The Hero of Ages (Page 90)

He had pondered the mist spirit the rest of his trip. Had it really told him not to attack Fadrex, or was Elend simply misinterpreting its gestures? What had it wanted him to learn by pointing at his vial of metals?

Beside him, Ham was regarding the mass of new koloss. To the side of the army, his other koloss sat—still under his control. Though he had grown increasingly adept at keeping a hold on the creatures, it was still nice to be back close to them. It made him feel more comfortable.

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Ham whistled quietly. “Twenty-eight thousand?” he asked. “Or, at least, that’s what the scouts say.”

Elend nodded.

“I hadn’t realized how large the group was,” Ham said. “With that many . . .”

Thirty-seven thousand total, Elend thought. More than enough to storm Fadrex.

He began to walk down the incline, toward the camp. Though he hadn’t needed much pewter to help him through the hike, he was still tired. “Any news of Vin?” he said hopefully, though he knew that if she’d managed to escape, she would have already found him.

“We sent a messenger into the city while you were gone,” Ham said as they began to walk. “Yomen said a soldier could come and confirm that Vin was still alive, and so we complied in your name, thinking it best if Yomen thought you were here.”

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“You did well,” Elend said.

“It’s been a while since then,” Ham said. “We haven’t heard anything of her since.”

“She’s still alive,” Elend said.

Ham nodded. “I believe so too.”

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Elend smiled. “It’s not just faith, Ham,” he said, nodding toward the koloss that had remained behind. “Before she was captured, I gave some of those to her. If she’d died, then they would have gone out of control. As long as she lives—whether or not she has metals—she will remain bonded to them.”

Ham paused. “That . . . would have been something good to tell us earlier, El.”

“I know,” Elend said. “It’s too easy to forget how many I’m controlling—I didn’t even think that not all of those are mine. Post scouts, keep an eye on them. I’ll take them back if they go wild.”

Ham nodded. “Could you contact her through them?”

Elend shook his head. How did he explain? Controlling the koloss wasn’t a subtle thing—their minds were too dull for much beyond simple commands. He could order them to attack, or to freeze, or to follow and carry things. But he couldn’t direct them precisely, couldn’t instruct them to speak a message or even how to accomplish a goal. He could only say “Do this” and watch them go.

“We’1ve had scout reports from the Central Dominance, El,” Ham said, voice troubled.

Elend looked at him.

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“Most of our scouts didn’t return. Nobody knows what happened to Demoux and the men you sent—we hope they reached Luthadel, but the capital is in bad shape. The scouts who have returned bear some pretty frustrating news. We’ve lost many of the cities you conquered during this last year. The people are starving, and a lot of villages are empty save for the dead. Those who can flee to Luthadel, leaving trails of corpses on the road, buried in ash.”

Elend closed his eyes. But Ham wasn’t done.

“There are tales of cities swallowed by the rumbling earth,” Ham said, voice almost a whisper. “King Lekal and his city fell to lava from one of the ashmounts. We haven’t heard from Janarle in weeks; his entire retinue seems to have vanished, and the Northern Dominance is in chaos. The entire Southern Dominance is said to be burning. . . . Elend, what do we do?”

Elend continued to stride forward, walking onto an ash-free pathway and then into the camp proper. Soldiers were gathering about, whispering, looking at him. He didn’t know how to answer Ham’s question. What did he do? What could he do?

“We’ll help them, Ham,” he said. “We won’t give up.”

Ham nodded, looking slightly bolstered. “Though, before you do anything else, what you should probably do is go change your clothing. . . .”

Elend glanced down, remembering that he was still wearing the black uniform, bloodied from killing koloss, then stained by ash. His appearance caused quite a stir in the men. They’ve only seen me in the white, pristine outfit. Many of them have never even seen me fight—never seen me bloodied, never seen me dirtied by ash.

He wasn’t certain what bothered him about that.

Ahead, Elend could see a bearded figure sitting in a chair beside the pathway, as if he were simply out there for an afternoon repast. Cett eyed him as he passed. “More koloss?”

Elend nodded.

“We’re going to attack, then?” Cett asked.

Elend stopped.

The mist spirit apparently didn’t want him to attack. But, he couldn’t be certain what it had wanted him to know or think—he didn’t even know if he should trust it. Could he base the future of his empire on vague impressions he got from a ghost in the mists?

He had to get into that storage, and he couldn’t afford to wait in siege—not any longer. Plus, attacking seemed the best way to get Vin back safely. Yomen would never return her—Elend either had to sit around and wait, or he had to attack, hoping that in the chaos of battle, Yomen would leave her in a dungeon somewhere. True, attacking risked an execution, but letting Yomen use her as a bargaining chip seemed just as dangerous for her.

I have to be the man who makes the hard decisions, he told himself. It’s what Vin was trying to teach me at the ball—that I can be both Elend the man, and Elend the king. I took these koloss for a purpose. Now I need to use them.

“Inform the soldiers,” Elend said. “But don’t have them form ranks. We attack in the morning, but do so in surprise—koloss first, breaking through their defenses. The men can form up after that, then go in and seize control.”

