Mistborn the final empi.., p.63
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.63

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
Page 63

  “That’s up to Yeden,” Kelsier said.

  “They’ll be slaughtered,” Ham said very softly. “Ten thousand men can’t hold Luthadel against the entire Final Empire. ”

  “I intend to give them a better chance than you think, Ham,” Kelsier said. “If we can turn the nobility against each other and destabilize the government…”

  “Maybe,” Ham said, still not convinced.

  “You agreed to the plan, Ham,” Kelsier said. “This was what we were intending all along. Raise an army, deliver it to Yeden. ”

  “I know,” Ham said, sighing and leaning back against the cavern wall. “I guess…Well, it’s different, now that I’ve been leading them. Maybe I’m just not meant to be in charge like this. I’m a bodyguard, not a general. ”

  I know how you feel, my friend, Kelsier thought. I’m a thief, not a prophet. Sometimes, we just have to be what the job requires.

  Kelsier laid a hand on Ham’s shoulder. “You did a ?ne job here. ”

  Ham paused. “ ‘Did’ ?ne?”

  “I brought Yeden to replace you. Dox and I decided it would be better to rotate him in as the army’s commander— that way, the troops get used to him as their leader. Besides, we need you back in Luthadel. Someone has to visit the Garrison and gather intelligence, and you’re the only one with any military contacts. ”

  “So, I’m going back with you?” Ham asked.

  Kelsier nodded.

  Ham looked crestfallen for just a moment, then he relaxed, smiling. “I’ll ?nally be able get out of this uniform! But, do you think Yeden can handle it?”

  “You said yourself, he’s changed a lot during the last few months. And, he really is an excellent administrator—he’s done a ?ne job with the rebellion since my brother left. ”

  “I suppose…. ”

  Kelsier shook his head ruefully. “We’re spread thin, Ham. You and Breeze are two of the only men I know I can trust, and I need you back in Luthadel. Yeden’s not perfect for the job here, but the army is going to be his, eventually. Might as well let him lead it for a time. Besides, it will give him something to do; he’s growing a bit touchy about his place in the crew. ” Kelsier paused, then smiled in amusement. “I think he’s jealous of the attention I pay the others. ”

  Ham smiled. “That is a change. ”

  They began to walk again, leaving the practice chamber behind. They entered another twisting stone tunnel, this one leading slightly downward, Ham’s lantern providing their only light.

  “You know,” Ham said after a few minutes of walking, “there’s something else nice about this place. You’ve probably noticed this before, but it certainly is beautiful down here sometimes. ”

  Kelsier hadn’t noticed. He glanced to the side as they walked. One edge of the chamber had been formed of dripping minerals from the ceiling, thin stalactites and stalagmites—like dirty icicles—melding together to form a kind of banister. Minerals twinkled in Ham’s light, and the path in front of them seemed to be frozen in the form of a tumbling molten river.

  No, Kelsier thought. No, I don’t see its beauty, Ham. Other men might see art in the layers of color and melted rock. Kelsier only saw the Pits. Endless caves, most of them going straight down. He’d been forced to wiggle through cracks, plunging downward in the darkness, not even given a light to brighten his way.

  Often, he’d considered not climbing back up. But, then he would ?nd a corpse in the caves—the body of another prisoner, a man who had gotten lost, or who had perhaps just given up. Kelsier would feel their bones and promise himself more. Each week, he’d found an atium geode. Each week he’d avoided execution by brutal beating.

  Except that last time. He didn’t deserve to be alive—he should have been killed. But, Mare had given him an atium geode, promising him that she’d found two that week. It wasn’t until after he’d turned it in that he’d discovered her lie. She’d been beaten to death the next day. Beaten to death right in front of him.

  That night, Kelsier had Snapped, coming into his powers as a Mistborn. The next night, men had died.

  Many men.

  Survivor of Hathsin. A man who shouldn’t live. Even after watching her die, I couldn’t decide if she’d betrayed me or not. Did she give me that geode out of love? Or did she do it out of guilt?

  No, he couldn’t see beauty in the caverns. Other men had been driven mad by the Pits, becoming terri?ed of small, enclosed spaces. That hadn’t happened to Kelsier. However, he knew that no matter what wonders the labyrinths held—no matter how amazing the views or delicate the beauties—he would never acknowledge them. Not with Mare dead.

  I can’t think about this anymore, Kelsier decided, the cavern seeming to grow darker around him. He glanced to the side. “All right, Ham. Go ahead. Tell me what you’re thinking about. ”

  “Really?” Ham said eagerly.

  “Yes,” Kelsier said with a sense of resignation.

  “All right,” Ham said. “So, here’s what I’ve been worried about lately: Are skaa different from noblemen?”

  “Of course they are,” Kelsier said. “The aristocracy has the money and the land; the skaa don’t have anything. ”

  “I don’t mean economics—I’m talking about physical differences. You know what the obligators say, right?”

