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.
“He’s going to try and betray us,” Voko pointed out. “That’s what I would have done.”
Devin used the side of his hand to push back a few branches and peek into the empty clearing, the movement scattering a few surprised lills. Sarn and his men would soon be arriving. Devin scanned the forest around the clearing, making certain that his men were well hidden.
“I know he will,” Devin said quietly. Voko crouched on the ground beside him, watching carefully. He obviously wasn’t as nervous as Devin was, despite his foreboding words.
Devin slid his hand back, letting the branches fall back into place. He turned to Voko. “All right,” he said. “Take your men and go.”
Voko ground his teeth for a moment. “I don’t like this, Dev.”
“We can’t risk all of us, Voko,” Devin replied with a sigh. “If Sarn does manage to capture me and the others, someone has to survive to finish the plan. Take your men and leave. Don’t come back to the camp, even if it looks like we survived, unless one of us gives the signal. I know prince Sarn, Voko. He’s ruthless. If he captures any one of us, he will try and use his prisoners to get to the rest of us.”
Voko continued to grind his teeth. “I didn’t say it didn’t make sense,” he mumbled. “I just said I didn’t like it.” Then he sighed. “Hess, I’d probably give you away anyway. All right. Hess’s blessing.”
“Hess’s blessing, Voko,” Devin said with a nod. The squat man climbed to his feet and nodded to Ralan and a group of men a short distance away—about a third of Devin’s rebels—then disappeared into the forest. The men followed much more quietly than their leader.
Devin watched for a few more moments, feeling his own tension. What if something went wrong? But they expected something to go wrong. Sarn wouldn’t just let them go—they would have to escape.
It will work, Devin told himself. We just have to make certain Sarn thinks he has won. As long as he thinks us ignorant Eruntu after a little extra Amberite, the plan will work.
There was motion from beside him, and Hine appeared from the forest and settled himself beside Devin. The older man peeked through into the clearing, then sat quietly for a moment.
“You think it will work, Hine?” Devin asked nervously.
Hine smiled, then placed a hand on Devin’s shoulder. “It is a good plan, kid. A plan with noble goals.”
“Is it, Hine?” Devin asked, feeling self-conscious. “What if we’re wrong? What if Hess really does favor the Kkoloss? Will my blasphemy cost the souls of all my men?”
Hine was silent for a moment, his grizzled face pondering Devin’s words. He reached up, scratching his missing ear in thought. Finally, he spoke.
“I don’t know, son,” he said. “This life isn’t simple, that’s for certain. Sometimes, you just have to stop worrying and do, otherwise nothing gets done.”
“Everything I’ve been told says what I’m doing is wrong,” Devin said.
“Truth isn’t something that’s told, kid,” Hine said. “It’s something you feel. Do you feel that we’re doing the right thing?”
“Yes,” Devin said quietly.
“That’s good enough for me.”
Devin nodded, and the two men rose. They walked a short distance away from the clearing where they found Skeer and a group of five men watching over the princess. Vvenna looked nervous. He had begun to learn that the woman wasn’t passionless; she just hid her emotions very well. However, if one knew where to look, and if one were accustomed to her, it was possible to pick out clues. She stood more stiffly than normal, and her eyes were quick to jump toward motion.
She’s really not that different from everyone else, Devin thought to himself. She has feelings, just like the rest of us. She just knows how to obscure them.
It was natural that she would be a little tense. Her three-month-long ordeal was nearly over. She stood proudly, as she always had, but Devin had learned that from her, at least, pride was not a sign of arrogance. There was something about her that he didn’t quite understand—a quiet strength that didn’t come from conceit, but from self-assurance.
Devin stepped up to her, nodding for the others to back away. Vvenna regarded him with her colorful blue eyes—so different from Eruntu dun.
“I want to apologize one last time,” Devin said in Kkoloss. “We kidnapped you because we wanted to strike at the Kkoloss without hurting anyone. We didn’t realize how difficult this would be on you. I’ll never do this to anyone again, I promise.”
Vvenna took the apology quietly, and Devin nodded, taking her silence as acceptance. He moved to join the others, but a whisper from behind stopped him.
“Devin,” she said.
Devin paused, turning slightly. She had never used his name before.
