The Bands of Mourning: Chapter Three

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 three below, or head back to the beginning with chapter one.

 

 

3

Wax, at least, had a change of clothing that wasn’t wet—the suit he had worn on the raid. So he was pleasantly dry as his carriage pulled up to Ladrian Mansion. Steris had returned to her father’s house to recover.

Wax put aside his broadsheet and waited for Cob, the new coachman, to hop down and yank open the carriage door. There was a frantic eagerness to the little man’s motions, as if he knew that Wax only used a coach for propriety’s sake. Leaping home on lines of steel would have been far faster, but just as a lord couldn’t walk everywhere, Steelpushing around town too much in the daytime when not chasing criminals made members of his house uncomfortable. It simply wasn’t what a house lord did.

Wax nodded to Cob and handed him the broadsheet. Cob grinned; he loved the things. “Take the rest of the day off,” Wax told him. “I know you were looking forward to the wedding festivities.”

Cob’s grin widened, then he bobbed his head and climbed back onto the coach to see it, and the horses, cared for before leaving. He’d likely spend the day at the races.

Wax sighed, climbing the steps to the mansion. It was one of the finest in the city—luxurious with carved stonework and deep hardwood, with tasteful marble accents. That didn’t stop it from being a prison. It was just a very nice one.

Wax didn’t enter. Instead, he stood on the steps for a while before turning around and sitting on them. Closing his eyes, he let it all settle on him.

He was good at hiding his scars. He’d been shot almost a dozen times now, a few of those wounds quite bad. Out in the Roughs, he’d learned to pick himself up and keep on going, no matter what happened.

At the same time, it felt like things back then had been simple. Not always easy, but simple. And some scars continued to ache. Seemed to get worse with time.

He rose with a groan, leg stiff, and continued up the steps. Nobody opened the door for him or took his coat as he entered. He maintained a small staff in the house, but only what he considered necessary. Too many servants, and they’d hover and worry when he did anything on his own. It was as if the idea of him being capable drove them into feeling vestigial.…

Wax frowned, then slipped Vindication from his hip holster and raised her beside his head. He couldn’t say, precisely, what had set him off. Footsteps up above, when he’d given the housekeepers the day off. A cup on a side table with a bit of wine in the bottom.

He flicked a little vial from his belt and downed the contents: steel flakes suspended in whiskey. The metal burned a familiar warmth inside of him, radiating from his stomach, and blue lines sprang into existence around him. They moved with him as he crept forward, as if he were tied with a thousand tiny threads.

He leaped and Pushed on the inlays in the marble floor, soaring up alongside the stairs to the second-story viewing balcony above the grand entryway. He slipped easily over the banister, landing with gun at the ready. The door to his study quivered, then opened.

Wax tiptoed forward.

“Just a moment, I—” The man in the light brown suit froze as he found Wax’s gun pressed against his temple.

“You,” Wax said.

“I’m quite fond of this skull,” the kandra remarked. “It’s sixth-century anteverdant, the head of a metal merchant from Urteau whose grave was shifted and protected as a side effect of Harmony’s rebuilding. An antique, if you will. If you make a hole in it, I’ll be rather put out.”

“I told you I wasn’t interested,” Wax growled.

“Yes. I took that to heart, Lord Ladrian.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Because I was invited,” the kandra said. He reached up and grasped the barrel of Wax’s gun between two fingers, then pushed it gently to the side. “We needed a place to converse. Your associate suggested it, as—I’m told—the servants are away.”

“My associate?” At that point, he heard laughter from ahead. “Wayne.” He eyed the kandra, then sighed and slipped his gun into its holster. “Which one are you? TenSoon, is that you?”

“Me?” the kandra asked, laughing. “TenSoon? What, do you hear me panting?” He chuckled, gesturing for Wax to enter his own study, as if he were doing Wax some grand courtesy. “I am VenDell, of the Sixth. Pleased to meet you, Lord Ladrian. If you must shoot me, please do it in the left leg, as I’ve no particular fondness for those bones.”

