The Hero of Ages (Page 106)

Yomen pulled the bead of atium free from its place at his brow. “My last bead. In case you need it.”

Elend accepted the bit of metal, rolling it over in his fingers. He’d never burned atium. For years, his family had overseen its mining—but, by the time Elend himself had become Mistborn, he’d already either spent what he’d been able to obtain, or had given it to Vin to be burned.

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“How did you do it, Yomen?” he asked. “How did you make it seem you were an Allomancer?”

“I am an Allomancer, Venture.”

“Not a Mistborn,” Elend said.

“No,” Yomen said. “A Seer—an atium Misting.”

Elend nodded. He’d assumed that was impossible, but it was hard to rely on assumptions about anything anymore. “The Lord Ruler knew about your power?”

Yomen smiled. “Some secrets, he worked very hard to guard.”

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Atium Mistings, Elend thought. That means there are others too . . . gold Mistings, electrum Mistings . . . Though, as he thought about it, some—like aluminum Mistings or duralumin Mistings—would be impossible to find because they couldn’t use their metals without being able to burn other metals.

“Atium was too valuable to use in testing people for Allomantic powers anyway,” Yomen said, turning away. “I never really found the power all that useful. How often does one have both atium and the desire to use it up in a few heartbeats? Take that bit and go find your wife.”

Elend stood for a moment, then tucked the bead of atium away and went down to give Ham some instructions. A few minutes later, he was streaking across the landscape, doing his best to fly with the horseshoes as Vin had taught him.

Each Hemalurgic spike driven through a person’s body gave Ruin some small ability to influence them. This was mitigated, however, by the mental fortitude of the one being controlled.

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In most cases—depending on the size of the spike and the length of time it had been worn—a single spike gave Ruin only minimal powers over a person. He could appear to them, and could warp their thoughts slightly, making them overlook certain oddities—for instance, their compulsion for keeping and wearing a simple earring.

75

SAZED GATHERED HIS NOTES, carefully stacking the thin sheets of metal. Though the metal served an important function in keeping Ruin from modifying—or perhaps even reading—their contents, Sazed found them a bit frustrating. The plates were easily scratched, and they couldn’t1 be folded or bound.

The kandra elders had given him a place to stay, and it was surprisingly lush for a cave. Kandra apparently enjoyed human comforts—blankets, cushions, mattresses. Some even preferred to wear clothing, though those who didn’t declined to create genitals for their True Bodies. That left him wondering about scholarly sorts of questions. They reproduced by transforming mistwraiths into kandra, so genitals would be redundant. Yet, the kandra identified themselves by gender—each was definitely a “he” or a “she.” So, how did they know? Did they choose arbitrarily, or did they actually know what they would have been, had they been born human rather than as a mistwraith?

He wished he had more time to study their society. So far, everything he’d done in the Homeland had been focused on learning more of the Hero of Ages and the Terris religion. He’d made a sheet of notes about what he’d discovered, and it sat at the top of his metallic stack. It looked surprisingly, even depressingly, similar to any number of sheets in his portfolio.

The Terris religion, as one might have expected, focused heavily on knowledge and scholarship. The Worldbringers—their word for Keepers—were holy men and women who imparted knowledge, but also wrote of their god, Terr. It was the ancient Terris word for “to preserve.” A central focus of the religion had been the histories of how Preservation—or Terr—and Ruin had interacted, and these included various prophecies about the Hero of Ages, who was seen as a successor to Preservation.

Aside from the prophecies, however, the Worldbringers had taught temperance, faith, and understanding to their people. They had taught that it was better to build than to destroy, a principle at the core of their teachings. Of course there had been rituals, rites, initiations, and traditions. There were also lesser religious leaders, required offerings, and codes of conduct. It all seemed good, but hardly original. Even the focus on scholarship was something shared by several dozen other religions Sazed had studied.

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That, for some reason, depressed him. It was just another religion.

What had he expected? Some astounding doctrine that would prove to him once and for all that there was a god? He felt like a fool. Yet, he also felt betrayed. This was what he’d ridden across the empire, feeling elated and anticipatory, to discover? This was what he’d expected to save them? These were just more words. Pleasant ones, like most in his portfolio, but hardly compelling. Was he supposed to believe just because it was the religion his people had followed?

There were no promises here that Tindwyl still lived. Why was it that people had followed this, or any, of the religions? Frustrated, Sazed dipped into his metalminds, dumping a group of accounts into his mind. Writings the Keepers had discovered—journals, letters, other sources from which scholars had pieced together what had once been believed. He looked through them, thought of them, read them.

What had made these people so willing to accept their religions? Were they simply products of their society, believing because it was tradition? He read of their lives, and tried to persuade himself that the people were simpletons, that they hadn’t ever truly questioned their beliefs. Surely they would have seen the flaws and inconsistencies if they’d just taken the time to be rational and discerning.

