Read The Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson: Chapter Nineteen

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—publishing November 15th with Tor Books.

Head back to the beginning of our excerpts here, or read the final chapter in our serialization below!

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.


 

 

 

Three days later, Wax stood in his penthouse study, looking west toward Bilming. There was no mist tonight. Seemed like weeks since he’d seen any.

Preparations had gone well for Marasi’s sting. The notebook had clear instructions on how to deliver the goods. Using intel from interrogations, Marasi had located the very trucks the captives had been planning to use. She had the exact outfits of the captives, and VenDell was playing the role of their leader. Wayne, in one of his finest disguises, was at his side to help sell the role. Even the boxes of goods were real.

They would leave sometime tonight. Wax wouldn’t go to see them off, of course. He could be conspicuous, and Marasi had taken every conceivable step to make sure the enemy didn’t spot the subterfuge.

They’ll be safe, he told himself. Their disguises are excellent, and shes extremely capable.

This was the Basin, not some wayward town in the Roughs. Marasi had access to the finest constables in the city, along with resources in abundance. She didn’t need an old Coinshot with an unloaded pistol who still felt the ache of having foolishly exploded his laboratory a few days ago.

Still, Wax lingered, looking through the wide picture windows of his small penthouse study. It had been exciting, these last years, watching the city grow electrified. He had evanotypes of the process, taken every few months from this high perspective. A grid of lights and streets, homes glowing with the calm light of progress, each adding another shimmering star to the Elendel constellation. Would the lights spread so far that eventually there wouldn’t be any darkness at all?

Steris slipped over, then handed him a cup of tea. “With willow powder,” she whispered. “For your aches.”

“You think of everything,” he said, taking a sip. “How are the kids?”

“Sleeping,” she said. “We should be fine to go back to work.”

Together they walked back into the living room, where practically every surface had been commandeered to hold stacks of broadsheets. They could have hired researchers to pick through it all, but why give someone else the fun?

And it was fun. Not of the sort that Wax would once have enjoyed, but fun was as much about the company as the activity. They settled down together on the floor—all of the seats had papers on them—and continued reading. Searching for any mentions of explosions in cities across the Basin.

To pass the time, they also looked for anything amusing.

“ ‘Pickled Pachyderm Plays Piano,’ ” Steris said, holding one up. “Why do they always pick ‘pachyderm’ for these alliterative sentences?”

“Because it’s a funny word?” Wax said, with a smile. “What’s it pickled in?”

“Apparently it was sitting in a small swimming pool,” Steris said. “I think that’s a stretch.”

He held up his own headline. “ ‘Child Eats Tar. Mother Feeds Rat As Antidote.’ ”

“Oh, that can’t be real,” she said, taking the broadsheet from him. But it was a real story—and in a reputable paper as well. Turned out even the most highbrow of sources weren’t above using a zinger to move copies on a slow news day. She grinned, setting it on her stack of amusing headlines.

For their true hunt, Steris had a system—because of course she did. They read only headlines at first, quickly skimming sheets for certain words in bold or large print. Anything that looked promising went into its own pile. But you didn’t read the story, not yet. You’d want to read all of those together, to compare one against another and further winnow.

They were almost done with the most recent batch of broadsheets, delivered today. Wax enjoyed it, mostly for the time with his wife—though he seemed to still be suffering the aftereffects of the explosion. His vision kept behaving oddly, distorting at times for just a second or two. And his mind kept playing tricks on him, making him think he glimpsed blue Allomantic lines without burning metals.

He set aside worries over his health, and certainly did not say anything. He didn’t want to concern Steris. He’d survived explosions before. His hand still ached from the mine detonation back in Dust’s Beach…

“Here’s one,” Steris said, showing him a serious headline. “Explosion at a railway station.”

Wax rubbed his chin as he read. “Sounds like a boiler malfunction. Not terribly suspicious.”

“Perhaps it’s covering something up?”

He shook his head. Seemed like an odd place to be running metallurgic experiments. Too many people nearby—but then again, he’d done his experiments in the basement of a mansion. So who knew?

Steris set it in the “maybe” pile, while he moved his current broadsheet—an account of a fire that was pretty obviously a lightning strike— into the “unlikely” pile. None of these felt right to him, which should have made him happy. Perhaps their enemies hadn’t discovered the explosive interaction between harmonium and trellium.

