Return to the world of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn as its second era, which began with The Alloy of Law, comes to its conclusion in The Lost Metal.
Tor.com is serializing The Lost Metal from now until its release on November 15. New chapters will go live every Monday at 12pm ET.
For years, frontier lawman turned big-city senator Waxillium Ladrian has hunted the shadowy organization the Set—with his late uncle and his sister among their leaders—since they started kidnapping people with the power of Allomancy in their bloodlines. When Detective Marasi Colms and her partner Wayne find stockpiled weapons bound for the Outer City of Bilming, this opens a new lead. Conflict between Elendel and the Outer Cities only favors the Set, and their tendrils now reach to the Elendel Senate—whose corruption Wax and Steris have sought to expose—and Bilming is even more entangled.
After Wax discovers a new type of explosive that can unleash unprecedented destruction and realizes that the Set must already have it, an immortal kandra serving Scadrial’s god, Harmony, reveals that Bilming has fallen under the influence of another god: Trell, worshipped by the Set. And Trell isn’t the only factor at play from the larger Cosmere—Marasi is recruited by offworlders with strange abilities who claim their goal is to protect Scadrial… at any cost.
Wax must choose whether to set aside his rocky relationship with God and once again become the Sword that Harmony has groomed him to be. If no one steps forward to be the hero Scadrial needs, the planet and its millions of people will come to a sudden and calamitous ruin.
Wax trudged across the floor of the Senate, and others gave him space. They seemed to not want to face him—even those who had voted with him. They turned away as he passed, stretching and chatting.
In the hall, he headed toward his chambers, crossing over inlaid floors and beneath a row of chandeliers. Crystal and marble. This was his life now. Everything he’d fled as a young man ornamented each footstep, and the shadows seemed darker now, despite the twinkling light from above.
He believed his accomplishments as a senator could far outshine his accomplishments as a lawman, in terms of the raw good done to help the most people possible. That meant his failures carried much higher stakes. In the Roughs you depended on your gun, your instincts, and your ability to ask the right questions. Here he had to depend on others to do the right thing. And so far there had been no greater test of his faith in humanity—serial killers included—than working with politicians.
He shoved into his chambers and found his family and Kath, the governess, there already. He tried not to let his displeasure show, but Max still sensed the mood, staying back with Kath and playing with his Soonie pup.
“Well,” Wax snapped, throwing himself into his seat, “there goes over a year of work.”
“We did everything we could,” Steris said, settling down beside him.
“Did we?” Wax asked, glancing at her stack of notebooks. “I know you have six of those full of new ways to try to persuade individual senators. If we’d had more time…”
“We did everything it was reasonable for us to do,” she said, “accounting for our other obligations.” Then she hesitated. “Didn’t we, Wax?”
He met her eyes, and saw she was trembling. Hell. This would be just as hard for her, wouldn’t it? Pay attention, you rusting idiot. He took her hands and squeezed them.
“We did,” he said. “We tried with everything we had, Steris. In the end though, it wasn’t our decision.”
He squeezed her hands tightly. Steris was incredibly stable—she’d been there for him ever since his return to Elendel, though he’d never imagined how much she would come to mean to him. In that moment though, he felt her shaking. And… rust him if he wasn’t doing the same himself. They’d poured so much into stopping this bill. And every single rusting senator he’d talked to had said they needed more time. Now they voted like this? Now they—
No. It’s done.
“We need to move forward,” he said.
“Yes. Forward.” She nodded, then looked around. “And maybe get out of this building for a while. Currently, all that’s going through my mind are the various ways a convenient natural disaster could turn it to rubble.”
Wax grunted, and helped Steris gather the rest of their things. As they did, Wax saw an envelope on the corner of his desk. That hadn’t been there before, had it? Picking it up, he felt something heavy slide to the corner. A bullet?
No, he discovered after slipping it open. An earring. And with it a small note. You’ll need to make a second, once the proper metal arrives.
He had no idea what that meant. And he didn’t care. Not today, Harmony, he thought. Leave me alone.
