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THE land shook and groaned as it died, and was reborn.
Kelsier walked it, hands shoved in his pockets. He strolled through the end of the world, power spraying in all directions, giving him visions of all three Realms.
Fires burned from the heavens. Stones crashed together, then ripped back apart. Oceans boiled, and their steam became a new mist in the air.
Still Kelsier walked. He walked as if his feet could carry him from one world to the next, from one life to the next. He didn’t feel abandoned, but he did feel alone. Like he was the only man left in all the world, and the last witness of eras.
Ash was consumed by a land of stones made liquid. Mountains crashed from the ground behind Kelsier, in rhythm to his footsteps. Rivers washed down from the heights and oceans filled. Life sprang up, trees sprouting and shooting toward the sky, making a forest around him. Then that passed, and he was in a desert, quickly drying, sand boiling from the depths of the land as Sazed created it.
A dozen different settings passed him in an eyeblink, the land growing in his wake, his shadow. Kelsier finally stopped on a lofty highland plateau overlooking a new world, winds from three Realms ruffling his clothing. Grass grew beneath his feet, then blossoms sprouted. Mare’s flowers.
He knelt and bowed his head, resting his fingers on one of them.
Sazed appeared beside him. Slowly, Kelsier’s vision of the real world faded, and he was trapped again in the Cognitive Realm. All became mist around him.
Sazed sat down next to him. “I will be honest, Kelsier. This is not the end I had in mind when I joined your crew.”
“The rebellious Terrisman,” Kelsier said. Though he was in the world of mist, he could see clouds—vaguely—in the real world. They passed beneath his feet, surging around the base of the mountain. “You were a living contradiction even then, Saze. I should have seen it.”
“I can’t bring them back,” Sazed said softly. “Not yet … perhaps not ever. The Beyond is a place I can’t reach.”
“It’s all right,” Kelsier said. “Do me a favor. Will you see what you can do for Spook? His body is in rough shape. He’s pushed it too hard. Fix him up a little? Maybe make him Mistborn while you’re at it. They’re going to need some Allomancers in the world that comes.”
“I’ll consider it,” Sazed said.
They sat there together. Two friends at the edge of the world, at the end and start of time. Eventually, Sazed stood and bowed to Kelsier. A reverent motion for one who was himself divine.
“What do you think, Saze?” Kelsier asked, staring out over the world. “Is there a way for me to get out of this, and live again in the Physical Realm?”
Sazed hesitated. “No. I do not think so.” He patted Kelsier on the shoulder, then vanished.
Huh, Kelsier thought. He holds the powers of creation in twain, a god among gods.
And he’s still a terrible liar.
SPOOK felt uncomfortable living in a mansion when everyone else had so little. But they had insisted—and besides, it wasn’t much of a mansion. Yes, it was a log house of two stories, when most lived in shanties. And yes, he had his own room. But that room was small, and it felt muggy at night. They didn’t have glass for windows, and if he left the shutters open, insects got in.
This perfect new world had a disappointing amount of normalcy to it.
He yawned, closing his door. The room held a cot and a desk. No candles or lamps; they didn’t yet have the resources to spare those. His head was full of Breeze’s instructions on how to be a king, and his arms hurt from training with Ham. Beldre would expect him for dinner shortly.
Downstairs a door thumped, and Spook jumped. He kept expecting loud noises to hurt his ears more than they did, and even after all these weeks he still wasn’t used to walking around with his eyes uncovered. On his desk one of his aides had left a little writing board—they didn’t have paper—scratched on with charcoal, listing a few of his appointments for the next day. And at the bottom was a quick note.
I finally got the smith to make this as you requested, though he was timid about handling Inquisitor spikes. Not sure why you want it so much, Your Majesty. But here you go.
