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The Hero of Ages (Page 59)

"Brave man," Vin said.

"Lucky as well," Elend said. "Either way, it seems unlikely that Penrod will be able to send us support. There are food stores in Luthadel, but if the news of riots is true, Penrod won’t be able to spare the soldiers it would take to guard supplies on their way to us."

"So . . . where does that leave us?" Vin asked.

Elend looked at her, and she was surprised to see determination in his eyes, not frustration. "With knowledge."

"What?"

"Our enemy has exposed himself, Vin. Attacking our messengers directly with hidden pockets of koloss? Trying to undermine our supply base in Luthadel?" Elend shook his head. "Our enemy wants this to look random, but I see the pattern. It’s too focused, too intelligent, to be happenstance. He’s trying to make us pull away from Fadrex."

Vin felt a chill. Elend made to say more, but she reached up and laid a hand on his lips, quieting him. He seemed confused, but then apparently understood, for he nodded. Whatever we say, Ruin can hear, Vin thought. We can’t give away what we know.

Still, something passed between them. A knowledge that they had to stay at Fadrex, that they had to find out what was in that storage cavern. For their enemy was working hard to keep them from doing so. Was Ruin, indeed, behind the chaos in Luthadel? A ploy to draw Elend and his forces back to restore order, thereby abandoning Fadrex?

It was only speculation, but it was all they had. Vin nodded to Elend, indicating that she agreed with his determination to stay. Still, she worried. Luthadel was to have been their rock in all of this—their secure position. If it was falling apart, what did they have?

More and more, she was beginning to understand that there would be no falling back. No retreat to develop alternative plans. The world was collapsing around them, and Elend had committed himself to Fadrex.

If they failed here, there would be nowhere else to go.

Eventually, Elend squeezed her shoulder, then walked off into the mists to check on some of the guard posts. Vin remained alone, staring up at those watch fires, feeling a worrisome sense of foreboding. Her thoughts from before, in the fourth storage cavern, returned to her. Fighting wars, besieging cities, playing at politics—it wasn’t enough. These things wouldn’t save them if the very land itself died.

But, what else could they do? The only option they had was to take Fadrex and hope the Lord Ruler had left them some clue to help. She still felt an inexplicable desire to find the atium. Why was she so certain it would help?

She closed her eyes, not wanting to face the mists, which—as always—pulled away from her, leaving a half-inch or so of empty air around her. She’d drawn upon them once, back when she’d fought the Lord Ruler. Why had she been able to fuel her Allomancy with their power that one time?

She reached out to them, trying again, as she had so many times. She called to them, pleaded with them in her mind, tried to access their power. And, she felt as if she should be able to. There was a strength to the mists. Trapped within them. But it wouldn’t yield to her. It was as if something kept them back, some blockage perhaps? Or, maybe, a simple whim on their part.

"Why?" she whispered, eyes still closed. "Why help me that once, but never again? Am I mad, or did you really give me power when I demanded it?"

The night gave her no answers. Finally, she sighed and turned away, seeking refuge inside of the tent.

Hemalurgic spikes change people physically, depending on which powers are granted, where the spike is placed, and how many spikes someone has. Inquisitors, for instance, are changed drastically from the humans they used to be. Their hearts are in different places from those of humans, and their brains rearrange to accommodate the lengths of metal jabbed through their eyes. Koloss are changed in even more drastic ways.

One might think that kandra are changed most of all. However, one must r1emember that new kandra are made from mistwraiths, and not humans. The spikes worn by the kandra cause only a small transformation in their hosts—leaving their bodies mostly like that of a mistwraith, but allowing their minds to begin working. Ironically, while the spikes dehumanize the koloss, they give a measure of humanity to the kandra.

41

"DON’T YOU SEE, BREEZE?" Sazed said eagerly. "This is an example of what we call ostention—a legend being emulated in real life. The people believed in the Survivor of Hathsin, and so they have made for themselves another survivor to help them in their time of need."

Breeze raised an eyebrow. They stood near the back of a crowd gathering in the market district, waiting for the Citizen arrive.

"It is fascinating," Sazed said. "This is an evolution of the Survivor legend that I never anticipated. I knew that they might deify him—in fact, that was almost inevitable. However, since Kelsier was once an ‘ordinary’ person, those who worship him can imagine other people achieving the same status."

Breeze nodded distractedly. Allrianne stood beside him, looking quite petulant that she’d been required to wear drab skaa clothing.

Sazed ignored their lack of excitement. "I wonder what the future of this will be. Perhaps there will be a succession of Survivors for this people. This could be the foundation of a religion with true lasting potential, since it could reinvent itself to suit the needs of the populace. Of course, new Survivors mean new leaders—each one with different opinions. Rather than a line of priests who promote orthodoxy, each new Survivor would seek to establish himself as distinct from those he succeeded. It could make for numerous factions and divisions in the body of worshippers."

"Sazed," Breeze said. "What ever happened to not collecting religions?"

Sazed paused. "I’m not really collecting this religion. I’m just theorizing about its potential."