“What’s that?” Steris said.
“Something from Harmony,” Wax said.
She paused, looking at him.
“So, likely,” he added, “something useless.”
Steris drew her lips to a line. She was a Survivorist, and didn’t strictly worship Harmony, who was seen as the god of the Path—a distinct but complementary religion. Still, after all they’d done and the things he’d seen, Steris had adopted a somewhat… cross-denominational view of God. At any rate, she knew he’d once worshipped Harmony.
These days… Well, he and God had history. Wax felt he’d overcome his worst problems with Harmony, ever since their conversation directly before he’d donned the Bands of Mourning. But that didn’t stop Wax from making the occasional snide remark. Today, he shoved the envelope in his back pocket and put it out of his mind.
They packed up their things—rusts, with kids there were so many things to cart around. Steris wanted another child, but Wax worried about that. He didn’t fancy being outnumbered.
But then again… he couldn’t help smiling as Max went running down the hall, making his Soonie pup leap between black squares of marble, avoiding the white ones. Wax didn’t normally see the other senators with families; they claimed that having children in the building wasn’t respectful. But if they respected the building so much, why had they made a mockery of it with that vote?
A good number did vote as you wanted, Wax had to remind himself. And others are scared. Of being seen as weak. Of outside interests. They’re not all slag for voting against you. Remember that. There are some good ones. Same as in every profession. It was just… well, he didn’t want to think about that right now.
Outside the building, fleets of motor carriages had arrived to pick up senators. They’d drive off to parties, or appearances, or informal get-togethers. Even those who worked with Wax rarely invited him along unless they wanted to strategize. It was like they thought he was above simple socializing. Or maybe he made them uncomfortable.
As his family gathered to wait for their driver, Max tugged on his suit coat. “Is ya sad, Pa?” he asked loudly. “I hates the sads. Right bad, they is.”
The way he said it caused several nearby senators to turn their noses up and sniff. Wax cocked an eyebrow. “Has Uncle Wayne been teaching you accents again?”
“Yeah,” Max said, softer. “Says I shouldn’t tell you though, so you’d think I was a genius for doing it on my own.” He smiled. “He told me to talk like that around the senators because it’ll upset them. And they need to be upset today, don’t they? Because they made you and Mother sad?”
Wax nodded, kneeling down. “You don’t need to worry about that though.”
“Know what makes me feel better when I’m sad?” Max asked.
“Hugging Tenny?” Wax said, patting the stuffed kandra on the head.
“Well, that,” Max said, “and… um… flying?” He looked at Wax with big, hopeful eyes.
Nearby, their motorcar pulled up to the curb and Hoid, the driver, stepped out. “Your carriage, sir,” he said, holding the passenger door. But rusts, who could deny a child when he looked at you like that?
“Thank you, Hoid,” Wax said. “Please take my wife wherever she would like to go. Kath, you have the harness?”
“I do, m’lord,” she said, handing Steris the baby, then digging into the enormous bag of extra clothing and washcloths. She tossed the harness to Wax, who gave her his coat and vest in exchange.
It gave him an impish stab of glee to pull on the leather harness and strap Max to his back in front of everyone. Then, with a fond kiss for Steris—and a promise to meet her at home—he dropped a bullet casing and turned toward the crowd.
“Don’t none of you get jealous or nothin’!” Max shouted. “He can give you a ride fer cheap, if you ask real nice and stop being a pile o’ bad turds!”
Yeah… maybe Wax should have a little talk with Wayne. But for now he waved to the crowd, then launched himself into the air, Max letting out a whoop of riotous glee.
The tunnel Marasi entered bore signs of ancient civilization: the remnants of brick walls covering up the rough natural stone. A smooth floor, chiseled and graded. Sconces on the walls, now pocked with rust as if suffering some terrible disease.
She took out the last of her grenades, the one Wax had charged for her. These newer ones could hold a charge for hours—though by now the effect wouldn’t last long once activated. Three or four minutes at most. She still felt better holding it—and so, reluctantly, she set her rifle on the ground and instead drew her pistol. It also contained less metal than the rifle, making it a slightly better tool against a potential Allomancer. For the same reason, she left her pouch with extra metals, though she kept her belt with a few non-metal tools useful for fighting Allomancers.
