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The Forgotten Metals


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Toral lived in a world that others could not see.

He wasn’t like his master; no, he hadn’t exchanged his natural sight for a more powerful, magical kind of vision. Most objects looked the same to him as they did to any other man. He could still clearly observe the ramshackle houses in this forgotten backwater town, the swishing of the tattered robes of its forlorn inhabitants, and the ceaseless gray cloud of ash that drifted above them. It was only when he looked at a person that his unique ability manifested.

Instead of seeing faces and expressions, he saw God. Well, the piece of God that everyone had inside of them, the shred of deity that the Lord Ruler allowed all to partake of. The brilliant silver light twisted across their visages, pulsing in mesmerizing patterns that were only faintly reminiscent of Toral’s original ability. He’d been one of the best Seekers in the Ministry, but after his… bestowal, it had taken him weeks to learn how to interpret the souls of others.

On nearly all the faces around him, the light languished, moving slowly and forming simple patterns. That was to be expected; out here in the Remote Dominance, the skaa and the nobles intermixed out of apathy and necessity, so the bulk of the population would have a very dilute divinity. Even the pure skaa (if such a phrase wasn’t self-contradictory) would each have a shred of potential, but it was almost unheard of to see it come to fruition. If he strained, he could tell the patterns apart, even the slowest of them; but since the power was dormant, there was no need for Toral to waste his concentration on them.

Other individuals stood out from the crowds around them (to Toral, at least). Their faces, while they didn’t shine more brightly, contained much more vigor in the shapes and pulses of light. These sorts knew to hide on the outermost reaches of civilization to avoid the long arms and keen eyes of the Final Empire, but Toral could see them for what they truly were. Allomancers. They’d laid hold of their innate spark; they had Snapped, and their powers had awakened. There were very few of this kind in the city, but whenever he encountered them, Toral studied their faces fiercely. He couldn’t see whether they were suspicious, panicked, or offended at his intrusive stares, but what he could see was the exact type of power they held. Here, a Thug. There, a Soother. Oh, look, someone with a pattern similar to what Toral saw in the mirror every morning; there was another Seeker in this town. But Toral let them all go about their business; he had a greater prey.

He stalked across the entire town; it only had a few thousand inhabitants, so he was able to do it in a day. From the way the crowds cyclically gathered and dispersed around him, Toral suspected that his entourage was all that kept him from being driven out into the unforgiving wasteland. Wair and Dair struck intimidating figures with their bone-studded leather armor, their eyes barely visible deep within the skulls of some long-extinct, cat-like creatures. These were two of the finest hazekillers in the Final Empire, the ones who had gutted several Allomancer rebellions all on their own. Though the stories of their exploits had been suppressed, of course, their bone-clad visages bespoke enough of the twins’ ferocity to the onlookers. And, in fact, the disturbance they created suited Toral’s goals; curiosity would ensure that all the townspeople came to see the strange visitors, and Toral would be able to look into the souls of each and every one of them.

As the hours dragged on, Toral’s disappointment began to blossom faintly, but he didn’t have to fight hard to stifle it. This was the first stop on their circuit, after all, and a very small waypoint on their grand tour. He expected he’d need to visit some of the larger cities, or even the nomad-warrens, before he found what he was looking for.

But then, as he led his procession back to the town’s gate, Toral saw him. A middle-aged farmer, leaning on a walking stick and plodding slowly into the town, crossing under the wooden archway right as Toral and his group arrived at the square. And on this farmer’s face was a pattern of light that Toral had never seen before.

The moment struck him speechless and senseless. He was familiar with the patterns of all ten metals; he’d seen them many times before. This was none of those. He even knew of the secret seven; he’d been allowed to study a Mistborn. As a matter of fact, he’d even seen those mysterious patterns on the faces of nobles, powerful men and women who were unaware that they could use Allomantic abilities only known to the Lord Ruler. But this farmer didn’t wear one of those, either. This pattern… this was something entirely new.

Wait. The farmer turned to the side as soon as he was through the gate; Toral was about to lose him in the crowd. His mind raced, but his body refused to respond. He felt frozen in place, watching this farmer, this man with an unknown Allomancy, walk slowly out of his sight.

His master came to his rescue. The fourth member of their small group, he had straggled behind Toral and the guards all day, letting himself remain in the shadows, shrouded by his enveloping dark cloak. But he must have tracked Toral’s gaze, for he strode past him with a commanding gait and seized the farmer by the arm in a rough grip. “Is this it?” he growled harshly, turning back to Toral.

The light on his master’s face was alien and bizarre compared to the citizens and skaa around him. It didn’t shine silver; instead, it burned a ferocious red, and the patterns it formed quavered destructively against themselves. Two vicious spirals, in particular, outlined each of his eyes. Or, rather, each of the steel spikes that lay where his eyes used to be.

The visage of the Inquisitor snapped Toral out of his stupor. He rushed over, babbling. “Yes, it’s true. We’ve done it already; we’ve found one!”

The Inquisitor grunted. “A good sign, then.” He heaved the farmer over his shoulder and carried him out of the town, ignoring his protestations. Nobody moved to stop them.

Toral hurried after him, his thoughts frantic and excited. He had eagerly agreed to be spiked with additional bronze Allomancy, but he’d always harbored an undercurrent of doubt, an uncertainty whether the hypothesis of their mission was anything more than a fanciful dream. But now, the truth was undeniable.

There were more Allomantic metals to be found. Metals that even the Lord Ruler did not know.

Edited by Pagerunner
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Well, it has been a hot minute since I've posted in this forum. In 2020, I shared a story (The Elemental) that was part of a project I had been tinkering with since 2017. Not a great pace, I know, especially since I said back then that I already had two more written and on-deck. But here's what had happened. I decided that, since this is a Brandon Sanderson fanfiction forum, I needed to have my next story be one of the ones I planned with clear and obvious ties to the actual, published Cosmere. So I started working on my idea that was set on Scadrial.

And, boy, it turned out to be pretty tough. For one thing, it ballooned in size; it's longer than the other three I had written put together. (I plotted it slightly longer, at four chapters, but then my last chapter turned into three.) In terms of content, balancing all the new powers I  created was a challenge, since I kept writing myself into plot holes. And finally, keeping it relatively canon-compliant was a challenge for reasons that will come up in some of the later chapters. (I could have probably hit the books and done some more research before posting this, but I've gotta get this story out of my head. No time for a reread.) All these things kept hanging me up, and it took me a few tries to get through it. But I finally did, and since it's so long (almost 30,000 words), I'm gonna break it up into chapters and post one every week. On Tuesdays, in honor of preview chapter day from the last few large Cosmere books.

The premise of this story comes from the magic system. In Mistborn, the chapter headings feature Allomantic symbols; in the original trilogy, in particular, chapters 19-22 contain four symbols that do not have any known metal associated with them. The 'official story' from Brandon and Isaac is that the symbols only exist for the sake of the Steel Alphabet, to give it enough letters to match the Latin alphabet, but I've always been intrigued by them. What if there were four more metals? Why wouldn't anybody know about them, and what might happen when they started to be discovered? (Oddly enough, because I started planning this story before Rhythm of War, I put my four metals together before silver started to become more prominent in published works. Nowadays, I'm pretty sure that one of those symbols will match silver, but I didn't work that back into my story at all.) I wanted to keep the story to four chapters, so that each could get one of those symbols as a chapter heading, but... well, here it is at six chapters. If I knew how atium alloys worked, I could get four more symbols and probably two more chapters out of it, but I hate how long it took to write already, so that's just gonna be a neat little plan of mine that I'm gonna pretend I never had.

There's some more I can say about this story, but I'll wait until it's all up. For now, enjoy the second installment of Apocrypha Unbounded.

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Chapter One

Sherin awoke from his restless dreams. He looked around the cell he shared with three other prisoners. They all still slept, each curled up in their own corner, bodies pressed up against the rough stone blocks. Not surprising; they were all young men, and Sherin knew that the older you got, the less sleep you needed. As if your body realized it had spent enough time on this world and was trying to rush you to your grave by giving you less time to rest. Ever since his fortieth birthday, Sherin didn’t think he’d slept more than five hours in a night, no matter how hard he’d worked the day before.

Of the four men in the cell, Sherin had been the first one captured and thrown in here; he still had no idea why those strangers had taken him at the gate to Oldborough. They’d made him drink a kind of bitter tea, and the next thing he’d known was waking up in this cell. For a few days, he’d been left alone, but then his first cell-mate had been shoved in to join him. They’d compared their stories and found them quite similar, indeed. The short, shifty Obligator; the two bone-armored ruffians; and the Inquisitor. The gang arrived, they investigated everyone in town; but Sherin’s new acquaintace said that this time they’d taken two people.  The young man didn’t know where his companion was; presumably in another part of this prison. Their door to their cell was made of wood, so they couldn’t see out of it to tell if any others were nearby, but they could hear faint noises through it that indicated they were in a much larger compound.

Over the next week or so, more prisoners were brought in, always telling the same tale. None of them could figure out why they had been taken or what they had done, and eventually they all gave up, falling into a defeated silence. The days trudged on, with no explanation given to them. Twice a day, weak gruel and stale bread was sent through a slot in the door, but aside from that it seemed their presence had been all but forgotten.

But this morning, something was about to change. Sherin could hear it; from outside the cell, the errant sounds were louder. Voices raised in anger, heavy boots stomping past. Were those screams? Sherin hoped not. He and the others leaned up against the door, trying to make out what was being said or done. The sound of footsteps drew closer, and then a small viewing window on the top of the door slid open. “Get back,” a harsh voice commanded. They all scurried away, huddling against the rear wall of the cell.

The door opened, revealing one of the bone-attired guards. Sherin recalled seeing them in the town; this one didn’t wear his helmet today, but his scarred face was almost as intimidating. He brandished a dueling cane at the prisoners. “Any volunteers to go first?”

Before Sherin could realize it, the other three prisoners began pushing each other forwards, and Sherin found himself stumbling towards the guard. He didn’t have time to resist as he was dragged roughly out of the cell, the door slamming behind him. “Can’t believe that worked for once,” a voice from farther down the hallway muttered. The other guard was there, as well. His cane had blood on it.

The two guards pushed him through dark, claustrophobic stone hallways. Where were they; in an old castle, perhaps? Sherin didn’t recall any castles near his home, so how far must they have taken him? After several minutes, their path ended in a large room with a vaulted ceiling and high windows. It may have originally been a fine bedroom, but now it had been turned into a workshop of sorts. A cluttered desk sat in the corner, and at the center of the room there was an unusual chair festooned with straps and buckles. Unsurprisingly, the guards seated him in it roughly, and Sherin limply allowed them to tighten the shackles and restrain him there.

As they finished, a woman carrying a tray came into the room. She was wearing fine clothes and had the haughty air of nobility about her. The hair surrounding her stern face was just beginning to turn silver; from her appearance and manner, Sherin could tell this was a woman accustomed to commanding others. The guards seemed to share that belief; as she raised an eyebrow and cleared her throat, the two men hurried across the room, coming back with a stool and a small table. She placed her tray on the stool, seated herself regally on the edge of the table, and focused her attention on Sherin.

“My name is Lady Erenia. You probably have a number of questions, so allow me to explain the situation. You are an Allomancer, a Misting of a hitherto unknown variety. Do you understand?”

Sherin nodded his head slowly. Him, an Allomancer? He’d been tested of course. When he was a boy, he’d been attacked by feral dogs, and once he’d recovered, the masters of the town had given him a small vial of metals to drink to tell if he’d been Snapped. He hadn’t felt anything, hadn’t been able to “sense” the metals like they’d said. But according to this Lady Erenia, maybe they just didn’t have the correct mixture?

“The matter we are here to investigate,” she continued, “is which metal it is, exactly, that you can use.” Lady Erenia gestured at the supplies beside her. “Through Realmic analysis, we believe we’ve identified two candidates.” She leaned over to her tray. It had a steaming pot of tea and an array of about a dozen small cups on it. She reached into one of the cups and picked up a tiny nugget of silvery metal. “You are going to ingest this, and you are going to attempt to perform Allomancy.”

Contrary to her prior statement, she put the piece of metal back down on the tray and turned to Sherin with a steely gaze. “Let me save you the trouble and relieve you of some potentially hazardous thoughts you may be harboring,” she began with a lecturing tone.

“First, you will not be allowed to retain any of this metal at the conclusion of each round of experimentation. Once each test is complete, whether successful or unsuccessful, you will be forced to regurgitate the remaining components. They are quite valuable, and they shall not be wasted.

“Second, if you feel a well of Allomantic power and decline to use it or decide to not even tell me about it, then you will be eliminating your value as a participant in this experiment. You are but one member of a larger pool of candidates, and as any good scientist I have designed appropriate redundancy into my procedures. If another with your particular brand of Allomancy discovers it first, then your treachery will be made evident. With no usefulness to the experiment… nay, having demonstrated intent to obstruct the experiment, I shall have no choice but to dispose of you.

“Third, this research has been authorized by the Lord Ruler himself. As the self-evident sovereign of his Empire, he holds authority to determine status, function, and livelihood of all its citizens. He has decreed that those who are discovered to have previously unknown Allomantic genes are obligated to assist in the research of these new abilities. You are, of course, welcome to decline participation in these studies. But doing so also constitutes a forfeiture of your citizenship under the Lord Ruler, which will result in your summary execution.

“If you find these terms disagreeable, now is your opportunity to say so. Otherwise, we shall begin.” She looked at him expectantly.

Sherin swallowed, trying to work moisture back into his suddenly dry mouth. He attempted to stammer a question, but only a wheeze came out. So he shrugged, best as he could through his restraints. Despite what she said, it wasn’t like he had much say in the matter at all. Nobles always got what they wanted from skaa like him.

Lady Erenia snorted in derision. “Very well. That will suffice.” She picked up the first nugget of metal and shoved it into his mouth.

It was uncomfortable. This was no metal flake suspended in a pleasant solution of alcohol; it was a pea-sized lump, cold and hard and rough inside his mouth. But he swallowed it, like he’d been commanded, and he could feel it scratching all the way down to his stomach.

“Do you feel anything?” Sherin took a moment and focused on… well, he didn’t really know what to look for. But he didn’t feel any different; no power clamored at his mind or anything. So he shook his head.

Lady Erenia didn’t appear dismayed in the slightest. “Not titanium, then.” She picked up a cup and the teapot, poured a small amount in one of the other cups on her tray, and held it up to Sherin’s lips. He drank, but he didn’t feel any metal in this as he swallowed.

“Bucket,” she commanded flatly. One of the guards behind Sherin reached past him, holding a small metal pail in front of Sherin’s face. Ah, right. The regurgitation.

It only took several moments before Sherin’s stomach was roiling, and he emptied its scant contents in the container before him. It was fortunate they’d brought him here before the midday meal, he supposed.

The lady held up another cup, which Sherin eyed suspiciously. “This is just water,” she explained unsympathetically, “to help mitigate damage to your esophageal tract.” Sherin braced for the worst as he drank it, but she spoke the truth; the cool water brought relief to his throat and his stomach as it went down.

He’d scarcely had a chance to finish his drink before Lady Erenia was holding up yet another cup. “This one, on the other hand, is not water. It is quicksilver.”

Sherin felt his face blanch. “Is that safe, my lady?”

“As safe as pewter.” She pushed the cup towards his face, and he sipped a little bit of the heavy liquid. Its weight was unusual on his tongue, and it practically slipped down his throat without him even needing to swallow. He could feel it sloshing at the bottom of his stomach; or maybe he was imagining it? Either way, he didn’t feel any power from this metal, either.

After he shook his head, Lady Erenia held up the cup of tea again. Reluctantly, Sherin drank; but this time, after he’d vomited, he made sure to hold the sip of water in his mouth as long as possible. The lady, though she looked bemused, didn’t rebuke him for his delay.

Once he’d swallowed the water, though, she reached into another cup on her tray and picked up a new nugget of metal. “We can conclude that you are not a Misting of either of the pure metals. That means you must have powers of an alloy.” She held up the piece of metal; it looked the same as the first piece she’d given him, at least to Sherin’s untrained eye. He’d spent his life tilling fields, not working with alloys. “We have been unable to Realmically determine the appropriate partner of either metal, so we will have to perform biological evaluations of all potential candidates.” Sherin eyed the tray beside him. It had upward of two dozen cups on it; how long were these experiments going to take?

She gave him no warning this time, forcing her hand into his mouth, pushing the bead of metal to the back of his throat. He thrashed his head away involuntarily, but she grabbed his jaw, holding his mouth closed with an unyielding grip until he swallowed.

Still nothing. No power. “My lady,” he began to beg, feeling the panic welling up in his gut, “I don’t have powers. I’m not an Allomancer, I swear it!”

Earlier, she’d been dispassionate, but at least she had explained herself to him every step of the way. Now, she looked at him with contempt as if he were an animal, a dog who was misbehaving. She looked past his shoulder and nodded, and one of the guards grabbed his head, roughly tilting it back and forcing his mouth open as Lady Erenia poured the hot tea directly down his throat. He coughed and gagged, and a moment later he retched again. The second guard barely had time to place the bucket in front of his mouth to catch the watery mixture.

Sherin squeezed his eyes shut and heaved with all his might against the straps holding him in this seat of torture, but they didn’t budge. He was old, he was weakened from the past week of malnutrition, and the hands that had tied him here knew what they were doing. The same strong hands that once again kept him from closing his mouth. He was completely at the mercy of his captors, and he felt another piece of metal shoved roughly past his teeth.

“Nothing! Nothing!” he screamed as they released him for a moment again. If he had felt power, he knew he would have used it without a second thought, hoping and praying that whatever it was would somehow help him escape. But he truly did feel nothing, and his tormentors forced him to vomit once again. Afterwards, his body was wracked with coughs, his throat burning from the repeated exertions.

