This is the second half of the alternate ending. Please read This Part First. It includes an explanation. Thanks!
Sazed reigned in his horse—he had worked the other one too hard, and had been forced to leave it behind as it took lame—and climbed off. The landscape was scraggly, empty save for a few brown weeds. Yet, as he walked forward, the hidden cleft in the ground appeared before him.
And in the center, a fortress-like structure of steel and stone. The Covenant of Seran.
Sazed stood quietly for a moment, then shouldered his pack and stepped off the cliff. It was a rough fall—he was too weighted down to slow himself completely. Yet, right before he hit, he dropped his pack. When he finally touched down, his body was too light to take any serious damage. He rubbed his leg, then stood, picking up his pack.
He crossed the distance to the Covenant quietly, feet kicking up ash and dust. The structure was dark, door open, as he had left it. The blackness inside was not inviting. He paused to light a candle, then entered the building.
A figure stood in the deserted entryway, head bowed. Sazed’s candlelight reflected off of the polished steel walls, the block-like pillars, and the spikes in the man’s eyes.
“Marsh,” Sazed said. “I thought I might find you here.”
“You should not have returned, Terrisman,” Marsh said, head still bowed.
“What is going on, Marsh?” Sazed asked.
“I wish I knew. I wish. . .I wish I understood.”
“Understood what?” Sazed asked, voice echoing in the austere room.
Marsh stood silently for a moment. Then he looked up, focusing his sightless spikeheads on Sazed.
“I wish I understood why I have to kill you,” he said, then lifted a hand. An Allomantic Push slammed into the bracers on Sazed’s arms, throwing him backward, crashing him into the hard steel wall.
“I’m sorry,” Marsh whispered.
The Well of Ascension
Alendi must not reach the Well of Ascension. . . .
“Lord Ruler!” Elend whispered, stepping up onto the small plateau.
Vin joined him, looking down at the valley they had left a day before. She turned to the right, looking past Elend at. . . .a lake. It was formed in a basin just to the east of the valley wall. With a coinpush, Vin might have been able to leap from the ledge on her peak down to the lake’s shore.
“That’s not water,” Elend said slowly.
Vin nodded. The lake rippled slowly in the wind, though at these temperatures, water would have been frozen. It was also the wrong color: a deep, ashen black that reflected the light of a sinking sun. “It’s metal,” she whispered.
Elend frowned. “Liquid metal?”
Vin nodded. “I can see it, with iron. Blue lines, streaking out to it. And. . .I can hear it.”
Thump. Thump. Thump.
“Hear it?” Elend asked, frowning.
Vin shook her head, turning away, ftoward the cavern. There was another, smaller pulse coming from inside of it. “Come on,” she said, stepping toward the icy hole.
Sazed slammed into the wall. He was no Allomancer—he had no pewter to strengthen his body. As he collapsed to the ground, he felt a sharp pain in his side, and knew he had cracked a rib. Or worse.
Marsh strode forward, illuminated by the open door only, now that Marsh’s candle was gone. Outside, the sun was settling behind the rim of the chasm.
“Why did you come back?” Marsh whispered as Sazed struggled to his knees. “You should not have returned.” He watched with iron eyes as Sazed slowly crawled away, then Pushed again, throwing Sazed to the side. He skidded across the metal-plated floor, crashing into a pillar. His arm snapped, cracking, and his vision shuddered.
Through his pain, he saw Marsh stoop down and pick something up. Sazed’s pack. The Inquisitor looked inside, then pulled something out.
“I’m sorry,” he said again, then raised a hand and Pushed the object—a small bag—at Sazed.
The bag shot across the room and hit Sazed. He didn’t have to look down to know that it had pierced his. Oddly, he could no longer feel his pain—but he could feel the blood, warm, on his stomach and legs. The bag was filled with bits of metal; Marsh obviously thought it was a coin pouch.
I’m. . .sorry too, Sazed thought as the room grew dark, and not from the setting sun. I’ve failed. . .though I know not at what. I can’t even answer Marsh’s question. I don’t know why I came back.
He felt himself dying. It was an odd experience. His mind resigned, yet confused, yet frustrated, yet slowly. . .having. . .trouble. . . .
Those weren’t coins.
The thought occurred to him, in his addled state.
The bag Marsh shot at you. Those weren’t coins. They were rings. Ten of them. You took them off while travelling. Like you always do.
To not tempt thieves.
