The Hero of Ages (Page 101)

“Why?” Yomen said, still confused.

Elend turned, smiling. “Because they are now Allomancers. This c1ity isn’t going to fall as easily as everyone assumed. If you need me, I’ll be on the front lines!”

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There is something special about the number sixteen. For one thing, it was Preservation’s sign to mankind.

Preservation knew, even before he imprisoned Ruin, that he wouldn’t be able to communicate with humankind once he diminished himself. And so, he left clues—clues that couldn’t be altered by Ruin. Clues that related back to the fundamental laws of the universe. The number was meant to be proof that something unnatural was happening, and that there was help to be found.

It may have taken us long to figure this out, but when we eventually did understand the clue—late though it was—it provided a much-needed boost.

As for the other aspects of the number . . . well, even I am still investigating that. Suffice it to say that it has great ramifications regarding how the world, and the universe itself, works.

71

SAZED TAPPED HIS PEN against the metal paper, frowning slightly. “Very little of this last chunk is different from what I knew before,” he said. “Ruin changed small things—perhaps to keep me from noticing the alterations. It’s obvious that he wanted to make me realize that Vin was the Hero of Ages.”

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“He wanted her to release him,” said Haddek, leader of the First Generation. His companions nodded.

“Perhaps she was never the Hero,” one of the others offered.

Sazed shook his head. “I believe that she is. These prophecies still refer to her—even the unaltered ones that you have told me. They talk of one who is separate from the Terris people, a king of men, a rebel caught between two worlds. Ruin just emphasized that Vin was the one, since he wanted her to come and free him.”

“We always assumed that the Hero would be a man,” Haddek said in his wheezing voice.

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“So did everyone else,” Sazed said. “But, you said yourself that all the prophecies use gender-neutral pronouns. That had to be intentional—one does not use such language in old Terris by accident. The neutral case was chosen so that we wouldn’t know whether the Hero was male or female.”

Several of the ancient Terrismen nodded. They worked by the quiet blue light of the glowing stones, still sitting in the chamber with the metal walls—which, from what Sazed had been able to gather, was something of a holy place for the kandra.

He tapped his pen, frowning. What was bothering him? They say I will hold the future of the entire world on my arms. . . . Alendi’s words, from his logbook written so long ago. The words of the First Generation confirmed that was true.

There was still something for Vin to do. Yet, the power at the Well of Ascension was gone. Used up. How could she fight without it? Sazed looked up at his audience of ancient kandra. “What was the power at the Well of Ascension, anyway?”

“Even we are not certain of that, young one,” Haddek said. “By the time we lived as men, our gods had already passed from this world, leaving the Terris with only the hope of the Hero.”

“Tell me of this thing,” Sazed said, leaning forward. “How did your gods pass from this world?”

“Ruin and Preservation,” said one of the others. “They created our world, and our people.”1

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“Neither could create alone,” Haddek said. “No, they could not. For, to preserve something is not to create it—and neither can you create through destruction only.”

It was a common theme in mythology—Sazed had read it in dozens of the religions he’d studied. The world being created out of a clash between two forces, sometimes rendered as chaos and order, sometimes named destruction and protection. That bothered him a little bit. He was hoping to discover something new in the things men were telling him.

And yet . . . just because something was common, did that make it false? Or, could all of those mythologies have a shared, and true, root?

“They created the world,” Sazed said. “Then left?”

“Not immediately,” Haddek said. “But, here is the trick, young one. They had a deal, those two. Preservation wanted to create men—to create life capable of emotion. He obtained a promise from Ruin to help make men.”

“But at a cost,” one of the others whispered.

“What cost?” Sazed asked.

“That Ruin could one day be allowed destroy the world,” Haddek replied.

The circular chamber fell silent.

“Hence the betrayal,” Haddek said. “Preservation gave his life to imprison Ruin, to keep him from destroying the world.”

Another common mythological theme—the martyr god. It was one that Sazed himself had witnessed in the birth of the Church of the Survivor.

Yet . . . this time it’s my own religion, he thought. He frowned, leaning back, trying to decide how he felt. For some reason, he had assumed that the truth would be different. The scholarly side of him argued with his desire for belief. How could he believe in something so filled with mythological clichés?

He’d come all this way, believing that he’d been given one last chance to find the truth. Yet, now that he studied it, he was finding that it was shockingly similar to religions he had rejected as false.

“You seem disturbed, child,” Haddek said. “Are you that worried about the things we say?”

“I apologize,” Sazed said. “This is a personal problem, not related to the fate of the Hero of Ages.”

“Please, speak,” one of the others said.

“It is complicated,” Sazed said. “For some time now, I have been searching through the religions of mankind, trying to ascertain which of their teachings were true. I had begun to despair that I would ever find a religion that offered the answers I sought. Then, I learned that my own religion still existed, protected by the kandra. I came here, hoping to find the truth.”

