle. It isn’t just about food, shoes, and clean water, necessary as those are. It’s about hope, courage, and the will to live. Soldiers need to know that their leader will be in the fight—if not killing enemies, then directing things personally from behind the lines. They can’t think of him as an abstract force up on a tower somewhere, watching out a window and pondering the depths of the universe.”

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Yomen fell silent as they walked through streets that, despite being cleaned of ash, had a forlorn cast to them. Most of the people had retreated to the back portions of the city, where the koloss would go last, if they broke through. They were camping outside, since buildings were unsafe in the quakes.

“You are an . . . interesting man, Elend Venture,” Yomen finally said.

“I’m a bastard,” Elend said.

Yomen raised an eyebrow.

“In composition, not in temperament or by birth,” Elend said with a smile. “I’m an amalgamation of what I’ve needed to be. Part scholar, part rebel, part nobleman, part Mistborn, and part soldier. Sometimes, I don’t even know myself. I had a devil of a time getting all those pieces to work together. And, just when I’m starting to get it figured out, the world up and ends on me. Ah, here we are.”

Yomen’s infirmary was a converted Ministry building—which, in Elend’s opinion, showed that Yomen was willing to be flexible. His religious buildings weren’t so sacred to him that he couldn’t acknowledge that they were the best facilities for taking care of the sick and wounded. Inside, they found physicians tending those who had survived the initial clash with the koloss. Yomen bustled off to speak with the infirmary bureaucrats—apparently, he was worried about the number of infections that the men had suffered. Elend walked over to the section with the most serious cases, and began visiting them, offering encouragement.

It was tough work, looking at the soldiers who had suffered because of his foolishness. How could he have missed seeing that Ruin could take the koloss back? It made so much sense. And yet, Ruin had played its hand well—it had misled Elend, making him think that the Inquisitors were controlling the koloss. Making him feel the koloss could be counted on.

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What would have happened, he thought, if I’d attacked this city with them as originally planned? Ruin would have ransacked Fadrex, slaughtering everyone inside, and then turned the koloss on Elend’s soldiers. Now the fortifications defended by Elend and Yomen’s men had given Ruin enough pause to make it build up its forces before attacking.

I have doomed this city, Elend thought, sitting beside the bed of a man who had lost his arm to a koloss blade.

It frustrated him. He knew he’d made the right decision. And, in truth, he’d rather be inside the city—almost certainly doomed—than be outside besieging it, and winning. For he knew that the winning side wasn’t always the right side.

Still, it came back to his continuing frustration at his inability to protect his people. And, despite Yomen’s rule of Fadrex, Elend considered its people to be his people. He’d taken the Lord Ruler’s th1rone, named himself emperor. The entirety of the Final Empire was his to care for. What good was a ruler who couldn’t even protect one city, let alone an empire full of them?

A disturbance at the front of the infirmary room caught his attention. He cast aside his dark thoughts, then bid farewell to the soldier. He rushed to the front of the hospital, where Yomen had already appeared to see what the ruckus was about. A woman stood holding a young boy, who was shaking uncontrollably with the fits.

One of the physicians rushed forward, taking the boy. “Mistsickness?” he asked.

The woman, weeping, nodded. “I kept him inside until today. I knew! I knew that it wanted him! Oh, please . . .”

Yomen shook his head as the physician took the boy to a bed. “You should have listened to me, woman,” he said firmly. “Everyone in the city was to have been exposed to the mists. Now your son will take a bed that we may need for wounded soldiers.”

The woman slumped down, still crying. Yomen sighed, though Elend could see the concern in the man’s eyes. Yomen was not a heartless man, just a pragmatic one. In addition, his words made sense. It was no use hiding someone inside all of their lives, just because of the possibility that they might fall to the mists.

Fall to the mists . . . Elend thought idly, glancing at the boy in bed. He had stopped convulsing, though his face was twisted in an expression of pain. It looked like he hurt so much. Elend had only hurt that much once in his life.

