The Hero of Ages (Page 109)

Elend skidded down some rubble, approaching the center of what looked like an impact crater. He turned around in the dark night, looking at the fallen blocks and spires.

“Lord Ruler . . .” he swore quietly, unable to help himself. Had something happened at the Well of Ascension? Had it exploded?

— Advertising —

Elend turned, looking across his city. It appeared to be empty. Luthadel, largest metropolis in the Final Empire, seat of his government. Empty. Much of it in ruins, a good third of it burned, and Kredik Shaw itself flattened as if it had been pounded by the fist of a god.

Elend dropped a coin and shot away, heading along his original path toward the northeastern section of the city. He’d come to Luthadel hoping to find Vin, but had been forced to take a slight detour to the south in order to get around a particularly large swath of lava burning the plains around Mount Tyrian. That sight, along with the sight of Luthadel in ruin, left him very disturbed.

Where was Vin?

He jumped from building to building. He kicked up ash with each leap. Things were happening. The ash was slowly trickling away—in fact, it had mostly stopped falling. That was good, but he remembered well a short time ago when the sun had suddenly blazed with an amazing intensity. Those few moments had burned him so that his face still hurt.

Then, the sun had . . . dropped. It had fallen below the horizon in less than a second, the ground lurching beneath Elend’s feet. Part of him assumed that he was going mad. Yet, he could not deny that it was now nighttime, even if his body—and one of the city clocks he had visited—indicated that it should have been afternoon.

He landed on a building, then jumped off, Pushing against a broken door handle. He shivered as he moved in the open air of darkness. It was night—the stars blazing uncomfortably above—and there was no mist. Vin had told him that the mists would protect him. What would protect him now that they were gone?

— Advertising —

He made his way to Keep Venture, his palace. He found the building to be a burned-out husk. He landed in the courtyard, staring up at his home—the place he had been raised—trying to make sense of the destruction. Several guards in the brown colors of his livery lay decomposing on the cobblestones. All was still.

What in the hell happened here? he thought with frustration. He poked through the building, but found no clues. All had been burned. He left via a broken window on the top floor, then paused at something he saw in the rear courtyard.

He dropped to the ground. And there, beneath a patio canopy that had kept off much of the ash, he found a corpse in a fine gentlemen’s suit lying on the cobbles. Elend rolled it over, noting the sword thrust through its stomach and the posture of a suicide. The corpse’s fingers still held the weapon. Penrod, he thought, recognizing the face. Dead, presumably, by his own hand.

Something lay scrawled in charcoal on the patio floor. Elend wiped away the drifted ash, smudging the letters in the process. Fortunately, he could still read them. I’m sorry, it read. Something has taken control of me . . . of this city. I am lucid only part of the time. Better to kill myself than to cause more destruction. Look toward the Terris Dominance for your people.

— Advertising —

Elend turned toward the north. Terris? That seemed like a very odd place in which to seek refuge. If the people of the city had fled, then why would they have left the Central Dominance, the place where the mists were the weakest?

He eyed the scribbles.

Ruin . . . a voice seemed to whisper. Lies . . .

Ruin could change text. Words like Penrod’s couldn’t be trusted. Elend bid a silent farewell to the corpse, wishing he had the time to bury the old statesman, then dropped a coin to Push himself into the air.

The people of Luthadel had gone somewhere. If Ruin had found a way to kill them, then Elend would have found more corpses. He suspected that if he took the time to search, he could probably find people still hiding in the city. Likely, the disappearance of the mists—then the sudden change from day to night—had driven them into hiding. Perhaps they had made it to the storage cavern beneath Kredik Shaw. Elend hoped that not many had gone there, considering the damage that had been done to the palace. If there were people there, they would be sealed in.

West . . . the wind seemed to whisper. Pits . . .

Ruin usually changes text so that it’s very similar to what it said before, Elend thought. So . . . Penrod probably did write most of those words, trying to tell me where to go to find my people. Ruin made it sound like they went to the Terris Dominance, but what if Penrod originally wrote that they went to the Terris people?

— Advertising —

It made good sense. If he’d fled Luthadel, he would have gone there—it was a place where there was already an established group of refugees, a group with herds, crops, and food.

Elend turned west, leaving the city, cloak flapping with each Allomantic bound.

Suddenly, Ruin’s frustration made even more sense to Vin. She felt she held the power of all creation. Yet, it took everything she had to get even a few words to Elend.

She wasn’t even certain if he’d heard her or not. She knew him so well, however, that she felt a . . . connection. Despite Ruin’s efforts to block her, she felt as if some part of her had been able to get through to some part of Elend. Perhaps in the same way Ruin was able to communicate with his Inquisitors and followers?

Still, her near-impotence was infuriating.

Balance, Ruin spat. Balance imprisoned me. Preservation’s sacrifice—that was to siphon off the part of me that was stronger, to lock it away, to leave me equal with him again. For a time.

Only for a time. And what is time to us, Vin?

Nothing.

