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The Hero of Ages (Page 58)

The group turned toward her.

"Koloss," Vin said. "They’re made from humans."

"What?" Cett asked, frowning. "That’s absurd."

"No," Vin said, shaking her head. "I’m sure of it. I’ve checked living koloss. Hidden in those folds and rips of skin on their bodies, they are pierced by spikes. Smaller than the Inquisitor spikes, and made from different metals, but all of the koloss have them."

"Nobody has been able to figure out where new koloss come from," Elend said. "The Lord Ruler guarded the secret, and it’s become one of the great mysteries of our time. Koloss seem to kill each other with regularity when someone isn’t actively controlling them. Yet, there always seem to be more of the creatures. How?"

"Because they are constantly replenishing their numbers," Ham said, nodding slowly. "From the villages they pillage."

"Did you ever wonder," Elend said, "back during the siege of Luthadel, why Jastes’s koloss army attacked a random village before coming for us? The creatures needed to replenish their numbers."

"They always walk about," Vin said, "wearing clothing, talking about being human. Yet, they can’t quite remember what it was like. Their minds have been broken."

Elend nodded. "The other day, Vin finally got one of them to show her how to make new koloss. From what he did, and from what he’s said since, we believe that he was going to try to combine two men into one. That would make a creature with the strength of two men, but the mind of neither."

"A third art," Ham said, looking up. "A third way to use the metals. There is Allomancy, which draws power from the metals themselves. There is Feruchemy, which uses metals to draw power from your own body, and there is . . ."

"Marsh called it Hemalurgy," Vin said quietly.

"Hemalurgy . . ." Ham said. "Which uses the metals to draw power from someone else’s body."

"Great," Cett said. "Point?"

"The Lord Ruler created servants to help him," Elend said. "Using this art . . . this Hemalurgy . . . he made soldiers, which we call koloss. He made spies, which we call kandra. And he made priests, which we call Inquisitors. He built them all with weaknesses, so that he could control them."

"I first learned how to take control of the koloss because of TenSoon," Vin said. "He inadvertently showed me the secret. He mentioned that the kandra and koloss were cousins, and I realized I could control one just as I had the other."

"I . . . still don’t see where you’re heading with this," Demoux said, glancing from Vin to Elend.

"The Inquisitors must have the same weakness, Demoux," Elend said. "This Hemalurgy leaves the mind . . . wounded. It allows an Allomancer to creep in and take control. The nobility always wondered what made the Inquisitors so fanatically devoted to the Lord Ruler. They weren’t like regular obligators—they were far more obedient. Zealous to a fault."

"It happened to Marsh," Vin whispered. "The first time I met him after he’d been made an Inquisitor, he seemed different. But, he only grew even odder during the year following the Collapse. Finally, he turned on Sazed, tried to kill him."

"What we’re trying to suggest," Elend said, "is that something is controlling the Inquisitors and the koloss. Something is exploiting the weakness the Lord Ruler built into the creatures and is using them as its pawns. The troubles we’ve been suffering, the chaos following the Collapse—it’s not simply chaos. No more than the patterns of people who fall sick to the mists are chaotic. I know it seems obvious, but the important thing here is that we now know the method. We understand why they can be controlled and how they’re being controlled."

Elend continued to pace, his feet marking the dirty tent floor. "The more I think about Vin’s discovery, the more I come to believe that this is all connected. The koloss, the kandra, and the Inquisitors are not three separate oddities, but part of a single cohesive phenomenon. Now, on the surface, knowledge of this third art . . . this Hemalurgy . . . doesn’t seem like much. We don’t intend to use it to make more koloss, so what good is the knowledge?"

Cett nodded, as if Elend had spoken the man’s own thoughts. Elend, however, had drifted off a bit, staring out the open tent flaps, losing himself in thought. It was something he’d once done frequently, back when he spent more time on scholarship. He wasn’t addressing Cett’s questions. He was speaking his own concerns, following his own logical path.

"This war we’re fighting," Elend continued, "it isn’t just about soldiers. It isn’t just about koloss, or about taking Fadrex City. It’s about the sequence of events we inadvertently started the moment we struck down the Lord Ruler. Hemalurgy—the origins of the koloss—is part of a pattern. The percentages that fall sick from the mists are also part of the pattern. The less we see chaos, and the more we see the pattern, the better we’re going to be at understanding just what we fight—and just how to defeat it."

Elend turned toward the group. "Noorden, I want you to change the focus of your research. Up until now, we’ve assumed that the movements of the koloss were random. I’m no longer convinced that is true. Research our old scout reports. Draw up lists and plot movements. Pay particular attention to bodies of koloss that we specifically know weren’t under the control of an Inquisitor. I want to see if we can discover why they went where they did."

"Yes, my lord," Noorden said.

"The rest of you stay vigilant," Elend said. "I don’t want another mistake like last week’s. We can’t afford to lose any more troops, even koloss."