At the base of the board was a tiny spike shaped like an earring. Hesitant, Spook picked it up and held it before him. Why did he want this, again? He remembered something, whispers in his dreams. Get a spike forged, an earring. An old Inquisitor spike will work. You can find one in the caverns that used to be beneath Kredik Shaw.…
A dream? He considered, then—perhaps against his better judgment—jabbed the thing through his ear.
Kelsier appeared in the room with him.
“Gah!” Spook said, leaping back. “You! You’re dead. Vin killed you. Saze’s book says—”
“It’s okay, kid,” Kelsier said. “I’m the real one.”
“I…” Spook stammered. “It … Gah!”
Kelsier walked over and put his arm around Spook’s shoulders. “See, I knew this would work. You’ve got them both now. Broken mind, Hemalurgic spike. You can see just enough into the Cognitive Realm. That means we can work together, you and I.”
“Oh hell,” Spook said.
“Now, don’t be like that,” Kelsier said. “Our work is important. Vital. We’re going to unravel the mysteries of the universe. The cosmere, as it is called.”
“What … what do you mean?”
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Spook said.
“It’s a big, big place out there, kid,” Kelsier said. “Bigger than I ever knew. Ignorance almost lost us everything. I’m not going to let that happen again.” He tapped at Spook’s ear. “While dead, I had an opportunity. My mind expanded, and I learned some things. My focus wasn’t on these spikes; I think I could have worked it all out, if it had been. I still learned enough to be dangerous, and the two of us are going to figure the rest out.”
Spook pulled back. He was his own man now! He didn’t need to just do whatever Kelsier said. Hell, he didn’t even know if this really was Kelsier. He’d been fooled once before.
“Why?” Spook demanded. “Why would I care?”
Kelsier shrugged. “The Lord Ruler was immortal, you know. By a combination of the powers, he managed to make himself unable to age—unable to die, under most circumstances. You’re Mistborn, Spook. Halfway there. Aren’t you curious about what else is possible? I mean, we have a little pile of Inquisitor spikes, and nothing to do with them.…”
“And you?” Spook asked. “What do you get from this?”
“Nothing big,” Kelsier said. “Just a little thing. Someone once explained my problem. My string has been cut, the thing holding me to the physical world.” His smile broadened. “Well, we’re just going to have to find me a new string.”
I started planning this story while writing the original trilogy. By then, I’d pitched the idea of a “trilogy of trilogies” to my editor. (This is the idea that Mistborn, as a series, would change epochs and tech levels as the Cosmere matured.) I also knew that Kelsier would be playing a major role in future books in the series.
I’m not opposed to letting characters die; I believe that every series I’ve done has had some major, permanent casualties among viewpoint characters. At the same time, I was well aware that Kelsier’s story was not finished. The person he was at the end of the first volume had learned some things, but hadn’t completed his journey.
So, early on I began planning how to bring him back. I saturated The Hero of Ages with hints as to what he was doing behind the scenes, and even managed to slip in a few earlier hints here and there. I made very clear to fans who asked me that Kelsier was never good at doing what he was supposed to.
I am very aware of character resurrection as a dangerous trope, the balance of which I’m still figuring out. I didn’t think this one was particularly controversial, in part because of the foreshadowing I’d done. But
I do want death to be a very real danger, or consequence, in my stories.
That said, Kelsier from the start was coming back—though at times I wavered on whether I was going to write this story or not. I was worried that if I wrote it out, it would feel disjointed, as so much time passes and so many different phases of storytelling had to occur. I started writing for it a few years before I finally published it, tweaking scenes off and on, here and there.
Once I wrote The Bands of Mourning, it became clear to me that I’d need to get an explanation to readers out sooner rather than later. This set me to working on the story more diligently. In the end, I’m very pleased with how it turned out. It is a little disjointed, as I worried. However, the chance to finally talk about some of the behind-the-scenes stories going on in the Cosmere was very rewarding, both for myself and for fans.
To forestall questions, I do know what Kelsier and Spook were up to directly following this story. And I also know what Kelsier was doing during the era of the Wax and Wayne books. (There are some hints in those, as the original books have hints at this story.)
