The Hero of Ages (Page 103)

She fell with the rain.

Vin hit hard, but managed to land on her feet. The Inquisitor hit the cobblestones back-first, her daggers still in his chest. But he stood up easily, tossing the daggers aside, shattering them on the cobblestones.

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Then he moved suddenly. Too quickly. Vin didn’t have time to think as he splashed through the misty rain, grabbing her by the throat.

I’ve seen that speed before, she thought as she struggled. Not just from Inquisitors. From Sazed. That’s a Feruchemical power. Just like the strength Marsh used earlier.

That was the reason for the new spikes. These other Inquisitors didn’t have as many as Marsh, but they obviously had some new powers. Strength. Speed. Each of these creatures was, essentially, another Lord Ruler.

You see? Ruin asked.

Vin cried out, duralumin-Pushing against the Inquisitor, tearing herself out of his grasp. The move left her throat bleeding from his fingernails, and she had to down another vial of metals—her last—to restore her steel as she hydroplaned across the wet ground.

Feruchemical storages run out, she told herself. Even Allomancers make mistakes. I can win.

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Yet, she wavered, breathing heavily as she came to a rest, one hand to the ground, up to the wrist in cold rainwater. Kelsier had struggled fighting one Inquisitor. What was she doing fighting thirteen?

Sodden-robed figures landed around her. Vin kicked, slamming a foot into an Inquisitor chest, then Pulled herself off to spin away from another one. She rolled across the slick cobblestones, an obsidian axe nearly taking off her head as she came up and kicked two pewter-enhanced feet at the knees of an opponent.

Bones crunched. The Inquisitor screamed and fell. Vin pushed herself to her feet with one hand, then Pulled on the spires up above, throwing herself up about ten feet to dodge the multitude of swings that came after her.

She landed back on the ground, grabbing the handle of the fallen Inquisitor’s axe. She swung it up, spraying water, her skin stained with wet ash as she blocked a blow.

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You cannot fight, Vin, Ruin said. Each blow only helps me. I am Ruin.

She screamed, throwing herself forward in a reckless attack, shouldering aside one Inquisitor, then slamming her axe into the side of another. They growled and swung, but she stayed a step ahead, barely dodging their attacks. The one she had knocked down stood back up, his knees healed. He was smiling.

A blow she didn’t see too1k her in the shoulder, throwing her forward. She felt warm blood running down her back, but pewter deadened the pain. She threw herself to the side, regaining her feet, clutching her axe.

The Inquisitors stalked forward. Marsh watched quietly, rain dripping down his face, spikes protruding from his body like the spires of Kredik Shaw. He did not join the fight.

Vin growled, then Pulled herself into the sky again. She shot ahead of her foes, and bounded from spire to spire, using their metal as anchors. The twelve Inquisitors followed like a flock of ravens, leaping between spires, robes flapping, taking different paths than she. She lurched through the mists, which continued to spin around her in defiance of the rain.

An Inquisitor landed against the spike she was aiming for. She yelled, swinging her axe in an overhand blow as she landed, but he Pushed off—dodging her swing—then Pulled himself right back. She kicked at his feet, sending both herself and her opponent sprawling into the air. Then, she grabbed his robe as they fell.

He looked up, teeth clenched in a smile, knocking her axe out of her hand with an inhumanly strong hand. His body began to swell, gaining the unnatural bulk of a Feruchemist tapping strength. He laughed at Vin, grabbing her neck. He didn’t even notice as Vin Pulled them both slightly to the side as they fell through the air.

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They hit one of the lower spikes, the metal piercing the surprised Inquisitor’s chest. Vin wrenched herself to the side, out of the way, but hung on to his head, her weight pulling him down the spire. She didn’t look as the spike ripped through his body, but when she hit the ground below, she was holding only a head. A disembodied spike splashed into an ashen puddle beside her, and she dropped the dead creature’s head beside it.

Marsh screamed in anger. Four more Inquisitors landed around her. Vin kicked at one, but it moved with Feruchemical speed, catching her foot. Another grabbed her by the arm and wrenched her to the side. She cried out, kicking her way free, but a third one grabbed her, his grip enhanced by both Allomantic and Feruchemical strength. The other three followed, holding her with claw-like fingers.

Taking a deep breath, Vin extinguished her tin, then burned duralumin, steel, and pewter. She Pushed outward with a sudden wave of power; Inquisitors were thrown back by their spikes. They sprawled, falling to the ground, cursing.

Vin hit the cobblestones. Suddenly, the pain in her back and her throat seemed impossibly strong. She flared tin to clear her mind, but still stumbled, woozily, as she climbed to her feet. She’d used up all of her pewter in that one burst.

She moved to run, and found a figure standing in front of her. Marsh was silent, though another wave of lightning lit the mists.

Her pewter was gone. She was bleeding from a wound that probably would have killed anyone else. She was desperate.

Okay. Now! she thought as Marsh slapped her. The blow threw her to the ground.

Nothing happened.

Come on! Vin thought, trying to draw upon the mists. Terror twisted within her as Marsh loomed, a black figure in the night. Please!

Each time the mists had helped her, they had done so when she was most desperate. This was her plan, weak though it seemed: to put herself in more trouble than she’d ever been in before, then count on the mists to help her. As they had twice before.

Marsh knelt over her. Images flashed like bursts of lightning through her tired mind.

