With The Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a New York Times bestselling spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America.
Now, with The Bands of Mourning—available January 26th from Tor Books—Sanderson continues the story. The Bands of Mourning are the mythical metalminds owned by the Lord Ruler, said to grant anyone who wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had at his command. Hardly anyone thinks they really exist. A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.
Read chapter six below, or head back to the beginning with chapter one.
Marasi stopped on the image of the monster.
It was evening; people chatted softly around her in the dining car, and the train rolled around a picturesque bend, but for a moment she was transfixed by that image. A sketch of violent, rough lines that somehow conveyed a terrible dread. Most of the pages in the stack VenDell had delivered contained transcripts of questions answered—or, more often, not answered—by the wounded kandra.
This was different. A wild sketch using two colors of pencil to depict a terrible visage. A burning red face, a distorted mouth, horns and spikes streaking out along the rim. But black eyes, drawn like voids on the red skin. It looked like a childhood terror ripped right out of a nightmare.
The bottom of the page had a caption. ReLuur’s sketch of the creature described on 8/7/342. Yesterday.
The next page was an interview.
VenDell: Describe to us again the thing you saw.
ReLuur: The beast.
VenDell: Yes, the beast. It guarded the bracers?
ReLuur: No. No! It was before. Fallen from the sky.
VenDell: The sky?
ReLuur: The darkness above. It is of the void. It has no eyes. It looks at me! It’s looking at me now!
Further questioning was delayed for an hour as ReLuur whimpered in the corner, inconsolable. When he became responsive again, he drew this sketch without prompting, muttering about the thing he had seen. Something is wrong with the eyes of the creature. Perhaps spikes?
Spikes. Marasi pulled her purse from under the table, digging into it as the couple at the table behind her laughed loudly, calling for more wine. Marasi pushed aside the two-shot pistol she had tucked inside and took out a thin book, a copy of the one that Ironeyes had given to Waxillium.
Inside it she found the description she wanted, words written by the Lord Mistborn, Lestibournes. So far as I’ve been able to figure out, Hemalurgy can create practically anything by rewriting its Spiritual aspect. But hell, even the Lord Ruler had trouble getting it right. His koloss were great soldiers—I mean, they could eat dirt and stuff to stay alive—but they basically spent all day killing each other on a whim, and resented no longer being human. The kandra are better, but they turn to piles of goop if they don’t have spikes—and they can’t reproduce on their own.
I guess what I’m saying is that you shouldn’t experiment too much with this aspect of Hemalurgy. It’s basically useless; there are a million ways to mess up for every one way there is to get a good result. Stick to transferring powers and you’ll be better off. Trust me.
It was so odd to read the Lord Mistborn’s words and have them sound so casual. This was the Survivor of the Flames, the governor who had ruled mankind in benevolence for a century, guiding them on the difficult path to rebuild civilization. He sounded so normal. He even admitted in one section to having Breeze, Counselor of Gods, write most of his speeches for him. So all of the famous words, quotes, and inscriptions attributed to the Lord Mistborn were fabrications.
Not that he was a fool. No, the book was full of insight. Disturbing insight. The Lord Mistborn advocated gathering the Metalborn who were elderly or terminally ill, then asking them to sacrifice themselves to make these… spikes, which could in turn be used to create individuals of great power.
He made a good argument in the book. It wouldn’t have been so disturbing if it had been easy to dismiss.
She studied the descriptions of Hemalurgic experiments in the book, trying to ignore the loud couple behind her. Could this drawing be of a new kind of Hemalurgic monster, like those Wax had encountered under Elendel? Designed by the Set, or perhaps the result of a failed experiment? Or was this instead related to the continually ephemeral Trell, the god with an unknown metal?
She eventually put them aside and focused on her primary task. How to find ReLuur’s spike? He’d been wounded in some kind of explosion that had ripped off part of his body, and he’d been forced to flee, leaving the flesh—and the spike—behind.
Kandra flesh remained in its humanlike state once cut free of the body, so those cleaning up after the explosion would have simply disposed of it, right? She needed to see if they’d created some kind of mass grave for people killed in that explosion. Of course, if the Set knew what to look for in a kandra’s corpse, they might have recovered the spike. The pictures—and the possibility they were experimenting with Hemalurgy—made that more plausible. So that was another potential lead. And…
And was that Wayne’s voice? Marasi turned to look at the laughing couple behind her. Sure enough, Wayne had joined them, and was chatting amicably with the drunk pair, who wore fine evening attire. Wayne, as usual, was in Roughs trousers and suspenders, duster hung on the peg beside the table.
He saw Marasi and grinned, drinking a cup of the couple’s wine before bidding them farewell. The train hit a sharp bump, causing plates to rattle on tables as Wayne slid into the seat across from Marasi, his face full of grin.
“Mooching wine?” Marasi asked.
