Mistborn: The Well of Ascension
Well, first off let me say that this will—obviously—contain MAJOR SPOILERS for not only Mistborn Two, but first book as well. If you haven’t read either novel, might I request you give them a read? Or, perhaps go download WARBREAKER, the free novel I have up for download on this very website?
I always worry—perhaps overly much—about people having my books spoiled for them by reading something like this, which is part of an early draft with a different ending. I guess it’s the sense of drama inherent in a storyteller. I hate it when people look at endings first, and it’s even more cringe-inducing to think of them reading an early, unpublished ending to a book before reading the actual novel.
Why This Ending Was Cut
All right. I’ll assume that everyone who’s gotten this far has read all of Mistborn: The Well of Ascension in its published form. You might have noticed that I mentioned in the annotations that there was originally a different ending to the book. That’s what I’ve posted here, in all of its embarrassing glory.
Actually, as I look it over, it’s not really that embarrassing, particularly if you understand the way I was approaching this story. During early outlining of the Mistborn trilogy, I realized that there was going to be a bad break between books two and three. I wanted to have something go monstrously wrong at the end of the second book—I wanted to upend the concept of the prophesy in fantasy series, at least as prophesies are commonly used. It was one of the big turning points in the series.
But I also wanted the big climax of the second book to revolve around the siege of Luthadel. I worried that dealing with the Well of Ascension would distract from that, and decided in outlining that the best thing to do was approach the climaxes separately. We would do the big battle in Luthadel, tie it up, then have a kind of ‘second ending’ to the book where the characters went to find the Well of Ascension and we got the big reveal.
So that’s how I originally wrote the book. I generally give myself enough flexibility to change my outline as I go, but this item was so fundamental to the structure of the book that I wanted to give it a shot as plotted. Unfortunately, as I was writing it, I felt that it just didn’t work. My big fear was that this ending would feel tacked on and anti-climactic—and, indeed, it felt that way to me as I was ending the novel.
This led me to consider other options. The first and most obvious one, to me, was to move the Well of Ascension sequence to the next book, use it as a kind of ‘opener’ sequence like the Jabba sequence in Return of the Jedi.
But I didn’t like that plan here. I felt that the emotional context of the story required an ending and resolution to the Well of Ascension plot in THIS book, not the next one. And so, I looked at moving the Well down to Luthadel to be more accessible to the main characters, allowing me to overlay the climaxes of the book just a little bit better.
This worked much better. Luthadel, and the fight to save it, became much more important. The Lord Rulers private room in the bottom of his palace made more sense. It let me introduce the storage caverns, which were going to be a central plotting element of Book Three. It let me move the Sazed/Marsh fight into the city and away from the Conventical, where the original draft had it happening.
The ‘tacked on’ feeling did not vanish. I feel it is lessened greatly in the revised version, but it is still there. But I do feel this was the best way to juggle the different plots of the story, letting us lead into Book Three with the best storytelling rhythm.
This did require me to change the location of the Well, and reorganize in my mind the setting of the book somewhat. Placing the Well beneath Luthadel required the Lord Ruler to re-arrange the landscape of the world during his moment of power. But since he was doing many things like this already, I felt it was in line. It does mean that this world has a very different magnetic North than it does Geographic North, which is viable geologically if not intuitively.
(This is the only way I could explain moving the Well and locating the world near the pole while maintaining a normal day-night cycle. With how odd the setting already was in many ways, I didn’t want to add month-long cycles of day and night to the mix.)
Explanation of What You’re About To Read
The following, then, is the original ending. Just like in the published version, Vin and Elend set off to the north to find the Well—though Sazed (in the original version) didn’t lie to them. He really did think it was up there. He just wanted to get them out of the city ASAP.
Vin returns and saves the city, as we saw, but Elend and Spook continue northward and find the Terrismen there. After saving Luthadel, Vin sets off with her koloss to meet up with them.
Know that this version of the manuscript was NOT copyedited, and is bound to have a lot of typos and problems. The koloss don’t quite feel right to me here; I hadn’t written Book Three yet and hadn’t experimented with how I wanted them to act and talk. There are other small tweaks I made, and by showing this draft, I perhaps expose some of the things I was still working out as I wrote. (Remember, all three Mistborn books were writen ‘back to back’ so to speak, before the first one came out. So I allowed myself to experiement with concepts that I eventually changed in the series.)
Anyway, Enjoy! The entire ending is here, including some scenes that are the same. There were no changes to the function of the ending—nothing you read here will be mind-blowingly different—but the setting of the ending is in the peaks of the mountains instead of Luthadel. There are some dialogue sequences that didn’t make the transition to the new version. (Though, it should be noted that I had to stretch to make this excursion to the peak reasonable for the characters to manage, another reason I felt the ending needed to be changed. Also, as one final note, for those of you hunting clues about Adonalsium, there is a very, very small hint in here that got cut during revision. I felt it was too confusing and muddied the waters regarding the series.)
The Well of Ascension
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.
“Humans, Mistress,” the large koloss said, his speech slurred. “We have found humans.”
“A village?” Vin asked, perking up. She sat on a rock in the middle of her koloss ‘camp.’ The creature stared at her blankly, blinking beady red eyes. Koloss had trouble distinguishing some things, such as groups. To them, it appeared that a village was nearly the same as an army.
“Were there buildings there?” Vin asked. “Structures, made of wood and stone?”
“No,” the koloss said. “The buildings were made of cloth.”
A camp, Vin thought. She knew better than to ask more. Koloss had trouble visualizing abstractions. To them, everything was individual and concrete. If another koloss was bigger than they were, that was someone to obey. If the koloss were smaller than they, then that was someone to command. If the koloss were roughly the same size as they were, then that was potentially someone to kill.