And then… silence. Sherin cracked an eye open; Lady Erenia was writing on a sheaf of papers, and the guard with the bucket was carrying it out of the room. The lady looked up, catching Sherin’s eye. She set her notes aside and focused her full attention on him, causing Sherin to cringe.

But she didn’t lay a hand on him; her calm, lecturing voice had returned. “You do have an Allomantic power, and you are a valuable resource in this experimentation. I have no wish to see you damaged. Our sessions will last only as long as you are physically capable of enduring them. Though there is discomfort, you will see that there has been no irreparable harm done. Hopefully, that will make you more cooperative next time you are in these chambers; it will be better and easier for the both of us.”

And then Sherin felt the most wonderful thing he could have ever imagined. The straps around his arms, legs, and torso were being loosened, and he was finally, blessedly free. He slumped to the ground, trying to curl up into a ball, but the remaining guard dragged him roughly to his feet. “He is one of the oldest here,” the guard’s gruff voice rumbled. “Make sure you don’t push him too hard.”

Lady Erenia waved her hand dismissively. “Yes, I have accounted for that. He will have a longer recuperation period than others before his second round of testing, which is why I started with him today. Do not tell me how to do my job. Now, go bring me another one who was already Snapped.”

The guard dragged Sherin out of the room. The cold, stone hallway that had felt so forbidding on his way in was now a welcome sight, insofar as it meant he was no longer in that terrible experimentation chamber. Soon, they were back at the door to Sherin’s cell, where the second guard was already waiting.

They seemed to forget Sherin was there, ignoring him and speaking to one another. “I just talked to Bronze Boy. He says a dozen of them Snapped today.”

“Good.” The other guard gestured to two doors: the one to Sherin’s cell, and the one across the hall. “These will be plenty to keep her busy until they’ve recovered. No matter what she claims, she has no idea when to stop before she kills one of them.”

“Yeah, but you heard the boss. That’s what we’re here for. Now, let’s get on with the next one before she decides to grab one on her own.” They opened the door, tossed Sherin in, and dragged one of the other prisoners out.

Once the door had crashed closed behind him, locking Sherin back in his cell, the other two cell-mates flooded him with questions. But he didn’t have the heart or the energy to answer them. All he could do was curl up, still coughing lightly, and hope desperately for the release of sleep to grant him a reprieve from this nightmare.

* * *

The next day, nobody came for Sherin. He lay in the cell, he and his two companions apparently as forgotten as they had been the week prior. They’d all been taken yesterday; one of them had not been returned. Sherin hoped that he’d discovered a new ability and been rewarded. He feared that the lady had forgotten her bounds and ended his life. But of the three who remained, none of them asked the guard as he delivered their meals. Sherin preferred to be comfortable in his ignorance, and the other two appeared to agree.

The day after, more of the same. And the third day, still nothing. The fourth day, however, the testing began anew. Not for Sherin; Lady Erenia’s words about giving him a longer respite held true. But the other two men in his cell were each, in turn, taken and submitted to more experimentation. They were both returned, ragged and weak.

The fifth day was when they came for Sherin again. He knew what to expect, dreaded it. But he schooled his emotions, and he kept himself under control as he was tied into the experimentation chair and fed metals. Six metals, this time; three alloys of titanium and three alloys of quicksilver, he assumed. No power from any of them. At the end of the session, Sherin felt a small shimmer of pride in himself; he’d maintained his composure throughout the entire ordeal, six bouts of induced vomiting. Lady Erenia even gave him a few cursory words of praise: thanking him for cooperating better, reminding him that he was playing his small part in advancing the cause of the Final Empire. But the guards returned him to his cell, nonetheless, weak and in pain.

That pattern seemed to hold for the successive rounds. Four days between visits for the younger men in his cell; five days between visits for Sherin. No progress during the third round of experimentation; Sherin could see the look of frustration beginning to settle on Lady Erenia’s face. The search for the proper alloys was wearing thin on her, even though she wasn’t the one suffering physical pain from her methods.

The fourth visit, fifteen days after Sherin had first been brought to her laboratory, proved to be somewhat different. As he was being led down the halls along his familiar route to Lady Erenia’s rooms, he and the two guards were met by a new group of figures.

A short, rotund nobleman was clearly the leader of the group; he had with him three of his own thugs, wearing leather jerkins and caps, brandishing crude batons. This new visitor raised his hand, and Sherin’s guards, the two in bone-studded armor who had been there since the beginning, stopped in place. Sherin could see their uncertainty, a hesitation in their movements.

“Lord Malthis, sir,” one of Sherin’s captors said. “We weren’t aware that you had arrived yet. Please, let us escort you to Lady Erenia’s laboratory.”

The man waved his hand in the air perfunctorily. “No need for that. I’ve reviewed her notes so that I would be ready to start as soon as I arrived. Let’s not waste precious hours on orientation or handover; I’d like to begin at once. The test subjects are still in the east wing, I presume? I would like to take several of them to my facilities.”

The two guards shared a quick glance, communicating without words. “The descriptions you’ve heard of this keep certainly don’t do it justice, my Lord,” one of them said, his voice eager and friendly. “Allow me to show you around so you do not get lost.” He let go of Sherin and motioned for the new entourage to go down a side hallway. Heading away from the cells, Sherin noticed.

The other guard, his grip on Sherin’s arm tighter than it had ever been, pulled him away, back on their original route toward Lady Erenia’s chambers. As soon as they were out of sight of the new noble, the guard picked up their pace. “Hurry,” he muttered softly. “Move it!” They rushed down the passages until they reached the familiar laboratory.

Lady Erenia was perceptive. It took her only a second to notice that one guard was missing and the other’s demeanor was decidedly sour. “What’s going on?” she demanded curtly.

“Malthis,” the guard said. The lady’s eyes went wide at the name. “He’s here, right now. Wair is ‘escorting’ him and his soldiers to the holding cells via the scenic route. If we hurry, we’ll beat him there.”

Lady Erenia nodded sharpy. “Let’s be about it, then.” She strode quickly to the door, her hurried footsteps lacking her usual refinement. “Wait,” she said. “Dair, you stay here. Keep an eye out for that slimy little assistant of his.”

And then she was away, leaving Sherin alone with the guard. Dair, as he was apparently called; Sherin hadn’t heard either of their names before. They hadn’t exactly introduced themselves when they kidnapped him. Dair shoved Sherin off to an empty corner of the room and pulled the door shut, locking it behind them. The door had no windows, but Dair put his ear up against the wooden planks as if he were listening for something.

Sherin looked around the room. It was strange, seeing it from this new vantage point. Every other time he’d been in here, they had shackled him in the chair straightaway. The room didn’t seem so small and cramped now, in contrast. Nervously, Sherin began to pace, moving along the wall towards a table full of papers.

Dair turned his head from the door and fixed Sherin with an angry glare. “Stay there. Or would you rather I strap you down already?”

Sherin shook his head vigorously and moved back into the corner. Dair was obviously worried Sherin would try something; while he kept one ear to the door, his head was turned so he could watch the inside of the room with the corner of his eye. Truth be told, though, Sherin hadn’t even considered taking advantage of today’s chaos and trying to escape. He knew he was no match for even a single guard. He didn’t know where he was; he was weak from weeks of torture; and the government, the Lord Ruler himself, had sanctioned these experiments. Sherin knew his best outcome would be from cooperating at every step.

Many minutes passed like that, Sherin standing silently in the corner, Dair glued ear-first to the door. But eventually the guard must have heard something, because he stood up straight, his body tensing and obviously ready for action. He stepped back several paces from the door, raised a finger to his lips, and… did Dair just wink at him? Sherin held his breath, frightened to make any noise at all. His own pulse pounded in his ears, quick and frantic. From somewhere Sherin hadn’t seen, Dair had produced his skull-like helmet, covering his face with the vicious bone.

A faint clicking sound started to come from the door latch; it was being unlocked. Had the lady returned? It sounded like whoever it was, they were struggling with their key; metal scraped against metal for several long moments. Finally, with a soft click, the door opened and slowly swung inwards.

A man walked in; short, thin, bald, and decidedly slippery-looking. But he scarcely had time to slide into the room before Dair pounced, rushing ahead to grab the man by the shoulders and slam him into the wall. The intruder let out a shriek.

“Did you take a wrong turn somewhere?” Dair jeered sadistically. The man sputtered, unable to put together a coherent sentence. This must be the ‘assistant’ that Lady Erenia had warned Dair about, trying to take advantage of the chaos and steal her research.

Dair abruptly pivoted, throwing the smaller man to the ground and sending him sliding towards the center of the room. “Would you like to take a peek at our restraint system?” he laughed. “I’d be happy to give you a demonstration. You can give your master a first-hand account of its effectiveness!” The intruder cowered, ducking behind the chair in the restraining chair. Dair took up a position on the other side of the chair, ducking and leaning his head around either side. From Sherin’s perspective, it was clear that Dair was toying with his prey, like a well-fed cat that finds a mouse.

Eventually, Dair left enough of an opening for the panicky little man to scurry past and run out the door. Dair chased after him, but only as far as the doorway. He stuck his head out and called out one last taunt. “Come back any time!” But he did not pursue; instead, he turned back into the room, taking off his helmet and chuckling. “By the mist, if only I could have gotten him strapped into this thing…”

He choked that sentence off abruptly, looking over at Sherin with sudden awareness. He almost looked guilty, casting his eyes down as if in shame. But Sherin may have just imagined it, because Dair quickly put his helmet back on. Did that mean the intruder was coming back? Or maybe somebody else?

But nothing happened, and Sherin’s heart slowly returned to its regular rhythm. Another ten minutes passed until familiar voices began to echo down the hallway. Lady Erenia and the other guard, Wair. Sherin couldn’t make out the words, but the lady sounded indignant.

She flowed through the door like the mists. “… that the multi-batching is inherently flawed!” she fumed, moving around the office. “The stomach acid provides a medium for chemical reactions, and the composition gradients will allow for positive results that will be next-to-impossible to isolate!” She looked at the empty chair for a moment and paused, confused. She looked around the room until she spotted Sherin, and at her gaze Sherin tried to shrink back into the very stones of the wall. “Why isn’t he ready to begin?” She shouted at Dair. “We’ll need to redouble our speed if we don’t want to lose this entire project to that wraith-feeder!”

Dair and Wair hurried across the room, grabbing Sherin and quickly strapping him in to the experimentation chair.

The day’s familiar proceedings began, but Lady Erenia’s temperament was decidedly harsher. She didn’t say a word to anyone in the room; when she held up a piece of metal, Sherin swallowed it down without complaint or hesitation. Whenever he shook his head to indicate that he felt no power, she nodded curtly to Wair and Dair, who administered the vomit-inducing brew and retrieved the contents of Sherin’s stomach.

But they did not get far in their experiments. They had only completed two unsuccessful tests when Sherin, still heaving after regurgitation, heard a unfamiliar voice.

“Help me! Please!”

The cry for aid was raw and ragged, but where had it come from? It sounded so loud, like a shout from right next him. Someone calling in his ear… his right ear? Or left? Now that he thought about it, he couldn’t tell. Or… was it someone speaking directly into his mind?

Not just his, he realized. Lady Erenia’s eyes were wide in shock, a nugget of metal forgotten in her upraised hand. The two guards were tensed, their eyes darting towards the door; their instincts didn’t like the unexplained, and they appeared to be preparing for an attack. They’d all heard it, too, whatever it was. The lady dropped her metal back onto the tray and stormed towards the door. “Of all the rust-cursed things to happen…” she growled furiously. Wair quickly fell into pace behind her, and Dair once again moved to the door, locking it behind them and taking up his station behind it. He appeared far more uneasy than he had earlier, fidgeting with his cane and even murmuring to himself.

Sherin was left alone with his thoughts, forgotten in his chair. As he tried to piece through what had just happened, one thing became clear. The only possible explanation for this madness.

There really was new Allomancy. And this one let you speak directly to someone else’s mind.

Part of him was excited. Deep down, he hadn’t truly believed and accepted that he was an Allomancer. But this proved it: the experiments were not in vain, there was power to uncover! What if he himself had this ability, to speak into others’ thoughts? The excitement was enough to overpower the pain in his arms and legs from the straps that immobilized him.

But another part of his mind still clung to complaints. What would he do if he could speak like that? It wasn’t like he had anything to say, anyways; he was a quiet man. Who knew where the Ministry would send him once they unlocked his power. They wouldn’t let it sit and go to waste on a remote farm, no matter how much Sherin had enjoyed his old life.

The minutes passed like hours as Sherin waited there, wrestling with his own thoughts. Once more, he might have heard another call in his mind, but a brief shout, not even long enough to form a word. If he hadn’t imagined it entirely, even.

Finally, Lady Erenia and Wair returned, the former carrying another tray with a single sliver of metal on it. That must be it, then. The source of power. Sherin’s stomach churned, even without the foul-tasting tea to rile it up.

Lady Erenia fed it to him with no fanfare or instructions. All three sets of eyes before Sherin were focused on him with a fiery intensity.


Lady Erenia sat back on her stool, deep in thought. She did not look disappointed. She looked focused and intrigued.

“Well, at least we don’t need to waste any time on titanium alloys anymore,” she mumbled to herself. “I can’t believe that fool stumbled across it during his first day here.” Then she seemed to realize she was speaking aloud and composed herself, speaking directly to Sherin this time. “But you hold the key to the last metal. I will uncover it, I promise you that.”

With that, she cut the session short and left the chamber. Wair and Dair untied Sherin; they’d forgotten to induce vomiting after that last test, but Sherin assumed that it was because it was such a small piece of metal it wouldn’t be worth recovering. Back down the now-familiar passages they went until Sherin found himself back in his cell with his two companions.

They were eager to talk today. “Did you hear that?” they asked him in an excited whisper. Sherin could only nod as they babbled on about their theories, about how maybe the voice had called all the way to the Central Dominance to bring an army to their rescue.

There were no more tests for the next several days. When they began again, Sherin’s companions were each taken.

The first was returned, and he told Sherin that he was taken to a new room and placed inside a strange, small coffin to test on a single metal. He didn’t feel anything, and they sent him away.

The second companion never came back.

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Chapter Two

The day of his triumph had arrived, at long last. Jannick would no longer need to endure his exile.

He stood proudly in the feast hall. The imminent party was no social event; no, today this room was hosting a celebration of achievement. Malthis Venture, though only a distant relative of the head of the House, had called in every favor he was owed to gain use of his ancestral keep for today.

Jannick turned his head to look at his new Allomancers, huddled back under the balconies where the feasting tables normally sat. He didn’t need to physically move his head, of course; the spikes through his eyes gave him a new vision, the steelsight, which he could use to see anything in the room no matter which way his face was turned. Some Inquisitors preferred to cultivate an air of omniscience by never pointing their gaze at what they were looking at. Jannick had found that others were far more unnerved by having to meet his ‘eyes’ when there was nothing but flat steel spikeheads there to greet them.

Most of the prisoners flinched and cowered back as his gaze travelled over them, exactly as Jannick expected. He’d intentionally kept himself aloof from the testing; most of the men and women here had only seen him once, when he and his soldiers had harvested them. They were all shackled now, groups of ten tied together on a heavy chain, and under the heavy guard of other hazekillers who came highly recommended by Wair and Dair.

Jannick walked across the large dance floor towards the head of the banquet hall, where the occupants of the dais waited eagerly for him. Malthis Venture was seated there, of course; he looked slightly nervous, uncomfortable in his bizarre aluminum headpiece. It wasn’t solid, like a helm; instead, thin strands of the expensive metal had been weaved together into an erratic net, encircling from the top of his head all the way down to the base of his neck. It would supposedly stop the “Cognitive empathetic resonance,” whatever that meant. These scientists had too many words, as if changing how they described Allomancy could actually make it function any differently.

Toral Erikeller stood next to him, fidgeting awkwardly with his own aluminum headgear. The poor wretch never knew what to do with himself these days; he would probably never get used to his enhanced powers. Spiked a dozen times with additional bronzesense, he was now useless for any function other than detecting unsnapped Allomancers. He couldn’t burn bronze normally without sensing every being in the Final Empire who was burning a metal at that time. Unfortunately for him, though, his new ability of seeing into souls wasn’t one he could turn off. And there was quite the distraction in the room.

At the center of the dais sat the most imposing figure Jannick had ever seen, either via steelsight or through his old eyes. The Lord Ruler himself, the Sliver of Infinity. Even as one of his closest servants, Jannick never got accustomed to his aura; and now, having been cast out from his presence and denied atium because of that unpleasantness with the Terris prophet, Jannick found the effect all the more imposing. The Lord Ruler warped the room around him; the stained glass murals on the windows above seemed to come to life, the microscopic metals in their pigments as vibrant to Jannick as they would be to any other. It was fitting, since the portraits were now looking down upon the very one who was depicted in so many of their scenes; they were pale reflections, but growing all the more brilliant now that the true light was in their midst.

“My Lords,” Jannick said as he took a deep bow. For there was another man on the dais, of course; Lord Adul Venture, the head of the house and master of the keep. He was the youngest of those gathered, at least fifteen years shy of Malthis’s five decades. At Jannick’s insistence, he was the only other guest allowed; one couldn’t very well kick a man out of his own home. However, the Lord Ruler had taken Adul’s extravagant, throne-like chair for the event, leaving Lord Venture standing awkwardly to the side, clutching a parcel wrapped in cloth. But as for the rest of the Venture family, his sons and cousins and servants, they had all been sent away. This demonstration would be for a very select few.

“My Lords,” Jannick repeated insistently, drawing the attention of all four men. “Let us begin.”

