The Hero of Ages (Page 92)

“And that is?” Sazed asked, still packing.

“That the end has arrived.”

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Ruin tried many times to get spikes into other members of the crew. Though some of what happened makes it seem like it was easy for him to gain control of people, it really was not.

Sticking the metal in just the right place—at the right time—was incredibly difficult, even for a subtle creature like Ruin. For instance, he tried very hard to spike both Elend and Yomen. Elend managed to avoid it each time, as he did on the field outside of the small village that contained the next-to-last storage cache.

Ruin did actually manage to get a spike into Yomen, once. Yomen, however, removed the spike before Ruin got a firm grip on him. It was much easier for Ruin to get a hold on people who were passionate and impulsive than it was for him to hold on to people who were logical and prone to working through their actions in their minds.

63

“WHAT I DON’T UNDERSTAND,” Vin said, “is why you chose me. You had a thousand years and hundreds of thousands of people to choose from. Why lead me to the Well of Ascension to free you?”

She was in her cell, sitting on her cot—which now lay legless on the floor, having collapsed when she removed the screws. She’d asked for a new one. She’d been ignored.

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Ruin turned toward her. He came often, wearing Reen’s body, still indulging himself in what Vin could only assume was a kind of gloating. As he often did, however, he ignored her question. Instead, he turned to the east, eyes seeming as if they could see directly through the cell wall.

“I wish you could see it,” he said. “The ashfalls have grown beautiful and deep, as if the sky itself has shattered, raining down shards of its corpse in flakes of black. You feel the ground tremble?”

Vin didn’t respond.

“Those quakes are the earth’s final sighs,” Ruin said. “Like an old man, moaning as he dies, calling for his children so that he can pass on his last bits of wisdom. The very ground is pulling itself apart. The Lord Ruler did much of this himself. You can blame him, if you wish.”

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Vin perked up. She didn’t draw attention to herself by asking more questions, but instead just let Ruin ramble on. Again, she noted just how human some o1f his mannerisms seemed.

“He thought he could solve the problems himself,” Ruin continued. “He rejected me, you know.”

And that happened exactly a thousand years ago, Vin thought. A thousand years has passed since Alendi failed in his quest; a thousand years since Rashek took the power for himself and became the Lord Ruler. That’s part of the answer to my question. The glowing liquid at the Well of Ascension—it was gone by the time I finished freeing Ruin. It must have disappeared after Rashek used it too.

A thousand years. Time for the Well to regenerate its power? But what was that power? Where did it come from?

“The Lord Ruler didn’t really save the world,” Ruin continued. “He just postponed its destruction—and, in doing so, he helped me. That’s the way it must always be, as I told you. When men think they are helping the world, they actually do more harm than good. Just like you. You tried to help, but you just ended up freeing me.”

Ruin glanced at her, then smiled in a fatherly way. She didn’t react.

“The ashmounts,” Ruin continued, “the dying landscape, the broken people—those were all Rashek’s. The twisting of men to become koloss, kandra, and Inquisitor, all his . . .”

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“But, you hated him,” Vin said. “He didn’t free you—so you had to wait another thousand years.”

“True,” Ruin said. “But a thousand years is not much time. Not much time at all. Besides, I couldn’t refuse to help Rashek. I help everyone, for my power is a tool—the only tool by which things can change.”

It’s all ending, Vin thought. It really is. I don’t have time to sit and wait. I need to do something. Vin stood, causing Ruin to glance toward her as she walked to the front of the cell. “Guards!” she called. Her voice echoed in her own chamber. “Guards!” she repeated.

Eventually, she heard a thump outside. “What?” a rough voice demanded.

“Tell Yomen that I want to deal.”

There was a pause.

“Deal?” the guard finally asked.

“Yes,” Vin said. “Tell him I have information that I want to give him.”

She wasn’t certain how to read the guard’s response, since it was simply more silence. She thought she heard him walking away, but without tin, she couldn’t tell.

Eventually, however, the guard returned. Ruin watched her, curious, as the door unlocked and then opened. The customary troop of soldiers stood outside.

“Come with us.”

As Vin entered Yomen’s audience chamber, she was immediately struck by the differences in the man. He looked much more haggard than he had the last time they’d met, as if he’d gone far too long without sleep.

But . . . he’s Mistborn, Vin thought with confusion. That means he could burn pewter to keep that fatigue out of his eyes.

Why doesn’t he? Unless . . . he can’t burn it. Unless there’s only one metal available to him.

She’d always been taught that there was no such thing as an atium Misting. But, more and more, she was realizing that the Lord Ruler perpetuated a lot of misinformation to keep himself in control and in power. She had to learn to sto1p depending on what she’d been told was true, and focus on the facts as she found them.

Yomen watched her as she entered, guards surrounding her. She could read the expectation of a trick in his eyes—yet, as always, he waited for her to act first. Hovering very close to the edge of danger seemed his way. The guards took stations at the doors, leaving her standing in the middle of the room.

“No manacles?” she asked.

