Mistborn the final empi.., p.78
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.78
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         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
Page 78

  Spook stumbled over to another part of the rooftop where he could retch without spilling bile onto the people below. Ham groaned slightly, and even Clubs looked saddened. Dockson watched solemnly, as if witnessing the deaths were some sort of vigil. Breeze just shook his head.

  Kelsier, however…Kelsier was angry. His face red, his muscles tense, his eyes ablaze.

  Four more deaths, one of them a child.

  “This,” Kelsier said, angrily waving his hand toward the central square. “This is our enemy. There is no quarter here, no walking away. This is no simple job, to be thrown aside when we encounter a few unexpected twists. ”

  Four more deaths.

  “Look at them!” Kelsier demanded, pointing at the bleachers full of nobility. Most of them appeared bored—and a few even seemed to be enjoying themselves, turning and joking with one another as the beheadings continued.

  “I know you question me,” Kelsier said, turning to the crew. “You think that I’ve been too hard on the nobility, think that I relish killing them too much. But, can you honestly see those men laughing and tell me that they don’t deserve to die by my blade? I only bring them justice. ”

  Four more deaths.

  Vin searched the bleachers with urgent, tin-enhanced eyes. She found Elend sitting amid a group of younger men. None of them were laughing, and they weren’t the only ones. True, many of the nobility made light of the experience, but there were some small minority who looked horri?ed.

  Kelsier continued. “Breeze, you asked about the atium. I’ll be honest. It was never my main goal—I gathered this crew because I wanted to change things. We’ll grab the atium— we’ll need it to support a new government—but this job isn’t about making me, or any of you, wealthy.

  “Yeden is dead. He was our excuse—a way that we could do something good while still pretending to just be thieves. Now that he’s gone, you can give up, if you want. Quit. But, that won’t change anything. The struggle will go on. Men will still die. You’ll just be ignoring it. ”

  Four more deaths.

  “It’s time to stop the charade,” Kelsier said, staring at them each in turn. “If we’re going to do this now, we have to be up-front and honest with ourselves. We have to admit that it isn’t about money. It’s about stopping that. ” He pointed at the courtyard with its red fountains—a visible sign of death for the thousands of skaa too far away to even tell what was happening.

  “I intend to continue my ?ght,” Kelsier said quietly. “I realize that some of you question my leadership. You think I’ve been building myself up too much with the skaa. You whisper that I’m making myself into another Lord Ruler—you think that my ego is more important to me than overthrowing the empire. ”

  He paused, and Vin saw guilt in the eyes of Dockson and the others. Spook rejoined the group, still looking a bit sick.

  Four more deaths.

  “You’re wrong,” Kelsier said quietly. “You have to trust me. You gave me your con?dence when we began this plan, despite how dangerous things seemed. I still need that con?dence! No matter how things appear, no matter how terrible the odds, we have to keep ?ghting!”

  Four more deaths.

  The crew slowly turned toward Kelsier. Resisting the Lord Ruler’s Pushing on their emotions didn’t seem like half as much a struggle for Kelsier anymore, though Vin had let her zinc lapse.

  Maybe… maybe he can do it, Vin thought, despite herself. If there was ever a man who could defeat the Lord Ruler, it would be Kelsier.

  “I didn’t choose you men because of your competence,” Kelsier said, “though you are certainly skilled. I chose each of you speci?cally because I knew you to be men of conscience. Ham, Breeze, Dox, Clubs…you are men with reputations for honesty, even charity. I knew that if I were going to succeed at this plan, I would need men who actually cared.

  “No, Breeze, this isn’t about boxings or about glory. This is about war—a war we have been ?ghting for a thousand years, a war I intend to end. You may go, if you wish. You know I’ll let any of you out—no questions asked, no repercussions exacted—if you wish to go.

  “However,” he said, eyes growing hard, “if you stay, you have to promise to stop questioning my authority. You can voice concerns about the job itself, but there will be no more whispered conferences about my leadership. If you stay, you follow me. Understood?”

  One by one, he locked eyes with the crewmembers. Each one gave him a nod.

  “I don’t think we ever really questioned you, Kell,” Dockson said. “We just…we’re worried, and I think rightly so. The army was a big part of our plans. ”

  Kelsier nodded to the north, toward the main city gates. “What do you see up in the distance, Dox?”

  “The city gates?”

  “And what is different about them recently?”

  Dockson shrugged. “Nothing unusual. They’re a bit understaffed, but—”

  “Why?” Kelsier interjected. “Why are they understaffed?”

  Dockson paused. “Because the Garrison is gone?”

  “Exactly,” Kelsier said. “Ham says that the Garrison could be out chasing remnants of our army for months, and only about ten percent of its men stayed behind. That makes sense—stopping rebels is the sort of thing the Garrison was created to do. Luthadel might be exposed, but no one ever attacks Luthadel. No one ever has. ”

  A quiet understanding passed between the members of the crew.

