Comatose

The Packman and the Pretender

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I'm done with this for now - I'd like to come back to it at some point and edit it because I'm not totally happy with it, but it's late and I'm worried if I don't post it now I'll never get around to it.  

For reference, this is a Rashendi story, arising out of the chat conversation during the 10th Anniversary Livestream.  The logbook entries, of course, are Brandon's words, taken from The Final Empire epigraphs.  

Spoiler

Rashek is a tall man - of course, most of the Terrismen are tall. He is young to receive so much respect from the other packmen. He has charisma, and the women of court would probably describe him as handsome, in a rugged sort of way.

Yet, it amazes me that anyone would give heed to a man who speaks such hatred. He has never seen Khlennium, yet he curses the city. He does not know me, yet I can already see the anger and hostility in his eyes.

1 - RASHEK

The Pretender was tall, for a Khlenni, with steel grey hair that did not match his relatively youthful features. He tried to give off an air of hardness, but Rashek could see him for the soft, pampered southerner he really was. Rashek hated him. He hated the ease at which the man gave commands. He hated the innate expectation of obedience in his requests.

Uncle had recounted the man’s modest beginnings, but Rashek could not see him for anything but the pampered despot he had become. Why should this soft creature who hid behind a polished veneer of authority be revered as the Chosen One? The sight of the Hero’s piercings on a foreigner had always made Rashek’s blood boil. Now that he knew Uncle’s proclamation was false, that the prophecies of the Worldbringers were corrupt, being in the man’s presence was intolerable.

This will all be over soon. I’ll see to it. He could expose the man as a fraud now, of course. But to do so would tip Rashek’s hand. He’d be dismissed, and Alendi would destroy the world.

“Terrisman… Rashek, could you help the men with loading that wagon?” The Pretender’s cool gaze barely rested on him, no doubt already moving on to command another of his perceived subjects. Despite himself, as he went over to the wagon, Rashek found himself tracing the Khlenni’s path with his eyes, wishing his anger alone could be enough to burn away the fraud who was going to destroy everything Rashek cared about before it was too late.

-

It seems Rashek represents a growing faction in Terris culture. A large number of the youths think that their unusual powers should be used for more than just fieldwork, husbandry, and stonecarving. They are rowdy, even violent - far different from the quiet, discerning Terris philosophers and holy men that I have known. They will have to be watched carefully, these Terrismen.

They could be very dangerous, if given the opportunity and the motivation.

2 - ALENDI

Alendi felt a prickle at the back of his neck, and turned. Rashek was watching him. Again. The packman’s eyes smouldered with a fury that emulated the Deepness itself.

Fedik paused at Alendi’s side, and turned as well. Rashek continued to stare, defiant. “What’s that then?”

Alendi frowned and continued walking. “I don’t know. I understand he wishes a Terrisman would have been chosen, but can’t he see I’m doing the best I can? I’m doing this for him - for his people, for the world. How can some petty grudge outweigh that?”

Fedik shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe he, you know, likes you? Being the “Hero of Ages” increases your attractiveness astronomically, you know.”

Alendi rolled his eyes. “Not everything is about sex, Fedik.”

“I mean, if he can’t keep his eyes off you Al…”

“Oh, please.”

“The only things I stare at for more than a minute are things that are beautiful, and things that are delicious. That’s all I’m saying. So let me ask you Al: Are you beautiful, or are you delicious?”

“I’m not answering that. Go scout ahead, and check out that lake from the reports.”

-

I know that I shouldn't let a simple packman perturb me. However, he is from Terris, where the prophecies originated. If anyone could spot a fraud, would it not be he?

Nevertheless, I continue my trek, going where the scribbled auguries proclaim that I will meet my destiny - walking, feeling Rashek's eyes on my back. Jealous. Mocking. Hating.

3 - RASHEK

Rashek met the Pretender’s eyes in defiance. It had become a game between them. The Pretender was accustomed to others lowering their eyes before his supposed brilliance. Rashek refused to look away. This man was not superior to him. If anything, he was inferior, weak. The Terris people were the ones with Feruchemy. The magical gifts of the other nations were paltry in comparison, and rarely found. He refused to acknowledge Alendi’s supposed dominance.

Alendi looked away, turning to speak to one of his companions, and Rashek could not help but smile as he returned to his work. He had won again, and he would win in the end.

“Could I speak with you, Packman?” Rashek’s muscles bulged with sudden strength as he whirled to find the Pretender standing calmly before him.

“It’s all right. I assure you, the stories about me are greatly exaggerated. I’m probably in more danger from you than you are from me.” Rashek took a breath, and released the surge of strength back into his Pewterminds for later use.

