The Hero of Ages (Page 87)

More remarkable, however, were the canals. They had been refilled somehow. TenSoon sat on his haunches, watching the occasional makeshift boat push its way through a canal, displacing the patina of ash that covered the water. Here and there, debris and refuse clogged the waterways, but they were passable in most places.

He rose, shaking his canine head, continuing on his way. He’d stowed the bag with Kelsier’s bones outside, not wanting to look odd carrying a pack on his back.

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What had been the purpose of burning the city, then restoring its canals? He would likely have to wait to find the answer. He’d seen no army camped outside; if Vin had been here, she’d already moved on to another location. His goal now was to find what passed for leadership in the remains of the city, then continue on his way, hunting down the Hero of Ages.

As he walked, he heard the people talking—speaking of how they’d managed to survive the fires that had claimed much of the city. They actually seemed cheerful. There was despair, too, but there seemed an inordinate amount of happiness. This was not a city whose people had been conquered.

They feel they defeated the fire, TenSoon thought, making his way along a more crowded street. They don’t see losing a third of the city as a disaster—they see saving two-thirds of it as a miracle.

He followed the flow of traffic toward the center of town, where he finally found the soldiers he’d expected. They were definitely Elend’s, bearing the spear and the scroll on the arms of their uniforms. However, they defended an unlikely location: a Ministry building.

TenSoon sat back on his haunches, cocking his head. The building was obviously a center of operations. People bustled about under the eyes of the watchful soldiers, moving in and out. If he wanted answers, he’d need to get inside. He briefly considered going to fetch Kelsier’s bones from outside the city. However, he discarded that thought. He wasn’t certain if he wanted to deal with the ramifications of making the Survivor appear again. There was another way to get in—equally shocking, perhaps, but far less theologically disturbing.

He padded over to the front of the building and walked up the steps, drawing a few startled looks. As he approached the front doors, one of the guards shouted at him, waving the butt of a spear his direction.

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“Here now!” the man said. “This is no place for dogs. Whose hound is this?”

TenSoon sat back on his haunches. “I belong to no man,” he said.

The guard jumped back in shock, and TenSoon got a twisted sense of pleasure. He immediately chided himself. The world was ending, and he went about startling random soldiers. Still, it was an advantage of wearing a dog’s body that he’d never considered. . . .

“Wha . . .” the soldier said, looking around to see if he were the victim of some joke.

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“I said,” TenSoon repeated, “that I belong to no man. I am my own master.”

It was a strange concept—the weight of which, undoubtedly, the guard could never grasp. TenSoon, a kandra, was outside of the Homeland without a Contract. As far as he knew, he was the first of his people to do such a thing in seven hundred years. It felt oddly . . . satisfying.

Several people were staring at him now. Other guards had approached, looking to their comrade for an explanation.

TenSoon gambled. “I’ve come from Emperor Venture,” he said. “I bear a message for your leaders here.”

To TenSoon’s satisfaction, several of the other guards jumped. The first one, however—now an old hand when it came to talking dogs—raised a hesitant finger, pointing into the building. “In there.”

“Thank you,” TenSoon said, rising and walking through a now-quiet crowd as he made his way into the Ministry offices. He heard comments about “trick” and “well-trained” behind him, and noticed several guards running past him, faces urgent. He wound his way through groups and lines of people, all ignorant of the odd occurrence at the entrance to the building. At the end of the lines, TenSoon found . . .

Breeze. The Soother sat in a throne-like chair, holding a cup of wine, looking very pleased with himself as he made proclamations and settled disputes. He looked much as he had when TenSoon had served as Vin’s servant. One of the guards stood whispering to Breeze. Both eyed TenSoon as he padded up to the front of the line. The guard paled slightly, but Breeze just leaned forward, smiling.

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“So,” he said, tapping his cane lightly against the marble floor. “Were you always a kandra, or did you eat the bones of Vin’s hound recently?”

TenSoon sat. “I was always a kandra.”

Breeze nodded. “I knew there was something odd about you—far too well behaved for a wolfhound.” He smiled, sipping his wine. “Lord Renoux, I presume? It’s been a while.”

“I’m not him, actually,” TenSoon said. “I’m a different kandra. It’s . . . complicated.”

That gave Breeze pause. He eyed TenSoon, and TenSoon felt just a moment of panic. Breeze was a Soother—and, like all Soothers, he held the power to take control of TenSoon’s body. The Secret.

No, TenSoon told himself forcefully. Allomancers are weaker now than they once were. Only with duralumin could they take control of a kandra, and Breeze is only a Misting—he can’t burn duralumin.

“Drinking on the job, Breeze?” TenSoon asked, raising a canine eyebrow.

“Of course,” Breeze said, raising the cup. “What good is being in charge if you can’t set your own working conditions?”

TenSoon snorted. He hadn’t ever really liked Breeze—though perhaps that came from his bias against Soothers. Or, perhaps, his bias against all humans. Regardless, he wasn’t inclined toward small talk. “Where is Vin?” he asked.

Breeze frowned. “I thought you brought a message from her?”

“I lied to the guards,” TenSoon said. “I’ve actually come searching for her. I bring news she needs to hear—news regarding the mists and ash.”