Grenade and pistol in hand, she crept forward into the dim tunnel. The gang members had hooked some electric lights along the right wall, cords tied around the ancient sconces, but they flickered drowsily as if seconds from nodding off to sleep. She soon reached another vast open cavern but lingered at the entrance, crouching and inspecting the path ahead. The Cycle had come this way, and part of her wanted to scramble after him as fast as possible. The more careful part of her kept calm, watching for an ambush.
This particular cavern held a long, narrow rift running from her left to her right. An ancient stone bridge had spanned it, but it had fallen long ago—and instead a newer construction of boards and rope stretched across the perhaps sixteen-foot gap. About thirty feet of stone ground separated her from the chasm and bridge—and a tunnel in the wall on the other side continued the path forward.
She didn’t go toward the bridge though. She hesitated, still at the mouth of the chamber. These brick walls were so old. Who had built them, centuries ago? Was this like the Originator Tomb in the heart of Elendel? Had people huddled in this cavern, their walls and bridge falling, as Harmony remade the world?
Regardless, she was worried. The Cycle had seen her; her instincts said he wouldn’t just run off, his back exposed. He’d lay a trap. She looked carefully, and glimpsed a dark shape behind some rocks between her and the chasm. He was probably hoping she’d rush across the bridge, so he could shoot her from behind.
Unfortunately, as she spotted him, he rose and lifted a gun. Marasi activated the grenade—which she’d been holding close to her chest—by reflex. It let out a powerful Steelpush, ripping her pistol out of her hand and tossing it out in front of her. It fell straight into the chasm.
Her reaction had been just in time though, because the Cycle unloaded his pistol at her—and each shot missed, the bullets veering away and snapping into stone to either side of her. Marasi dashed straight at him, picking out his fine suit in the dim light. His features were more rugged than she’d expected. A thick neck, stubble on his chin.
She’d hoped he would be carrying metal, and her advance with the grenade would throw him off balance. Instead he merely lost his own pistol, which was Pushed across the chasm, hitting the wall on the other side and falling near the path over there.
Other than that, it appeared he—like Marasi—was wise enough not to keep much metal on his person.
“By the authority of the Fourth Octant Constabulary,” she said, stopping ten feet or so from him, “you are under arrest for tariff avoidance, racketeering, and the illegal transport of weapons. You’re unarmed and cornered. Do the smart thing and surrender.”
Instead he grinned. Then began to grow.
His suit had buttons along the arms, which snapped open, giving more room as his muscles expanded to ridiculous proportions. His jacket stayed on, but also expanded through clever use of unsnapping wooden buttons along the sides.
Oh, hell. A Feruchemist. He didn’t have the Terris look—but then, neither did Wayne. You couldn’t always tell.
Marasi retreated. Getting into a fistfight with someone tapping strength was a quick road to a crushed face. Instead she switched off the grenade to conserve the rest of the charge, and ran for the bridge and the gun on the other side. The Cycle lunged forward and cut her off by placing himself directly in front of the bridge. There, with a laugh, he ripped apart the ropes holding it in place.
Okay. Feruchemists weren’t like Allomancers. They couldn’t just pop a new metal charge into their mouths and keep going. Maybe she could run him out of strength.
He dropped the rope, letting the whole wooden construct collapse. “Trell has wanted you in particular, lawwoman,” he noted in a voice that seemed too high pitched for the enormous body. “So kind of you to deliver yourself to me.”
Marasi turned and dashed for her rifle. Thumping footsteps chased her, gaining on her, forcing her to throw herself to the ground just before reaching the rifle. Her move let her narrowly dodge a grab.
She rolled as he punched, hitting the ground and grunting, then raising bloodied knuckles. Feruchemical strength could be dangerous—a lot of the Metallic Arts could hurt you. Her own included. She managed to dodge the next punches as well. Fortunately for her, the Cycle didn’t seem practiced with his powers. Despite the prepared clothing, he obviously found it awkward to move and fight in this bulkier form.