Except, Vin didn’t allow that any more. As the koloss ‘leader’ stared at her, she could feel his desires. He wanted to attack her. He wanted to attack this camp they’d found. He was annoyed and frustrated, and he had no outlet for his anger.
Vin didn’t give him one. She maintained her control, her mind pressing against his through the unseen bond she still didn’t understand. The creature bowed its head, then turned and lurched away, seeking something to eat.
Vin sighed, leaning back on her rock, rubbing her forehead. Defeating a single koloss like that wasn’t difficult. However, maintaining such a tight grip on the entire group was exhausting. It was like. . .like she were in a contest, pulling on thirty-thousand small threads. The harder she pulled, the better the koloss obeyed. If she relaxed, there were accidents.
It usually happened while she slept. Small fights would break out. When she awoke, immediately yanking her army back into line, she would find that a half-dozen or so of her soldiers were dead—beaten, killed, and flayed by their peers. She struggled to keep the events from happening, but it was growing more and more difficult as she tired. The koloss only seemed to need a few hours of sleep each day, and she had been pushing herself hard to keep up with them.
She sighed, rising from the cold rock. The more detailed her request—and the more self-control it required of them—the more draining it was to keep them doing what she wished. She was beginning to understand just why the Lord Ruler had locked the koloss within their own enclaves, leaving them to their depravity until he needed them for a specific task.
She walked through the camp, cloak pulled tight. Despite her difficulties, she had to admit that the creatures made for an efficient army. When she called halt for the day, they immediately gathered into feeding groups—though she had trouble telling the creatures apart enough to decide if the groups were stable. The creatures barely needed any sleep, and they seemed to be able to eat almost anything. Though they tried to catch game when she called camp, most of the time she saw them chewing on twigs, clumps of grass, or even dirt. It seemed ridiculous that they’d be able to maintain their massive forms and tireless marching without suitable grains or meat, yet they did.
When the time for camp came, the koloss gathered wood and made bonfires. She passed between several of them now, burning in the misty morning light. Koloss sat huddled around their fires, backs hunched, eyes watching her as she passed. The camp smelt of smoke and musk, and was dreadfully silent, save for the crackling of fires. She thought she could see resentment in their inhuman eyes as they watched her. They could only feel two emotions, and she forbade them one of the two.
Vin ignored the looks. She wasn’t certain why the creatures made the fires—most of them didn’t have anything to cook. Yet, the firepits seemed important to them, and when they were sitting quietly, staring into the flames, it seemed a bit easier for Vin to control them.
She eventually reached the edge of the camp. The koloss she had spoken with earlier—one of the large, ten-foot tall beasts—stood there, looking northward. He had sharp features, and the pressure on his face had split his skin along the cheekbones, making him distinctive enough that Vin could keep him separate.
“Where are the humans?” she asked.
He pointed. “That way. We will kill them?”
“No,” Vin said firmly.
He turned toward her, twin lines of blood running down his cheeks, massive sword strapped to his back. “Why?” he asked.
Vin frowned. It was the first time any of the creatures had asked her a question like that. “Because,” she said. “It is better to let people live than to kill them.”
He watched her. It was difficult to discern expressions on his face, since the face muscles were pulled so tight by ill-fitting skin. “We are not people,” he finally said.
“I don’t know if you are or not,” Vin said quietly.
“We could have been,” he said. “We were free for a time. We could have taken your city. Then we would have been people.”
Vin felt a chill. “Stay here,” she said, walking out of the camp. “I’m going to see who these ‘humans’ are.”
“Of course,” the koloss said, standing quietly behind her as she trudged off into the day’s mist.
“Look, we all heard the empress,” Cett said, pounding the table. “She said we’re supposed to gather support and go get my damn country back!”
“She said for us to prepare to do so,” Janelle said, sipping his tea, completely unfazed by Cett’s lack of decorum. “As I see it, we have no actual command to go into the Western Dominance. Rather the opposite, I should think.”
Penrod, the oldest of the men in the room, had enough tact to look sympathetic. “I understand that you are concerned for your people, Lord Cett. But we have barely had a week rebuild Luthadel. It is far too early to be worrying about expanding our influence. We cannot possibly authorize this.”
“Oh, leave off, Penrod,” Cett snapped. “You’re not in charge of us.”
All three men turned to Sazed. He felt very awkward, sitting at the head of the table in Keep Venture’s conference chamber. Aids and attendants, including some of Dockson’s bureaucrats, stood at the perimeter of the sparse room, but only the three kings sat with Sazed at the table.
“We all heard what Lady Vin commanded, Lord Cett,” Sazed said carefully.
“She said to prepare for invasion,” he said, pounding the table again. “That’s what I want to do! We’re going to need scout and spy reports if we want to invade.”
“If we do invade,” Janelle said. “It won’t be until this summer, at the very earliest. We have far more pressing concerns. My armies have been away from the Northern Dominance for too long. It is simple political theory that we should stabilize what we have before we move into new territory.”
“Bah!” Cett said, waving an indifferent hand.
“You may send your scouts, Lord Cett,” Sazed said. “But they are to seek information only. They are to engage in no raids, no matter how tempting the opportunity.”
Cett shook a bearded head. “This is why I never bothered to play political games with the rest of the Final Empire. Nothing gets done because everyone is too busy scheming!”
“There is much to be said for subtlety, Lord Cett,” Penrod said. “Patience brings the greater prize.”
“Greater prize?” Cett asked. “What did the Central Dominance earn itself by waiting? You waited right up until the moment that your city fell! If you hadn’t been the ones with the best Mistborn. . . .”
“Best Mistborn, my lord?” Sazed asked quietly. “Did you not see her take command of the koloss? Did you not see her leap across the sky like an arrow in flight? Lady Vin isn’t simply the ‘best Mistborn.'”