I will not let him command me. Not breaking Alendi’s gaze, Rashek cracked his neck and shrugged. “Fine, lead the way, Hero.” Alendi’s lips wrinkled into a narrow line. He nodded, and stepped away from the others. Rashek followed. Part of him wondered if this was his opportunity to end it all. But it was still too soon. If he tried now, there was still a chance one of Alendi’s supporters could intervene. Rashek had to wait, be patient. If he played his cards right, perhaps he could do more than just stop Alendi from destroying the world. Maybe Rashek could save it.

At the very least, this was an opportunity to observe Alendi alone, and perhaps set up a future opportunity. And so, Rashek followed the Pretender out into the darkness.

“You know, I think I find your hatred of me refreshing, baffling as it is.” Rashek paused, confused by the Pretender’s words and relaxed tone.

“The courts of Khlennium were strange to me at first, but over time I’ve learned the delicate dance of hiding threats in compliments, and reading true motives from lies. Despite my success in that arena I’m… well I’m tired, and my patience wears thin. I may not understand your anger, but at least I don’t need to work so hard to know where I stand with you.”

Rashek grimaced, fists clenched at his sides.

“What, have I said something to upset you now? Well, here’s your chance. Let me have it. Let’s get this out of the way so we can both focus on saving the world.”

Rashek felt a deep stirring in his abdomen as laughter burst out.

“So I amuse you now?”

“Do you even hear yourself!?” Rashek knew he was shouting, knew he would be heard back at the camp, but he didn’t care. Let his friends hear him standing up to their oppressor, the false Hero. Let Alendi’s sycophants wail in the face of his criticism of their god.

“You pompous, deluded, sanctimonious, waste of a man! You want to know why I’m upset? Why I hate you? Oh, but of course you can’t see it for yourself, though it’s right in front of you. You’re so used to people bending over backwards to cower before your magnificence, you probably haven’t come to an independent conclusion without some sage holding your hand and leading you by the nose for years!”

Alendi’s hand strayed to his side, not grasping his blade, but close enough. Rashek realized he had begun tapping Pewter again, but this time he did not stop. The surge of strength in his muscles felt good, and in control. Let the Pretender cower in fear. Let him see Rashek’s power. I wish I could feel this power all the time.

“I hate you because you stole that lovely destiny of yours from my people. Don’t you think it odd that our prophecies anointed a foreigner? One of our oppressors? How do you think it feels to see a nothing like you command our wisest sages and greatest warriors like we are your slaves?”

“The prophecies are clear…”

“Right. The prophecies are clear. And you are an expert in those, aren’t you? I bet all those courtly lessons you received back home prepared you well to lie and con your way into being the only choice. How many other candidates did you thrust aside or destroy, just because you were so certain you were the one?”

Alendi took a breath, and for a moment Rashek thought they might clash, then and there.  He tensed, eager to prove his superiority once and for all.   

Then, the breath was gone, and the moment passed. There was a tiredness and sorrow to that sigh that almost made Rashek pity the man, despite his anger.

“Thank-you for educating me. I’m glad to understand you.” Despite himself, Rashek felt his muscles deflate slightly.

“Well, you’ve made quite a spectacle, and I guess there’s nothing else to say, is there? Have a good night. I won’t inconvenience you further. Just try to stay out of my way. I am trying to save the world, after all, because your people told me I should. When we get back, and the Deepness is gone, you can be free to proclaim my failings all you want.”

Alendi swished passed, back to the camp, leaving Rashek speechless.

-

I think I've finally discovered why Rashek resents me so very much. He does not believe that an outsider such as myself - a foreigner - could possibly be the Hero of Ages. He believes that I have somehow tricked the philosophers, that I wear the piercings of the Hero unjustly.

According to Rashek, only a Terrisman of pure blood should have been chosen as the Hero. Oddly, I find myself even more determined because of his hatred. I must prove to him that I can perform this task.

4 -ALENDI

The confrontation with Rashek ignited a new fire in Alendi. For the first time in months he felt that spark of inspiration he had used to unite the world behind his banner and bring petty quarrelling rulers to heel. Rashek could stare and whisper to his friends all he wanted.  They may curse me, but I will save them anyways.

He was getting close now, he could feel it. The siren song of the Well called to him, pulling upwards and onward. The power of creation, the worlds last hope, and his great temptation. He could use the power true, and break the world, or he could give it up, trust in the words of the Worldbringers, and save it.