“Well, then, my dear man . . . um . . . I suppose I mean my dear doggie. Anyway, let us retire; you can talk to Sazed. He’s far more useful than I am regarding these sorts of things.”

“. . . and, with Spook barely having survived the ordeal,” said the Terrisman, “I thought it best to let Lord Breeze take command. We set up shop in a different Ministry building—it seemed equipped to be a bureaucratic center—and had Breeze start listening to petitions. He is better at dealing with people than I am, I think, and seems to enjoy taking care of the day-to-day concerns of the citizenry.”

The Terrisman sat in his chair, a portfolio open on the desk before him, a pile of notes beside it. Sazed looked different to TenSoon for some reason that he couldn’t pin down. The Keeper wore the same robes, and had the same Feruchemical bracers on his arms. There was something missing, however.

That, however, was the least of TenSoon’s problems.

“Fadrex City?” TenSoon asked, sitting on his own chair. They were in one of the smaller rooms at the Ministry building—one that had once been an obligator’s sleeping quarters. Now, it simply held a desk and chairs, the walls and floor as austere as one might expect for Ministry furnishings.

Sazed nodded. “She and the emperor hoped to find another of these storage caverns there.”

TenSoon slumped. Fadrex was halfway across the empire. Even with the Blessing of Potency, it would take weeks for him to get there. He had a very, very long run ahead of him.

“Might I ask what business you have with Lady Vin, kandra?” Sazed asked.

TenSoon paused. It felt very odd, in a way, to speak so openly with Breeze, and now Sazed. These were men that TenSoon had watched for months while he acted like a dog. They’d never known him, yet he felt as if he knew them.

He knew, for instance, that Sazed was dangerous. The Terrisman was a Keeper—a group that TenSoon and his brethren had been trained to avoid. Keepers were always prying for rumors, legends, and tales. The kandra had many secrets; if the Keepers were ever to discover the riches of kandra culture, it could be disastrous. They’d want to study, ask questions, and record what they found.

TenSoon opened his mouth to say “Nothing.” However, he 1stopped. Didn’t he want someone to help with kandra culture? Someone who focused on religions, and who—perhaps—knew much of theology? Someone who knew about the legends of the Hero of Ages? Of all the members of the crew other than Vin, TenSoon had held Sazed in the highest regard.

“It has to do with the Hero of Ages,” TenSoon said carefully. “And the advent of the world’s end.”

“Ah,” Sazed said, rising. “Very well then. I shall give you whatever provisions you need. Will you be starting out immediately? Or, will you be staying here to rest for a time?”

What? TenSoon thought. Sazed hadn’t even twitched at the mention of religious matters. It didn’t seem like him at all.

Yet, Sazed continued speaking, as if TenSoon hadn’t just hinted at one of the greatest religious secrets of their age.

I’ll never understand humans, he thought, shaking his head.

The prison Preservation created for Ruin was not created out of Preservation’s power, though it was of Preservation. Rather, Preservation sacrificed his consciousness—one could say his mind—to fabricate that prison. He left a shadow of himself, but Ruin, once escaped, began to suffocate and isolate this small remnant vestige of his rival. I wonder if Ruin ever thought it strange that Preservation had cut himself off from his own power, relinquishing it and leaving it in the world, to be gathered and used by men.

In Preservation’s gambit, I see nobility, cleverness, and desperation. He knew that he could not defeat Ruin. He had given too much of himself and, beyond that, he was the embodiment of stasis and stability. He could not destroy, not even to protect. It was against his nature. Hence the prison.

Mankind, however, had been created by both Ruin and Preservation—with a hint of Preservation’s own soul to give them sentience and honor. In order for the world to survive, Preservation knew he had to depend upon his creations. To give them his trust.

I wonder what he thought when those creations repeatedly failed him.

60

THE BEST WAY TO FOOL SOMEONE, in Vin’s estimation, was to give them what they wanted. Or, at the very least, what they expected. As long as they assumed that they were one step ahead, they wouldn’t look back to see if there were any steps that they’d completely missed.

Yomen had designed her prison well. Any metal used in the construction of her cot or facilities was Allomantically useless. Silver, while expensive, seemed the metal of choice—and there was very little even of that. Just a few screws in the cot that Vin managed to work free with her fingernails.

Her meals—a greasy, flavorless gruel—were served in wooden bowls, with wooden spoons. The guards were hazekillers: men who carried staves and wore no metal on their bodies, and who had been trained to fight Allomancers. Her room was a simple stone construction with a solid wooden door, its hinges and bolts made of silver.

She knew from her guards’ behavior that they expected something from her. Yomen had prepared them well, and so when they slid her food through the slit, she could see the tension in their bodies and the speed of their retreat. It was like they were feeding a viper.

So, the next time they came to take her to Yomen, she attacked.

She moved as soon as the door opened, wielding a wooden leg she’d pulled off her cot. She dropped the first guard with a club to the arm, then a second hit on the back of his head. Her blows felt weak without pewter, but it was the best she could manage. She scrambled past the second guard in line, then slammed her shoulder into the stomach of the third. She didn’t weigh much, but it was enough to get him to drop his staff—which she immediately grabbed.

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