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Warbreaker Prime: Mythwalker Chapter Eight

The following is a draft chapter of Brandon’s unfinished novel Mythwalker from 2001. Brandon later repurposed some elements of this story into Warbreaker, Mistborn, and The Way of Kings.

The blasphemous slaughter of House Kkeris overshadowed the Emperor’s wedding celebration. The month was to have been one of mirth and joy for Kkoloss and Eruntu alike. However, though the festivities proceeded as planned, there was a tense edge to them. Guards from all eight Houses kept a suspicious eye on the actives, searching for hints of assassins. King Dunn Vas Sserin tried to keep talk of the rebellion to a minimum—he didn’t want the rebels to gain the notoriety they obviously sought to receive by the killings. His efforts were in vain, however; Siri heard far more talk of the rebellion and its deed than she did of the impending marriage.

Vvenna, as could be assumed, gave no hint of distress. She was required to make appearances at most of the festivities—this would be one of the last opportunities the common people would have to see her before she disappeared into the palace. Siri watched the princess, looking for signs of dissatisfaction in her eyes. But, of course, she found nothing. Vvenna was perfect.

Their current party was for Kkoloss only—Vvenna had put in an appearance for the Eruntu earlier in the day. Each of the Houses had the privilege of hosting a ball in Vvenna’s honor, two a week until the wedding day. Four had already come and gone, though Siri had barely noticed them. Vevinn’s death hung in her mind, an unavoidable taint upon everything she thought and did. Every time she began to forget herself and started to feel better, she would remember that she would never see him again.

However, Kkoloss life continued, and the Emperor was to be married. This night belong to House Ddoven. Siri stood quietly beside an amberite pillar, a small cup of cleanwine in her fingers. Before her lay Ddoven’s enormous grand ballroom, torches and chandeliers reflecting off the green amberite walls and illuminating the hundreds of bodies moving below.

Vvenna sat on a throne beside King and Queen Ddoven at the front of the room, watching the Kkoloss mingle and dance. She wore her half-veil, of course, as she always did when she went out in public—it was a sign of her betrothed state. Most women wore the half-veil for only a few months. Vvenna had been required to wear one since she arrived at the age of maturity.

I might have worn one too, Siri thought to herself. Vevinn would have . . .

She immediately took her mind off of such thoughts. They would get her nowhere.

Vvenna’s red dress shone like a bright drop of blood amongst the green costumes. Though members of all eight houses were invited, those nearest the king and queen all wore green. King Ddoven was a tall, thin Kkoloss with a short beard. He wore a slight smile on his lips—as well he should. His warriors had been doing well in the Games lately, though their accomplishments had been overshadowed by House Kkeris’s victories. Now that Vevinn and the others were gone . . .

Siri gritted her teeth, forcing her mind away from Vevinn. She couldn’t continue to moan over him forever. Beside King Ddoven sat the Queen, a firm-faced woman with long blonde hair. The two were not married, of course—the king’s wife and the queen’s husband sat on shorter thrones beside their respective spouses. The very first kings and queens of the various Houses had been married. However, since the King’s son inherited his Kkell power and the Queen’s daughter inherited hers, the next King and Queen had been brother and sister. Hess strongly forbid incest, and so from then on each King and Queen had taken a spouse from amongst the other noble Houses.

Even though a thousand years had passed, and House royal lines were only distantly related, Siri had rarely heard of members of a house’s male line wedding a member of the female one. Over the years, the twin lines of each house had set up separate political networks, and the various Kings and Queens usually strove to best one another whenever possible. Though the King was dominant when it came to final decisions, there was still a lot of room for the Queens to engage in their own private schemes.

Siri sipped at her cleanwine, making her way around the perimeter of the room. All eight Houses were represented on the dance floor, their separate members wearing House colors, as always. Sserin in red, Ddoven in green, Allain in yellow, Mummar in silver, Eln in gold, Ardovess in orange, and Vveur in brown. There were even a couple of specks of blue—lesser Kkeris who hadn’t been killed in the attack.

There were no other Kings or Queens in attendance, of course—they would wait for the princess to come to them—however, almost every other Kkoloss of rank was in attendance. Wedding celebrations such as this one happened very rarely—the Imperial line was long-lived, even amongst Kkoloss. There wasn’t a single person alive who remembered the previous Emperor’s wedding.