They nodded, and Elend’s posture indicated the end of the meeting. Cett was carried away to his tent, Noorden bustled off to begin this new research, and Ham went in search of something to eat. Demoux, however, stayed. Vin stood and trailed forward, stepping up to Elend’s side and taking his arm as he turned to address Demoux.

"My lord . . ." Demoux said, looking a bit embarrassed. "I assume General Hammond has spoken to you?"

What’s this? Vin thought, perking up.

"Yes, Demoux," Elend said with a sigh. "But I really don’t think it’s something to worry about."

"What?" Vin asked.

"There is a certain level of . . . ostracism happening in the camp, my lady," Demoux said. "Those of us who fell sick for two weeks, rather than a few days, are being regarded with a measure of suspicion."

"Suspicion that you no longer agree with, right, Demoux?" Elend punctuated this remark with a very kingly stern look.

Demoux nodded. "I trust your interpretation, my lord. It’s just that . . . well, it is difficult to lead men who distrust you. And, it’s much harder for the others like me. They’ve taken to eating together, staying away from the others during their free time. It’s reinforcing the division."

"What do you think?" Elend asked. "Should we try to force reintegration?"

"That depends, my lord," Demoux said.

"On?"

"On several factors," Demoux said. "If you’re planning to attack soon, then reintegrating would be a bad idea—I don’t want men fighting alongside those they don’t trust. However, if we’re going to continue the siege for some time, then forcing them back together might make sense. The larger segment of the army would have time to learn to trust the mistfallen again."

Mistfallen, Vin thought. Interesting name.

Elend looked down at her, and she knew what he was thinking. The ball at the Canton of Resource was only a few days away. If Elend’s plan went well, then perhaps they wouldn’t have to attack Fadrex.

Vin didn’t have great hopes for that option. Plus, without resupply from Luthadel, they couldn’t count on much anymore. They could continue the siege as planned for months, or they might end up having to attack within a few weeks.

"Organize a new company," Elend said, turning to Demoux. "Fill it with these mistfallen. We’ll worry about dealing with superstition after we hold Fadrex."

"Yes, my lord," Demoux said. "I think that . . ."

They continued talking, but Vin stopped paying attention as she heard voices approaching the command tent. It was probably nothing. Even so, she moved around so that she was between the approaching people and Elend, then checked her metal reserves. Within moments, she could determine who was talking. One was Ham. She relaxed as the tent flap opened, revealing Ham in his standard vest and trousers, leading a wearied red-haired soldier. The exhausted man had ash-stained clothing and wore the leathers of a scout.

"Conrad?" Demoux asked with surprise.

"You know this man?" Elend aske1d.

"Yes, my lord," Demoux said. "He’s one of the lieutenants I left back in Luthadel with King Penrod."

Conrad saluted, though he looked rather the worse for the wear. "My lord," the man said. "I bring news from the capital."

"Finally!" Elend said. "What word from Penrod? Where are those supply barges I sent for?"

"Supply barges, my lord?" Conrad asked. "My lord, King Penrod sent me to ask you for resupply. There are riots in the city, and some of the food stores have been pillaged. King Penrod sent me to ask you for a contingent of troops to help him restore order."

"Troops?" Elend asked. "What of the garrison I left with him? He should have plenty of men!"

"They’re not enough, my lord," Conrad said. "I don’t know why. I can only relay the message I was sent to deliver."

Elend cursed, slamming his fist against the command tent’s table. "Can Penrod not do the one thing I asked of him? All he needed to do was hold lands we already have secure!"

The soldier jumped at the outburst, and Vin watched with concern. Elend, however, managed to keep his temper under control. He took a deep breath, waving to the soldier. "Rest yourself, Lieutenant Conrad, and get some food. I will want to speak with you further about this later."

Vin found Elend later that night, standing on the perimeter of the camp, looking up at the Fadrex watch fires on the cliffs above. She laid a hand on his shoulder, and the fact that he didn’t jump indicated that he’d heard her coming. It was still a little strange to her that Elend, who had always seemed slightly oblivious of the world around him, was now a capable Mistborn, with tin to enhance his ears that let him hear even the softest footsteps approaching.

"You talked to the messenger?" she asked as he put his arm around her, still looking up at the night sky. Ash fell around them. A couple of Elend’s soldier Tineyes passed on patrol, carrying no lights, silently walking the perimeter of the camp. Vin herself had just gotten back from a similar patrol, though hers had been around the perimeter of Fadrex. She did a couple of rounds every night, watching the city for unusual activity.

"Yes," Elend said. "Once he’d had some rest, I spoke to him in depth."

"Bad news?"

"Much of what he said before. Penrod apparently never got my orders to send food and troops. Conrad was one of four messengers Penrod sent to us. We don’t know what happened to the other three. Conrad himself was chased by a group of koloss, and he only got away by baiting them with his horse, sending it one direction and hiding as they chased it down and butchered it. He slipped away while they were feasting."

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