Steel Ministry

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Steel Ministry
Inquisitor red.jpg
Type Religion
World of Origin Scadrial
Universe Cosmere

The Steel Ministry is the religion and the government bureaucracy of the Final Empire. It is made up of various divisions, named Cantons, and the members of the Ministry are called obligators. The Inquisitors are also part of the Steel Ministry.

One of the main functions of the Ministry is to witness a myriad of contracts and agreements, even something as simple as promise to come to a game of shelldry.[1] The nobility pay the Lord Ruler for their services in a manner similar to that of renting skaa.[2] As the authority in bureaucratic matters, any mercantile contracts, divorces, weddings, land purchases, inheritances, or any other important dealings could only be authorized by obligators. If one of the Ministry hasn't witnessed an event or sealed a document, it might as well not have happened or have been written.[1] However, obligators are also used to witness less formal agreements, such as meetings between friends.[1]


The Steel Ministry is organized into subsections named Cantons. The priests are called obligators and the Steel Inquisitors are obligators who have been Hemalurgically granted all the powers of a Mistborn. Each Canton of the Ministry runs a specific part of the Empire's government.

Canton of Finance[edit]

Straff Venture's obligators visiting Lord Tresting's plantation

As the bank of the Final Empire, the Canton of Finance directs the financial operations of the Final Empire. Its responsibilities also include the transport of funds.[3]


The Canton of Finance's headquarters is housed in an imposing building in Luthadel. It is tall and blocky with a massive rose window in the front, with two red banners hanging down beside the window, proclaiming praises to the Lord Ruler. Inside the building, one would find a desk at the end of an extended entryway, with an obligator manning the desk. Decorations within the building are sparse. It is often described as austere, bearing only necessary furniture and simple grey carpeting, the walls also lacking adornments. An exception to that rule is the waiting room; with plush chairs and lavish décor, the room clearly caters to the tastes of visiting noblemen. Snacks, such as small cakes, are also provided for those waiting.[3]

Canton of Resource[edit]


There are many philosophers in the Steel Ministry and most end up in the Canton of Resource, the best place for those with analytical minds.[4] This Canton is tasked with trade, transport, and taxation. A large portion of the atium mined at the Pits of Hathsin is secretly transported by the Canton of Resource to the Trustwarren or to be distributed by the Lord Ruler. There are obligators on duty at the Pits all the time to extract the metal from the geode while in a metal room.[5] The beads of atium are then hidden in Ministry funds to be transported to Luthadel for distribution. They are disguised in piles of coins since metal coins radiate light in the Cognitive Realm, which prevents Ruin from noticing where the atium goes.[6] The Canton is also in charge of maintaining supply lines to the other Cantons, for feeding the people, and maintaining the canals.[7]


The national headquarters of the Canton of Resource is in Luthadel while one of the Western Dominance's regional headquarters is in Fadrex City[8] and houses the fifth, and final, of the Lord Ruler's storage caches.[7] The single story building housing the regional headquarters in Fadrex City is blocky and utilitarian with sharp, flat walls and small windows.[9] It is the largest of any Ministry buildings in the city because it acts as a way station between Luthadel and more important cities (such as Tremredare) to the west. This gives this Canton influence in Fadrex City, which makes Prelan Aradan Yomen, the head of the Canton locally, the top religious authority in the city.[8]

Canton of Inquisition[edit]


The Canton of Inquisition is run by the Steel Inquisitors and acts as law enforcement, especially over the Allomantic community. Members of the Canton of Inquisition have the usual tattoos around their eyes, with the addition of a stark red line on the side of their face.[10] Administrators in this Canton collect and file information that might assist in the policing efforts. This information is about noble houses, skaa rebels, and the other Cantons.[11]