Vvenna stood with her hands clasped before her, the model of a Kkoloss woman. Except, there was emotion in her eyes—it was slight, but it was stronger than Devin had ever seen from her before.
“Do not apologize,” she requested. “You have given me a precious gift. For that I am thankful.”
Devin cocked his head. “A . . . gift, princess?”
“After today I will go to the Emperor,” Vvenna explained quietly. “As I have lived my entire life in Amberite walls, so my existence will continue. I will not be allowed to leave, for the outside world is too profane for the Vessel. I will not be allowed to socialize, because the Vessel is above politics and interactions. I will not be allowed to have . . . friends, for what need has the Vessel of friends?”
Devin paused, looking into her eyes. What was she saying?
“Do not get me wrong, Eruntu,” Vvenna said, emotion leaving her eyes. “I am pleased to serve my Emperor—it is my goal, purpose, and desire in life. However, I do thank you for this opportunity. I would have never known the beauty of your world—I would never have seen the colors of the forest, the splendor of its life. I cannot live here, but the breath of newness it gave me earns you my gratitude.”
Devin stood for a moment, then bowed. “My pleasure, Princess Vvenna.”
Suddenly, an excited Meeve approached, puffing to himself as he ran up to the group. “Devin!” he said. “The prince is coming!”
Vvenna had to work hard to keep her emotions in check. It was as if the outside world, with its colors, scents, life, and feelings were spilling into her. It was easy to keep oneself in control when everything was sterile, when one’s surroundings were as emotionless as one was supposed to be. Out here, amongst the trees, the lills, and the animals, she was finding it increasingly difficult to maintain Posture.
The worrisome part was that she didn’t care. A part of her—a frighteningly strong part—didn’t want to leave the forest. For the first time in her perfect life, she looked upon life with the Emperor as something to be avoided.
I don’t want to go back, she thought with an edge of paranoia as Devin began motioning his men into position. I don’t want to be forced back into those walls, to enclose my heart within a prison of Amberite. I was just learning how to feel . . .
Vvenna took a deep breath. She was the Vessel. She had been trained since childhood to avoid such emotions. The outside world was tempting, but that which was evil was supposed to be tempting. She was required to have a stronger, better life. A life living in palaces, with their crude approximations of true beauty.
Control yourself, girl! Vvenna told herself. What was happening to her? She had been waiting for months to be rescued. The time had finally come, and now she didn’t want to go? It was just that sort of foolishness that she was supposed to be above.
It will all be over soon, Vvenna, she told herself. This will all be like a dream. You will grow accustomed to your old life again. It is an enviable life, one without want, worry, or danger.
Slowly, to calm herself, she began to run over words in her mind, words memorized from the Interdictions. Words explaining the purpose of the Vessel, the importance of the Vessel.
The lanky Skeer motioned for her to approach, and her escort of five Eruntu accompanied her. Ahead she could see flecks of red moving through the trees. At the group’s head stood a proud, tall form.
Sarn. Her royal brother had grown since she had last seen him. A foot taller, his muscles massive and powerful, Sarn’s bearing proved Devin’s words from before. King Dunn was dead; Sarn was now house leader.
Lord Ssunder walked at Sarn’s side, as always, his arrogance only slightly less than that of his master. They were accompanied by a squad of twenty Guards and two minor Kkoloss.
Sarn and his men stopped at one end of the clearing. Devin strode forward, Hine at his side. Vvenna’s escort led her forward behind him, their movements tense.
“You received our demands, Sarn?” Devin asked loudly, speaking in Kkoloss.
The King didn’t react to Devin’s use of the Kkoloss tongue, he stood quietly, inspecting the nervous group before him.
“We have been deceived!” Sarn suddenly announced. “Kill them all!”
Devin stood stunned for a brief second. They had assumed that Sarn wouldn’t try to kill them until after he had Vvenna. Wasn’t he worried that they would harm her?
Sarn’s Guards rushed forward, their armor clinking, their swords and warhammers drawn. Fortunately, Devin’s men acted quickly. Forms burst from the underbrush on either side of the clearing, rushing forward to engage the Guards.
Devin cursed, pulling out his own sword as a group of four guards rushed toward him. All right, he thought, falling into a defensive stance. We’ll do this the hard way. His men had orders to hold their ground for a few moments to make the fight seem real, then they were to allow Sarn’s men to rescue Vvenna.