The group fell silent. I have to keep them focused on her, Sazed thought. Without Vin’s leadership—without the threat of her power—this coalition will dissolve in three heartbeats.
He felt so insufficient. He couldn’t keep the men on-topic, and he couldn’t do much to help them with their various problems. He could just keep reminding them of Vin’s words.
“Very well,” Cett said, waving a hand. “I’ll send the scouts. Has that food arrived from Urteau yet, Janelle?”
The younger nobleman grew uncomfortable. “We. . .may have trouble with that, my lord. One of Lord Straff’s illegitimate sons somehow discovered that his father was dead, and has taken control of the city.”
“No wonder you want to send troops back to the Northern Dominance!” Cett accused. “You’re planning to conquer your kingdom back, and leave mine to rot!”
“Urteau is much closer than your capitol, Cett,” Janelle said, turning back to his tea. “It only makes sense to set me up there before we turn our attention westward.”
“We will let the empress make that decision,” Penrod said. He liked to act the mediator—and by doing so, he made himself seem like he was above the issues. In essence, he put himself in control by putting himself in-between the other two.
Not all that different from what Elend tried to do, Sazed thought, with our armies. The boy had more of a sense of political strategy than Tindwyl had ever given him credit.
I shouldn’t think about her, he told himself, closing his eyes as the kings turned to an argument of city supplies.
Yet, it was hard to not think of her. Everything he did, everything he thought, seemed wrong because she was gone. Lights seemed darker. Motivations were more difficult to reach. He found that he had trouble even wanting to pay attention to the kings, let alone give them direction.
It was foolish, he knew. How long had Tindwyl been in his life? Barely several months. Long ago, he had resigned himself to the fact that he would never be loved—in general—and certainly would never have her love. Not only did he lack manhood, but he was a rebel and a dissident—a man well outside of the Terris orthodoxy.
Surely her love for him had been a miracle. Yet, whom did he thank for that blessing, and whom did he curse for stealing her away? He knew of hundreds of gods. He would hate them all, if he thought it would do anything.
For the good of his own sanity, he forced himself to get distracted by the kings again. “Speaking of the people,” Penrod was saying, “have you two decided how you intend to introduce the idea of an assembly to your populaces?”
“An assembly?” Cett asked. “You must be insane, Penrod.”
“Oh, I’m not,” Penrod said, smiling. “I am simply being. . .preemptive. Tell me—assuming that Emperor Venture lets you keep your crown, do you honestly think he won’t make you use a people’s assembly like the one here in Luthadel?”
“You can’t be serious,” Janelle said, waving for a servant to refill his cup. “All of this ‘Assembly’ business was just a political ploy, wasn’t it? A means of trying to placate a hostile peasantry. It didn’t have any real power, did it?”
“Oh, it had power,” Cett said. “Elend Venture made sure of that. The people voted him ousted, and he accepted it.”
Janelle looked troubled.
“Penrod is right,” Cett grumbled. “The boy is probably going to make us draft up a bill of assembly. And, even if he forgets, I’ll bet you will remind him, eh, Penrod?”
“I wouldn’t want the people to lack representation in your separate kingdoms, gentlemen,” Penrod noted, smiling.
Janelle did not seem like he enjoyed thinking about that prospect at all. Cett just shook his head.
“Come now,” Penrod said, leaning forward, arms on the tabletop. “Don’t get looks like those, gentlemen. We are in a very unique position. In the time since the Lord Ruler’s empire fell, dozens—perhaps hundreds—of men had tried to set themselves up as kings. The common theme they share, however, is that they lack stability.
“Well, it appears that we are going to be forced to work together. I am starting to see this in a fond light. I will give my allegiance to the Venture couple—I’ll even deal with Elend Venture’s eccentric views of government—if it means that I’ll still be in power ten years from now.”
Cett scratched at his beard for a moment, then nodded. “You make a good point, Penrod. Maybe the first good one I’ve ever heard out of you.”
“But we can’t continue trying to assume that we know what we are to do,” Janelle said. “We need direction. Surviving the next ten years, I suspect, is going to depend heavily on my not ending up dead on the end of that Mistborn girl’s knife.”
“Indeed,” Penrod said, nodding curtly. “Master Terrisman. Where exactly is it that the empress has gone? We can expect her return soon, I presume?”
Once again, all three sets of eyes turned to Sazed.
“Lady Vin is the Hero of Ages,” he said quietly. “She has traveled north, to the Terris mountains, where she hopes to find the Well of Ascension, and therein the power that the Lord Ruler discovered before he constructed the Final Empire.”
The room grew silent.
Finally, Cett snorted. “Well, there we have it. Got any more easy questions, Penrod?”
“Master Terrisman,” Elend said, standing outside the Terris camp in the soft red morning light. “If I can give you one final bit of advice, it is that you must turn back. You don’t have the resources to feed a population this size, and you cannot forage with any kind of effectiveness this time of year.”
The aged steward, Vedlew, shook his head. He stood with two other stewards, leaning on his staff. “We must see if King Venture will take us in. Terris is in need of allies. You cannot understand what it is like to have charge of a people. . .to know that they look to you, despite your failings. We will manage. If what you say is true, then it is only a few weeks travel south to Luthadel.”
“Two weeks for us two,” Elend said. “Men in good health, travelling light. It’s the middle of winter, Master Terrisman! If you continue, your people will either starve or freeze.”
The old man paused at this. “What else would you have us do? Return to face those creatures who have taken our city?”
“Yes,” Elend said firmly. “Now is not the time to fight. It will come, my friend. But for now, you must be patient.”
“The Terris have been patient for far too long, I think.”