Sazed reached up. Though he could no longer see for the tears of pain, he felt with a quivering hand, touching the bag imbedded in his chest. He yanked it free. Sounds rang in the air—metal against metal—as the rings hit the floor.
He collapsed, then reached out with dying fingers, feeling several of the rings on the floor. Ten rings. Weight. Speed of body. Sight. Hearing. Touch. Scent. Strength. Speed of mind. Wakefulness.
He tapped gold. His chest stopped burning, his vision snapped back into focus. His arm straightened, the bones reknitting as he drew upon several day’s worth of health in a brief flash of power.
Sazed stood. The golden ring pinged against the ground as he dropped it, empty. Marsh stopped at the mouth of the hallway leading away, turning with surprise. Sazed’s arm still throbbed, probably cracked, and his ribs were bruised. Such a short burst of health could only do so much.
But he was alive.
“You have betrayed us, Marsh,” Sazed said. “I did not realize those spikes stole a man’s soul, as well as his eyes.”
“You cannot fight me,” Marsh replied quietly, his voice echoing in the dark room. “You are no warrior.”
Sazed smiled. “Neither, I think, are you.”
The cave mouth opened into a low, wide, cavern. Elend noticed something immediately—this room was man-made. Or, at least, it had the feel of something man-made. Stalactites formed pillars through the room, and they were spaced far too evenly to be random. Yet, at the same time, they looked as if they had grown naturally, and showed no signs of being worked.
Elend put down his hood. The air seemed warmer inside, though that might simply have been because of the lack of wind. A low light came from something on the far side of the low chamber, though he couldn’t distinguish the source. It didn’t look like torchlight. It was the wrong color, and it shimmered rather than flickered.
Vin wrapped her arm around him. The koloss stayed outside.
“Where is that light coming from?” Elend asked, frowning.
“The far side of the chamber,” Vin said quietly. “There’s another room.”
Elend nodded. But, the two of them didn’t move. Vin seemed hesitant. “What?” he asked.
She pulled against him. “That’s the Well of Ascension.”
He smiled, putting his arm around her. “I hope so,” he said. “That was kind of the point of this all, wasn’t it?”
“What if I don’t know what to do?” she asked quietly. “What if I take the power, but I don’t know how to use it? What if I. . .become like the Lord Ruler?”
Elend turned to her, then took her head in his hands, rotating it up to look at him. “Your eyes are beautiful.”
She frowned. “What—”
“And,” Elend continued, “part of the beauty in them comes their your sincerity. You won’t become the Lord Ruler, Vin. You’ll know what to do. I trust you.”
She smiled hesitantly, then nodded. The two of them turned and walked forward, boots sounding against stone as they passed rows of the strange stalactite pillars. At the back of the room, the light was stronger. It like. . . .
Like light reflecting off of a pool of water, he realized, noticing the patterns on the unnaturally flat ceiling.
At the back they reached a round opening in the rock, leading into a second chamber. The shimmering came from inside.
“Look, there,” Vin said, separating herself from Elend. She approached something on the back wall—a ledge, grown straight out of the rock. On it were shards.
“It looks like broken pottery,” Elend said, frowning. There were several patches of it, and much of it was scattered on the floor beneath the ledge, all of it dusted lightly with frost.
Vin picked up a piece, but there didn’t seem to be anything distinctive about it. She looked at Elend, and he shrugged.
“Rashek did this,” she said, putting the shard back. “He’s the only other one who has been here.”
Elend nodded toward the glowing doorway. “Maybe the answers are in there.”
Vin nodded, and they walked toward the doorway.
Marsh immediately tried to Push Sazed away again. Sazed was ready, however, and he tapped his ironmind ring—drawing forth the weight he had stored within it. His body grew more dense, and he felt its weight pulling him down, his fists feeling like balls of iron on the ends of lead arms.
Marsh immediately lurched away, thrown violently backward by his own Push. He slammed into the back wall, a cry of surprise escaping his lips.
Shadows fell upon the doorway as the sun fell beneath the rim of the canyon. Sazed tapped sight, enhancing his vision, and dashed toward the addled Inquisitor. Marsh, however, recovered quickly. He reached out, Pulling on Sazed’s fallen pack. A large, bracer-like coppermind zipped out of the bag, flying toward Marsh.
