The Hero of Ages (Page 96)

People in the room were yelling, but she couldn’t hear them. Marsh’s hand—now large and beefy—gripped her throat, strangling her. Only flared pewter was keeping her alive. She flashed back to the day, many years ago, when she’d been held by another Inquisitor. Standing in the Lord Ruler’s throne room.

On that day, Marsh himself had saved her life. It seemed a twisted irony that she would struggle now, being strangled by him.

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Not. Yet.

The mists began to swirl around her.

Marsh started, though he continued to hold her.

Vin drew upon the mists.

It happened again. She didn’t know how, or why, but it just happened. She breathed the mists into her body, as she had on that day so long ago when she’d killed the Lord Ruler. She somehow pulled them into her and used them to fuel her body with an incredible Allomantic surge of power.

And, with that power, she Pushed on Marsh’s emotions.

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The wall inside of him cracked, then burst. For a moment, Vin felt a sense of vertigo. She saw things through Marsh’s eyes—indeed, she felt like she understood him. His love of destruction, and his hatred of himself. And through him, she caught a brief glimpse of something. A hateful, destructive thing that hid behind a mask of civility.

Ruin was not the same thing as the mists.

Marsh cried out, dropping her. Her strange burst of power dissipated, but it didn’t matter, for Marsh fled out the window and Pushed himself away through the mists. Vin picked herself up, coughing.

I did it. I drew upon the mists again. But why now? Why, after all the trying, did it happen now?

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There was no time to consider it at the moment—not with the koloss attacking. She turned to the baffled Yomen. “Continue to retreat into the city!” she said. “I’m going out to help.”

Elend fought desperately, cutting down koloss after koloss. It was difficult, dangerous work, even for him. These koloss couldn’t be controlled—no matter how he Pushed or Pulled on their emotions, he couldn’t bring even one of them under his power.

That only left fighting. And, his men weren’t prepared for battle—he’d forced them to abandon camp too quickly.

A koloss swung, its sword whooshing dangerously close to Elend’s head. He cursed, dropping a coin and Pushing himself backward through the air, over his fighting men and back into camp. They’d managed to retreat back to the positioning of their original fortification, which meant that they had a small hill for defense and didn’t have to fight in ash. A group of his Coinshots—he only had ten—stood firing wave after wave of coins into the main bulk of the koloss, and archers threw similar volleys. The main line of soldiers was supported by Lurchers from behind, who would Pull on koloss weapons and throw them off balance, giving the regular men extra openings. Thugs ran around the perimeter in groups of two or three, shoring up weak spots and acting as reserves.

Even with all of that, they were in serious trouble. Elend’s army couldn’t stand against so many koloss any more easily than Fadr1ex could have. Elend landed in the middle of the half-disassembled camp, breathing heavily, covered in koloss blood. Men yelled as they fought a short distance away, holding the camp perimeter with the help of Elend’s Allomancers. The bulk of the koloss army was still bunched around the northern section of camp, but Elend couldn’t pull his men back any farther toward Fadrex without exposing them to Yomen’s archers.

Elend tried to catch his breath as a servant rushed up with a cup of water for him. Cett sat a short distance away, directing the battle tactics. Elend tossed aside the empty cup and moved over to the general, who sat at a small table. It held a map of the area, but hadn’t been marked on. The koloss were so close, the battle happening just yards away, that it wasn’t really necessary to keep an abstract battle map.

“Never did like having those things in the army,” Cett said as he downed a cup of water himself. A servant moved over, leading a surgeon, who pulled out a bandage to begin working on Elend’s armâ”hich, up until that moment, he hadn’t noticed was bleeding.

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“Well,” Cett noted, “at least we’ll die in battle, rather than of starvation!”

Elend snorted, picking up his sword again. The sky was nearly dark. They didn’t have much time beforeâ”/p>

A figure landed on the table in front of Cett. “Elend!” Vin said. “Retreat to the city. Yomen will let you in.”

Elend started. “Vin!” Then, he smiled. “What took you so long?”

“I got delayed by an Inquisitor and a dark god,” she said. “Now, hustle. I’ll go see if I can distract some of those koloss.”

Inquisitors had little chance of resisting Ruin. They had more spikes than any of his other Hemalurgic creations, and that put them completely under his domination.

Yes, it would have taken a man of supreme will to resist Ruin even slightly while bearing the spikes of an Inquisitor.

66

SAZED TRIED NOT TO THINK about how dark the ash was in the sky, or how terrible the land looked.

I’ve been such a fool, he thought, riding in the saddle. Of all the times that the world needed something to believe in, this is it. And I wasn’t there to give it to them.

He hurt from so much riding, yet he clung to the saddle, still somewhat amazed at the creature who ran beneath him. When Sazed had first decided to go with TenSoon south, he had despaired at making the trip. Ash fell like the snows of a blizzard, and it had piled terribly high in most places. Sazed had known travel would be difficult, and he’d feared slowing TenSoon, who could obviously travel far more quickly as a wolfhound.