The four Guards rushed Devin and Hine, trying to use their number to their advantage. Devin held for just a brief moment, letting them draw close, then he moved. He ducked under the first man’s hammer, blocking a sword thrust from the second. As he came up, he smashed his hilt into the swordsman’s face, then jumped. The hammer’s backswing, meant to smash his knees, whooshed beneath him.
Devin kicked as he landed, knocking the hammer from the Guard’s hands. Then he caught a hammer blow from the third Guard on his sword. His wrist twisted painfully from the power of the blow, and he nearly dropped his sword.
I have to remember their strength, Devin told himself with a curse, falling back and dropping the disarmed man with a blow to the head. The third Guard pulled back slightly, regarding Devin carefully. The fourth man was fighting Hine, and neither one seemed to have the advantage in the battle.
Devin’s eyes flickered toward his men. They were faring well. Sarn’s Guards were winning, of course, but that was to be expected. Their superior strength and training was not something the rebels could match. His men, however, had been trained by Hine and Ralan to protect themselves. They fought defensively, and they were used to battling men with the Kkell of Strength. They fell back slowly before the Guards, but they took minimal casualties as they did so.
A movement flickered to Devin’s side—the Guard he had been facing. The man attacked while Devin was distracted. Devin moved, his mind trying to keep up with his skill. He spun under the man’s hammer, and snapped a quick thrust through his throat.
Devin paused, stepping back as his opponent collapsed, watching blood flow from the man’s throat. He had told himself he wouldn’t kill anyone—his skill was too unfair an advantage.
What happened? he thought with horror. Another man dead. I wasn’t paying attention—I moved before I even knew what I was doing.
There was no time for guilt at the moment. Devin gritted his teeth, determined to stay focused. The rebels had been pushed back nearly to the treeline, leaving a pathway between Sarn and Vvenna. The king nodded to Ssunder and the other two Kkoloss, motioning them forward. The three men, who had yet to enter the battle, stepped toward Meeve and Vvenna’s escort.
Do what I told you, Meeve, Devin pled, catching the boy’s eye. The young man stood defiantly, watching the three Kkoloss approach. The other rebels stood apprehensively. They couldn’t stand against three Kkoloss.
Do it, Meeve, Devin thought, watching with growing apprehension.
Meeve looked him in the eye, then cursed quietly. Then he turned and ran, yelling in fear. The other four rebels followed, leaving Vvenna behind.
Good lad, Devin thought with a nod.
Vvenna stood patiently, as always, her hands tied before her. Her eyes flickered to the side, catching Devin’s. A farewell.
Farewell, princess, Devin thought, nodding his head slightly. You were never meant for this world.
Devin turned. Hine had incapacitated his opponent, and stood at the ready, puffing slightly from the fight’s exertion. “Sound the retreat,” Devin said.
Hine nodded, waving toward the squad leaders. The men fell back into the trees, escaping along prearranged routes. Devin moved to follow, but paused. His eyes sought out Vvenna one last time, taking in her lithe beauty, her poise, her well-hidden compassion . . .
Something was wrong. Devin frowned.
“Come, lad,” Hine said, tugging at his shirt. Most of the Guards had followed Devin’s men, but a half-dozen were still left, and they were advancing on him and Hine.
Ssunder approached Vvenna. Her liberator. Devin took a step toward them. What was bothering him? The plan was going as expected. Vvenna would be recaptured and returned to the city. Everything was as it should be.
Ssunder still had his weapon out. His face was firm as he approached Vvenna. It was an expressionless face. The face of an executioner.
“Hess!” Devin swore, dashing forward as Ssunder raised his sword. Vvenna’s eyes widened slightly in surprise at the move, but she just stood there. Even in the face of danger, she did what she was expected to do. She stood placidly, waiting for the blade to taste her flesh. Ssunder’s weapon flashed downward.
Steel rang against steel as Devin’s blade parried Ssunder’s blow. Devin nearly tripped to the ground as he stumbled to a halt in front of Vvenna, the abrupt motion throwing up bits of bark and rock from the ground. Devin stood with his sword in two hands, raised above his head, Ssunder’s weapon held against his own. He looked up at the taller man, straining against Ssunder’s strength. It was incredible, and he could only hold for a brief second before disengaging and pulling back a step—a step the put him right up against Vvenna. He stood defensively, watching the three Kkoloss with suspicious eyes.