Sazed tapped zinc. His thoughts sped up, and he quickly saw the trajectory of the bracer. Marsh would be able to use it as a weapon against him. So, Sazed tapped steel. Allomancy and Feruchemy had one fundamental difference—Allomancy drew its powers from the metals themselves, and so the amount of power was bounded. In Feruchemy, one could compound an attribute many times, tapping months’ worth of power in a few minutes.
Steel stored physical speed. Sazed zipped across the room, air rushing in his ears as he shot past a massive pillar. He snatched the bracer out of the air, then tapped iron hard, increasing his weight manyfold, and tapped pewter, giving himself massive strength.
Marsh didn’t have time to react. He was now Pulling on a bracer held in Sazed’s inhumanly strong, inhumanly heavy, hand. Again, Marsh was yanked by his own Allomancy. The Pull threw him across the room, directly toward Sazed.
Sazed turned, slamming the bracer into Marsh’s face. The metal bent in his hand, and the force threw Marsh backward. He hit the pillar, a spray of blood misting in the air. As Marsh slumped to the ground, Sazed could see that he’d driven one of the eye-spikes back into the skull, crushing the bone.
Sazed released his ironmind and jumped forward, raising his impromptu weapon again. Marsh, however, threw an arm up and Pushed. Sazed skidded back a few feet before he was able to tap the ironmind again, increasing his weight.
Marsh grunted, his Push forcing him back against the pillar. It also, however, kept Sazed at bay. Sazed struggled to step forward, but the pressure of Marsh’s push—along with his own bulky, weighed-down body—made walking difficult. The two waited for a moment, pushing against each other in the darkening light.
“Why, Marsh?” Sazed whispered.
“I don’t know,” he said, his voice coming out in a growl.
With a flash of power, Sazed released his ironmind and instead tapped steel, increasing his speed again. He ducked to the side, moving more quickly than Marsh could track. Marsh let go of his Push, jumping forward, obviously intending to strike at the place where Sazed had been standing.
But Sazed was no longer there. He spun, raising a fist to punch as he dashed around Marsh’s back. One of the Inquisitor’s spikes—the one Sazed had hit—protruded several extra inches out the back of his skull, and it dribbled blood.
Sazed’s steelmind ran out. The rings had never been intended to last long, and his two extreme bursts had drained this one in seconds. He slowed with a dreadful lurch, but his arm was still raised, and he still had the strength of ten men. If he could just land that fist—
Marsh spun, then dexterously knocked aside Sazed’s punch. The Inquisitor rammed an elbow into Marsh’s stomach, then brought a backhand up and crashed it into Marsh’s face.
Marsh fell backward, and his pewtermind failed him—his strength disappearing. He hit the hard steel ground with a grunt of pain, and rolled.
Marsh loomed in the dark room. The sun was set. Mist began to creep into the chamber.
“You were wrong, Sazed,” Marsh said quietly. “I may not have been a warrior before, but that has changed. You spent the last two years teaching, but I spent them killing. Killing so many people. . . .”
Marsh stepped forward, and Sazed coughed, trying to get his bruised body to move. He worried that he’d rebroken his arm. He tapped zinc again, speeding up his thoughts, but that didn’t help his body move. He could only watch—more fully aware of his predicament and unable to do a thing to stop it—as Marsh picked up the discarded bracer and raised it in a claw-like grip, intending to smash it down into Sazed’s face.
And then, then Inquisitor froze. Sazed started, looking at Marsh’s face. Blood dripped from the crushed socket, making his expression even harder to read. But, he seemed. . .surprised.
The coppermind clanged to the ground. Sazed turned, glancing toward the entrance to the room. The mist spirit stood there, making a faint impression in the mists.
Marsh screamed. Sazed turned, and found three more of the spirits standing behind Marsh. The Inquisitor turned away from them, stumbling. As one, the three spirits raised their hands and pointed toward the doorway. The one there stepped aside.
Marsh held his hands to his head, shaking it. He gritted his teeth, hissing. The three spirits at the back of the room stepped forward, however, herding him. With a final cry of denial—it almost sounded like he was in pain—Marsh dashed from the building, running out into the mists.
Sazed lay, stupefied, on the steel floor. He turned toward the spirits. They stood silently for a moment, then raised their arms and pointed toward the hallway into the Covenant.
Sazed slowly pushed himself to his feet.
Vin and Elend stepped into the room. Elend gasped quietly beside her, but Vin wasn’t paying attention to him. She was staring at the pool.
