The Hero of Ages (Page 111)

The thing that she’d noticed earlier didn’t have to do with the Terris or their guests. She saw it as she drew closer. A shining blaze of . . . something. Powerful, more mighty than the sun itself to her eyes. She focused on it, but could see little. What could shine so magnificently?

“Take this,” a voice said. “Find humans, and trade for weapons and supplies.”

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“Yes, Lord KanPaar,” a second voice said. They were coming from the center of the shining area. It was to the side of the Pits, only a few minutes’ travel from the refugees.

Oh, no . . . Vin thought, feeling a sudden dread.

“The foolish Firsts have sat on this treasure for far too long,” KanPaar said. “With these riches, we could be ruling, not serving, mankind.”

“I . . . thought we didn’t want to change things?” the second voice said.

“Oh, we won’t. Not quickly, at least. For now, just this small amount needs to be sold . . .”

Hidden beneath the ground, Vin thought, heightened mind making the connections. In a place that already shines because of the large number of metal deposits. Ruin would never have been able to know where the atium was.

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The depth of the Lord Ruler’s strategies amazed her. He had held on for a thousand years, maintaining such an amazing secret, keeping atium safe. She imagined obligators communicating only on metal plates, giving instructions for the operations at the Pits. She imagined caravans traveling from the Pits, carrying atium mixed with gold and coins to hide where it was moving and what exactly was going on.

You don’t know what I do for mankind, the Lord Ruler had said.

And I didn’t, Vin thought. Thank you.

She felt Ruin surge with power, and she blocked him. But just as she had been able to get a tendril of power past Ruin to Elend, Ruin was able to get the tiniest thread through. It was enough, for the one who had spoken was tainted with Hemalurgy. A spike in each shoulder drew Ruin’s power and allowed him to speak to their bearer.

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A kandra? Vin thought, her senses finally managing to peer through the atium glare to see a creature with a translucent body standing in a cavern, just beneath the ground. Another kandra was crawling out of a hole nearby, carrying a small pouch of atium.

Ruin seized control of the kandra KanPaar. The creature stiffened, his metal spikes betraying him.

Speak of this, Ruin said to KanPaar, Vin feeling his words as they pulsed into the kandra. How much atium is there?

“Wha . . . who are you?” KanPaar said. “Why are you in my head?”

I am God, the voice said. And you are mine.

All of you are mine.

Elend landed outside the Pits of Hathsin, throwing up a puff of ash. Oddly, some of his own soldiers were there, guarding the perimeter. They rushed forward, spears held anxiously, then froze when they recognized him.

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“Lord Venture?” one of the men asked with shock.

“I know you,” Elend said, frowning. “From my army at Fadrex.”

“You sent us back, my lord,” the other soldier said. “With General Demoux. To help Lord Penrod in Luthadel.”

Elend glanced up at the night sky, speckled with stars. Some time had passed during his travel to the Pits from Luthadel. If time were now passing normally, the night was halfway through. What would happen when the sun rose again?

“Quickly,” Elend said. “I need to speak with the leaders of this camp.”

The return of the First Generation was accomplished with as much flair as Sazed had hoped. The old kandra, now wearing larger bodies, still bore the distinctive colorings and aged skin of their generation. He had feared that the ordinary kandra would not recognize them. However, he hadn’t counted on the long life spans of the kandra people. Even if the Firsts only emerged once every century, most of the kandra would have seen them several times.

Sazed smiled as the group of Firsts moved into the main kandra chamber, continuing to cause shock and surprise in the others. They proclaimed KanPaar had betrayed them and imprisoned them, then called the kandra people to assemble. Sazed stayed back behind MeLaan and the others, watching for snags in their plan.

To the side, he saw a familiar kandra approaching.

“Keeper,” TenSoon said, still wearing the body of a Fifth. “We need to be careful. There are strange things afoot.”

“Such as?” Sazed asked.

Then, TenSoon attacked him.

Sazed started, and his moment of confusion cost him dearly. TenSoon—or whoever it was—got his hands around Sazed’s throat and began to choke him. They fell backward, drawing the attention of the surrounding kandra. Sazed’s assailant—bearing bones of rock—weighed far more than Sazed, and was easily able to roll to the top, his hands still on Sazed’s neck.

“TenSoon?” MeLaan asked, sounding terrified.

It’s not him, Sazed thought. It can’t be. . . .

“Keeper,” his assailant said between clenched teeth. “Something is very wrong.”

You’re telling me! Sazed tried to gasp for breath, reaching toward the pocket of his robe, struggling to grab the metalmind lock inside.

“I can barely keep myself from crushing your throat right now,” the kandra continued. “Something has control of me. It wants me to kill you.”

You’re doing a pretty good job! Sazed thought.

“I’m sorry,” TenSoon said.

The Firsts had gathered around them. Sazed was barely able to focus, panic controlling him as he fought a much stronger, much heavier foe. He grabbed hold of his impromptu steelmind, but only then realized that speed would do him little good when he was being held so tightly.