Sazed sat with closed eyes, a wealth of information from journals and letters in his mind, searching for what he expected to find. However, as the time passed, he did not discover what he sought. The people did not seem like fools to him. As he sat1, something began to occur to him. Something about the words, the feelings, of the people who had believed.

Before, Sazed had looked at the doctrines themselves. This time, he found himself studying the people who had believed, or what he could find of them. As he read their words over again in his mind, he began to see something. The faiths he had looked at, they couldn’t be divorced from the people who had adhered to them. In the abstract, those religions were stale. However, as he read the words of the people—really read them—he began to see patterns.

Why did they believe? Because they saw miracles. Things one man took as chance, a man of faith took as a sign. A loved one recovering from disease, a fortunate business deal, a chance meeting with a long lost friend. It wasn’t the grand doctrines or the sweeping ideals that seemed to make believers out of men. It was the simple magic in the world around them.

What was it Spook said? Sazed thought, sitting in the shadowy kandra cavern. That faith was about trust. Trusting that somebody was watching. That somebody would make it all right in the end, even though things looked terrible at the moment.

To believe, it seemed, one had to want to believe. It was a conundrum, one Sazed had wrestled with. He wanted someone, something, to force him to have faith. He wanted to have to believe because of the proof shown to him.

Yet, the believers whose words now filled his mind would have said he already had proof. Had he not, in his moment of despair, received an answer? As he had been about to give up, TenSoon had spoken. Sazed had begged for a sign, and received it.

Was it chance? Was it providence?

In the end, apparently, it was up to him to decide. He slowly returned the letters and journals to his metalminds, leaving his specific memory of them empty—yet retaining the feelings they had prompted in him. Which would he be? Believer or skeptic? At that moment, neither seemed a patently foolish path.

I do want to believe, he thought. That’s why I’ve spent so much time searching. I can’t have it both ways. I simply have to decide.

Which would it be? He sat for a few moments, thinking, feeling, and—most important—remembering.

I sought help, Sazed thought. And something answered.

Sazed smiled, and everything seemed a little bit brighter. Breeze was right, he thought, standing and organizing his things as he prepared to go. I was not meant to be an atheist.

The thought seemed a little too flippant for what had just happened to him. As he picked up his metal sheets and prepared to go meet with the First Generation, he realized that kandra passed outside his humble little cavern, completely oblivious to the important decision he’d just made.

But, that was how things often went, it seemed. Some important decisions were made on a battlefield or in a conference room. But others happened quietly, unseen by others. That didn’t make the decision any less important to Sazed. He would believe. Not because something had been proven to him beyond his ability to deny. But because he chose to.

As, he realized, Vin had once chosen to believe and trust in the crew. Because of what Kelsier had taught her. You taught me too, Survivor, Sazed thought, moving out into the stone tunnel to meet with the kandra leaders. Thank you.

Sazed made his way through the cavern corridors, suddenly eager at the prospect of another day interviewing the members of the First Generation. Now that he had covered most of their religion, he planned to find out more about the First Contract.

As far as he knew, he was the only human other than the Lord Ruler to have ever read its words. The members of the First Generation treated the metal bearing the contract with noticeably less reverence than the other kandra. That had surprised him.

Of course, Sazed thought, turning a corner, it does make some kind of sense. To the members of the First Generation, the Lord Ruler was a friend. They remember climbing that mountain with him—their leader, yes, but not a god. Kind of like the members of the crew, who had trouble seeing Kelsier in a religious light.

Still lost in thought, Sazed wandered into the Trustwarren, whose broad metallic doors were open. He paused, however, just inside. The First Generation waited in their alcoves, as was common. They didn’t come down until Sazed closed the doors. Oddly, however, the members of the Second Generation stood at their lecterns, addressing the crowds of kandra—who, despite being far more reserved than a similar group of humans would have been, still displayed an air of anxiety.

“. . . does it mean, KanPaar?” one lesser kandra was asking. “Please, we are confused. Ask the First Generation.”

“We have spoken of this thing already,” said KanPaar, leader of the Seconds. “There is no need for alarm. Look at you, crowding together, murmuring and rumormongering as if you were humans!”

Sazed moved up to one of the younger kandra, who stood gathered outside the doorway to the Trustwarren. “Please,” he whispered. “What is the source of this concern?”

“The mists, Holy Worldbringer,” the kandra—a female, he thought—whispered back.

“What of them?” Sazed asked. “The fact that they are staying later and later in the day?”

“No,” the kandra girl replied. “The fact that they’re gone.”

Sazed started. “What?”

The kandra nodded. “Nobody noticed it until early this morning. It was still dark out, and a guard walked by to check one of the exits. He says there was no mist at all outside, despite it being night! Others went out too. They all agree.”

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