I can’t promise that I’ll write Secret History 2 or 3. There’s already a lot on my plate. However, the possibility is in the back of my mind.
THE TALDAIN SYSTEM
TALDAIN is one of the most bizarre planets in the cosmere, a fact that, in turn, feels bizarre to me. Having grown up on Taldain’s Darkside, there is a part of me—even all these years later—that instinctively feels that the way of this planet is the normal, natural one.
Taldain is a tidally locked planet trapped between the gravitational forces of two stars in a binary system. The smaller star is a weak white dwarf that, enveloped in a particulate ring, is barely visible from the dark side of the planet. Those of us originating from this side of the planet consider a uniform darkness (what most might consider a twilight similar to the sky just after a sun has set) to be the natural state.
Our planet is not grim, and assumptions otherwise are simple ignorance. The ultraviolet light that shines through the ring causes a certain reflective luminescence in much of the plant and animal life. Indeed, the few visitors to the planet that I’ve met often found it somewhere between striking and garish.
On the other side of the planet is Dayside, which faces the larger of the two stars, a blue-white supergiant around which the dwarf orbits. The sun is a dominating fixture of Dayside, which is primarily a vast sandy desert, with most of the flora and fauna living beneath the surface.
For years we assumed that our Shard, Autonomy, had Invested only Dayside, through the sunlight itself. We know now it is not as simple as this, though the mechanism is best explained under those assumptions. The Investiture beats down from the sky, and is absorbed by a microflora that grows like a lichen on the surface of the sand, giving it its brilliant white color (when fully Invested) or deep blackness (when that Investiture is depleted).
Giving water to the tiny plant causes a chain reaction of sudden growth, energy, and Realmic transition. Certain people can control this reaction, using the water from their own bodies to forge a brief Cognitive bond. They can draw Investiture (in very small amounts) directly from the Spiritual Realm, and use that to control the sand.
Though the effect is dramatic, the actual power used is quite small. This is a magic more about finesse than raw strength.
Dayside is home to two prominent cultures, while Darkside is more hospitable and varied. The flora and fauna of both sides are remarkable, though currently prospective visitors are—unfortunately—unable to experience them directly. Autonomy’s policy of isolationism in recent times (in direct contrast to her interference with other planets, I might add) has prevented travel to and from Taldain for many, many years.
A fact of which I am all too aware.
This excerpt of the 2016 graphic novel is followed by the beginning of the 1999 draft that formed the basis of the graphic adaptation.
THE wind caressed the stark dunes with a whispering touch, catching fine grains of sand between its fingers and bearing them forth like thousands of tiny charioteers. The sand, like the dunes it sculpted, was bone white. It had been bleached by the sun’s harsh stare—a stare that never slackened, for here, in the empire of the white sand, the sun never set. It hung motionless, neither rising nor falling, ever watching the dunes like a jealous monarch.
Praxton could feel the wind-borne grains of sand biting into his cheek. He pulled up the hood of his robe, but it seemed to make little difference. He could still feel the particles attacking the side of his face like furious insects. The sand masters would have to hurry—the winds could whip the Kerla sands from stagnation to a whirling typhoon in a matter of minutes.
A dozen forms stood a short distance away, clothed in brown robes. They had their hoods pulled up against the wind, but it was easy to tell from their small frames that they were children, barely into their second decade of life. The boys stood uncomfortably, shuffling with nervous feet as the winds whipped at their robes. They knew how important this day was. They couldn’t understand as Praxton did; they couldn’t know how many times they would look back on the event, how often the results of the testing would determine the course of their lives. Still, they could sense the significance of what was about to happen.
At the bidding of a white-robed mastrell, the boys reached into their robes and pulled out small cloth bags. Praxton watched the event with a stern face—the face he usually wore—presiding over the ceremony as Lord Mastrell, leader of the sand masters. He watched with emotionless eyes as each boy pulled a handful of white sand from within his bag. They had to hold tightly to keep the increasingly powerful wind from tearing the sand away and scattering it across the Kerla.