“It has come, then,” whispered Haddek, leader of the Firsts. Sazed barely noticed as one of the other Firsts began to shake. People were crying out but the blood thumping in Sazed’s ears kept him from hearing what they were saying.

Haddek turned away from the gasping Sazed. And then, in a loud voice, yelled something. “The Resolution has come!”

Above him, TenSoon jerked. Something within the kandra seemed to be fighting—tradition and a lifetime of training warred against the control of an outside force. TenSoon released Sazed with one hand, but kept choking him with the other. Then, with his free hand, the kandra reached toward his own shoulder.

Sazed blacked out.

The kandra people always said they were of Preservation, while the koloss and Inquisitors were of Ruin. Yet, the kandra bore Hemalurgic spikes, just like the others. Was their claim, then, simple delusion?

No, I think not. They were created by the Lord Ruler to be spies. When they said such things, most of us interpreted that as meaning he planned to use them as spies in his new government, because of their ability to imitate other people. Indeed, they were used for this purpose.

But I see something much more grand in their existence. They were the Lord Ruler’s double agents, planted with Hemalurgic spikes, yet trusted—taught, bound—to pull them free when Ruin tried to seize them. In Ruin’s moment of triumph, when he’d always assumed the kandra would be his on a whim, the vast majority of them immediately switched sides and left him unable to seize his prize.

They were of Preservation all along.

80

“THE TERRISMEN DID A GOOD job with this place, my lord,” Demoux said.

Elend nodded, walking through the quiet nighttime camp with hands clasped behind his back. He was glad he’d stopped to change into a fresh white uniform before leaving Fadrex. As it was supposed to, the clothing attracted attention. The people seemed to take hope simply from seeing him. Their lives had been cast into chaos—they needed to know that their leader was aware of their situation.

“The camp is enormous, as you can see,” Demoux continued. “Several hundred thousand people now live here. Without the Terrismen, I doubt that the refugees would have survived. As it is, they managed to keep sickness to a minimum, to organize crews to filter and bring fresh water to the camp, and to distribute food and blankets.”

Demoux hesitated, glancing at Elend. “Food is running out, however,” the general said quietly. Apparently, when he’d discovered that Penrod was dead and that most of Luthadel’s population was at the Pits, he decided to keep his men there to help.

They passed another campfire, and the people there rose. They watched Elend and his general with hope. At this campfire, Demoux stopped as a young Terris-woman approached and handed him and Elend some warm tea to drink. Her eyes lingered fondly on Demoux, and he thanked her by name. The Terris people were affectionate toward Demoux—they were thankful to him for bringing soldiers to help organize and police the mass of refugees.

The people needed leadership and order in these times. “I shouldn’t have left Luthadel,” Elend said quietly.

Demoux didn’t respond immediately. The two of them finished their tea, then continued on, walking with an honor guard of about ten soldiers, all from Demoux’s group. The general had sent several messengers back to Elend. They had never arrived. Perhaps they hadn’t been able to get around the lava field. Or perhaps they had run afoul of the very same army of koloss Elend had passed on his way to Luthadel.

Those koloss . . . Elend thought. The ones we drove away from Fadrex, plus more, are coming directly in this direction. There are even more people here than there were in Fadrex. And they don’t have a city wall, or many soldiers at all, to protect them.

“Have you been able to figure out what happened in Luthadel, Demoux?” Elend asked quietly, pausing in a darkened area bet1ween campfires. It still felt so strange to be out with no mists to obscure the night. He could see so much further—yet, oddly, the night didn’t seem as bright.

“Penrod, my lord,” Demoux said softly. “They say he went mad. He began finding traitors in the nobility, even within his own army. He divided the city, and it turned into another house war. Almost all of the soldiers killed one another, and the city half burned down. The majority of the people escaped, but they have very little by way of protection. A determined group of bandits could probably wreak havoc on this whole group.”

Elend fell silent. House war, he thought with frustration. Ruin, using our own tricks against us. That’s the same method Kelsier used to seize the city.

“My lord . . .” Demoux said tentatively.

“Speak,” Elend said.

“You were right to send me and my men back,” Demoux said. “The Survivor is behind this, my lord. He wanted us here for some reason.”

Elend frowned. “What makes you say that?”

“These people,” Demoux said, “they fled Luthadel because of Kelsier. He appeared to a pair of soldiers, then a group of people, in the city. They say he’d told them to be ready for disaster, and to lead the people out of the city. It’s because of them that so many escaped. Those two soldiers and their friends had supplies prepared, and they had the presence of mind to come here.”

Elend’s frown deepened. Yet, he had seen too much to reject even such a strange story. “Send for these men,” he said.

Demoux nodded, waving for a soldier.

“Also,” Elend said, remembering that Demoux and his men had been sick from the mists, “see if anyone here has any Allomantic metals. Pass them out to your soldiers and have them ingest them.”

“My lord?” Demoux said, confused, as he turned.

“It’s a long story, Demoux,” Elend said. “Suffice it to say that your god—or somebody—has made you and your men into Allomancers. Divide your men by the metal it turns out they can burn. We’re going to need all of the Coinshots, Thugs, and Lurchers we can get.”

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