Mistborn the final empi.., p.75
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.75

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 75

  Squinting, using tin despite the light, Vin could see that he was right. The larger army wore imperial uniforms, and if the line of corpses was any indication, it had ambushed the skaa soldiers as it passed. Their army didn’t have a chance. As she watched, the skaa began to throw up their hands, but the soldiers just kept on killing them. Some of the remaining peasants fought desperately, but they were falling almost as quickly.

  “It’s a slaughter,” Kelsier said angrily. “The Valtroux Garrison must have orders to wipe out the entire group. ” He stepped forward.

  “Kelsier!” Vin said, grabbing his arm. “What are you doing?”

  He turned back to her. “There are still men down there. My men. ”

  “What are you going to do—attack an entire army by yourself? For what purpose? Your rebels don’t have Allomancy— they won’t be able to run away on swift feet and escape. You can’t stop an entire army, Kelsier. ”

  He shook himself free of her grip; she didn’t have the strength to hold on. She stumbled, falling to the rough black dirt, throwing up a puff of ash. Kelsier began to stalk down the hill toward the battle?eld.

  Vin climbed to her knees. “Kelsier,” she said, shaking quietly with fatigue. “We aren’t invincible, remember?”

  He paused.

  “You’re not invincible,” she whispered. “You can’t stop them all. You can’t save those men. ”

  Kelsier stood quietly, his ?sts clenched. Then, slowly, he bowed his head. In the distance, the massacre continued, though there weren’t many rebels left.

  “The caves,” Vin whispered. “Our force would have left men behind, right? Maybe they can tell us why the army exposed itself. Maybe you can save the ones who stayed behind. The Lord Ruler’s men will certainly search out the army’s headquarters—if they aren’t trying already. ”

  Kelsier nodded. “All right. Let’s go. ”

  Kelsier dropped down into the cavern. He had to ?are tin to see anything in the deep darkness, lit only by a bit of re?ected sunlight from far above. Vin’s scraping in the crack above sounded thunderous to his overenhanced ears. In the cavern itself… nothing. No sound, no light.

  So she was wrong, Kelsier thought. No one stayed behind.

  Kelsier breathed out slowly, trying to ?nd an outlet for his frustration and anger. He’d abandoned the men on the battlefield. He shook his head, ignoring what logic told him at the moment. His anger was still too fresh.

  Vin dropped to the ground beside him, her ?gure no more than a shadow to his straining eyes.

  “Empty,” he declared, his voice echoing hollowly in the cavern. “You were wrong. ”

  “No,” Vin whispered. “There. ”

  Suddenly, she was off, scrambling across the ?oor with a catlike litheness. Kelsier called after her in the darkness, gritted his teeth, then followed her by sound down one of the corridors.

  “Vin, get back here! There’s nothing—”

  Kelsier paused. He could just barely make out a ?icker of light ahead of him in the corridor. Bloody hell! How did she see it from so far away?

  He could still hear Vin ahead of him. Kelsier made his way more carefully, checking his metal reserves, worried about a trap left by Ministry agents. As he drew nearer to the light, a voice called out ahead. “Who’s there? Say the password!”

  Kelsier continued walking, the light growing bright enough for him to see a spear-holding ?gure backlit in the corridor ahead. Vin waited in the darkness, crouching. She looked up questioningly as Kelsier passed. She seemed to have gotten over the drain of the pewter drag, for the moment. When they ?nally stopped to rest, however, she’d feel it.

  “I can hear you!” the guard said anxiously. His voice sounded slightly familiar. “Identify yourself. ”

  Captain Demoux, Kelsier realized. One of ours. It’s not a trap.

  “Say the password!” Demoux commanded.

  “I need no password,” Kelsier said, stepping into the light.

  Demoux lowered his spear. “Lord Kelsier? You’ve come… does that mean the army succeeded?”

  Kelsier ignored the question. “Why aren’t you guarding the entrance back there?”

  “We. . thought it would be more defensible to retreat to the inner complex, my lord. There aren’t a lot of us left. ”

  Kelsier glanced back toward the entrance corridor. How long until the Lord Ruler’s men ?nd a captive willing to talk? Vin was right after all—we need to get these men to safety.

  Vin stood and approached, studying the young soldier with those quiet eyes of hers. “How many of you are there?”

  “About two thousand,” Demoux said. “We…were wrong, my lord. I’m sorry. ”

  Kelsier looked back at him. “Wrong?”

  “We thought that General Yeden was acting rashly,” Demoux said, blushing in shame. “We stayed behind. We. . thought we were being loyal to you, rather than him. But we should have gone with the rest of the army. ”

  “The army is dead,” Kelsier said curtly. “Gather your men, Demoux. We need to leave now. ”

  That night, sitting on a tree stump with the mists gathering around him, Kelsier ?nally forced himself to confront the day’s events.

  He sat with his hands clasped before him, listening to the last, faint sounds of the army’s men bedding down. Fortunately, someone had thought to prepare the group for quick departure. Each man had a bedroll, a weapon, and enough food for two weeks. As soon as Kelsier discovered who had been so foresighted, he intended to give the man a hefty promotion.