What kind of Feruchemist didn’t practice with their abilities? She scrambled for her rifle, getting to her knees and half lunging, half falling to grab it. He moved first, leaping over her with a powerful bound to snatch the gun. He then snapped it clean in half and hurled the barrel at her.
She barely activated the grenade in time, which bounced the barrel back at him—but she was holding the box awkwardly. It nearly slipped from her fingers at the jolt of force from the thrown object.
Steelpushes. Force transference. The Cycle wasn’t the only one using powers they weren’t practiced with.
She turned off the box as the Cycle dodged. The barrel of her rifle bounced against the rear wall and then rolled toward her. She reached for it, thinking to use it as a club.
Unfortunately, he lunged and seized her left arm, the one holding the box. His powerful grip squeezed her flesh, and rusts, it felt like he could crush her very bones. Cursing in pain, she scrambled at her belt and the sheath there. As her eyes started to water, she brought up a small glittering weapon and stabbed him straight through the arm.
He howled and dropped her, then yanked the bloody weapon free.
“Glass dagger,” she said. “It’s a classic.”
He glared at her, then held up his arm. The bleeding wound began to heal.
Hell. Feruchemical healing? That proved it. She’d never met someone who naturally had two Feruchemical powers. He was using the forbidden art. Hemalurgy.
Marasi grabbed the rifle barrel and backed away, but their fight had positioned her so that she could only move toward the chasm. Each step took her farther from the doorway she’d come in through, where she might have been able to escape. Rusts.
She retreated, step by step, holding the barrel of her rifle in one hand, the grenade in the other. How much charge did it have left? In the chaos she hadn’t tracked how much she’d used.
The Cycle followed, sticking her knife into his belt. Then, horribly, his eyes started to glow faintly red. “Trell is choosing hosts,” he said. “Avatars, bestowed with his power. How would you like to be the accomplishment that proves I’m worthy of immortality, lawwoman? All you have to do is die.”
She continued backward, her mind racing. He didn’t seem worried he’d run out of strength anytime soon. Within moments, he had forced her up to the precipice of the chasm, near the clump of rocks he’d been hiding behind earlier. She put those between them, but they weren’t very high.
A quick glance told her that the chasm now inches behind her was at least fifty feet deep. No escape in that direction.
“You’ve backed yourself up against a pit,” he said, advancing. “Now what? Perhaps it’s time to… what was it? Do the smart thing and surrender?”
Instead she set the grenade to go off on a few seconds’ delay, then wedged it securely into a spot among the rocks. Then she gripped the barrel of her rifle under her arms and pressed it firmly against her chest.
He frowned. Then the grenade went off.
Force transference. Every Push creates an equal and opposite Push. The grenade shoved the rifle barrel, which hurled her backward with enormous force—straight across the chasm.
She smashed back-first into the wall. That was enough to stun her, but then the grenade’s charge gave out. She dropped to the ground. Safely across the chasm as she’d planned, but winded and dazed.
Through teary eyes, she saw the Cycle run and leap across the chasm. So she scrambled, half-blinded by pain, searching the dusty stone, looking desperately for the pistol…
He loomed overhead, a terrible shadow, his arm raised to smash her skull. In response, she delivered three shots straight into his face. He dropped.
Oh hell, she thought, sitting up despite the pain. Wax did things like this all the time. Leaping off cliffs, jumping around and slamming into things. How on Scadrial was his body not horribly ruined by it all?
She prodded at her ribs, hoping nothing was broken. Her left shoulder protested the most, and she winced. The pain was so distracting that she had to force herself to focus. A shot to the head should stop a Bloodmaker from healing, but some part of her insisted she should check anyway.
She lurched over to inspect the corpse. And found the bullet wounds pulling closed on the man’s head, the holes in the skull resealing.