Eventually, Siri tired of her wandering and turned her attention toward finding someone to chat with. She quickly located a group of noblewomen a short distance away. They noticed Siri, of course, though they pretended not to. That was a mistake—they should have tried to escape the moment they saw her coming.

Siri floated over to them, smiling to herself and butting her way into their conversation. “Good evening, ladies,” she said.

“Lady Siri,” one of the women—Nnari—said, nodding slightly. The other three, Kkella, Soren, and Kkalis echoed the greeting. Nnari, a member of House Ddoven, had spoken first as prescribed by courtly etiquette.

The women regarded Siri with distasteful looks. She shouldn’t have been talking to them—they were above her. All three were of the third Sept. Of course, members of Siri’s own Sept wouldn’t have treated her any better. As a rule, she was disliked amongst Kkoloss women. They disapproved of her disregard for court politics, while at the same time were jealous of her freedom—not to mention the attention men gave her.

“So,” Siri said, ignoring the blatant looks of dissatisfaction, “what is the news, ladies?”

The women shot each other quiet looks. Unfortunately, court etiquette demanded that they ignore Siri’s mistakes—at least, while she was there. Acting with outright rudeness earned one Ki-Ssu.

“We were discussing the new leader of House Kkeris,” Nnari informed.

“Oh, have they found him?” Siri asked, taking a sip of her wine.

“No,” Nnari said. “So far, no one has stepped forward.”

Siri frowned. “That’s odd.”

“Yes,” Nnari said coolly. “It is odd. A King should have made himself known by now.”

“I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t,” Kkella added. “He used to be some lowly member of the Sixth Sept, and now he’s become House leader. Why does he hide?”

“Perhaps he’s afraid the rebellion will do to him what it did to the others,” Siri noted.

The other women regarded her fake smiles that veiled looks of annoyance. Some members of court were convinced that Siri was stupid, rather than just flagrant. They assumed that no Kkoloss who knew better would possibly choose to ignore politics, tradition, and Ssu.

“That isn’t likely, dear,” Nnari said, waving her hand toward a passing servant’s tray. A cup of wine immediately lifted off the platter and floated through the air into her hand, moving in response to her Kkell power of Attraction. “After all,” she continued, sipping at her wine, “Who would be afraid of them? They’re just Eruntu.”

Siri frowned. Just Eruntu? Had Vevinn thought that as they attacked him? Had he even thought to raise a hand to defend himself, or had he simply stood there, presuming that Eruntu would never dare attack him.

No, he would defend himself. Vevinn wouldn’t have been cut down so easily. Of course, he had been drugged at the time. Even drugged, he must have struggled—that was the only way to explain the numerous wounds he had taken.

Except, Siri thought, why didn’t he fight back at first? Why did he let them take him all the way to the forest? It didn’t make sense—even drugged, Vevinn would have resisted. They would have had to kill him at the Kkerin pavilion. But, if that were the case, why drag him all the way to the forest?

Maybe he was unconscious until they got to the forest, Siri thought. But, why bother dragging the unconscious Kkoloss to the forest? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to kill them back at the pavilion?

There were so many questions, and Siri couldn’t answer any of them. What did House Sserin have to do with the Imperial investigation? How could any Eruntu have killed Vevinn? With his power of Skill, he probably could have stood against dozens of opponents.

Siri sighed, shaking her head. She had been lost in thought again. She turned to say something to her companions, only to find that they had managed to drift away into the crowd while she wasn’t watching.

All around her, the Kkoloss mingled and spoke with one another. Those nearby pointedly ignored Siri—especially the women. Siri frowned, watching them. When it had been known that Vevinn preferred Siri, they had been much more tolerant of her. However, this last week had reminded her of the times before Vevinn, times when Siri’s unorthodoxy had left her ostracized. Somehow, an entire room full of people could make Siri feel like she was alone.

When Vevinn had been alive, they had suffered her for fear of offending him. He had not only been a member of the first Sept, he had been the current leader in the Games—gaining his displeasure would have brought a great burden of Ki-Ssu. Now, however, that protection had been withdrawn.