Breeze raised an eyebrow.

"Besides," Sazed said. "It might have to do with our current mission. If this new Survivor is indeed a real person, he may be able to help us overthrow Quellion."

"Or," Allrianne noted, "he might present a challenge to us for leadership of the city once Quellion does fall."

"True," Sazed admitted. "Either way, I do not see why you are complaining, Breeze. Did you not want me to become interested in religions again?"

"That was before I realized you’d spend the entire evening, then the next morning, chattering about it," Breeze said. "Where is Quellion, anyway? If I miss lunch because of his executions, I’ll be rather annoyed."

Executions. In his excitement, Sazed had nearly forgotten just what it was they had come to see. His eagerness deflated, and he remembered why Breeze was acting so solemnly. The man spoke lightly, but the concern in his eyes indicated that he was disturbed by the thought of the Citizen burning innocent people to death.

"There," Allrianne said, pointing toward the other side of the market. Something was making a stir: the Citizen, wearing a bright blue costume. It was a new "approved" color—one only he was allowed to wear. His councillors surrounded him in red.

"Finally," Breeze said, following the crowd as they bunched up around the Citizen.

Sazed followed, his steps growing reluctant. Now that he thought about it, he was tempted to use his troops to try to stop what was about to occur. Of course, he knew that would be foolish. Playing his hand now to save a few would ruin their chances of saving the entire city. With a sigh, he followed Breeze and Allrianne, moving with the crowd. He also suspected that watching the murders would remind him of the pressing nature of his duties in Urteau. Theological studies would wait for another time.

"You’re going to have to kill them," Kelsier said.

Spook crouched quietly atop a building in the wealthier section of Urteau. Below, the Citizen’s procession was approaching; Spook watched it through cloth-wrapped eyes. It had taken many coins—nearly the last of what he’d brought with him from Luthadel—to bribe out the location of the executions sufficiently in advance so that he could get into position.

He could see the sorry individuals that Quellion had decided to murder. Many of them were like Franson’s sister—people who had been discovered to have noble parentage. Several others, however, were only spouses of those with noble blood. Spook also knew of one man in this group who had spoken out too loudly against Quellion. The man’s connection to the nobility was tenuous. He had once been a craftsman catering specifically to a noble clientele.

"I know you don’t want to do it," Kelsier said. "But you can’t lose your nerve now."

Spook felt powerful—pewter lent him an air of invincibility that he’d never before imagined. He had slept barely a few hours in the last six days, but he didn’t feel tired. He had a sense of balance that any cat would have envied, and he had strength his muscles shouldn’t have been able to produce.

And yet, power wasn’t everything. His palms were sweating beneath his cloak, and he felt beads of perspiration creeping down his brow. He was no Mistborn. He wasn’t Kelsier or Vin. He was just Spook. What was he thinking?

"I can’t do it," he whispered.

"You can," Kelsier said. "You’ve practiced with the cane—I’ve watched. Plus, you stood against those soldiers in the market. They nearly killed you, but you were fighting two Thugs. You did very well, considering."

"I . . ."

"You need to save those people, Spook. Ask yourself: What would I do if I were there?"

"I’m not you."

"Not yet," Kelsier whispered.

Not yet.

Below, Quellion preached against the people about to be executed. Spook could see Beldre, the Citizen’s sister, at his side. Spook leaned forward. Was that really a look of sympathy, even pain, in her eyes as she watched the unfortunate prisoners herded toward the building? Or, was that just what Spook wanted to see in her? He followed her gaze, watching the prisoners. One of them was a child, holding fearfully to a woman as the group was prodded into the building that would become their pyre.

Kelsier’s right, Spook thought. I can’t let this happen. I may not succeed, but at least I have to try. His hands continued to shake as he moved through the hatch atop his building and dashed down the steps, cloak whipping behind him. He rounded a corner, heading for the wine cellar.

Noblemen were strange creatures. During the days of the Lord Ruler, they had often feared for their lives as much as skaa thieves did, fo1r court intrigue often led to imprisonment or assassination. Spook should have realized what he was missing from the beginning. No thieving crew would build a lair without a bolt-hole for emergency escapes.

Why would the nobility be any different?

He leaped, cloak flapping as he dropped the last few steps. He hit the dusty floor, and his enhanced ears heard Quellion begin to rant up above. The skaa crowds were murmuring. The flames had started. There, in the darkened basement of the building, Spook found a section of the wall already open, a secret passageway leading from the building next door. A group of soldiers stood in the passageway.

"Quickly," Spook heard one of them say, "before the fire gets here."

"Please!" another voice cried, her words echoing through the passageway. "At least take the child!"

People grunted. The soldiers moved on the opposite side of the passage from Spook, keeping the people in the other basement from escaping. They had been sent by Quellion to save one of the prisoners. On the outside, the Citizen made a show of denouncing anyone with noble blood. Allomancers, however, were too valuable to kill. And so, he chose his buildings carefully—only burning those with hidden exits through which he could carefully extract the Allomancers.

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