“Then you are practiced at it,” Elend said. “I have always had great respect for Terris wisdom, Master Vedlew. Do not prove my faith wrong now. I cannot tell you everything, but Lord Venture will contact you soon. There will be a time to resist the Inquisitors. For now, however, you have to see that your people don’t die in the wilderness.”
Vedlew looked at one of his companions. The taller steward—who looked much like Sazed save in the face—shrugged.
“We will consider your suggestion, young man,” Vedlew said.
Elend nodded, turning toward Spook. “Ready?”
“Having the have of ever wassing,” Spook said lightly. He paused. “That means yes.”
“Great,” Elend said, throwing his pack on his shoulder. The mists were finally beginning to burn away. It would be a warm day, hopefully. They were leaving a bit earlier than—
Elend paused mid-step, and Spook gasped. A figure stood on the road a short distance away from them.
“Vin!” Elend cried. He dropped the pack, surprising the three stewards as he rushed forward, grabbing her in an embrace. She seemed tense, though she relaxed slightly as he kissed her.
“What happened?” Elend asked. “Luthadel? Has it fallen?”
She lay her head against this chest, breathing out a quiet sigh. “I think I did something bad, Elend,” she whispered.
“What?” he asked.
She looked up at him, dark eyes wide as she met his eyes. “I conquered the world.”
“Damn,” Spook said quietly, looking over the koloss.
“They obey me,” Vin said, standing beside Elend, her warmth welcome in his arms. “There was nothing mystical or mysterious about controlling them—it was just another trick. Like the one the Lord Ruler used to stay alive so long.”
“A trick?” Elend said, frowning.
“The Lord Ruler created the koloss to be his army,” Vin said, “and so he built into their bodies a way to control them. You just use emotional Allomancy on them.”
“You can’t Sooth koloss,” Elend said. “People have tried it before, Vin.”
“Most Allomancers wouldn’t be able to do it,” Vin said. “It’s like piercing copperclouds—something the Lord Ruler and his Inquisitors could manage, but others couldn’t.”
Elend opened his mouth to object, then paused. Time to stop pretending I know more than she does. “The question is, then,” he said quietly. “Why can you do it, Vin?”
“Duralumin,” she said.
It wasn’t the answer he’d been expecting. “So, someone could steal them from you?”
“Perhaps,” she said. “But only another Mistborn. A regular Soother wouldn’t be able to burn duralumin.”
They stood quietly for a moment, Spook leaning against a tree, watching the koloss move about their fires below.
“The Inquisitors are in Terris, Vin,” Elend said.
“They attacked the capitol—that’s why those people are fleeing.”
“We don’t have time for them right now,” she said, turning. The morning mists gone, Elend could see the massive Terris mountains rising behind them. Snow-peaked and daunting.
“Let’s go,” Vin said, stepping forward.
Sounds came from behind—twigs breaking, grunts in the air. Elend spun. The koloss had stood, almost as if they were one person, and were leaving their firepits forming up to march.
“Coming?” Vin asked, turning back to Elend.
Spook and Elend shared a glance, then moved forward—partially to answer Vin’s request, and partially just because they wanted to stay ahead of the marching troop of koloss.
Sazed sighed quietly, shutting the door to his room. The kings were finished with the day’s arguments. Actually, they were starting to get along quite well, considering the fact that they’d all tried to conquer each other just a few weeks before.
Sazed knew he could take no credit for their newfound amiability, however. He had other preoccupations.
I’ve seen many die, in my days, he thought, walking into the room. Kelsier. Jadendwyl. Crenda. People I and respected. I never wondered what had happened to their spirits.
He set his candle on the table, the fragile light illuminating a few scattered pages, a pile of strange metal clips taken from koloss bodies, and one manuscript. Sazed sat down at the table, fingers brushing the pages, remembering the days spend with Tindwyl, studying.
Maybe this is why Vin put me in charge, he thought. She knew I’d need something to take my mind off of Tindwyl.
And yet, he was finding more and more that he didn’t want to take his mind off of her. Which was more potent? The pain of memory, or the pain of forgetting? He was a Keeper—it was his life’s work to remember. Forgetting, even in the name of personal peace, was not something that appealed to him.
He flipped through the manuscript, smiling fondly in the dark chamber. He’d sent a cleaned-up, rewritten version with Vin. This, however, was the original. The franticly—almost desperately—scribbled manuscript made by two worried scholars.
He fingered the pages, flickering candlelight revealing Tindwyl’s firm, yet beautiful, script. It mixed easily with paragraphs written in Sazed’s own, more timid hand. At times, a page would alternate between their different hands a dozen different times.
He didn’t realize that he was crying until he blinked, sending loose a tear, which hit the page. He looked down, stunned as the bit of water caused a swirl in the ink.
“What now, Tindwyl?” he whispered. “Why did we do this? You never believed in the Hero of Ages, and I never believed in anything, it appears. What was the point of this all?”
He reached up and dabbed the tear with his sleeve, preserving the page as best he could. Despite his tiredness, he began to read, selecting a random section. He read to remember—remember days when he hadn’t worried about why they were studying. He had simply been content to do what he enjoyed best, with the person he had come to love most.
We gathered everything we could find on the Hero of Ages and the Deepness, he thought, reading. But so much of it seems contradictory.
He flipped through to a particular section, one that Tindwyl had insisted that they include. It contained the most offending of the self-contradictions, as declared by Tindwyl. He read them over, giving them fair consideration for the first time. This was Tindwyl the scholar—a hesitant skeptic.
He fingered through the passages, reading Tindwyl’s script.
The Hero of Ages will be small of stature, one read. Easily dismissed by those who see him.