When Vevinn had been alive . . . It already seemed like a long time. Only a few weeks had passed, but it felt like an eternity since she had last seen Vevinn. She remembered his slight, unKolosslike smile as he stood in the Sserin pavilion. He had been so confident, so expectant of victory.

But, that was over now. Siri had to force herself to admit that fact. Things weren’t as bad as they could have been. She wasn’t a widow, and she would still be expected to marry. It would be difficult to make a match, but not impossible. She was still the favored handmaiden of the Emperor’s future wife. Vvenna’s marriage would bring a great deal of prestige to House Sserin—few honors compared to being House to the Emperor’s wife. That honor, plus Siri’s Kkell power, would be enough.

Though, it won’t be the same, she admitted. Vevinn had been special—so brave and so strong. She wouldn’t soon find another man like him.

Siri trailed through the crowd, poking her nose into conversations she shouldn’t have been able to join, smiling flagrantly at the men, but her heart wasn’t in it. Not yet. Perhaps she would eventually be able to return to her flirtatious ways, but for the moment Vevinn was too strong in her mind.

“Hello, dear Siri,” a voice said behind her.

Siri shivered, spinning quickly as she recognized the voice. It was Ssunder, Prince Sarn’s attendant, dressed in a deep red uniform. He didn’t reach for her—that would have been far too forward, especially surrounded by other Kkoloss as they were. However, his eyes were still shadowed by the hunger she had seen in his face a few weeks before, when she had touched him.

“Ssunder,” Siri said stiffly. “And where is your prince?”

“He chose not to attend,” Ssunder informed, taking a step closer to her. Siri took a step backward in response, frowning slightly to herself. She hadn’t noticed the discrepancy earlier, but now it seemed stark—why would Prince Sarn not be in attendance? He was not only heir to House Sserin, but he was also unmarried. It was very odd for him to not be at the ball.

Ssunder’s breathing was heavy, and his arm quivered slightly, as if he had to hold himself back from reaching out for her. “I didn’t have the opportunity the day before, my lady,” he said quietly. “But I would like to express my . . . condolences for your loss.”

“Loss?” Siri said.

Ssunder smiled slightly. “Your impending union with House Kkeris is well known, Lady Siri. Prince Vevinn’s death was a great loss.” He took another step forward. “Of course, the Prince’s death proved fortunate in one way at least. With him gone, you are once again open to be courted.”

They stood for a moment, the band playing softly through the emerald room, bodies in bright silk of every hue dancing around them, Ssunder smiling and Siri horrified. And then she fled, leaving Ssunder to chuckle softly to himself.

“Where is he!” Sarn snapped, eyeing the Kkeris Tto with annoyance. He stood bent over a table in the Sserin King’s study. It was a small, dark room well-ornamented with King Dunn’s various personal effects. The Kkeris Tto lay sprawled across the table, its pages detailing the Septs of House Kkeris. Supposedly, the book contained the name and rank of every child who had been born into the Kkeris family.

King Dunn Vas Sserin shook his head with a slight sigh. He sat in his large leather chair, watching Sarn with tired eyes. They had been pouring over House Kkeris’s Tto for hours now, and it didn’t seem to be doing any good. They were no closer to finding the new Kkeris King than they had been the moment they slew the old one. Yet, Sarn continued to stare at the book, as if it could tell them where the new King was hiding.

“Perhaps we should just let the matter drop,” Dunn offered.

Sarn’s head immediately snapped toward his father’s chair. There was fire in those eyes—a passion that sometimes frightened even Dunn.

Eventually, however, Sarn took control of himself, and the passion dulled slightly. The younger man sighed. “Perhaps,” he admitted. “Though I am loath to do so, Father. We’re so close! No one even suspects our part in the killings.”

“Yes,” Dunn admitted. “However, if we make too much of a disturbance over the missing King, we may draw attention to ourselves. Perhaps it is best this way. I still don’t know how we would have hidden the fact that House Sserin had gained an additional Kkell power.”

“How odd,” a voice whispered from the other end of the room. Dunn looked up with a slight frown, a shiver running through his body at the sound of the voice. Hasm, Archpriest of Hess, stood in the room’s open doorway.

