Mistborn the final empi.., p.62
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.62

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 62

  The soldiers pulled away some false underbrush, revealing a crack in the ground. It was dark within, the sides jutting with crystalline granite. It wasn’t a regular hillside cavern, but instead a simple rend in the ground leading directly down.

  Kelsier stood quietly, looking down at the black, stone-laced rift. He shivered slightly.

  “Kelsier?” Yeden asked, frowning. “What is it?”

  “It reminds me of the Pits. They looked like this—cracks in the ground. ”

  Yeden paled slightly. “Oh. I, uh…”

  Kelsier waved dismissively. “I knew this was coming. I climbed down inside those caves every day for a year, and I always came back out. I beat them. They have no power over me. ”

  To prove his words, he stepped forward and climbed down into the thin crack. It was just wide enough for a large man to slip through. As Kelsier descended, he saw the soldiers—both Demoux’s squad and the new recruits—watching quietly. He had intentionally spoken loud enough for them to hear.

  Let them see my weakness, and let them see me overcome it.

  They were brave thoughts. However, once he passed beneath the surface, it was as if he were back again. Smashed between two walls of stone, questing downward with shaking ?ngers. Cold, damp, dark. Slaves had to be the ones who recovered the atium. Allomancers might have been more effective, but using Allomancy near atium crystals shattered them. So, the Lord Ruler used condemned men. Forcing them into the pits. Forcing them to crawl downward, ever downward…

  Kelsier forced himself onward. This wasn’t Hathsin. The crack wouldn’t go down for hours, and there would be no crystal-lined holes to reach through with torn, bleeding arms—stretching, seeking the atium geode hidden within. One geode; that bought one more week of life. Life beneath the taskmasters’ lashes. Life beneath the rule of a sadistic god. Life beneath the sun gone red.

  I will change things for the others, Kelsier thought. I will make it better!

  The climb was dif?cult for him, more dif?cult than he ever would have admitted. Fortunately, the crack soon opened up to a larger cavern beneath, and Kelsier caught a glimpse of light from below. He let himself drop the rest of the way, landing on the uneven stone ?oor, and smiled at the man who stood waiting.

  “Hell of an entryway you’ve got there, Ham,” Kelsier said, dusting off his hands.

  Ham smiled. “You should see the bathroom. ”

  Kelsier laughed, moving to make way for the others. Several natural tunnels led off of the chamber, and a small rope ladder hung from the bottom of the rift to facilitate going back up. Yeden and Demoux soon climbed down the ladder into the cavern, their clothing scraped and dirtied from the descent. It wasn’t an easy entrance to get through. That, however, was the idea.

  “It’s good to see you, Kell,” Ham said. It was odd to see him in clothing that wasn’t missing the sleeves. In fact, his militaristic out?t looked rather formal, with square-cut lines and buttons down the front. “How many have you brought me?”

  “Just over two hundred and forty. ”

  Ham raised his eyebrows. “Recruitment has picked up, then?”

  “Finally,” Kelsier said with a nod. Soldiers began to drop into the cavern, and several of Ham’s aides moved forward, helping the newcomers and directing them down a side tunnel.

  Yeden moved over to join Kelsier and Ham. “This cavern is amazing, Lord Kelsier! I’ve never actually been to the caves myself. No wonder the Lord Ruler hasn’t found the men down here!”

  “The complex is completely secure,” Ham said proudly. “There are only three entrances, all of them cracks like this one. With proper supplies, we could hold this place inde?nitely against an invading force. ”

  “Plus,” Kelsier said,“this isn’t the only cave complex beneath these hills. Even if the Lord Ruler were determined to destroy us, his army could spend weeks searching and still not ?nd us. ”

  “Amazing,” Yeden said. He turned, eyeing Kelsier. “I was wrong about you, Lord Kelsier. This operation… this army…well, you’ve done something impressive here. ”

  Kelsier smiled. “Actually, you were right about me. You believed in me when this started—we’re only here because of you. ”

  “I… guess I did, didn’t I?” Yeden said, smiling.

  “Either way,” Kelsier said, “I appreciate the vote of con?dence. It’s probably going to take some time to get all these men down the crack—would you mind directing things here? I’d like to talk to Hammond for a bit. ”

  “Of course, Lord Kelsier. ” There was respect—even a growing bit of adulation—in his voice.

  Kelsier nodded to the side. Ham frowned slightly, picking up a lantern, then followed Kelsier from the ?rst chamber. They entered a side tunnel, and once they were out of earshot, Ham paused, glancing backward.

  Kelsier stopped, raising an eyebrow.

  Ham nodded back toward the entry chamber. “Yeden certainly has changed. ”

  “I have that effect on people. ”

  “Must be your awe-inspiring humility,” Ham said. “I’m serious, Kell. How do you do it? That man practically hated you; now he looks at you like a kid idolizing his big brother. ”

  Kelsier shrugged. “Yeden’s never been part of an effective team before—I think he’s started to realize that we might actually have a chance. In little over half a year, we’ve gathered a rebellion larger than he’s ever seen. Those kind of results can convert even the stubborn. ”

  Ham didn’t look convinced. Finally, he just shrugged, beginning to walk again. “What was it you wanted to talk about?”