Malthis procured another one of his aluminum contraptions, offering it to the Lord Ruler. “If you desire protection, My Lord, against the new abilities that will be revealed today.” The Lord Ruler raised an eyebrow, shaking his head slightly with an indifferent scorn. Malthis appeared to take it in stride; Jannick had told him that since an Inquisitor like himself didn’t need this additional protection, then the most powerful Allomancer who had ever lived would have no desire for it, either. “Very well,” the scientist continued, making the device disappear into a fold of his robes.

“Excuse me,” Lord Venture stammered, “I could use one of those.”

Malthis grinned at him slyly. “But dear cousin,” he answered, “we have need of someone to be a participant in this demonstration. I was under the impression that was why you had volunteered to join us. If everyone in this room was shielded, then we’d have no way of seeing these new powers in action!”

Lord Venture looked furtively towards the Lord Ruler, who offered a nearly imperceptible shrug. The young house turned back to Malthis, mouth hanging open in bewilderment.

Jannick was running out of patience, and Malthis was taking too much enjoyment from the moment. “The demonstration will be harmless, Lord Venture. Now, please, let us begin.” He motioned out to one of his guards, who separated one of the new Allomancers from the rest of the group and led her out from under the balconies, bringing her to stand in front of the dais at the center of the room.

Only a faint hint of irritation was visible on Malthis’s face, but he moved to begin the display, anyways, reaching into a pocket of his robes to pull out a small, ornate box. “Lord Ruler,” he said, “the first metal we have to present to you is titanium.” The scientist opened his box, withdrew a small piece of the silvery metal, and held it out to the imprisoned Allomancer.

She was a fiery one, tall, with frizzy black hair that almost seemed to be electrified. It was evident through her posture and demeanor that that her spirit hadn’t been broken by the rigors of the testing she’d been subjected to. She stood tall and proud, glaring at the guards, at Malthis, and at anybody who her eyes fell on. Jannick believed she would have even stared down the Lord Ruler himself, if not for his explicit prior instructions to the contrary.

Indeed, that was the sole condition he had imposed upon her when she volunteered, insisting that she be the one to face the perceived burden of today’s events. Jannick had acquiesced, telling her that impeccable behavior would be the best way to guarantee her repeated selection for such tasks in the future. He knew it was a tenuous arrangement, and that she would betray him when the best opportunity arose. But not at the first opportunity, which was why she was today’s representative for the titanium Mistings.

She reached her arms out to Malthis; though she was still shackled hands and foot, with a chain stretching between them, her bindings had enough slack in them to permit this motion. Malthis handed her the piece of titanium, and she swallowed it without hesitation. Her gaze, as hard and implacable as the metal she had just eaten, fixed on Adul. But she said nothing, waiting for Malthis to issue his commands.

“Now, dear cousin, I see you brought a book with you. From your own library, of course. And one that nobody has seen today, apart from you, so we would have no way of preparing this young lady in advance.”

Adul nodded his agreement as he unwrapped the object in his hand. It was a large tome, oversized and dusty. “I have brought my rarest work of philosophy, one of my prized possessions.”

“Yes, yes, and one I’m sure you will pass down to generations of young Venture lords to follow. I would now ask you to read it. Open to a page, any page you desire, and allow your eyes to scan the words. But do not speak it out loud; read it in your mind only. Slowly and carefully, if you please.”

Adul opened the book, eager to comply, but the weight of it proved unwieldy, and it dropped to the floor with a thud that echoed through the large hall. Sheepishly, he picked it back up and carried it to the table, placing it in front of the unamused Lord Ruler. Finally, his finger began to track along the page.

The woman began to speak. “I walked past a curious pile of rocks along my path.” At the simple statement, Adul whirled around, his eyes wide.

But Malthis carefully took him by the shoulders and turned him back to the table, back to his book. “If you stop reading, the demonstration also stops. You must continue.” The young noble turned partially back to his book, trying to keep half an eye on the woman.

As he resumed his reading, the woman began to speak once more, picking up where she’d left off. “The fractured shale had been eroded by windstorms, blown up against a less yielding type of stone. This pile of wafer-thin layers looked to be stacked by a mortal hand. But nobody had stacked them.

Adul flipped the book quickly to another page, hunkering over it so that nobody but himself and the Lord Ruler could see the book. Indeed, he must have been barely able to make out the words through his own shadow, because when the woman’s voice resumed, it was halting and arrhythmical. “As I set out… on my journey… I was challenged to…” The pages shuffled, a new page selected. “A man’s emotions are what define him… and control is…” More frantic turning of pages. “You must find… the most important words…

The Lord Ruler reached out his arm and slammed the book shut, pushing it and Adul off towards the end of the table. He had obviously seen enough, and now his head cocked in the barest of an unspoken question, a demand for Malthis to explain how the stunt had been performed.

An answer the gleeful researcher was happy to provide. “Titanium is an external pulling metal. The Allomancer is able to read the surface-level thoughts of others, especially those that are expressly voiced, as one often does when reading a book.” He reached up to his own head, tapping the aluminum monstrosity atop it. “Certain neutralizing metals are able to impede this effect; in fact, nearly every method for countering Soothing and Rioting is also applicable for this titanium Reading.”

Malthis glanced over at Jannick after that last statement. Yes, one of the other methods of defense against this was to have a mind so warped and twisted by Hemalurgy that it barely seemed human, its thoughts as difficult to interpret as an ancient script from a long-dead civilization. It was why Jannick needed no aluminum encasement over his head. But it wasn’t something one said in the Lord Ruler’s presence, lest you imply that his deific power was wrought from a similarly inhuman psyche.

“The other limitation,” Malthis continued, “is that the Allomancer must be able to see the person whose mind she wishes to read. Which is the reason why we could not send my cousin Adul out of the room to continue reading.” He paused, tilting his head expectantly. “Well, one of the reasons, that is.”

Behind Jannick, the guards were in motion, drawing away the haughty woman and replacing her with another one of the prisoners. This one was a male, lanky, with sandy brown hair hanging loose over his face, nearly hiding his calculating eyes. Jannick could feel himself begin to fidget, to reposition his feet as if in response to a threat, and he had to will himself to stand still. He’d approved this prisoner being chosen for the demonstration at Malthis’s insistence, in spite of his own misgivings. Before becoming a test subject, this man had been a criminal mastermind, and if anybody in this group of half-breeds had the capacity to cause trouble today, it was him.

Indeed, when Malthis offered him a lump of his metal, the titanium mixed with rare and expensive components that only the most knowledgeable of metallurgists could even comprehend, he didn’t reach out his hand to take it. Instead, he inclined his head and opened his mouth, forcing the nobleman to feed it to him. As a handler feeds an animal? Or as a servant feeds an indulgent master? Jannick knew that Malthis was oblivious to the scene’s implications; it remained to be seen if he would also be immune to the effects of the psychological battles being waged.

Jannick supposed that Malthis’s excitement for this next phase of testing was understandable, his over-eagerness causing him to ignore most of the others present in the room. He was walking over to Adul, a large embroidered handkerchief in his hand, ready to cause more embarrassment to his relative.

“The titanium alloy,” Malthis said as he turned his head towards the Lord Ruler, “has an opposite effect, as would be expected. As an external pushing metal, it allows its user to speak into the mind of another.” He gestured at the trembling man next to him. “Someone present and unshielded, who, though he be blindfolded…” His diatribe paused for a moment as he affixed the handkerchief over Adul’s eyes. “… who, though he be blindfolded, can be guided safely through the maze formed by the rest of the collected Allomancers, without touching any of the boundaries.”

Jannick could see the Lord Ruler’s head move back and forth, ever so slightly, as his eyes scanned the banquet hall. The clean rows of slaves, shackled together in groups on their large guiding chains, were being repositioned by the guards, the iron clanking and ringing as the men and women were forced to shuffle to the designed positions out on the dance floor. In short order, they had been formed into a maze; not a terribly complicated one, to be fair, but one that would be impossible for a blinded man to do without touching its lines.

Most in the room were watching Adul, but Jannick kept his attentions focused on the male Allomancer. Though he had tried to anticipate exactly how the criminal could turn the situation to his own ends, he’d come up with nothing. But that just meant he needed to be extra vigilant, watching for the barest hint.

With his peripheral steelsight, he could see Lord Venture stumbling through the human labyrinth. The noble’s arms were outstretched to either side, periodically flailing to search for obstacles. But the mental directions he was receiving were apparently flawless, for he made it almost all the way through the maze without encountering a single obstacle. But then, one turn from the exit, he stopped. “What’s next?” he called out.

The titanium alloy misting looked away from the maze to face Jannick, and he shrugged. His metal had run out, it seemed. Which left Jannick pleased; better the man had too little, as opposed to too much. Now that his stores were exhausted, he was just a regular criminal again. Dangerous and intelligent, but with no arcane powers to abuse. Malthis had his own reasons for shorting the supply; he could scarcely hold back a mocking laugh as Lord Venture stumbled back into the maze, thoroughly confused. The scientist was enjoying the spectacle he’d arranged.

Until he turned his gaze back to the Lord Ruler, at least. Impatience, giving way to irritation, was evident on that fierce visage. He’d been offered grand new Allomancy, but all he’d been given were parlor tricks, simple stunts that any magician would be able to produce in a dozen different ways. A man like the Lord Ruler had no need for this new Reading and Speaking. When he spoke, everyone listened. And when he asked for your thoughts, you gave them to him.

Malthis’s smugness finally began to crack. He had one more chance to impress his liege, and he would not let it go to waste. He waved his hands, and the guards began to return the prisoners to their spaces under the balconies. Lord Venture, hearing the commotion, removed his blindfold and slinked back to the Lord Ruler’s side. Malthis himself interrupted one of the guards to free one of his charges; a young boy, barely over ten years old. He led the child up before the Lord Ruler, standing him on the dais directly across the table.

The boy looked frightened, which Malthis was obviously counting on. This last metal was the most dangerous of the three they’d discovered, and a pliable, suggestible subject for the demonstration would ensure there were no complications. When Malthis put a cup up to the boy’s lips, he drank, quickly and without complaint.

“Quicksilver,” the scientist whispered. “The metallurgists call it mercury. A molten metal, yet still cool to the touch.” In an instant, the Lord Ruler’s attention had been ensnared, and Malthis continued in a conspiratorial tone. “Another metal of the mind, of the Cognitive self. But this is an internal pulling metal.” He patted his test subject on the shoulder. “Show him, lad.”

For a long moment, nothing happened. Would this child defy the will of the Empire? Jannick had killed many revolutionaries, some as young as this boy; he knew that the faith of the youth could be a force that no amount of reason or discipline could counter. Malthis held his breath, his eyes going wider, as Lord Venture leaned in expectantly.

And then, the boy acquiesced. He closed his eyes and turned his head down, towards the floor. And then, there were two boys standing before the Lord Ruler. The new one, though identical in appearance, was insubstantial, like an atium shadow or a phantom seen faintly through the mists.

Malthis spoke quickly. “This metal allows the user to detach their Cognitive self from their Physical self, projecting it nearby. The apparition can move and interact with the environment in limited ways.” At that command, the shadow-boy began to walk around the table, circling towards the men on the other side. Towards Toral, and Lord Venture… and the Lord Ruler himself. Before he could reach them, Jannick stepped forwards and shook the boy awake. The shadow vanished as his eyes snapped open, bleary and somewhat confused.

Malthis was looking at Jannick disapprovingly. “While there are still many experiments to be conducted, we are confident that the Cognitive entity is not able to affect the mental state of any beings they interact with. A useful tool for observation; but nobody is being possessed by a demon.” And that was certainly true, as least as far as the experiments had gone; but Jannick was not going to risk today becoming the day they found otherwise.

“Now, we have identified several mistings of the quicksilver’s partner,” Malthis continued, motioning towards the last group of prisoners. “But we haven’t been able to isolate the particular nature of the alloy, yet. The Empire’s metallurgists have offered many suggestions, but none have proven successful yet. Quicksilver is more difficult to recover than other metals after our gastronomical testing procedure, and unfortunately our funds are nearly expired.

The Lord Ruler stared hungrily across the table. And he spoke, his voice deep and rich and resonating through the entire hall. “You will have the money you need.” Jannick knew his god well; Pushing metals were more attractive to him than Pulling metals, more useful for controlling his empire. Coinshots over Lurchers, Seekers over Smokers, Soothers over Rioters, Thugs over Tineyes. If mercury, a Pulling metal, was this powerful… then what would its alloy do?

The moment of victory was brief, for they were interrupted by a commotion from the end of the chamber. Someone was forcing her way in, arguing with the guards, pushing into the feast hall. Erenia Lekal; she was supposed to be at the research outpost, continuing the tests in search of the last metal. But, judging by the protests she was making, she felt slighted by her exclusion from the demonstration. As she should; her methodology had caused the experiment to stagnate, and it wasn’t until Malthis Venture had been brought in that the titanium alloy, gum metal, had been identified.

Erenia fended off Malthis’s sycophantic assistant (who was supposed to have secured the room) and stormed towards Malthis and the Lord Ruler, who looked at her with scorn and amusement, respectively. Jannick, however, felt the urge to scan the area under the balconies, looking at the prisoners. His gaze was drawn to one person in particular: one of the Readers, the woman who had given the demonstration. When Jannick focused on her, he could see the metal of her blood begin to move faster. An increased heart rate… she was burning titanium!

She’d apparently saved some of it after her demonstration. But what good would it do her? Everyone important in the room was shielded, either naturally or artificially. The guards knew nothing beyond their duties today, and the other prisoners certainly knew nothing of value. Who else…

Jannick tracked her gaze; she was looking at Erenia Lekal. A woman who knew secrets of Hemalurgy. Who knew what would eventually happen to the test subjects. Who, at this very moment, could be thinking of things that had been carefully kept from the prisoners.

The Reader’s eyes grew wide, and she looked over across the room. Towards the Speaker, the criminal mastermind. Who, Jannick realized with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, may very well have secretly preserved some of his own metal.

The Allomancers were valuable, too scarce to kill. So Jannick did the only thing he could to plug the leak of hidden knowledge. Tapping speed, he surged across the room in an instant, taking Erenia’s head in his hands and violently breaking her neck.

“Subdue the prisoners; we need them alive!” he shouted.

And around him, the room erupted into chaos.

* * *

Sherin shuffled his way back to the corner as the guard prodded him. It could be considered humiliating, to be part of a human maze, but it was nothing next to the other indignities Sherin and the rest had endured over the past several months.

Instead, Sherin found himself grateful, as the scientist and the inquisitor and the other nobles stood around the table with one of the younger captives. He could stay safely in the shadows; no chance of being paraded around. He had the easiest duties of anyone present.

That only lasted until Lady Erenia came through the door. For reasons he couldn’t fathom, that Inquisitor crossed the room in the blink of an eye and killed her. A man had suddenly shouted “Fight your way free!” and now it seemed like every person in the room was trying to kill each other.

The guards were winning, of course, but a few of the prisoners stood strong. Several of the soldiers surrounded a woman, but she was dodging their blows with ease, whirling and striking among them as if she knew what they were thinking. Up at the front, where the young black-robed noble was calmly walking away towards an exit, nearly a dozen guards were trying to catch a small figure who was appearing and disappearing.

Sherin crouched down, trying not to be seen, but the chains that shackled him to two other prisoners made it difficult. As they fought, he was dragged to and fro, as the entire group he was chained to came face-to-face with a group of six guards. Someone shouted out above the din, his voice loud and clear; “Charge, together, on my mark!” Or was that voice in his head? “Three, two, one, mark!” Whoever it was, everyone else could hear him, because they rushed forward, dragging him along maladroitly. The guards, outnumbered and overwhelmed, fell to the floor and were trampled as the group surged ahead. This tactic was apparently working well for other knots of captives; Sherin could see the effects as nearly a dozen of the mercenaries lay on the ground. At Sherin’s feet, he saw Lord Malthis’s assistant, already crushed underfoot, bleeding from a wound to his head.

Another guard squared off against his group, a much bigger man with some more ornate clothing. An officer, possibly an Allomancer. He grabbed the chain that Sherin and the others were tied to and heaved, knocking them all to the ground. As they untangled themselves, the officer moved towards another group of escaping prisoners.

Sherin was so overwhelmed by the fracas, the shouting and the running, that he didn’t even see what happened to that officer. One second, the large man was running across the banquet hall; the next, he was on the ground, tripped or the victim of a thrown projectile. A shiny, jingling object soared through the air, detached from his belt; a loop of keys! It skidded across the floor, picked up by a prisoner who unlocked himself and ran free. Why, if they could make it off these shackles, they’d be able to scatter! There’s no way the guards would catch them all!

But their enemies saw that, too, and several of them began to converge on the man with the keys. Before they could catch him, he tossed it to a woman. She was able to unlock herself and a man next to her before she threw them over to someone on Sherin’s chain. A furious game of keep-away, like he used to play when he was a child; but this one was a matter of life or death.

Sherin had never been good at those sorts of physical activities, and when the keys fell into his hands, he froze. Unlock yourself. The words were in his mind, and he wanted to do it, but fear paralyzed him. At least throw them to somebody else! His arm cocked back, almost of its own volition, but he couldn’t find a target. His eyes whirled over the crowd for what felt like an eternity, and then finally a leather-armored shoulder cracked into his chest and knocked him to the ground. The soldier pried the keys from his hands, and over the next several minutes they were able to successfully recapture all the prisoners. Many were unconscious, dragged along by their fellows as they were marched back out to the canals to be loaded onto their transport ships. Along the way, Sherin heard a heated argument between the Inquisitor and several of the nobles, but those thoughts didn’t concern him. He was just relieved to go back to the familiarity of his cell in the castle.

As they left the keep and moved onto the empty roads of Luthadel, Sherin felt his mind clearing. As if, the further away they got from the fortress and the god-like men inside, a tangible oppression was lifting. Around him, other prisoners began to grumble and shoot one another glances. The fight had made them feel good, feel powerful, feel accountable for their own lives once again for a brief moment.