It was like the lake outside. Far smaller, of course—perhaps no more than five yards across—and it glowed with an inner light. It was filled with the same liquid metallic substance as the lake, though this metal was silvery white.
Vin was so enraptured by the beautiful glowing pool that she didn’t notice the mist spirit until Elend’s grip tightened on her shoulder. She looked up, noticing the spirit standing to the side of the pool. It seemed to have its head bowed, but as she turned, its shadowy mist form stood up straighter.
She’d never seen one of the creatures outside of the mist. It still wasn’t completely. . .whole. Mist puffed from its body, flowing downward, creating its amorphous form. It wasn’t made of mist. It was just a persistent pattern.
Vin hissed quietly, pulling a dagger.
“Wait!” Elend said, griping her shoulder.
She frowned, shooting him a glance.
“I don’t think they’re dangerous, Vin,” he said, stepping forward.
“Elend, no!” she said, but he gently shook her free.
“They came to me while you were gone, Vin,” he explained. “They didn’t hurt me. They just. . .seemed like they wanted me to know something.” He smiled, bulky in his winter gear, hood down, then he walked slowly up to the mist spirit. “What is it you want?” he asked.
The mist spirit stood immobile for a moment, then it raised its arm. Something flashed, reflecting the pool’s light.
“No!” Vin screamed, dashing forward as the spirit’s arm fell. Elend grunted in pain, then collapsed to the stone floor.
“No, no, no!” Vin said, scrambling to his side. The spirit backed away, dripping blood from somewhere within its deceptively incorporeal form. Elend’s blood.
Elend lay, shocked, eyes wide. Vin flared pewter and ripped open the front of his jacket, exposing the wound. The spirit had cut deeply into his stomach, slashing the gut open.
“Oh, lord. . .lord. . .lord. . . .” Vin said, mind growing numb, Elend’s blood on her hands.
The wound was very bad. Deadly.
Sazed stumbled down the iron stairs, candle held in shaking fingers, four ghostly figures following him into the caverns of the Covenant. He reached the landing, easily remembering the way around the corner, through the torture room, and into the rough-hewn stone passage. At the bottom of this second set of stairs, he found the plaque, shining and steel on the far wall.
The words waited for him. A thousand years old, carved in steel by a man who had betrayed his own people.
Vin cradled Elend in her arms, her cloak forming a hasty—and dreadfully inadequate—bandage around his torso.
“I love you,” she whispered, tears warm on her cold cheeks. “Elend, I love you. I love you. . . .”
Love wouldn’t be enough. He was trembling, eyes staring upward, barely able to focus. He gasped his breaths, and blood bubbled in his spittle.
She turned to the side, numbly realizing where she knelt. The Well of Ascension glowed beside her, just inches from where Elend had fallen. Some of his blood had dribbled into the pool, though it didn’t mix with the liquid metal.
I can save him, she realized. The power of creation rests just inches from my fingers.
She looked back at Elend, at his dying eyes. He tried to focus on her, but he seemed to be having trouble controlling his muscles. It seemed like. . .he was trying to smile.
Vin rolled up her coat and put it beneath his head. Then, wearing just her trousers and shirt, she walked up to the pool. She could hear it thumping. As if. . .calling to her.
She stepped onto the pool. It resisted her touch, but her foot began to sink, slowly. She stepped forward, moving into the center of the pool, waiting as she sunk. Within seconds, the pool was up to her chest, the glowing liquid all around her.
She took a breath, then leaned her head back, looking up as the pool absorbed her, covering her face.
Sazed hurriedly threw his pack to the ground, working with nervous fingers. He pulled out a carefully tied portfolio with stiff boards on the sides. He undid the string, and then pulled out his original rubbing, made in this very room months before.
It was his rubbing for certain. He recognized his fingerprints on the thin paper, knew the strokes of the charcoal to be his own. He recognized the smudges he had made.
With quivering hands, he held the rubbing up and slapped it against the steel plate on the wall.
And the two did not match.
The power came upon her suddenly.
She felt the liquid pressing against her, creeping into her body, crawling, forcing its way through the pours and openings in her skin. She opened her mouth to scream, and it rushed in that way too, choking her, gagging her.
Then it started to burn. She recognized the sensation—it was exactly like the feeling of burning metals in her stomach, except it came from her entire body. Her skin flared, her muscles burned, and her very bones seemed on fire. She gasped, and realized the metal was gone from her throat.
