The Hero of Ages (Page 116)

Outside, the sun rose into the sky. The heat was incredible, like an oven. Cries of pain echoed from deep within the cavern behind Sazed. Koloss were inside.

“She’ll come,” Sazed whispered.

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He could see Elend’s body. It had fallen back down the pile of koloss corpses. It was stark, bright white and red against the black and blue of the koloss and ash.

“Vin will come,” Sazed said insistently.

Demoux looked dazed. Too much blood lost. He slumped back, closing his eyes. Koloss began to move toward the cavern mouth, though they didn’t have the direction or frenzy they’d displayed before.

“The Hero will come!” Sazed said.

Outside, something appeared, as if from mists, then slumped down in the bodies beside Elend’s corpse. It was followed immediately by something else, a second figure, which also fell motionless.

There! Sazed thought, scrambling out of the cavern. He dashed past several koloss. They tried to swing for him, but Sazed wore his metalminds. He felt he should have his copperminds to use in case he needed to record something important. He wore his ten rings, the ones he’d used to fight during the siege of Luthadel, for he knew that he might need them.

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He tapped a bit of steel and dodged the koloss attacks. He moved quickly through the mass of confused-looking koloss, climbing over bodies, moving up to the scrap of white cloak that marked Elend’s resting place. His corpse was there, headless.

A small body lay beside his. Sazed fell to his knees, grabbing Vin by the shoulders. Beside her, atop the pile of dead koloss, lay another body. It was that of a man with red hair, one whom Sazed did not recognize, but he ignored it.

For Vin was not moving.

No! he thought, checking for a pulse. There was none. Her eyes were closed. She looked peaceful, but very, very dead.

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“This can not be!” he yelled, shaking her body again. Several koloss lumbered toward him.

He glanced upward. The sun was rising. It was getting hard to breathe for the heat. He felt his skin burning. By the time the sun reached its zenith, it would likely be so hot the land would burn.

“Is this how it ends?” he screamed toward the sky. “Your Hero is dead! Ruin’s power may be broken, the koloss may be lost to him as an army, but the world will still die!”

The ash had killed the plants. The sun would burn away anything that remained. There was no food. Sazed blinked out tears, but they dried on his face.

“This is how you leave us?” he whispered.

And then, he felt something. He looked down. Vin’s body was smoking slightly. Not from the heat. It seemed to be leaking something . . . or, no. It was connected to something. The twists of mist he saw, they led to a vast white light. He could just barely see it.

He reached out and touched the mist, and felt an awesome power. A power of stability. To the side, the other corpse—the one he didn’t recognize—was also leaking something. A deep black smoke. Sazed reached out with his other hand, touching the smoke, and felt a different power—more violent. The power of change.

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He knelt, stunned, between the bodies. And, only then, did it start to make sense.

The prophecies always used the gender-neutral, he thought. So that they could refer to either a man or a woman, we assumed. Or . . . perhaps because they referred to a Hero who wasn’t really either one?

He stood up. The sun’s power overhead felt insignificant compared to the twin—yet opposite—powers that surrounded him.

The Hero would be rejected of his people, Sazed thought. Yet, he would save them. Not a warrior, though he would fight. Not born a king, but would become one anyway.

He looked upward again.

Is this what you planned all along?

He tasted of the power, but drew back, daunted. How could he use such a thing? He was just a man. In the brief glimpse of forces that he touched, he knew that he’d have no hope of using it. He didn’t have the training.

“I can’t do this,” he said through cracked lips, reaching to the sky. “I don’t know how. I cannot make the world as it was—I never saw it. If I take this power, I will do as the Lord Ruler did, and will only make things worse for my trying. I am simply a man.”

Koloss cried out in pain from the burning. The heat was terrible, and around Sazed, trees began to pop and burst into flames. His touch on the twin powers kept him alive, he knew, but he did not embrace them.

“I am no Hero,” he whispered, still reaching to the sky.

His arms twinkled, golden. His copperminds, worn on his forearms, reflected the light of the sun. They had been with him for so long, his companions. His knowledge.

Knowledge. . . .

The words of the prophecy were very precise, he thought suddenly. They say . . . they say that the Hero will bear the future of the world on his arms.

Not on his shoulders. Not in his hands. On his arms.

By the Forgotten Gods!

He slammed his arms into the twin mists and seized the powers offered to him. He drew them in, feeling them infuse his body, making him burn. His flesh and bones evaporated, but as they did, he tapped his copperminds, dumping their entire contents into his expanding consciousness.

The copperminds, now empty, dropped with his rings to the pile of blue corpses beside the bodies of Vin, Elend, and Ruin’s nameless body. Sazed opened eyes as large as the world itself, drawing in power that latticed all of creation.

The Hero will have the power to save the world. But he will also have the power to destroy it.

We never understood. He wouldn’t simply bear the power of Preservation. He needed the power of Ruin as well.

