The Hero of Ages (Page 89)

“You do it,” Vin said. “You’re still worshipping the Lord Ruler.”

“He’s not gone,” Yomen said.

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Vin paused.

“No,” Yomen said, apparently noting her confusion. “I haven’t seen or heard of him since his disappearance. However, neither do I put any credence in reports of his death.”

“He was rather dead,” Vin said. “Trust me.”

“I don’t trust you, I’m afraid,” Yomen said. “Tell me of that evening. Tell me precisely what happened.”

So Vin did. She told him of her imprisonment, and of her escape with Sazed. She told him of her decision to fight the Lord Ruler, and of her reliance on the Eleventh Metal. She left out her strange ability to draw upon the power of the mists, but she explained pretty much everything else—including Sazed’s theory that the Lord Ruler had been immortal through the clever manipulation of his Feruchemy and Allomancy in combination.

And Yomen actually listened. Her respect for the man increased as she spoke, and as he didn’t interrupt her. He wanted to hear her story, even if he didn’t believe it. He was a man who accepted information for what it was—another tool to be used, yet to be trusted no more than any othe1r tool.

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“And so,” Vin finished, “he is dead. I stabbed him through the heart myself. Your faith in him is admirable, but it can’t change what happened.”

Yomen stood silently. The older obligators—who still sat on their benches—had grown white in the face. She knew that her testimony might have damned her, but for some reason she felt that honesty—plain, blunt honesty—would serve her better than guile. That’s how she usually felt.

An odd conviction for one who grew up in thieving crews, she thought. Ruin had apparently grown bored during her account, and had walked over to look out the window.

“What I need to find out,” Yomen finally said, “is why the Lord Ruler thought it necessary for you to think that you had killed him.”

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“Didn’t you listen to what just I said?” Vin demanded.

“I did,” Yomen said calmly. “And do not forget that you are a prisoner here—one who is very close to death.”

Vin forced herself to be quiet.

“You find my words ridiculous?” Yomen said. “More ridiculous than your own? Think of how I see you, claiming to have slain a man I know to be God. Is it not plausible that he wanted this to happen? That he’s out there, still, watching us, waiting . . .”

That’s what this is all about, she realized. Why he captured me, why he’s so eager to speak with me. He’s convinced that the Lord Ruler is still alive. He just wants to figure out where I fit into all of this. He wants me to give him the proof that he’s so desperately wishing for.

“Why don’t you think you should be part of the skaa religion, Vin?” Ruin whispered.

She turned, trying not to look directly at him, lest Yomen see her staring into empty space.

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“Why?” Ruin asked. “Why don’t you want them worshipping you? All of those happy skaa? Looking toward you for hope?”

“The Lord Ruler must be behind all of this,” Yomen mused out loud. “That means that he wanted the world to see you as his killer. He wanted the skaa to worship you.”

“Why?” Ruin repeated. “Why be so uncomfortable? Is it because you know you can’t offer them hope? What is it they call him, the one you are supposed to have replaced? The Survivor? A word of Preservation, I think. . . .”

“Perhaps he intends to return dramatically,” Yomen said. “To depose you and topple you, to prove that faith in him is the only true faith.”

Why don’t you fit? Ruin whispered in her head.

“Why else would he want them to worship you?” Yomen asked.

“They’re wrong!” Vin snapped, raising hands to her head, trying to stop the thoughts. Trying to stop the guilt.

Yomen paused.

“They’re wrong about me,” Vin said. “They don’t worship me, they worship what they think I should be. But I’m not the Heir of the Survivor. I didn’t do what Kelsier did. He freed them.”

You conquered them, Ruin whispered.

“Yes,” Vin said, looking up. “You’re looking in the wrong direction, Yomen. The Lord Ruler won’t return.”

“I told you that—”

“No,” Vin said, stand1ing. “No, he’s not coming back. He doesn’t need to. I took his place.”

Elend had worried that he was becoming another Lord Ruler, but his concern had always seemed flawed to Vin. He hadn’t been the one to conquer and reforge an empire, she had. She’d been the one who made the other kings submit.

She’d done exactly as the Lord Ruler had. A Hero had risen up, and the Lord Ruler had killed him, then taken the power of the Well of Ascension. Vin had killed the Lord Ruler, then taken that same power. She’d given up the power, true, but she’d filled the same role.

It all came to a head. The reason why the skaa worshipping her, calling her their savior, felt so wrong. Suddenly, her real role in it all seemed to snap into place.

“I’m not the Survivor’s Heir, Yomen,” she said sickly. “I’m the Lord Ruler’s.”

He shook his head dismissively.

“When you first captured me,” she said, “I wondered why you kept me alive. An enemy Mistborn? Why not just kill me and be done with it? You claimed that you wanted to give me a trial, but I saw through that. I knew you had another motive. And now I know what it is.” She looked him in the eyes. “You said earlier that you planned to execute me for the Lord Ruler’s murder, but you just admitted that you think he’s still alive. You say that he’ll return to topple me from my place, so you can’t kill me, lest you interfere with your god’s plans.”