But Sherin’s thoughts went another way. As he looked around at the city, he saw other magnificent buildings rising to form the skyline, rows and rows of distant tenements, a large barracks standing guard over a nearby gate. What had they been thinking? They were small, insignificant, several dozen malnourished prisoners against the might of an empire and its god. If that many people wished him ill, demanded that he be a prisoner for the good of everyone else, there was no fighting that. All he could do was make the best of the situation he was in.

So, as they sat in the bowels of the canal ship on its journey back to the far parts of the Empire, Sherin made sure to listen to every word the guards said. To obey them without hesitation. To take what little solace he could. The only one he could protect was himself.

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Chapter Three

Wair didn’t hate Allomancers. Many hazekillers did; some sought revenge for a past wrong perpetrated by a criminal Allomancer. For others, it was pure jealousy; they needed to prove their superiority over those who had an obvious biological leg up on the rest of the world. But Wair didn’t feel any of those emotions when he was fighting, and that was what made him the best hazekiller in the Empire. The same dispassionate pragmatism that had distinguished him as a lowly merchant’s guard continued to serve him, no matter who his adversaries were.

His twin brother, Dair, was a fearsome warrior in his own right. But he often thought with his heart, instead of his head. As an incredibly perceptive individual, he had a tendency to distraction. Such as right now, as Wair watched him guide their middle-aged charge down the hallways of the old fortress. He could see that his brother was feeling pity for the prisoner; now that they’d spent several weeks back at the laboratory, back to the old routines, Dair had almost forgotten the fight that had broken out in Luthadel, how dangerous even the most unassuming of their charges could be.

So Wair stepped a little more briskly, making as if he were going to push past Dair and take the prisoner by the arm. That was protocol; constant contact during transportation, no chance to break away. But Wair only made it a step before his brother noticed the change in pace, and then Dair reached out and grabbed the prisoner’s shoulder.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” Dair muttered.

“Not the time,” Wair cautioned him.

“He said he needs to move them around to keep them from conspiring and forming cells. But wouldn’t these constant transfers and cell changes just allow more contact?”

“Dair…” Wair growled in warning.

“And despite what he says, we’re not the only ones moving prisoners around! I know these halls, I remember what we’ve done. This cell we’re transferring him to should already be full, but one of the new guards must have enacted a transfer, already. It doesn’t make any…”

Wair halted in his tracks, intentionally and particularly, and held his dueling cane out at his side. In a heartbeat, Dair’s eyes snapped wide open, alert and ready for danger. He’d picked up on Wair’s body language: that of someone preparing for battle. Only after he surveyed the corridors around them, seeing no one, did he realize what Wair had said to him.

This was a voiceless kind of communication that only twins could understand, and it had served them well over the years, letting Wair could issue commands in battle in the blink of an eye. Today, it functioned as a word of caution. There’s an enemy in our midst, and it’s your mouth.

The rest of the transit was in silence. Dair shoved the old man into his new cell, which wound up not being fully occupied, after all. But his face grew more troubled as he shut the door. “Wair, did you see who else was in there? Why in the Lord Ruler’s name would they-”

Wair cut him off. “I do not know. This, or any of the rest of it; I do not know. It makes no sense, that much I can agree with. But they are not our questions to ask, nor our answers to know.”

“Who will ask them, if not us?” Dair countered.

“Lady Erenia.”

The reminder of their associate’s grisly death sent a shudder through them both. Whatever game Malthis Venture and Inquisitor Jannick were playing, its stakes were high enough to entrap even high nobility. And this, finally, appeared to be enough to convince Dair to abandon his curiosity.

As they walked back to the central command room, Wair was unfortunately reminded that inquisitiveness was not an emotion, and thus he was not able to shut it off. Oh, he would stick to his utilitarian decision, but the questions his brother had asked still plagued both their minds.

Why were their bosses rearranging the prisoners so frequently?

And what had possessed them to put those three in a room together?

* * *

The door slammed behind Sherin as the two guards pushed him in. He could faintly hear their voices begin again; probably the same unnerving argument they’d been having earlier. But there was nothing Sherin could do about it, so he shuffled over to an unoccupied corner of the cell and sat down, leaning against the cold stone.

But his respite did not last for long, as a pair of hands grabbed the front of his torn tunic and yanked him upright, slamming him against the wall and filling his vision with a field of lights. “What are they planning!” his assailant shouted at him, her voice filled with panic and anger.

“Put him down!” another voice called out, this one higher-pitched and much younger. “Leave him alone!”

“Why else would he be in here, unless he was working with them!” the first voice argued as she threw him back to the floor.

Sherin’s old eyes finally focused on the others present in the cell, and he could recognize the faces around him. He’d seen them before, back at Luthadel. The woman who had attacked him, she’d been the mind reader at the demonstration. The boy who had participated in the exhibition was here, too, and he was the one who just interceded for Sherin. Over by the door, listening to the sounds in the hallway, was the nervous-looking man who had guided the House Lord through the maze.

All three troublemakers, in the same cell? That seemed like a recipe for disaster. Indeed, the woman seemed likely to come after him again, before the man moved away from the cell door and sat next to Sherin.

“We haven’t been properly introduced,” he offered, extending his hand. “My name’s L’ambert. My associates here are Terese and young Almus. Please forgive Terese’s rudeness; she’s had a rough couple of nights, cooped up in here with us boys. The ladies’ dormitories are far nicer than ours.”

The words sounded friendly, but Sherin could hear the sheen of insincerity on them. The lure of a con man seeking a target before he’d propose a trade that would leave you with nothing but ash. So he turned away from the false comradery, leaving L’ambert’s hand hanging in mid-air.

“Are you here to help us?” The earnesty and sincerity tugged at Sherin’s heart-strings, and in spite of himself he looked over towards Almus. His bright eyes and blonde hair could fit in with the children of Sherin’s own home village.

“No,” he heard himself saying. “I don’t know why I’m here. I just go where they tell me.” Scorn, derision, and pity looked back at him from the other three in the room. “The guards don’t even know why. They argued about it, while they were bringing me here.”

L’ambert nodded slowly. “I could hear them as they left, too. And the one who looked in, he was shocked to see the three of us together. They don’t understand, either.”

Terese was pacing, clearly frustrated. “So they’re just following orders, too? Surely somebody can explain all these cell transfers!”

“It’s because they’re going to kill you.”

A new voice, from another corner of the cell. Four sets of eyes whirled towards it. Impossibly, a man stood there; tall and dark-skinned, wearing baggy robes, and Sherin was sure he’d never seen him before among either the guards or the prisoners.

L’ambert and Terese hesitated barely a moment before they sprung across the room, fingers curling into fists. But the stranger merely raised his hand, his long fingers covered in rings, and calmly commanded them: “Wait.”

They all froze. Sherin’s breath caught in his lungs, and it felt like even his heart stopped beating. The newcomer continued. “If I intended you harm, you would already be dead. I am here to help, if you listen to me.”

As he put his hand down, the other four in the cell collectively gasped in air as they were freed from… whatever it was he had done. It was Almus who spoke first, with his youthful innocence. “Are you a Terrisman?”

The tall man nodded. “My name is Eresmiuth, and I was once a Terris steward.”

Almus’s eyes lit up. “My mum told me stories about people like you! That you can choose to be strong enough to pick up a horse, or fast enough to run across water like it was stone! Is it true? Can you do that?”

Eresmiuth shook his head. “I cannot, unfortunately, do those particular miracles. Oh, there are those who can; I don’t know what stories your mother has told you, but there are some among my people who can do incredible things. Our magic, Terris Feruchemy, is different from your Allomancy, but it can be just as amazing.”

Terese interrupted him, finally regaining her courage. “You can tell the kid a bedtime tale later. You said they’re going to kill us. Why? How can you know that?”

The tall Terrisman just smiled at her. “The stories told to children are the most important there are. The ones that establish the foundation for their lives, their morality, their motivations and purposes. Without the fables of youth, there would be no philosophy of the elders.”

As Eresmiuth took a seat cross-legged on the floor, L’ambert finally spoke up, trying to take charge of the room again. “A very good point, sir; why don’t you give us a foundation for what’s going on, then. How did you get into this room?”

Eresmiuth nodded at Almus. “The same way he casts his mind. With mercury.” From the folds of his cloak, he produced an inkwell. But when he unstoppered it, the liquid inside was silver and reflective. “In Allomancy, a Clairvoyant misting can separate his Cognitive self and Physical self, dragging his Cognitive half into the Physical plane. Both can move independently.

“In Feruchemy, however, I can retreat my Physical self, storing it inside my Cognitive self.” He dipped his hand into the liquid metal, and he vanished. A moment later, he reappeared in the exact same place, the exact same position. “So, you see, I entered this chamber before any of you were placed into it. I’ve merely been storing Self until you all were here.”

Terese looked frustrated. “If you transport yourself somewhere else, how do you know when it’s safe to come back? And how did you know we were all going to be in this cell?”

Eresmiuth’s brow furrowed. “For the first question, it is not easy to explain. While storing Self, I am still here. I’m just not here,” he said, cupping his hands together in an odd gesture. “I’m among the invisible mists, and I can still perceive this world, though it is not easy to understand if you haven’t experienced it yourself.”

He raised a hand to cut off Terese’s coming objection. “The second question, thankfully, is simple. I have altered the prisoner holding manifests to ensure you were all brought here. I am not limited to one Metallic Art, but I can use all four of the Cognitive metals. I can store Presence in titanium, causing myself to go unnoticed by others. And once I have built up a supply of Sympathy in my titanium alloy metalmind, I can tap it to cause others to listen to what I say. With these abilities at my disposal, it is simple to slip among the guards, whispering to the scheduler where you should be moved to.”

L’ambert rocked back on his heels, incredulous. “You’ve been helping us all along, haven’t you? The lucky breaks, the favorable coincidences, the mistakes that we’ve been able to take advantage of?”

“Yes. My touch has, by necessity, been light. But I have given you assistance when I can.”

Almus raised his hand, and Eresmiuth pointed to him with a smile. “But if these metals are all brand new, how come you can use them already?”

“New to the Final Empire, perhaps, but not to the Terris. They are deep secrets we have preserved for thousands of years. Very, very few of us are born who can use the Cognitive metals, so the Lord Ruler does not know to send his Inquisitors after us.”

L’ambert nodded, deep in thought. “I get it. Your people are keeping secrets, and with new mind reading Allomancy,” he said, nodding at Terese, “the whole scheme is about to come crashing down.” His brow furrowed. “But you said they’re going to kill us. Why? Wouldn’t that waste all our abilities?”

Terese looked exasperated. “That’s what I’ve been telling you! When I read Erenia’s thoughts, she knew that all of us were going to be killed before too much longer. But I couldn’t get any details from her.”

Eresmiuth spoke softly. “Although there is much hidden knowledge among the Terris people, there are mysteries even we do not understand. The creation of Inquisitors is one of them. I suspect the spikes are… well, you can think of them as pieces of a new soul. When they drive them into you, they remake you, twist you into being an Inquisitor. Your body may live still live…” He reached out, tapping L’ambert on the chest. “But you will no longer be in it. An Inquisitor with your powers has taken your place.”

The room got quiet. Almus was the one to finally break the silence. “But you’ve got a plan to save us, right?”

The Terrisman nodded, almost too quickly. “Yes, of course. With your help, I’ll be able to organize a breakout. All the prisoners here, we’ll escape with everyone; with the keep’s stores of metal we’ll have more than enough resources to outwit the guards. And while we’re at it, we’ll destroy all their research; they keep it here, a secret from the rest of the Empire. But we cannot tip our hand too soon.” He looked at the other three conspirators in the room carefully, judging their resolve. “Hold onto these in case of an emergency only.” As Eresmiuth passed out vials of suspended metal solution, Terese almost let out a whoop of joy, before a terse look from L’ambert restrained her to merely pumping her fist in the air.

But there was one person in the room who didn’t receive anything from the Terrisman. “What about my metal,” Sherin asked timidly. The other eyes in the room all turned to him; it seemed, even without magic powers, he had the ability to be completely forgotten about. “Can you tell me what it does, at least?”

Eresmiuth looked at Sherin with kind eyes, like a parent looks at a child, as he walked over and crouched down. “I didn’t know what any of these metals did Allomantically until the researchers here discovered them. In fact, I don’t even know what your fourth metal does Feruchemically; I am not privy to all secrets. But I didn’t choose you because of your Allomancy, Sherin.”

“You didn’t?” His breath caught in his throat.

“No. You are here because you’re the most frightened person in the castle.”

“That’s true,” Terese muttered with a scowl.

Sherin didn’t understand. But Eresmiuth must have read that on his expression, because he continued. “Every single person in the hall that day saw your cowardice, Sherin.” His voice was gentle, even though his words were harsh. “I tried to help you, tried to command you to throw those keys and continue the escape attempt. You fought back against me, refused to fight for yourself. But I know next time, when the opportunity arrives to help us, you’ll do the right thing. And, as the other prisoners see you join us, you’ll become an inspiration to them. I believe in you, Sherin, even if you don’t believe in yourself yet.”

Sometimes, even pleasant words could cut to the bone. Sherin shivered. “If we fight back, and we fail… won’t we only make our situation worse?”

“You and I don’t make things worse. It’s not the mouse’s fault that it’s chased by the cat.” The tall man reached out and clasped Sherin on the shoulder. “And the faster the mouse scurries, the harder the cat pursues it. But I’ve never seen a mouse lie down and let itself be eaten.”

With that, Eresmiuth stood up and left Sherin to his thoughts. The other four occupants of the cell began to plan, working out the details and sequences of their scheme. But Sherin didn’t need to know the minutia. His mind turned over the words the Terrisman had told him.

Ever since he’d been born, he had acquiesced to the wicked. How would he now, this late in his life, summon the courage to resist?

* * *

“We’re not ready!” Malthis shouted at the infernal Inquisitor. “I’ll give you your new abilities, but there’s just too much risk right now!”

Lord Ruler, this man was a creepy one. He stared at Malthis with those flat, soulless spikes of his. “You’ve had the secret knowledge of the Inquisition for nearly a month; surely one with your supposed intellect could apply the secrets of Hemalurgy by now. All you need to do is incorporate the new metals.”

“It’s one thing to create a spike.” Malthis motioned over at the gleaming pieces of titanium and gum metal filling the countertop beside him. “There they are! Charged and ready. But it’s another matter entirely to apply said spike.”

Jannick didn’t answer him immediately. Instead, he picked up several of the newly charged Hemalurgic items, idly playing with them. Malthis was worried that the Inquisitor would spike himself, right then and there. He needed Jannick alive; his patronage was the only reason these experiments continued after the debacle at his family’s keep. “Yes,” the Inquisitor finally continued. “I have heard of prior Hemalurgic experimentation gone awry. The Lord Ruler understands all, but he graciously allows us to uncover knowledge through our own toil and pain.”

Good; at least this madman had a shred of sense inside his metal-pierced head. “Based on where I spiked the abilities out of, I think I know where to insert them,” Malthis explained. “But I can’t predict how the Identity and Connection of these new Hemalurgic charges will interact with a spiritweb suffused with the standard Metallic Arts. There is surely a reason why Mistborn cannot use these metals naturally.”

Jannick raised the spike he was holding and gestured towards Malthis with it. “I think I know what you’re about to suggest, but I sincerely hope I’m wrong.”

Malthis tamped down on the indignation swelling up within. “We need to make sure your abilities are not incompatible with the new ones. I need to conduct experiments on administering these spikes.”

The Inquisitor pointed his head at Malthis.  “You want to give someone else the new Allomantic powers?” That unnerving stare worked so well on others, and it took every shred of focus Malthis had to maintain his composure.

He shrugged, feigned composure. “Look at it this way,” he countered, “if someone’s soul is going to get shredded through our inexperience, neither of us want it to be yours.”

After a long, tense moment, Jannick finally gave a small nod. “Very well. But each Hemalurgic application will need to be performed by me, personally. I will not have you building an army behind my back. I am the one who discovered these powers, and by the Lord Ruler’s secret name I swear that I will not let you steal them from me.”

Malthis nodded in acquiescence. He had no problem with those conditions, truth be told. He knew Jannick was the sort of problem that would one day solve itself. “Excellent. I’ll need some new prisoners, some skaa and some lesser noble-blooded…”

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Chapter Four

Sherin tried to keep his mind from racing as the Wair and Dair led him once again through the twisting halls of the castle. This past week, in a cell with all those revolutionaries, had filled his head with all manner of rebellious thoughts. When he was around them, he wanted to help; he felt like he was a part of their nascent inscurrection. But now, as he was being taken to the experimentation chamber, his old mindset began to reassert itself. The futility of resisting, the contented complacency; on old friend returning from a short trip away.

The room they led him to was in a different part of the fortress than where Lady Erenia had conducted her testing, and the new scientist presented a stark contrast. Where Erenia had been harsh, Lord Malthis at least pretended to be amicable, motioning Sherin to take a seat on the couch as he instructed the guards to wait outside the door. But Sherin could see that it was nothing more than an act, like a copper patina over stone. A deception. Malthis’s eyes revealed the truth; impatience and arrogance. The noble would like nothing better than to be rid of the pathetic commoners he was forced to entreat with.

No, the only time that Sherin saw anything resembling joy on the man's face was when he was filling out his experimentation notes. In this, he was also unlike Erenia; instead of a methodical testing of each alloy individually, Malthis had contrived some sort of complicated sequence. Sherin swallowed a blob of mercury first, and then Malthis presented him with various solutions to drink. Some tasted metallic, but others were acidic and bit at his mouth as he swallowed them. After each failed test, the researcher referenced an enormous piece of paper, criss-crossed with lines, taking notes in seemingly random places each time.