“Can this be?” Hasm said, gliding into the room. His tall, Kkoloss form was draped in white silks, the color of the Priesthood. “Did I actually hear the mighty Dunn Vas Sserin, most powerful of Kkoloss Kings, speaking of fear? Did I really hear his son and heir, Sarn Vas Sserin, voicing doubt? Would you two, greatest of nobles, hide yourselves like whining dogs now that your goal is so close?”

Sarn snorted. “Your intimidation won’t work on us, priest,” he declared.

However, Dunn wasn’t so certain. The words of an Archpriest held power in them—power to influence men. Even as the man spoke, Dunn felt shame rising within him.

Hasm slid into the room, passing Dunn with barely a nod of his head to stand beside Sarn. “My words were not those of intimidation, good prince,” he said. “Only of observation. You are indeed close. The Mythwalker will come.”

“Bah,” Sarn said, with a wave of his hand. “Such things mean little to me. As far as I’m concerned, we have succeeded. House Kkeris is broken. Even if it does retain its Kkell power, it will be decades—even centuries—before it recovers. House Sserin is once again the most powerful.”

Hasm shrugged slightly. “True,” he admitted. “Of course, what have you really achieved? You are most powerful House again, but for how long? Military dominance is a fleeting thing, good prince. However, in all the history of the Empire, no House has dared take a second Kkell power upon itself. Such would be an . . . impressive feat.”

Sarn listened to the Archpriest’s words with a frown. However, the prince did turn back to the Tto, setting his hands on either side of the table as he stared at the book with angry eyes. “It’s impossible, priest,” he informed. “Our spies have watched every member of the sixth and seventh Septs—none of them display hints of the Kkell power.”

“Skill is a difficult Kkell to recognize,” Hasm said, with a stiff-backed priestly posture. To Dunn, he resembled nothing so much as a marble pillar, his hands obscured by his long sleeves, the black and white of his costume shining starkly in the room’s dark light.

“Skill doesn’t manifest itself physically like Strength does,” Hasm continued. “Perhaps your spies simply haven’t been able to see it.”

Sarn ground his teeth quietly, staring at the Tto. “Perhaps,” he admitted. “But not likely. If a member of the Sixth Sept had obtained the power, would not every member of the lower Septs have increased in power?”

Hasm paused for a moment, then nodded his statuesque head. “True, good prince,” he admitted. “All of the remaining members of House Kkeris should have jumped in power. Those of the Sixth Sept would have become first or second instead, and the lesser Septs would have gained strength themselves.”

“That hasn’t happened,” Sarn announced in frustration. “Several Kkeris battle commanders, each members of the Sixth Sept, stayed behind when the rest of the House was slaughtered. They all have decreased in power, instead of gaining strength!”

The room was quiet, Sarn studying his Tto, Hasm standing, his expression unreadable.

“There is only one way that could have happened,” the priest informed quietly. “The Kkell must have transferred to an actual descendant of the old King.”

“That’s impossible,” Sarn said with a wave of his hand, still looking down at the Tto. “All of Sliv’s sons were accounted for, and he only had one grandson. I saw the child’s body myself.”

“Then there must be another child,” Hasm said. “One not recorded in the Tto records.”

Sarn looked up, and Dunn shivered. The Archpriest’s words were close to blasphemous. Kkoloss House relations were the backbone of Kkorimar society—spawning illegitimate children was one of the greatest sins a Kkoloss could commit. Few men, even Kings, dared risk gaining the Ki-Ssu associated with such an act.

Of course, that wasn’t to say that such relationships didn’t occur—they simply weren’t acknowledged by noble society. The priests kept a close watch on Kkoloss activities, and the priesthood’s assassins quickly took care of any children that appeared. Any Kkoloss who fathered or mothered such an embarrassment was immediately unadopted down five Septs.

Sarn began grinding his teeth, then looked back at the Tto. Sliv had been father of four sons, any one of whom could have fathered an illegitimate child.

“Your people are supposed to take care of things like that,” Sarn hissed.

Hasm didn’t react to the barb. “Even the priesthood is not perfect, good prince. We destroy those that we discover. However, considering the blasphemous irresponsibility of some Kkoloss, it’s a wonder there aren’t more bastard children hiding amongst our ranks.”