She heaved the slumped-over body onto its back and scrambled to pull her knife from his belt. He was healing from bullets to the head? Something was very wrong here. She shot him again, but that would only be temporary.
Instead, she ripped aside his shirt—revealing four spikes pounded in deep between his ribs. As she had suspected. Knife in hand, she began the gruesome work of digging the spikes out. She dug faster as she realized at least one of them was made of a strange metal with dark red spots like rust. One they’d been searching for forever.
The Cycle’s eyes snapped open, despite his broken jaw and the holes in his skull. Marasi cursed and worked faster, bloodied fingers straining to pry out the first of the four spikes, which was so tightly embedded between his ribs it was difficult to yank free.
Those eyes. They were glowing a vivid red now.
“The ash comes again,” the man said through bloody lips, his voice strangely grating. “The world will fall to it. You will get what you deserve, and all will wither beneath a cloud of blackness and a blanket of burned bodies made ash.”
Marasi gritted her teeth, working on the rusty-looking spike, slick with blood.
“Your end,” the voice whispered. “Your end comes. Either in ash, or at the hands of the men of gold and red. Gold and—”
Marasi yanked the spike out. The red glow faded and the body slumped, the healing stopping. She felt at the throat anyway, and even when she found no pulse, she dug out the other three spikes.
Then she finally leaned against the wall, groaning softly. Wayne had better have found a way to deal with those other thieves—because Marasi doubted she had the strength to lift a gun at the moment. Instead she closed her eyes, and tried not to think about that terrible voice.
Max called for Wax to make each leap higher, faster. The boy’s shouts of glee carried over the rushing wind and flapping clothing. And rusts if that wasn’t infectious. Wax had been a solemn child, a trend that had continued into adulthood. But even he appreciated the rush that came from a well-executed Steelpush.
The sudden explosion of speed, the moment of stillness at the zenith. The lurch in the stomach as the plummet began. It wasn’t like any other experience a man could have—at least, not and survive.
In the distance a Malwish trade ship hovered into the city, flying using their strange ettmetal devices, as the two of them bounded across the city, afforded a view that was somehow reductive and expansive at once. From up so high, you could see the octant divisions along major roadways. You could understand and feel the different neighborhoods, the crunched-up forced familiarity of the slums, the expansive yet isolated grounds of the manors.
Once, Wax had assumed this kind of experience—not just the height, but the motion while traversing the city from above—would always be reserved for Coinshots. Then the Malwish airships had taken that assumption and tossed it out a window from three thousand feet.
Regardless, something about this perspective felt like it belonged to him. This was his city. He’d returned to it, and had—over the years— come to love it. It represented the best that people could achieve: a monument to ingenuity, a home to thousands of different ideas, types of people, and experiences.
At Max’s urging he took them higher, using skyscrapers as his anchors to Push upward, back and forth, until they landed near the top of one building in particular: Ahlstrom Tower. The penthouse was their home, and Wax had picked it specifically. It was tough getting to the peak of a too-tall building with Steelpushes as your anchors ran out below. Fortunately, this one had several tall skyscrapers unusually close, and that gave him anchors to Push himself inward.
Today Wax didn’t stop at their penthouse. He took them to the roof, where there was a little built-in platform for a worker to latch on and lower window-cleaning devices. Wax settled onto it and Max unhooked, though he was still tethered to the harness by a strong cord. Wax wasn’t worried about its reliability. Steris had designed it.
Max took out a pouch of twirly-seeds and began dropping them off the side of the building, watching them go spinning down toward the busy street below. Despite the height, Wax could hear cars honking on the roadway. Six years, and there was barely a horse-drawn carriage to be seen in the arteries below. Progress here was like a wrecking crew. You moved with it or you became rubble.
The platform faced north. To his left, the shimmering waters of Hammondar Bay were a vast highway toward… well, he didn’t rightly know what. The people of the Basin weren’t explorers. For all their love of stories about Wax in his young days, or worse that fool Jak, most were content to enjoy their city. That was a problem with Elendel: it had everything you thought you’d need, so why go looking elsewhere? They hadn’t even realized there was an entire Southern Continent out there until an airship had sailed up to investigate the Basin.