Unfortunately, this sort of investigation could be frustrating for just that reason. He didn’t want to find proof, because it would confirm his fears. Yet if they turned up nothing, they’d never know if it was because no proof existed, or because they had missed it.

“ ‘Snake Sneaks Snoring Snails’?” Steris said, showing him one from her amusing pile. “I have to admire them for committing to the gimmick.”

“Do snakes eat snails?” he asked.

“This one did, apparently.” She smiled, and Preservation, he loved that smile. He found himself wishing this hunt were for lower stakes.

Ashes falling again, he thought, shivering. He’d often imagined what it would have been like to live in the mythical days before the Catacendre. When the Ascendant Warrior and Wax’s own distant ancestor, the Counselor of Gods, had walked the land. When people had moved through stories like the sun behind clouds on a mostly overcast day.

In those days, the world had been dying. Ash had been its skin, flaking off as it disintegrated…

He sighed, rubbing his eyes—seeing those odd flashes of blue. Fortunately, the tea was beginning to work and his headache was at last retreating.

“Wax?” Steris asked softly. “Do you wish you’d gone with Marasi and Wayne?”

“They’ll be fine,” he said. “They don’t need me.”

“That isn’t what I asked, love,” she said softly.

He thought for a moment. Then shook his head. “I don’t, Steris. I genuinely don’t. I realized it the other day. I’m… past that stage of my life. I really feel like I’m done.”

Except for one thing. The fact that his sister was involved. Still out there. Dangerous.

Most families had skeletons in the closet. And most of those were sensible enough to stay dead. His might be threatening the entire Basin.

Ash falling again…

But he did feel done. Ready to move on. So, he showed Steris an account of a series of broken windows in the city of Demoux. It seemed to be the result of a small twister—a smaller cousin to the more terrifying ones that struck the Roughs. But maybe it was an indication of a sharp pressure change, like an explosion?

They put it in the “unlikely” pile. Unfortunately, after an hour of this, they neared the end of the stacks with no solid leads. Just a lot of very unlikely possibilities.

Steris watched him as she moved another broadsheet to the unlikely pile. He knew what she was thinking, but she didn’t prod him.

“There is one thing,” he admitted to her. “My sister. I should be the one to deal with her. But I have important work to do here in Elendel. Besides, I’m not that man anymore.”

“Do you have to be that man or this man?” she asked.

“I have to make choices. Everyone does.”

“And what about when you initially came back to Elendel?” she asked. “When you decided to hang up your guns the first time?”

“This is different,” he explained. “Back then I was running from myself. I stopped running six years ago, in the mountains, Steris. This is what I want. This is who I want to be. I’m happy here.”

She leaned into him, a steady warmth at his side. “So long as you know,” she whispered, “that you don’t have to be one or the other. You don’t have to see yourself as two men, Wax, with two different lives. Those men are the same person. And he’s the one I love.”

He thought on that, considering those days when he’d come back to Elendel—determined to put his past in the Roughs behind him. Because it was what he thought he should do. And… well, because a part of him had been broken. A gouge that had eventually been ripped back open by Lessie’s return.

Lying near death on a frozen mountaintop to the south had changed his perspective. When he’d returned to Elendel, he’d been able to live again. Growing, changing. And yet… did that mean the past him was no longer him? Were the inner rings in a tree less a part of it just because they were no longer exposed to the air?

“I’m worried about them,” he admitted to Steris. “And… I’m worried about the safety of the Basin. I don’t want to act like I don’t trust Marasi and Wayne. But…” He reached into his pocket and took out the envelope with the earring. Which he still hadn’t used. “Last year, when VenDell offered me a mission, it didn’t have the same urgency. The same disquiet about it. I’m afraid that whatever is happening now has grown too big to ignore. Too dangerous to be stopped by detective work or police intervention, no matter how competent.”

“Another god,” Steris whispered.

He took out a second envelope. “I had this made,” he said, shaking something out of it. Another earring. With a red tinge to the metal. It was nothing more than a stud, with the only trellium portion the bar in the middle, as the metal couldn’t be melted to be forged.

“When I gave the trellium spike to the university for study,” he explained, “I asked them to fabricate this for me. Because Harmony suggested I’d need it.”