TenSoon considered this concern, then had ordered a horse and a large hog to be brought to him. TenSoon first ingested the hog to give himself extra mass, then molded his gel-like flesh around the horse to digest it as well. Within an hour, he’d formed his body into a replica of the horseâ”ut one with enhanced muscles and weight, creating the enormous, extra-strong marvel which Sazed now rode.

They’d been running nonstop since then. Fortunately, Sazed had some wakefulness he’d stored in a metalmind a year ago, after the siege of Luthadel. He used this to keep himself from falling asleep. It still amazed him that TenSoon could enhance a horse’s body so well. It moved with ease through the thick ash, where a real horseâ”nd certainly a humanâ”ould have balked at the difficulty. Another thing I’ve been a fool about. These last few days, I could have been interrogating TenSoon about his powers. How much more is there that I don’t know?

Despite his shame, however, Sazed felt something of peace within himself. If he’d continued to teach about religions after he’d stopped believing in them, then he would have been a true hypocrite. Tindwyl had believed in giving people hope, even if one had to tell them lies to do so. That’s the credit she had given to religion: lies that made people feel better.

Sazed couldn’t have acted the same wayâ”t least, he couldn’t have done so and remained the person he wanted to be. However, he now had hope. The Terris religion was the one that had taught about the Hero of Ages in the first place. If any contained the truth, it would be this one. Sazed needed to interrogate the First Generation of kandra and discover what they knew.

Though, if I do find the truth, what will I do with it?

The trees they passed were stripped of leaves. The landscape was covered in a good four feet of ash. “How can you keep going like this?” Sazed asked as the kandra galloped over a hilltop, shoving aside ash and ignoring obstructions.

“My people are created from mistwraiths,” TenSoon explained, not even sounding winded. “The Lord Ruler turned the Feruchemists into mistwraiths, and they began to breed true as a species. You add a Blessing to a mistwraith, and they become awakened, turning into a kandra. One such as I, created centuries after the Ascension, was born as a mistwraith but became awakened when I received my Blessing.”

“. . . Blessing?” Sazed asked.

“Two small metal spikes, Keeper,” TenSoon said. “We are created like Inquisitors, or like koloss. However, we are more subtle creations than either of those. We were made third and last, as the Lord Ruler’s power waned.”

Sazed frowned, leaning low as the horse ran beneath some skeletal tree branches.

“What is different about you?”

“We have more independence of will than the other two,” TenSoon said. “We only have two spikes in us, while the others have more. An Allomancer can still take control of us, but free we remain more independent of mind than koloss or Inquisitors, who are both affected by Ruin’s impulses even when he isn’t directly controlling them. Did you never wonder why both of them are driven so powerfully to kill?”

“That doesn’t explain how you can carry me, all our baggage, and still run through this ash.”

“The metal spikes we carry grant us things,” TenSoon said. “Much as Feruchemy gives you strength, or Allomancy gives Vin strength, my Blessing gives me strength. It will never run out, but it isn’t as spectacular as the bursts your people can create. Still, my Blessingâ”ixed with my ability to craft my body as I wishâ”llows me a high level of endurance.”

Sazed fell silent. They continued to gallop.

“There isn’t much time left,” TenSoon noted.

“I can see that,” Sazed said. “It makes me wonder what we can do.”

“This is the only time in which we could succeed,” TenSoon said. “We must be poised, ready to strike. Ready to aid the Hero of Ages when she comes.”

“Comes?”

“She will lead an army of Allomancers to the Homeland,” TenSoon said, “and there will save all of us—kandra, human, koloss, and Inquisitor.”

An army of Allomancers? “Then . . . what am I to do?”

“You must convince the kandra how dire the situation is,” TenSoon explained, slowing to a stop in the ash. “For there is . . . something they must be prepared to do. Something very difficult, yet necessary. My people will resist it, but perhaps you can show them the way.”

Sazed nodded, then climbed off of the kandra to stretch his legs.

“Do you recognize this location?” TenSoon asked, turning to look at him with a horse’s head.

“I do not,” Sazed said. “With the ash . . . well, I haven’t really been able to follow our path for days.”

“Over that ridge, you will find the place where the Terris people have set up their refugee camp.”

Sazed turned with surprise. “The Pits of Hathsin?”

TenSoon nodded. “We call it the Homeland.”

“The Pits?” Sazed asked with shock. “But . . .”

“Well, not the Pits themselves,” TenSoon said. “You know that this entire area has cave complexes beneath it?”

Sazed nodded. The place where Kelsier had trained his original army of skaa soldiers was just a short trip to the north.

“Well, one of those cave complexes is the kandra Homeland. It abuts the Pits of Hathsin—in fact, several of the kandra passages run into the Pits, and had to be kept closed off, lest workers in the Pits find their way into the Homeland.”

“Does your Homeland grow atium?” Sazed asked.

“Grow it? No, it does not. That is, I suppose, what separates the Homeland from the Pits of Hathsin. Either way, the entrance to my people’s caverns is right there.”

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