“I’m not going to shoot you,” Wax said, shoving past the kandra and entering the room. The blinds had been drawn and the thick curtains left to droop down, plunging the room into almost complete darkness, save for two small new electric lamps. Why the closed curtains? Was the kandra that concerned about being seen?

Wayne lounged in Wax’s easy chair, feet up on the cocktail table, helping himself to a bowl of walnuts. A woman stretched out in a similar posture in the companion chair, wearing tight trousers and a loose blouse, eyes closed as she leaned back in the chair, hands behind her head. She wore a different body from last time Wax had seen her, but the posture—and the height—gave him good clues that this was MeLaan.

Marasi was inspecting some odd equipment set up on a pedestal at the back of the room. It was a box with small lenses on the front. She stood up straight as soon as she saw him, and—being Marasi— blushed deeply.

“Sorry about this,” she said. “We were going to go to my flat to talk, but Wayne insisted.…”

“Needed some nuts,” Wayne said around a mouthful of walnuts. “When you invited me to stay here, you did say to make myself at home, mate.”

“I’m still unclear as to why you needed a place to talk,” Wax said. “I said I wasn’t going to help.”

“Quite so,” VenDell said from the doorway. “As you were unavailable, of necessity I turned to other options. Lady Colms has been so kind as to listen to my proposition.”

“Marasi?” Wax asked. “You went to Marasi?”

“What?” VenDell asked. “That’s surprising to you? She was instrumental in the defeat of Miles Hundredlives. Not to mention her help during the riots Paalm instigated.”

Wax looked at the kandra. “You’re trying to get to me through another route, aren’t you?”

“Look who’s full of himself,” MeLaan said from her chair.

“He’s always full of himself,” Wayne said, cracking a walnut. “Mostly on account of him eatin’ his own fingernails. I seen him do it.”

“Is it so ridiculous,” Marasi said, “that they’d actually want my help?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way,” Wax said, turning to her.

“Then what way did you mean it?”

Wax sighed. “I don’t know, Marasi. It’s been a long day. I got shot at, got a water tower dumped on my head, and had my wedding fall apart. Now Wayne is dropping broken walnut shells all over my chair. Honestly, I think I just need a drink.”

He walked toward the bar at the back of the room. Marasi eyed him, and as he passed, she muttered, “Will you get me one too? Because this is all making me go a little crazy.”

He smiled, digging out some single-malt whiskey, pouring for himself and for Marasi. VenDell disappeared out the door, but returned a few minutes later with some piece of equipment that he hooked to the strange device. He ran a wire from the device to one of the wall lamps, pulling out the bulb and screwing in the end of the wire instead.

Leaving would feel childish, so Wax leaned against the wall and sipped his whiskey, saying nothing as VenDell turned on his machine. An image appeared on the wall.

Wax froze. It was a picture, similar to an evanotype—only on the wall and quite large. It displayed the Field of Rebirth in the center of Elendel, where the tombs of Vin and Elend Venture were to be found. He’d never seen anything like that image. It seemed to have been created entirely by light.

Marasi gasped.

Wayne threw a walnut at it.

“What?” he said as the others glared at him. “Wanted to see if it was real.” He hesitated, then threw another walnut. The nut made a shadow on the image where it moved between the device and the wall. So it was light.

“Image projector,” VenDell said. “They call it an evanoscope. By next year these will be commonplace, I should think.” He paused. “Harmony implies that if we find this wondrous, it will really burn our metals when the images start moving.”

“Moving?” Wax said, stepping forward. “How would they do that?”

“We don’t know,” MeLaan said with a grimace. “He accidentally let it slip, but won’t say anything more.”

“How does God,” Marasi asked, still staring at the image, “accidentally let something slip?”

“As I said,” VenDell said, “He has been distracted lately. We’ve tried to tease out more regarding moving images, but so far no luck. He’s often like this—says it’s vital that we discover things on our own.”

“Like a chick breaking out of its shell,” MeLaan said. “He says that if we don’t struggle and learn on our own, we won’t be strong enough to survive what is coming.”

She left the words hanging in the room, and Wax shared a look with Marasi.

“Well…” Marasi said slowly, “that’s ominous. Has He said anything more about Trell?”