“Nah,” he said. “They’re drinking bubbly. Can barely stand the stuff. I’m mooching accents. Those folks, they’re from New Seran. Gotta get a feel for how people talk there.”
“Ah. You do realize it’s proper to remove your hat indoors, correct?”
“Sure do.” He tipped his hat at her, then leaned back in his chair and somehow got his booted feet up on the small table. “What’re you doin’ in here?” he asked.
“The dining car?” Marasi asked. “I just wanted a place to spread out.”
“Wax rented us out an entire train car, woman,” Wayne said, pointing at a passing waiter, then pointing at his mouth and making a tipping motion. “We’ve got like six rooms or somethin’ all to ourselves.”
“Maybe I simply wanted to be around people.”
“And we ain’t people?”
“That is subject to some dispute in your case.”
He grinned, then winked at her as the waiter finally stepped over.
“You wanted—” the waiter began.
“Liquor,” Wayne said.
“Would you care to be a little more specific, sir?”
“Lots of liquor.”
The waiter sighed, then glanced at Marasi, and she shook her head. “Nothing for me.”
He moved off to obey. “No bubbly!” Wayne shouted after him, earning him more than one glare from the car’s other occupants. He then turned to eye Marasi. “So? Gonna answer my question? What’re you hidin’ from, Marasi?”
She sat for a moment, feeling the rhythmic rattle of the train’s motion. “Does it ever bother you to be in his shadow, Wayne?”
“Who? Wax? I mean, he’s been putting on weight, but he’s not that fat yet, is he?” He grinned, though that faded when she didn’t smile back. And, in an uncharacteristic moment of solemnity, he slid his boots off the table and rested one elbow on it instead, leaning toward her.
“Nah,” he said after some thought. “Nah, it doesn’t. But I don’t care much if people look at me or not. Sometimes my life is easier if they ain’t looking at me, ya know? I like listening.” He eyed her. “You’re sore that he thought you couldn’t do this on your own?”
“No,” she said. “But… I don’t know, Wayne. I studied law in the first place—studied famous lawkeepers—because I wanted to become something others thought I couldn’t. I got the job at the precinct, and thought I’d accomplished something, but Aradel later admitted he was first interested in hiring me because he wanted someone who could get close to, and keep an eye on, Waxillium.
“We both know the kandra wanted him on this mission, and they arranged the meeting with me to try to hook him. At the precinct, when I accomplish something, everyone assumes I had Waxillium’s help. Sometimes it’s like I’m no more than an appendage.”
“You’re not that at all, Marasi,” Wayne said. “You’re important. You help out a lot. Plus you smell nice, and not all bloody and stuff.”
“Great. I have no idea what you just said.”
“Appendages don’t smell nice,” Wayne said. “And they’re kinda gross. I cut one outta a fellow once.”
“You mean an appendix?”
“Sure.” He hesitated. “So…”
“Not the same thing.”
“Right. Thought you was makin’ a metaphor, since people don’t need one of those and all.”
Marasi sighed, leaning back and rubbing her eyes with the heels of her hands. Why was she discussing this with Wayne again?
“I understand,” he said. “I know what you’re feeling, Mara. Wax… he’s kind of overwhelming, eh?”
“It’s hard to fault him,” Marasi said. “He’s effective, and I don’t think he even knows that he’s being overbearing. He fixes things— why should I be upset about that? Rusts, Wayne, I studied his life, admiring what he did. I should feel lucky to be part of it. And I do, mostly.”
Wayne nodded. “But you want to be your own person.”
“Nobody’s forcing you to stay with us,” Wayne noted. “As I recall, Wax spent a lot of effort at first trying to keep you from always gettin’ involved.”
“I know, I know. I just… Well, this once I was thinking for a time that I might be able to do something important on my own.” She took a deep breath, then let it out. “It’s stupid, I know, but it still feels frustrating. We’ll do all this work, find that spike, and get back to the kandra—then they’ll thank Waxillium.”
Wayne nodded thoughtfully. “I knew this fellow once,” he said, leaning back again, feet on the table, “who thought it would be a good idea to take people huntin’. City folk, you know? Who ain’t never seen an animal larger than a rat what ate too much? Out in the Roughs, we got lions. Fierce things, with lotsa teeth an—”
“I know what a lion is, Wayne.”
“Right. Well, Chip—that’s his name—he got some broadsheets printed up, but borrowed some notes from his girl in order to do it. And so she thought she should get a piece of the money once he got people to pay for this trip. Well, the first money came in, and they got in a fight and she ended up stabbing him right in his holster, if you know what I mean. So he stumbles out into the street all bleedin’, and that’s where the constables found him and told him you can’t be killin’ no lions. There’s a law about it, see, as they’re some kind of noble natural treasure, or some such.
“Anyway, they took Chip and stuffed him in jail, where they slammed the bars—by accident—on his rusting fingers. Broke his hand up right good, and he can’t bend the tips of his fingers no more.”