Dunn nodded to himself. Despite the odds, it appeared that an illegitimate child was the only explanation. Sarn was right—if one of Sliv’s Sixth Sept cousins had inherited the Kkell power, the entire House would have been restructured. Since such hadn’t happened, it meant that there had to be some unknown child out there, a direct heir. When the power had passed to him, all of the other relatives would have dropped by a Sept, and his brothers would have become First Sept. Except, he probably wouldn’t have had any brothers, at least not any of the royal line.

“Hess,” Sarn swore quietly. “He must be powerful.”

“More powerful than any Kkoloss who has ever lived,” Hasm agreed.

Dunn nodded, understanding. A normal Kkell leader’s power was decreased by his family—he had to sacrifice a bit of his power to every son, brother, or cousin he had. The sacrifice wasn’t an even one—the sons gained much more than their father was drained. However, the greater Septs drew far more power from the Kkell leader than lesser ones.

This illegitimate child, however, would have no close relatives—Dunn and Sarn had slaughtered them. The boy’s power would be virtually undrained; his only relatives would be of the Seventh Sept, and such barely stole any power at all.

“His Kkell power would be incredible,” Hasm continued, somewhat awed. “Princes with the Kkell of Skill were able to learn new abilities in weeks, even days. This one, however . . . his mind would learn almost instantly. So much power—I wonder if a single human mind could even contain it.”

“He will be difficult to kill,” Sarn noted.

Hasm shrugged slightly. “A knife in the dark will kill such just as easily as another,” he said. “And, now that we know what he must be, it is our duty to see him destroyed.”

Sarn looked up with distrustful eyes. “Duty?” he asked.

“The child is a blasphemy,” Hasm informed. “He is illegitimate, and therefore his life is forfeit. You must see him killed, prince and King of the First Sept. It is your duty to Lord Hess, God above all.”

Sarn grunted. “No wonder he’s stayed in hiding,” he mumbled.

Dunn frowned slightly at Hasm’s declaration. No mention was made of the act that had let them to discover the ‘blasphemy.’ House Sserin, under Dunn’s leadership, had committed an unspeakable atrocity—the slaughter of an entire Kkoloss House. The Archpriest had encouraged their actions—and Archpriests represented the Emperor. For some reason, the Emperor had sanctioned—even abetted—the killings. Why? What vendetta did the Emperor have with House Kkeris?

And, more importantly, what would happen when this was all over? Would the Emperor withdraw his support from House Sserin? The priesthood could easily turn on Dunn, and then House Sserin would be the ones who had committed blasphemy.

Dunn’s eyes met Hasm’s. The Archpriest was unreadable, as always. Still, Dunn wondered what was happening in the man’s mind. What secrets had the Emperor revealed to his faithful?

“The Mythwalker must come,” Hasm whispered to the quiet room.

It was hard for a woman not to be nervous with her wedding only a few weeks away. Others might have assumed because of Vvenna’s cool face and ineffusive ways that she had completely stripped emotion from her heart. At times, she wished that were true.

Vvenna was pensive—though quietly so—as she rode home from the ball in her carriage. In two weeks she would be wed to the Emperor. According to the priests, she was the most blessed woman on the continent. Vvenna didn’t feel blessed—she just felt nervous. She knew nothing of the Emperor as a person; of course, she also knew that such didn’t matter. Her marriage was ordained of Hess, and personal matters had no place in the decision. Still, she couldn’t help wondering if the stories about him were true.

Of all people, only the Emperor was said to have completely escaped emotion. The teachings of the priesthood said that the higher a being rose on the scale of divinity, the less ruled by instinct they became. Animals had no conscious thoughts, and Skaa were only slightly better. Eruntu were a mix of emotion and intelligence, while Kkoloss were supposed to be nearly free of passion. The Emperor was the only human who actually transcended worldly desires, becoming a creature of pure thought with no feeling or emotion.

And this was what Vvenna was to marry. The Emperor was a person who could never love, because he had abandoned such foolishness to the realm of humankind. Unfortunately, despite all of her attempts and all of her training, Vvenna knew she had never been able to achieve a similar state. She tried—oh, how she tried—but still, her body seemed to rule more than her mind.

