Mistborn the final empi.., p.64
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.64

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 64

  Ham thought for a moment, scanning the crowd. “The man sitting at the second table with the red cloak. He was caught trying to escape a couple weeks ago. ”

  The man in question was scrawny and twitchy; he sat at his table with a hunched, solitary posture.

  Kelsier shook his head. “I need someone a bit more charismatic. ”

  Ham rubbed his chin in thought. Then he paused, and nodded toward another table. “Bilg. The big guy sitting at the fourth table over on the right. ”

  “I see him,” Kelsier said. Bilg was a brawny man wearing a vest and a full beard.

  “He’s too clever to be insubordinate,” Ham said, “but he’s been making trouble quietly. He doesn’t think we have a chance against the Final Empire. I’d lock him up, but I can’t really punish a man for expressing fear—or, at least, if I did, I’d have to do the same for half the army. Besides, he’s too good a warrior to discard idly. ”

  “He’s perfect,” Kelsier said. He burned zinc, then looked toward Bilg. While zinc wouldn’t let him read the man’s emotions, it was possible—when burning the metal—to isolate just a single individual for Soothing or Rioting, much as one was able to isolate a single bit of metal from hundreds to Pull on.

  Even still, it was dif?cult to single Bilg out from such a large crowd, so Kelsier just focused on the entire tableful of men, keeping their emotions “in hand” for later use. Then he stood. Slowly, the cavern quieted.

  “Men, before I leave, I wish to express one last time how much I was impressed by this visit. ” His words rang through the room, ampli?ed by the cavern’s natural acoustics.

  “You are becoming a ?ne army,” Kelsier said. “I apologize for stealing General Hammond, but I leave a very competent man in his place. Many of you know General Yeden—you know of his many years serving as rebellion leader. I have con?dence in his ability to train you even further in the ways of soldiers. ”

  He began to Riot Bilg and his companions, en?aming their emotions, counting on the fact that they’d be feeling disagreeable.

  “It is a great task I ask of you,” Kelsier said, not looking at Bilg. “Those skaa outside of Luthadel—indeed, most skaa everywhere—have no idea what you are about to do for them. They aren’t aware of the training you endure or the battles you prepare to ?ght. However, they will reap the rewards. Someday, they will call you heroes. ”

  He Rioted Bilg’s emotions even harder.

  “The Garrison of Luthadel is strong,” Kelsier said, “but we can defeat it—especially if we take the city walls quickly. Do not forget why you came here. This isn’t simply about learning to swing a sword or wear a helm. This is about a revolution such as the world has never seen—it is about taking the government for ourselves, about ousting the Lord Ruler. Do not lose sight of your goal. ”

  Kelsier paused. From the corner of his eye, he could see dark expressions from the men at Bilg’s table. Finally, in the silence, Kelsier heard a muttered comment from the table— carried by cavern acoustics to many ears.

  Kelsier frowned, turning toward Bilg. The entire cavern seemed to grow even more still. “Did you say something?” Kelsier asked. Now, the moment of decision. Will he resist, or will he be cowed?

  Bilg looked back. Kelsier hit the man with a ?ared Riot. His reward came as Bilg stood from his table, face red.

  “Yes, sir,” the brawny man snapped. “I did say something. I said that some of us haven’t lost sight of our ‘goal. ’ We think about it every day. ”

  “And why is that?” Kelsier asked. Rumbling whispers began to sound at the back of the cavern as soldiers passed the news to those too far away to hear.

  Bilg took a deep breath. “Because, sir, we think that this is suicide you’re sending us to. The Final Empire’s armies are bigger than just one garrison. It won’t matter if we take the walls—we’ll get slaughtered eventually anyway. You don’t overthrow an empire with a couple thousand soldiers. ”

  Perfect, Kelsier thought. I’m sorry, Bilg. But someone needed to say it, and it certainly couldn’t be me.

  “I see we have a disagreement,” Kelsier said loudly. “I believe in these men, and in their purpose. ”

  “I believe that you are a deluded fool,” Bilg bellowed. “And I was a bigger fool for coming to these bloody caves. If you’re so certain about our chances, then why can’t anyone leave? We’re trapped here until you send us to die!”

  “You insult me,” Kelsier snapped. “You know very well why men aren’t allowed to leave. Why do you want to go, soldier? Are you that eager to sell out your companions to the Lord Ruler? A few quick boxings in exchange for four thousand lives?”

  Bilg’s face grew redder. “I would never do such a thing, but I’m certainly not going to let you send me to my death, either! This army is a waste. ”

  “You speak treason,” Kelsier said. He turned, scanning the crowd. “It is not ?tting for a general to ?ght a man beneath his command. Is there a soldier here who is willing to defend the honor of this rebellion?”

  Immediately, a couple dozen men stood up. Kelsier noticed one in particular. He was smaller than the rest, but he had the simple earnestness that Kelsier had noticed earlier. “Captain Demoux. ”

  Immediately, the young captain jumped forward.

  Kelsier reached over, grabbing his own sword and tossing it down to the man. “You can use a sword, lad?”

  “Yes, sir!”

  “Someone fetch a weapon for Bilg and a pair of studded vests. ” Kelsier turned toward Bilg. “Noblemen have a tradition. When two men have a dispute, they settle it with a duel. Defeat my champion, and you are free to leave. ”

  “And if he defeats me?” Bilg asked.

