The Hero of Ages (Page 95)

“Impossible,” Ruin whispered.

“No,” Vin said. “Quite possible. Atium is metal, Ruin. You can’t see it. Your vision gets fuzzy when too much of it is around, doesn’t it? Metal is your power; you use it to make Inquisitors, but it’s like light to you—blinding. You never saw when we actually discovered the atium. You just followed along with our ruse.”

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Marsh let go of Yomen, then rushed across the room, grabbing Vin by the arms.

“WHERE IS IT!” the Inquisitor demanded, lifting her, shaking her.

She laughed, distracting Marsh as she carefully reached for his sash. Marsh shook her too much, however, and her fingers couldn’t find their mark.

“You will tell me where the atium is, child,” Ruin said calmly. “Haven’t I explained this? There is no fighting against me. You think yourself clever, perhaps, but you really don’t understand. You don’t even know what that atium is.”

Vin shook her head. “You think I’d actually lead you to it?”

Marsh shook her again, rattling her, making her grit her teeth. When he stopped, her vision swam. To the side, she could barely make out Yomen watching with a frown. “Yomen,” she said. “Your people are safe now—can you not finally trust that Elend is a good man?”

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Marsh tossed her aside. She hit hard, rolling.

“Ah, child,” Ruin said, kneeling down beside her. “Must I prove that you cannot fight me?”

“Yomen!” Marsh said, turning. “Prepare your men. I want you to order an assault!”

“What?” Yomen said. “My lord, an assault?”

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“Yes,” Marsh said. “I want you to take all of your soldiers and have them attack Elend Venture’s position.”

Yomen paled. “Leave behind our fortifications? Charge an army of koloss?”

“That is my order,” Marsh said.Yomen stood quietly for a moment.

“Yomen . . .” Vin said, crawling to her knees. “Don’t you see that he’s manipulating you?”

Yomen didn’t respond. He looked troubled. What would make him even consider an order like that?

“You see,” Ruin whispered. “You see my power? You see how I manipulate even their faith?”

“Give the order,” Yomen said, turning from Vin, facing his soldier captains. “Have the men attack. Tell them that the Lord Ruler will protect them.”

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“Well,” Ham said, standing beside Elend in the camp. “I didn’t expect that.”

Elend nodded slowly, watching the flood of men pour through the Fadrex gateway. Some stumbled in the deep ash; others pushed their way forward, their charge hampered to a slow crawl.

“Some stayed back,” Elend said, pointing up at the wall top. Not having tin, Ham wouldn’t be able to see the men who lined the wall, but he’d trust Elend’s words. Around them, Elend’s human soldiers were breaking camp. The koloss still waited silently in their positions, surrounding the camp.

“What is Yomen thinking?” Ham asked. “He’s throwing an inferior force against an army of koloss?”

Like we did, attacking the koloss camp back in Vetitan. Something about it made Elend very uncomfortable.

“Retreat,” Elend said.

“Huh?” Ham asked.

“I said sound the retreat!” Elend said. “Abandon position. Pull the soldiers back!”

At his silent command, the koloss began to charge away from the city. Yomen’s soldiers were still pushing their way through the ash. Elend’s koloss, however, would clear the way for his men. They should be able to stay ahead.

“Strangest retreat I’ve ever seen,” Ham noted, but moved back to give the orders.

That’s it, Elend thought in annoyance. It’s time to figure out what the hell is going on in that city.

Yomen was crying. They were small, quiet tears. He stood straight-backed, not facing the window.

He fears that he’s ordered his men to their deaths, Vin thought. She moved up to him, limping slightly from where she’d hit the ground. Marsh stood watching out the window. Ruin eyed her curiously.

“Yomen,” she said.

Yomen turned toward her. “It’s a test,” he said. “The Inquisitors are the Lord Ruler’s most holy priests. I’ll do as commanded, and the Lord Ruler will protect my men and this city. Then you will see.”

Vin gritted her teeth. Then, she turned and forced herself to walk up beside Marsh. She glanced out the window—and was surprised to see that Elend’s army was retreating away from Yomen’s soldiers. Yomen’s force wasn’t running with very much conviction. Obviously, they were content to let their superior enemy run away before them. The sun was finally setting.

Marsh did not seem to find Elend’s retreat amusing. That was enough to make Vin smile—which made Marsh grab her again.

“You think you have won?” Marsh asked, leaning down, his uneven spikeheads hanging just before Vin’s face.

Vin reached for his sash. Just a little farther. . . .

“You claim to have been playing with me, child,” Ruin said, stepping up next to her. “But you are the one who has been played. The koloss who serve you, they get their strength from my power. You think that I would let you control them if it weren’t for my eventual gain?”

Vin felt a moment of chill.

Oh, no. . . .

Elend felt a terrible ripping sensation. It was like a part of his innards had been suddenly, and forcibly, pulled away from him. He gasped, releasing his Steelpush. He fell through the ash-filled sky, and landed unevenly on a rock shelf outside of Fadrex City.

He gasped, breathing in and out, trembling.

What in the hell was that? he thought, standing up, holding his thumping head.

And then he realized it. He couldn’t feel the koloss anymore. In the distance, the massive blue creatures stopped running away. And then, to Elend’s horror, he watched them turn around.