“Lord Ssunder,” Vvenna said in an authoritative voice. “What in the name of the Demon God are you doing?”
“We have been deceived,” Sarn said, still standing with his arms folded at the edge of the clearing. “This is not my royal sister; it is an Eruntu impostor whose hair has been dyed. Guards, kill her.”
Another woman would have gasped in surprise. Vvenna just stood behind him quietly. “Sarn, no . . .” she said, a bare hint of surprise in her voice.
Devin’s eyes flickered across the clearing—it didn’t look good. His men were all gone, and Hine was facing down six Guards on his own. Devin wouldn’t be able to stand against three Kkoloss at once. “I think it’s time to go, princess,” Devin whispered. “How fast can you run?”
“No . . .” she repeated, stunned.
“Too late,” Devin said with a curse, jumping forward. He had never faced three Kkoloss at once, and he soon found that there were limits to even his skill. It was very difficult to compensate for their strength—he had to dodge blows he would have preferred to block, and he couldn’t afford to take even the slightest hit. He had to concentrate on his every move just to keep them at bay, and he knew he would soon tire.
The six Guards bore down on Hine. “Run, Hine!” Devin screamed between breaths.
The old Guard stood his ground, his sword and shield gripped in determined hands. And then, suddenly, there were footsteps from behind, and a new group entered the fray. At first Devin assumed some of his rebels had returned, but then he noticed a familiar squat form. Voko winked at him as he led his group of ten rebels in a charge.
The new entrants caused Devin’s opponents to turn slightly in surprise, giving him an opportunity. It wasn’t a large one, but it was all he needed. Devin struck, taking Ssunder in the shoulder. The man cried out, stumbling back, and the other two returned to the battle. The sound of fighting erupted from behind as Devin resumed his battle. Now, however, his attacks were fueled by hope. If he could push these two men back long enough, they might just be able to escape.
Devin launched into an offensive, the fury of his attacks surprising even himself. The two Kkoloss fell back in amazement before Devin’s whirling sword, their blocks growing increasingly haphazard. Eventually, Devin got in a hit, taking one of the men in the side. He cursed in pain, backing away. The final Kkoloss, facing a threat to his life for probably the first time in his life, looked to the side in surprise, realized he was alone, and unashamedly took off running.
Devin puffed, holding his sword in exhausted hands, sweat coating his face from brow to dripping chin. Voko’s men fought the Guards, but they hadn’t been trained to be offensive, and they were slowly falling back. Devin spun, wiping a hand through his sodden hair.
Vvenna still stood behind him, her eyes unfocused slightly.
“Let’s go, princess,” Devin urged.
“He knows me, Devin,” she whispered. “I saw it in his eyes. He . . . he wants to kill me.”
Devin took a step forward. “Vvenna, you don’t have time for shock right now. I know you can control it.”
Vvenna shook her head slightly, her eyes snapping back into focus. She looked Devin directly in the eye. “What do we do?” she asked with a firm voice.
“We run,” he said.
“I don’t think that I can,” she said. “I’ve never done it before.”
“Then one of us will carry you,” Devin said. He turned, catching Ralan’s eye and waving him back. The large warrior broke off from the battle, jogging back. “Pick her up,” Devin said. “The plan failed—let’s move.”
Ralan nodded, hefting a surprised Vvenna over his shoulder. She didn’t complain, however.
Devin turned, intending to call the retreat. However, his voice caught in his throat as he noticed something. King Sarn was in motion. There was a sneer of rage on his face as he strode forward, moving directly through the affray toward Devin, a large sword held at the ready. Now King, he was even larger and more muscular than he had been before, and he wore a set of translucent red Amberite armor.
However, it wasn’t Sarn himself that had caught Devin’s attention. Devin’s eyes were focused on the man in Sarn’s way.
Hine downed an opponent, then turned as he noticed another form approaching. He paused, however, when he realized who it was. Then he lowered his weapon.
I will not break my oath. The words rang in Devin’s mind.
Sarn struck almost indifferently. However, even a negligible strike from one with so much strength was incredibly powerful. It sheared through Hine’s shield, then continued on to take the old warrior directly in the face.