  Kelsier nodded.

  “Well, is it true? I mean, skaa really do have a lot of children, and I’ve heard that aristocrats have trouble reproducing. ”

  The Balance, it was called. It was supposedly the way that the Lord Ruler ensured that there weren’t too many noblemen for the skaa to support, and the way he made certain that— despite beatings and random killings—there were always enough skaa to grow food and work in mills.

  “I’ve always just assumed it to be Ministry rhetoric,” Kelsier said honestly.

  “I’ve known skaa women to have as many as a dozen children,” Ham said. “But I can’t name a single major noble family with more than three. ”

  “It’s just cultural. ”

  “And the height difference? They say you used to be able to tell skaa and noblemen apart by sight alone. That’s changed, probably through interbreeding, but most skaa are still kind of short. ”

  “That’s nutritional. Skaa don’t get enough to eat. ”

  “What about Allomancy?”

  Kelsier frowned.

  “You have to admit that there’s a physical difference there,” Ham said. “Skaa never become Mistings unless they have aristocratic blood somewhere in their last ?ve generations. ”

  That much, at least, was true.

  “Skaa think differently from noblemen, Kell,” Ham said. “Even these soldiers are kind of timid, and they’re the brave ones! Yeden’s right about the general skaa population—it will never rebel. What if… what if there really is something physically different about us? What if the noblemen are right to rule over us?”

  Kelsier froze in the hallway. “You don’t really mean that. ”

  Ham stopped as well. “I guess… no, I don’t. But I do wonder sometimes. The noblemen have Allomancy, right? Maybe they’re meant to be in charge. ”

  “Meant by who? The Lord Ruler?”

  Ham shrugged.

  “No, Ham,” Kelsier said. “It isn’t right. This isn’t right. I know it’s hard to see—things have been this way for so long—but something very serious is wrong with the way skaa live. You have to believe that. ”

  Ham paused, then nodded. “Let’s go,” Kelsier said. “I want to visit that other entrance. ”

  The week passed slowly. Kelsier inspected the troops, the training, the food, the weapons, the supplies, the scouts, the guards, and just about everything else he could think of. More important, he visited the men. He complimented and encouraged them—and he made certain to use Allomancy frequently in front of them.

  While many skaa had heard of “Allomancy,” very few knew speci?cally what it could do. Nobleman Mistings rarely used their powers in front
of other people, and half-breeds had to be even more careful. Ordinary skaa, even city skaa, didn’t know of things like Steelpushing or Pewter-burning. When they saw Kelsier ?ying through the air or sparring with supernatural strength, they would just attribute it to formless “Allomancy Magics. ” Kelsier didn’t mind the misunderstanding at all.

  Despite all of the week’s activities, however, he never forgot his conversation with Ham.

  How could he even wonder if skaa are inferior? Kelsier thought, poking at his meal as he sat at the high table in the central meeting cavern. The massive “room” was large enough to hold the entire army of seven thousand men, though many sat in side chambers or halfway out into tunnels. The high table sat on a raised rock formation at the far end of the chamber.

  I’m probably worrying too much. Ham was prone to think about things that no sane man would consider; this was just another of his philosophical dilemmas. In fact, he already seemed to have forgotten his earlier concerns. He laughed with Yeden, enjoying his meal.

  As for Yeden, the gangly rebel leader looked quite satis?ed with his general’s uniform, and had spent the week taking very serious notes from Ham regarding the army’s operation. He seemed to be falling quite naturally into his duties.

  In fact, Kelsier seemed to be the only one who wasn’t enjoying the feast. The evening’s foods—brought on the barges especially for the occasion—were humble by aristocratic standards, but were much ?ner than what the soldiers were used to. The men relished the meal with a joyful boisterousness, drinking their small allotment of ale and celebrating the moment.

  And still, Kelsier worried. What did these men think they were ?ghting for? They seemed enthusiastic about their training, but that might have just been due to the regular meals. Did they actually believe that they deserved to overthrow the Final Empire? Did they think that skaa were inferior to noblemen?

  Kelsier could sense their reservations. Many of the men realized the impending danger, and only the strict exit rules kept them from ?eeing. While they were eager to speak of their training, they avoided talking about their ?nal task— that of seizing the palace and city walls, then holding off the Luthadel Garrison.

  They don’t think they can succeed, Kelsier guessed. They need con?dence. The rumors about me are a start, but…

  He nudged Ham, getting the man’s attention.

  “Are there any men who have given you discipline problems?” Kelsier asked quietly.

  Ham frowned at the odd question. “There are a couple, of course. I’d think there are always dissidents in a group this large. ”

  “Anyone in particular?” Kelsier asked. “Men who have wanted to leave? I need someone outspoken in their opposition to what we’re doing. ”

  “There are a couple in the brig right now,” Ham said.

  “Anyone here?” Kelsier asked. “Preferably someone sitting at a table we can see?”

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