Wax folded his arms. Trell. It was a god from the old records, long before the Catacendre—indeed, long before the Lord Ruler. Harmony had memorized this religion, with many others, during his days as a mortal.

Marasi had an obsession with the god, and one that was not unwarranted. Wax wasn’t certain whether her claim was true or not that the worship of Trell was involved in what had happened to Lessie, but the spikes they’d discovered… they didn’t seem to have been made of any metal known to man.

The kandra had confiscated those. Wax had been so deep in his sorrows that by the time he’d started to recover, they’d already been taken.

“No,” VenDell said. “And I have no update on the spikes, if that’s what you’re wondering. But this task I have for you, Miss Colms, might provide insight. Suffice it to say, we’re worried about the possible intrusion of another god upon this domain.”

“Hey,” MeLaan said, “what’s a girl gotta do to get some of that whiskey?”

“Sister,” VenDell said, twisting something on his machine, making the image brighter, “you are a representative of Harmony and His enlightenment.”

“Yup,” MeLaan said, “and I’m a tragically sober one.”

Wax brought her a glass, and she grinned at him in thanks.

“Chivalry,” she said, raising it.

“Manipulation,” VenDell said. “Miss Colms, I spoke to you earlier of Investiture and Identity. I promised you an explanation. Here.” He flipped something on his machine, changing the image on the wall to a list of Feruchemical metals, their attributes, and their natures. It wasn’t the pretty, artistic rendition that Wax often saw in popular lore—it was far less fancy, but much more detailed.

“The basic physical abilities of Feruchemy are well understood,” VenDell said, walking forward and using a long reed to point at a section of the projected chart. “Terris tradition and heritage has explored them for at least fifteen hundred years. Harmony left detailed explanations in the Words of Founding.

“Likewise, the abilities in the so-called mental quadrant of the chart have been outlined and discussed, tested and defined. Our understanding doesn’t reach as far here—we don’t know why memories stored in a metalmind degrade the way they do when removed, or why tapping mental speed tends to make one hungry, of all things—but still, we have a great deal of experience in this area.”

He paused, and circled his pointer around a group of metals and abilities at the bottom: Fortune, Investiture, Identity, and Connection. Wax leaned forward. They’d spoken of these during his year living in the Village, but only as part of the catechisms of Feruchemy and Terris belief. None of those specified what the powers actually did. They were considered beyond understanding, like God, or time.

“Chromium,” VenDell said, “nicrosil, aluminum, duralumin. These aren’t metals that most ancients knew. Only in recent times have modern metallurgical processes allowed them to become commonplace.”

“Commonplace?” Wayne said. “With a single aluminum bullet, mate, I could buy you an outfit that don’t look so stupid and have money left over for a nice hat or two.”

“Be that as it may,” VenDell said, “compared to the amount of aluminum in the world before the Catacendre, the metal is now common. Bauxite refining, modern chemical processes, these have given us access to metals on a level that was never before possible. Why, the Last Obligator’s autobiography explains that early aluminum was harvested from the inside of the Ashmounts!”

Wax stepped forward along the cone of light emanating from the machine. “So what do they do?”

“Research is ongoing,” VenDell said. “Ferrings with these abilities are very, very rare—and it is only in the last few decades that we’ve had access to enough of these metals to begin experimenting. Rebuilding society has been a… wearisome process.”

“You were alive before,” Marasi said. “In the days of the Ascendant Warrior.”

VenDell turned, raising his eyebrows. “Indeed, though I never met her. Only TenSoon did.”

“What was life like?” Marasi asked.

“Hard,” VenDell said. “It was… hard.”

“There are holes in our memories,” MeLaan added softly. “From when our spikes were removed. It took a piece out of us. There are things we’ll never get back.”

Wax took a drink. There was a weight that came from speaking to the kandra, in realizing that most of them had already been alive for hundreds of years when the World of Ash had ended. These were ancient beings. Perhaps Wax should not be surprised by their presumption. To them, he—indeed, everyone else alive—was little more than a child.

“Identity,” VenDell said, slapping his reed against the wall, casting a shadow on the image. “Lord Ladrian, could another Feruchemist use your metalminds?”

“Of course not,” Wax said. “Everyone knows that.”