The power must not be taken, read another. Of this, we are certain. It must be held, but not used. It must be released. Tindwyl had found that condition foolish, since other sections talked about the hero using the power to defeat the Deepness.
All men are selfish, read another. The Hero is a man who can see the needs of all beyond his own desires. “If all men are selfish,” Tindwyl had asked, “then how can the Hero be selfless, as said in other passages? And, indeed, how can a humble man be expected to conquer the world?”
Sazed shook his head, smiling. At times, her objections had been very well conceived—but at other times, she had just been struggling to offer another opinion, no matter how much of a stretch. He ran his fingers across the page again, but paused on the first paragraph.
Small of stature, it said. The text came from one of their prominent sources, the writings that Sazed had found in the Covenant of Seran. Tindwyl had included because other sections of writing called the Hero ‘grand’ and ‘towering.’
Something else about the passage bothered him, however. He frowned, flipping through the book to the complete transcription of Kwann’s iron-plate testimony. Sazed read along until he found a particular passage.
Alendi’s height struck me the first time I saw him, it read. Here was a man who towered over others, a man who—despite his youth and his humble clothing—demanded respect.
Sazed frowned. Before, he’d argued that there was no contradiction, for both passages could be interpreted to mean the Hero’s presence of character, rather than just his physical height. Now, however, Sazed paused, really seeing Tindwyl’s objections for the first time.
And something felt wrong to him. He looked back at his book, and only then did he notice the missing bit, torn off the bottom of the page. The same sentence, the last sentence in Kwann’s narrative, had been torn free from this sheet. He’d almost forgotten the strange occurrence with the ripped pages.
But, he’d rewritten this page, from his memory, after they’d found the torn sheets.
Something fluttered across the table. The motion gave Sazed a start, but he realized that it was simply a bit of paper. A bit of. . .torn paper. It blew in a slight, cold breeze from the window, coming to stop on the table.
The missing bit, Sazed thought. He could see its words, written in his own hand. He looked up, reaching for the scrap, and realized that someone was standing in the darkness beside his desk.
He gasped, stumbling back, nearly tripping over his chair. It wasn’t actually a person. It was a shadow—formed, it seemed, from mists. They were very faint, but they certainly made a person. Its head seemed turned toward the table, toward the book. Or. . .perhaps the scrap of paper.
Sazed felt like running, like scrambling away in fear, but his scholar’s mind dredged something up to fight his terror. Alendi. . . . he thought. The one everyone thought was the Hero of Ages. He said he saw things made of mist following him.
Vin claimed the same thing.
“What. . .do you want?” he asked, trying to remain calm.
The spirit didn’t move.
Could it be. . .her? he wondered with shock. Many religions claimed that the dead continued to walk the world, just beyond the view of mortals. But. . .this thing was too short to be Tindwyl. Sazed liked to think that he would have recognized her, even in such an amorphous form.
Sazed tried to gauge where it was looking. He reached out a hesitant hand, picking up the scrap of paper. Just to make certain, he put it up next to his book. It fit perfectly. Alendi must not reach the Well of Ascension, it read, for he must not be allowed to take the power for himself. The exact wording Sazed had in his memory, the exact wording of the rubbing.
He looked up at the spirit. It raised an arm, pointing south. Sazed frowned.
“I don’t understand,” he said.
The spirit faded away.
Sazed stood for a long moment in the room with only one candle, looking at a the open book. The wind flipped its pages, showing his handwriting, then Tindwyl’s, then his again.
Then he grabbed the candle, spilling wax on his table in his haste, and left the room. He made his way through the halls of Keep Venture. It had been mostly repaired—the windows in the main hall were still broken, of course, but in the back alcoves, one wouldn’t have been able to tell that this was the place where Dockson and a hundred others had been slaughtered.
You’re being foolish, Sazed thought to himself as he rushed through the hallways. You are just tired. You need to go back to your room and go to sleep.
He continued anyway. He found the rooms he sought with ease. Two guards sat outside, though they were hardly necessary. “I must see Lord Breeze,” Sazed said.
One of the guards turned to the other. “He’s. . .still not well, Master Terrisman.”
“I realize that this is true,” Sazed said. “But I must see him anyway. You know that the empress has given me power in this city. . . .”
The men reluctantly pushed back the doors and let him in. The rooms inside were lavish, filled with silks, foods, and other pleasantries. Allrianne had made certain that Breeze was well cared-for—not that she cared for him herself, of course. She’d hired people to watch over him. Yet, knowing something of her personality, the concern was touching nonetheless.
Sazed walked into the bedroom. Breeze lay inside, draped in rich cloth blankets. Surprisingly, he was awake—or, at least, as awake as he grew these days. Sazed approached quietly, leaning over the man. Breeze’s eyes focused on him, like usual, but the man did not speak.
“Lord Breeze,” Sazed said, bowing his head. “I must beg a favor of you.”
Breeze did not respond.
“I must leave the city, Breeze,” Sazed said. “It is very urgent, I think—though I cannot explain why. I need your aid.”
Breeze did not respond.
“The kings of the three dominances,” Sazed said. “They need someone to watch them, someone who understands politics and the way that men think. If someone does not do this, I fear that Cett and the others will make a disaster of Elend’s empire before it even has an opportunity to grow.”
Again, no response.
Sazed closed his eyes. “I. . .I believe that something is very wrong, Lord Breeze. Something involving the Lord Ruler, Lady Vin, and the Deepness. I do not know what I can do, but I must leave the city. Lord Hammond is still in a coma from the wounds he took—you are the only member of the crew left. You are the only person who can take charge. Please. I need you.”
He opened his eyes. Breeze had looked away, but otherwise hadn’t moved. Sazed sighed, a bit of candle wax dripping onto the back of his hand. He turned, walking toward the door.
“Sazed,” Breeze whispered.