I will be strong. I will pass the test. Despite his newfound confidence, Alendi had to admit Rashek presented a problem. If left unchecked, he could corrupt the others, leading to widespread insubordination which could compromise the mission. For the time being, Alendi decided to wait and watch the man. He could learn his strengths and weaknesses, find the points where he could get leverage and undermine Rashek’s influence over the other packmen.

It felt good to have an enemy of flesh and blood again. As he watched Rashek, Alendi also could not help but grudgingly admire the man. True, he was ruled by his emotions, and about as subtle as a battle axe. On the other hand, he was obviously well liked by his men, and charming in his own way. In another time, if they were different people, he might have made an excellent commander. That is, if he ever managed to remove the mountain sized stick from his rear end.

-

I have decided that I am thankful for Rashek's hatred. It does me well to remember that there are those who abhor me. My place is not to seek popularity or love; my place is to ensure mankind's survival.

5- RASHEK

The end was close. Everyone could feel it. Since one of his Khlenni hanger-ons succumbed to strange wounds, Alendi had retreated. He seemed… haunted, like a dead man who had just forgotten to stop living. He was always looking out at the scenery, or scribbling in the little book that he kept with him at all times.

Part of Rashek wondered if those scribbles ever said anything about him.

Since their big confrontation, Rashek struggled to maintain his hatred of Alendi. Screaming his lungs out had released most of his pent up anger, and unfortunately he did not have a metal mind that could store extra. The arrogant commanding Alendi was a constant source of new hatred, but Rashek did not know how to react to the sombre and resolute man who now stood before him. What sorrows had those deep eyes seen? What fires had tempered that pewter will?

Uncle still thinks he’s a good man. That’s why you need to kill him, remember? That was the most insidious part of all of this. Whatever creature was manipulating the Terris prophecies was clever. Selfless heroism would play right into its hands, whereas self-preservation might be the only key to leaving it locked away and giving the world a second chance to survive destruction.

Nothing’s changed. He still thinks he has a job to do, and so do you. Rashek nodded to one of his companions, giving the signal. The others would deal with Alendi’s men. Rashek would take on the Pretender alone.

A guard announced Rashek when he reached the tent, and a muffled voice responded from within. The guard moved aside, and waved Rashek forward.

-

Such are my fears as I scribble with an ice-crusted pen on the eve before the world is reborn. Rashek watches. Hating me. The cavern lies above. Pulsing. My fingers quiver. Not from the cold.

Tomorrow it will end.

6 - ALENDI

Alendi raised his pen at the sound of the sentry’s call. “Send him in, and check the perimeter.” Alendi closed the book, steeling himself to face whatever new wrath Rashek had in store for him.

“Well, have you come to shout at me one last time?”

Rashek seemed to freeze up in the doorway, hesitant for the first time since Alendi had known him.

“Well?”

“I… I’ve come to give you a chance to do the right thing.”

“I’m already doing the right thing. We will be at the Well tomorrow.”

“No, you aren’t. Look… can I sit down?”

Alendi, curious, offered Rashek a seat. What is he playing at?

“Don’t you ever wonder if the prophecies are wrong? That you don’t have to do this?”

Well that’s unexpected. “Truth be told, yes I do. But at the end of the day, even with my doubts, I have this feeling, right in here” Alendi brought his hands to his chest, suddenly aware that he was wearing only a loose shirt, open at the front. Despite being mostly clothed, without his uniform and armor he felt naked before Rashek.

“The Well calls to me. It’s like… it’s the reason I exist. Like it’s the lock and I’m the key.”

“And what if it’s not what you think? If it’s a lie?”

“Are you saying the ancient prophecies of your people are lies?”

Rashek frowned and shook his head.

“Look, if this is some scheme to get me to back out or to test me, it’s not going to work. I’ve conquered the known world, and unified nations that have been warring for centuries. I’ve overcome every obstacle that’s stood in my way. Ever since Kwaan picked me up out of that Blacksmith’s shop, my life has not been my own, and I’ve accepted that. I’ve taken everything your sages and Worldbringers have thrown at me. I’ve convinced every doubter and defeated every opponent. And now I… I don’t care anymore. Like it or not, I am going to the Well tomorrow, and I, me, Alendi, Hero of Ages, am going to save the world.”

Rashek stood, a familiar fire returning to his eyes, and a flush entering his cheeks. Deepness, he’s going to hit me, isn’t he?

Rashek kissed him instead.

-

Oddly, on occasion, I sense a peacefulness within. You would think that after all I have seen — after all that I have suffered — my soul would be a twisted jumble of stress, confusion, and melancholy. Often, it's just that.

But then, there is the peace.

I feel it sometimes, as I do now, staring out over the frozen cliffs and glass mountains in the still of the morning, watching a sunrise that is so majestic that I know that none shall ever be its match.