  “Actually, I’d like to visit the other two entrances, if we could,” Kelsier said.

  Ham nodded, pointing to a side tunnel and leading the way. The tunnel, like most of the others, hadn’t been hollowed by human hands; it was a natural growth of the cave complex. There were hundreds of similar cave systems in the Central Dominance, though most weren’t as extensive. And only one—the Pits of Hathsin—grew atium geodes.

  “Anyway, Yeden’s right,” Ham said, twisting his way through a narrow place in the tunnel. “You picked a great place to hide these people. ”

  Kelsier nodded. “Various rebel groups have been using the cavern complexes in these hills for centuries. They’re frighteningly close to Luthadel, but the Lord Ruler has never led a successful raid against anyone here. He just ignores the place now—one too many failures, probably. ”

  “I don’t doubt it,” Ham said. “With all the nooks and bottlenecks down here, this would be a nasty place to have a battle. ” He stepped out of the passageway, entering another small cavern. This one also had a rift in the ceiling, and faint sunlight trickled down. A squad of ten soldiers stood guard in the room, and they snapped to attention as soon as Ham entered.

  Kelsier nodded approvingly. “Ten men at all times?”

  “At each of the three entrances,” Ham said.

  “Good,” Kelsier said. He walked forward, inspecting the soldiers. He wore his sleeves up, his scars showing, and he could see the men eyeing them. He didn’t really know what to inspect, but he tried to look discriminating. He examined their weapons—staves for eight of the men, swords for two— and dusted off a few shoulders, though none of the men wore uniforms.

  Finally, he turned to a soldier who bore an insignia on his shoulder. “Who do you let out of the caverns, soldier?”

  “Only men bearing a letter sealed by General Hammond himself, sir!”

  “No exceptions?” Kelsier asked.

  “No, sir!”

  “And if I wanted to leave right now?”

  The man paused. “Uh…”

  “You’d stop me!” Kelsier said. “No one is exempt, soldier. Not me, not your bunkmate, not an of?cer—no one. If they don’t have that seal, they don’t leave!”

  “Yes, sir!” the soldier said.

  “Good man,” Kelsier said. “If all of your soldiers are this ?ne, General, then the Lord Ruler has good reason to be afra
id. ”

  The soldiers puffed up slightly at the words.

  “Carry on, men,” Kelsier said, waving for Ham to follow as he left the room.

  “That was kind of you,” Ham said softly. “They’ve been anticipating your visit for weeks. ”

  Kelsier shrugged. “I just wanted to see that they were guarding the crack properly. Now that you have more men, I want you to post guards at any tunnels leading to these exit caverns. ”

  Ham nodded. “Seems a bit extreme, though. ”

  “Humor me,” Kelsier said. “A single runaway or malcontent could betray us all to the Lord Ruler. It’s nice that you feel that you could defend this place, but if there’s an army camped outside trapping you in, this army will effectively become useless to us. ”

  “All right,” Ham said. “You want to see the third entrance?”

  “Please,” Kelsier said.

  Ham nodded, leading him down another tunnel.

  “Oh, one other thing,” Kelsier said after a bit of walking. “Get together groups of a hundred men—all ones you trust— to go tromp around up in the forest. If someone comes looking for us, we won’t be able to hide the fact that lots of people have passed through the area. However, we might be able to muddle the tracks so much that the trails all lead nowhere. ”

  “Good idea. ”

  “I’m full of ’em,” Kelsier said as they stepped into another cave chamber, this one far larger than the previous two. It wasn’t an entrance rift, but instead a practice room. Groups of men stood with swords or staves, sparring beneath the eye of uniformed instructors. Uniforms for the of?cers had been Dockson’s idea. They couldn’t afford to out?t all the men—it would be too expensive, and obtaining that many uniforms would look suspicious. However, maybe seeing their leaders in uniform would help give the men a sense of cohesion.

  Ham paused at the edge of the room rather than continuing onward. He eyed the soldiers, speaking softly. “We need to talk about this sometime, Kell. The men are starting to feel like soldiers, but…Well, they’re skaa. They’ve spent their lives working in mills or ?elds. I don’t know how well they’ll do when we actually get them onto a battle?eld. ”

  “If we do everything right, they won’t have to do much fighting,” Kelsier said. “The Pits are only guarded by a couple hundred soldiers—the Lord Ruler can’t have too many men there, lest he hint at the location’s importance. Our thousand men can take the Pits with ease, then retreat as soon as the Garrison arrives. The other nine thousand might have to face a few Great House guard squads and the palace soldiers, but our men should have the upper hand in numbers. ”

  Ham nodded, though his eyes still seemed uncertain.

  “What?” Kelsier asked, leaning against the smooth, crystalline mouth of the cavern juncture.

  “And when we’re done with them, Kell?” Ham asked. “Once we have our atium, we give the city—and the army— over to Yeden. Then what?”


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