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The Hero of Ages (Page 61)

At the Lord Ruler’s death, then, the koloss should quickly have died out. This was how he had designed them. If they got free from his control, he expected them to kill themselves off and end their own rampage. However, they somehow made the deduction that spikes in the bodies of fallen koloss could be harvested, then reused.

They then no longer required a fresh supply of spikes. I often wonder what effect the constant reuse of spikes had on their population. A spike can only hold so much of a Hemalurgic charge, so they could not create spikes that granted infinite strength, no matter how many people those spikes killed and drew power from. However, did the repeated reuse of spikes perhaps bring more humanity to the koloss they made?

42

WHEN MARSH ENTERED LUTHADEL, he was far more careful than he had been when he’d entered the nameless town at the western border of the dominance. An Inquisitor moving through the capital of Elend’s empire would not go unreported, and might draw undue attention. The emperor was gone, and he had left his playground open to be used by others. No need to spoil that.

So, Marsh moved at night, hooded cloak up, burning steel and jumping about on coins. Even so, seeing the magnificent city—sprawling, dirty, yet still home—was hard for the watching, waiting part of Marsh. Once, Marsh himself had run the skaa rebellion in this city. He felt responsible for its occupants, and the thought of Ruin doing to them what he’d done to the people of the other town, the one where the ashmount had blown . . .

There was no ashmount that close to Luthadel. Unfortunately, there were things Ruin could do to a city that didn’t involve natural forces. On his way to Luthadel, Marsh had stopped at no fewer than four villages, where he had secretly killed the men guarding their food stores, then set fire to the buildings that contained them. He knew that the other Inquisitors went about the world, committing similar atrocities as they searched for the thing Ruin desired above all others. The thing Preservation had taken from him.

He had yet to find it.

Marsh leaped over a street, landing atop a peaked rooftop, running along its edge and making his way toward the northeastern side of the city. Luthadel had changed during the year since he’d last seen it. The Lord Ruler’s forced labor projects had brutalized the skaa, but had kept things clean of ash and given even the oversized city a sense of order. There was none of that now. Growing food was obviously a priority—and keeping the city clean could wait for later, if there was a later.

There were far more trash heaps now, and mounds of ash—which would have once been scraped into the river at the center of the city—slumped in alleys and against buildings. Marsh felt himself begin to smile at the beauty of the disrepair, and his little, rebellious part withdrew and hid.

He couldn’t fight. Now was not the time.

He soon arrived at Keep Venture, seat of Elend’s government. It had been invaded by koloss during the siege of Luthadel, its lower stained-glass windows shattered by the beasts. The windows had been replaced only by boards. Marsh smiled, then Steelpush-leaped up to a balcony on the second floor. He was familiar with this building. Before he’d been taken by Ruin, he had 1spent several months living here, helping Emperor Venture keep control in his city.

Marsh found Penrod’s rooms easily. They were the only ones occupied, and the only ones guarded. Marsh crouched a few corridors down, watching with his inhuman eyes as he considered his next course of action.

Impaling an unwilling subject with a Hemalurgic spike was a very tricky prospect. The spike’s size was, in this case, immaterial. Just as a pinch of metal dust could fuel Allomancy for a time, or a small ring could hold a small Feruchemical charge, a rather small bit of metal could work for Hemalurgy. Inquisitor spikes were made large to be intimidating, but a small pin could, in many instances, be just as effective as a massive spike. It depended on how long one wanted to leave the spike outside of a person’s body after using it to kill someone.

For Marsh’s purposes this day, a small spike was preferable; he didn’t want to give Penrod powers, just pierce him with metal. Marsh pulled out the spike he had made from the Allomancer in the doomed town a few days back. It was about five inches long—actually bigger than it needed to be, strictly speaking. However, Marsh would need to drive this spike forcefully into a man’s body, which meant it needed to be at least large enough to hold its shape. There were some two or three hundred bind points across a human’s body. Marsh didn’t know them all; Ruin would guide his hand when the time came to strike, making sure the spike was delivered to the right place. His master’s direct attention was focused elsewhere at the moment, and he was giving Marsh general commands to get into position and prepare for the attack.

Hemalurgic spikes. The hidden part of himself shivered, remembering the day when he had unexpectedly been made into an Inquisitor. He’d thought that he had been discovered. He’d been working as a spy for Kelsier in the Steel Priesthood. Little did he know that he hadn’t been singled out as suspicious—he’d been singled out as extraordinary.

The Inquisitors had come for him at night, while he’d waited nervously to meet with Kelsier and pass on what he assumed would be his final message to the rebellion. They’d burst through the door, moving more quickly than Marsh could react. They gave him no option. They’d simply slammed him down against the ground, then thrown a screaming woman on top of him.

Then, the Inquisitors had pounded a spike right through her heart and into Marsh’s eye.

