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The Hero of Ages (Page 60)

It was the perfect way to show orthodoxy, yet maintain a grip on the city’s most powerful resource. But it wasn’t this hypocrisy that made Spook’s hands stop shaking as he charged the soldiers.

It was the crying child.

"Kill them!" Kelsier screamed.

Spook whipped out his dueling cane. One of the soldiers finally noticed him, spinning in shock.

He fell first.

Spook hadn’t realized how hard he could swing. The soldier’s helmet flew through the hidden passageway, its metal crumpled. The other soldiers cried out as Spook leaped over their fallen companion in the close confines. They carried swords, but had trouble drawing them.

Spook, however, had brought daggers.

He pulled one free, wielding it with a swing powered by both pewter and fury, enhanced senses guiding his steps. He cut through two soldiers, elbowing their dying bodies aside, pressing his advantage. At the end of the passageway, four soldiers stood with a short skaa man.

Fear shone in their eyes.

Spook threw himself forward, and the shocked soldiers finally overcame their surprise. They pushed backward, throwing open the secret door and stumbling over themselves as they entered the building basement on the other side.

The structure was already well on its way to burning down. Spook could smell the smoke. The rest of the condemned people were in the room—they had probably been trying to get through the doorway to follow their friend who had escaped. Now they were forced backward as the soldiers shoved their way into the room, finally drawing their swords.

Spook gutted the slowest of the four soldiers, then left his dagger in the body, pulling out a second dueling cane. The firm length of wood felt good in his hand as he spun between shocked civilians, attacking the soldiers.

"The soldiers can’t be allowed to escape," Kelsier whispered. "Otherwise, Quellion will know that the people were rescued. You have to leave him confused."

Light flickered in a hallway beyond the well-furnished basement room. Firelight. Spook could feel the heat already. Grimly, the three backlit soldiers raised their swords. Smoke began to creep in along the ceiling, spreading like a dark black mist. Prisoners cringed, confused.

Spook dashed forward, spinning as he swung both of his canes at one of the soldiers. The man took the bait, sidestepping Spook’s attack, then lunging forward. In an ordinary fight, Spook would have been skewered.

Pewter and tin saved him. Spook moved on feet made light, feeling the wind of the oncoming sword, knowing where it would pass. His heart thudded inside his chest as the sword sliced through the fabric at his side, but missed the flesh. He brought a cane down, cracking the man’s sword arm, then smacked another into his skull.

The soldier fell, surprise visible in his dying eyes as Spook pushed past him.

The next soldier was already swinging. Spook brought up both of his canes, crossing them to block. The sword bit through one, spinning half of the cane into the air, but got caught in the second. Spook snapped his weapon to the side, pushing the blade away, then spun inside the man’s reach and took him down with an elbow to the stomach.

Spook punched the man’s head as he fell. The sound of bone on bone cracked in the burning room. The soldier slumped at Spook’s feet.

I can actually do this! Spook thought. I am like them. Vin and Kelsier. No more hiding in basements or fleeing from danger. I can fight!

He spun, smiling.

And found the final soldier standing with Spook’s own knife held to the neck of a young girl. The soldier stood with his back to the burning hallway, eyeing escape through the hidden passage. Behind the man, flames were curling around the wooden doorframe, licking the room.

"The rest of you, get out!" Spook said, not turning from the soldier. "Go out the back door of the building you find at the end of this tunnel. You’ll find men there. They’ll hide you in the underground, then get you out of the city. Go!"

Some had already fled, and those who remained moved at his command. The soldier stood, watching, obviously trying to decide his course. He must have known he was facing an Allomancer—no ordinary man could have taken down so many soldiers so quickly. Fortunately, it appeared that Quellion hadn’t sent his own Allomancers into the building. He likely kept them above, protecting him.

Spook stood still. He dropped the broken dueling cane, but held the other tightly to keep his hand from shaking. The girl whimpered quietly.

What would Kelsier have done?

Behind him, the last of the prisoners was fleeing into the passage. "You!" Spook said without turning. "Bar that door from the outside. Quickly!"

"But—"

"Do it!" Spook yelled.

"No!" the soldier said, pressing the knife against the girl’s neck. "I’ll kill her!"

"Do and you die," Spook said. "You know that. Look at me. You’re not getting past me. You’re—"

The door thunked closed.

The soldier cried out, dropping the girl, rushing toward the door, obviously trying to get to it before the bar fell on the other side. "That’s the only way out! You’ll get us—"

Spook broke the man’s knees with a single crack of the dueling cane. The soldier screamed, falling to the ground. Flames burned on three of the walls, now. The heat was already intense.

The bar clicked into place on the other side of the door. Spook looked down at the soldier. Still alive.

"Leave him," Kelsier said. "Let him burn in the building."

Spook hesitated.

"He would have let all of those people die," Kelsier said. "Let him feel what he would have done to these—what he has already done several times, at Quellion’s command."

Spook left the groaning man on the ground, moving over to the secret door. He threw his weight against it.

It held.

Spook cursed quietly, raising a boot and kicking the door. It, however, remained solid.