“Do you believe what Marasi said? About another ashfall? The return of those… dark days?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “But VenDell says Harmony is afraid. And that has me terrified.”

Steris tapped her finger on the stack of broadsheets in her lap. “Let’s identify our worst-case scenario. Consider: What’s the worst thing you can imagine, in regards to our current hunt?”

“My worst fear?” he said, thinking. “It’s that we’re years behind. That the Set has known about this interaction between harmonium and trellium for a great deal longer than we assume—maybe since that first Malwish airship crashed here. My fear is that the Set is not beginning a plan. My fear is that we’re in the end stages of said plan.”

“Is there anything we could search for to prove this?” Steris asked.

Wax stood up, surveying the room full of broadsheets, each stack from a different city. “Rusts,” he said. “We shouldn’t be searching for accidental explosions. We should be searching for proof of intentional ones. And we’re looking at too recent a batch of papers—if it happened, it could be five or six years old by now.” He paused. “They’d want to test. It wouldn’t be one explosion long ago. It would be a series of them… hidden somehow… because if they have this weapon, they’ll want to develop it. Improve it.”

“How?” Steris asked. “Should we search for records of harmonium busts?”

“I doubt that would show up in the broadsheets,” Wax said, turning around the room. “The Set is good at hiding its resource movement, especially of contraband. Marasi’s investigation proves that.”

So what? Was there any way to find what he wanted? Evidence of tests… of explosions they’d keep hidden…

“Earthquakes,” Wax whispered.

“What was that?”

“Earthquakes,” he said, kneeling beside Steris. “They would test explosions underground, in the caverns. Where they’d be contained and hidden. But they can’t fool the seismographs.”

They dug into the headlines again—but this time with a different set of criteria. And admittedly, Wax broke format a little, peeking at the contents of the stories rather than just looking for headlines. Steris poked him in the side if he spent too long doing this, but he was curious. And excited.

The answers had to be in here somewhere.

The search took a solid three hours of work. But as midnight passed, Wax found it. A series of articles from an Elendel broadsheet about something happening in Bilming.

“A subway?” Steris asked, frowning.

“Reports,” Wax explained, “of odd earthquakes in the city, starting years ago. Officials quickly explained that Bilming had decided to build a subterranean rail line like Elendel.”

“That could be valid,” Steris said, reading another broadsheet expanding on the story. “We used explosives to blast away rock and build the subway.”

“But why would Bilming need a subway? They have that elevated rail they’re so proud of. They love showing it off. Plus, these explosions have been going for four and a half years—and they don’t have a single subway line up and running.”

“Suspicious,” Steris said, scanning the next article. “Very suspicious. A new initiative started seven months ago… Reports of buildings being rattled by large-scale detonations… They were detected all the way here in Elendel.”

“They’re calling it a financial scandal, with construction companies leeching away funds. But it’s obviously more.”

Steris nodded vigorously. The broadsheet that had uncovered this wasn’t the most reputable source—it was the latest one to carry that fool Jak’s outlandish stories—but there was something here, as confirmed by several other broadsheets, now that they knew what they were looking for.

Rusts, he thought. The Set were testing beneath populated areas? Why? Was that just where they could find the cavern space? This might be even bigger than he’d feared. Hadn’t Bilming been building a navy?

Yes. Other articles talked about it. Ostensibly, the Bilming shipyards were creating a defense force for the Basin, in case of attack from the South. But they’d started before the arrival of the first Malwish airships— and they certainly liked to show off the capabilities of their guns.

Supposedly these ships were under Elendel’s control. No one actually believed that though.

“Wax…” Steris said. “That list of shipments in Marasi’s book. Where they were checking to see how tight customs was. How hard it would be to smuggle something into Elendel…”

A chill washed through Wax. What would they want to smuggle into Elendel?

A bomb.

“It looked like they were checking different cargo sizes,” he said. “And how likely they were to be inspected when brought in via train or truck.”

“And how big would this bomb be?” Steris said. “Theoretically.”

“It’s the generator that would be big,” Wax explained. “If it works according to the mechanics we discovered, then they’d need a great deal of power. More than the simple lines to homes can carry, or even the lines to industrial locations. They’d likely have to build a very large housing for the device.”