If there are prophecies, if there is a Hero of Ages, then my mind whispers that there must be something directing my path. Something is watching; something cares. These peaceful whispers tell me a truth I wish very much to believe.

If I fail, another shall come to finish my work.

7 - RASHEK

“So, is it done?”

Rashek shook his head.

“What have you been doing in there? The Pretender lives?”

“It’s… it’s complicated. He’s going to take me with him to the Well. I’ll do it there, out of sight. You’ve taken care of his people?”

“Yes… but Rashek, won’t he know?”

“I’m handling it, Haddek. How I do that does not concern you.” Haddek stiffened at the command and nodded. Rashek turned and re-entered the tent.

Alendi, grey hair tousled, had replaced his shirt and was scribbling in his book again. “What excuse did you give?” he asked, without looking up.

“What?” How does he know?

“To your men - I am assuming you would prefer for your dalliance with a Khlenni dog to be a secret, no?”

“Oh… I told them we were debating the prophecies. And that you asked me to accompany you to the Well. To… to make amends for how you’ve previously dismissed us.”

Alendi smiled, and for a moment, it felt like the Deepness itself might lift.

“Thank-you, Rashek.” Alendi reached out, taking Rashek’s hand in his own.

“For what?”

“For this.” Alendi took Rashek’s hand and pressed it against his chest as he took a deep breath, in and out. Even without Brassminds, Alendi's skin was warm to the touch. “Feel that? For weeks it’s felt like every beat of my heart is a labour. And now, finally, it’s almost done. No matter what happens, after today, the world will not rest on my shoulders. It’ll be someone else’s problem. It might have been short-lived, but you helped me remember what it was like to just be a man, like any other. It was nice to pretend, if only for a moment, and hope that, maybe, there is something out there for me after this.”

“I am coming with you. To the Well. You can’t do this alone.”

“Fine, you may join me. But Rashek, there may come a point where you cannot follow. The writings are clear - I need to take the Power at the Well and release it, but who knows what will happen after? I may save the world yes, but it could consume me.”

“You’re very determined to be a martyr, aren’t you? All those palaces down south really messed you up good, didn’t they?”

“Yes… yes I suppose they did.” Alendi brought his hand up to Rashek’s face.

“Please Alendi. Don’t do it. Run away from here. Leave the Deepness to… to someone else. Anyone else.”

Alendi leaned in. Rashek tapped tin, trying to memorize the contour of his lips.

“I must do it Rashek, there is no one else. There’s only me. There's always only been me.”

Rashek’s hand was still pressed against Alendi’s chest. “I still hate you, you know.”

“I know. It’s too bad - had I been anyone else, maybe I could have enjoyed you ‘hating me’ for an entire lifetime.”

-

EPILOGUE

As the power of creation began to wane, Rashek turned back to the place where he had left Alendi’s body to bleed out in the snow. Wiping away all evidence of his crime and completing his deception would be child’s play. After all, he had just remade the entire planet.

He paused to consider the man he had hated, and, he could admit now, admired, one last time. The piercing eyes were frozen open, wide with shock, the full lips drawn back in a grimace. As always, that blasted logbook was affixed in a pouch at his side.

Rashek took a mental picture for his copperminds, and with one last flash of divinity, he wiped Alendi, Hero of Ages, off the face of the earth.

Rashek stepped out of the now empty cave, with powerful new magic blazing in his belly. In one hand, he held beads of power that he would use to forge powerful alliances.

Under his other arm, he carried a simple logbook. 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

That was awesome! Every time I reread Mistborn I wish this elaboration was in the series. Thank you for sharing. This was my favorite line, so so good.

Quote
7 hours ago, Comatose said:

Part of Rashek wondered if those scribbles ever said anything about him.

 

   Perfect name for the story by the way!

Edited by TrдVψLшR 0115
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I am SCREAMING, this is everything I pictured. I love the excerpts from the logbook too, like mmmm yes. A+, 10/10, S-tier fanfic. Long live Rashendi.

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This is perfect and my shipper heart is all a flutter. 

I agree with Feather - adding in the logbook excerpts does so much to point out how much subtext is in their 'in book' interactions. :wub:

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If you're on this ship, that means war

*fire cannons!*

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This is a thing of gloriousness.

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So here's a fun Rashendi concept - you know how Ruin appears to Vin as Reen and others?  What if he appears to The Lord Ruler as Alendi?  The potential complicated meotions TM sound delicious to me, but I am curious what other's people's thoughts are.  Might be inspiration for a short follow-up fic.  

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Thank you for sharing this. I really enjoyed it.

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