Half of Hine’s head went flying off across the clearing as the older man’s corpse dropped to the ground.
“No!” Devin screamed in rage. Anger boiled within him, making him forget reason and purpose.
He bellowed as he dashed toward Sarn, his sword flashing in the air. Sarn blinked in surprise before the onslaught, parrying awkwardly. Devin continued to attack, striking Sarn a half dozen times, though the armor protected the King from serious wounds. Sarn took the attack with a look of amazement—as if the fight itself didn’t matter, only the curiosity of an Eruntu who knew how to fence.
Sarn smiled strangely to himself. “Who are you, boy?” he asked.
“Your executioner!” Devin yelled, producing another flurry of attacks.
Sarn fell into a proper defensive stance, turning aside Devin’s attacks. Try as he might, Devin couldn’t get through Sarn’s defense. Not only did he have armor—and know how to use it—but he had the Kkell of Strength. Sarn could shrug away blows that would have incapacitated a regular man.
“I feel like I should recognize you for some reason,” Sarn mused.
Devin fell back, breathing in deep gasps. He was growing weak—his mind reasoned that there was no way he could take Sarn in such a condition.
“You’ve killed one too many of my friends, Kkoloss,” Devin hissed, and threw himself back into the fight. Once again, Sarn blocked his attacks. It wasn’t easy for the King, Devin could tell that much. However, the two were at something of an impasse. Devin had more ability, but Sarn was an excellent swordsman himself. That, coupled with armor and Kkell, made him an even match for Devin.
I have to beat him! Devin thought with frustration. He thought of his Captain, of his young friend Tekke, who had wanted so badly to be a Guard. He thought of Hine.
No, you can’t be dead! Devin thought with frustration, rage fueling his attack.
And yet, no matter what he did, Sarn could block it. Devin just wasn’t good enough. He needed an edge—he needed more skill.
What good is this Kkell if I can’t even beat Sarn? he thought with anger.
One of Devin’s attacks went too wide, and Sarn swung with his left hand. Devin managed to dodge most of the blow, but it still glanced him. The power of even that slight touch was enough to spin Devin back, sending him tumbling over a fallen body. He dropped his sword sickly when he realized whose body it was.
“Oh, Hine . . .” he whispered, turning away from the mangled remains of the old warrior’s face.
“I remember you now,” Sarn said with amusement, leaning against his sword a short distance away. There was sweat on the King’s brow, but he didn’t seem exhausted—more intrigued. “You were a Guard, weren’t you? I thought I had you put to death.”
Devin growled, but a hand grabbed him on the shoulder. “Devin, I am very worried that as a human you will do something brash, like foolishly continue to attack King Sarn even though everyone else is running.”
Devin’s mind returned to the battle around him. “Ix?” he asked, turning to find the shadowling kneeling beside him. “Where did you come from? I thought you stayed back in the camp.”
“I stupidly came to follow you even though I was told not to,” Ix said. “We humans are prone to ignore commands that force us to put our friends in danger.”
Devin looked up. Ralan was gone with Vvenna. Voko’s men had all started to run, and the squat rebel himself stood at the edge of the clearing, motioning franticly for Devin to follow. Sarn’s Guards were waiting, uncertain if they should leave their Lord alone in the forest.
Sarn frowned, looking into the distance, after the fleeing Vvenna. He seemed to have forgotten Devin for the moment.
“I can beat him, Ix,” Devin whispered.
“You will,” Ix agreed. “But not today, friend Devin.”
Devin gritted his teeth. Then he cursed and rolled to his feet, nodding toward Voko. Ix ran at his side, and the three pushed through the underbrush, dashing along one of the prearranged escape routes.
Voko puffed as he ran. “I was worried there for a second, Dev,” he confessed. “I thought you’d attack him again.”
“I nearly did,” Devin mumbled. He could hear Sarn’s voice behind, organizing the Guards into a pursuit. He would not let Vvenna escape so easily.
So callous, Devin thought with amazement. She is proof that he sent a replacement in her place, so he needs to eliminate her. He was surprised they hadn’t thought of it earlier. None of them had thought that Sarn was capable of.