  “Part one of our plan to take the city has been accomplished,” Kelsier said. “We got the Garrison out of Luthadel. It cost us far more than we expected—far more than it should have. I wish to the Forgotten Gods that those boys hadn’t died. Unfortunately, we can’t change that now—we can only use the opening they gave us.

  “The plan is still in motion—the main peacekeeping force in the city is gone. If a house war starts in earnest, the Lord Ruler will have a dif?cult time stopping it. Assuming he wants to. For some reason, he tends to step back and let the nobility ?ght each other every hundred years or so. Perhaps he ?nds that letting them at each other’s throats keeps them away from his own. ”

  “But, what if the Garrison comes back?” Ham asked.

  “If I’m right,” Kelsier said, “the Lord Ruler will let them chase stragglers from our army for several months, giving the nobility a chance to blow off a little steam. Except, he’s going to get a lot more than he expected. When that house war starts, we’re going to use the chaos to seize the palace. ”

  “With what army, my dear man?” Breeze said.

  “We still have some troops left,” Kelsier said. “Plus, we have time to recruit more. We’ll have to be careful—we can’t use the caves, so we’ll have to hide our troops in the city. That will probably mean smaller numbers. However, that won’t be an issue—you see, that garrison is going to return eventually. ”

  The members of the group shared a look as the executions proceeded below. Vin sat quietly, trying to decide what Kelsier meant by that statement.

  “Exactly, Kell,” Ham said slowly. “The Garrison will return, and we won’t have a big enough army to ?ght them. ”

  “But we will have the Lord Ruler’s treasury,” Kelsier said, smiling. “What is it you always say about those Garrisoners, Ham?”

  The Thug paused, then smiled too. “That they’re mercenaries. ”

  “We seize the Lord Ruler’s money,” Kelsier said, “and it means we get his army too. This can still work, gentlemen. We can make it work. ”

  The crew seemed to grow more con?dent. Vin, however, turned her eyes back toward the square. The fountains ran so red that they seemed completely ?lled with blood. Over it all, the Lord Ruler watched from within his jet-black carriage. The windows were open, and—with tin—Vin could just barely see a silhouetted ?gure sitting within.

  That’s our real foe, she thought. Not the missing garrison, not the Inquisitors with their axes. That man. The one from the logbook.

  We’ll have to ?nd a
way to defeat him, otherwise everything else we do will be pointless.

  I think I’ve ?nally discovered why Rashek resents me so very much. He does not believe that an outsider such as myself—a foreigner—could possibly be the Hero of Ages. He believes that I have somehow tricked the philosophers, that I wear the piercings of the Hero unjustly.

  According to Rashek, only a Terrisman of pure blood should have been chosen as the Hero. Oddly, I ?nd myself even more determined because of his hatred. I must prove to him that I can perform this task.

  27

  IT WAS A SUBDUED GROUP that returned to Clubs’s shop that evening. The executions had stretched for hours. There had been no denunciations, no explanations by the Ministry or the Lord Ruler—just execution, after execution, after execution. Once the captives were gone, the Lord Ruler and his obligators had ridden away, leaving a pile of corpses on the platform and bloodied water running in the fountains.

  As Kelsier’s crew returned to the kitchen, Vin realized that her headache no longer bothered her. Her pain now seemed… insigni?cant. The baywraps remained on the table, thoughtfully covered by one of the house maids. No one reached for them.

  “All right,” Kelsier said, taking his customary place leaning against the cupboard. “Let’s plan this out. How should we proceed?”

  Dockson recovered a stack of papers from the side of the room as he walked over to seat himself. “With the Garrison gone, our main focus becomes the nobility. ”

  “Indeed,” Breeze said. “If we truly intend to seize the treasury with only a few thousand soldiers, then we’re certainly going to need something to distract the palace guard and keep the nobility from taking the city away from us. The house war, therefore, becomes of paramount importance. ”

  Kelsier nodded. “My thoughts exactly. ”

  “But, what happens when the house war is over?” Vin said. “Some houses will come out on top, and then we’ll have to deal with them. ”

  Kelsier shook his head. “I don’t intend for the house war to ever end, Vin—or, at least, not for a long while. The Lord Ruler makes dictates, and the Ministry polices his followers, but the nobility are the ones who actually force the skaa to work. So, if we bring down enough noble houses, the government may just collapse on its own. We can’t ?ght the entire Final Empire as a whole—it’s too big. But, we might be able to shatter it, then make the pieces ?ght each other. ”

  “We need to put ?nancial strain on the Great Houses,” Dockson said, ?ipping through his papers. “The aristocracy is primarily a ?nancial institution, and lack of funds will bring any house down. ”

  “Breeze, we might need to use some of your aliases,” Kelsier said. “So far, I’ve really been the only one in the crew working on the house war—but if we’re going to make this city snap before the Garrison returns, we’ll need to step up our efforts. ”

 
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