She was glowing. She felt the power within, as if it were trying to burst back out. It was like the strength she gained by burning pewter, but amazingly more potent. It was a force of incredible capacity. It would have been beyond her ability to understand, but it expanded her mind, forcing her to grow to comprehend what she now possessed.
She could remake the world. She could push back the mists. She could feed millions with the wave of her hand, punish the evil, protect the weak. She was in awe of herself. The cavern was as if translucent around her, and she saw the entire world spreading, a magnificent sphere upon which life could only exist in a few small discs. She could fix that. She could make things better. She could. . . .
She could save Elend.
She glanced down and saw him dying. She immediately understood what was wrong with his body, saw and comprehended the sliced organs. She could fix his body.
You mustn’t do it, child.
Vin looked up with shock.
You know what you must do, the Voice said, whispering to her. It sounded aged. Kindly.
“I have to save him!” she cried.
You know what you must do.
And she did know. She saw it happen—she saw, as if in vision, Rashek when he’d taken the power for himself. She saw the disasters he created.
It was all or nothing—like Allomancy, in a way. If she took the power, she would have to burn it away in a few moments. Remaking things as she pleased, but only for a brief time.
Or. . .she could give it up.
I must defeat the Deepness, the Voice said. If you take the power, you will destroy the world, as the Rashek did before you.
“Elend. . . .” she whispered. She turned toward him, bleeding on the floor.
You must love him enough to trust his wishes, it wasn’t the Voice, but instead a memory. Something Sazed had said to her. It isn’t love unless you learn to respect him—not what you assume is best for him, but what he actually wants. . . .
She saw Elend weeping. She saw him focusing on her, and she knew what he wanted. He wanted his people to live. He wanted the world to know peace, and the skaa to be free.
He wanted the Deepness to be defeated. The safety of his people meant more to him than his own life. Far more.
You’ll know what to do, he’d said. I trust you. . . .
With trembling fingers, Sazed traced the words on the wall plate, seeking out the final sentence. The one that the mist spirits had ripped free—the problem that had eventually sent him rushing to the south, returning him to the pit that had once spawned Steel Inquisitors.
He found it, and translated the words slowly in his mind. He grew numb.
“Oh, no. . . .” he whispered. “Vin, you mustn’t. . . .”
Vin closed her eyes, and tears rolled down her cheeks. Apparently, gods could cry.
“I love you,” she whispered.
She let the power go. She held the capacity to become a deity in her hands, and she gave it away, releasing it to the waiting void. She gave up Elend.
Because she knew that was what he wanted.
The mountain immediately began to shake. Vin cried out as the flaring power within her was ripped away, soaked up greedily by the void. She screamed, her glow fading, then fell into the now-empty pool, head knocking against the rocks.
The mountain continued to shake, dust and chips falling from the ceiling. And then, in a moment of surreal clarity, Vin heard a single, distinct sentence ringing in her mind.
I am FREE!
Sazed sat back, stunned, rubbing held limply in his fingers. The sentence at the end of the plate, it was completely different from the one he had written and studied.
Alendi must not reach the Well of Ascension, Kwann’s ancient words read, for he must not be allowed to release the thing that is imprisoned there.
The Well of Ascension
Vin lay, quietly, weeping.
The cavern was still, the tempest over. The thing was gone, fled south, and the thumping in her mind was finally quiet. She sniffled, arms around Elend, holding him as he gave his final few breaths.
She felt cold. Empty. After holding that much power, then having it ripped from her, she felt like she was nothing. And, once Elend died, she would be.
What would be the point? she thought. Life doesn’t mean anything. I’ve betrayed Elend. I’ve betrayed the world.
She wasn’t certain what had happened, but she that somehow she’d made a horrible, horrible mistake. The worst part was, she had tried so hard to do what was right, even if it hurt.
Something loomed above her. She looked up at the mist spirit, but couldn’t even really feel rage. She was having trouble feeling anything at the moment.
The spirit raised an arm, pointing.
“It’s over,” she whispered.
It pointed more demandingly.
“You killed him,” she quietly. “You got what you. . . .” she trailed off. Why had the spirit stabbed Elend?
To make me heal him, she thought. To keep me. . .from taking the power.
She blinked her eyes. The spirit waved its arm.
Slowly, numbly, she got to her feet. She followed the spirit in a trance as it floated into the main chamber. The room was dark, now that the pool was empty, and she had to flare silver to keep track of the spirit.
It turned to the left and paused beside the ledge just outside. It pointed urgently. Vin approached, insensate, and stopped beside it.
