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The Hero of Ages: Mistborn Trilogy #03by Brandon Sanderson
Legacy Of The Survivor
Fatren squinted up at the red sun, which hid behind its perpetual screen of dark haze. Black ash fell lightly from the sky, as it did most days lately. The thick flakes fell straight, the air stagnant and hot, without even a hint of a breeze to lighten Fatren's mood. He sighed, leaning back against the earthen bulwark, looking over Vetitan. His town.
"How long?" he asked.
Druffel scratched his nose. His face was stained black with ash. He hadn't given much thought to hygiene lately. Of course, considering the stress of the last few months, Fatren knew that he himself wasn't much to look at either.
"An hour, maybe," Druffel said, spitting into the dirt of the bulwark.
Fatren sighed, staring up at the falling ash. "Do you think it's true, Druffel? What people are saying?"
"What?" Druffel asked. "That the world is ending?"
"Don't know," Druffel said. "Don't really care."
"How can you say that?"
Druffel shrugged, scratching himself. "Soon as those koloss arrive, I'll be dead. That's pretty much the end of the world for me."
Fatren fell silent. He didn't like to voice his doubts; he was supposed to be the strong one. When the lords had left the towna farming community, slightly more urban than a northern plantationFatren had been the one who had convinced the skaa to go ahead with their planting. Fatren had been the one to keep the press gangs away. In a time when most villages and plantations had lost every able- bodied man to one army or another, Vetitan still had a working population. It had cost much of their crops in bribes, but Fatren had kept the people safe.
"The mists didn't leave until noon today," Fatren said quietly. "They're staying later and later. You've seen the crops, Druff. They're not doing wellnot enough sunlight, I'd guess. We won't have food to eat this winter."
"We won't last 'til winter," Druffel said. "Won't last 'til nightfall."
The sad thingthe thing that was really dishearteningwas that Druffel had once been the optimist. Fatren hadn't heard his brother laugh in months. That laughter had been Fatren's favorite sound.
Even the Lord Ruler's mills weren't able to grind Druff's laughter out of him, Fatren thought. But these last two years have.
"Fats!" a voice called. "Fats!"
Fatren looked up as a young boy scrambled along the side of the bulwark. They'd barely finished the fortificationit had been Druffel's idea, back before he'd really given up. Their town contained some seven thousand people, which made it fairly large. It had taken a great deal of work to surround the entire thing with a defensive mound.
Fatren had barely a thousand real soldiersit had been very hard to gather that many from such a small populationwith maybe another thousand men who were too young, too old, or too unskilled to fight well. He didn't really know how big the koloss army was, but it was bound to be larger than two thousand. A bulwark was going to be of very little use.
The boySevfinally puffed up to Fatren. "Fats!" Sev said. "Someone's coming!"
"Already?" Fatren asked. "Druff said the koloss were still a while away!"
"Not a koloss, Fats," the boy said. "A man. Come see!"
Fatren turned to Druff, who wiped his nose and shrugged. They followed Sev around the inside of the bulwark, toward the front gate. Ash and dust swirled on the packed earth, piling in corners, drifting. There hadn't been much time for cleaning lately. The women had to work the fields while the men trained and made war preparations.
War preparations. Fatren told himself that he had a force of two thousand "soldiers," but what he really had were a thousand skaa peasants with swords. They'd had two years of training, true, but they had very little real fighting experience.
A group of men clustered around the front gates, standing on the bulwark or leaning against its side. Maybe I was wrong to spend so much of our resources training soldiers, Fatren thought. If those thousand men had worked the mines instead, we'd have some ore for bribes.
Except, koloss didn't take bribes. They just killed. Fatren shuddered, thinking of Garthwood. That city had been bigger than his own, but fewer than a hundred survivors had made their way to Vetitan. That had been three months ago. He'd hoped, irrationally, that the koloss would be satisfied with destroying that city.
He should have known better. Koloss were never satisfied.
Fatren climbed up to the top of the bulwark, and soldiers in patched clothing and bits of leather made way for him. He peered through the falling ash across a dark landscape that looked as if it were blanketed in deep black snow.
A lone rider approached, wearing a dark, hooded cloak.
"What do you think, Fats?" one of the soldiers asked.
Fatren snorted. "Koloss wouldn't send a scout, especially not a human one."
"He has a horse," Druffel said with a grunt. "We could use another of those." The city only had five. All were suffering from malnutrition.
"Merchant," one of the soldiers said.
"No wares," Fatren said. "And it would take a brave merchant to travel these parts alone."
"I've never seen a refugee with a horse," one of the men said. He raised a bow, looking at Fatren.
Fatren shook his head. Nobody fired as the stranger rode up, moving at an unhurried pace. He stopped his mount directly before the city gates. Fatren was proud of those. Real, true wooden gates mounted in the earthen bulwark. He'd gotten both wood and fine stone from the lord's manor at the city center.
Very little of the stranger was visible beneath the thick, dark cloak he wore to protect himself from the ash. Fatren looked over the top of the bulwark, studying the stranger, and then he glanced up at his brother, shrugging. The ash fell silently.
The stranger leaped from his horse.
He shot straight upward, as if propelled from beneath, cloak whipping free as he soared. Underneath it, he wore a uniform of brilliant white.
Fatren cursed, jumping backward as the stranger crested the top of the bulwark and landed on the top of the wooden gate itself. The man was an Allomancer. A nobleman. Fatren had hoped those would all stick to their squabbles in the North and leave his people in peace.
Or, at least, their peaceful deaths.
The newcomer turned. He wore a short be
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