A Steel Inquisitor

In addition to dealing with anyone that goes against Ministry protocol, the Canton of Inquisition also maintains Soothing stations all around the city of Luthadel. The purpose of these bases is to dampen the emotions of everyone in the area, calming and depressing them to prevent rebellion. In addition, many Inquisitors find skaa Mistings by installing Seekers in these stations.[10] There are between thirty to forty Soothing stations around the city, each with three Soothers, a Seeker, and a Smoker who has the job of masking the Allomancy to anyone outside.[12]


The Canton of Inquisition was formed sometime during the sixth century of the Lord Ruler's reign. This Canton was the one to suggest the Terris breeding programs to the Lord Ruler in order to keep the Terris population under control. The Lord Ruler agreed to it provisionally, and the programs were then kept until the collapse of the Final Empire. However, the subjugation of the Terris people started far before the Canton of Inquisition created the idea of the breeding programs.[7]

The Inquisitors themselves didn't belong to the regular chain of command in the Steel Ministry, but were ranked below the Lord Prelan. Through Kar's revelation that Vin was the daughter of the Lord Prelan Tevidian Tekiel, shortly before the death of the Lord Ruler, the Canton of Inquisition gained dominance over the other Cantons in the final days of the Empire.[13]


As I walk, I wonder what secrets the Inquisitors deemed worthy of hiding below the earth, in the basement of their stronghold.

Sazed, observing the Conventical of Seran[14]

The Conventical of Seran is a fortress inside a crater to the south of Luthadel. The fortress belongs to the Canton of Inquisition and may be the place where new inquisitors are created. Kwaan's inscription is in a chamber of this building in addition to various torture chambers.[14] The Inquistitors' torture chambers are Hemalurgic laboratories, intended to discover new creations, but few know of these chambers' true purpose.[15] After the Collapse, the Conventical is used as a haven for Inquisitors and high ranking obligators.[16]

The Canton of Inquisition building in Urteau, above one of the Lord Ruler's supply caches, is broad and imposing. Typical for buildings in Urteau, it was built of wood instead of stone. While more austere than most Ministry buildings, there is still a variety of decor in the form of tapestries, metal trim, red rugs, and hearths in every room. [11]

Canton of Orthodoxy[edit]

The Canton of Orthodoxy organizes and presides over the Steel Ministry and has jurisdiction over the religious aspect of the Ministry. This Canton is the main bureaucratic division of the Ministry.[1] Obligators from this Canton are typically the ones to formalize contracts and agreements.

There is a long-standing rivalry between the Canton of Orthodoxy and the Canton of Inquisition. The Canton of Inquisition believes that they should have dominance over the other Cantons instead of the Canton of Orthodoxy.


An obligator is needed to witness or approve anything significant going on in the Final Empire. Without their approval, agreements and contracts aren't morally or legally binding.[17] Any legal assassination requires the Ministry's approval, usually through bribery.[18] Obligators, in addition to witnessing agreements, run all public works in the Final Empire. They oversee programs such as sewage and engineering, and most of the head engineers who design city plans are obligators themselves.[19]

In addition to their bureaucratic functions, the obligators serve as the Lord Ruler's religious leaders. They teach the Lord Ruler's religion to skaa and noblemen alike.[20] The obligators determine who the nobility is allowed to marry as part of their religious duties.[1] Obligators are allowed to be married.[21] Those who become an obligator forfeit their surname.[22] The Lord Ruler requires more devotion from the obligators; they practice religious worship and have to maintain a religious air that is unnecessary for nobles. Some of the religious practices for the Steel Ministry include daily prayers and ceremonies to the Lord Ruler.[23]

Noorden, an obligator

Obligators are distinguished by their shaved heads and intricate black tattoos around their eyes that signify rank and Canton membership.[24][10] They typically wear dark grey robes.