Sherin had grown up as a simple farmer; the advanced scientific ways of high society were far beyond him. But, for all the apparent complexity, these new methods were having no more success than Erenia’s.

“Here,” Malthis said, holding a vial out to Sherin. He drank it as Malthis kept muttering to himself. “Now, this should release the silver ions, but I’ll be able to bind them back up with…”

Sherin stopped listening as something new and strange intruded on his senses. He couldn’t see it, or hear it, or feel it, but it weighed against him all the same. Oh, Lord Ruler, it was… power! Pure and strong, calling to him, demanding him to take it and use it. He’d never felt anything like it!

He kept his breath even, trying not to give Malthis even a hint of what he felt. That was it; somehow, the concoctions that Sherin drank today produced the necessary alloy! But he knew he couldn’t let his captor realize that he had the solution. The escape plan wasn’t ready yet; Terese was eager to go, but Eresmiuth hadn’t visited them for almost two days, now so L’ambert was keeping her under control. If Malthis found out he had solved the last mystery… well, who knows what would happen to the prisoners. Would it accelerate their captors’ timetable, now that they had finally uncovered all the secrets of this new Allomancy? Would it bring the transformation to Inquisitors even sooner? So, even though it took every shred of focus he had, Sherin kept his face smooth.

Malthis’s attention was already onto the next iteration of the experiment; he barely took a glance at Sherin before rummaging around among his effects for the next chemical in his test plan.

But the power… it called to Sherin. It was like it wanted to be used; its very nature revolted against being passively ignored. And it weighed against his thoughts, the more he felt inclined to try it out before the next drink destroyed this alloy. After all, this was an internal metal, right? That was how the others had explained it to him. Whatever effect it had, it should be less noticeable than the other new kinds of Allomancy.

Sherin’s curiosity got the better of him, and he reached out with his soul to the well of power. It reached back, like an old friend. It knew what to do; or was it that Sherin knew, had always known, deep down in the core of his being? The power flooded into him, through him.

And next to Lord Malthis, the very air ripped apart.

Sherin gasped. Whatever had just happened, it didn’t seem internal, at all! Hanging unsupported before him, like a window without a wall, was a mysterious portal. On the other side of it, dark mists churned back and forth without paying through the opening.

Malthis was equally astonished, but it only took him a second to recover his composure. “At last!” he exulted. “The final metal!” He reached his hand out, crossing the plane of the gateway, reaching out into the mists.

Sherin’s mind finally caught up with the events, and he withdrew the power in panic. The hole in the air snapped shut around Malthis’s arm, pushing it backwards and twisting him around as it forcefully expelled his limb from that strange place. The scientist was unfazed, turning back to his notes, striking through some lines and circling others. Caught up in the moment, he had completely forgotten about Sherin, about the prisoner before him.

So Sherin stood up and quietly walked over to the exit of the room. He tapped on the door, and one of the guards opened it for him. “Lord Malthis said he is finished with me,” Sherin offered timidly. “He said I was to be returned to my cell.”

The guard took a look past him, and, seeing that Malthis was engrossed in his papers, he nodded for Sherin to continue. The three of them walked down the hallways, but Sherin couldn’t focus on their route. He had made a terrible mistake; he had shown his captors the final secret of Allomancy! What would this do to their escape plans? He prayed to the living mists that Eresmiuth would be back in the cell by the time the guards returned him there…

“Hey,” one of the guards interrupted. “What’s the matter?”

Sherin looked up, startled. He thought it was Dair, but he had a hard time telling them apart. “What? Nothing is the matter.”

Dair cocked his head. “You’re not a very good liar, you know.” But his tone wasn’t confrontational; this wasn’t an interrogation. The accusation was nearly sympathetic; an invitation, almost, to share more with him.

Sherin shrugged. “I was just wondering what will happen to us once the experimentation is over.” It was a deflection, but even as he said it, the question arose truly in his mind. He motioned to the hallway around them; open doors revealed empty cells, which in prior weeks had been filled with men and women. “Where have so many of the others gone? Were they released? Were they given new jobs to use their new powers?”

Dair looked pensive as he considered the question. But his brother interrupted him before he could respond. “They’re all still around here somewhere. Just in a different wing, or on a different floor. Per the roster, nobody has gone missing.” Wair’s voice had a gritty undertone to it. The kind that said, even if you don’t believe me, this is not an argument worth having.

So they walked in uncomfortable silence until they reached Sherin’s cell. The three other occupants lounged on the ground, feigning indifference. The guards pushed Sherin in to join them and slammed the door shut.

Almus was the first to notice Sherin’s demeanor. “What happened?” he asked, standing up in concern.

Sherin answered in a hoarse whisper. “They found it. The last metal.”

Terese leapt to her feet. “What?!? How?” She grabbed him by the front of his shirt and shook him. “Couldn’t you have kept it a secret?”

“I didn’t realize!” Sherin blubbered. “I didn’t know what to expect! I thought it would be secret, but it tore a hole in the air, opened a pathway to a realm of mists!

L’ambert intervened, managing to interpose himself between Sherin and Terese. “Look, there’s no use fighting about what has already happened. We need to focus.” He turned an intent stare on Terese, first, and then to Sherin. “We need to pull together.”

“A realm of mists?” Almus asked. “That sounds like the thing Eresmiuth was telling us about.

L’ambert shrugged. “Maybe. We can ask him about it if he ever returns.” He looked over at the door to the cell. Sherin followed his gaze, and he out of the corner of his eye he saw the other two in the room glancing that way, too. Almost as if they expected the Terrisman to hear his name and stroll right in.

And, oddly enough, at that exact moment the door opened. But it was not Eresmiuth who entered.

The Inquisitor filled the doorframe, stooping to enter the cell. Sherin felt a knot of fear form in his stomach as the eyeless face slowly turned, as if taking in the room and its occupants.

Terese was the first to respond. She screamed a fierce war cry and launched herself in the air. The Inquisitor’s backhand snapped her head around, and she fell to the ground. Still breathing, thankfully, but unconscious.

The Inquisitor stared at L’ambert, almost as if in challenge. But the smaller man lowered his eyes, stepping back. The Inquisitor snorted in derision, then reached down to pick up the stunned woman. She groaned as he slung her over his shoulder. Then, he stepped deftly backwards, exiting the cell, and the door clicked shut behind him.

The entire wordless exchange had taken scarcely a dozen heartbeats.

Sherin felt the panic bubbling up through him. “He’s going to transform her into an Inquisitor! He’ll twist her mind and turn her against us!” He scrambled over to L’ambert, grabbing at his sleeve. “She might give away your plans! What will we do?”

L’ambert’s hand struck Sherin across the face, knocking him back. The stinging sensation on his cheek actually helped him clear his mind.

L’ambert didn’t apologize. “We had a saying in my old crew. ‘A plan is only good until the work starts.’ Well, it’s time to get to work. Were you able to keep any of your metal? Or did you burn it all in the lab?”

Sherin could still feel it, a faint pulse of power. “Yes, I have some left. I can make us a portal, maybe do it twice. But without knowing where it goes…”

L’ambert waved his hand dismissively. “Every tool is a valuable weapon. We’ll just need to keep it in our back pocket.”

He turned to Almus, next. The boy, though visibly frightened, was handling his emotions remarkably well for his age. Better than Sherin was, that much was for sure.

“I think it’s time to use the vial that Eresmiuth gave you,” Lambert instructed. “We need more information about what’s going on. Try to find him, or even Terese. Can you do that?”

The boy nodded. He downed the solution of metal, sat down cross-legged, and closed his eyes. A moment later, the shimmering duplicate appeared next to him. It nodded to L’ambert, and then it poked its head through the door. Not through the doorway; from Sherin’s point of view, he could see the ghost’s body, its neck ending against the thick wood of the door. The hallway must have been clear of guards, because the apparition slipped entirely through the door and disappeared.

Then, there was nothing to do but wait. L’ambert paced steadily, and Sherin couldn’t help but fidget stressfully. How long had it been since Almus left? An hour? A minute? He couldn’t keep track of time; even his own heartbeat felt erratic and uneven. Every second dragged painfully by.

The door slammed open again. The Inquisitor had returned. This time, as he studied the three conspirators, he noticed that Almus was sitting motionless, clearly using his clairvoyance. But it didn’t faze the inhuman figure. The Inquisitor reached down with one hand and grabbed the boy by the back of his collar. Sherin was still frozen in place, but L’ambert leapt forward with a snarl. The Inquisitor caught him with his other hand easily, almost effortlessly. L’ambert flew back across the room, slamming into the wall and falling to the ground.

Almus hadn’t woken up; he was still caught up in his Allomancy. But as the Inquisitor finally turned to drag him out of the room, his eyes snapped open. He looked up in horror, seeing the monstrous, spike-riddled arm holding him. Then he turned back to L’ambert and Sherin.

“We were wrong!” he shouted, sobbing. “We were wrong about the spikes! You need to get away now!”

The Inquisitor slammed the door shut again, but the child’s cries still echoed faintly down the hallway as he was dragged towards whatever horrible fate he had seen.

L’ambert picked himself up with a cough, swallowing a vial of his own metal. “Time to listen to the kid.” For the first time, Sherin could hear fear in the man’s voice. “Wherever your mystery rift opens up to, it’s time to go.”

Sherin gulped. Yes, the power was still there, still calling to him. Despite his panic, it was easy to summon. The strange, circular portal opened up again, the mist practically roiling on the other side.

He didn’t even time to build up his courage and step through of his own volition. He felt L’ambert’s hand grab his upper arm, pulling him forward as the two of them stumbled through the gateway.

Their feet met nothing but mist on the other side, and they tumbled into the gray darkness.

* * *

Thankfully, they didn’t fall forever.

Sherin didn’t know what had caught them. There was still only mist below him; it looked the same as the mist above him, and the mist on all sides of him. But it was supporting his weight, stopping his fall, and for that he was grateful.

Though this strange world was dark, it was not impossible to see. There was a faint glow that came from the odd mists, illuminating the figure beside Sherin. L’ambert, of course, casting his gaze around in wonder.

“What happened?” Sherin asked him.

L’ambert looked over at him. “I used my Allomancy. I panicked; I called out for help, for someone to stop us from falling. And the mists themselves answered!”

Sherin couldn’t wrap his head around it. “What do you mean?”

L’ambert motioned at their surroundings, his hands kicking up eddies. “This place; I think it is a mind. The mind of the very world itself!”

Yes; that made sense to Sherin. In the real world, the mists frightened him; that was where the wraiths lurked, to steal people away and consume them. But here… well, Sherin felt calm. At peace. The mists here felt like an old friend, almost; they knew him, they called to him, almost like his Allomancy did. What could the mists want from him…

All of a sudden, the weight of the mists’ attention withdrew from him. L’ambert was gesturing, waving his hand in a circle, and a staircase was coalescing before them. Wavering and insubstantial, it wound its way up, stretching beyond Sherin’s range of vision.

Sherin called out as L’ambert began to ascend the stairs. “Where are you going?”

The other man pointed up. “Look!”

Sherin squinted, and he could see faint sparkles of light above him. “What are those?” he wondered aloud.

“I don’t know,” L’ambert replied, “but I’m about to find out.”

Sherin didn’t wait to see how long the stairs would stay together after L’ambert left. (Or even the floor he’d been standing on, for that matter.) He stayed close behind as the two scaled upwards together, climbing for story after story. While Lambert’s eyes never strayed from the lights above them, Sherin glanced around, looking at the changing patterns around them. Down below, where they had started, the mists moved unpredictably, turning and flowing in every direction. But up here, they took on more substance; less chaos, more straight lines and angles, somehow.

“Look!” he whispered to L’ambert. “We’re in the keep!” Sure enough, the mists around them took on the shape of the well-traveled hallways and cells. The stairway that L’ambert had created tore a hole through its center, creating the gap they were climbing through, but the features that Sherin could see hearkened back to the many times he’d been escorted to and from the various experiments.

But the castle architecture wasn’t the only thing replicated. Turning around a misty corner were two luminous outlines, human-shaped figures of misty light. Sherin recognized their gait; the calm, measured pace of elite warriors. Wair and Dair, of course. Were they on patrol? Or going to get more test subjects. As the ghostly projections contacted Sherin, he glimpsed a vision of them in the real world, walking and talking to one another. But they passed through Sherin's body without responding to him in any way, continuing their business.

“Don’t you see?” L’ambert whispered back to Sherin. “This place, this world of mists, it’s a reflection of the real world. Or perhaps the other way around.” He chuckled. “That’s a question for philosophers, I guess. But while we’re here, nobody can capture us.”

Over the next hour, Sherin followed L’ambert around the keep, finding more people (L’ambert called them “minds”) and gathering information. Their friends were nowhere to be found; in fact, there were only about half as many prisoners as they remembered from the assembly in Luthadel.

There were several souls they didn’t dare approach. In the very top room of the keep, there were a handful that shone much brighter than the rest. Clearly, one of them was the Inquisitor, and they didn’t want to risk drawing his attention. But the others… there were definitely several other Allomancers in the room with him. And there, stretched out on a bench or a table… a tall figure. Eresmiuth? He, at least, appeared to still be alive. But the other Allomancers didn’t look to be Terese or Almus.

Their scouting completed, Sherin and L’ambert continued climbing, high above the keep. The glowing figures below them continued about their business as the two men conferred.

L’ambert shook his head. “I hate to say it, but I don’t see a way to accomplish our goal.” He stuck his hand out regretfully, and the shapeless mists around them shifted, twisting and forming into a bridge that extended out into infinity. “This is our chance to escape. Walk back to civilization; as far as we can, at least, and then use the last of your metal to hop back into the real world.”

Intellectually, Sherin wanted to agree. They’d finally be able to survive, to save themselves. So why did he feel a heaviness in his gut, more sickening than any metal he’d been forced to ingest. “After all that?” he asked. “We’re just going to run away?”

L’ambert turned away, his expression dark. “I don’t like it any more than you do. But without Terese, Almus, and Eresmiuth, we stand no chance against the Ministry’s forces.” He shook his head. “Truth be told, losing just one of them would have been enough to sink us. But all three?” He motioned to the misty blocks of the keep below them. “When you’re in a crew, it’s not like a castle. Every one of us is a cornerstone. Nobody is expendable.”

Sherin pondered the statement, staring down the misty highway that led to their escape. Something about L’ambert’s words resonated with what Eresmiuth had told him a lifetime ago. How strange to think it had only been a week. Eresmiuth had offered Sherin encouragement … no, a promise. That when the time came, Sherin would do the right thing.

Sherin turned back to L’ambert. “Nobody is expendable? Would you have said that about me before I had access to my Allomancy?”

L’ambert nodded. “Of course. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been in that cell with the rest of us.”

Somewhere deep down, Sherin was fairly certain that L’ambert was lying to him, trying to appease him so that Sherin would be more agreeable. But in the moment, Sherin didn’t care. He wanted to believe it. Because if it was true… if everyone was important, even someone like himself…

“Would you say,” Sherin asked cautiously, “that the Inquisitor his associates are, in many ways, a crew?”

L’ambert’s eyes narrowed. “They all have their particular complementary skillsets, yes.”

“So, what you said is true about them, too, isn’t it? We don’t need to defeat all of them. We merely need to focus on one of them. Or perhaps… just two of them?”

L’ambert took a deep breath, the implications of the suggestion clearly falling into place in his thoughts. Sherin could almost see the scales in his mind, balancing the alternatives. In one hand, an escape to freedom. In the other hand, almost certain death at the hands of the Final Empire. The question for a man like L’ambert wasn’t which was moral, but which was more pragmatic.

“It’s the right thing to do.” Sherin could barely believe the words that came out of his mouth. But, he had to admit to himself, Eresmiuth had been right. Sherin had lived his whole life cowering in fear, but that can all change in a moment. As uncomfortable and frightening as it was, Sherin truly knew what was right, and he could hide from it in ignorance no longer.

L’ambert apparently came to the same conclusion. He smirked. “A farmer and a con man against the might of the Final Empire? There are worse ways to go out. And who knows; you might even be right about them.”

Whether or not Sherin’s assessment of their enemies was correct, he knew one thing for sure. Today, Sherin the farmer had become a hero.

* * *

As Wair and Dair pushed him down the hallway, Sherin found it almost comforting. Truth be told, of all the horrible experiences he had suffered during this living nightmare, the routine escort had always been a calming reprieve. The places it led to had been horrendous, but Sherin realized he didn’t fear the two guards themselves.

L’ambert would likely disagree with him. He was walking with a limp, now, glowering darkly through a black eye. Even though they had transitioned back to the real world to let themselves get caught, they couldn’t exactly just walk up to Wair and Dair and surrender. That would raise too many suspicions. No, they’d had to sneak through the hallways of the prison, walking in circles as they pretended to hunt for the exit, until the two guards found and subdued them. Though Sherin had already established his reputation as one to give up without a fight, L’ambert unfortunately needed to sell it a little more strenuously, and the blows from the guards’ dueling canes had caused quite a bit of bruising.

Sherin tried to school his face, keep it calm and dejected, like he had every other time the guards had led him to an experimentation chamber. He was a farmer; he wasn’t cut out for this sort of deception. L’ambert had developed the details of the scheme; Sherin was along as a “back-out plan.” L’ambert would do all the talking, and all Sherin had to do was watch for an opportunity to get some more of his mercury alloy to provide a quick escape route if needed.

The four of them strode purposefully through the keep, ascending stairs and traversing hallways that even the guards, apparently, rarely visited. Towards the top of the keep, the mysterious upper room. The scientists had set up their laboratories on the lower level; this must be the Inquisitor’s private chamber.

When they reached it, even Wair gave pause, visibly steeling himself. The two guards put on their bone helmets, and then Wair finally knocked firmly on the door. It was Lord Malthis who opened it, annoyed and a little astonished at the nerve of the guards to interrupt. “We found these two loose in the halls of the keep, my Lord,” Wair reported, his voice steady.