“Why?”

“Well… because. They’re mine.”

Feruchemy was simple, elegant. Fill your metalmind with an attribute for an hour—like Wax’s weight, or Wayne’s health and healing—and you could draw out an hour’s worth of that attribute later on. Alternatively, you could draw out a burst of power that was extremely intense but lasted only a moment.

“The raw power of both Allomancy and Feruchemy,” VenDell said, “is something we call Investiture. This is very important, as in Feruchemy, an individual’s Investiture is keyed specifically to them. To what we call Identity.”

“You’ve made me curious,” Wax said, looking at the wall as VenDell leisurely walked back to his machine. “How does it know? My metalminds… do they recognize me?”

“After a fashion,” VenDell said, changing the image to one of a Feruchemist tapping strength. The woman’s muscles had grown to several times their normal size as she lifted a horse above her head. “Each man or woman has a Spiritual aspect, a piece of themselves that exists in another Realm entirely. You might call it your soul. Your Investiture is keyed to your soul—indeed, it might be a part of your soul, much as your blood is a part of your body.”

“So if a person could store their Identity,” Marasi said, “as Waxillium does with his weight…”

“They’d be without it for a time,” VenDell said. “A blank slate, so to speak.”

“So they could use anyone’s metalmind?” Marasi asked.

“Possibly,” VenDell said. He cycled through pictures of several more Feruchemists using their abilities before coming to rest on an image of a set of bracers. Simple metal bands, like wide bracelets, meant to be worn on the upper arms beneath clothing. It was impossible to tell the type of metal without color, but they had ancient Terris markings engraved on them.

“Some have been experimenting with your idea,” VenDell said, “and early results are promising. However, having a Feruchemist who can use anyone’s metalminds is intriguing, but not particularly lifechanging. Our society is strewn with individuals who have extraordinary abilities—this would simply be one more variety. No, what interests me is the opposite, Miss Colms. What if a Feruchemist were to divest himself of all Identity, then fill another metalmind with an attribute. Say, strength. What would it do?”

“Create an unkeyed metalmind?” Marasi asked. “One that another Feruchemist could access?”

“Possibly,” VenDell said. “Or is there another possibility? Most people living right now have at least some Feruchemist blood in them. Could it be that such a metalmind as I describe, one that is keyed to no single individual, might be usable by anyone?”

Understanding settled on Wax like a slowly burned metal. From the chair beside the image device, Wayne whistled slowly.

“Anyone could be a Feruchemist,” Wax said.

VenDell nodded. “Investiture—the innate ability to burn metals or tap metalminds—is also one of the things Feruchemy can store. Lord Waxillium… these are arts we are only beginning to comprehend. But the secrets they contain could change the world.

“In the ancient days, the Last Emperor discovered a metal that transformed him into a Mistborn. A metal anyone could burn, it is said. This whispers of a hidden possibility, something lesser, but still incredible. What if one could somehow manipulate Identity and Investiture to create a set of bracers which imparted Feruchemical or Allomantic ability upon the person wearing them? One could make any person a Mistborn, or a Feruchemist, or both at once.”

The room fell silent.

A walnut bounced off VenDell’s head.

He immediately turned to glare at Wayne.

“Sorry,” Wayne said. “Just had trouble believing someone could be so melodramatic, so I figured you might not be real. Hadda check, ya know?”

VenDell rubbed his forehead, breathing out sharply in annoyance.

“This is all fascinating,” Wax admitted. “But unfortunately, it’s also impossible.”

“And why is that?” VenDell asked.

“You don’t even know how, or if, this would work,” Wax said, waving toward the screen. “And even if you could figure it out, you’d need a Full Feruchemist. Someone with at least two Feruchemical powers, as they’d need to be able to store their Identity in a metalmind along with another Feruchemical attribute. Rusts! To do what you proposed a moment ago, and create Allomancers too, you’d basically need someone who was already both Mistborn and Full Feruchemist.”

“This is true,” VenDell said.

“And how long has it been since a Full Feruchemist was born?”

“A very, very long time,” VenDell said. “But, being born a Feruchemist isn’t the only way to make this happen.”