The powers were opposites. As he drew them in, they threatened to annihilate each other. And yet, because he was of one mind on how to use them, he could keep them separate. They could touch without destroying each other, if he willed it. For these two powers had be1en used to create all things. If they fought, they destroyed. If they were used together, they created.

Understanding swelled within him. Over a thousand years, the Keepers had collected the knowledge of mankind and stored it in their copperminds. They had passed it down from Keeper to Keeper, each man or woman carrying the entire bulk of knowledge, so that he or she could pass it on when necessary. Sazed had it all.

And, in a moment of transcendence, he understood it all. He saw the patterns, the clues, the secrets. Men had believed and worshipped for as long as they had existed, and within those beliefs, Sazed found the answers he needed. Gems, hidden from Ruin in all the religions of mankind.

There had been a people called the Bennett. They had considered mapmaking to be a solemn duty; Sazed had once preached their religion to Kelsier himself. From their detailed maps and charts, Sazed discovered how the world had once looked. He used his powers to restore the continents and oceans, the islands and coastlines, the mountains and rivers.

There had been a people known as the Nelazan. They had worshipped the stars, had called them the Thousand Eyes of their god, Trell, watching them. Sazed remembered well offering the religion to the young Vin while she had sat, captive, undergoing her first haircut with the crew. From the Nelazan, the Keepers had recovered star charts, and had dutifully recorded them—even though scholars had called them useless, since they hadn’t been accurate since the days before the Ascension. Yet, from these star charts, and from the patterns and movements of the other planets in the solar system they outlined, Sazed could determine exactly where the world was supposed to sit in orbit. He put the planet back into its old place—not pushing too hard, as the Lord Ruler once had, for he had a frame of reference by which to measure.

There had been a people known as the Canzi who had worshipped death; they had provided detailed notes about the human body. Sazed had offered one of their prayers over the bodies they had found in Vin’s old crew hideout, back when Kelsier had still lived. From the Canzi teachings about the body, Sazed determined that the physiology of mankind had changed—either by the Lord Ruler’s intention or by simple evolution—to adapt to breathing ash and eating brown plants. In a wave of power, Sazed restored the bodies of men to the way they had been before, leaving each person the same, yet fixing the problems that living for a thousand years on a dying world had caused. He didn’t destroy men, warping and twisting them as the Lord Ruler had when he’d created the kandra, for Sazed had a guide by which to work.

He learned other things too. Dozens of secrets. One religion worshipped animals, and from it Sazed drew forth pictures, explanations, and references regarding the life that should have lived on the earth. He restored it. From another—Dadradah, the religion he had preached to Clubs before the man died—Sazed learned about colors and hues. It was the last religion Sazed had ever taught, and with its poems about color and nature, he could restore the plants, sky, and landscape to the way they had once been. Every religion had clues in it, for the faiths of men contained the hopes, loves, wishes, and lives of the people who had believed them.

Finally, Sazed took the religion of the Larsta, the religion that Kelsier’s wife—Mare—had believed in. Its priests had composed poetry during their times of meditation. From these poems—and from a scrap of paper that Mare had given to Kelsier, who had given it to Vin, who had given it to Sazed—he learned of the beautiful things that the world had once held.

And he restored flowers to the plants that had once borne them.

The religions in my portfolio weren’t useless after all, he thought, the power flowing from him and remaking the world. None of them were. They weren’t all true.

But they all had truth.

Sazed hovered over the world, changing things as he felt he must. He cradled the hiding places of mankind, keeping the caverns safe—even if he did move them about—as he reworked the world’s tectonics. Finally, he exhaled softly, his work finished. And yet, the power did not evaporate from him, as he had expected it to.

Rashek and Vin only touched small pieces of it at the Well of Ascension, he realized. I have something more. Something endless.

Ruin and Preservation were dead, and their powers had been joined together. In fact, they belonged together. How had they been split? Someday, perhaps, he would discover the answer to that question.

Somebody would need to watch over the world, care for it, now that its gods were gone. It wasn’t until that moment that Sazed understood the term Hero of Ages. Not a Hero that came once in the ages.

But a Hero who would span the ages. A Hero who would preserve mankind throughout all its lives and times. Neither Preservation nor Ruin, but both.

God.

Vin was special.

Preservation chose her from a very young age, as I have mentioned. I believe that he was grooming her to take his power. Yet, the mind of Preservation was very weak at that point, reduced only to the fragment that we knew as the mist spirit.

What made him choose this girl? Was it because she was a Mistborn? Was it because she had Snapped so early in life, coming to her powers even as she went through the pains of the unusually difficult labor her mother went through to bear her?

Vin was unusually talented and strong with Allomancy, even from the beginning. I believe that she must have drawn some of the mist into her when she was still a child, in those brief times when she wasn’t wearing the earring. Preservation had mostly gotten her to stop wearing it by the time Kelsier recruited her, though she put it back in for a moment before joining the crew. Then, she’d left it there at his suggestion.

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