  “Then you’ll be dead,” Kelsier said.

  “I’m dead if I stay,” Bilg said, accepting a sword from a nearby soldier. “I accept the terms. ”

  Kelsier nodded, waving for some men to pull aside tables and make an open space before the high table. Men began to stand, crowding around to watch the contest.

  “Kell, what are you doing!” Ham hissed at his side.

  “Something that needs to be done. ”

  “Needs to be…Kelsier, that boy is no match for Bilg! I trust Demoux—that’s why I promoted him—but he’s not that great a warrior. Bilg’s one of the ?nest swordsmen in the army!”

  “The men know this?” Kelsier asked.

  “Of course,” Ham said. “Call this off. Demoux is nearly half Bilg’s size—he’s at a disadvantage in reach, strength, and skill. He’ll get slaughtered!”

  Kelsier ignored the request. He sat quietly as Bilg and Demoux hefted their weapons, a pair of soldiers tying on their leather cuirasses. When they were done, Kelsier waved a hand, motioning for the battle to begin.

  Ham groaned.

  It would be a short ?ght. Both men had longswords and little armor. Bilg stepped forward with con?dence, making a few testing swings toward Demoux. The boy was at least competent—he blocked the blows, but he revealed a great deal about his abilities as he did so.

  Taking a deep breath, Kelsier burned steel and iron.

  Bilg swung, and Kelsier nudged the blade to the side, giving Demoux room to escape. The boy tried a thrust, but Bilg easily knocked it away. The larger warrior then attacked with a barrage, sending Demoux stumbling backward. Demoux tried to jump out of the way of the last swing, but he was too slow. The blade fell with awful inevitability.

  Kelsier ?ared iron—stabilizing himself by Pulling against a lantern bracket behind—then grabbed the iron studs on Demoux’s vest. Kelsier Pulled as Demoux jumped, yanking the boy backward in a small arc away from Bilg.

  Demoux landed with a maladroit stumble as Bilg’s sword smashed into the stone ground. Bilg looked up with surprise, and a low rumble of amazement moved through the crowd.

  Bilg growled, running forward with weapon held high. Demoux blocked the powerful swing, but Bilg knocked the boy’s weapon aside with a careless sweep. Bilg struck again, a
nd Demoux raised a hand in re?exive defense.

  Kelsier Pushed, freezing Bilg’s sword in midswing. Demoux stood, hand forward, as if he had stopped the attacking weapon with a thought. The two stood like that for a moment, Bilg trying to force the sword forward, Demoux staring in awe at his hand. Standing up a bit straighter, Demoux tentatively forced his hand forward.

  Kelsier Pushed, throwing Bilg backward. The large warrior tumbled to the ground with a cry of surprise. When he rose a moment later, Kelsier didn’t have to Riot his emotions to make him angry. He bellowed in rage, grabbing his sword in two hands and rushing toward Demoux.

  Some men don’t know when to quit, Kelsier thought as Bilg swung.

  Demoux began to dodge. Kelsier shoved the boy to the side, getting him out of the way. Then Demoux turned, gripping his own weapon in two hands and swinging at Bilg. Kelsier grabbed Demoux’s weapon in mid-arc and Pulled against it forcefully, ripping the steel forward with a mighty ?are of iron.

  The swords smashed together, and Demoux’s Kelsier enhanced blow knocked Bilg’s weapon out of his hands. There was a loud snap, and the large miscreant fell to the ?oor—thrown completely off balance by the force of Demoux’s blow. Bilg’s weapon bounced to the stone ?oor a distance away.

  Demoux stepped forward, raising his weapon over the stunned Bilg. And then, he stopped. Kelsier burned iron, reaching out to grab the weapon and Pull it down, to force the killing blow, but Demoux resisted.

  Kelsier paused. This man should die, he thought angrily. On the ground, Bilg groaned quietly. Kelsier could just barely see his twisted arm, its bone shattered by the powerful strike. It was bleeding.

  No, Kelsier thought. This is enough.

  He released Demoux’s weapon. Demoux lowered his sword, staring down at Bilg. Then, Demoux raised his hands, regarding them with wonder, his arms quivering slightly.

  Kelsier stood, and the crowd fell to a hush once again.

  “Do you think I would send you against the Lord Ruler unprepared?” Kelsier demanded in a loud voice. “Do you think I would just send you off to die? You ?ght for what is just, men! You ?ght for me. I will not leave you unaided when you go against the soldiers of the Final Empire. ”

  Kelsier thrust his hand into the air, holding aloft a tiny bar of metal. “You’ve heard of this, haven’t you? You know the rumors of the Eleventh Metal? Well, I have it—and I will use it. The Lord Ruler will die!”

  The men began to cheer.

  “This is not our only tool!” Kelsier bellowed. “You soldiers have power untold inside of you! You have heard of the arcane magics that the Lord Ruler uses? Well, we have some of our own! Feast, my soldiers, and don’t fear the battle to come. Look forward to it!”

  The room erupted in a riot of cheers, and Kelsier waved for more ale to be delivered. A couple of servants rushed forward to help Bilg from the room.

  When Kelsier sat, Ham was frowning deeply. “I don’t like this, Kell,” he said.

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