Wax hesitated, then shared a look with Marasi. She nodded, and he strode across the room to pull back the wooden panel hiding his wall safe. He did the combination and removed the book that Ironeyes had sent him. He turned, raising it. “Hemalurgy? Harmony hates it. I’ve read what the Lord Mistborn had to say on the topic.”

“Yes,” VenDell said. “Hemalurgy is… problematic.”

“In part because we wouldn’t exist without it,” MeLaan said. “That’s not a particularly fun thing to know—that people had to be murdered in order to bring you to sapience.”

“Creating new spikes is a horrid practice,” VenDell agreed. “We have no intentions of doing such a thing to experiment with Identity. Instead, we’re waiting. A Full Feruchemist is bound to be born among mankind eventually—particularly with the Terris elite working so hard to preserve and condense their bloodlines. Unfortunately, our… restraint will not be shared by everyone. There are those who are growing very close to understanding how all this works.”

My uncle, Wax thought, looking down at the book in his fingers. So far as he could tell, Edwarn—the man known as Mister Suit—was trying to breed Allomancers. What would he do with Hemalurgy, if he knew about it?

“We need to stay ahead of those who might use this for ill purposes,” VenDell said. “We need to experiment and determine how these Identity-free metalminds would work.”

“Doing so will be dangerous,” Wax said. “Mixing the powers is incredibly dangerous.”

“Says the Twinborn,” MeLaan said.

“I’m safe,” Wax said, glancing at her. “My powers don’t compound— they’re from different metals.”

“They may not compound,” VenDell said, “but they’re still fascinating, Lord Waxillium. Any mixing of Allomancy and Feruchemy has unanticipated effects.”

“What is it about you,” Wax said, “that makes me want to punch you, even when you’re saying something helpful?”

“None of us have been able to figure it out,” MeLaan said, waving for Wayne to toss her a walnut. “One of the cosmere’s great mysteries.”

“Now, now, Lord Ladrian,” VenDell said, holding up his hands. “Is that the way to speak to someone who bears your ancestor’s hands?”

“His… hands?” Wax said. “Are you speaking metaphorically?”

“Ah, no,” VenDell said. “Breeze did say I could have them after he died. Excellent metacarpals. I bring them out for special occasions.”

Wax stood still for a moment, holding the book in his hand, trying to digest what the kandra had just said. His ancestor, the first Lord Ladrian, Counselor of Gods… had given this creature his hands.

In a way, Wax had shaken hands with Breeze’s corpse. He stared at his glass, surprised to find it empty, and poured some more whiskey.

“This has been a very enlightening lesson,” Marasi said. “But pardon, Your Holiness, you still haven’t explained what you need from me.”

VenDell changed the picture to one of an illustration. A man with long dark hair and a bare chest, wearing a cloak that extended behind him into eternity. His arms, crossed before him, were wrapped with intricate bracers in a fanciful design. Wax recognized the iconography, if not the specific image. Rashek. The First Emperor.

The Lord Ruler.

“What do you know of the Bands of Mourning, Miss Colms?” VenDell asked.

“The Lord Ruler’s metalminds,” Marasi said with a shrug. “Relics from mythology, like the Lady Mistborn’s knives, or the Lance of the Fountains.”

“There are four individuals,” VenDell said, “who, to our knowledge, have held the power of Ascension. Rashek, the Survivor, the Ascendant Warrior, and Lord Harmony Himself. Harmony’s Ascension granted Him a precise and in-depth knowledge of the Metallic Arts. It stands to reason that the Lord Ruler gained the same information. He understood Identity as a Feruchemical ability, and knew the hidden metals. Indeed, he gave aluminum to his Inquisitors.”

VenDell flipped the image to a more detailed illustration of those arms wrapped in bands of metal. “Curiously, nobody knows exactly what happened to the Bands of Mourning. Back when the Lord Ruler fell, TenSoon had not yet joined the Ascendant Warrior, and though he swears he heard them mentioned, the holes in his memory prevent him from saying how or when.

“The mythology surrounding the Bands is quite extensive. You can find myths about them dating back to before the Catacendre, and you can find someone telling new ones in a pub around the corner, invented on the spot for your amusement. But a theme runs through them all—if you held the Lord Ruler’s bracers, you supposedly gained his powers.”