“Which explains why they were checking which sizes arouse suspicion and which don’t. Wax, if you’re right, then the broadsheets indicate they’ve been testing this for more than four years. Successfully. They might have the bomb already. They’re just…”

“… looking for a way to get it into the city.”

Rusts. He looked to the side table, and the envelopes. Then, finally, he slipped the first earring out—the one Harmony had sent him. It had been six years. He’d grown increasingly reticent to have anything to do with Harmony. He no longer hated God, but still…

He looked to Steris, who nodded. So he put the earring in.

And was suddenly in another place.

Floating, seeing the entire world before him, and the dark vastness beyond. He spent a moment disoriented, though his feet felt like they were on solid ground. It was unnerving.

This didn’t normally happen when he used an earring. But he had been here once before. On that frozen mountaintop.

Harmony stood in the distance. A serene figure in traditional Terris robes. Kindly eyes. Hesitant at first, Wax walked across the invisible floor toward Harmony. If he let his eyes unfocus, Harmony seemed as vast as the cosmere—two sweeping wings. One white, one black. Spinning together in the middle, the edges extending to infinity.

At the heart of it was that figure. Terris. Head shaved smooth. Rounded features, with an elongated face. The face of a legend, standing with hands clasped behind his back. Looking worried.

“Last time I was here,” Wax noted, “I was dead.”

“Dying,” Harmony said. “On the very cusp of death. Sometimes I think that’s where I reside. Always there, like a coin balanced on edge… a gulf on either side…”

“Where is the redness I saw last time?” Wax asked, nodding to the planet. Six years ago a red haze had been coming over the planet, as if to swallow it. “Did you drive it off?”

“No,” Harmony said softly. “It Invested the planet. Invested… me. What you saw was a shroud, Waxillium. I responded too slowly. It is… a failing that grows more dangerous in me. By the time I realized what was happening, that shroud had come over me. It doesn’t hurt, it merely dampens my ability to see.”

“You mean…”

“I don’t know what’s happening,” Harmony said softly, staring down at the planet. “What is Trell doing? What are they planning? They put that haze up as a kind of smoke screen. When I attacked it, the haze infected my ability to see the future. Temporarily. I will be rid of it in a few years. That’s nothing on the timescale of gods. And yet…”

“And yet, the danger is right now.”

“Yes,” Harmony said. “Like a nearsighted person, I can see the danger now that it has come very close.” He hesitated, then looked to Wax. “I can see you, hear you. We are Connected. And so, I know what you’ve discovered. I thought I had more time. I realize only now that I have been moving too slowly. Yet again, too slowly…”

Wax considered that, gave it due weight. These weren’t matters or concepts one took lightly. God blinded. All of them years behind the enemy. A bomb being developed and a search for a way into the heart of his city.

One question rose to the surface. An old lawman’s adage. If you wanted to stop a man, you needed to know what he wanted. Who he was.

“Harmony,” he said, “who is Trell?”

“Trell is the god Autonomy,” Harmony replied. “What we call a Shard of Adonalsium. Autonomy carries power like my own, a dangerous force for manipulating the very nature of reality and existence. Though Autonomy is held by a woman named Bavadin, her many different faces—or avatars—act with independence. Trell, a male god from the ancient records, can be considered one of these.”

Wax blinked.

“You were not expecting so straightforward an answer?” Harmony asked.

“I’ve not always gotten them in the past.”

“I’m trying to do better.”

That was… somehow as unnerving as hearing that Harmony had been blinded. God should not have to get better.

“You rarely get to speak to Autonomy herself,” Harmony continued. “As I’ve come to find, she speaks through avatars. Sometimes pieces of herself that she’s allowed to gain a semblance of self-awareness, sometimes through chosen people she has given a portion of her power.

“Autonomy decided to destroy our world, as it is a dangerous threat to her. But I believe she has been persuaded to let it persist, so long as it can be… controlled. Autonomy offered me an ultimatum last year, as my blinding was taking effect and when she assumed I would be the most desperate. She demanded I give this world to her, then move to another.

“I rejected the demand—and one of the last things I saw was the person Autonomy has chosen. The same one who persuaded her that this world had value, and who presented a plan for its domination.”

“My sister?”

Harmony nodded. “The leader of the Set. Invested by Autonomy. Avatar of a god on this world.”