The pain was too great for him to remember. That moment was a hole in his memory, filled with vague images of the Inquisitors repeating this process, killing other unfortunate Allomancers and pounding their powers—their very souls, it seemed—into Marsh’s body. When it was finished, he lay groaning on the floor, a new flood of sensory information making it difficult for him even to think. Around him, the other Inquisitors had danced about, cutting apart the other bodies with their axes, rejoicing in the addition of another member to their ranks.

That was, in a way, the day of his birth. What a wonderful day. Penrod, however, would not have such joy. He wasn’t to be made into an Inquisitor—he would get only a single, small spike. One that had been made days ago, and been allowed to sit outside a body—leaking power—all that time.

Marsh waited for Ruin to come to him in force. Not only would the spike have to be planted precisely, but Penrod would have to leave it in long enough for Ruin to begin influencing his thoughts and emotions. The spike had to touch the blood—at first, at least. After the spike was pounded in, the skin could heal around the metal, and the spike would still wo1rk. However, to begin with, there would be blood.

How did one make a person forget about five inches of metal sprouting from their body? How did one make others ignore it? Ruin had tried to get a spike into Elend Venture on several occasions now, and had always failed. In fact, most attempts failed. The few people claimed with the process, however, were worth the effort.

Ruin came upon him, and he lost control of his body. He moved without knowing what he was going to do, following direct orders. Down the corridor. Don’t attack the guards. In through the door.

Marsh shoved aside the two watching soldiers, kicking the door down and bursting into the antechamber.

Right. To the bedchamber.

Marsh was through the room in a heartbeat, the two soldiers belatedly screaming for help outside. Penrod was an aging man with a dignified air. He had the presence of mind to leap from his bed at the sounds, grabbing a hardwood dueling cane from its place atop his nightstand.

Marsh smiled. A dueling cane? Against an Inquisitor? He pulled his obsidian hand axe from the sheath at his side.

Fight him, Ruin said, but do not kill him. Make it a difficult battle, but allow him to feel that he’s holding you off.

It was an odd request, but Marsh’s mind was so directly controlled that he couldn’t even pause to think about it. He could simply leap forward to attack.

It was harder than it seemed. He had to make sure to strike with the axe in ways that Penrod could block. Several times, he had to tap speed from one of his spikes—which doubled as a Feruchemical metalmind—to suddenly inch his axe in the right direction, lest he accidentally behead the king of Luthadel.

Yet, Marsh did it. He cut Penrod a few times, fighting all the while with the small spike held hidden in his left palm, letting the king think he was doing well. Within moments, the guards had joined the fight, which allowed Marsh to keep up appearances even better. Three normal men against an Inquisitor was still no contest, but from their perspectives, maybe it would seem like one.

It wasn’t long before a troop of some dozen guards burst into the chamber outside the bedroom, coming to aid their king.

Now, Ruin said. Act frightened, get ready to put the spike in, and prepare to flee out the window.

Marsh tapped speed and moved. Ruin guided his hand precisely as he slammed his left hand into Penrod’s chest, driving the spike directly into the man’s heart. Marsh heard Penrod scream, smiled at the sound, and leaped out the window.

A short time later, Marsh hung outside that same window, unseen and unnoticed, even by the numerous guard patrols. He was far too skilled, far too careful, to be spotted listening with tin-enhanced ears, hanging underneath an outcropping of stone near the window. Inside, surgeons conferred.

"When we try to pull the spike out, the bleeding increases dramatically, my lord," one voice explained.

"The shard of metal got dangerously close to your heart," said another.

Dangerously close? Marsh thought with a smile from his upside-down perch. The spike pierced his heart. But, of course, the surgeons couldn’t know that. Since Penrod was conscious, they would assume that the spike had come close, but somehow just barely missed.1p>

"We fear pulling it out," the first surgeon said. "How . . . do you feel?"

"Remarkably good, actually," said Penrod. "There is an ache, and some discomfort. But I feel strong."

"Then let us leave the shard, for now," the first surgeon said, sounding concerned. But, what else could he do? If he did pull the spike out, it would kill Penrod. A clever move by Ruin.

They would wait for Penrod to regain his strength, then try again to remove the spike. Again, it would threaten Penrod’s life. They’d have to leave it. And, with Ruin now able to touch his mind—not control him, just nudge things in certain directions—Penrod would soon forget about the spike. The discomfort would fade, and with the spike under his clothing, no one would find it irregular.

And then he would be Ruin’s as surely as any Inquisitor. Marsh smiled, let go of the outcropping, and dropped to the dark streets below.

For all that it disgusts me, I cannot help but be impressed by Hemalurgy as an art. In Allomancy and Feruchemy, skill and subtlety come through the application of one’s powers. The best Allomancer might not be the most powerful, but instead the one who can best manipulate the Pushes and Pulls of metals. The best Feruchemist is the one who is most capable of sorting the information in his copperminds, or best able to manipulate his weight with iron.

The art that is unique to Hemalurgy, however, is the knowledge of where to place the spikes.

43

VIN LANDED WITH A HUSHED rustle of cloth. She crouched in the night, holding up her dress to keep it from brushing the ashen rooftop, then peered into the mists.

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