by Kyle Pearson
|Status||Whole, conjoined with Preservation|
|Perpendicularity||Ruin's Perpendicularity, Pits of Hathsin|
|Featured In||Mistborn Era 1|
”This force was time infinite. It was the winds that weathered, the storms that broke, the timeless waves running slowly, slowly, slowly, to a stop as the sun and the planet cooled to nothing. It was the ultimate end and destiny of all things. And it was angry.—Kelsier
Ruin, also known as Herr in Southern Scadrial, is one of the Shards of Adonalsium. Its original Vessel was Ati, but it's currently held by Sazed alongside Preservation, forming Harmony. Ruin's Investiture is typically associated with the color black.
”Death is necessary. Every clock must wind down, every day must end. Without me there is no life, and never could have been. Life is change, and I represent that change.—Ruin
Ruin is the embodiment of entropy and decay; it seeks change, so that all may age and pass. It is not inherently evil, as without change there can be no life, but its destructive actions are often contrary to life existing peacefully. This approach to Ruin as simply inevitable decay is largely due to Ati's original kind nature, as he deliberately channeled Ruin towards a more peacable state. In other hands, the Shard would've been a far more destructive force.
It is the polar opposite of Preservation -- a relation most other Shards don't have. Since the Final Ascension, Preservation has tempered Ruin's intent, which also makes it difficult for anyone holding Harmony to take direct action heavily favoring one side or the other.
Ruin fuels Hemalurgy -- one of the three Metallic Arts on Scadrial, and a unique one among them in that it can be used by anyone anywhere, provided they have the appropriate tools and Intent. It allows for removing a portion of a person's spiritweb and grafting it onto someone else with a metal spike, essentially stealing an attribute or power and giving it to another. Various attributes can be stolen, from physical qualities such as strength or senses to magical powers, like Allomantic abilities, and even foreign magic systems like Surgebinding. What attribute is stolen depends on the metal used and the placement of the spike. By transplanting powers and qualities, Hemalurgy can be used to effectively create new species; examples of such creatures are kandra, koloss and the Steel Inquisitors.
People who are pierced by Hemalurgic spikes can hear Ruin's voice in their head. Moreover, Ruin can also subtly manipulate the emotions of spiked individuals, and slightly alter their perception of certain things without them being aware of it. The more spikes pierce a person, the more holes in their spiritweb, which in turn allows for easier control as well as greater susceptibility to emotional Allomancy. For example, humans with one spike are only subtly affected by Ruin, whereas koloss, which are humans with four spikes, are under direct and absolute control of Ruin. Three spikes or less do not enable complete control of a person.
Feruchemy is a Metallic Art created by both Ruin and Preservation. Unlike Hemalurgy, it is inheritable; a person has to be born with the ability to use it. Like Preservation's own magic, Allomancy, Feruchemy grants sixteen separate powers for each of the base metals, as well as additional abilities for every God Metal. A person can store an attribute of themselves in a piece of metal called a metalmind, diminishing it in themselves, and tap the stored attribute, increasing it in themselves -- for example, store strength to become weaker, then tap it to become stronger.
Which attribute can be stored depends on the metal used. A person can be born a Full Feruchemist, allowing them to use all powers, or a Ferring, letting them use only one metal. The base sixteen metals are divided into four categories: physical, which store attributes of the body, cognitive, which store attributes of the mind, spiritual, which store attributes of the soul, and hybrid, which store attributes related to bodily processes, like health or energy.
Ruin's power can sometimes manifest in a gaseous form as black mist, though it's unclear whether it has any magical effect. Its appearance does, however, signal Ruin's presence, and is how much of Ruin's power appears in the Cognitive Realm. This mist is present at the Well of Ascension upon Vin's discovery of the well, and a similar manifestation appears after Ati's death before Sazed takes up both shards. After the Final Ascension, black mists are sent forth by Harmony alongside Preservation's white mists.
In solid form, Ruin's power appears as the metal atium, named after the original Vessel. Like all God Metals, atium has its uses in the Metallic Arts. In Allomancy, it allows the user to see a few seconds into the future; in Feruchemy, it can be used to store youth, and through compounding, it permits near-agelessness. As a Hemalurgic spike, atium can steal any power, including those of other magic systems, though it must first be refined.