Breeze was looking at him. “I am a coward,” he said.
“As am I, Lord Breeze,” Sazed said.
“I let Clubs die.”
“And I let Tindwyl die,” Sazed said. “Someday, perhaps, I will forgive myself. For now, however, I must make certain that others do not die because of what I fail to do tomorrow.”
Breeze lay in his bed. Finally, he sighed, sitting up. He’d lost weight—though he was still rotund—and he looked. . .frail. “When must you leave?” he asked.
Sazed turned toward the open hallway door. “Tonight.”
The Well of Ascension
I hope for a miracle.
Vin wasn’t worried about herself. To her, the freezing wind and icy snow were barely a bother. Pewter made her body strong. Even without it, she had the pulsing. The pounding thumps, growing closer, pulling her forward. They were enough of a motivation. She couldn’t freeze. Not until she arrived.
Spook and Elend, however, terrified her. They trudged on behind her, throwing shoulders against the wind, walking in the trail broken by her koloss servants. The two men walked with cloaks, eyes closed to near slits, bits of fur from their Terris clothing fluttering and whipping in the wind.
She turned, watching as Elend. He smiled at her, but his cheeks were flush from the cold, and he looked exhausted.
“Maybe we should stop,” Vin said. “Until the wind passes.”
He nodded, gesturing. “I was thinking that alcove would be a good place,” he said, pointing at a spot some minutes ahead of them. There was a cleft in the rock.
Vin nodded and silently ordered her koloss forward again. There were only ten of the brutes—her largest, most powerful captains. They carried packs nearly as big as they were, carting food, wood, and supplies. They didn’t even seem to notice the cold, despite their lack of clothing.
We should be dead, Vin thought as she stood in the snow, waiting for Spook to catch up. None of them had any experience with this sort of travel. Vin was a creature of the streets, Elend a man of quiet study and magnificent balls. What did they know of traveling up mountains in the winter?
Yet, they had gotten some small measure of advice from the people in the Terris village at the base of the mountains, the place where Vin had left her koloss army. She thought the village would be safe—she could still feel the koloss, though the bond was weaker at this distance. Regardless, they were stationed a distance from the village itself—hopefully, the koloss would keep to killing each other when they lapsed.
The villagers’ advice was sparse. Rudimentary maps, tips on avoiding avalanches, words on which passes would be open. It had been a dry year—some of the people had claimed that would be a benefit to Vin’s party. Still, none of the Terris townspeople had been willing to risk coming along as guides.
Spook finally caught up. He walked on quivering knees, and his posture was despondent.
“Spook,” she said, catching his arm.
He looked up slowly, as if he hadn’t noticed her. He kept with a piece of cloth tied around his eyes to keep out some of the light.
“Are you still burning silver?” she demanded.
He stood quietly, mute, as if frozen by the cold winds.
“You have to stop, Spook,” she said. “The silver will make you more susceptible to the cold.”
He stood quietly. Then, he shook a bit, as if waking.
“There!” Vin said over the winds, pointing to the alcove. Elend had nearly reached it. “We’re going to stop there.”
Spook nodded, and there was a bit more eagerness to his step as he resumed his march.
Vin stood quietly in the snow. Her koloss reached the alcove and began setting down their packs. To the south, their trail—cutting across a broad, snow-covered plateau—was already disappearing. She wasn’t certain if it was actually snowing, or if the wind was just stirring up snow that had already fallen.
A line of low mountains rose behind them. They’d passed the outer rim. There was still a long way to go.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Vin turned to the northwest. I’m coming, she thought.
She walked forward, staying behind Spook. By the time they arrived, Elend already had a small fire burning. He met Vin’s eyes as she stepped out of the wind. Their wood was running low.
Vin silently ordered to koloss to form a windbreak along the open end of the alcove, sheltering the fire. Spook slumped down beside a large rock, pushing back his hood and eye cloth, sighing quietly.
Elend removed his gloves and began to dig in one of the packs. “Well, I’m glad that plateau is behind us. The snow was chest-deep in places!”
Spook didn’t respond.
“I doubt it will be that bad as we move through the next pass,” Elend said, unwrapping their map. “I mean, that snow has to blow from somewhere, right? Really, what we just cut through was probably an enormous drift.”
Vin smiled fondly. He was as cold as Spook, and he had to be as tired. And yet, Elend did his best to bolster the younger man. She turned, moving to get out a pot to melt some water. As long as Elend was going to expend wood for a fire, they might as well have a hot meal.
“The snow might not be as deep,” Spook said quietly. “But that’ll be because we’re walking up a slope.”
Vin shot a glance at Elend as she placed the pot on its hangers over the fire. Then she cleared off a bit of snow on the rocks and sat beside Elend. He wrapped an arm around her, but they were both so bundled that she couldn’t feel his heat.
“This isn’t the most detailed of maps,” Elend said. “But, we work with what we have, eh? I assume we’re somewhere near here.” He pointed to a place on the paper, detailing what looked like a plateau. The paper was little more than a scribbled set of sketches, copied by Elend off of some old summer grazing maps in the village.
“What do you think?” he asked.
“That looks right,” she said.
“And. . .do you know where we’re going yet?” Elend asked.
Vin paused. The thumpings were closer, but that was all she knew. “No,” she said. “We’ll get there eventually.”
Spook stood suddenly, brushing past the koloss and climbing out onto one of the large rocks forming the alcove. Elend glanced at Vin, and she nodded, rising. She’d look after him, and Elend would care for the meal.
She climbed out into the wind, pulling herself up on top of the rock. Spook stood facing out over the plateau, his eyes watering.
“Spook. . . .” Vin said. “I want you to go back.”
He turned toward her, eyes hostile. “You think I can’t make it.”
