Mistborn the final empi.., p.97
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       Mistborn: The Final Empire, p.97

         Part #1 of Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
Page 97

  He froze in the doorway, blocking Vin’s view.

  She ?ared pewter and tin immediately, falling to a crouch, listening for attackers. There was nothing. Just silence.

  “No…” Kelsier whispered.

  Then Vin saw the trickle of dark red liquid seeping around the side of Kelsier’s foot. It pooled slightly, then began to drip down the ?rst step.

  Oh, Lord Ruler. .

  Kelsier stumbled into the room. Vin followed, but she knew what she’d see. The corpse lay near the center of the chamber, ?ayed and dismembered, the head completely crushed. It was barely recognizable as human. The walls were sprayed red.

  Could one body really produce this much blood? It was just like before, in the basement of Camon’s lair—only with a single victim.

  “Inquisitor,” Vin whispered.

  Kelsier, heedless of the gore, stumbled to his knees beside Marsh’s corpse. He raised a hand as if to touch the skinless body, but remained frozen there, stunned.

  “Kelsier,” Vin said urgently. “This was recent—the Inquisitor could still be near. ”

  He didn’t move.

  “Kelsier!” Vin snapped.

  Kelsier shook, looking around. His eyes met hers, and lucidity returned. He stumbled to his feet.

  “Window,” Vin said, rushing across the room. She paused, however, when she saw something sitting on a small desk beside the wall. A wooden table leg, tucked half-hidden beneath a blank sheet of paper. Vin snatched it as Kelsier reached the window.

  He turned back, looking over the room one last time, then jumped out into the night.

  Farewell, Marsh, Vin thought regretfully, following.

  “ ‘I think that the Inquisitors suspect me,’ ” Dockson read. The paper—a single sheet recovered from inside the table leg—was clean and white, free from the blood that stained Kelsier’s knees and the bottom of Vin’s cloak.

  Dockson continued, reading as he sat at Clubs’s kitchen table. “ ‘I’ve been asking too many questions, and I know they sent at least one message to the corrupt obligator who supposedly trained me as an acolyte. I thought to seek out the secrets that the rebellion has always needed to know. How does the Ministry recruit Mistborn to be Inquisitors? Why are Inquisitors more powerful than regular Allomancers? What, if any, are their weaknesses?

  “ ‘Unfortunately, I’ve learned next to nothing about the Inquisitors—though the politicking within the regular Ministry ranks continues to amaze me. It’s like the regular obligators don’t even care about the world outside, except for the prestige they earn by being the most clever or successful in applying the Lord Ruler’s dictates.

  “ ‘The Inquisitors, however, are different. They are far more loyal to the Lord Ruler than the regular obligators—and this is, perhaps, part of the dissension between the two groups.

  “ ‘Regardless, I feel that I am close. They do have a secret, Kelsier. A weakness. I’m sure of it. The other obligators whisper of it, though none of them know it.

  “ ‘I fear that I’ve prodded too much. The Inquisitors tail me, watch me, ask after me. So, I prepare this note. Perhaps my caution is unnecessary.

  “ ‘Perhaps not. ’ ”

  Dockson looked up. “That’s. . all it says. ”

  Kelsier stood at the far side of the kitchen, back to the cupboard, reclining in his usual position. But. . there was no levity in his posture this time. He stood with arms folded, head slightly bowed. His disbelieving grief appeared to have vanished, replaced with another emotion—one Vin had sometimes seen smoldering darkly behind his eyes. Usually when he spoke of the nobility.

  She shivered despite herself. Standing as he was, she was suddenly aware of his clothing—dark gray mistcloak, long-sleeved black shirt, charcoal trousers. In the night, the clothing was simply camou?age. In the lit room, however, the black colors made him look menacing.

  He stood up straight, and the room grew tense.

  “Tell Renoux to pull out,” Kelsier said softly, his voice like iron. “He can use the planned exit story—that of a ‘retreat’ back to his family lands because of the house war—but I want him gone by tomorrow. Send a Thug and a Tineye with him as protection, but tell him to abandon his canal boats one day out of the city, then return to us. ”

  Dockson paused, then glanced at Vin and the others. “Okay…”

  “Marsh knew everything, Dox,” Kelsier said. “They broke him before they killed him—that’s how Inquisitors work. ”

  He let the words hang. Vin felt a chill. The lair was compromised.

  “To the backup lair, then?” Dockson asked. “Only you and I knew its location. ”

  Kelsier nodded ?rmly. “I want everyone out of this shop, apprentices included, in ?fteen minutes. I’ll meet you at the backup lair in two days. ”

  Dockson looked up at Kelsier, frowning. “Two days? Kell, what are you planning?”

  Kelsier strode over to the door. He threw it open, letting in the mist, then glanced back at the crew with eyes as hard as any Inquisitor’s spikes.

  “They hit me where it couldn’t have hurt worse. I’m going to do likewise. ”

  Walin pushed himself in the darkness, feeling his way through the cramped caverns, forcing his body through cracks nearly too small. He continued downward, searching with his ?ngers, ignoring his numerous scrapes and cuts.