I should have realized, Devin thought with a curse. Sarn had slaughtered an entire House. He had killed his own Guards. He wouldn’t pause at killing Vvenna. He would give her about as much thought as he had given . . . Hine.
. . . Hine.
Oh, my friend, Devin thought with pain. You kept your Oath to the end. They were never worth your loyalty.
The three burst from the forest beside a long ravine. Here the river had sliced a hundred-foot-deep trench in the ground. Ralan and Vvenna, along with several rebels from Voko’s team, stood waiting at the ravine. Devin sensed their intentions from their postures. They would have gone back for him.
I’m not worth it, Devin thought with frustration. Hine followed me. Look what happened to him. Devin had pretended to lead for a short time; he had even begun to believe that he was meant to be in charge. He should never have let himself get so arrogant.
“Well?” Devin asked, pausing by the ravine. “Go down.”
The others nodded and began to swing down the ropes secured along the side. Vvenna regarded him quietly for a few moments before allowing Ralan to tie her to a rope and lower her down the cliff side. Devin waited apprehensively until only Voko was left. The short man began to climb down as the sounds of pursuit came from the forest behind.
Devin turned, watching as several Guards burst from the trees. They paused, regarding him with trepidation as they recognized who he was—the man who had held his own against their King.
Sarn himself stepped from the trees a second later. He regarded Devin with a curious frown. Then he waved his men forward. “Capture him,” Sarn said.
“I’m down!” Voko called from below.
Devin picked up the rope as the Guards approached apprehensively. Then, with a twist of his sword, Devin sliced the rope and let it drop into the chasm.
“Follow me if you can, Sarn,” he said, then stepped off the sheer cliff.
Immediately, his climbing instincts took control. His hands snapped forward, grabbing onto handholds in midair, pulling him to a stop. Devin climbed down recklessly, heedless of his own safety. Yet the more dangerous he tried to make his descent, the more capable his skill became. He landed safely after a final leap to the ground.
The others were already climbing up another set of ropes a short distance down the chasm. Up above he could hear Sarn calling for rope. Even if they did have some, he would never be able to follow up the other side once Devin cut the ropes.
At the top Devin paused, looking across the chasm toward the King. Sarn met his eyes. The curiosity was gone—now he seemed more annoyed, even angered, than anything else.
Devin turned and escaped into the forest with his prize. Vvenna had been rescued this day, but not by the ones she had expected.
Sarn watched with a frown as the strange Eruntu swordsman escaped into the woods. He knew he should have been angered and frustrated. The princess Vvenna was escaping—if anyone found her and proved her identity, Sarn would be dethroned. He might even be executed.
Yet for some reason, he wasn’t bothered by Vvenna’s running. Another matter held his mind—one much more encouraging. He had found the King of House Kkeris.
They had almost given up looking. It had been nearly four months since his father had tried to take the Kkell of Skill for himself, and the true heir to Kkeris had yet to show himself. People were beginning to wonder and whisper. What if the new King were an invalid or a man dumb in the head? His Skill would never manifest itself, and he would never be found. There were other, more blasphemous rumors as well—that the new King was a bastard child, one afraid to show himself lest he face the Priesthood’s cleansing daggers.
It appeared that the rumors were right.
Sarn had only lost one duel in his life—a duel against Vevinn Vas Kkeris. They had both been young, but Vevinn had won the contest easily. Sarn still remembered that event with shame. This boy, the leader of the rebels, fought as Vevinn had. There was no way he could have learned such skill in an Eruntu’s short lifespan. The boy was half-Kkoloss. Half Kkeris.
He must have been the son of a member of the first Sept, Sarn mused. I wonder how they kept it secret from the Priesthood. The boy’s skill would have manifest itself at a young age—he would have been good at everything. Too good. The Priesthood watches for such things.
Beside Sarn, Ssunder had finally located a rope and was trying to lasso a stump on the other side of the ravine. Sarn had little hope that they would be able to catch the boy today, however. If the boy was even half-capable, then he would know how to hide his tracks. He would not be easily caught, especially when he suspected pursuit.
Sarn smiled. He would have to bring the boy to him alive so that the Archpriest could adopt Sarn into the proper bloodline. That shouldn’t be too difficult—the forest was small, and Sserin’s resources were vast. It would only be a matter of time.
Sarn may have lost one prize this day, but he had found one far more valuable.