His drink arrived—a bottle of whiskey and a small cup. He took it, telling the waiter to charge Waxillium, then poured some and settled back.
“Is that the end?” Marasi asked.
“What?” Wayne said. “You want more to happen to the poor fellow? Right sadistic of you, Marasi. Right sadistic.”
“I didn’t mean…” She took a deep breath. “Did that have any relevance to the situation I’m in?”
“Not really,” Wayne said, taking a drink, then removing a little wooden box from his pocket and getting out a ball of gum. “But I tell ya, Chip, he has it really bad. Whenever I’m thinkin’ my life is miserable, I remember him, and tell myself, ‘Well, Wayne. At least you ain’t a broke, dickless feller what can’t even pick his own nose properly.’ And I feels better.”
He winked at her, popped the gum in his mouth, then slipped away from the table. He waved to MeLaan, who was wearing a fine lace gown and oversized hat. A normal woman would have needed quite the corset to pull off the outfit, but the kandra had probably just sculpted her body to fit. Which was horribly unfair.
Marasi stared at the notes. Wayne had left her feeling confused, which was not unusual, but perhaps there was wisdom in what he said. She dug back into the research, but it wasn’t too long before she started to droop. It was getting late, the sun having fully set outside, and they wouldn’t arrive for another few hours. So she packed up the stack of pages inside their large folder.
As she did, something slipped out of the folder. Marasi frowned, holding it up. A small cloth pouch. Opening it revealed a small Pathian earring and a note.
Just in case, Waxillium.
She yawned, tucking it away, and pushed out of the dining car. The private car Waxillium had hired for them was two cars back, at the tail end of the train. She held tight to the sheets as she stepped onto the open-air platform between cars, wind whipping at her. A short railman stood here, and eyed her as she crossed to the next car. He didn’t say anything this time, though last time he’d tried to encourage her not to move between cars, insisting that he’d bring her food if she wished.
The next car over was first-class, with a row of private rooms on one side. Marasi passed electric lights glowing on the walls as she crossed the car. Last time she’d been on a train, those had been gas, with bright, steady mantles. She liked progress, but these seemed much less reliable—they’d waver when the train slowed, for example.
She crossed to the final car, then passed her own room and walked toward the room where Waxillium and Steris had taken dinner, to check on them. Both were still there, surprisingly. Waxillium she had expected, but late nights were not Steris’s thing.
Marasi slid open the door, peeking in. “Waxillium?”
The man knelt on the floor, his seat covered in ledgers and sheets of paper. Eyes intent on one of them, he held up his hand toward her in a quieting gesture as she started to ask what he was doing.
Marasi frowned. Why—
“Aha!” Waxillium proclaimed, standing up. “I found it!”
“What?” Steris said. “Where?”
“I looked in tips.”
“One of the dockworkers turned the request in late,” Waxillium said, grabbing a sheet and spinning it toward Steris. “He tipped a dock boy four clips to run a message for him, and asked for reimbursement. Dockmaster gave it to him, and filed a note, but he wrote the four like a three and the accountants recorded it that way.”
Steris looked it over with wide eyes. “You bastard,” she said, causing Marasi to blink. She’d never heard language like that from Steris. “How did you figure this out?”
Waxillium grinned, folding his arms. “Wayne would say it’s because I’m brilliant.”
“Wayne has the mental capacity of a fruit fly,” Steris said. “In comparison to him, anyone is brilliant. I…” She trailed off, noticing Marasi for the first time. She blinked, and her expression became more reserved. “Marasi. Welcome. Would you like to sit?”
“On what?” Marasi asked. Every surface was covered in ledgers and pages. “The luggage rack? Are those house finances?”
“I found a lost clip,” Waxillium said. “The last one, I should add, which gives me two for the evening, while Steris found one.”
Marasi stared at Steris, who started clearing a place for her to sit. She looked to Waxillium, who stood beaming with the sheet in his hand, looking it over again as if it were some lost metal he’d rescued from a labyrinth.
“A lost clip,” Marasi said. “Great. Maybe you can find something in these.” She held up the pages VenDell had given her. “I’m heading to bed for a few hours.”
“Hmm?” Waxillium said. “Oh, sure. Thanks.” He set down the page with some reluctance, taking the folder.
“Be sure to look at the drawings of monsters,” Marasi said, yawning. “Oh, and this was in there.” She tossed him the pouch with the earring and walked back into the hallway.
She walked toward her room, feeling the train slow once more. Another town? Or were there sheep crossing the tracks again? They were supposed to be getting into the part of the route that was the prettiest. Too bad it would be so dark out.
She walked back to her door, first of those in their car, and glanced out the front window toward the rest of the train, which she was surprised to see moving off into the distance. She gaped for a moment, and then the door at the other end of the car burst open.
The man standing on the platform beyond leveled a gun down the corridor and fired.
Excerpted from The Bands of Mourning © Brandon Sanderson, 2016