“No,” Yomen said. “I don’t expect you to be here long. The guards tell me that you’ve offered information.”

“I have.”

“Well,” Yomen said, arms clasped behind his back, “I told them to bring you to me if they even so much as suspected a trick. Apparently, they didn’t believe your pleas that you want to deal. I wonder why.” He raised an eyebrow toward her.

“Ask me a question,” Vin said. To the side, Ruin trailed through the wall, stepping with an idle, unconcerned gait.

“Very well,” Yomen said. “How does Elend control the koloss?”

“Allomancy,” Vin said. “Emotional Allomancy, when used on a koloss, will bring them under the Allomancer’s control.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Yomen said flatly. “If it were that simple, someone other than yourself would have discovered it.”

“Most Allomancers are too weak to manage it,” Vin said. “You need to use a metal that enhances your power.”

“There is no such metal.”

“You know of aluminum?”

Yomen paused, but Vin could see in his eyes that he did. “Duralumin is the Allomantic alloy of aluminum,” Vin said. “Where aluminum dampens the power of other metals, duralumin enhances them. Mix duralumin and zinc or brass, then Pull on the emotions of a koloss, and he will be yours.”

Yomen didn’t dismiss her comments as lies. Ruin, however, strolled forward, walking around Vin in a circle.

“Vin, Vin. What is your game now?” Ruin asked, amused. “Lead him on with little tidbits, then betray him?”

Yomen apparently came to the same conclusion. “Your facts are interesting, Empress, but completely unprovable in my present situation. Therefore, they are—”

“There were five of these storage caverns,” Vin said, stepping forward. “We found the others. They led us here.”

Yomen shook his head. “And? Why should I care?”

“Your Lord Ruler planned something for those caverns—you can tell that much from the plate he left here in this one. He says that he came up with no way to fight what is happening to us in the world, but do you believe that? I feel there has to be more, some clue hidden in the text of all five plaques.”

“You expect me to believe that you care what the Lord Ruler wrote?” Yomen asked. “You, his purported murderer?”

“I couldn’t care less about him,” Vin admitted. “But Yomen, you have to believe that I care what happens to the people of the empire! If you’ve gathered any intelligence about Elend or myself, you know that is true.”

“Your Elend is a man who thinks far too highly of himself,” Yomen said. “He has read many books, and assumes that his learning makes him capable of being a king. You . . . I still don’t know what to think about you.” His e1yes showed a bit of the hatred she had seen in him during their last meeting. “You claim to have killed the Lord Ruler. Yet . . . he couldn’t really have died. You’re part of all this, somehow.”

That’s it, Vin thought. That’s my in. “He wanted us to meet,” Vin said. She didn’t believe it, but Yomen would.

Yomen raised an eyebrow.

“Can’t you see?” Vin said. “Elend and I discovered the other storage caverns, the first one under Luthadel itself. Then, we came here. This was the last of the five. The end of the trail. For some reason, the Lord Ruler wanted to lead us here. To you.”

Yomen stood for a few moments. To the side, Ruin mimed applause.

“Send for Lellin,” Yomen said, turning toward one of his soldiers. “Tell him to bring his maps.”

The soldier saluted and left. Yomen turned to Vin, still frowning. “This is not to be an exchange. You will give me the information I request, then I will decide what to do with it.”

“Fine,” Vin said. “But, you yourself just said that I was connected to all of this. It’s all connected, Yomen. The mists, the koloss, me, you, the storage caverns, the ash . . .”

He flinched slightly as Vin mentioned that last one.

“The ash is getting worse, isn’t it?” she asked. “Falling more thickly?”

Yomen nodded.

“We were always worried about the mists,” Vin said. “But the ash, it’s going to be what kills us. It will block the sunlight, bury our cities, cover our streets, choke our fields. . . .”

“The Lord Ruler won’t let that happen,” Yomen said.

“And if he really is dead?”

Yomen met her eyes. “Then you have doomed us all.”

Doomed. . . . The Lord Ruler had said something similar right before Vin had killed him. She shivered, waiting in awkward silence, suffering Ruin’s smiling stare until a scribe scuttled into the room, bearing several rolled maps.

Yomen took one of the maps, waving the man away. He spread it out on a table, waving Vin forward. “Show me,” he said, stepping back to keep out of her reach as she approached.

She picked up a piece of charcoal, then began to mark the locations of the storage caverns. Luthadel. Satren. Vetitan. Urteau. All five that she had found—all near the Central Dominance, one in the center, the other four forming a box around it. She put a final “X” beside Fadrex City.

Then, with charcoal gripped in her fingers, she noticed something. Sure are a lot of mines shown on this map around Fadrex, she thought. A lot of metal in the area.

“Step back,” Yomen said.

Vin moved away. He approached, scanning the map. Vin stood in silence, thinking. Elend’s scribes could never find a pattern to the cache locations. Two were in small cities, two in large ones. Some near canals, others not. The scribes claimed that they just didn’t have a large enough set from which to determine patterns.

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