Wax exhaled softly. Telsin.

Thinking of her brought an immediate stab of betrayal. He remembered exactly how it had felt to realize, in one terrible moment, that she would shoot him. Despite his love, his attempts to help her, she’d been working against him all along.

That pain was acute, despite the years. And he realized that he hadn’t left everything about his past behind. A thread lingered, a raw nerve exposed to the air.

Thinking of Telsin with the power of a deity in her hands… Rusts.

She’d spent her youth manipulating people. Getting her way. Telsin always got her way. It had been bad enough when she’d been able to persuade the adults she was sweet, obedient, and perfect—all the while sneaking out with her friends. It had become dangerous when she’d begun playing much higher-stakes games with the city’s elite. And it had become deadly when she’d discovered the Set and started shaping world politics.

What would she do with this?

“You’re only now telling me?” Wax demanded.

“I contacted you a year ago,” Harmony said, “when I was first blinded. You… still did not want to speak with me. And I was trying to respect that.”

Damn.

“But Wax,” Harmony said softly, “it is time again. I need a sword.”

A sword. That was what he’d been when he’d killed Lessie the second time. Cleaning up God’s mess. Executing his rogue kandra driven mad by lack of spikes.

“I know you’ve changed,” Harmony said. “I heard you earlier. I know you’re happy. I know you want nothing more to do with my works.”

“But my sister,” Wax said, “has the power of a god. Rusts. Marasi and Wayne—does she know what they’re planning with this sting? Are my friends in danger?”

“I wish I could say,” Harmony replied. “So far as I know, the enemy knows nothing of their plan. But… I’m blind, and your sister is extremely dangerous. Wax, I have tried to handle this in other ways. I have failed. And so, I come back to the one weapon I’ve always been able to rely upon.”

Wax took a deep breath. “Tell me what you know.”

“Are you agreeing?”

“First tell me what you know. About my sister’s plans, about this god. Anything relevant.”

“I’ve shared most of it,” Harmony said. “You should know, perhaps, that each of these powers—these Shards—has what we call an Intent. A driving motivation. I bear two: one driving me to preserve and protect, the other driving me to destroy.

“Autonomy is driven to divide off from the rest of us, go her own way. She pushes her followers to prove themselves, and she rewards those who are bold, who survive against the odds. She respects big plans and big accomplishments. I presume this is why your sister has persuaded Autonomy not to destroy our planet outright. Or at least to delay doing so.”

“Telsin is still planning something catastrophic,” Wax said. “She’s trying to destroy Elendel. But what does that get her? The other cities will revolt against such a terrible act of destruction; she can’t think they’ll follow her if she kills so many.”

“She’s desperate,” Harmony said. “Your sister has set up in Bilming. You’ll find her there, building a new empire. She must know that her god is still eager to wage war on our people and annihilate them. So, she is trying what she can. If Telsin destroys Elendel, she can try to take control of the Basin and prove to Trell that she is capable of ruling this planet. I do not know if this is her true motive, but it is what seems most likely.” Harmony glanced to him. “I’m sorry. I had not realized she would go this far.”

Wax looked away, but it was difficult to blame Harmony. Wax himself had been blind to Telsin for years—and he didn’t have the excuse of a divine shroud. He’d always assumed that he of all people knew the real her. Until he’d found himself just another pawn in her games, shown a false face. Made to feel an idiot. Why had he thought she would play everyone except him?

Because a part of him had loved his sister. Right up until the moment when she’d pulled the trigger and he’d known the truth. Family was nothing to her but a powerful cord with which to bind and manipulate.

“If what you have discovered is true,” Harmony said, “we might not have much time for me to free myself from my shroud. Autonomy mobilizes an army from offworld to invade and destroy everyone on this planet. Telsin moves to circumvent that. Both plans are catastrophic to us, and both are in motion.”

Damn. Wax took a deep breath. “You had me make a second earring. That’s what finally convinced me to talk to you. Why?”

“I hoped that would work,” Harmony said, a hint of a smile on his lips. “A good mystery is the best invitation.”

“And? What do I do with it?”