Atium burns incredibly quickly; even a relatively large bead lasts for only about two minutes. Prior to the Final Ascension, the metal could only be found in the Pits of Hathsin, which surrounded Ruin's perpendicularity; a lake with black sheen, originally high in the mountains, near the Well of Ascension, though it was moved underground by Rashek during his reshaping of the planet. Production there ceased when Kelsier destroyed the crystals that atium grew from. Post-Catacendre, atium can no longer be formed, though remnants from before Ati's death still exist.
Despite its destructive intent, Ruin is capable of, together with Preservation, vast acts of creations; among others, Ati's partially responsible for creating the planet Scadrial, and has worked together with Leras to fill it with living, thinking creatures. This grants him additional abilities within the world -- he can read and alter any text not written in metal, and even alter the landscape itself, prompting volcanic explosions and earthquakes. Ruin also lets the Vessel take on appearance and voice of different people, and lets him speak into the minds of others, though they must be either mentally unsound or pierced by a Hemalurgic spike to hear Ruin's voice.
The Deal and Betrayal
The Shard of Ruin was created on the planet Yolen at the Shattering of Adonalsium, along with fifteen others, and taken up by Ati. He, along with Preservation's Vessel Leras, departed the planet, and eventually wound up in an empty star system. Originally, the two Shards were balanced there -- though they could create by working together, neither would be happy with the end result.
Eventually, Preservation's desire to make sapient creatures prompted him to offer a deal to Ruin. Together, they could create Scadrial and fill it with living beings; by endowing them with sapience, Preservation would give up part of himself. In doing so, he left himself weaker than Ruin, which formed the basis of their agreement that Ruin would be allowed to destroy the world some day.
However, Preservation broke the terms of the deal by sacrificing his mind to create a prison for Ruin, preventing him from destroying the planet. Furthermore, in an attempt to balance the two Shards, he sequestered away a portion of Ruin's power by condensing it into the metal atium.
”'Giving the power up’ is a stand-in for giving the power to [Ruin]. The powers would interpret that as me releasing him. My power, accepting his touch back into the world, directly.
Ruin's prison, the Well of Ascension, had a fatal flaw: every thousand and twenty four years, the perpendicularity would fill, requiring someone to take up the power. Were that person then to release it, Ruin's prison would vanish, letting him out; only by using the power themselves could that person, dubbed the Hero of Ages, keep Ruin trapped.
Despite being imprisoned in the Well, Ruin could still affect the world in minuscule ways, and thus began to plan for exploiting this fatal flaw to free himself. His initial scheme was to use Alendi, chosen by the power of the Well, and convince him, through altering the Terris Prophecies, to free him. However, a Terrisman named Kwaan realized Ruin's alterations. He sent his nephew, Rashek, to try and stop Alendi from reaching the Well. Rashek eventually killed Alendi and took the power for himself, becoming the Lord Ruler and perpetuating Ruin's imprisonment.
Kelsier and Vin
Undeterred, Ruin began working on another idea, timing it with the Well's next call, a thousand years later. His plan was two-pronged: first, to ensure that Rashek would be killed, thus opening the way to the Well for others; second, to create someone who would enter the Well and release the power. For the first, he manipulated Kelsier, a skaa Mistborn, with fabricated tales of the so-called Eleventh Metal, malatium, convincing him that it would be the key to defeating the Lord Ruler; which, in a way, it turned out to be.
For the second, Ruin picked a perfect pawn: another skaa Mistborn, a baby girl named Vin with an insane mother and an Allomancer sister. Speaking to the mother, Ruin caused her to kill the older daughter and fashion a Hemalurgic spike out of her, then pierce Vin with the spike. Vin, unaware of this, eventually started wearing the spike as an earring and refused to give it up due to Ruin's influence, thus letting him subtly manipulate her. He did so mostly through the voice of her deceased brother, Reen.
Eventually, the Well filled again, and Vin entered its chamber. Kelsier, now a Cognitive Shadow and up to speed on Ruin's plan thanks to Leras, attempted to stop her from releasing the power. To no avail, though -- Vin did so, and freed Ruin.