Yomen turned away from her.

“You can’t kill me,” she said. “Not until you’re certain of my place in your theology. That’s why you kept me alive, and that’s why you risk bringing me in here to talk. You need information only I can give—you have to get testimony from me in a trial of sorts because you want to know what happened that night. So you can try to convince yourself that your god still lives.”

Yomen didn’t respond.

“Admit it. I’m in no danger here.” She stepped forward.

And Yomen moved. His steps suddenly became more fluid—he didn’t have the grace of pewter or the knowledge of a warrior, but he moved just right. She dodged instinctively, but his atium let him anticipate her, and before she could so much as think, he’d thrown her to the floor, holding her pinned with a knee against her back.

“I may not kill you yet,” he said calmly, “but that hardly means that you’re in ‘no danger,’ Lady Venture.”

Vin grunted.

“I want something from you,” he said. “Something more than what we’ve discussed. I want you to tell your husband to send his army away.”

“Why would I do that?” Vin said, face pressed against the cold stone of the floor.

“Because,” Yomen said, “you claim to want my storage cache, yet you claim to be good people. You now know that I will use the food in it wisely, to feed my people. If your Elend really is as altruistic as you claim, he certainly won’t be so selfish as to throw away lives to war, just so you can steal away our food and use it to feed your own.”

“We can grow crops,” Vin said. “We get enough light in the Central Dominance, while you don’t. The seed stock you have will be useless to you!”

“Then trade me for it.”

“You won’t talk to us!”

Yomen stepped back, releasing the pressure on h1er back. She rubbed her neck, sitting up, feeling frustrated. “It’s about more than the food in that cache, Yomen,” she said. “We control the other four of them. The Lord Ruler, he left clues in them. There is something to the whole group that can save us.”

Yomen snorted. “You were down there all that time, and you didn’t read the plaque that the Lord Ruler left?”

“Of course I did.”

“Then you know that there is nothing more in those caches,” Yomen said. “They’re all part of his plan, true. And for some reason that plan requires that men think he is dead. Regardless, you know now what he said. So, why take the city from me?”

Why take the city from me? The real reason itched inside of Vin. Elend had always found it an unimportant one, but to her, it held powerful appeal. “You know full well why we have to take the city,” Vin said. “As long as you have it, we have reason to conquer you.”

“It?” Yomen asked.

Ruin stepped forward, curious.

“You know what I mean. The atium. The Lord Ruler’s supply.”

“That?” Yomen asked, laughing. “This is all about the atium? Atium is worthless!”

Vin frowned. “Worthless? It’s the single most valuable commodity in the Final Empire!”

“Oh?” Yomen asked. “And how many people are there around to burn it? How many noble houses remain to play petty politics and vie for power by showing how much atium they can leach from the Lord Ruler? The value of atium was based in the economy of an empire, Lady Venture. Without the trappings of a reserve system and an upper class giving the metal implied worth, atium has no real value.” Yomen shook his head. “To a starving man, what is more important—a loaf of bread, or an entire jar of atium he can’t use, eat, or sell?”

He waved for the guards to take her. They pulled her to her feet, and she struggled, holding Yomen’s eyes.

Yomen turned away from her again. “Those lumps of metal do me no good, save—perhaps—to keep you in check. No, the food was the real resource. The Lord Ruler left me the riches I required to establish his power again. I just need to figure out what he wants me to do next.”

The soldiers finally succeeded in pulling her away.

I don’t wonder that we focused far too much on the mists during those days. But from what I now know of sunlight and plant development, I realize that our crops weren’t in as much danger from misty days as we feared. We might very well have been able to find plants to eat that did not need as much light to survive.

True, the mists did also cause some deaths in those who went out in them, but the number killed was not a large enough percentage of the population to be a threat to our survival as a species. The ash, that was our real problem. The smoke filling the atmosphere, the black flakes covering up everything beneath, the eruptions of the volcanic ashmounts . . . Those were what would kill the world.

61

“ELEND!” HAM CALLED, rushing up to him. “You’re back!”

“Surprised?” Elend asked, reading his friend’s expression.

“Of course not,” Ham said, a little too quickly. “The scouts reported your approach.”

My arrival may not surprise you, Elend thought tiredly, but the fact that I’m still alive does. Did you think I’d run off to get myself killed, or did you simply think that I’d wander away and abandon you?

It wasn’t a line of reasoning he wanted to pursue. So, he simply smiled, resting a hand on Ham’s shoulder and looking toward the camp. It looked strange, bunkered down as it was, ash piled up outside of it. It looked a little like it was dug into the ground several feet. There was so much ash. . . .

I can’t worry about everything at once, Elend thought with determination. I just have to trust. Trust in myself and keep going.

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