It may seem odd to those reading this that atium was part of the body of a god. However, it is necessary to understand that when we said “body” we generally meant “power.” As my mind has expanded, I’ve come to realize that objects and energy are actually composed of the very same things, and can change state from one to another. It makes perfect sense to me that the power of godhood would be manifest within the world in physical form. Ruin and Preservation were not nebulous abstractions. They were integral parts of existence. In a way, every object that existed in the world was composed of their power.

Atium, then, was an object that was one-sided. Instead of being composed of half Ruin and half Preservation—as, say, a rock would be—atium was completely of Ruin. The Pits of Hathsin were crafted by Preservation as a place to hide the chunk of Ruin’s body that he had stolen away during the betrayal and imprisonment. Kelsier didn’t truly destroy this place by shattering those crystals, for they would have regrown eventually—in a few hundred years—and continued to deposit atium, as the place was a natural outlet for Ruin’s trapped power1.

When people burned atium, then, they were drawing upon the power of Ruin—which is, perhaps, why atium turned people into such efficient killing machines. They didn’t use up this power, however, but simply made use of it. Once a nugget of atium was expended, the power would return to the Pits and begin to coalesce again—just as the power at the Well of Ascension would return there again after it had been used.

78

THIS IS, SAZED THOUGHT, without a doubt, the oddest dungeon I have ever been in.

Granted, it was only the second time he had been imprisoned. Still, he had observed several prisons in his lifetime, and had read of others. Most were like cages. This one, however, consisted only of a hole in the ground with an iron grate covering the top. Sazed scrunched down inside of it, stripped of his metalminds, his legs cramped.

It was probably built for a kandra, he thought. One without bones, perhaps? What would a kandra without bones be like? A pile of goo? Or, perhaps, a pile of muscles?

Either way, this prison had not been meant to hold a man—particularly not one as tall as Sazed. He could barely move. He reached up, pushing against the grate, but it was secure. A large lock held it in place.

He wasn’t certain how long he had been in the pit. Hours? Perhaps even days. They still hadn’t given him anything to eat, though a member of the Third Generation had poured some water on him. Sazed was still wet with it, and he had taken to sucking on the cloth of his robes to assuage his thirst.

This is silly, he thought, not for the first time. The world is ending, and I’m in prison? He was the final Keeper, the Announcer. He should be up above, recording events.

Because, truth be told, he was beginning to believe that the world would not end. He had accepted that something, perhaps Preservation itself, was watching over and protecting mankind. He was more and more determined to follow the Terris religion—not because it was perfect, but because he would rather believe and have hope.

The Hero was real. Sazed believed that. And he had faith in her.

He had lived with Kelsier and had helped the man. He had chronicled the rise of the Church of the Survivor during the first years of its development. He had even researched the Hero of Ages with Tindwyl and taken it upon himself to announce Vin as the one who fulfilled the prophecies. But it was only recently that he’d started to have faith in her. Perhaps it was his decision to be someone who saw miracles. Perhaps it was the daunting fear of the ending that seemed to loom just ahead. Perhaps it was the tension and anxiety. Regardless, somehow, from the chaos, he drew peace.

She would come. She would preserve the world. However, Sazed needed to be ready to help. And that meant escaping.

He eyed the metal grate. The lock was of fine steel, the grate itself of iron. He reached up tentatively, touching the bars, draining a bit of his weight and putting it into the iron. Immediately, his body grew lighter. In Feruchemy, iron stored physical weight, and the grate was pure enough to hold a Feruchemical charge. It went against his instincts to use the grate as a metalmind—it wasn’t portable, and if he had to flee, he’d leave behind all of the power he’d saved. Yet, what good would it be to simply sit in the pit and wait?

He reached up wit1h the other hand, touching the steel lock with one finger. Then, he began to fill it as well, draining his body of speed. He instantly began to feel lethargic, as if his every motion—even his breathing—was more difficult. It was like he had to push through some thick substance each time he moved.

He stayed that way. He had learned to enter a kind of meditative trance when he filled metalminds. Often, he would fill many at once, leaving himself sickly, weak, slow, and dull-minded. When he could, it was better to simply . . .

Drift.

He wasn’t certain how long the meditation lasted. Occasionally, the guard came to pour water on him. When the sounds came, Sazed would let go and huddle down, pretending to sleep. But, as soon as the guard withdrew, he would reach back up and continue to fill the metalminds.

More time passed. Then, he heard sounds. Sazed huddled down again, then waited expectantly for the shower of water.

“When I sent you back to save my people,” a voice growled, “this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.”

Sazed popped his eyes open, glancing upward, and was surprised to see a canine face looking through the grate. “TenSoon?” Sazed asked.

The kandra grunted and stepped back. Sazed perked up as another kandra appeared. She wore a delicate True Body made of wood, willowy and almost inhuman. And, she held some keys.

“Quickly, MeLaan,” TenSoon growled with his dog’s voice. He had apparently switched back to the wolfhound, which made sense. Moving as a horse through the sometimes steep and narrow tunnels of the Homeland would have been difficult.

— Advertising —