Yes, there had been expeditions since then. But most people were content here, and he couldn’t blame them. His best efforts at improving life had been focused on the Basin. He didn’t know what to do about the Malwish. Six years, and he still found the suddenly expansive size of the world intimidating.
Max hopped up and down with glee, throwing out an entire handful of twirly-seeds. The boy’s fascination with heights made Kath uncomfortable—but that was what happened when, from infancy, you were often strapped to a father who found ordinary means of transportation too time-consuming.
Wax looked north toward the Roughs. Toward wonder, mystery, and a life he’d loved. He felt…
Rusts. He didn’t feel sad.
He blinked, cocking his head. Ever since his return, Elendel had felt like a duty to him. Adventure and comfort had both been outside the city, calling to him. Though things had improved over the years, he’d continued to feel it. That call. Until…
Until today. Today, he remembered the parts of his life he’d loved in the north—but he didn’t want them back. He had a life here he loved equally. Maybe more, judging by the warmth he felt as Max laughed. This… this was where he belonged. More, this was where he wanted to belong.
It felt calming to realize these things. He’d… finally stopped grieving, hadn’t he?
With a grin of his own, he scooped Max up and gave the child a powerful hug—though Max had been too wiggly, even as a baby, to stand that sort of thing for long. Soon, at the boy’s urging, they were playing a game of fetch, a variety Max had invented a few months back. Max tossed a wicker ball with a tiny metal weight at its center, then Wax tried to launch it onto the top of a nearby building. The wicker would keep it from doing damage if it fell, but the metal let him aim it. Once it was in place on a roof, they would jump over and retrieve it.
Max threw, but Wax struggled to get the ball to go far enough. “Toss it higher,” he suggested to Max once they’d recovered it.
“If I throw it up,” Max complained, “it will come down on our heads. I want to go onto that building over there.”
“Height first,” Wax said. “Trust me. The higher you throw it, the farther I can get it to fly.”
Max tried again. With more height to the throw, Wax was able to land the ball on the rooftop Max wanted. Then they leaped after it. He wondered what the people in the neighboring skyscrapers thought of the frequent sight of a senator shooting past their windows with a child strapped to his back.
Unfortunately, the fun of the game could only distract him for so long. They’d been playing for half an hour when he topped a building and was confronted by an awesome sight. The Malwish ship he’d seen earlier had come closer.
The wooden construction, moved by giant fans, loomed in the air over Elendel. Wax had seen Basin attempts to design their own airships using helium or hot air. But the size of the cabin those ships could lift— in the most optimistic of projections—was nothing compared to what the Malwish could field. Their ship soared, a fortress in the sky.
This was no trade ship as he’d thought earlier. It was a warship. A show of force, though not an overtly hostile one—as it was approaching slowly and low in the sky. It was meant to make a statement, not a threat.
So, with Max strapped securely back into place, Wax launched them into the air toward the vessel, intent on finding out what was going on.
Marasi eventually managed to find a service ladder to get her down into the chasm and back up the other side. Worn out, she approached the main chamber, shaken by what she’d heard and been forced to do. But she carried a small book of numbers and shipping dates she’d found on the corpse, and that looked promising.
She also carried something more dangerous. Four spikes. Curiously, the red-spotted one did not like touching the others—it pulled away from them if brought close. So she’d wrapped it in a bundle of cloth and kept them in separate pockets.
She stumbled through the reinforced metal door and found a scene of utter chaos. A large blast had set off several other explosions, judging by the scars on the ground. The cavern was littered with shrapnel, pieces of equipment, and an alarming number of bodies.
Wayne squatted in the center of it all, his clothes ripped, playing cards with a whole group of tied-up gangsters. He had their cards laid out on the floor in front of them—though their hands were tied behind their backs.
“You sure you want to lead with that one, mate?” Wayne asked, nodding at the card one of the men had tapped with his toe.
“It’s the high card,” the fellow said.
“Yeah, but are you sure,” Wayne said, eyeing his own hand.