“What?” she whispered.
It leaned over. Vin knelt, feeling where it gestured. There, in the frost, she thought she made out the distinct impression of a footprint. But that was impossible. Did the Spirit make it? She wondered. But that was the print of a boot.
She glanced at it, feeling around. Her fingers brushed something. A piece of ceramic, but one that wasn’t broken. She picked it up, standing; it looked like a disk, and was set at the very center with what appeared to be a tiny nugget of metal.
The mist spirit turned and drifted back into the Well room. Vin followed quietly. The spirit paused beside Elend. Vin walked up quietly.
He was still alive. He seemed to be getting weaker, and was trembling less. Eerily, as he grew closer to death, he actually seemed a bit more in control. He looked at her as she knelt, and she could see his lips moving.
“Vin. . . .” he whispered.
She knelt beside him, looked at the disk, then looked up at the spirit. It stood motionless.
She shattered the disk, then picked up the small bit of metal. She rolled it between her fingers, then held it up to Elend. “Elend,” she whispered, leaning close. “You must swallow this.”
She wasn’t certain if he understood her or not, though he did appear to nod. She placed the bit of metal in his mouth. His lips moved, but he started to choke.
I have to get him something to wash it down, she thought. Their packs were outside, with the koloss. So, instead, she removed one of her metal vials and poured it into his mouth.
Elend continued to cough weakly. Vin knelt, feeling so powerless, a depressing contrast to how she had been just moments before. Elend closed his eyes.
Then, oddly, the color seemed to return a bit to his cheeks. Vin knelt, confused, watching him. The look on his face, the way he lay, the color of his skin. . . .
She burned bronze, and with shock, felt pulses coming from Elend. He was burning pewter.
Sazed sat in the dark cavern, staring stunned eyes.
It was all a lie, he thought numbly. The religion of the Terris people. . .the thing the Keepers spent millennia searching for, trying to understand, was a lie. The so called prophesies, the Hero of Ages. . .a fabrication.
What better way for such a creature to gain freedom? Men would die in the name of prophesies. They wanted to believe, to hope. If someone—something—could harness that energy, twist it, and what amazing things could be accomplished. . . .
Sazed looked up, reading the words on the wall, reading the second half once again. It contained paragraphs that were completely different from his rubbing.
And so, they read, I come to the focus of my argument. I apologize. Even with my words forced into steel, sitting and scratching in this frozen cave, I am prone to ramble.
This is the problem. Though I believed in Alendi at first, I later became suspicious. It seemed that he fit the signs, true. But. . .well, how can I explain this. Could it be that he fit them too well?
I know your argument. We speak of the Anticipation, of things foretold, of promises made by our greatest prophets of old. Of course the Hero of Ages will fit the prophesies. He will fit them perfectly. That’s the idea.
And yet. . .something about this all seems so convenient. It feels almost like we constructed a hero to fit our prophesies, rather than allowing one to arise naturally. This was the worry I had, the thing that should have given me pause when my brethren came to me, finally willing to believe.
After that, I began to see other problems. Some of you may know of my fabled memory. It is true; I need not a Feruchemist’s metalmind to memorize a sheet of words in an instant. And I tell you, call me daft, but the words of the prophesies are changing.
The alterations are slight. Clever, even. A word here, a slight twist there. But the words on the pages are different from the ones in my memory. The other Wordbringers scoff at me, for they have their metalminds to prove to them that the books and prophesies have not changed.
And so, this is the great declaration I must make. There is something—some force—that wants us to believe that the Hero of Ages has come, and that he must travel to the Well of Ascension. Something is making the prophesies change so that they refer to Alendi more perfectly.
And whatever this power is, it can change words within a Feruchemist’s metalmind.
The others call me mad. As I have said, that may be true. But must not even a madman rely on his own mind, his own experience, rather than that of others? I know what I have memorized. I know what is now repeated by the other Wordbringers. The two are not the same.
I sense a craftiness behind these changes, a manipulation subtle and brilliant. I have spent the last two years in exile, trying to decipher what the alterations could mean. I have come to only one conclusion. Something has taken control of our religion, something nefarious, something that cannot be trusted. It misleads, and it shadows. It uses Alendi to destroy, leading him along a path of death and sorrow. It is pulling him toward the Well of Ascension, where the millennial power has gathered. I can only guess that it sent the Deepness as a method of making mankind more desperate, of pushing us to do as it wills.