“This is the truth,” one of the kandra said.

“That’s what every religion teaches,” Sazed said, frustration mounting. “Yet, in each of them I find inconsistencies, logical leaps, and demands of faith I find impossible to accept.

“It sounds to me, young one,” Haddek said, “that you’re searching for something that cannot be found.”

“The truth?” Sazed said.

“No,” Haddek replied. “A religion that requires no faith of its believers.”

Another of the kandra elders nodded. “We follow the Father and the First 1Contract, but our faith is not in him. It’s in . . . something higher. We trust that Preservation planned for this day, and that his desire to protect will prove more powerful than Ruin’s desire to destroy.”

“But you don’t know,” Sazed said. “You are offered proof only once you believe, but if you believe, you can find proof in anything. It is a logical conundrum.”

“Faith isn’t about logic, son,” Haddek said. “Perhaps that’s your problem. You cannot ‘disprove’ the things you study, any more than we can prove to you that the Hero will save us. We simply must believe it, and accept the things Preservation has taught us.”

It wasn’t enough for Sazed. However, for the moment, he decided to move on. He didn’t have all the facts about the Terris religion yet. Perhaps once he had them, he would be able to sort this all out.

“You spoke of the prison of Ruin,” Sazed said. “Tell me how this relates to the power that Lady Vin used.”

“Gods don’t have bodies like those of men,” Haddek said. “They are . . . forces. Powers. Preservation’s mind passed, but he left his power behind.”

“In the form of a pool of liquid?” Sazed said.

The members of the First Generation nodded.

“And the dark black smoke outside?” Sazed asked.

“Ruin,” Haddek said. “Waiting, watching, during his imprisonment.”

Sazed frowned. “The cavern of smoke was very much larger than the Well of Ascension. Why the disparity? Was Ruin that much more powerful?”

Haddek snorted quietly. “They were equally powerful, young one. They were forces, not men. Two aspects of a single power. Is one side of a coin more ‘powerful’ than the other? They pushed equally upon the world around them.”

“Though,” one of the others added, “there is a story that Preservation gave too much of himself to make mankind, to create something that had more of Preservation in them than they had of Ruin. Yet, it would be only a small amount in each individual. Tiny . . . easy to miss, except over a long, long time . . .”

“So, why the difference in size?” Sazed asked.

“You aren’t seeing, young one,” Haddek said. “The power in that pool, that wasn’t Preservation.”

“But, you just said—”

“It was part of Preservation, to be sure,” Haddek continued. “But, he was a force—his influence is everywhere. Some of it, perhaps, concentrated into that pool. The rest is . . . elsewhere and everywhere.”

“But Ruin, his mind was focused there,” another kandra said. “And so, his power tended to coalesce there. Much more of it, at least, than that of Preservation.”

“But not all of it,” another one said, laughing.

Sazed cocked his head. “Not all of it? It, too, was spread out across the world, I assume?”

“In a way,” Haddek said.

“We now speak of things in the First Contract,” one of the other kandra warned.

Haddek paused, then turned, studying Sazed’s eyes. “If what this man says is true, then Ruin has escaped. That means he will be coming for his body. His . . . power.”

Sazed felt a chill. “It’s here?” he asked quietly.

Haddek nodded. “We were to gather it. The First Contract, the Lord Ruler named it—our charge in this world.”

“The other Children had a purpose,” another kandra added. “The koloss, they were created to fight. The Inquisitors, they were created to be priests. Our task was different.”

“Gather the power,” Haddek said. “And protect it. Hide it. Keep it. For the Father knew Ruin would escape one day. And on that day, he would begin searching for his body.”

The group of aged kandra looked past Sazed. He frowned, turning to follow their eyes. They were looking toward the metal dais.

Slowly, Sazed stood, walking across the stone floor. The dais was large—perhaps twenty feet across—but not very high. He stepped onto it, causing one of the kandra behind him to gasp. Yet, none of them called out to stop him.

There was a seam down the middle of the circular platform, and a hole—perhaps the size of a large coin—at the center. Sazed peered through the hole, but it was too dark to see anything.

He stepped back.

I should have a little left, he thought, glancing toward his table, with its metal-minds. I refilled that ring for a few months before I gave up on my metalminds.

He walked over quickly, selecting a small pewter ring off of the table. He slipped it on, then looked up at the members of the First Generation. They turned from his querying look.

“Do what you must, child,” Haddek said, his aged voice echoing in the room. “We could not stop you if we wished.”

Sazed walked back to the dais, then tapped his pewtermind for the strength he had stored in it over a year ago. His body immediately grew several times stronger than normal, and his robes suddenly felt tight. With hands now thick with muscles, he reached down and—bracing himself against the rough floor—shoved against one side of the disk on the floor.

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