Destruction upon Scadrial
”I have come to claim what was promised me. The only point in creating something is to watch it die.—Ruin
Once free, Ruin immediately set out on his plan to destroy Scadrial; however, his power locked in atium still diminished him enough to equal him with Preservation, and so he could not simply make it vanish in an instant. He tried to amend it by sending people out to find the missing atium stash. At the same time, he began killing all Scadrians. Ashmounts would erupt much more frequently, causing the omnipresent ash to fall more heavily and lava flows to endanger several towns. Earthquakes also became much more common, and started appearing in more places; while they used to be practically unheard of in the Inner Dominances, they began to appear there frequently.
Prompted by Ati's inherent need to gloat, Ruin began appearing to both Vin and Kelsier to boast about his achievements; it was those meetings that allowed the two to realize that Ruin was a person, and not merely a force. However, Ruin was also manipulating people to sow further chaos -- he took control of the Steel Inquisitors and the koloss to create more of both. He also arranged for Penrod and Spook to have Hemalurgic spikes to make sure he could use them. This would make Luthadel and Urteau too disorganized to mount a defense, requiring Vin and Elend's attention. Though Ruin's scheme in Luthadel was successful, he ultimately failed in Urteau thanks to both Spook's force of will and the intervention of Kelsier.
”You think this was your plan? It was [Preservation]'s. His all along. You created the thing that can kill you, Ruin.
Seeking to fight Ruin, Kelsier, now the temporary vessel of Preservation, sought a way to pass the power onto Vin, whom Leras pointed out as its intended recipient. After freeing Spook from Ruin's influence, he told him to send a message to her written in metal, telling her about what was going on. Ruin, knowing what Kelsier was planning, sent Marsh, one of his Inquisitors, to kill the messanger and read the text out-loud, thus letting Ruin know what had been written. However, that was part of Kelsier's plan -- as Marsh found out what was going on, he managed, in a moment of lucidity, to tear the earring out of Vin's ear, letting Kelsier bestow Preservation upon her.
After her Ascension, Vin clashed with Ruin a few times, though she was never able to overpower him, as at the time, the two Shards were far too balanced. The tipping point, however, came during the Battle of Hathsin. There, Ruin, through the koloss and Inquisitors it controlled, sought to find the atium cache. At the same time, Elend and his armies, their Allomancy boosted by Vin, confronted Ruin's forces on the surface. Eventually, the stash turns out to be empty -- Elend had used all the atium with his mistings during the fight. At the same time, Marsh, under Ruin's control, managed to kill Elend, and taunted Vin about it. Mourning, Vin, now free from all ties to the world, attacked Ruin directly. The collision between two equal and perfectly opposing forces killed both Vessels.
This end of Ruin was Preservation's plan all along. Leras had held Preservation for so long that he was bound by its intent, and could not kill or destroy anything, not even Ruin. And so, he arranged to have the Shard pass on to a new Vessel, who would not be so strongly bound by the Shard's intent and thus would have more freedom to use its power.
However, the planet was still dying, and thus Preservation's plan reached its conclusion. Sazed, present at the battle though not directly participating, saw the two powers and took up both of them, mixing them together into Harmony. With them, Sazed reconstituted the Scadrial that had existed before the Lord Ruler’s Ascension. 
”You make our religion all about you. They hardly remember the truth any longer.—Leras to Ruin
Ruin's influence is omnipresent on Scadrial; he was one of the planet's creators, and all things and living beings upon it are partially of him.. Later, he manipulated its people and texts to arrange for his own freedom. He's also responsible by proxy for the planet's miserable state during Rashek's reign, as the Lord Ruler's changes were partially prompted by his desire to oppose Ruin. Later, it was Ruin's destruction of the planet that caused Sazed to pick up the two powers and return Scadrial to its prior state.
Unsurprisingly, Ruin features in a number of Scadrian religions. The cult of the Lord Ruler feared the Deepness, an ancient enemy that Rashek defeated at the Well -- though that was a misinterpretation of Preservation's snapping mists. The religion of Trelagism, from Scadrial's Classical period, spoke of two gods, Trell and Nalt, who were each other's brothers and enemies. The Terris religion likewise preaches about Ruin and Preservation. In the present times, the Southern Scadrians worship the Jaggenmire, a combination of Ruin and Preservation; within the Jaggenmire, Ruin is known as Herr, and is described as both the brother and the husband to the other half, Frue -- he puts things into motion, while she makes them stop, and the two must work together to create life.