The prophesies have changed. They now tell Alendi that he must give up the power once he takes it. This is not what was once implied by the texts—they were more vague. And yet, the new version seems to make it a moral imperative. The texts now outline a terrible consequence if the Hero of Ages takes the power for himself.
This is what Alendi believes. He is a good man—despite it all, he is a good man. A sacrificing man. In truth, all of his actions—all of the deaths, destructions, and pains that he has caused—have hurt him deeply. All of these things were, in truth, a kind of sacrifice for him. He is accustomed to giving up his own will for the common the good, as he sees it.
I have no doubt that if Alendi reaches the Well of Ascension, he will take the power and then—in the name of the presumed greater good—will give it up. Give it away to this same force that has changed the texts. Give it up to this force of destruction that has brought him to war, that has tempted him to kill, that has led him craftily to the north.
This thing wants the power held in the Well, and it has raped our religion’s holiest tenets in order to get it.
And so, I have made one final gamble. My pleas, my teachings, my objections, and even my treasons were all ineffectual. Alendi has other councilors now, ones that are more convinced of his nature.
I have a young nephew, one Rashek. He hates all of Khellenium with the passion of envious youth. He hates Alendi even more acutely—though the two have never met—for Rashek feels betrayed that one of our oppressors should have been chosen as the Hero of Ages.
Alendi will need guides through the Terris mountains. I have charged Rashek with making certain that he and his trusted friends are chosen as those guides. He is to try and lead Alendi the wrong direction, to dissuade him, discourage him, or otherwise foil this trek. Alendi doesn’t know that he has been deceived, that we’ve all been deceived, and he will not listen to me now.
If Rashek fails to lead the trek astray, then I have instructed the lad to kill Alendi. It is a distant hope. Alendi has survived assassins, wars, and catastrophes. And yet, I hope that in the frozen mountains of Terris, he may finally be exposed. I hope for a miracle.
Alendi must not reach the Well of Ascension, for he must not be allowed to release what is imprisoned there.
There was so much that Sazed still didn’t understand, so much he was confused about. Where had the imprisoned thing come from? Why was it locked away? What was the connection between it, the mists, and Allomancy?
Sazed stood, retrieving his pack and the rubbing. Somehow, he knew that in the times to come, a scholar’s mind would be more valuable than a soldier’s arm. He had to escape the Covenant before daylight came.
For then, Marsh would return.
Vin spent several tense days waiting in the sheltered cavern of rock, watching Elend, dripping pewter-laced water onto his lips, hoping, and occasionally crying.
Slowly, his color returned. The wound resealed. Vin was quietly stunned—pewter was amazing, but Elend’s wound had been dire. She’d barely survived a similar wound herself, and she’d had the benefit of Sazed’s skilled medical attention. Vin herself barely knew the most rudimentary of healing arts. And yet, Elend grew stronger. His body, bolstered by pewter, managed to keep working despite the terrible wound.
And on the sixth day, he awoke. Vin scrambled over as she heard him whispering for water. She brought him cold broth. He fell back asleep a few hours later.
When he next awoke, he was much stronger. Before too long, he was able to sit. It wasn’t until then that he finally broached the topic.
“Vin,” he said, “what happened?”
She shook her head, holding him as they sat on the cold stones before the empty Well of Ascension. A piece of her still couldn’t believe that he lived. She still had him—that was, at least, something to offset the pit of horror that was festering inside her.
She could still hear that terrible, booming voice. I am free. . . .
“I’m. . .an Allomancer,” he said.
“Mistborn, apparently,” he continued.
“I think. . .we know where they came from, now. The first Allomancers.”
He nodded. “What happened to the power?”
“I set something free,” she whispered. “Something that shouldn’t have been released; something that led me here. I should never have come, Elend.”
Elend fell silent. They would need to start back to Terris soon. Their food stores were running low.
She turned, burying her head in his chest. “It was terrible, Elend,” she said. “I could feel that. And I set it free. I am worse than the Lord Ruler—in the end, maybe he realized he was being tricked, and knew he had to take the power rather than release it.”
“If he’d been a good man, Vin,” Elend said, “he wouldn’t have done the things he did to this land.”
“I may have done far worse,” Vin said. “This thing I released. . . . What are we going to do?”
He looked down at her, then smiled slightly. “We’re going to do what Kelsier taught us, Vin.
“We’re going to survive.”
The End of Book Two