“When Vin, the Ascendant Warrior, was resisting Ruin, she didn’t realize that the little earring she wore linked her to him. It let him get inside her head, speak with her. Connect to her.” He nodded to Wax’s earring. “With a trellium spike, you will be Connected to Trell’s avatar— much as you now are to me. She will be able to sense you, and you her.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Wax said, shaking his head. “Whenever the two of us meet, she gets the better of me. I shouldn’t try to play her games.”

Harmony smiled. A faint smile, from one too burdened to be eager about the emotion. He actually seemed to do it on purpose, with effort. “As you wish. It is a tool for you to use. I’ve lost games over and over against Autonomy, but I still have help I can send you. Some do not realize I was behind their mobilization. Yet I did not know the urgency of our task. I did not know their bomb might be ready. I am caught flat-footed. That was their goal, I think. So I must ask. Will you be my sword again, Waxillium?”

“It is absolutely necessary?”

“That depends,” he said, “on how you feel about the prospect of your sister taking my place as this planet’s steward.”

“That’s… actually a possibility?”

“Yes.”

“Damn.”

“Disrupt Telsin’s plan, and Autonomy will abandon her. That is our best bet.”

“And the army Autonomy is bringing?”

“We will have to hope we have time to stop them after your sister’s plan is subverted.”

It didn’t sound like much of a strategy. He looked to Harmony, and saw something different this time. Not the vastness of the powers, or even the figure of legend. But a man. Thrust into a war that none of them had been ready for, playing catch-up to learn powers that others had presumably spent millennia mastering.

He’s doing his best, Wax thought. And struggling to avoid being crushed by the opposing powers he holds. He needs help, and I’m all there is.

When Wax had run to the Roughs, it had been to escape—but he’d stayed because people needed him.

He’d found peace in Elendel. He wouldn’t return to the field because he wanted it or needed it. This time, he would go because he was needed.

“Final time?” Wax said.

“I promise,” Harmony said. “Final time.”

“All right,” Wax said, and felt a weight settle onto him. “I’ll stop Telsin. But you’re going to have to deal with this Autonomy.”

“Buy me time,” Harmony said. “Time to recover. Time to build greater alliances in the years to come, so we can face her as a unified planet.”

“I still don’t know how bombing Elendel gets Telsin what she wants,” he said. “It’s too extreme. She’s more rational than that. She’s got to be planning to threaten us with it until we bend. Maybe she intends to… I don’t know, detonate one in an Ashmount to cow us?”

“Perhaps. I do not know her ultimate plan. I’m sorry.”

A mystery then. With terrible stakes. Wax met Harmony’s eyes. “Is there anything you’re not telling me?”

“Many things,” Harmony admitted.

“Will any of them hurt, like what happened with Lessie?”

“Not on purpose,” Harmony said. “But I cannot promise you will survive this. Or that if you do, it will be without pain. I can’t promise much these days.”

Wax made a fist.

“Do you trust me, Waxillium?” God asked.

“No,” Wax said honestly. “But I trust her less. I’ve already said that I’ll help. But I’m not only a sword, Harmony. I’m a lawman too. I’ll find out what Telsin is doing. I’ll answer the questions you cannot. I’ll stop her that way.”

“Thank you.”

In a heartbeat, Wax was back in his penthouse. He’d never left, not physically. Steris knelt beside him, worried.

“He’s been blinded,” Wax said to her. “He didn’t realize how urgent the problem was, and he’s asked me to help. To intervene, and stop my sister.” He took her by the arm. “I’m sorry. I need to go. I know you’ll worry about me.”

“Of course I will,” she said. “But do you think I won’t worry if you stay? If you’re right about all of this…” She stood up. “It’s not me or them, Wax. It’s not politics or Allomancy. It’s not me or Lessie. It’s never been either/or. That part of your life isn’t over merely because you didn’t need it for a while. You need it now. We all do.”

He stood up beside her. “I’ll need to fetch my coat and my guns from the mansion.”

“I have them here,” she said, moving some stacks of broadsheets to uncover a cleaner’s bag—from which she removed his mistcoat.

“I should have guessed that you’d have it laundered,” he said. “Thank you for—”

There was a knock at the front door. They exchanged a look. Who was coming by at this hour of night, when even the servants had been dismissed? Wax walked to check, and outside—in the small hallway that led to the elevator foyer—he found a wrapped package.

