The Hero of Ages (Page 98)

Now, she thought to Ruin, who she knew was watching her carefully, even though he hadn’t revealed himself since she’d drawn upon the mists. Let’s have a chase, you and I.

When the Lord Ruler offered his plan to his Feruchemist friends—the plan to change them into mistwraiths—he was making them speak on behalf of all the land’s Feruchemists. Though he changed his friends into kandra to restore their minds and memories, the rest he left as nonsentient mistwraiths. These bred more of their kind, living and dying, becoming a race unto themselves. From these children of the original mistwraiths, he made the next generations of kandra.

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However, even gods can make mistakes, I have learned. Rashek, the Lord Ruler, thought to transform all of the living Feruchemists into mistwraiths. However, he did not think of the genetic heritage left in the other Terris people, whom he left alive. So it was that Feruchemists continued being born, if only rarely.

This oversight cost him much, but gained the world so much more.

68

SAZED WALKED IN WONDER, led by his guards. He saw kandra after kandra, each one with a more interesting body than the one before. Some were tall and willowy, with bones made of white wood. Others were stocky, with bones thicker than any human’s. All stuck generally to human body shapes, however.

They used to be human, he reminded himself. Or, at least, their ancestors were.

The caverns around him felt old. The pathways were worn smooth, and while there were no real “buildings,” he passed many smaller caverns, varied drapery hanging in front of their openings. There was a sense of exquisite craftsmanship to it all, from the carved poles that held the fungus lights, to the very bones of the people around him. It wasn’t the detailed ornamentation of a nobleman’s keep, for there were no patterns, leaves, or knots carved into the stonework or bones. Instead, things were polished smooth, carved with rounded sides, or woven in broad lines and shapes.

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The kandra seemed afraid of him. It was a strange experience for Sazed. He had been many things in his life: rebel, servant, friend, scholar. However, never before had he found himself an object of fear. Kandra ducked around corners, peeking at him. Others stood in shock, watching him pass. Obviously, news of his arrival had spread quickly, otherwise they would have just assumed him to be a kandra wearing human bones.

His guards led him to a steel door set into a large cavern wall. One of them moved inside, while the other guarded Sazed. Sazed noticed shards of metal twinkling in the kandra’s shoulders. They appeared to be spikes, one in each shoulder.

Smaller than Inquisitor spikes, Sazed thought. But still very effective. Interesting.

“What would you do if I were to run?” 1Sazed asked.

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The kandra started. “Um . . .”

“Can I assume from your hesitance that you are still forbidden to harm, or at least kill, a human?” Sazed asked.

“We follow the First Contract.”

“Ah,” Sazed said. “Very interesting. And, with whom did you make the First Contract?”

“The Father.”

“The Lord Ruler?” Sazed asked.

The kandra nodded.

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“He is, unfortunately and truly, dead. So, is your Contract no longer valid?”

“I don’t know,” the kandra said, looking away.

So, Sazed thought, not all of them are as forceful of personality as TenSoon. Even when he was playing the part of a simple wolfhound, I found him to be intense.

The other soldier returned. “Come with me,” he said.

They led Sazed through the open metal doors. The room beyond had a large metal pedestal a few feet high. The guards did not step on it, but led Sazed around it toward a place before a group of stone lecterns. Many of the lecterns were empty, though kandra with twinkling bones stood behind two of them. These creatures were tall—or, at least, they used tall bones—and very fine-featured.

Aristocrats, Sazed thought. He had found that class of people very easy to identify, no matter what the culture or—apparently—species.

Sazed’s guards gestured for him to stand before the lecterns. Sazed ignored the gestures, walking in a circle around the room. As he had expected, his guards didn’t know what to do—they followed, but refrained from putting their hands on him.

“There is metal plating surrounding the entire chamber,” Sazed noted. “Is it ornamental, or does it serve a function?”

“We will be asking the questions here, Terrisman!” said one of the aristocratic kandra.

Sazed paused, turning. “No,” he said. “No, you will not. I am Sazed, Keeper of Terris. However, among your people, I have another name. Holy Announcer.”

The other kandra leader snorted. “What does an outsider know of such things?”

“An outsider?” Sazed asked. “You should better learn your own doctrine, I think.” He began to walk forward. “I am Terris, as are you. Yes, I know your origins. I know how you were created—and I know the heritage you bring with you.”

He stopped before their lecterns. “I announce to you that I have discovered the Hero. I have lived with her, worked with her, and watched her. I handed her the very spear she used to slay the Lord Ruler. I have seen her take command of kings, watched her overcome armies of both men and koloss. I have come to announce this to you, so that you may prepare yourselves.”

He paused, eyeing them. “For the end is here,” he added.

The two kandra stood quietly for a few moments. “Go get the others,” one finally said, his voice shaking.

