Mistborn the final empi.., p.77
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.77

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
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Page 77

  Kelsier didn’t look surprised by the boy’s announcement.

  “A gathering in the fountain square?” Ham said slowly. “That means…”

  “Come on,” Kelsier said, standing up straight. “We’re going to watch. ”

  “I’d rather not do this, Kell,” Ham said. “I avoid these things for a reason. ”

  Kelsier ignored him. He walked at the head of the crew, who all—even Breeze—wore mundane skaa clothing and cloaks. A light ashfall had begun, and careless ?akes ?oated down from the sky, like leaves dropped from some unseen tree.

  Large clusters of skaa clogged the street, most of them workers from factories or mills. Vin knew of only one reason why the workers would be released and sent to gather in the city’s central square.

  Executions.

  She’d never gone to them before. Supposedly, all the men in the city—skaa or noble—were required to attend execution ceremonies, but thieving crews knew how to remain hidden. Bells rang in the distance, announcing the event, and obligators watched at the sides of the streets. They would go into mills, forges, and random houses searching for those who disobeyed the call, meting out death as a punishment. Gathering this many people was an enormous undertaking—but, in a way, doing things like this simply worked to prove how powerful the Lord Ruler was.

  The streets grew even more crowded as Vin’s crew approached the fountain square. Building roofs were packed, and people ?lled the streets, pressing forward. There’s no way they’ll all ?t. Luthadel wasn’t like most other cities; its population was enormous. Even with only the men in attendance, there was no way everyone would have a view of the executions.

  Yet, they came anyway. Partially because they were required, partially because they wouldn’t have to work while they watched, and partially—Vin suspected—because they had the same morbid curiosity that all men possessed.

  As the crowds grew thicker, Kelsier, Dockson, and Ham began to shove the crew a path through the onlookers. Some of the skaa gave the crew looks of resentment, though many were just dull-eyed and compliant. Some appeared surprised, even excited, when they saw Kelsier, though his scars were not showing. These people moved aside eagerly.

  Eventually, the crew reached the outer row of buildings surrounding the square. Kelsier picked one, nodding toward it, and Dockson moved forward. A man at the doorway tried to bar his entrance, but Dox pointed toward the roof, then hefted his coinpouch suggestively. A few minutes later, the crew had the entire rooftop to themselves.

  “Smoke us please, Clubs,” Kelsier said quietly.

  The gnarled craftsman nodded, making the crew invisible to Allomantic bronze senses. Vin walked over and crouched beside the roof’s lip, hands on the short stone railing as she scanned the square down below. “So many people…”

  “You’ve lived in cities all your life, Vin,” Ham said, standing next to her. “Surely you’ve seen crowds before. ”

  “Yes, but. . ” How could she explain? The shifting, overpacked mass was unlike anything she’d seen. It was expansive, almost endless, its trails ?lling every street leading away from the central square. The skaa were packed so closely, she wondered how they even had room to breathe.

  The noblemen were at the center of the square, separated from the skaa by soldiers. They were close to the central fountain patio, which stood about ?ve feet above the rest of the square. Someone had constructed seating for the nobility, and they lounged, as if they were visiting some show or horse race. Many had servants holding up parasols against the ash, but it was falling lightly enough that some just ignored it.

  Standing beside the noblemen were the obligators— regular ones in gray, Inquisitors in black. Vin shivered. There were eight Inquisitors, their lanky forms standing a head above the obligators. But, it wasn’t just height that separated the dark creatures from their cousins. There was an air, a distinctive posture, about the Steel Inquisitors.

  Vin turned, studying the regular obligators instead. Most of them held themselves proudly in their administrative robes— the higher their position, the ?ner the robes. Vin squinted, burning tin, and recognized a moderately familiar face.

  “There,” she said, pointing. “That one’s my father. ”

  Kelsier perked up. “Where?”

  “At the front of the obligators,” Vin said. “The shorter one with the golden robe-scarf. ”

  Kelsier fell silent. “That’s your father?” he ?nally asked.

  “Who?” Dockson asked, squinting. “I can’t make out their faces. ”

  “Tevidian,” Kelsier said.

  “The lord prelan?” Dockson asked with shock.

  “What?” Vin asked. “Who’s that?”

  Breeze chuckled. “The lord prelan is the leader of the Ministry, my dear. He’s the most important of the Lord Ruler’s obligators—technically, he’s even higher ranked than the Inquisitors. ”

  Vin sat, dumbfounded.

  “The lord prelan,” Dockson mumbled, shaking his head. “This just keeps getting better. ”

  “Look!” Spook suddenly said, pointing.

  The crowd of skaa began to shuf?e. Vin had assumed that they were too packed to move, but apparently she was wrong. The people began to pull back, making a large corridor leading to the central platform.

  What could make them—

  Then she felt it. The oppressive numbness, like a massive blanket pressing down, choking away her air, stealing her will. She immediately burned copper. Yet, like before, she swore that she could feel the Lord Ruler’s Soothing despite the metal. She sensed him coming closer, trying to make her lose all will, all desire, all strength of emotion.