Obligator Ranks[edit]

  • Obligator
  • Prelan
  • High Prelan
  • Steel Inquisitor[26]
  • Lord Prelan

Known Obligators[edit]


The Final Empire[edit]

The Steel Ministry developed out of the bureaucratic mercantile system of the Hallant people. The Hallant were a people focused on systems of measurements.[29] The Lord Ruler used the Ministry in many additional, secretive ways, beyond their bureaucratic duties, including discovering new Allomantic metals and their uses and searching for Terris bloodlines that bred pure.[30] Aluminum's Allomantic ability was a secret that the Ministry kept from others in the Empire.[31]

The Steel Ministry banned political and historical literature that contested or expressed dissidence to the Lord Ruler's reign.[31] Certain obligators were trusted to stock the storage caches beneath various Ministry buildings. There were also assassins in the Steel Ministry who kill any who are outspoken or too successful.[1] The Ministry had its own soldiers and torturers.[32] The obligators were even the Lord Ruler's spy network throughout his Empire.[17]

Each year, new Ministry acolytes were transported from a training facility in the northern part of the Empire to Luthadel. This was also when they would transfer large amounts of funds, including atium, to Luthadel.[3] During the last days of the Final Empire, a skaa crewleader named Camon tried to scam this convoy. The goal of the scam was to steal the Ministry funds, which would've had atium hidden inside. During the operation, one of his crewmembers, Vin, unknowingly revealed herself as a Misting, and later a full Mistborn. This was the event that led Kelsier to recruit Vin to his crew. High Prelan Arriev's discovery of Vin's Allomantic abilities foiled the scam, which kept Ruin from discovering the atium cache, keeping him at bay for a few more years.[33] This convoy was also the one Marsh joined to infiltrate the Ministry.

In the year 1022, the Ministry was presided over by Lord Prelan Tevidian. The Canton of Orthodoxy was then the presiding Canton, but members of the Canton of Inquisition captured Vin and proved that she was the Lord Prelan's half-breed daughter. The Lord Ruler then restructured the Ministry by giving control of the Ministry to the Canton of Inquisition.[13]


After the Collapse of the Final Empire, the Steel Ministry remained in various forms, depending on the local ruler.

The New Empire[edit]

King Elend Venture used Steel Ministry facilities as his government buildings. In Luthadel, Elend used a low-ceilinged room, similar to a lecture hall, in the Canton of Finance headquarters as an assembly hall for the Luthadel Assembly's meetings. He remodeled the building so that civilians could come and watch the Assembly proceedings.[34]

Elend allowed obligators to continue their preaching, but instituted laws that prohibited them from inciting rebellion or violence. The vast majority of obligators refused to lend their knowledge to Elend's new kingdom. Vin wanted to remove them from the city since they wouldn't assist the kingdom with their bureaucratic abilities.[34] Noorden was a notable exception to this general attitude among obligators and he frequently aided Elend. The king employed Noorden for many reasons, partly to utilize his unique viewpoint.[35]

Prelan Araden Yomen

Straff Venture's Lands[edit]

Straff Venture used obligators to administrate and organize his lands.[36]

Urteau under the Citizen[edit]

The Citizen left the Steel Ministry buildings in Urteau as they were when he took control of the city from Straff. He didn't burn or ransack them as he did with homes of the nobility. Possibly out of fear of the Inquisitors, he had the buildings boarded up instead.[11]

Fadrex City[edit]

When Lord Cett left for Luthadel, Prelan Aradan Yomen took over the leadership of Fadrex City. Yomen was the highest ranked obligator in the region around Fadrex City and, when Cett left, he naturally took over. The people of the city quickly accepted him as their new ruler because they were used to obligator leadership. Yomen's rule helped them maintain a sense of normalcy because he, a high-ranking obligator himself, ran the government of Fadrex City after the manner of the Lord Ruler's empire. One way he encouraged the culture of the Lord Ruler was by continuing to throw balls.[8] He used his own Canton, the Canton of Resource, building as the headquarters for his government. Yomen used the supplies from the storage cache under the city to feed his populace. He also used another Ministry building as an infirmary.[37]