“No,” Vin said. “I don’t think you can.”
Spook paused, then grunted, turning away.
“It’s only going to get harder,” Vin said. “If you go with us, I think you’ll freeze. I don’t want you to die up here.”
“And Elend?” Spook asked. “He’s not even an Allomancer. What makes you think he’ll make it?”
“He won’t,” Vin said. “I’ll talk to him in a bit.”
Spook stood quietly for a moment, letting the wind buffet him. Tears were freezing on his cheeks. She assumed they were from the bright light, but as he turned, he noticed something else in his face.
“I want to feel, Vin,” he said. “I don’t want to stop.”
Vin frowned, confused.
“Nothing is worse than being powerless,” Spook said. “You failed to save them all—but at least you could try. I ran away, and even when I wanted to go back, I couldn’t. Do you know what it’s like, being weak? Having Allomancy, but almost never being able to do anything useful with it?”
“I wasn’t always Mistborn, Spook.”
Spook turned away. “I want to keep feeling. That’s why I burn the silver, because it’s something I can do. I couldn’t help Clubs. I just left him to die. But, I can grieve for him—feel pain that he’s gone. It’s something at least.”
The wind blew. The pulsings thumped.
“You need to go back, Spook,” Vin said quietly, knowing his silver would help him hear over the wind.
He didn’t respond.
“It’s more than because I’m worried about you,” she said. “Sazed, Ham, and Breeze are still alive. I left Luthadel in a hurry—I didn’t tell them how I control the koloss, and they don’t know about duralumin. Someone has to pass these things on, in case. . . .”
“The way back is easy,” Vin said. “Across the plateau, down through the pass, then—”
“I know,” he said.
Vin paused, then pulled out a small bit of metal. The duralumin bar she’d been shaving her flakes off of. “Take this. I have enough—give this to the others.”
He stood for a long moment, then took it. “Too weak again,” he muttered, then pushed past her and hopped down into the shelter. Vin followed. Below, she found him organizing some of their supplies, making himself a pack. There was a terse urgency to his motions.
“Leaving so quickly?” she asked.
“There’s still daylight left,” Spook said, voice echoing against the rocks. “I want to be on the other side of the plateau before the sun sets.”
Elend glanced at her, but didn’t say anything. Vin closed her eyes, giving a few silent commands.
“Four koloss will go with you,” she said, opening her eyes.
Spook looked up.
“You’ll need them if the snow gets deep,” she said. “Or if you get into a rockslide. They’ll obey your commands.”
“We’ve used almost all the wood,” Vin said. “And eaten a lot of food. Several of them aren’t carrying anything.”
Spook paused, then nodded, moving to remove one of the tents and put it to his pack. Vin walked over to Elend.
“No,” he said happily, stirring the soup.
“What?” she asked.
“I’m not going with him.”
“He could use your help getting—”
“No,” Elend said again, still smiling. He poured her a cup, then looked up. “You’re not going to convince me, Vin.”
“It’s only going to get harder,” she said. “You’re not an Allomancer, Elend.”
“Neither are these koloss.”
“Yes, but there’s something. . .odd about them,” Vin said. “They don’t notice the cold. You’re different. You’ll freeze.”
“Sounds tragic,” Elend said, holding up the steaming cup. “Maybe the next time the world needs a savior, he’ll pass this way and find me standing there, a frozen statue with some dumb expression on my face. Either way, I’m not leaving you alone.”
Vin stood quietly for a moment, then accepted the cup. Elend poured one for Spook, who downed it quickly. Spook sat down the cup, nodded to them, then left without a word.
What am I so worried about? Sazed thought, riding at a steady pace to the south. He wished he hadn’t used up all of his speed—his last bit, within the ring he’d saved through the battle, would barely give him a minute’s worth of running. So, horses it was—two, so he could switch periodically.
Vin won’t take the power for herself, he told himself. She’s read the logbook; she knows what Rashek did. So, that’s not an issue.
What is bothering me, then?
He urged his horses faster. The beasts kicked up ash as they ran, and mists blew around him, though it was almost mid-day. The further he got from the Central Dominance, the longer the mists seemed to linger.
The landscape was familiar to him: flat, with broad stands of pine trees. He’d passed this way months before, desperate to get back to Luthadel. Now he couldn’t push himself fast enough to get away from it.
The book he’d made with Tindwyl lay tucked inside his saddlebags. He studied it at nights, while the horses rested. He looked over the prophetic writings, the fragments and commentary that he had complied. He saw more and more connections linking the Hero of Ages to Vin.
Yet, the more certain he grew of Vin’s duty, the more apprehensive he became. The author of the logbook—Alendi—had been given years, decades, to prepare for the power that the Well would grant. The uncertainties he had manifest in the logbook proved that he had struggled and pondered, planning what he would do once he was given unimaginable power. He had been determined not to take the strength for himself, but to give it up for the destruction of the Deepness.
I don’t even really know what that means, Sazed thought, lowering his head as the wind blew chill across him. How is she supposed to ‘give up’ the power? What would it mean to use it for herself? We haven’t thought this through. We haven’t planned. He was terrified that he had unwittingly sent Vin to something for which she was woefully underprepaired.
What would happen to her when she held that power?
And why am I riding away from Terris? he thought. What do I expect to find in the Covenant? Some bit of information I forgot to bring? An epilogue to Kwann’s words?
Yet, he knew he couldn’t catch up to Vin, not with the head-start she had. He was a Keeper. His duty was to gather information. So, that was what he would do.
“Look!” Vin said, breathing out a gasp of surprise.
Elend tried to ignore the cold. He tried so hard. He looked down at his feet, forcing himself to climb up the icy ledge toward where Vin stood.
At least it isn’t snowing, he thought. It almost seems too cold for snow, though.
