The Hero of Ages (Page 93)

“This seems completely random,” Yomen said, echoing her own thoughts.

“I didn’t make up those locations, Yomen,” she said, folding her arms. “Your spies can confirm where Elend has taken his armies and sent his emissaries.”

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“Not all of us have the resources for extensive spy networks, Empress,” Yomen said flatly, looking back at the map. “There should be some pattern. . . .”

Vetitan, Vin thought. The place where we found the cavern just before this one. It was a mining town as well. And Urteau too.

“Yomen?” she said, looking up. “Does one of those maps list mineral deposits?”

“Of course,” he said distractedly. “We are the Canton of Resource, after all.”

“Get it out.”

Yomen raised an eyebrow, indicating what he thought of her giving him orders. However, he waved for his scribe to do as she had requested. A second map overlaid the first, and Vin walked forward. Yomen immediately shied backward, keeping out of reach.

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He has good instincts, for a bureaucrat, she thought, slipping the charcoal out from underneath the map. She quickly made her five marks again. With each one, her hand grew more tense. Each cavern was in a rocky area, near metal mines. Even Luthadel bore rich mineral deposits. Lore said that the Lord Ruler had constructed his capital in that location because of the mineral content in the area, particularly the groundwater. That much the better for Allomancers.

“What are you trying to imply?” Yomen asked. He’d edged close enough to see what she’d marked.

“This is the connection,” Vin said. “He built his storages near sources of metal.”

“Or, it was simple chance.”

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“No,” Vin said, looking up, glancing at Ruin. “No, metal equals Allomancy, Yomen. There’s a pattern here.”

Yomen waved her away again, approaching the map. He snorted. “You’ve included marks near each of the most productive mines in the inner empire. You expect me to believe that you’re not just playing me, offering some phantom ‘evidence’ that these really are the locations of the storage caverns?”

Vin ignored him. Metal. The words of Kwaan were written in metal, because he said they were safe. Safe. Safe from being changed, we assumed.

Or, did he mean safe from being read?

The Lord Ruler had drawn his maps on metal plates.

So, what if Ruin couldn’t find the storages on his own because of the metal shielding them? He would have needed someone to lead him. Someone to visit each one, read the map it contained, then lead him on. . . .

Lord Ruler! We’ve made the same mistake again! We did exactly what he wanted. No wonder he’s let us live!

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However, instead of feeling ashamed, this time Vin felt herself growing angry. She glanced over at Ruin, who stood there with his air of cosmic wisdom. His knowing eyes, his fatherly tone, and his deific arrogance.

Not again, Vin thought, gritting her teeth. This time, I’m on to him. That means I can trick him. But . . . I need to know why. Why was he so interested in the storages? What is it he needs before he wins this battle? What is the reason he’s waited so long?

Suddenly, the answer seemed obvious to her. As she examined her feelings, she realized that one of her main reasons for searching out the caches had repeatedly been discredited by Elend. Yet, Vin had continued to pursue the caches, searching for this one thing. She’d felt, for reasons she couldn’t explain, that it was important.

The thing that had driven the imperial economy for a thousand years. The most powerful of Allomantic metals.

Atium.

Why had she been so infatuated with it? Elend and Yomen were both right—atium was of little importance in the current world. But, her feelings denied that. Why? Was it because Ruin wanted it, and Vin had some unexplained connection to him?

The Lord Ruler had said Ruin couldn’t read her mind. But she knew that he could affect her emotions. Change how she regarded things, push her forward. Drive her to search out the thing he wanted.

Looking at the emotions that had affected her, she could see Ruin’s plan, the way he had manipulated her, the way he thought. Ruin wanted the atium! And, with a chill of terror, Vin realized that she had led him right to it. No wonder he was so smug before! Vin thought. No wonder he assumed that he’d won!

Why would a god-like force would be so interested in a simple thing like an Allomantic metal? The question made her doubt her conclusions slightly. But at that moment, the doors to the chamber burst open.

And an Inquisitor stood beyond them.

Immediately, Yomen and the soldiers all fell to one knee. Vin took an involuntary step backward. The creature stood tall, like most of its kind, and still wore the gray robes of its pre-Collapse office. The bald head was wrinkled with intricate tattoos, mostly black, one stark red. And, of course, there were the spikes driven point-first through its eyes. One of the spikes had been pounded in farther than the other, crushing the socket around the spikehead. The creature’s face, twisted by an inhuman sneer, had once been familiar to Vin.

“Marsh?” Vin whispered in horror.

“My lord,” Yomen said, spreading his hands out. “You have finally come! I sent messengers, searching for—”

“Silence,” Marsh said in a grating voice, striding forward. “On your feet, obligator.”

Yomen hastily stood. Marsh glanced at Vin, smiled slightly, but then pointedly ignored her. He did, however, look directly at Ruin and bow his head in subservience.

Vin shivered. Marsh’s features, even twisted as they were, reminded her of his brother. Kelsier.

“You are about to be attacked, obligator,” Marsh said, sweeping forward, throwing open the large window at the other side of the room. Through it, Vin could see over the rocky shelves to where Elend’s army camped beside the canal.