  Must keep going, must keep going… His remaining sanity told him that this was his last day. It had been six days since his last success. If he failed a seventh time, he would die.

  Must keep going.

  He couldn’t see; he was too far beneath the surface to catch even a re?ected glimpse of sunlight. But, even without light, he could ?nd his way. There were only two directions: up and down. Movements to the side were unimportant, easily disregarded. He couldn’t get lost as long as he kept moving down.

  All the while, he quested with his ?ngers, seeking the telltale roughness of budding crystal. He couldn’t return this time, not until he’d been successful, not until…

  Must keep going.

  His hands brushed something soft and cold as he moved. A corpse, stuck rotting between two rocks. Walin moved on. Bodies weren’t uncommon in the tight caverns; some of the corpses were fresh, most were simply bones. Often, Walin wondered if the dead ones weren’t really the lucky ones.

  Must keep going.

  There wasn’t really “time” in the caverns. Usually, he returned above to sleep—though the surface held taskmasters with whips, they also had food. It was meager, barely enough to keep him alive, but it was better than the starvation that would come from staying below too long.

  Must keep—

  He froze. He lay with his torso pinched in a tight rift in the rock, and had been in the process of wiggling his way through. However, his ?ngers—always searching, even when he was barely conscious—had been feeling the walls. And they’d found something.

  His hand quivered with anticipation as he felt the crystal buds. Yes, yes, that was them. They grew in a wide, circular pattern on the wall; they were small at the edges, but got gradually bigger near the center. At the direct middle of the circular pattern, the crystals curved inward, following a pocketlike hollow in the wall. Here, the crystals grew long, each one having a jagged, sharp edge. Like teeth lining the maw of a stone beast.

  Taking a breath, praying to the Lord Ruler, Walin rammed his hand into the ?st-sized, circular opening. The crystals ripped his arm, tearing long, shallow gashes in his skin. He ignored the pain, forcing his arm in further, up to his elbow, searching with his ?ngers for…

  There! His ?ngers found a small rock at the center of the pocket—a rock formed by the mysterious drippings of the crystals. A Hathsin geode.

  He grasped it eagerly, pulling it out, ripping his arm again as he withdrew it from the crystal-lined hole. He cradled the small rock sphere, breathing heavily with joy.

  Another seven days. He would live another seven days.

efore hunger and fatigue could weaken him further, Walin began the laborious climb back upward. He squeezed through crevasses, climbed up juttings in walls. Sometimes he had to move to the right or left until the ceiling opened up, but it always did. There were really only two directions: up and down.

  He kept a wary ear out for others. He had seen climbers killed before, slain by younger, stronger men who hoped to steal a geode. Fortunately, he met nobody. It was good. He was an older man—old enough to know that he never should have tried to steal food from his plantation lord.

  Perhaps he had earned his punishment. Perhaps he deserved to die in the Pits of Hathsin.

  But I won’t die today, he thought, ?nally smelling sweet, fresh air. It was night above. He didn’t care. The mists didn’t bother him anymore—even beatings didn’t bother him much anymore. He was just too tired to care.

  Walin began to climb out of the crack—one of dozens in the small, ?at valley known as the Pits of Hathsin. Then he froze.

  A man stood above him in the night. He was dressed in a large cloak that appeared to have been shredded to strips. The man looked at Walin, quiet and powerful in his black clothing. Then he reached down.

  Walin cringed. The man, however, grabbed Walin’s hand and pulled him out of the crack.

  “Go!” the man said quietly in the swirling mists. “Most of the guards are dead. Gather as many prisoners as you can, and escape this place. You have a geode?”

  Walin cringed again, pulling his hand toward his chest.

  “Good,” the stranger said. “Break it open. You’ll ?nd a nugget of metal inside—it is very valuable. Sell it to the underground in whatever city you eventually ?nd yourself; you should earn enough to live on for years. Go quickly! I don’t know how long you have until an alarm is raised. ”

  Walin stumbled back, confused. “Who…who are you?”

  “I am what you will soon be,” the stranger said, stepping up to the rift. The ribbons of his enveloping black cloak billowed around him, mixing with the mists as he turned toward Walin. “I am a survivor. ”

  Kelsier looked down, studying the dark scar in the rock, listening as the prisoner scrambled away in the distance.

  “And so I return,” Kelsier whispered. His scars burned, and memories returned. Memories of months spent squeezing through cracks, of ripping his arms on crystalline knives, of seeking each day to ?nd a geode…just one, so that he could live on.

  Could he really go back down into those cramped, quiet depths? Could he enter the darkness again? Kelsier held up his arms, looking at the scars, still white and stark on his arms.

  Yes. For her dreams, he could.

  He stepped over to the rift and forced himself to climb down inside of it. Then he burned tin. Immediately, he heard a cracking sound from below.

  Tin illuminated the rift beneath him. Though the crack widened, it also branched, sending out twisting rifts in all directions. Part cavern, part crack, part tunnel. He could already see his ?rst crystalline atium-hole—or what was left of it. The long, silvery crystals were fractured and broken.

  Using Allomancy near atium crystals caused them to shatter. That was why the Lord Ruler had to use slaves, and not Allomancers, to collect his atium for him.

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