“Bring them in.” The Inquisitor’s voice called from inside the room, and Malthis reluctantly stepped aside to allow the guards to push L’ambert and Sherin inside.

The sight that greeted them was horrendous, to say the least. The room was almost devoid of furniture; the most prominent piece was a squat table in the center of the room. There were no chairs around it; no, this wasn’t a table to sit at. Protruding from the top were several straps, used to tie down someone’s arms or legs, pinning them to the flat surface. Indeed, that was where Eresmiuth lay, breathing weakly. Though he appeared to be only slightly injured, the table and the floor around him were completely covered with blood, both dried and fresh. The reek of it accosted Sherin’s nostrils; the room smelled like a slaughterhouse.

That was not the only horrific sight.  A second, long table covered one wall, covered with a well-organized array of pieces of metal. Some were ingots, but others were long, nail-like shards. Spikes, many of which also had blood on them. Malthis made his way over to this table, approaching some equipment at the far end, where he began pouring mercury over silver. Creating an alloy… Sherin’s alloy.

In the far corner of the room sat the Obligator from so long ago, hugging his legs to his chest and rocking back and forth, whimpering. It had been a long time since Sherin had seen him, and it appeared that the intervening weeks had not treated him well. Well, at least that’s one enemy down already, somehow.

After taking in the rest of the room, Sherin finally forced his eyes to the very center of the room, as if he could delay it no longer. The Inquisitor himself, sleeves rolled up, blood all over his hands and forearms. “Ah,” he said haughtily. “The last of our troublemakers. I had been wondering where the two of you had gotten off to. It looks like our Terris friend here left you with just enough resources to escape from your cell. But not, apparently, enough to escape the castle entirely.” He grinned mockingly. “What a shame…”

Sherin felt his old fears return in a heartbeat, the familiar paralysis of terror. He had nothing to say in response to the Inquisitor; he could only stand there in horror.

But L’ambert was not so inclined. “After all this, you’re just killing everybody?” he asked incredibly. “What kind of demented brain do you have in that nail-riddled skull of yours?”

But the Inquisitor wasn’t fazed. “I’m not just killing everybody. That’s merely the first step.” The Inquisitor raised his hand, motioning to the guards. They hesitantly responded; Wair leading L’ambert over to the Inquisitor, and Dair guiding Sherin across to the far side of the room, walking past Lord Malthis and his workstation.

“He’s going to run,” the Obligator in the corner of the room muttered. A second later, L’ambert kicked at Wair, breaking free and dashing over towards Malthis, knocking him into his table and scattering metal everywhere, silver and quicksilver skittering across the floor.

The two guards quickly subdued L’ambert, but Sherin took advantage of the commotion to drop to his knees, scooping up some of the scattered metal pieces and shove them into his mouth. Hopefully, some of them would be the right alloy… Yes! Sherin felt the precious power once again, a fairly sizeable reserve waiting for him, begging to be used.

Sherin kept scrambling across the floor, moving over to the far wall, where Dair had been taking him. He turned around to see L’ambert being lifted by the Inquisitor, one hand around his throat. The smaller man scratched and clawed at the Inquisitor, tearing gouges on his arm that dripped blood off the spikes festooning it. But the Inquisitor merely laughed, extending his other arm to the side as a metal spike leapt off Malthis’s workbench into his hand.

The look of horror on L’ambert’s face seared itself into Sherin’s memory. Either the con man was an extraordinary actor… or he knew that his life was about to come to an end. He screamed, a ragged soul-piercing cry.

There was nothing Sherin could do. He could make a gateway, but Eresmiuth and L’ambert were both restrained. They wouldn’t be able to escape their bonds, even if there was a way out. That’s what Sherin told himself as he watched the Inquisitor drive the metal spike through L’ambert’s heart.

The Inquisitor dropped the man’s body to the ground, his blood pouring out of the gaping wound to join the macabre mural on the floor. “Quite the powerful Allomancy,” the Inquisitor mumbled, staring at the bloody spike still in his hand, “but not a variety I am particularly interested in. Lord Venture?”

The nobleman was still picking up his gear from the ground, but he turned to the Inquisitor at the inquiry. “Oh, of course!” he replied exuberantly. “I can certainly think of some useful applications.”

As the Inquisitor and the nobleman talked, Sherin heard a faint voice saying his name. Eresmiuth had summoned enough strength to call to him, barely able to turn his head to whisper. “Sherin… I’m so sorry. I misunderstood how the spikes worked.” The agony in the Terrisman’s voice was heartbreaking; more than physical pain, his spirit had been crushed. “They don’t change you, not on their own. They steal things, take a part of your soul and staple it to another.”

On the side of the room, Sherin could see this in action. Malthis howled in pain as the Inquisitor held his elbow in a vice grip and drove the spike through his forearm. The same spike that had killed L’ambert.

“Malthis will be an Allomancer,” Eresmiuth continued. “He is taking L’ambert’s very own ability. The titanium alloy, it can steal the new Allomantic towers. They’ve been using it for days.” He motioned over at the senseless Obligator in the corner. “They made him a Reader. I didn’t anticipate that our enemies could have these new abilities. I… was careless. It’s very, very hard to hide from someone who can steal your thoughts.”

The Obligator twitched, staring at Eresmiuth with clear eyes for a moment. But the fleeting lucidity passed, and the man began to fidget and fuss again.

Eresmiuth chuckled cynically. “It is only some small consolation that the power drove him mad. Hearing the thoughts of so many as they died in this room, feeling the horror as their souls were torn apart. He’s useless, now. But he played his part. The sacrifice of a pawn to capture a much more important piece. Myself.”

The Terrisman stared into Sherin’s eyes sorrowfully. “This is all my fault. My arrogance, my hubris. But I was wrong. Wrong about so, so many things. About everything, really.”

Sherin met the Terrisman’s eyes. “Not everything. We could have escaped, L’ambert and I. But we came back.”

And a genuine smile crossed the Eresmiuth’s face. “I’m honored,” he said, his voice thick, “for you to prove me right on one count.”

Malthis’s voice interrupted their moment, speaking into Sherin’s head. Testing, testing, iron and steel. Mists above and below! This is fantastic! The noble was trying out his new powers; the Inquisitor had finished his gruesome surgery. Sherin looked over to see Malthis inspecting his arm, the spike protruding clean through about halfway between his wrist and his elbow. A faint symbol was etched on the head of the spike; one of the letters of the Steel alphabet. One of the four that hadn’t been associated with metals. It appears that the Ministry was officially completing the chart.

The Inquisitor was at the workbench, picking up another spike. Sherin recognized its makeup; his mercury alloy. The one that had only been discovered a few hours ago. The Inquisitor exhaled a long, satisfied sigh. “At last. The spike you’ve been waiting for, my Terris friend. One that can steal Cognitive Feruchemy! I wonder which one of your tricks I want the most…”

The last piece of the puzzle fell into place for Sherin. That was why they had kept Eresmiuth alive; they couldn’t seal this power until they had discovered the last metal. Until Sherin had given it to them. He retched as the shame hit him, fighting down his bile. He had caused his… If only he had found the courage earlier to rebel against his captors. If he had just refused to participate…

Sherin forced himself to watch as the Inquisitor slaughtered Eresmiuth. Malthis guided him in the spike placement; his extensive prior experimentation was evidently enough to illuminate the particulars of this grisly art. Sherin wept as the mercury alloy spike, his great sin, stole the life from the last of his friends beneath the wicked hand of the Inquisitor.

“Finally,” the Inquisitor growled, “a boon for myself.” He pushed the Terrisman’s body onto the floor, where it crumpled atop L’ambert’s. Next to Sherin, the Obligator appeared to be undergoing a seizure; his eyes rolled back in his head, and he foamed at the mouth. Nobody moved to help him; they were all occupied with their own business. The Inquisitor lay down on the bloody table himself, this time. Malthis handed him a mallet, and the Inquisitor carefully set the point of the spike against the inside of his own shoulder. Lining up the mallet’s head, he raised his hand to strike home.

And Sherin burned his metal.

It was only a small gateway, but he was very precise with his placement. Between the spike and the Inquisitor’s skin. When the mallet struck the head of the spike, it didn’t drive it into the Inquisitor’s flesh; it merely pushed the spike through into the world of mists. The Inquisitor didn’t drop it; his wrist caught on the edge of the portal, while his hand went halfway through, carrying the spike.

With a prayer to gods he didn’t know, Sherin extinguished his Allomancy, letting the hole snap shut. It didn’t shear of the Inquisitor’s hand; as before, it expelled anything that was partially through. The Inquisitor’s fingers twitched, releasing the spike. Which, in turn, flew through the air, arcing and falling into Sherin’s waiting palm.

He didn’t waste a moment. He had no hammer to drive the spike, but still had plenty of his Allomantic power. He created a small gateway again, right in front of his own chest. He quickly maneuvered both the spike and his own body, matching the Inquisitor’s placement from a moment ago. When the portal closed, it thrust the spike into Sherin’s own flesh.

The pain was incredible; more than just the physical toil of piercing flesh and bone, Sherin’s very soul hurt as the magical art twisted into him. The spike settled, not moving, and when Sherin looked down, he didn't even see any blood. It had been successful; he now had Eresmiuth’s power. He reached within himself, looking for a new source of power…

And there was nothing there.

The Inquisitor sat up on the table, letting out a bellowing laugh. “You don’t know how the Terris arts work, do you, little man? They’re nothing like Allomancy.” He swung his feet over the side of the table. “You need to store power in order to use it. You’ve accomplished nothing; I’ll kill you and take the spike back.” The Inquisitor reached into his robe and pulled out an odd piece of jewelry, a swirling metal bracelet. “Without the Terrisman’s metalmind, that spike won’t do you a dusting of good!”

He raised it above his head, cackling maniacally.

Until an obsidian axe separated his arm at the elbow.

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Chapter Five

Dair whirled through the air, Jannick’s axe in his hand. He had snatched it in one fluid motion, swinging it up and dismembering the Inquisitor, before spinning away out of his reach.

Dair knew he had no excuse for his prior actions, his participation in the travesty around him. He and his brother had privately discussed their concerns, of course, about the goals and methods of the experimentation. Today, in this room, was the first evidence of the true purpose of this endeavor: the murders and… well, whatever else was going on with the spikes. But even without the definitive proof, Dair knew he should have intervened long ago. All this time, blindly following orders… and look what it had led to!

The Inquisitor reached up with his remaining hand to grasp the metalmind… but before he could lay hold of it, a dueling cane flashed out, Dair’s brother knocking the bracelet across the room to skid in front of the farmer. The poor, frail man who had stood up to the Inquisitor. Dair didn’t understand what kind of Allomancy he had used to retrieve the spike; some sort of odd steelpushing, he guessed. But it didn’t matter. If that man, that downtrodden peasant, had the courage to rebel against evil, then how could Dair stand by and watch?

Dair fell into his combat stance, bouncing lightly on the balls of his feet. On the other side of the Inquisitor, he saw his brother adopt the same pose. They hadn’t planned this; indeed, if Dair would have brought it up, he was sure his brother would have managed to talk him out of it. But there is no relationship quite like that between a pair of twins, and when Wair saw his brother begin to move against the Inquisitor, he had hurtled into action without hesitation.

Jannick growled, whirling his head around, training his eyespikes on Wair and Dair in turn. Nearly any other man or woman in the Empire would be filled with fear right now. But not Dair. He wasn’t eager for this fight, of course; only a madman would seek out battle with an Inquisitor. But Dair and his brother hadn’t just trained to counter Allomancers. No, they had also fought against Feruchemists; they knew the secrets of metalminds.

And beyond that, the deep secret that he and his brother had strove so hard to uncover. To become the best hazekillers in the world, they had made a point of studying every type of Allomancer they could possibly come across. Not just Mistings… not just Mistborn…

Every. Single. Type.

Wair and Dair, out of all the hazekillers in the Final Empire, were the only ones who knew how to fight an Inquisitor.

It wouldn’t be easy. It would almost certainly end in their deaths. But Dair knew, in this moment, that it was the right thing to do.

And so the brothers set to work with their long-practiced techniques. An Inquisitor suffered from the same fundamental weakness as a Mistborn: too many choices. When confronted with an unexpected scenario, Inquisitors needed to take stock of the situation and evaluate which of their glut of powers was best. So the first step for hazekillers would be to overwhelm the Inquisitor’s mind. “Analysis paralysis,” they called it.

It could be as simple as a feint. Dair stepped forward a fraction of step, just shifting his weight to indicate an imminent motion; the Inquisitor snapped his attention in that direction. But that gave Wair an opening on the other side; a small handful of aluminum needles, thrown from a bundle, pricked into the back of Jannick’s head. Not enough to cause real damage, but sufficient for him to whip around with a snarl. Which, in turn, was Dair’s the opportunity to fling a small glass globe of ants at his enemy’s feet. The insects swarmed and bit, just another small affront against the Inquisitor’s attention.

Dair knew that it wasn’t possible to distract an Inquisitor like this forever. Sooner or later, they always remember the sheer number of superhuman abilities they possess, many of which can single-handedly turn a battle when applied judiciously. So the second step in fighting an Inquisitor is to counteract their most powerful skills. Deny them their metalminds, and you eliminate their Feruchemy. Those metalminds were often rings or bracelets; very difficult to knock off, but hazekillers who had fought Feruchemists had developed an effective countermeasure.

As Jannick turned back towards Dair, it gave Wair the opening to slip close after pulling out what looked like a distended pair of scissors from a hidden pocket. Clippers: made from titanium, ironically enough, with a thin veneer of aluminum covering most of their surface area. Wair used the instrument to gouge at the Inquisitor’s leg. He drew blood, but that wasn’t the real goal. The shears cut cleanly through the gold ring encircling the leg, just above the thigh, and the Inquisitor’s health metalmind dropped to the ground.

That was the most important trick to fighting Inquisitors. You couldn’t just pick a fight with an Inquisitor in a bar and have a chance at victory. No, you had to do your homework, study them, predict exactly how they will react. Know where on their body they kept each and every one of their metalminds. Dair had personally seen Jannick in combat in the past; some of the prisoners they’d captured had fought back, and even at the beginning, Wair and his brother had been paying attention. Jannick had a tendency to take hits, allow himself to be injured, focusing completely on the counterattack. His first tactic was always to lean on his gold Feruchemy.

The sudden denial of his healing was clearly a shock to Jannick. He lunged towards Wair, his muscles swelling slightly as he tapped strength. Oh, it ran against every instinct Dair had, but he very pointedly ignored the steel ring on Jannick’s finger. This was not the time to target his speed metalmind. Dair knew he had to stick to the script, so he darted toward and carefully destroyed the pewter metalmind near Jannick’s elbow.

It was a shock, but the Inquisitor was not stupid. Sooner or later, his rational mind would catch up with his instincts, and then Dair knew that Jannick would tap speed and run. Without the element of surprise, their next battle would be over in a scant moment.

So it was time for the endgame. The prior exchanges of blows had paved the way, but there was only one method to kill an Inquisitor. You had to remove their linchpin spike. Oh, this was a truth that Wair had uncovered and sworn his brother to secrecy; if anyone in the Steel Ministry had even gained an inkling that the brothers knew how to kill an Inquisitor, they would have certainly been imprisoned an executed. But every secret had its moment to be revealed.

As Jannick swung his one remaining arm at Wair, the shear came up, snipping at the grasping fingers, taking the steel ring off along with the digit it rested on. Dair didn’t strike at the Inquisitor directly; he cut open the back of his robe, exposing the spike-riddled back. He was able to get his hand on the linchpin spike, grasp it with his fingertips…

And that’s when the Inquisitor finally remembered he was an Allomancer, too. A large chunk of unalloyed titanium hurtled off the laboratory table, spinning towards the center of the room and knocking Wair in the back of his head. He fell; dead, or just unconscious, Dair couldn’t tell. The Inquisitor whirled, his pewter-enhanced legs trying to fling Dair off of his back. Dair gripped as tight as he could to the linchpin spike, but his fingers slipped off, and he flew across the room, slamming into the door with a horrendous crunch.

He only had a split second to see the Inquisitor leaping towards him, his hand curled into a wicked claw. This was how he would die, then. He and his brother wouldn’t be the first hazekillers to take down an Inquisitor. But they had done what was important. Here, at the end, they had stood for what was right.

Dair stared back with defiance at the soaring Inquisitor, and a vision of mist filled his sight.

* * *

By the time Sherin realized what was happening, the exchange of blows had already taken place. As Sherin had hoped, the hazekiller brothers, when confronted with the true depravity of their superiors, had leapt into action against them, initiating a whirlwind of action almost faster than Sherin’s old eyes could keep up with. Eresmiuth’s bracelet skidded across the room towards him, and by the time he picked it up and looked back at the fight, the Inquisitor was throwing off the hazekillers. He soared towards Wair, like a coin fired by a Coinshot, heading for the kill.

Sherin snapped open a portal in front of him, and the Inquisitor tumbled through it, disappearing into the mists.

As the sounds of battle echoed briefly around the room, quickly fading to nothingness, another noise caught Sherin’s ear. Gasping for breath, groaning in pain. It was coming from under the workbench, where Malthis lay, blood pooling underneath him. What had happened?

Sherin cautiously moved towards the man, expecting a trick. But no; as he rolled him over, he saw that the scientist had apparently been trying to grant himself another Allomantic power. He’d fallen on a spike, driving it into his belly. But the placement wasn’t correct; instead of a bloodless implantation, it appeared that Lord Malthis had partially disemboweled himself. He whimpered in pain.

“I hear that’s one of the worst ways to go.” Wair was standing up from behind Sherin, taking off his helmet, shaking his head to clear away his dizziness. “Long and painful.”

