The Hero of Ages (Page 91)

The stack of pages sat face down on the desk before him. They meant that there was no truth. No faith that would bring Tindwyl back to him. Nothing watching over men, contrary to what Spook had affirmed so strongly. Sazed ran his fingers across the final page, and finally, the depression he’d been fighting—barely holding at bay for so long—was too strong for him to overcome. The portfolio had been his final line of defense.

It was pain. That’s what the loss felt like. Pain and numbness at the same time; a barb-covered wire twisting around his chest combined with an absolute inability to do anything about it. He felt like huddling in a corner, crying, and just letting himself die.

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No! he thought. There must be something. . . .

He reached under his desk, trembling fingers seeking his sack of metalminds. However, he didn’t pull one of these out, but instead removed a large, thick tome. He put it on the table beside his portfolio, then opened it to a random page. Words written in two different hands confronted him. One was careful and flowing. His own. The other was terse and determined. Tindwyl’s.

He rested his fingers on the page. He and Tindwyl had compiled this book together, deciphering the history, prophecies, and meanings surrounding the Hero of Ages. Back before Sazed had stopped caring.

That’s a lie, he thought, forming a fist. Why do I lie to myself? I still care. I never stopped caring. If I’d stopped caring, then I wouldn’t still be searching. If I didn’t care so much, then being betrayed wouldn’t feel so painful.

Kelsier had spoken of this. Then Vin had done the same. Sazed had never expected to have similar feelings. Who was there that could hurt him so deeply that he felt betrayed? He was not like other men. He acknowledged that not out of arrogance, but out of simple self-knowledge. He forgave people, perhaps to a fault. He simply wasn’t the type to feel bitter.

He’d assumed, therefore, that he would never have to deal with these emotions. That’s why he’d been so unprepared to be betrayed by the only thing he couldn’t accept as being flawed.

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He couldn’t believe. If he believed, it meant that God—or the universe, or whatever it was that watched over man—had failed. Better to believe that there was nothing at all. Then, all of the world’s inadequacies were simply mere chance. Not caused by a god who had failed them.

Sazed glanced at his open tome, noticing a little slip of paper sticking out between its pages. He pulled it free, surprised to find the picture of a flower that Vin had given him, the one that Kelsier’s wife had carried. The one she’d used to give herself hope. To remind her of a world that had existed before the coming of the Lord Ruler.

He glanced upward. The ceiling was of wood, but red sunlight—refracted by the window—sprayed across it. “Why?” he whispered. “Why leave me like this? I studied everything about you. I learned the religions of five hundred different peoples and sects. I taught about you when other men had given up a thousand years before.

“Why leave me without hope, when others can have faith? Why leave me to wonder? Shouldn’t I be more certain than any other? Shouldn’t my knowledge have protected me?”

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And yet, his faith had made him even more susceptible. That’s what trust is, Sazed thought. It’s about giving someone else power over you. Power to hurt you. That’s why he’d given up his metalminds. That’s why he had decided to sort through the religions one at a time, trying to find one that had no faults. Nothing to fail him.

It just made sense. Better to not believe, rather than be proven wrong. Sazed looked back down. Why did he think to talk to the heavens? There was nothing there.

There never had been.

Outside, in the hallway, he could hear voices. “My dear doggie,” Breeze said, “surely you’ll stay for another day.”

“No,” said TenSoon the kandra, speaking in his growling voice. “I must find Vin as soon as possible.”

Even the kandra, Sazed thought. Even an inhuman creature has more faith than I.

And yet, how cou1ld they understand? Sazed closed his eyes tight, feeling a pair of tears squeeze from the corners. How could anyone understand the pain of a faith betrayed? He had believed. And yet, when he had needed hope the most, he had found only emptiness.

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He picked up the book, then snapped closed his portfolio, locking the inadequate summaries inside. He turned toward the hearth. Better to simply burn it all.

Belief . . . He remembered a voice from the past. His own voice, speaking to Vin on that terrible day after Kelsier’s death. Belief isn’t simply a thing for fair times and bright days, I think. What is belief—what is faith—if you don’t continue in it after failure. . . .

How innocent he had been.

Better to trust and be betrayed, Kelsier seemed to whisper. It had been one of the Survivor’s mottos. Better to love and be hurt.

Sazed gripped the tome. It was such a meaningless thing. Its text could be changed by Ruin at any time. And do I believe in that? Sazed thought with frustration. Do I have faith in this Ruin, but not in something better?

He stood quietly in the room, holding the book, listening to Breeze and Ten-Soon outside. The book was a symbol to him. It represented what he had once been. It represented failure. He glanced upward again. Please, he thought. I want to believe. I really do. I just . . . I just need something. Something more than shadows and memories. Something real.

Something true. Please?

“Farewell, Soother,” TenSoon said. “Give my regards to the Announcer.” Then, Sazed heard Breeze thump away. TenSoon padded down the hallway on his quieter dog’s feet.

Announcer. . . .

Sazed froze.

That word. . . .