He closed the door and showed the package to Steris. When unwrapped, it revealed a row of sixteen vials with—it appeared—a solution of alcohol and metal flakes inside. The last had a red-painted cork and a note. Use the others instead of your normal vials. Use the last in an emergency only.

Wax took these solemnly. Then, from the locked cabinet by the wall, he removed his strongbox—and from that two fully aluminum pistols, among Ranette’s finest creations. Vindication II and the Steel Survivor.

The first was a powerful, large-caliber gun designed to hold hazekiller rounds in two extra chambers. Those rounds were oversized, the bullets designed with a secondary explosion for dealing with Hemalurgists. Ranette had come up with them to forcibly eject a spike from a person’s body at close range. The second gun was a sleek mid-caliber pistol with an extra-long barrel for firing precision rounds. He generally loaded it with ordinary bullets that could be Pushed.

They slid into holsters that up until recently had held his unloaded guns. There was more in the box too. A gun bag, two feet long, holding something extra special, in several pieces that could be assembled. Ranette’s most deadly design. He hesitated as he put a hand on it. Inside was a weapon not for a lawman, but for a soldier. Intent on destruction.

He put it back in the gun box. He wasn’t going to need that. He was a lawman.

Steris bustled over with his large shoulder bag, extra wide and made of thick leather, for supplies. She packed his ammunition and extra metal vials—and, knowing her, a lunch—as he hurriedly gathered a few other things he thought he might need from the study. This included a belt with a pouch lined in aluminum, for holding metal vials. He could clip it closed, and the glass vials inside would be untouchable to enemy Allomancers. Into this he loaded half of the vials Harmony had sent.

When he returned, she held out his mistcoat for him. He took it in a two-handed grip.

“Steris,” he said, “the Senate… I can’t be in two places at once. Can you talk to the governor? This is a bad time for me to leave, with the new ambassador here. Hell… it might not be bad to prepare the governor for the worst, explaining about the potential for a bomb.”

“I don’t know if he will listen,” Steris said. “The senators and the governor don’t even listen to you—they’ll outright ignore me.”

“Still, we should try.”

“We… could appoint someone to represent the house…”

“Steris,” he said, “I stepped up to lead the house because of your dreams of what we could do. Your wonderful dreams. You saw in me someone who could do what needed to be done, and you were right.” He took her gently by the shoulder. “I see in you the same person. A better one. I’ve been working on your ideas these last years. Your genius. You can lead as well as I can. Better, even.”

“I’m not good with people,” she whispered. “I’ll ruin it. I’ve thought, and I’ve planned, and I always reach the same conclusion. I can’t be trusted with something this important; we need someone more suitable.”

“What if I think otherwise?” Wax said. “What if I think you’re absolutely the best person to represent our house? War is building—and it’s going to get worse if I do uncover a conspiracy in Bilming. We need someone to stop the hotheads. Someone meticulous, who has considered all the possibilities.”

“I… I don’t know. If I can do it.”

I believe in you, Steris. I will appoint someone else if you want. But I think you can do it best.”

She met his eyes. Then, hesitantly, she nodded.

“Thank you,” he said.

“If you really think this is best, then I will try. I am bad with people, but you are good with them. So it stands to reason that perhaps you are right. About me.” She squeezed his arms. “Go. I will see to the Senate. Somehow.”

He kissed her, still holding the mistcoat in one hand, wrapping his other arm around her. As he did, a small pair of hands gripped him and Steris around the legs.

“Max!” Steris said, breaking the embrace and looking down. “Why aren’t you in bed?”

“Because I’m in here,” he said.

She lifted him up as Wax stepped back and threw on his coat, then slung his heavy ammunition bag over his shoulder.

“You need to go fight monsters now?” Max asked.

“If I can find them,” Wax said.

“You can,” Max said. “You’re the best detector that ever lived. Uncle Wayne told me. He said you can find any treasure there ever was to be found.”

“I’ve already found the best treasures, Max,” Wax said, turning—mistcoat tassels rustling in that old familiar way. Like whispers speaking an ancient tongue. “Now I just have to keep them safe.”

He threw open the balcony doors and launched out into the sky toward the city of Bilming. Stars both above and beneath—with a highway lined in light pointing the way forward.

 

Excerpted from The Lost Metal, copyright © 2022 by Brandon Sanderson.

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