The night’s ball had been just like all of the others. Vvenna had sat in her requisite place, watching the dancing and conversation without ever participating. She reviled the part of her that wanted to be down amongst them, interacting and laughing, even in the reserved manner of Kkoloss. Still, she couldn’t abolish her emotions—she could only hide them, as she was told she must do.

Fortunately, the party was now over. She rode quietly—she couldn’t abandon her forced emotionlessness even here, with only Siri watching. Even if Vvenna had been alone, she wouldn’t have been able to give into the emotions of the body. She was the Emperor’s betrothed, and Hess kept a special watch on her. He required more of her than of others.

“Does all of this strike you as odd, Vvenna?” Siri asked suddenly.

Vvenna turned, regarding the other girl. Siri was the only other person in the carriage—Vvenna’s other handmaidens rode in a separate vehicle. Siri’s face, as always, was marred by emotion—she was frowning slightly, her eyes thoughtful.

“What was that, Siri?” Vvenna asked.

“The deaths,” Siri continued. “The destruction of Kkeris, then the priesthood’s inability to locate the new House Leader. Doesn’t it all seem odd to you?”

Vvenna sat calmly. The oddity of it had tugged at the edges of her mind, but she had ignored it. Curiosity—an emotion to which Siri often succumbed—was something Vvenna had been taught to ignore.

“No,” she said simply.

“Well, it bothers me,” Siri informed. “I told you what I saw at the supposed battlefield. Vevinn had at least a dozen wounds on his body, and for some reason House Sserin was given free roam of the battlefield.”

“What are you implying, Siri?” Vvenna asked. The girl’s accusations could quickly become blasphemous.

“I don’t know,” Siri admitted. “But, something is definitely wrong with all of this. Vevinn’s body was covered with blood—did I tell you that? It was all over him, but it was dried. He looked like he’d been lying in it for a long time, like . . .” Siri’s eyes suddenly became distant, and clouded with emotion.

This is what I’ve been trained to avoid, Vvenna reminded herself. Love, emotion, it could create so many disturbances. It could ruin the mind. It was much better that her husband be chosen for her.

Siri, however, was not finished. She managed to choke back her grief, and continued talking. “I think . . . I think he was killed somewhere else, Vvenna. Then his body was dragged there, to the forest. But, why would the rebels do something like that?”

“Perhaps they didn’t want their home base to be located,” Vvenna said simply.

“Maybe,” Siri said unenthusiastically.

“You shouldn’t worry about such things, Siri,” Vvenna counseled. “Your passions will lead you into trouble, perhaps blasphemy.”

Siri waved her hand. “I’ve been in danger of both more than once, Vvenna, and I’m still here—no matter how much Ki-Ssu I’ve accumulated. Besides, this time is different. Vevinn . . . I owe him something, at least.”

“Judgement, knowledge, and retribution belong to Hess,” Vvenna reminded.

Siri shrugged. “True. But, there’s no harm in trying to help Him along a bit, is there?”

Assistant Peter’s commentary: The Siri and Vvenna plot sure takes a long time to get started, compared to what happens in Warbreaker. In that book the swap happens right at the beginning, and in chapter two Siri is off to marry the God King. But here we spend a lot of time with Siri and Vvenna before anything happens to them. Yes, Siri has the added aspect of her betrothed’s murder, but she does very little about it except wonder. And Vvenna gets to do nothing at all. Yet.
Siri gets away with flouting custom so easily, I wonder why no one else does it. Does her association with Vvenna protect her that much? It seems more likely to me that if her attitude were really so socially unacceptable, associating with Siri would make Vvenna lose so much face she would be forced to put her out of her service. In Warbreaker, Siri gets away with her attitude in Idris because she’s young and there is no local high society to speak of, not the way there is in Hallandren. But I have trouble buying her actions in the society as it’s presented here. It seems more like Siri gets away with them mostly because Brandon wanted to show her contrast with Vvenna.
House Sserin has now figured out that the Kkeris power has gone to an illegitimate child. This does ramp up the danger for Devin, which is good. Also, the priesthood here seems to be overtly evil in their pursuit of making sure the Mythwalker comes. It was a nice touch in Warbreaker that the priests turned out not to be evil.

|   Castellano