“That’s just fancy,” Wax said. “It’s a natural thing to wish for, to make stories about. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Doesn’t it?” VenDell asked. “Lore says the Bands have the very power that science has only now determined is plausible to assemble?”

“Coincidence,” Wax said. “And just because he might have created something doesn’t mean he did, and just because you think Identity works like you say, doesn’t mean you’re right. Besides, the Bands would have been destroyed when Harmony remade the world. And that’s not even considering that it would be foolish for the Lord Ruler to create weapons someone else could use against him.”

VenDell clicked his machine. The image changed to another evanotype, this one of a mural on a wall. It depicted a room with a central dais in the shape of a truncated pyramid. Set upon a pedestal on the dais was a pair of bracers made of delicate, curling metal, shaped in spirals.

Only a mural. But it did seem like it was depicting the Bands of Mourning.

“What is that?” Marasi asked.

“One of our brothers,” MeLaan said, sitting up in her chair, “a kandra named ReLuur, took this image.”

“The Bands of Mourning fascinated him,” VenDell said. “ReLuur spent the last two centuries chasing them. He recently returned to Elendel bearing an evanotype camera in his pack and these pictures.” VenDell clicked to the next image, a picture of a large metal plate set into a wall and inscribed with a strange script.

Wax narrowed his eyes. “I don’t know that language.”

“Nobody does,” VenDell said. “It’s completely alien to us, unrelated to any Terris, Imperial, or other root. Even the old languages in Harmony’s records bear no resemblance to this script.”

Wax felt a chill as the images continued. Another shot of the strange language. A statue that resembled the Lord Ruler, bearing a long spear. This appeared to be covered in frost. Another shot of the mural, more detailed, which depicted bracers with many different metals twining together. Not bracers for a Ferring like Wax, but bracers for a Full Feruchemist.

Only a mural, yes. But it was compelling.

“ReLuur believed in the Bands,” VenDell said. “He claims to have seen them, though his camera bore no image of the actual relics. I’m inclined to trust his words.”

VenDell showed another image, of a different mural. It depicted a man standing atop a peak, hands raised above him and a glowing spear hovering there, just beyond his touch. A corpse slumped at his feet. Wax went forward, walking into the stream of light until he was standing right in front of the image, looking up at the portion he wasn’t blocking. The face of the man in the mosaic had eyes upturned and lips parted as if in awe at what he held.

He wore the bracers on his arms.

Wax turned around, but standing in the stream of light he couldn’t see anything in the room. “You mean to tell me your brother, this ReLuur, actually found the Bands of Mourning?”

“He found something,” VenDell said.

“Where?”

“He doesn’t know,” VenDell said softly.

Wax stepped out of the light, frowning. He looked from VenDell to MeLaan. “What?” he asked them.

“He’s missing a spike,” MeLaan said. “Best we could determine, he was accosted before he could return here from the mountains near the Southern Roughs.”

“We can’t get any straight answers out of him,” VenDell said. “A kandra with a missing spike… well, they aren’t quite sane any longer. As you well know.”

Wax shivered, a pit of emptiness shifting inside him. “Yes.”

“So, Miss Colms,” VenDell said, stepping away from his machine. “This is where you come in. ReLuur was… is… one of our finest. Of the Third Generation, he is an explorer, an expert at bodies, and a genius. Losing him would be a great blow to us.”

“We can’t reproduce,” MeLaan said. “Our numbers are set. The Thirds like ReLuur… they’re our parents, our exemplars. Our leaders. He is precious.”

“We would like you to recover his spike,” VenDell said. “From whoever took it. This will restore his sanity, and hopefully his memories.”

“The longer he goes without it, the bigger the holes will be,” MeLaan said.

“So perhaps you can understand our urgency,” VenDell said. “And why I found it prudent to interrupt Lord Ladrian, even on what was obviously an important day. When ReLuur returned to us, he was missing an entire arm and half his chest. Though he will not—or cannot—speak of where he got these pictures, he is able to recall being attacked in New Seran. We believe someone ambushed him there, on his return, and stole the artifacts he had discovered.”