  “He’s coming,” Spook whispered, crouching down beside her.

  A black carriage drawn by a pair of massive white stallions appeared down a side street. It rolled down the corridor of skaa, moving with a sense of…inevitability. Vin saw several people get clipped by its passing, and suspected that if a man were to fall into the carriage’s path, the vehicle wouldn’t even slow as it crushed him to death.

  The skaa sagged a bit more as the Lord Ruler arrived, a visible ripple washing across the crowd, their postures drooping as they felt his powerful Soothing. The background roar of whispers and chatting dampened, an unreal silence falling over the enormous square.

  “He’s so powerful,” Breeze said. “Even at my best, I can only Soothe a couple hundred men. There have to be tens of thousands of people here!”

  Spook looked over the rim of the rooftop. “It makes me want to fall. To just let go…”

  Then, he paused. He shook his head, as if waking up. Vin frowned. Something felt different. Tentatively, she extinguished her copper, and realized that she could no longer feel the Lord Ruler’s Soothing. The feeling of awful depression— of soullessness and emptiness—had strangely disappeared. Spook looked up, and the rest of the crewmembers stood just a little straighter.

  Vin glanced around. The skaa below looked unchanged. Yet, her friends—

  Her eyes found Kelsier. The crewleader stood straight-backed, staring resolutely at the approaching carriage, a look of concentration on his face.

  He’s Rioting our emotions, Vin realized. He’s counteracting the Lord Ruler’s power. It was obviously a struggle for Kelsier to protect even their small group.

  Breeze is right, Vin thought. How can we ?ght something like this? The Lord Ruler is Soothing a hundred thousand people at once!

  But, Kelsier fought on. Just in case, Vin turned on her copper. Then she burned zinc and reached out to help Kelsier, Rioting the emotions of those around her. It felt like she was Pulling against some massive, immobile wall. Yet, it must have helped, for Kelsier relaxed slightly, shooting her a grateful look.

  “Look,” Dockson said, probably unaware of the unseen battle that occurred around him. “The prisoner carts. ” He pointed toward a set of ten large, bar-lined carts traveling down the corridor behind the Lord Ruler.

  “Do you recogni
ze anyone in them?” Ham said, leaning forward.

  “I’m not of the seeing,” Spook said, looking uncomfortable. “Uncle, you really the burn, right?”

  “Yes, my copper is on,” Clubs said testily. “You’re safe. We’re far enough away from the Lord Ruler that it wouldn’t matter anyway—that plaza is enormous. ”

  Spook nodded, then obviously began burning tin. A moment later, he shook his head. “Notting of the recognizing anyone. ”

  “You weren’t there for a lot of the recruiting, though, Spook,” Ham said, squinting.

  “True,” Spook replied. Though his accent remained, he was obviously making an effort to speak normally.

  Kelsier stepped up to the ledge, holding a hand up to shade his eyes. “I can see the prisoners. No, I don’t recognize any of the faces. They aren’t captive soldiers. ”

  “Who, then?” Ham asked.

  “Mostly women and children, it appears,” Kelsier said.

  “The families of the soldiers?” Ham asked, horri?ed.

  Kelsier shook his head. “I doubt it. They wouldn’t have taken the time to identify dead skaa. ”

  Ham frowned, looking confused.

  “Random people, Hammond,” Breeze said with a quiet sigh. “Examples—casual executions made in order to punish the skaa for harboring rebels. ”

  “No, not even that,” Kelsier said. “I doubt the Lord Ruler even knows, or cares, that most of those men were recruited from Luthadel. He probably just assumes that it was another countryside rebellion. This… this is just a way of reminding everyone who is in control. ”

  The Lord Ruler’s carriage rolled up a platform onto the central patio. The ominous vehicle pulled to a stop in the exact center of the square, but the Lord Ruler himself remained inside.

  The prisoner carts pulled to a stop, and a group of obligators and soldiers began to unload them. Black ash continued to fall as the ?rst group of prisoners—most struggling only weakly— were dragged up onto the raised central platform. An Inquisitor directed the work, gesturing for prisoners to be gathered beside each of the platform’s four bowl-like fountains.

  Four prisoners were forced to their knees—one beside each running fountain—and four Inquisitors raised obsidian axes. Four axes fell, and four heads were sheared free. The bodies, still held by soldiers, were allowed to spurt their last lifeblood into the fountain basins.

  The fountains began to glisten red as they sprayed into the air. The soldiers tossed the bodies aside, then brought four more people forward.

  Spook looked away sickly. “Why…why doesn’t Kelsier do something? To saving them, I mean?”

  “Don’t be foolish,” Vin said. “There are eight Inquisitors down there—not to mention the Lord Ruler himself. Kelsier would be an idiot to try something. ”

  Though I wouldn’t be surprised if he considered it, she thought, remembering when Kelsier had been ready to rush down and take on an entire army by himself. She glanced to the side. Kelsier looked like he was forcibly holding himself back—white-knuckled hands gripping the chimney beside him—to keep himself from rushing down to stop the executions.

 

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