Camon, raising a meaty hand to beat her. Rain falling on her as she huddled in a dark corner, her side aching from a deep gash. Zane turning toward her as they stood at the top of Keep Hasting, one of his hands dripping a slow stream of blood.

Vin tried to scramble away across the slick, cold cobblestones, but her body wasn’t working right. She could barely crawl. Marsh slammed a fist down on her leg, shattering the bone, and she cried out in shocked, icy pain. No pewter tempered the blow. She tried to pull herself up to grab one of Marsh’s spikes, but he snatched her leg—the broken one—and her own effort just made her scream in agony.

Now, Ruin said in his kindly voice, we will begin. Where is the atium, Vin? What do you know of it?

“Please . . .” Vin whispered, reaching toward the mists. “Please, please, please . . .”

Yet, they remained aloof. Once, they had swirled playfully around her body, but now they pulled back instead. Just as they’d done for the entire last year. She was crying, reaching for them, but they puffed away. Shunning her like a victim of the plague.

It was the same way the mists treated the Inquisitors.

The creatures rose, surrounding her, silhouettes in the dark night. Marsh yanked her back to him, then reached for her arm. She heard her bone snap before she felt the pain. It came, however, and she screamed.

It had been a long time since she’d known torture. The streets had not been kind, but during the last few years, she’d been able to repress most of those experiences. She’d become a Mistborn. Powerful. Protected.

Not this time, she realized through the haze of agony. Sazed won’t come for me this time. Kelsier won’t save me. Even the mists have abandoned me. I’m alone.

Her teeth began to chatter, and Marsh raised her other arm. He looked down at her with spiked eyes, expression unreadable. Then snapped the bone.

Vin screamed, more from the terror than the pain.

Marsh watched her scream, listening to its sweetness. He smiled, then reached down for her unbroken leg. If only Ruin weren’t holding him back. Then he could kill her. He strained against his bonds, lusting to do her more harm.

No . . . a tiny piece of him thought.

The rain fell, marking a beautiful night. The city of Luthadel lay bedecked in its funereal best, smoldering, some parts still burning despite the wet night. How he wished he’d arrived in time to see the riots and the death. He smiled, the passionate love of a fresh kill rising in him.

No, he thought.

He knew, somehow, that the end was very near. The ground trembled beneath his feet, and he had to steady himself with one hand before continuing his work, snapping Vin’s other leg. The final day had arrived. The world would not survive this night. He laughed gleefully, fully in the throes of a blood frenzy, barely controlled as he broke Vin’s body.

NO!

Marsh awakened. Though his hands still moved as ordered, his mind rebelled. He took in the ash, and the rain, the blood and the soot, and it disgusted him. Vin lay nearly dead.

Kelsier tre1ated her like a daughter, he thought as he broke her fingers, one at a time. She was screaming. The daughter he never had with Mare.

I’ve given up. Just like I did with the rebellion.

It was the great shame of his life. Years ago, before the Collapse, he had led the skaa rebellion. But, he’d given in. He’d withdrawn, giving up leadership of the group. And he’d done it only one year before the rebellion—with Kelsier’s help—finally overthrew the Final Empire. Marsh had been its leader, but had given up. Just before the victory.

No, he thought as he broke the fingers on her other hand. Not again. No more giving up!

His hand moved up to her collarbone. And then he saw it. A single bit of metal, glittering in Vin’s ear. Her earring. She’d explained it to him once.

I don’t remember it, Vin’s voice whispered to him from the past. A memory of when Marsh himself had sat with her on a quiet veranda at Mansion Renoux, watching Kelsier organize a caravan below, just before Marsh left to infiltrate the ranks of the Steel Priesthood.

Vin had spoken of her insane mother. Reen said that he came home one day and found my mother covered in blood, Vin had said. She’d killed my baby sister. Me, however, she hadn’t touched—except to give me an earring . . .

Don’t trust anyone pierced by metal. Spook’s letter. Even the smallest bit can taint a man.

The smallest bit.

As he looked closer, the earring—though twisted and chipped—looked almost like a tiny spike.

He didn’t think. He didn’t give Ruin time to react. Amid the thrill of killing the Hero of Ages, Ruin’s control was weaker than it had ever been. Summoning all the will he had remaining, Marsh reached out.

And ripped the earring from Vin’s ear.

Vin’s eyes snapped open.

Ash and water fell on her. Her body burned with pain, and the echoing screams of Ruin’s demands still reverberated in her head.

But the voice spoke no further. It had been stifled midsentence.

What?

The mists returned to her with a snap. They flowed around her, sensing the Allomancy of her tin, which she still burned faintly. They spun around her as they once had, playful, friendly.

She was dying. She knew it. Marsh was done with her bones, and was obviously growing impatient. He screamed, holding his head. Then, he reached down, grabbing his axe from the puddle beside him. Vin couldn’t have run if she’d wanted to.

Fortunately, the pain was fading. Everything was fading. It was black.

Please, she thought, reaching out to the mists with one final plea. They felt so familiar all of a sudden. Where had she felt that feeling before? Where did she know them?

From the Well of Ascension, of course, a voice whispered in her head. It’s the same power, after all. Solid in the metal you fed to Elend. Liquid in the pool you burned. And vapor in the air, confined to night. Hiding you. Protecting you.

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