"That door was built by noblemen who feared they would be pursued by assassins," Kelsier said. "They were familiar with Allomancy, and would make certain the door was strong enough to resist a Thug’s kick."

The fire was growing hotter. The girl huddled on the floor, whimpering. Spook whirled, staring down the flames, feeling their heat. He stepped forward, but his amplified senses were so keen that the heat seemed amazingly powerful to him.

He gritted his teeth, picking up the girl.

I have pewter now, he thought. It can balance the power of my senses.

That will have to be enough.

Smoke billowed out the windows of the condemned building. Sazed waited with Breeze and Allrianne, standing at the back of a solemn crowd. The people were oddly silent as they watched the flames claim their prize. Perhaps they sensed the truth.

That they could be taken and killed as easily as the poor wretches who died inside.

"How quickly we come around," Sazed whispered. "It wasn’t long ago that men were forced to watch the Lord Ruler cut the heads from innocent people. Now we do it to ourselves."

Silence. What sounded like yells came from inside the building. The screams of dying men.

"Kelsier was wrong," Breeze said.

Sazed frowned, turning.

"He blamed the noblemen," Breeze said. "He thought that if we got rid of them, things like this wouldn’t happen."

Sazed nodded. Then, oddly, the crowd began to grow restless, shuffling about, murmuring. And, Sazed felt himself agreeing with them. Something needed to be done about this atrocity. Why did nobody fight? Quellion stood there, surrounded by his proud men in red. Sazed gritted his teeth, growing angry.

"Allrianne, dear," Breeze said, "this isn’t the time."

Sazed started. He turned, glancing at the young woman. She was crying.

By the Forgotten Gods, Sazed thought, finally recognizing her touch on his emotions, Rioting them to make him angry at Quellion. She’s as good as Breeze is.

"Why not?" she said. "He deserves it. I could make this crowd rip him apart."

"And his second-in-command would take control," Breeze said, "then execute these people. We have1n’t prepared enough."

"It seems that you’re never done preparing, Breeze," she snapped.

"These things require—"

"Wait," Sazed said, raising a hand. He frowned, watching the building. One of the building’s boarded windows—one high in a peaked attic section on top of the roof itself—seemed to be shaking.

"Look!" Sazed said. "There!"

Breeze raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps our Flame God is about to make his appearance, eh?" He smiled at what he obviously found a ridiculous concept. "I wonder what we were supposed to learn during this revolting little experience. Personally, I think the men who sent us here didn’t know what they—"

One of the planks suddenly flew off of the window, spinning in the air, swirling smoke behind it. Then the window burst outward.

A figure in dark clothing leaped through the shattering mess of boards and smoke, landing on the rooftop. His long cloak actually appeared to be on fire in places, and he carried a small bundle in his arms. A child. The figure rushed along the top of the burning rooftop, then leaped off the front of the building, trailing smoke as he fell to the ground.

He landed with the grace of a man burning pewter, not stumbling despite the two-story fall, his burning cloak billowing out around him. People backed away, surprised, and Quellion spun in shock.

The man’s hood fell back as he stood upright. Only then did Sazed recognize him.

Spook stood tall, seeming in the sunlight to be older than he really was. Or, perhaps, Sazed had never looked at him as anything but a child until that moment. Either way, the young man regarded Quellion proudly, eyes wrapped with a blindfold, his body smoking as he held the coughing child in his arms. He didn’t seem the least bit intimidated by the troop of twenty soldiers that surrounded the building.

Breeze cursed quietly. "Allrianne, we’re going to need that Riot after all!"

Sazed suddenly felt a weight pressing against him. Breeze Soothed away his distracting emotions—his confusion, his concern—and left Sazed, along with the crowd, completely open to Allrianne’s focused burst of enraged anger.

The crowd exploded with motion, people crying out in the name of the Survivor, rushing the guards. For a moment, Sazed feared that Spook wouldn’t take the opportunity to run. Despite the strange bandage on Spook’s eyes, Sazed could tell that the boy was staring straight at Quellion—as if in challenge.

Fortunately, however, Spook finally turned away. The crowd distracted the advancing soldiers, and Spook ran on feet that seemed to move far too quickly. He ducked down an alleyway, carrying the girl he had rescued, his cloak trailing smoke. As soon as Spook had a safe head start, Breeze smothered the crowd’s will to rebel, keeping them from getting themselves cut down by the soldiers. The people backed away, dispersing. The Citizen’s soldiers, however, stayed close around their leader. Sazed could hear frustration in the Citizen’s voice as he called for the inevitable retreat. He couldn’t spare more than a few men to chase down Spook, not with the potential of a riot. He had to get himself to safety.

As soldiers marched away, Breeze turned an eye toward Sazed. "Well," he noted, "that was somewhat unexpected."

I think that the koloss were more intelligent than we wanted to gi1ve them credit for being. For instance, originally, they used only spikes the Lord Ruler gave them to make new members. He would provide the metal and the unfortunate skaa captives, and the koloss would create new "recruits."

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