We never did figure out what this mistsickness was all about, he thought. The mist spirit had never returned to him. But, perhaps Yomen knew something.

“Yomen,” he said, walking up to the man, distracting him from his discussion with the surgeons. “Did any of your people ever figure out the reason for the mist-sickness?”

“Reason?” Yomen asked. “Does there need to be a reason for a sickness?”

“There does for one this strange,” Elend said. “Did you realize that it strikes down exactly sixteen percent of the population? Sixteen percent—to the man.”

Instead of being surprised, Yomen just shrugged. “Makes sense.”

“Sense?” Elend asked.

“Sixteen is a powerful number, Venture,” Yomen said, looking over some reports. “It was the number of days it took the Lord Ruler to reach the Well of Ascension, for instance. It figures prominently in Church doctrine.”

Of course, Elend thought. Yomen wouldn’t be surprised to find order in nature—he believes in a god who ordered that nature.

“Sixteen . . .” Elend said, glancing at the sick boy.

“The number of original Inquisitors,” Yomen said. “The number of Precepts in each Canton charter. The number of Allomantic metals. The—”

“Wait,” Elend said, looking up. “What?”

“Allomantic metals,” Yomen said.

“There are only fourteen of those.”

Yomen shook his head. “Fourteen we know of, assuming your lady was right about the metal paired to aluminum. However, fourteen is not a number of power. Allomantic metals come in sets of two, with groupings of four. It seems likely that there are two more we haven’t discovered, bringing the number to sixteen. Two by two by two by two. Four physic1al metals, four mental metals, four enhancement metals, and four temporal metals.”

Sixteen metals . . .

Elend glanced at the boy again. Pain. Elend had known such pain once—the day his father had ordered him beaten. Beaten to give him such pain that he thought he might die. Beaten to bring his body to a point near death, so that he would Snap.

Beaten to discover if he was an Allomancer.

Lord Ruler! Elend thought with shock. He dashed away from Yomen, pushing back into the soldiers’ section of the infirmary.

“Who here was taken by the mists?” Elend demanded.

The wounded regarded him with quizzical looks.

“Did any of you get sick?” Elend asked. “When I made you stand out in the mists? Please, I must know!”

Slowly, the man with one arm raised his remaining hand. “I was taken, my lord. I’m sorry. This wound is probably punishment for—”

Elend cut the man off, rushing forward, pulling out his spare metal vial. “Drink this,” he commanded.

The man paused, then did as asked. Elend knelt beside the bed eagerly, waiting. His heart pounded in his chest. “Well?” he finally asked.

“Well . . . what, my lord?” the soldier asked.

“Do you feel anything?” Elend asked.

The soldier shrugged. “Tired, my lord?”

Elend closed his eyes, sighing. It was a silly—

“Well, that’s odd,” the soldier suddenly said.

Elend snapped his eyes open.

“Yes,” the soldier said, looking a bit distracted. “I . . . I don’t know what to make of that.”

“Burn it,” Elend said, turning on his bronze. “Your body knows how, if you let it.”

The soldier’s frown deepened, and he cocked his head. Then, he began to thump with Allomantic power.

Elend closed his eyes again, exhaling softly.

Yomen was walking up behind Elend. “What is this?”

“The mists were never our enemy, Yomen,” Elend said, eyes still closed. “They were just trying to help.”

“Help? Help how? What are you talking about?”

Elend opened his eyes, turning. “They weren’t killing us, Yomen. They weren’t making us sick. They were Snapping us. Bringing us power. Making us able to fight.”

“My lord!” a voice suddenly called. Elend turned as a frazzled soldier stumbled into the room. “My lords! The koloss are attacking! They’re charging the city!”

Elend felt a start. Ruin. It knows what I just discovered—it knows it needs to attack now, rather than wait for more troops.

Because I know the secret!

“Yomen, gather every bit of powdered metal you can find in this city!” Elend yelled. “Pewter, tin, steel, and iron! Get it to anyone who has been stricken by the mists! Make them drink it down!”

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