Sherin stepped back, trying to avoid the seeping flow of blood. “Nobody deserves that.”

“Even after all he did?” Dair grunted, feeling around his body for fractures or bruises, as he joined the others. “Look at all the spikes on the table. Every one of those is somebody he murdered.” Sherin had to admit that the man had a point. Even now, as Malthis’s blood spread on the ground towards the center of the room, it commingled with what had poured down from his profane altar.

The scientist looked up at them, pleading, weeping. “I beg you. Give me something to dull the pain, at least…”

Wair knelt down next to him. “Of course. We’ll afford you the same courtesy you gave your victims.” The tone of his voice was decidedly not comforting. “Surely you anesthetized them before you butchered them alive. So just tell me where in this room you keep your painkillers.”

Malthis’s face went pale, and not just from his extensive blood loss.

“That’s enough,” Dair said, looking over at Sherin timidly. “Just deal with him, quickly. Let me get Sherin here out of this hellhole for a minute.”

Dair led Sherin out of the torture chamber, down a short hallway, and out onto a balcony. The fresh air smelled incredibly sweet. Even though it was night and the mist circled around, he still found it preferable to being surrounded by death.

The man put his hand on Sherin’s shoulder reassuringly and began to ask him questions. “Where did you send Jannick?”


“The Inquisitor. Mists, you didn’t even know his name!” Dair shook his head. “Where did that portal lead?”

Sherin shrugged. “I’m not sure. L’ambert thought it was a realm of the mind, like the mind of the Final Empire itself, or something. It’s like here, but everything is mist. L’ambert’s Allomancy worked differently when we were on the other side; he was able to shape the mist, let us walk on it. Without that power, I think the Inquisitor will just fall forever.”

Dair shook his head. “I wouldn’t count on it. Inquisitors are very tough to kill.”

“Well, even if he can survive there, he has no way of making it back to the real world. Unless myself or one of the Allomancers opens the way, he’ll be stuck there. And we’ve got no reason to do that!”

“Yes, we do.” Dair motioned out past the edge of the balcony. “Look out there. What do you see?”

Sherin squinted, trying to look through the mist. “Is that water?” As he strained, he could see the faint, choppy waves of a sea around them.

Dair nodded. “You got it. We’re on an island. And, unfortunately, the barges that come to bring supplies are heavily armed. If we want to get away from this place, the only way to do so is through those mists of yours.”

Sherin’s heart sank. Just when he thought he was past the worst of it… here they would go, back into the wraith’s den. “I understand,” he whispered.

Dair squeezed his shoulder. “But this time, we’ve got plenty of time to prepare. And without his metalminds, Jannick isn’t going to be much scarier than a regular Mistborn.”

“For some reason, that doesn’t bring me much comfort,” Sherin muttered.

Dair grinned at him. “It should. Wair and I have killed a Mistborn before.”

That statement somehow made Sherin feel even worse.

Dair led him apologetically back into the room where the battle had just taken place. Wair had pushed all the bodies off to the corner of the room; Sherin intentionally did not look to see what had eventually caused Malthis to still forever. But now, Wair was studying the spikes on the table, along with some carefully drawn anatomical illustrations.

“So,” Wair groused as they joined him, “what’s the plan, little brother?”

Dair tossed his shoulders in a shrug. “We’ll need to escape through the mysterious world of mists that only Sherin here can access. Jannick will probably be there, eager for round two.”

“Of course.” Wair held up the spike he was inspecting. “Looks like it’s time to cheat, eh? How do you feel about being a hazekiller with Allomancy?”

“Sounds terrible. Let’s go for it.” The brothers began busying themselves, studying the papers, which apparently indicated how to place spikes to grant the new Allomantic abilities.

“Wait just one moment!” Sherin shouted at them. How could they so treat these abominations so casually? “People were killed to make these! Good people! Some of whom were my friends! You can’t just… use them on yourselves!”

The two brothers looked over at Sherin flatly. More specifically, they were staring at the spike protruding out of his shoulder, the one that had killed Eresmiuth.

“That’s different!’ Sherin argued. “I had to stop the Inquisitor from using it! And I know Eresmiuth would have… would have wanted me to have it, even.”

Wair and Dair shared a look before Dair began to speak. “Look, I know this is difficult to come to terms with. I don’t blame you. But we didn’t kill your friends. Malthis and Jannick, the blood is literally on their hands.” Dair raised the spike he was grasping; it glistened and gleamed, with the blood cleaned from it. “And I think that everybody who died for these, including your companions, would be honored to share their powers with us. Especially if we use them to put that rat Jannick into the ground, where he belongs!”

Sherin looked down at the ground. Yes, he could do that. For the sake of his lost friends, he would bear their spikes.

Malthis had been a meticulous organizer. Every gum metal spike, the one that stole Allomancy, was stamped with the symbol of the Allomantic ability it contained. In smaller lettering, an identification was also there, to identify the source of each spike. It was quite unnerving when Sherin found a spike with his own name on it; Malthis was almost too prepared. But that also meant they were able to find Terese’s and Almus’s spikes, to go along with L’ambert’s, which Wair had recovered from Malthis’s body.

They burned like lances molten metal as they entered Sherin’s body. He didn’t try to hold back the tears. He wept for his lost friends. But it felt as if their spirits were there alongside him, encouraging him, telling him that they were with him, that they would be there to help him accomplish their mission.

* * *

Several hours later, as Sherin followed Dair through the castle, it wasn’t as a prisoner following his captor. They were partners now, colleagues, and Dair had asked for his help.

Sherin was still weak on his feet, struggling to recover from his new spikes. He wasn’t the only one who had laid hold of new powers in the upper room. Wair and Dair had each given themselves a single spike: the former was a Reader, and the latter was a Clairvoyant. They had been back on their feet in moments; but then again, they had (for some odd reason) decided to only take one spike apiece.

While Sherin had recovered, the twins left to assemble the rest of the escapees. They had decided to take the entire castle’s population with them: the prisoners, the servants, the new guards, everyone. The death of an Obligator, a high-ranking noble, and an Inquisitor would surely spell doom for anybody who remained here.

Wair had gone to gather the staff while Dair released the prisoners. But the younger twin had returned to Sherin, alone. “They’re not listening to me,” he complained. “They just cower in their cells. I explain that we’re busting them out, that we have plenty of metal for them to use, that we need their help. But they think it’s some sort of trick. If I grab one of them by the arm and drag them, they’ll follow, but I obviously we can’t manage our escape like that.”

So that’s how Sherin found himself accompanying Dair into his old cell block. Up and down the hall, all the doors were open, and at a few of them Sherin spotted the bolder captives peeking out; but when Dair appeared, they huddled quickly back into their rooms.

The sight broke Sherin’s heart. He’d been there, one of them, for so long. Looking at the ground, letting his enemies do as they please. They were broken, each and every one of them. Just like he had been. It was up to him to show them all a better way. Sherin strode confidently into the nearest cell, taking a look at the figures huddled within. An old woman, a bespectacled youth, and…

With a start, Sherin recognized the third occupant. The man was one of Sherin’s cell-mates from so long ago, back during the very first days of this ordeal. The man hadn’t been returned after one of the rounds of testing with Lady Erenia, and Sherin had never seen him again. After seeing the grisly laboratory upstairs, Sherin hadn’t expected to find this man alive. But here he was.

Before saying else, Sherin walked over to him and extended his hand in greeting. “It’s been a long time, friend. I don’t believe we ever introduced ourselves properly. My name is Sherin.”

The man shook it cautiously. “Kallin,” he responded. His eyes showed that he remembered Sherin, too. Probably jealous of how the older man had been afforded more time between testing sessions. Mists, this terrible experience had even turned the victims against one another.

But Sherin smiled at him, intentionally and reassuringly. Well, hopefully so, on the latter. “It’s nice to meet you, Kallin. I have some good news. The experiments are over. We’re going to be leaving.”

Kallin looked at him suspiciously. “What about the Inquisitor? The scientists? All the soldiers?”

“The scientists are dead. The soldiers don’t wish to be here, either; they’re going to escape with us.” Sherin gestured at Dair, who stood at the door, and the intimidating figure nodded his head in an attempt at camaraderie.  “As for the Inquisitor… he’s gone, for now. But when we run, we expect him to come back. That’s why we need your help.”

“Me?” Kallin scoffed. “What could I do against an Inquisitor?”

Sherin ignored the question. “Tell me, Kallin. What Allomantic ability do you have?”

Kallin stared skeptically at Sherin for a long moment before answering. “I’m one of the ones who can talk into minds,” he replied. “A Speaker.”

“Good. We have plenty of titanium alloy for you to use. We’ll be going to a place where your powers work slightly differently. You won’t speak to minds; you’ll be able to shape the very world around you. Imagine if you could reshape the stone around you right now.” Sherin gestured to the walls of the cell. “Just imagine how you could use that against the Inquisitor!”

But Kallin was still unconvinced. He didn’t seem to understand what Sherin was saying about the other realm, but even so, he had other arguments. “Look, why are you the one asking me?” he asked accusingly. “I remember you, you know. From the day in Luthadel. We were so close to escaping; I had a clear line to one of the doors. All I needed was somebody to throw the keys over to my group, and we’d have been able to unlock ourselves and scatter.” He jabbed a finger into Sherin’s chest. “But somebody froze up like a startled goat! So how come it’s you who I’m talking to now? Where are L’ambert, or Terese? The ones who are worth something!”

In response, Sherin slowly pulled his shirt over his head, revealing the spikes that adorned his body. Kallin and the others gasped, but Sherin calmed them with a wave of his hand, motioning them closer to read the names that adorned the spike heads.

“They gave us a very great gift, even though it came at the cost of their lives. They made their choices, knowing it would give us the opportunity to escape. And now, it comes down to us.” Sherin opened his arms, reaching out to the small group. “Will you do the right thing, Kallin? Will you help us?”

* * *

Kallin was the first to be persuaded, but soon the entire cell block had been emptied. When the prisoners met Sherin and saw an Inquisitor of their own, they dared to believe they had a chance.

And as he watched them coalesce as a group, speaking with one another in excited tones about the powers they held, he noticed how they looked to him for inspiration. It was good, Sherin realized, that he had been the one to receive the spikes of the others. If L’ambert or Terese had been in his shoes, the downtrodden hostages wouldn’t viewed them as just another powerful, unrelatable figure. But they all saw themselves in Sherin; if this old man can fight back, so can I. It was just as Eresmiuth promised; whether sympathy, empathy, or jealousy, Sherin didn’t care. The oppressed were rising up.

Dair led Sherin’s band to a large meeting hall in the depths of the castle. Thirty-six Allomancers, in total, although fourteen of them shared Sherin’s power. They were calling themselves Travelers, but there wasn’t enough of their alloy to share. Three of the Travelers took an emergency ration, enough for a portal or two, and Sherin kept the rest. Of the other metals, Dair distributed what he had found upstairs. He cautioned them not to use it just yet; they could practice once they had entered the world of the mists.

They were met by another group led by Wair, who had been quite busy organizing the castle staff. The nine skaa servants were wheeling a cart loaded with supplies for a journey, which they began to distribute among the entire procession. A half dozen guards marched behind the hazekiller, wielding pikes that were little more than sharpened sticks. They looked frightened and tense without their metal armor, but if they had to fight an Inquisitor, they must have known it would only be a hindrance.

The crowd milled around him as final preparations were made. As silence slowly fell, Sherin found everybody looking at him. It was a very uncomfortable feeling. But he didn’t want to shirk his duty to these people, so he cleared his throat and raised his voice. “I suppose this is the time where a leader would give an inspiring speech…”

“No,” Wair interrupted him. “I think you’d be better off just opening your portal so we can get a move along.”

Sherin gulped. “Good point.”

When the gateway opened, Sherin half expected the Inquisitor to come flying straight out of it. But Wair and Dair took Kallin with them (to provide some stability to the mists), and scouted the keep from the other side. The wait was tortuous, but after a few minutes the trio reappeared. The coast was clear; Jannick was nowhere to be seen.

So the small caravan crossed through, one at a time. Sherin brought up the rear, and when he let the portal close behind him, he let out a sigh of relief. He would be happy to put this terrible place behind him for good.

The pack of men and women moved slowly, Speakers forming a firm pathway for them through the mists, until they reached edge of the island. Where water lay in the real world, they found a black, obsidian-like stone surface. Dair leapt out, testing it, and he found it solid. The group showed evident relief as they all crossed over onto it; walking on mists was unnerving, and the Speakers were glad that they weren’t responsible for the safety of the party, anymore.

They all huddled there, at the edge of the stone, looking to Sherin again for guidance. He took a deep breath and reached inside of himself to his metal reserves. He had five of them now: four Allomantic abilities, and one of Eresmiuth’s strange Terris powers. With the small measure of comfort they gave him, he took a step forward, and led his people out into the mists.

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Chapter Six

As Sherin and his companions walked through the mists of the realm of the mind, they huddled close together. This place reminded them of the nighttime mists of their own world, dark and oppressive; the number and variety of fiends that hid within their obscuring swirls was limited only by their imaginations.

Wair and Dair were the only ones who were unaffected by the strange surroundings, but Sherin thought that was due to the pair being the exact sort of creature that everyone feared was lurking out there. The hazekillers… no, the new Allomancers, they were practicing with their new abilities, trying to learn how they worked in this strange place. Just like with L’ambert’s power, the other Allomantic abilities worked differently, too.

Dair appeared and disappeared frenetically. For the Clairvoyants like him, there was apparently no distinction here between his body and his mind. When he burned mercury, he instantly transported his entire self somewhere within eyesight. The soldier was practicing his ability as much as he could, to overcome the disorientation when he teleported, but he knew their supply was limited. The other Clairvoyants swallowed only a small reserve of their mercury, another emergency ration, but most of the metal went to Dair.

Wair was standing alongside Sherin, burning his metal almost constantly. The titanium burned very slowly here; Wair couldn’t read the thoughts of those around him, but his awareness had expanded out into the mists around them. He was able to sense the movements of every individual in their travelling party, keeping an eye on them. Like tineyes, perhaps, but only in this place of mists.

The former guard pulled Sherin to the side, out of earshot of the rest of the group. “Don’t panic,” he said softly, “but Jannick’s out there.”

“You can sense him?” Sherin tried to stifle his panic as he whispered back frantically.

Wair shook his head. “No. I believe he’s burning copper; it negates my ability to feel him directly, like I can with the rest of you. But I can find traces of him. Stone crunching underfoot when nobody is near, mists far away being driven by a wind that shouldn’t exist in this place. He’s stalking us. Studying us.”

Sherin burned titanium within himself, reaching out and trying to find the Inquisitor. But he couldn’t interpret the new information rushing into his mind, the flood of people and things and places and noises… He was still struggling with his own native power, much less all the new ones he’d recently been given.

Wair could tell that Sherin was trying to burn titanium, and he shook his head. “Don’t waste your effort. You’ve brought your army together; now let us prepare for him.”

As Sherin watched, the brothers began to reorganize the procession, and the shambling mass slowly took on a sharp, crisp shape. First, Dair separated out several small squads of three. A guard, a Reader, and a Speaker; after forming a trio, he led them to hold a point on the perimeter. Six of these groups in total, forming a long box. They faced outwards, looking into the mists, trying to spot the roaming Inquisitor. As he guided them to their positions, he was explaining the way to kill an Inquisitor, his Allomancy and the mysterious linchpin spike.

For the rest of the group, Wair led them into the center of the box, grouping them tightly together in ranks. The liberated servants walked here, as well as the remaining Allomancers: the Clairvoyants (except for Dair), the Travelers (including Sherin), and one extra Speaker who didn’t have a trio. This was where Wair himself stood, in the center of their formation, issuing commands loudly. Sherin couldn’t help but think the man was offering himself as bait, somehow. Get the Inquisitor in the center of the pack, and then collapse onto him? Was that their plan? The bloodshed would be tremendous.

Sherin pulled Wair aside and confronted him in a whisper. Wair shook his head. “That’s not my plan, but it is always a possibility. There are only two people here that he fears: me, and my brother. Not you; he wants your spikes back, but he’ll take them after he deals with the two of us. Between me and my brother, he’ll probably kill me first; my Allomancy isn’t as useful here as I had hoped. If it happens, that will be your opportunity.”

No. Sherin couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “I can’t just let him kill you to gain an advantage!”

Wair’s eyes were steely and focused behind his bone helmet. “This is an Inquisitor we’re fighting. Someone’s going to die.” He reached out and tapped Sherin on the arm, on one of his new spikes. “If I die, don’t let it be in vain. I’ll make the same promise to you.”

Sherin looked away; he couldn’t stand it, how casually Wair was accepting his imminent demise. Not everyone was cut out to be a soldier.

“I see him!” a voice shouted. One of the Readers from the side of their box. He pointed out into the mist, at a shadowy figure, barely visible as Sherin himself burned titanium lightly. It was hard to tell distance here; was he a hundred feet away? Farther?

“Formation, halt!” Dair’s voice called out, clear and strong. The sound of footsteps died immediately, their echoes swallowed by the dark mists around them. “Squads, eyes out! Readers, heads on a swivel!”

Sherin lost sight of the Inquisitor, so he stopped burning titanium. Around him, his troops shifted uneasily, eyes darting back and forth. The rustle of clothing, the wheeze of nervous breaths, the scrape of shoes on obsidian… the moments dragged out into an eternity. Sherin leaned over to Wair, about to ask what they should do next…

One of the Readers on the back of the group squealed a warning, and Sherin whirled to face the rear. The mists parted, revealing the frightening form of the Inquisitor bearing down on the group, sprinting like an athlete at them. Primal terror froze Sherin’s feet to the ground.