It had been days since they had left Spook behind, and they had already lost two koloss to icy falls. Any one of those deaths could have been Elend—should have been Elend. Yet, he pressed on, following Vin. They had reached something of a convocation of peaks. The mountains seemed to meld together here, forming ledges and ridges rather than plateaus and slopes.
“Elend,” Vin said, grabbing him by the arm. He finally looked up, breathing tiredly—he found himself running out of breath more quickly up here—and looked out behind them.
The mountains ran into the distance, their peeks scarred white and gray. Clouds that clustered around their bases. Clouds that extended toward the horizon, even and flat. Like an enormous white field. . . .
“We’re above the mist,” Vin said.
Elend breathed out in surprise. He checked the sun—it was low in the horizon. Vin was right, the mists should have come upon them already. Yet, they had not—or, rather, they had come, but Vin and he were outside their grip.
“This feels. . .odd, Vin,” he said. “What will happen when it gets dark? There won’t be any mists.”
“I know,” she said. She turned, looking to the west. “We’re close now, Elend.”
Good, he thought with exhaustion.
“That way,” she said, pointing. Their ledge turned west, cutting between two massive peaks. It continued on, like. . . .
Like a path, he realized, glancing up the sheer sides of the mountains. It couldn’t really be a path, of course. The rocks showed no sign of being worked or cut. Yet, the rock seemed to have shaped in just such a way to provide a pathway.
At least she’s not ordering us to climb those mountains, he thought. There were peaks to the sides. Vin ignored them. She stepped with a confident purpose, her four koloss moving to walk in front of her down the path.
Elend pulled his cloak close, then trudged after her, trying again to ignore his numb feet and icy face.
But, I must continue with the sparsest of detail, Kwann’s account read. Space is limited. The other Wordbringers must have thought themselves humble when they came to me, admitting that they had been wrong about Alendi. Even at that time, I was beginning to doubt my original declaration. But, I was prideful.
In the end, my pride may have doomed us all. I had never received much attention from my brethren; they thought that my work, and my interests, were unsuitable to a Wordbringer. They couldn’t see how my work, studying nature instead of religion, benefited the people of the fourteen lands.
As the one who found Alendi, however, I became someone important. Foremost amongst the Wordbringers. There was a place for me in the lore of the Anticipation—I thought myself the Holy Witness, the prophet foretold to discover the Hero of Ages. Renouncing Alendi then would have been to renounce my new position, my acceptance, by the others.
And so I did not. But I do so now.
Let it be known that I, Kwann, Wordbringer of Terris, am a fraud. Alendi was never the Hero of Ages. At best, I have inflated my images of him, creating a hero where there was none. At worst. . .I fear that I have corrupted all we believe.
Sazed paused. He traced up a few paragraphs, reading the words again. He sat by a small fire within a stand of pines, a light ashfall falling around his tarp. The mists swirled around his fire, but—despite his vigilance—the strange spirit in the mists did not appear to direct him again.
Holy First Witness, he read, frowning. I must be getting tired. He put aside the paper and dug out his coppermind. He checked inside of it, reading the same passages, just to be certain. It read the same. Holy Witness.
How did I miss that? he thought. It’s the same name the people called me. I didn’t recognize it, however.
“We’re so close,” Vin whispered. She glanced back at Elend. He trudged on, exhausted but determined.
Just a little more, she thought.
It was hard to believe they were still in the tops of the mountains. They had passed through a slot canyon, with high stone cliffs in the sides. Now, that canyon finally opened into a valley. Rocks and snow lined the sides, which stretched high into the dark sky. They would have to stop for the night soon.
Elend stopped moving.
Vin stepped toward him with concern, but he didn’t seem to be hurt. He was staring upward.
“Stars,” he whispered.
Vin looked up. The sky was speckled with a field of white specks, glittering like shards of ice. With an Allomancer’s eyes, she could see them at nights, through the mist. But Elend, who couldn’t burn silver. . . .
“Beautiful,” he said, stepping up to her. “Like. . .tiny bits of glass. I’ve read of them, but. . . .”
Vin wrapped her arms around him. His cloak crunched with ice beneath her grip. “I shouldn’t have brought you.”
“Nonsense,” he said, though his lips were a bit blue. “I would have missed this. And look, there. What is that?”
Vin followed his finger. An iceflow she had missed before covered half of the far wall, its frozen motions like that of bubbling water or a rushing river.
“A frozen waterfall,” Elend said. “I can’t imagine that water would ever have flowed in a place like this. It wouldn’t get warm enough for that in the summers, would it?”
“Alendi climbed to the Well in the summer,” Vin said. “And he said it was still cold.”
“Something melted that water once,” Elend said. “I’d like to get a better look. . . .”
Thump, Thump, Thump.
“We should continue on, Elend,” Vin said, still holding him. “We’re close. Very close. . . .”
Elend turned, raising a frosty eyebrow. “Really?”
Vin nodded. “Please. It’s there,” she pointed. At the end of the valley, beyond the frozen waterfall, a small peak rose toward the stars. Vin Flared silver, and without the mists to obscure her eyes, she was stunned at how far she could see.
“There’s a cave, Elend,” she whispered. “At the top. And. . .a path, twisting around the peak.”
“There?” he asked. “If we hurry, we could probably be there by nightfall tomorrow!” He started forward, stumbling just a bit, but renewed. Vin let him go, but stood, staring up at the top of the peak. Thump. Thump. Thump.
And a sudden hesitance struck her.
Elend turned. “Come on, Vin!” he said. “If there really is a cave, we could make a fire, get out of the cold. It’s still a day away, but after all this climbing. . . .”
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Vin bowed her head and started to walk, her four koloss following silently behind.
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