Trust

Chapter Six: Trust

...

It hurt.

And she was cold.

Mare lay upon a cold floor, eyes closed. A dull ache at the back of her head brought the recent memories to the surface. So, she wasn't dead yet. Her mind felt hazy – an unfortunate side-effect of being smacked in the head by an Inquisitor.

The chill in the air made her shiver. Sometime after being rendered unconscious, she'd been stripped to her undergarments. Mare was a little surprised the Inquisitors would allow her the dignity of clothing, however partial. For some reason, that wasn't as comforting as it should be.

She didn't open her eyes. Instead, she reached for her tin, so that she could send out her senses to map her location. There was nothing there. Where her supply of tin usually resided, comforting and near-constant, there was nothing. Had it burned out whilst she was unconscious? Or did they have some method of removing it?

Without the ability to sense her surroundings, Mare resorted to conventional methods – opening her eyes by a slit and surveying the room from beneath her eyelashes.

She needn't have been so cautious. It was empty, mostly. The bare walls were made of dark stone, lit by a single brazier by a fortified door. The only furnishings within the room were a pair of wooden cages, fastened securely to the ground. Mare was captive within one of them. Not a single metal item was present within the chamber, as far as she could see. Though, even if there had been a handy set of keys across the room, or a steel dagger lying around, neither she nor Kelsier had the ability to Pull them.

There was no means of escape.

Mare shifted to the edge of her cage, slipping an arm through the bars in a vain attempt to reach the other caged prisoner.

"Kelsier, are you alright?"

No answer.

He was slouched with his back to her cage, and Mare couldn't tell whether he was unconscious, or if he was awake and simply ignoring her. Perhaps selfishly, she hoped it was the former.

"Kelsier!"

"I'm fine, Mare." His voice was sharp, angry but undefeated. The Lord Ruler must have gone; she could no longer feel the oppressive weight of his Soothing crushing her willpower. Maybe now he was gone, Kelsier would regain his will to fight. He might hear the truth in her words. More importantly, he might be in the right state of mind to think up one of his unconventional plans, something spontaneous that would have them out in under an hour and laughing about the experience later. She clung to the thin hope.

"We need to have to get out of here!" she whispered urgently.

Kelsier shifted in his cage, twisting round so that he was facing her. The resigned look on his face seemed out of place, as though he was borrowing it from elsewhere.

"We can't, I checked while you were asleep. We're stuck here, for now.

For now. So he hadn't completely given up hope of escape, which meant that something else was causing the air of depression that hung around him. Mare knew what it was, but she didn't want to voice her fears. She didn't want to hear him say the words.

"What are they going to do with us?" she asked.

"The Pits of Hathsin," he replied, a frown flickering onto his face. "The Lord Ruler wants to parade us through the city tomorrow, and make an example of us. He wants the skaa to know what happens when one of them gets too cocky."

The Pits of Hathsin. All skaa had heard of that place. It brought with it the same terror as the words 'Inquisitor' and 'Obligator', and resulted ultimately in increased docility amongst the skaa. They didn't know exactly what happened there, except that it was where the Lord Ruler mined atium. It was the only place in the Dominances he could get it. Prisoners would be sent down the narrow tunnels into the bowels of the earth to search in darkness for tiny atium deposits. People had been sent there before, but no one ever returned. They always died. Always.

So it wasn't torture that was in store for them after all. The Lord Ruler did intend to execute them, but it wasn't a merciful beheading such as Redd's, instead it was a slow death. It was sad to think that she was jealous of Redd's fate.

"Why doesn't he just execute us right now?"

Kelsier shrugged. "Maybe he's feeling in an especially sadistic mood tonight."

The only difference between executing them on the spot and sending them to the Pits was that in the mine, death would be slower and would hold more fear. An execution brought with it a sense of inevitability, but to be condemned to the Pits meant that they were given the illusion of a chance of living. When really, it was just a delayed execution.

Mare gazed at Kelsier, who was regarding her with hardened eyes. She realised where she knew that look from. It was the same combination of pain and disappointment that she saw so often on Marsh's face. Her brother-in-law had been right after all – the plan was not only her downfall, but her husband's too. Her brow furrowed as she searched her mind, wondering how she could prove her innocence to Kelsier. If the Pits were her fate, then she would deal with that in time. She and Kelsier would at least have each other for comfort, for protection. Mare didn't want them to go there knowing that he was watching her out of the corner of his eyes, wondering. The affects of the Lord Ruler's Soothing still lingered faintly, and emotions imprinted themselves strongly onto memory. Even the slightest doubt about her loyalty would have been exploited by the Soothing, and would now linger like a treacherous whisper in Kelsier's mind.

He was watching her, emotionless. It was like he wasn't him anymore.

"Kelsier," she said quietly, looking directly into his eyes, willing him to see her sincerity. "I didn't do it. I would never betray you."

He didn't say anything.

"The Lord Ruler was Soothing us, he wanted you to believe I did it so that he could break us," the words tumbled out in a desperate, urgent rush. "He did it on purpose. To punish us. He was trying to trick you so that you wouldn't believe me, so that being condemned to the Pits would be even worse. I don't know how he knew we were coming – maybe he did see me one of those nights before, or maybe the Inquisitors saw us enter, I don't know! But it wasn't me, I could never do that to you!"

Kelsier didn't reply.

Footsteps filled the silence, perhaps drawn by the rise in the volume of her speech. The Inquisitors knew they were awake now, and were coming for them. Their sentence had arrived.

Mare turned her attention urgently back to her husband.

"Kelsier–!"

"I know, Mare," he said quietly, heavily. A small smile tugged at the corners of his lips, softening the hardness of his face. "I know you didn't betray me. It's alright."

He reached through the gap in his cage, as far as possible until the constrictive bars stopped him. Mare slipped her arm through her cage's bars, grasping his hand tightly in her own. They were just close enough for their fingers to intertwine. The warmth of his skin flooded her senses, as though she was flaring tin by the side of a great fire. Mare closed her eyes as she soaked it in, taking strength from the connection.

The door to the chamber slammed open, an Inquisitor striding into their presence, harbouring evil. But it couldn't break them.

Mare kept her hand clasped tightly to Kelsier's. She opened her eyes, blocking out the Inquisitor on the periphery of her vision. Instead she focused on her husband's face, the determined smile. She felt a small smile of her own lighten her face.

She met his eyes as the Inquisitor marched up to them, reaching to break apart their defiant bond.

Behind Kelsier's smile, she saw... doubt?

He... didn't believe her.

Mare released Kelsier's hand as the Inquisitor twisted her wrist, and she snapped her arm back inside the relative safety of the cage. She stared in surprise at her husband.

"Kelsier..."

"Don't worry, I'll protect you." He smiled reassuringly at her as the Inquisitor opened his cage to drag him out, ready to wheel them through the city as a warning to other dissidents.

Kelsier didn't believe her yet. But he had to, he would. She had faith. Even if her dreams of changing the world, of defying the Lord Ruler with daring raids had failed miserably, even if she was doomed to live out the rest of her days in the Pits of Hathsin until either she or Kelsier died, she would not let the Lord Ruler take this from her. She wouldn't let Kelsier lose all faith in her, thinking her a traitor.

She knew Kelsier loved her, she trusted in that.

Please, Kelsier... trust me too.

...