But the Inquisitor didn’t reach him. The Speaker in the squad raised his arms, calling the mists, and they slammed in front of the Inquisitor like a door. Sherin thought he could even recognize the knots and patterns from one of the castle’s cell doors, remade from the mists. The Inquisitor crashed silently against the misty obstacle, rebounding with a snarl. He tried to dart around, but the Speaker was too quick, sliding his shield over to bar the Inquisitor’s line of approach again.

Frustrated, the Inquisitor retreated, disappearing back into the mist. “Don’t let your guard down!” Wair called from the center of the formation. “Excellent job in the first skirmish, but he’ll be back for more!”

Dair shouted his agreement. “As long as you work together, he won’t get past. Now let’s keep moving. Formation, advance!”

Miraculously, the group listened, and together they began to crawl forwards again. Much slower than they had before the Inquisitor arrived; but they were moving, at least. The Inquisitor made more abrupt appearances, testing each of the squads at least once, but the troops held fast.

“You must be proud of them,” Sherin told Wair after the tenth encounter. “You and your brother trained them well in such a short time.”

Wair nudged Sherin in the side. “They’re following your example, too. I told them what you did, how you tossed the Inquisitor in here even before you had all those spikes. Because of you, they all know that Jannick can be beat. To them, you are hope.”

Dair brought the group to a halt again with a shout. “Wair, Sherin! To the front!”

As Sherin reached him, he could immediately see what caused the interruption. The Inquisitor stood up ahead, blocking their path. Not hiding, not sneaking, just standing there, his one remaining arm hanging at his side. “Can’t we just go around him?” Sherin asked cautiously.

Dair shook his head. “I tried that a minute ago. He diverted and got in front of us again. If we respond to him by fleeing, we’ll let him herd us, and we’ll find ourselves right back at the castle.”

Wair grunted his agreement. “He’s forcing a confrontation. That’s good; he’s getting desperate. Get the actual soldiers together; it’s time we went after him.” The brothers pulled on their helmets with an air of finality.

The former guards split off from their squads and formed up behind the twins, three apiece. Sherin’s eyes were locked on them as they paced slowly towards the Inquisitor. He knew most of the others were watching, too; even the Readers and Speakers, who stayed back to defend the group, could afford to turn their gazed on the coming battle, as long as they knew where the Inquisitor was.

The soldiers fanned out, encircling the Inquisitor, taking up stances a half-dozen paces away from him. Wair and Dair stood side-by-side, their backs to Sherin, interposed between the party and the Inquisitor. Wair held two dueling canes; Dair, the Inquisitor’s old obsidian axe.

With no warning, the twins rushed forwards towards the Inquisitor, and the battle began.

Before they could reach him, Dair blinked away, appearing behind the Inquisitor. As if he had been anticipating it, the Inquisitor swung with his good arm, swinging with a darkly glittering knife straight at Dair’s chest. But the hazekiller had only spent an eyeblink there; he had already teleported again, a stone’s throw from his adversary. Like a game of chess, move and countermove, searching for the opening.

The Inquisitor knew the rest of the sequence, too, and he turned to Wair, waiting for the other sibling to take advantage of the prior exchange. But Wair rocked back on his haunches, never reaching the Inquisitor.

It was the common soldiers who charged, instead. They’d been forgotten by the Inquisitor, and he shouted in pain as their simple spear dug into his flesh, drawing blood. They didn’t stand to fight; no, as soon as the Inquisitor’s attention turned towards them, they backed away, letting one of their fellows rush in.

Sherin was amazed; that’s all it took to fight a ferocious Inquisitor? But though the tactic started strong, it didn’t last. The pewter-burning hulk of a man could take many, many hits from the rough stakes of the guards, and after a few fierce moments, the Inquisitor threw his knife, catching Wair in the leg. As the hazekiller stumbled back, the Inquisitor caught one of the soldier’s staves with his now-free hand. He yanked, pulling the man off-balance, and swung his knee up into the soldier’s face with a sickening crunch. He cocked his arm and hurled the spear at a second soldier, felling him too.

The clash descended into chaos; as Wair limped back, behind the shield wall of the Speakers, the remaining soldiers tried to beat a hasty retreat, as well. Dair flashed in and out, trying to harry and distract the Inquisitor, to little effect. The large axe was too slow, so Dair couldn’t land a solid strike before he was forced each time to retreat. Under the Inquisitor’s pursuit, only two of the soldiers made it back, barely staying ahead of their formidable opponent.

Three of the Speakers, Kallin among them, raised their barriers confidently. But from the stump of the Inquisitor’s lost arm, a misty tendril grew. It drove straight through the walls, wrapping around the Kallin’s throat. The man’s head lolled to the side, his limbs dangling loosely, and his shield disappeared.

As the Inquisitor’s attention was drawn towards the group, towards the Speakers he was slaughtering, Dair made his move. Though he was far back from the battle, Sherin could see him raised his axe above his head, readying a powerful swing.

But the Inquisitor was ready. As soon as Dair appeared behind him, the Inquisitor’s fist was there, slamming into the hazekiller’s gut. Glittering silver vomit spewed out of the man’s bone helmet, and without his new Allomancy, he was helpless as the Inquisitor wrenched the axe out of his hand and cleanly decapitated the man.

The hazekiller’s death served as a catalyst. Or perhaps it was an emotional Push from the Inquisitor; Wair had warned about some of the more subtle powers. But magic or not, panic overtook the caravan, and they scattered. Unorganized and without a plan, Sherin’s compatriots fell before his eyes.

The two remaining guards, to their credit, stood fast, but their wooden spears were split by the Inquisitor’s axe, and they fell. A Clairvoyant managed to teleport herself away from the Inquisitor’s strike, but she only leapt twenty feet or so; by the time she had recovered her senses, the Inquisitor had reached her again, cutting her down. One of the surviving Speakers tried to climb up into the air, but the Inquisitor’s smoky false arm reached up and impossible distance and plucked him out. A panicked Traveler opened a portal, and a half dozen bodies leapt through it into the cold water on the other side, heedless of how far away from land they were. The servants, helpless and powerless, ran off into the mists with no care for where they were going or how they would return to the real world.

Even Wair, at last, was cut down. The last hazekiller, limping on his injured leg, stood proudly in front of the Inquisitor. “There’s no spike for the gateways, Jannick,” he laughed. “Even if you kill us all, you’ll never escape. There’s no way for you to get back to the real world. Your knowledge will die with you. We’ve won!”

The Inquisitor’s face twisted with disdain. “I’ve been to Shadesmar a dozen times before, maggot.” The axe crashed down on Wair’s bone helmet, shattering it and the head beneath it.

And just like that, Sherin found himself alone in the mists with the Inquisitor. His adversary strode slowly, purposefully, towards him; not to be fooled by another trick with gateways, each of his steps was carefully measured.

Sherin pulled out his last, secret weapon: Eresmiuth’s bracer. It was a power he didn’t understand fully, but he had been on the receiving end of it, briefly. Sympathy, the power to command others. This reserve was strange, so different than the Allomancy he had wielded. But he grasped it all the same. How much of this power should he take? It kept flowing and flowing as he inhaled. Sherin drew on almost all of it, leaving just a bare shred left in the metalmind.

Stop!” he commanded, in a powerful voice. The Inquisitor paused… stumbled slightly…

And then, with an evil grin, he kept walking towards Sherin.

“No! I said stop!” Sherin shouted, holding the bracer in front of his face desperately. But it had no effect; the Inquisitor continued on his approach. He was now close enough to reach out and grab Sherin; one enormous hand grasped his cloak, while his mist tendril wrapped around the metalmind in Sherin’s hand, penetrating into it and shattering it. Sherin screamed; he felt shards of the metal fly into his open mouth, gashing the insides of his cheek.

“Nowhere left to run, little man,” the Inquisitor taunted, his steel eyespikes filling Sherin’s vision. The cold cord of mist moved over Sherin’s torso, wrapping around each of his spikes. “I must say, I’m impressed. In another life, maybe we could have made a true Inquisitor out of you. But these spikes, they belong to me.”

“Stop… please…” Sherin pleaded weakly, but his voice cut off as the end of the Inquisitor’s ghostly appendage wrapped around his throat.

The Inquisitor laughed and began to draw the spikes out of Sherin’s flesh.

And so, in desperation, Sherin burned everything.

As he burned silver amalgam, a massive portal opened beside them.

As he burned mercury, he snapped away, not just teleporting, but launching himself through the air, adding momentum to his motion. He didn’t leave the Inquisitor behind; unable to break the vice grip, Sherin merely carried the Inquisitor with him through the portal into the real world, and they splashed down into the water. The Inquisitor’s extra arm melted away as portal to the world of mists snapped closed above them.

As he burned titanium, he felt the Inquisitor’s mind, his thoughts, as he pushed through the man’s mental defenses in an enormous rush of power. In an instant, Sherin understood his enemy. Some men adopted a bizarre, twisted worldview where they could pretend they were morally justified in their actions. But not Jannick. No, this Inquisitor knew what was right, what was good, and he chose to ignore it. He was one of those sick individuals who reveled in his wickedness.

And as Sherin burned gum metal…

That was odd. As he burned gum metal, he felt two wells of power. Or perhaps a single well that could be used in two different ways. One of them felt like sympathy, the Feruchemical attribute he had used earlier; but it held a vast amount, far greater than the stores that had been in the bracer. He tapped it, his head spinning with the sheer quantity of suggestive power he was drawing on.

But he saved just a little bit of gum metal to speak into the Inquisitor’s mind, directly.


Sherin wasn’t sure whether it was due to the strength of sympathy, or to the direct mental connection, or some resonance between the two. But the Inquisitor’s body locked up. He was still clutching the front of Sherin’s clothes, and his deadweight dragged the two of them down, under the surface of the water.

Sherin’s reserves of gum metal were diminishing quickly. Even now, the Inquisitor was shaking himself free from the suggestion, ready to finish the grisly work he had started. Sherin held his breath as they sank; he was only going to get one more opportunity.

With the last of his power, Sherin spoke a single, straightforward command into the Inquisitor’s mind. An order that he knew the Inquisitor, deep down, couldn’t help but understand completely.

Do the right thing.

Though the Inquisitor’s mouth opened in a shriek, bubbles escaping in a roil, his hand released Sherin. The arm twisted around, behind his back, reaching, straining.

The Inquisitor pulled out his own linchpin spike.

Sherin kicked his feet, swimming upward, back to the surface. The Inquisitor sank down, floating almost serenely into the depths. When Sherin reached the surface, he used his silver amalgam to create a portal just above the water, climbing through to the rocky expanse.

The last of his enemies was dead; they had all been defeated at their own hands. Sherin was finally, blessedly, free.

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Sherin was still astounded that the realm of mist had people living in it. And even more so that the people who lived here were undeniably boring.

He had been transitioning between the Physical Realm and the Cognitive Realm (as he had recently learned they were called), trying to stay one step ahead of the Steel Ministry, when he had stumbled across a small boat floating upon the mists. The people crewing it had looked strange and talked strange, but an inquisitive dark-skinned woman had invited him on board and taken him back to a small settlement. Built on the black obsidian, it featured a small ecosystem contained entirely within the Cognitive Realm.

He had spoken with them about his Allomancy. (He kept the spikes and his Feruchemy a secret.) They, in turn, had shared with him the truth of the cosmere. His home, the Final Empire, was one of many lands, all connected by Shadesmar, his realm of the mind. This town hosted men and women who had come from every conceivable alien location, some with their own bizarre strains of Allomancy (or Investiture, as they told him).

And yet, somehow, they were dull. The vast majority of the individuals were merchants, traders, bringing goods to the place they named Scadrial. Sherin didn’t understand how they could turn a profit, when he heard the lengthy travel times it had taken them to reach his home. But that was all they were interested in, trinkets and commodities; any time Sherin tried to recruit them to aid in his fight against the Final Empire, they brushed him off, insisting that their business was much more important than petty local politics.

The others all had their excuses. The scientist insisted her research was paramount, the mysterious dark-skinned man with a faint glow about him claimed he wasn’t allowed to intervene, and even a few local Scadrians told him they weren’t going to rush back into the Final Empire of their own free will.

So Sherin found himself dejected, sitting in a tavern, when a strange individual joined him at his table.

The figure was humanoid, but hairless, with gray, clammy-looking skin. Bulging eyes, two small holes on a snout-like nose, and a wide mouth . Almost like a half-frog, half-human. When he approached Sherin, he was sipping from a large, pink, crystal mug; as he set it down, Sherin thought he saw several small fish swimming in it.

“I hear,” the mysterious man croaked, “that you’re quite the hot-blooded individual. Hopping around the outpost, begging anyone you can find to help you overthrow an empire or something.”

Sherin perked up in his seat. “Are you here to help me?”

The frogman chuckled, a high-pitched rumbling from deep in his throat. “The other way around, actually. I have a friend I would like to introduce you to. I think he will be particularly interested in your skillset.”

Sherin must have let his astonishment show on his face, because his new companion reached up and slapped him on the back with a webbed hand. “What? Did you think that your planet had a monopoly on oppression?”

“I guess not,” Sherin answered. Maybe this was the way to defeat the Final Empire: to earn allies elsewhere. “Tell me more about this friend of yours…”


Ars Arcanum



GUM METAL: Speaker Mistings, in the Physical Realm, are able to issue telepathic communications to any individuals within their line of sight, much as Ruin once did. When they burn their metal in the Cognitive Realm, they become extremely adept at shaping the Scadrian subastral’s Cognitive mists, allowing them to travel the realm without requiring use the common transportation methods. Puppeteer Ferrings are able to able to tap sympathy to cause others to listen to and obey their commands. Storing sympathy is very time-consuming; in order to accumulate a charge, the Ferring must actively make suggestions that are ignored.

MERCURY: Clairvoyant Mistings, in the Physical Realm, are able to separate their Cognitive Aspect from their Physical Aspect, drawing it into the Physical Realm to move and observe independently. The apparition cannot physically interact with the world around it. In the Cognitive Realm, they are able to teleport themselves anywhere within their range of vision. Concealer Ferrings are able to create a temporary pocket dimension of Shadesmar, accessed through their metalmind, which they can enter. Accessing this pocket dimension follows most of the usual rules of utilizing perpendicularities.

SILVER AMALGAM: Traveler Mistings are able to create a temporary perpendicularity in the form of a free-standing vertical gateway to cross in and out of Shadesmar. The Feruchemical properties of this alloy have not yet been determined.

TITANIUM: Reader Mistings, in the Physical Realm, are able to access surface-level thoughts of any unprotected individuals within their line of sight. In the Cognitive Realm, this ability becomes less specific, granting the reader a faint sixth sense of the surroundings in Shadesmar. Titanium has a notably different burn rate in the different Realms; it burns very fast in the Physical, but slowly in the Cognitive. Faceless Ferrings are able to store other’s awareness of themselves to go unnoticed, and they can tap it to stand out and have others more strongly remember their appearance, words, or actions.



The rarity of Shadesmar Mistings and Shadesmar Feruchemists has made them very difficult to study. These abilities are somehow granted through a subtly alternate genome among the local Scadrians; Mistborn and Full Feruchemists do not have access to these Shadesmar abilities. I suspect the origin of these secret Scadrian ethnicities comes from cross-breeding with native Cognitive entities in the planet’s deep past, though I have no specific hypothesis as to exact manner of being that could have participated in such liaisons.

Although nobody can be born with both traditional Metallic Arts and Shadesmar Metallic Arts, these additional abilities are otherwise indistinguishable in how they interact with other forms of native Investiture. Compounding, enhancement metals, bronzesense, spike limits… in all other ways, Shadesmar metals function like the rest. As the research drive towards ethical Hemalurgy continues, I am curious to see what sorts of resonances could be achieved between these new metals and the more familiar set of powers.

Unique among this “fifth quadrant” is that the Allomantic abilities manifest differently whether the Misting is in Shadesmar or in the Physical Realm. This is true for three of the four, but not for the Traveler Mistings. I have only met one of those, but for a brief time he was extremely valuable to me in providing access to planets whose perpendicularities are either nonexistent or too perilous to utilize. I have many of my Scadrian contacts watching for another one to appear; I have a long list of locations I would like to study in person, and it seems to grow by the week.

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And there you have it. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, although as I said earlier, the second half is admittedly a little less cohesive than I would like. I had originally plotted it at four chapters: the first three were all spot-on what I expected them, but the fourth chapter was "epic battle with the Inquisitor" and turned into the last three. I tried it as one chapter, then as two, then finally as three, so the second half was very much discovery-written. (Or "scope creep," as I'm used to calling it at work.) I'm also not super great on my Shadesmar mechanics, and I didn't take the time to reread Secret History before writing chapters 4-6, so I wouldn't be surprised if I've got some details wrong in there. Essentially, I was trying to have the Shadesmar manipulation be in line with how some Radiants on Roshar will manipulate beads in Shadesmar, versus the formal "manifestation" that we see Kelsier doing throughout Secret History.

I'm glad to have this out of the way, and when I say I have two more stories ready to go, I'm not going to flake out like I did last time. They're both written, and I'll post one in July and one in August. They are both much shorter and much quirkier than the first two, but I really enjoy them. We'll see if I get any work done on #5 over the next two months. (I'm not ashamed to admit that that over the last six weeks, all of my free time has been devoted to Jedi: Survivor and Tears of the Kingdom, so I haven't done any work on it yet.) Or... I might work on #8, which is another quirky story set on Taldain, so it'd be nice to work on that once my White Sand omnibus gets in. Who knows... I'm clearly in no rush to get this whole project done.

One last thing. You may notice that there are some Feruchemical symbols in the Ars Arcanum. Those are, in fact, new and canon. I asked Isaac if there were any Feruchemical symbols that corresponded with the four mystery Allomantic symbols, and he was gracious enough to admit there were and send them to me. The metals and powers, obviously, are of my own fabrication, but the symbols themselves are real.

Metal Symbols.png

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