“Um… I think so.”
“Damn,” Wayne said, laying down his hand. “I play three eights on the back of the nines. You win.”
“But…” another of the men said, “you know our hands… Why would you play it that way?”
“Gotta pretend I can’t see your cards, friends,” Wayne said. “Otherwise, where’s the sport in it? Cheatin’s one thing, but if I can just see what you’re going to do, then… well, might as well be playin’ with myself. And there are much funner ways to do that.”
Marasi stumbled up. He had fifteen of them in various states of captivity. Exactly as he’d said, he’d been able to use his speed bubble to counteract her slowness bubble and grab them one at a time. His control over his powers was increasingly impressive.
She wasn’t surprised he’d taken so many captive—Wayne preferred not to kill. It was something they agreed on. As for the card game, well… at this point his antics barely shocked her. She settled down on the remnant of a broken crate. “Wayne, I could have used your help.”
“By the time I had these chaps all trussed up,” Wayne said, “you already had that fellow in the suit down. I saw you restin’, and it seemed best to give you some time.”
She hadn’t even noticed. Rusts, her shoulder still hurt. She grimaced, looking around the room.
“So, uh,” Wayne said, “damn. Did you turn to cannibalism or something?”
Marasi looked down at her uniform, which was covered in blood. “Cannibalism? That’s where your mind went?”
“One sees a lady covered in blood,” Wayne said, “and it goes to a natural place: wonderin’ if maybe she feasts on the livers of the people what she defeated. Not that I’m judging.”
“Not judging?” Marasi said. “Wayne, that’s absolutely something you should judge someone for.”
“Right. Shame on you, then.”
She sighed. “Here I was thinking that I was finally used to your Wayne-ness.” She proffered the spikes, each six inches long with a thick head—save for the smallest, most interesting one, which was narrow and thin, barely four inches long. “I dug these out of the Cycle’s body. He would have come back to life, healing himself, if I’d left them in.”
“How?” he said. “It don’t work that way.”
“Did for him. This other spike might be why.”
“Trellium?” she said. “Yes. It has to be.”
Wayne whistled softly. “We should celebrate. You save any liver for me?”
She gave him a flat stare, at which he just grinned. “We don’t eat people,” she said to the captives. “He’s just joking.”
“Aw, Marasi,” Wayne said. “I’ve been workin’ on my reputation with these blokes.”
“We broke into their cavern,” she said, “defeated their leader, blew up most of their goods, killed half of them and captured the rest. I think your reputation is fine.” She narrowed her eyes, noticing that all of the captives were barefoot. “Dare I ask why you took off their shoes?”
“Shoelaces,” Wayne said, and she glanced at their bound hands. “Old Roughs trick when you don’t have enough rope.” He nodded to the side, and the two of them stepped away to talk in private. “That’s a lot of captives, Marasi, and shoelaces aren’t going to hold them real well. Any moment now, one of them will pop out a knife I missed—or worse, a gun. So…”
“Instant Backup?” she asked.
“Rusts, I love that code name.”
“As long as it gets me to a bath sooner, I’m for it. There should be a way up to the city through the door I used—and there’s a ladder to the right, inside the chasm.” She paused. “Check on the body for me? I have this terrible premonition that I missed a spike and he’ll come looking for me.”
“Got it,” Wayne said. He surveyed the room. “Nice work.”
“We blew the place up and killed the guy who had the most information.”
“We survived,” Wayne said, “stopped a gang of miscreants, protected the city, denied our enemies resources, and recovered some important metals. In my book we did a rustin’ good job. You’re too hard on yourself, Marasi.”
Well… maybe she was. It was the sort of thing you learned, growing up as she had. So she nodded and let herself take the compliment, feeling some weight lift from her. Wayne jogged off, and she walked back to the tied-up gang of thugs, pistol held in a deliberately threatening way.