  Not that there was much to command anymore. The remaining two thousand men included a depressingly large number of soldiers who were past or before their prime— men wise enough to see that Yeden’s plan had been insane, or men young enough to be frightened.

  Kelsier shook his head. So many dead. They’d gathered nearly seven thousand troops before this ?asco, but now most of them lay dead. Yeden had apparently decided to “test” the army by striking at night against the Holstep Garrison. What had led him to such a foolish decision?

  Me, Kelsier thought. This is my fault. He’d promised them supernatural aid. He’d set himself up, had made Yeden a part of the crew, and had talked so casually about doing the impossible. Was it any wonder that Yeden had thought he could attack the Final Empire head on, considering the con?dence Kelsier had given him? Was it any wonder the soldiers would go with the man, considering the promises Kelsier had made?

  Now men were dead, and Kelsier was responsible. Death wasn’t new to him. Neither was failure—not anymore. But, he couldn’t get over the twisting in his gut. True, the men had died ?ghting the Final Empire, which was as good a death as any skaa could hope for—however, the fact that they’d likely died expecting some sort of divine protection from Kelsier. . that was disturbing.

  You knew this would be hard, he told himself. You understood the burden you were taking upon yourself.

  But, what right had he? Even members of his own crew— Ham, Breeze, and the others—assumed that the Final Empire was invincible. They followed because of their faith in Kelsier, and because he had couched his plans in the form of a thieving job. Well, now that job’s patron was dead; a scout sent to check the battle?eld had, for better or worse, been able to con?rm Yeden’s death. The soldiers had put his head on a spear beside the road, along with several of Ham’s of?cers.

  The job was dead. They had failed. The army was gone. There would be no rebellion, no seizing of the city.

  Footsteps approached. Kelsier looked up, wondering if he even had the strength to stand. Vin lay curled up beside his stump, asleep on the hard ground, only her mistcloak for a cushion. Their extended pewter drag had taken a lot out of the girl, and she had collapsed virtually the moment Kelsier had called a halt for the night. He wished he could do the same. However, he was far more experienced with pewter dragging than she was. His body would give out eventually, but he could keep going for a bit longer.

  A ?gure appeared from the
mists, hobbling in Kelsier’s direction. The man was old, older than any that Kelsier had recruited. He must have been part of the rebellion from earlier—one of the skaa who had been living in the caves before Kelsier hijacked them.

  The man chose a large stone beside Kelsier’s stump, sitting with a sigh. It was amazing that one so old had even been able to keep up. Kelsier had moved the group at a fast pace, seeking to distance them as much as possible from the cave complex.

  “The men will sleep ?tfully,” the old man said. “They aren’t accustomed to being out in the mists. ”

  “They don’t have much choice,” Kelsier said.

  The old man shook his head. “I suppose they don’t. ” He sat for a moment, aged eyes unreadable. “You don’t recognize me, do you?”

  Kelsier paused, then shook his head. “I’m sorry. Did I recruit you?”

  “After a fashion. I was one of the skaa at Lord Tresting’s plantation. ”

  Kelsier opened his mouth slightly in surprise, ?nally recognizing a slight familiarity to the man’s bald head and tired, yet somehow strong, posture. “The old man I sat with that night. Your name was…”

  “Mennis. After you killed Tresting, we retreated up to the caves, where the rebels there took us in. A lot of the others left eventually, off to ?nd other plantations to join. Some of us stayed. ”

  Kelsier nodded. “You’re behind this, aren’t you?” he said, gesturing toward the camp. “The preparations?”

  Mennis shrugged. “Some of us can’t ?ght, so we do other things. ”

  Kelsier leaned forward. “What happened, Mennis? Why did Yeden do this?”

  Mennis just shook his head. “Though most expect young men to be fools, I’ve noticed that just a little bit of age can make a man far more foolish than he was as a child. Yeden…well, he was the type who was too easily impressed—both by you and by the reputation you left for him. Some of his generals thought it might be a good idea to give the men some practical battle experience, and they ?gured a night raid on the Holstep Garrison would be a clever move. Apparently, it was more dif?cult than they assumed. ”

  Kelsier shook his head. “Even if they’d been successful, exposing the army would have made it useless to us. ”

  “They believed in you,” Mennis said quietly. “They thought that they couldn’t fail. ”

  Kelsier sighed, resting his head back, staring up into the shifting mists. He slowly let his breath exhale, its air mingling with the currents overhead.

  “So, what becomes of us?” Mennis asked.

  “We’ll split you up,” Kelsier said, “get you back into Luthadel in small groups, lose you among the skaa population. ”

  Mennis nodded. He seemed tired—exhausted—yet he didn’t retire. Kelsier could understand that feeling.

  “Do you remember our conversation back on Tresting’s plantation?” Mennis asked.

  “A bit,” Kelsier said. “You tried to dissuade me from making trouble. ”

 

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