They began to charge his men.

Marsh held her. “Hemalurgy is his power, Vin!” he said. “The Lord Ruler used it unwittingly! The fool! Each time he built an Inquisitor or a koloss, he made another servant for his enemy! Ruin waited patiently, knowing that when he finally broke free, he’d have an entire army waiting for him!”

Yomen was at another window. He gasped quietly, watching. “You did deliver my men!” the obligator said. “The koloss have turned to attack their own army!”

“They’ll come after your men next, Yomen,” Vin said, dizzily. “Then they’ll destroy your city.”

“It is ending,” Ruin whispered. “Everything needs to fit into place. Where is the atium? It’s the last piece.”

Marsh shook her. She finally managed to reach his sash—and slipped her fingers into it. Fingers trained by her brother, and by a lifetime on the street.

The fingers of a thief.

“You can’t fool me, Vin,” Ruin said. “I am God.”

Marsh raised one hand—releasing her arm—then raised a fist as if to hit her. He moved with power, pewter obviously burning inside of him. He was an Allomancer, like all Inquisitors. Which meant he tended to keep metals on his person. Vin flipped her hand up and downed the vial of metals she’d stolen from his sash.

Marsh froze, and Ruin fell silent.

Vin smiled.

Pewter flared in her stomach, restoring her to life. Marsh moved to complete his slap, but she pulled out of the way, then yanked him off balance by pulling her other arm—which he still held—to the side. He hung on, barely, but when he turned to face Vin, he found her holding her earring in one hand.

And she duralumin-Pushed it directly into his forehead. It was a tiny bit of metal, but it threw up a drop of blood as it hit, ripping through his head and passing out the other side.

Marsh dropped, and Vin was thrown backward by her own Push. She crashed into the wall, causing soldiers to scatter and yell, raising weapons. Yomen turned toward her, surprised.

“Yomen!” she said. “Bring your men back! Fortify the city!” Ruin had disappeared in the chaos of her escape. Perhaps he 1was out overseeing the control of the koloss.

Yomen seemed indecisive. “I . . . No. I will not lose faith. I must be strong.”

Vin gritted her teeth, climbing to her feet. Nearly as frustrating as Elend is at times, she thought, scrambling over to Marsh’s body. She reached into his sash, pulling out the second—and final—vial he had stored there. She downed this, restoring the metals she’d lost to duralumin.

Then, she hopped up on the windowsill. Mist puffed around her—the sun was still up, but the mists were arriving earlier and earlier. Outside, she could see Elend’s forces beleaguered by rampaging koloss on one side, Yomen’s soldiers not attacking—yet blocking retreat—on the other. She moved to jump out and join the fight, and then she noticed something.

A small group of koloss. A thousand in number, small enough to apparently have been ignored by both Elend’s forces and Yomen’s. Even Ruin appeared to have paid them no heed, for they simply stood in the ash, partially buried, like a collection of quiet stones.

Vin’s koloss. The ones that Elend had given her, Human at their lead. With a devious smile, she ordered them forward.

To attack Yomen’s men.

“I’m telling you, Yomen,” she said, hopping off of the windowsill and back into the room. “Those koloss don’t care which side the humans are on—they’ll kill anyone. The Inquisitors have gone mad, now that the Lord Ruler is dead. Didn’t you pay any attention to what this one said?”

Yomen looked thoughtful.

“He even admitted that the Lord Ruler was dead, Yomen,” Vin said with exasperation. “Your faith is commendable. But sometimes, you just have to know when to give up and move on!”

One of the soldier captains yelled something, and Yomen spun back toward the window. He cursed.

Immediately, Vin felt something. Something Pulling on her koloss. She cried out as they were yanked away from her, but the damage had been done. Yomen looked troubled. He’d seen the koloss attack his soldiers. He looked into Vin’s eyes, silent for a moment. “Retreat into the city!” he finally yelled, turning to his messengers. “And order the men to allow Venture’s soldiers refuge inside as well!”

Vin sighed in relief. And then, something grabbed her leg. She looked down with shock as Marsh climbed to his knees. She had sliced through his brain itself, but the amazing Inquisitor healing powers seemed to be able to deal even with that.

“Fool,” Marsh said, standing. “Even if Yomen turns against me, I can kill him, and his soldiers will follow me. He’s given them a belief in the Lord Ruler, and I hold that belief by right of inheritance.”

Vin took a deep breath, then hit Marsh with a duralumin-Soothing. If it worked on koloss and kandra, why not Inquisitors?

Marsh stumbled. Vin’s Push lasted a brief moment, but during it she felt something. A wall, like she’d felt the first time she’d tried to control TenSoon or the first time she’d taken control of a group of koloss.

She Pushed, Pushed with everything she had. In a burst of power, she came close to seizing control of Marsh’s body, but not close enough. The wall within his mind was too strong, and she only had one vial’s worth of metal to use. The wall shoved her back. She cried out in frustration.

Marsh reached out, growling, an1d grabbed her by the neck. She gasped, eyes widening as Marsh began to grow in size. Getting stronger, like . . .

A Feruchemist, she realized. I’m in serious trouble.

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