Sazed smiled. As one of the guards ran off, Sazed turned to face down the second soldier. “I shall require a table and chair, please. Also, something with which to write.”

A few minutes later, all was ready. His kandra attendants had swelled from four to over twenty—twelve of them being the 1aristocratic ones with the twinkling bones. Some attendants had set up a small table for Sazed, and he seated himself as the kandra nobles spoke together in anxious whispers.

Carefully, Sazed placed his pack on the table and began to remove his metal-minds. Small rings, smaller earrings and studs, and large bracers soon lined the table. He pushed up his sleeves, then clasped on his copperminds—two large bracers on the upper arms, then two bracers on the forearms. Finally, he removed his tome from the pack and set it on the table. Some kandra approached with thin plates of metal. Sazed watched curiously as they arranged them for him, along with what appeared to be a steel pen, capable of making indentations in the soft writing metal. The kandra servants bowed and withdrew.

Excellent, Sazed thought, picking up the metal pen and clearing his throat. The kandra leaders turned toward him.

“I assume,” Sazed said, “that you are the First Generation?”

“We are the Second Generation, Terrisman,” one of the kandra said.

“Well, I apologize for taking your time, then. Where can I find your superiors?”

The lead kandra snorted. “Do not think you have us quelled just because you were able to draw us together. I see no reason for you to speak with the First Generation, even if you can blaspheme quite accurately.”

Sazed raised an eyebrow. “Blaspheme?”

“You are not the Announcer,” the kandra said. “This is not the end.”

“Have you seen the ash up above?” Sazed said. “Or, has it stopped up the entrances to this cavern complex so soundly that nobody can escape to see that the world is falling apart?”

“We have lived a very long time, Terrisman,” one of the other kandra said. “We have seen periods where the ash fell more copiously than others.”

“Oh?” Sazed asked. “And you have, perhaps, seen the Lord Ruler die before as well?”

Some of the kandra looked uncomfortable at this, though the one at the lead shook his head. “Did TenSoon send you?”

“He did,” Sazed admitted.

“You can make no arguments other than those he has already made,” the kandra said. “Why would he think that you—an outsider—could persuade us, when he could not?”

“Perhaps because he understood something about me,” Sazed said, tapping his book with his pen. “Are you aware of the ways of Keepers, kandra?”

“My name is KanPaar,” the kandra said. “And yes, I understand what Keepers do—or, at least, what they did, before the Father was killed.”

“Then,” Sazed said, “perhaps you know that every Keeper has an area of specialty. The intention was that when the Lord Ruler finally did fall, we would already be divided into specialists who could teach our knowledge to the people.”

“Yes,” KanPaar said.

“Well,” Sazed said, rubbing fingers over his book. “My specialty was religion. Do you know how many religions there were before the Lord Ruler’s Ascension?”

“I don’t know. Hundreds.”

“We have record of five hundred and sixty-three,” Sazed said. “Though that includes sects of the same religions. In a more strict count, there were around three hundred.”

“And?” KanPaar as1ked.

“Do you know how many of these survived until this day?” Sazed asked.

“None?”

“One,” Sazed said, holding up a finger. “Yours. The Terris religion. Do you think it a coincidence that the religion you follow not only still exists, but also foretells this exact day?”

KanPaar snorted. “You are saying nothing new. So my religion is real, while others were lies. What does that explain?”

“That you should listen, perhaps, to members of your faith who bring you tidings.” Sazed began to flip through his book. “At the very least, I would think that you’d be interested in this book, as it contains the collected information about the Hero of Ages that I was able to discover. Since I knew little of the true Terris religion, I had to get my information from secondhand accounts—from tales and stories, and from texts written during the intermediate time.

“Unfortunately,” Sazed continued, “much of this text was changed by Ruin when he was trying to persuade the Hero to visit the Well of Ascension and set him free. Therefore, it is quite well corrupted and tainted by his touch.”

“And why would I be interested?” KanPaar asked. “You just told me that your information is corrupt and useless.”

“Useless?” Sazed asked. “No, not useless at all. Corrupt, yes. Changed by Ruin. My friend, I have a tome here filled with Ruin’s lies. You have a mind filled with the original truths. Apart, we know very little. However, if we were to compare—discovering precisely which items Ruin changed—would it not tell us exactly what his plan is? At the very least, it would tell us what he didn’t want us to focus on, I think.”

The room fell silent.

“Well,” KanPaar finally said, “I—”

“That will be enough, KanPaar,” a voice said.

Sazed paused, cocking his head. The voice hadn’t come from any of those beside the pedestals. Sazed glanced around the room, trying to discover who had spoken.

“You may leave, Seconds,” another voice said.

One of the Seconds gasped. “Leave? Leave you with this one, an outsider?”

“A descendant,” one of the voices said. “A Worldbringer. We will hear him.”

“Leave us,” said another voice.

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