Praxton frowned, as if his simple displeasure could force the wind to abate. The testing took place close to the mountain KraeDa—one of the few places in the Kerla where stone jutted free from the sand. Here the wind was usually blocked by both mountain and surrounding cliffs.
He shook his head, taking his mind off the wind as the first boy began the testing. Two mastrells stood before him, instructing him in quiet voices that were lost upon the wind. Praxton saw the results, even if he couldn’t hear the voices—the boy stared at the sand in his hand for a moment, a brief flutter of wind revealing the look of concentration on his face. The sand, cupped protectively in his open palm, began to glow faintly for a moment, then turned a dull black, like the charred remnants of a fire.
“A good start,” one of the senior mastrells, Tendel, muttered from behind him. Praxton nodded silently—Tendel was correct; it was a good sign. The boy—Praxton thought he recognized him as Traiben, son of a lower sand master—had been able to make the sand glow bright enough to be seen even from a short distance, which meant he had at least moderate power.
The testing continued, some of the boys producing glows similar to Traiben’s, some barely managing to turn the sand black. Overall, however, it was an unusually strong batch. They would bring much strength to the Diem.
There was a sudden flash, one so bright that it produced an explosive crack loud enough to be heard even over the wind. Praxton blinked in surprise, trying to clear the bright afterimage from his eyes. The two mastrells performing the test stood stunned before a small child with a shaking hand.
Tendel whistled beside Praxton. “I haven’t seen one so powerful in years,” the old mastrell said. “Who is that?”
“Drile,” Praxton said despite himself. “Son of Reenst Rile.”
“A profitable catch in more than one way, then,” Tendel noted.
The testing mastrells recovered from their surprise and moved on to the next, and final, boy. Despite his age, his determined calmness, and his stern nature, Praxton felt his heart beat a little more quickly as the final child listened to their instructions.
Oh please, he felt himself mu
tter in a half-conscious prayer. He was not a religious man, but this was his final opportunity. He had failed so many times before.…
The boy looked at his sand. His hood had fallen to the wind, and his face, round and topped with a pile of short blond hair, adopted a look of total concentration. Praxton held his breath, waiting, excited in spite of himself.
The boy stared at the sand, his teeth clenched. Praxton felt his excitement dribble away as nothing happened. Finally, the sand gave a very weak glimmer—one so dark Praxton couldn’t be certain he hadn’t just imagined it—then faded to a dun black.
Though he knew he betrayed no look of disappointment, Praxton felt the senior mastrells around him grow stiff with anticipation.
“I’m … sorry, Lord Mastrell,” Tendel said beside him.
“It is nothing,” Praxton replied with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Not every boy is meant to be a sand master.”
“But … this was your last son,” Tendel pointed out—a rather unnecessary acknowledgment, in Praxton’s estimation.
“Take them away,” Praxton ordered in a loud voice. So, this will be my legacy, he thought to himself. A Lord Mastrell who couldn’t produce a single sand master child. I will be remembered as the man who married a woman from Darkside, thereby sullying his line.
He sighed, continuing. “Those who have skill may enter the Diem; the rest will choose another Profession.”
The sand masters moved quickly, their feet sinking easily into the swirling, fine-grained dunes beneath. They were eager to seek refuge from the furious elements. One form, however, did not follow the white-robed mastrells. Small and slight of frame, the boy stood in the increasingly violent wind. His robe whipped around him, writhing like a beast in the throes of a gruesome death.
“Kenton,” Praxton said under his breath.
“I will be a sand master!” the young boy said, his voice barely audible over the wind. A short distance away the line of retreating mastrells and boys paused, several heads turning in surprise.
- Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection. Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection is a collection of epic fantasy short stories and novellas written by American author Brandon Sanderson set in his Cosmere universe. It was published on November 22, 2016 by Tor Books.
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