Judging by how they looked at her, she didn’t need to do much to intimidate them. “You’re the lucky ones,” she said—mostly to distract them. “You’re going to be treated fairly. So long as no one does anything stupid.” She fished in her pocket, ignoring the book she’d taken from the Cycle for now, instead pulling out a notebook that was only slightly coated in blood. “I have a list of rights here I’m going to read to you. Listen carefully, so you know what options and legal protections will be available to you.”
She opened the notebook and burned cadmium, tossing out a bubble of slowed time that covered them all. Hopefully they’d be distracted by her lecture, because if they were watching the perimeter they’d see the smoldering fires wink out too quickly.
That was probably the extent of the clues; there weren’t as many tells in a cavern as there would be outside, where the motion of the sun, falling leaves, or passing bystanders would indicate exactly what was happening. As the minutes passed in slowed time for Marasi and the gangsters, Wayne would be jogging to the constabulary to get backup.
Marasi finished her recitation, then did a slow walk around the captives, pistol at the ready, metal burning within her. A few of them stilled as she passed; they’d been trying to work out the knots in their bindings. Wayne was right. This many captives presented a potentially volatile situation. Hopefully backup would come quickly.
For now though, she let herself think about the Cycle, whose dying words reminded her of what Miles Hundredlives had said when he had died. One day, the men of gold and red, bearers of the final metal, will come to you. And you will be ruled by them.
She touched the trellium spike in her pocket.
The ash comes again, the Cycle had said today.
That couldn’t be true. The Catacendre had marked the death and rebirth of the world. Ashfalls were a thing of myths and old stories. Not something of these days, with their electric lights and petrol-powered autos. Right?
She shivered and glanced toward the door at the back of the cavern, eager to spot more constables. It was a relief when a blur indicated someone arriving. Marasi almost dropped the speed bubble, then paused as she saw it was only one person. Who was this? Wayne? The blurred figure zipped up to the perimeter of the bubble and stood there for a moment.
That gave Marasi just enough time—an eyeblink really—to pick out a female figure in dark clothing, a black cloth mask over her face. Not like a Malwish mask; more like one a thief might use, prowling in the night. She was slender, with straight black hair. Her eyes seemed to meet Marasi’s, then she became a blur again.
Perhaps Marasi could have dropped the bubble, but it was over too quickly. Indeed, as she was still trying to sort through what had happened, a host of other blurs in constable brown entered the room. A second later, Wayne jumped into the slowness bubble. He activated his own powers and the two canceled each other out, creating a pocket of normal time around them.
Rust, could she get that good with her bubbles? Her schedule was so constrained that such experiments seemed impossible, but still… it was remarkable. And surreal, that she was now unaffected by her own slowness bubble. She turned back toward the frozen gangsters, one of whom had managed to untie himself and was trying to sneak away.
“You arrived just in time,” Marasi said, noting the constables gathered around the bubble with nets and ropes. “Wayne… did you pass anyone on your way in?”
“No,” he said, frowning. “Why? Your corpse is still out there, dead as when you deadified him.”
“There was someone in here a moment ago,” she said. “Maybe fifteen minutes ago regular time? She inspected us, then fled.”
“Bizarre,” he said. “You still have those spikes?”
She checked her uniform’s pockets; three spikes on one side, one on the other, and they hadn’t been disturbed. “Yes. Ready for the bubble to go down?”
He nodded and they dropped their bubbles, letting Marasi shout orders to the constables. They moved in methodically, taking the man who’d been about to escape, tightening the bonds on the others. Constable medics checked the dead just in case, and others moved in to gather evidence. Well, the evidence Wayne hadn’t detonated.
“Come on,” Wayne said. “They can handle this. We should show Wax what we found.”
“Well, after some cleaning up,” she said. “Judging by how you smell, Wayne, I don’t want to know how I smell. But yes. We need to talk to Waxillium.”
About more than just the spikes. About glowing red eyes, and cryptic deaths. You will get what you deserve, and all will wither beneath a cloud of blackness and a blanket of burned bodies made ash. She left the scene to the other constables, following Wayne as he led the way out.
Excerpted from The Lost Metal, copyright © 2022 by Brandon Sanderson.