Except, there was no canal. There were no rocky shelves. Everything was just a uniform black. Ash filled the sky, as thick as a snowstorm.

Lord Ruler! Vin thought. It’s gotten so bad!

Yomen hurried over to the window. “Attacked, my lord? But, they haven’t even broken camp!”

“The koloss will attack in surprise,” the Inquisitor said. “They don’t need to form up ranks—they will simply charge.”

Yomen froze for a second, then turned to his soldiers. “Hasten to the defenses. Gather the men on the forward rises!”

Soldiers scuttled from the room. Vin stood quietly. The man I know as Marsh is dead, she thought. He tried to kill Sazed, now he’s fully one of them. Ruin has . . .

Has taken control of him. . . .

An idea began to spark in her mind.

“Quickly, obligator,” Marsh said. “I did not come to protect your foolish little city. I’ve come for the thing you discovered in that cache.”

“My lord?” Yomen said, surprised.

“Your atium, Yomen,” the Inquisitor said. “Give it to me. It cannot be in this city when that attack comes, just in case you fall. I shall take it someplace safe.”

Vin closed her eyes.

“My . . . lord?” Yomen finally said. “You are, of course, welcome to anything I possess. But, there was no atium in the storage cache. Just the seven beads I had gathered myself, held as a reserve for the Canton of Resource.”

Vin opened her eyes. “What?”

“Impossible!” Marsh roared. “But, you told the girl earlier that you had it!”

Yomen paled. “Misdirection, my lord. She seemed convinced that I had some wealth of atium, so I let her think that she was right.”

“NO!”

Vin jumped at the sudden yell. However, Yomen didn’t even flinch—and a second later, she realized why. Ruin was the one who had screamed. He had become indistinct, losing Reen’s form, his figure blossoming outward in a kind of tempest of whirling darkness. Almost like mist, only far, far blacker.

She’d seen that blackness before. She’d walked through it, in the cavern beneath Luthadel, on her way to the Well of Ascension.

A second later, Ruin was back. He looked like Reen again. He folded his arms behind his back, and didn’t look at her, as if trying to pretend that he had not lost control. In his eyes, however, she could see frustration. Anger. She edged away from him—edging closer to Marsh.

“You fool!” Marsh said, walking away from her, speaking to Yomen. “You idiot!”

Damn, Vin thought in annoyance.

“I . . .” Yomen said, confused. “My lord, why do you care for atium? It is worthless without Allomancers and house politicians to pay for it.”

“You know nothing,” Marsh snapped. Then, he smiled. “But you are doomed. Yes . . . doomed indeed. . . .”

Outside, she could see that Elend’s army was breaking camp. Yomen turned back to the window, and Vin edged closer, ostensibly to give herself a better look. Elend’s forces were gathering—men and koloss. Most likely, they had noticed the buildup of city defenses, and had realized that they’d lost any opportunity for surprise.

“He’s going to ravage this city,” Ruin said, stepping up beside Vin. “Your Elend is a good servant, child. One of my finest. You should be proud of him.”

“So many koloss . . .” she heard Yomen whisper. “My lord, there is no way we can fight so many. We need your help.”

“Why should I help you?” Marsh asked. “You who fail to deliver to me what I need?”

“But I’ve remained faithful,” Yomen said. “When all others abandoned the Lord Ruler, I have continued to serve him.”

“The Lord Ruler is dead,” Marsh said with a snort. “He was an unprofitable servant as well.”

Yomen paled.

“Let this city burn before the wrath of forty thousand koloss,” Marsh said.

Forty thousand koloss, Vin thought. He’d found more, somewhere. Attacking seemed the logical thing to do—he could finally capture the city, perhaps giving Vin a chance to escape in the chaos. Very logical, very smart. And yet, suddenly, Vin became sure of one thing.

“Elend won’t attack,” she announced.

Six eyes—two steel, two flesh, and two incorporeal—turned toward her.

“Elend won’t loose that many koloss upon the city,” she said. “He’s trying to intimidate you, Yomen. And you should listen. Would you still obey this creature, this Inquisitor? He disdains you. He wants you to die. Join with us instead.”

Yomen frowned.

“You could fight him with me,” Vin said. “You’re an Allomancer. These monsters can be defeated.”

Marsh smiled. “Idealism from you, Vin?”

“Idealism?” she asked, facing the creature. “You think it’s idealistic to believe I can kill an Inquisitor? You know I’ve done it before.”

Marsh waved a dismissive hand. “I’m not talking about your foolish threats. I’m talking about him.” He nodded toward the army outside. “Your Elend belongs to Ruin, just as I do—just as you do. We all resist, but we all bow before him eventually. Only then do we understand the beauty there is in destruction.”

“Your god does not control Elend,” Vin said. “He keeps trying to claim that he does, but that only makes him a liar. Or, perhaps, something of an idealist himself.”

Yomen watched, confused.

“And if he does attack?” Marsh asked with a quiet, eager voice. “What would that mean, Vin? What if he does send his koloss against this city in a blood frenzy, sends them to slaughter and kill, all so that he can get what he thinks he needs so badly? Atium and food couldn’t get him to come in . . . but you? How would that make you feel? You killed for him. What makes you think that Elend won’t do the same for you?”

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