We’ll rescue Vin, get into that cave1rn, then get back to Luthadel with the food supplies.

And survive as long as we can.

I suspect that Alendi, the man Rashek killed, was himself a Misting—a Seeker. Allomancy, however, was a different thing in those days, and much more rare. The Allomancers alive in our day are the descendants of the men who ate those few beads of Preservation’s power. They formed the foundation of the nobility, and were the first to name him emperor.

The power in these few beads was so concentrated that it could last through ten centuries of breeding and inheritance.

62

SAZED STOOD OUTSIDE THE ROOM, looking in. Spook lay in his bed, still swaddled in bandages. The boy had not awakened since his ordeal, and Sazed wasn’t certain if he ever would. Even if he did live, he’d be horribly scarred for the rest of his life.

Though, Sazed thought, this proves one thing. The boy doesn’t have pewter. If Spook had been able to burn pewter, then he would have healed far more quickly. Sazed had administered a vial of pewter just in case, and it had made no difference. The boy hadn’t mystically become a Thug.

It was comforting, in a way. It meant that Sazed’s world still made sense.

Inside the room, the girl—Beldre—sat at Spook’s side. She came every day to spend time with the lad. More time, even, than she spent with her brother, Quellion. The Citizen had a broken arm and some other wounds, but nothing lethal. Though Breeze ruled in Urteau, Quellion was still an authority, and he seemed to have grown far more . . . civil. He now seemed willing to consider an alliance with Elend.

It seemed strange to Sazed that Quellion would become so accommodating. They had entered his city, sown chaos, and nearly killed him. Now he listened to their offers of peace? Sazed was suspicious, to be sure. Time would tell.

Inside, Beldre turned slightly, finally noticing Sazed at the doorway. She smiled, standing.

“Please, Lady Beldre,” he said, entering. “Don’t stand.”

She seated herself again as Sazed walked forward. He surveyed his bandage work on Spook, checking the young man’s condition, comparing notes from inside the medical texts of his copperminds. Beldre watched quietly.

Once he was finished, he turned to leave.

“Thank you,” Beldre said from behind.

Sazed stopped.

She glanced at Spook. “Do you think . . . I mean, has his condition changed?”

“I am afraid that it has not, Lady Beldre. I cannot promise anything in regard to his recovery.”

She smiled faintly, turning back toward the wounded lad. “He’ll make it,” she said.

Sazed frowned.

“He’s not just a man,” Beldre said. “He’s something special. I don’t know what he did to bring my brother back, but Quellion is just like his old self—the way he was before all of this insanity began. And the city. The people have hope again. That’s what Spook wanted.”

Hope . . . Sazed thought, studying the girl’s eyes. She really does love him.

It seemed, in a way, silly to Sazed. How long 1had she known the boy? A few weeks? During that short time, Spook had not only earned Beldre’s love, but had become a hero to the people of an entire city.

She sits and hopes, having faith that he will recover, Sazed thought. Yet, upon seeing him, the first thing I thought of was how relieved I was that he wasn’t a Pewterarm. Had Sazed really become that callous? Just two years before, he had been willing to fall hopelessly in love with a woman who had spent most of her life chastising him. A woman with whom he had only had a few precious days.

He turned and left the room.

Sazed walked to his quarters in the nobleman’s mansion they had taken, their new home now that their former residence was a burned-out ruin. It was nice to have ordinary walls and steps again, rather than endless shelves bounded by cavern walls.

On his desk sat the open portfolio, its cloth-wrapped coverboard stained with ash. One stack of pages sat to its left, and one stack sat to its right. There were only ten pages left in the right stack.

Taking a deep breath, Sazed approached and sat down. It was time to finish.

It was late morning the next day before he set the final sheet onto the top of the left stack. He’d moved quickly through these last ten, but he’d been able to give them his undivided attention, not being distracted by riding as he worked or other concerns. He felt that he’d given each one due consideration.

He sat for a time, feeling fatigued, and not just from lack of sleep. He felt . . . numb. His task was done. After a year’s work, he’d sifted through each and every religion in his stack. And he’d eliminated every one.

It was odd, how many common features they all had. Most claimed ultimate authority, denouncing other faiths. Most taught of an afterlife, but could offer no proof. Most taught about a god or gods, yet—again—had little justification for their teachings. And every single one of them was riddled with inconsistencies and logical fallacies.

How did men believe in something that preached love on one hand, yet taught destruction of unbelievers on the other? How did one rationalize belief with no proof? How could they honestly expect him to have faith in something that taught of miracles and wonders in the far past, but carefully gave excuses for why such things didn’t occur in the present day?

And then, of course, there was the final flake of ash on the pile—the thing that each and every faith had, in his opinion, failed to prove. All taught that believers would be blessed. And all had absolutely no answer as to why their gods had allowed the faithful to be captured, imprisoned, enslaved, and slaughtered by a heretic known as Rashek, the Lord Ruler.

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