Ruin's influence extends, however slightly, to other cosmere worlds. Hemalurgy has been used on other planets, albeit subtly. Additionally, Nightblood contains Ruin's Investiture. How it got involved in the sword's creation is unclear, though it's likely due to the Command that made it being about destruction.
- Steelheart Chicago signing
— Arcanum - 2013-10-05#
- Mistborn: Secret History part 2 chapter 1#
- The Bands of Mourning chapter 22#
- /r/fantasy AMA 2013
— Arcanum - 2013-04-23#
- Steelheart Chicago signing
— Arcanum - 2013-10-01#
- Mistborn: Secret History part 4 chapter 4#
— Arcanum - 2013-03-14#
- Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview
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- The Hero of Ages Annotations
— Arcanum - 2010-01-07#
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- Shadows of Self chapter 7#
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— Arcanum - 2015-10-12#
- Skyward Chicago signing
— Arcanum - 2018-11-16#
- Hemalurgy Table
- The Bands of Mourning chapter 27#
- Hero of Ages Q&A - Time Waster's Guide
— Arcanum - 2008-10-15#
- Feruchemical Table
- The Alloy of Law Ars Arcanum#
- The Hero of Ages chapter 82#
- The Hero of Ages chapter 14 epigraph#
- The Bands of Mourning chapter 11#
- The Well of Ascension chapter 40#
- The Final Empire chapter 33#
- Hero of Ages Q&A - Time Waster's Guide
— Arcanum - 2008-10-15#
- Ancient 17S Q&A
— Arcanum - 2010-05-01#
- The Final Empire chapter 32#
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— Arcanum - 2015-10-05#
- The Hero of Ages chapter 57#
- Arcanum Unbounded - The Scadrian System#
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— Arcanum - 2009-11-24#
- The Hero of Ages chapter 45#
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- The Hero of Ages chapter 75 epigraph#
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|Mistborn Era 1|
The Final Empire · The Well of Ascension · The Hero of Ages
|Characters||Vin · Kelsier · Sazed · Elend Venture · Marsh · Spook · Breeze · Ham · Clubs · Dockson · Straff Venture · Zane · Ashweather Cett · Tindwyl · Allrianne Cett · TenSoon · Yomen · Quellion · The Lord Ruler · Alendi · Kwaan|
|Places||Final Empire · The Dominances · Luthadel · Kredik Shaw · Pits of Hathsin · Kandra Homeland · Urteau · Fadrex City · Tathingdwen|
|Ethnicities and Species||Skaa · Nobles · Terrismen · Inquisitors · Koloss · Kandra · Mistwraiths · Southern Scadrians|
|Organizations||Skaa rebellion · Steel Ministry · Keepers (the Synod) · Worldbringers|
|Mythology||The Deepness · Terris Prophecies · Well of Ascension|
|Era 1 books||Mistborn: The Final Empire · The Well of Ascension · The Hero of Ages |
(The Eleventh Metal · Mistborn: Secret History)
|Era 2 books||The Alloy of Law · Shadows of Self · The Bands of Mourning · The Lost Metal |
(Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania)
|Shards||Preservation · Ruin · Harmony|
|History||Classical Scadrial · Final Empire · Catacendre · Elendel · Southern Scadrian|
|Magic||Metallic Arts (Allomancy, Feruchemy, Hemalurgy) · Metalborn · Mistborn · Misting · Savant · Ferring · Twinborn · Compounding · Atium · Lerasium · Ettmetal|
|Other Media||Mistborn Adventure Game · Mistborn: Birthright · Mistborn film · Mistborn: House War|
|Shards||Ambition · Autonomy · Cultivation · Devotion · Dominion · Endowment · Harmony · Honor · Invention · Mercy · Odium · Preservation · Ruin · Valor · Whimsy · Survival Shard|
|Planets||Ashyn · Braize · First of the Sun · Nalthis · Obrodai · Roshar · Scadrial · Sel · Taldain · Threnody · Vax · Yolen|
|Terms||Adonalsium · Sliver · Splinter · Realmatic Theory · Investiture · Connection · Identity · Fortune · Intention · Initiation · Perpendicularity · Worldhopper · Spiritweb · Resonance · Axon|
|Other||Hoid · Khriss · Seventeenth Shard · Ire · Shattering · Letters · Silverlight|