Sazed stood, stunned for a moment. Then, he threw his door open and burst into the hallway. The door slammed back against the wall, making Breeze jump. TenSoon stopped at the end of the hallway, near the stairs. He turned back, looking at Sazed.

“What did you call me?” Sazed demanded.

“The Announcer,” TenSoon said. “You are, are you not, the one who pointed out Lady Vin as the Hero of Ages? That, then, is your title.”

Sazed fell to his knees, slapping his tome—the one he had written with Tindwyl—on the floor before him. He flipped through the pages, locating one in particular, penned in his own hand. I thought myself the Holy Witness, it said, the prophet foretold to discover the Hero of Ages. They were the words of Kwaan, the man who had originally named Alendi the Hero. From these writings, which were their only clues about the original Terris religion, Sazed and the others had gleaned what little they knew of the prophecies about the Hero of Ages.

“What is this?” Breeze asked, leaning down, scanning the words. “Hum. Looks like you’ve got the wrong term, my dear doggie. Not ‘Announcer’ at all, but ‘Holy Witness.’ “

Sazed looked up. “This is one of the passages that Ruin changed, Breeze,” he said quietly. “When I wrote it, it read differently—but Ruin altered it, trying to trick me and Vin into fulfilling his prophecies. The skaa had started to call me the Holy Witness, their own term. So Ruin retroactively changed Kwaan’s writings so that they seemed prophetic and reference me.”

“Is that so?” Breeze asked, rubbing his chin. “What did it say before?”

Sazed ignored the question, instead meeting TenSoon’s canine eyes. “How did you know?” he demanded. “How do you know the words of the ancient Terris prophecies?”

TenSoon fell back on his haunches. “It strikes me as odd, Terrisman. There’s one great inconsistency in this all, a problem no one has ever thought to point out. What happened to the packmen who traveled with Rashek and Alendi up to the Well of Ascension?”

Rashek. The man who had become the Lord Ruler.

Breeze stood up straight. “That’s easy, kandra,” he said, waving his cane. “Everyone knows that when the Lord Ruler took the throne of Khlennium, he made his trusted friends into noblemen. That’s why the nobility of the Final Empire were so pampered—they were the descendants of Rashek’s good friends.”

TenSoon sat quietly.

No, Sazed thought with wonder. No . . . that couldn’t be! “He couldn’t have made those packmen into nobles.”

“Why ever not?” Breeze asked.

“Because the nobility gained Allomancy,” Sazed said, standing. “Rashek’s friends were Feruchemists. If he’d made them into noblemen, then . . .”

“Then they could have challenged him,” TenSoon said. “They could have become both Allomancers and Feruchemists as he was, and had his same powers.”

“Yes,” Sazed said. “He spent ten centuries trying to breed Feruchemy out of the Terris population—all in fear that someday someone would be born with both Feruchemy and Allomancy! His friends who went to the Well with him would have been dangerous, since they were obviously powerful Feruchemists, and they knew what Rashek had done to Alendi. Rashek would have had to do something else with them. Something to sequester them, perhaps even kill them. . . .”

“No,” TenSoon said. “He didn’t kill them. You call the Father a monster, but he was not an evil man. He didn’t kill his friends, though he did recognize the threat their powers posed to him. So, he offered them a bargain, speaking directly to their minds while he was holding the power of creation.”

“What bargain?” Breeze asked, obviously confused.

“Immortality,” TenSoon said quietly. “In exchange for their Feruchemy. They gave it up, along with something else.”

Sazed stared at the creature in the hallway, a creature who thought like a man but had the form of a beast. “They gave up their humanity,” Sazed whispered.

TenSoon nodded.

“They live on?” Sazed asked, stepping forward. “The Lord Ruler’s companions? The very Terrismen who climbed to the Well with him?”

“We call them the First Generation,” TenSoon said. “The founders of the kandra people. The Father transformed every living Feruchemist into a mistwraith, beginning that race. His good friends, however, he returned to sentience with a few Hemalurgic spikes. You’ve done your work poorly, Keeper. I expected that you’d drag this out of me long before I had to leave.”

I’ve been a fool, Sazed thought, blinking away tears. Such a fool.

“What?” Breeze asked, frowning. “What’s going on? Sazed? My dear man, why are you so flustered? What do this creature’s words mean?”

“They mean hope,” Sazed said, pushing into his room, hurriedly throwing some of his clothing into a travel pack.

“Hope?” Breeze asked, peeking in.

Sazed looked back, toward where Breeze stood. The kandra had walked up, and stood behind him in the hallway. “The Terris religion, Breeze,” Sazed said. “The thing my sect was founded for, the thing my people have spent lifetimes searching to discover. It lives on. Not in written words that can be corrupted or changed. But in the minds of men who actually practiced it. The Terris faith is not dead!”

There was one more religion to add to his list. His quest was not yet over.

“Quickly, Keeper,” TenSoon said. “I was prepared to go without you, since everyone agreed that you had stopped caring about these things. However, if you will come, I will show you the way to my Homeland—it is along the path I must travel to find Vin. Hopefully, you will be able to convince the First Generation of the things I have not.”

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