The Steel Ministry didn't exist in its original state following Sazed's Ascension. There were echoes of the organization left, but most of the Steel Ministry faded because the new leaders of the people were the members of Kelsier's crew. A few notable obligators made it through the Catacendre and left their own marks throughout the new society. Some cities had more influence from those obligators and the Steel Ministry than others.[38]

One of these remnants of the Ministry existed as the Canton of Cartography in Elendel.[39] Another was the road named Canton Avenue in one of Allomancer Jak's stories, likely based on a real street in Elendel.[40] "Cantonesque" architecture is described as having long flights of steps and stained-glass windows.[41]

Philosophy and Beliefs[edit]

The fact that the Lord Ruler would base his Church on a financial institution shows—in my opinion—that he worried less about true faith in his followers, and more about stability, loyalty, and quantifiable measures of devotion.

The Lord Ruler, Sliver of Infinity

The philosophy taught most often by the Steel Ministry is that the skaa are cursed and the nobility are blessed.[42] The basic doctrine behind this philosophy is that the nobility has prestige and access to Allomancy because their ancestors were loyal to the Lord Ruler, while the skaa are being punished for the sins of their own ancestors. The Mistborn are descendants of the only men who supported the Lord Ruler before his Ascension, in this belief system.[43][44]

It is their belief that before his Ascension, the Lord Ruler was only a mortal man.[45] He is revered as the creator and savior of the world, the "Sliver of Infinity".[46][47] The Lord Ruler's status in the religion is as a piece of God, not omnipresent or omniscient. He is a physical, independent section of a greater consciousness.[48] Sometimes, the Well of Ascension was mentioned in teachings concerning the Lord Ruler and his Ascension.[49] When the Deepness, taught to be a dark monster, threatened the world, the Lord Ruler slew it and saved the world.[50] He punished the people's lack of faith with the ash and mists.[51] Not much else on the Deepness or the Lord Ruler is taught; religion is seen as something the Ministry would take care of on their own.[42]

Skaa aren't taught much of the Ministry's doctrine. Skaa and nobles alike were required to fulfill their roles in the Empire and obey the Lord Ruler, but neither devotion nor faith is requested for either group.[44] Worship of any other god was forbidden.[52] For the obligators, more worship is required. Daily prayer and ceremonies to the Lord Ruler are practices of the religion.[23] There is a ritual that involves an altar made of gold. It is centered in a room with four candelabra at the corners. Near the altar, Alendi's journal, written in Khlenni, was kept. A bowl of small, triangular knives was kept on a pillar nearby to be used in the ritual.[53] The knives were occasionally used for the worshiper to slice their own body.[23]

Weddings were characterized only by the presence of an obligator to witness the fact. Sometimes additional ceremonies would be added, but there wasn't a standard; the obligator's presence was the only requirement.[20] The Ministry's position on sexuality was dependent on how much they were paid.[54]


The Steel Ministry functions similarly to being its own noble house, with contracts and agreements to gain wealth and leverage. Corruption is commonplace within its ranks, and it is notorious for taking bribes.[18] There was a long standing rivalry between the various Cantons for control of the Ministry.

Sit down to dine with evil, and you will ingest it in your meal.

—A common saying in the Steel Ministry[55]

Both men and women can be part of the Steel Ministry and some women even become Inquisitors.[56] Rising through the ranks of the Ministry is influenced strongly by Allomantic abilities. Those with abilities, especially with metals judged to be valuable, rise quickly and are placed in positions of power.[57] Seekers are one of the common Mistings recruited most diligently by the obligators.[10]

Atium Mistings are the most valuable type sought for by the Ministry. In order to search them out and recruit them, Inquisitors put trace amounts of atium into the drinks at balls periodically. They cause a disturbance while burning bronze to seek out those who begin to burn the metals instinctively. When someone joins the Ministry who is not already a Misting, they are given a larger amount of atium without their knowing and are forced through a series of rituals designed to exhaust the recruit so their body would Snap and reactively burn the metal. This is how Yomen was discovered to be a Seer.[58]