“They have his spike,” MeLaan said, voice tense. “It’s still there. It has to be.”

“Wait, wait,” Marasi said. “Why not give him another spike? You’ve got enough of them lying around to make earrings, like the one you gave Waxillium.”

The two kandra looked at her as if she were mad, but Wax couldn’t see why. He thought the question was an excellent one.

“You are misunderstanding the nature of these spikes,” VenDell all but sputtered. “First, we do not have kandra Blessings ‘lying around.’ The earrings you mention are crafted from old Inquisitor spikes, and have barely any potency to them. One might have been good enough for Lord Waxillium’s little stunt six months ago, but they would hardly be enough to restore a kandra.”

“Yeah,” MeLaan said. “If that worked, we’d have already used all those spikes to make new children. We can’t; a kandra Blessing must be created very specifically.”

“We did try something akin to what you suggest,” VenDell admitted. “TenSoon… relinquished one of his own spikes to give our fallen brother a few moments of lucidity. It was very painful for TenSoon, and—unfortunately—accomplished nothing. ReLuur only screamed, begging for his spike. He spat out TenSoon’s a moment later. Trying to use someone else’s spikes when you don’t have your own already can provoke radical changes in personality, memory, and temperament.”

“Lessie,” Wax said, voice hoarse. “She… she changed spikes frequently.”

“And each was a spike created specifically for her,” VenDell said. “Not one that had been used by another kandra. And besides, would you call her particularly stable, Lord Waxillium? You must trust us on this; we have done what we can. Here, at least.

“MeLaan will be traveling to New Seran to investigate and retrieve ReLuur’s missing spike. Miss Colms, we would like you to join her and help recover our brother’s mind. We can intervene with your superiors in the constable precinct, and make certain you are assigned field duty working for the government in a clandestine fashion. If you can restore ReLuur’s spike, we will be able to find answers.”

VenDell eyed Wax. “This will not be a wild hunt for some impossible artifact. All we want is our friend back. Of course, any clues you can discover regarding where he went on his quest, and where he got these pictures, would be appreciated. There are some people of interest in New Seran, nobility that ReLuur is fixated upon for reasons we can’t get out of him.”

Wax studied the last image for a time longer. It was tempting. Mystical artifacts were all well and good, but someone attacking— and nearly killing—one of the Faceless Immortals? That was interesting.

“I’ll go,” Marasi said from behind him. “I’ll do it. But… I wouldn’t mind help. Waxillium?”

A part of him longed to go. Escape the parties and the dances, the political engagements and business meetings. The kandra would know that; Harmony would know that.

Anger simmered deep within him at the thought. He’d hunted Lessie, and they hadn’t told him.

“This sounds like the perfect challenge for your skills, Marasi,” he found himself saying. “I doubt you need me. You are perfectly capable, and I feel a fool for having implied otherwise, even accidentally. If you do want company, however, perhaps Wayne would be willing to provide some extra protection. I’m afraid that I, however, must—”

The image on the wall flickered to a shot of a city with grand waterfalls. New Seran? He’d never been there. The streets were overgrown with foliage, and people promenaded about in clothing of striped brown suits and soft white dresses.

“Ah, I forgot,” VenDell said. “There was one other image in ReLuur’s belongings. We discovered it last, as the others were packed carefully away to await development. We suspect this image was taken in New Seran, just before the attack.”

“And why should I care?” Wax said. “It…”

He trailed off, feeling an icy shock as he recognized someone in the picture. He stepped back into the stream of light, pressing his hand against the white wall, trying—fruitlessly—to feel the image. “Impossible.”

She stood between two men who held to her arms tightly, as if pulling her forward against her will. Keeping her prisoner even in broad daylight. She had glanced over her shoulder toward the camera as the evanotype was taken. It must be one of the new models he’d been hearing about, that didn’t require the subject to stand still for the image to set.

The woman was in her forties, lean but solid, with long dark hair framing a face that—despite their years apart—Wax knew very, very well.

Telsin. His sister.

Excerpted from The Bands of Mourning © Brandon Sanderson.

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