Noblemen address Inquisitors, and presumably obligators, as "Your Grace".[59]


Obligators were originally just called priests and the Steel Ministry was called the Steel Priesthood, but when Brandon decided they would be bureaucrats, he wanted a new name for them. A member of his writing group, Nate Hatfield came up with the term "obligator" from a thesaurus.[60][19]


  1. a b c d e f The Final Empire chapter 23#
  2. The Final Empire prologue#
  3. a b c The Final Empire chapter 2#
  4. a b The Hero of Ages Annotations
    Arcanum - 2009-12-01#
  5. The Hero of Ages chapter 71#
  6. The Hero of Ages chapter 79#
  7. a b c The Hero of Ages chapter 44#
  8. a b c The Hero of Ages chapter 27#
  9. The Hero of Ages chapter 43#
  10. a b c d The Final Empire chapter 27#
  11. a b c The Hero of Ages chapter 29#
  12. The Final Empire chapter 29#
  13. a b c The Final Empire chapter 36#
  14. a b The Well of Ascension chapter 12#
  15. The Hero of Ages chapter 44 epigraph#
  16. The Well of Ascension chapter 7#
  17. a b The Well of Ascension Ars Arcanum#
  18. a b Alloy of Law 17th Shard Q&A
    Arcanum - 2011-11-05#
  19. a b Firefight Seattle Public Library signing
    Arcanum - 2015-01-07#
  20. a b The Well of Ascension Annotations
    Arcanum - 2008-10-25#
  21. 17th Shard Forum Q&A
    Arcanum - 2012-09-25#
  22. The Hero of Ages Annotations
    Arcanum - 2009-10-20#
  23. a b c The Hero of Ages Annotations
    Arcanum - 2009-10-27#
  24. The Final Empire chapter 1#
  25. The Final Empire chapter 26#
  26. Inquisitors were outside of the regular chain of command, but technically ranked lower than the Lord Prelan,[25] until the Lord Ruler gave command of the Steel Ministry to the Canton of Inquisition.[13]
  27. The Well of Ascension chapter 27#
  28. The Hero of Ages chapter 40#
  29. a b The Hero of Ages chapter 27 epigraph#
  30. The Hero of Ages chapter 5#
  31. a b The Well of Ascension chapter 5#
  32. The Final Empire chapter 37#
  33. The Hero of Ages Annotations
    Arcanum - 2010-04-01#
  34. a b The Well of Ascension chapter 10#
  35. The Well of Ascension chapter 34#
  36. The Well of Ascension chapter 26#
  37. The Hero of Ages chapter 70#
  38. JordanCon 2016
    Arcanum - 2016-04-23#
  39. Map of Elendel
  40. The House Record broadsheet
  41. The Bands of Mourning chapter 11#
  42. a b The Well of Ascension chapter 14#
  43. The Final Empire chapter 3#
  44. a b The Final Empire chapter 7#
  45. The Final Empire chapter 17#
  46. The Final Empire chapter 8#
  47. The Hero of Ages chapter 6 epigraph#
  48. The Final Empire chapter 10#
  49. The Well of Ascension chapter 58#
  50. The Well of Ascension chapter 56#
  51. The Final Empire chapter 6#
  52. The Final Empire chapter 9#
  53. The Final Empire chapter 14#
  54. Oathbringer release party
    Arcanum - 2017-11-13#
  55. The Hero of Ages chapter 32#
  56. Ancient 17S Q&A
    Arcanum - 2010-05-01#
  57. The Hero of Ages Annotations
    Arcanum - 2010-04-15#
  58. Hero of Ages Q&A - Time Waster's Guide
    Arcanum - 2008-10-15#
  59. Ancient Lunch Q&A
    Arcanum - 2010-07-31#
  60. Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations
    Arcanum - 2006-11-13#
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