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The Lord Ruler's perfect capital city, Luthadel, is doing the impossible: rebelling. Skaa half-breeds are being taught the power of Allomancy, something that the Lord Ruler's obligators said only existed in the nobility. The enslaved skaa, with their murderous benefactor, now fight back against a living god's oppression.

So, the Inquisition was formed. The nobles begin to fear assassination from all sides. The times of nobility Mistborn killing each other are over. The Steel Inquisitors look for aristocrat traitors and insurgent skaa, and the skaa try with all their strength to merely survive. The Lord Ruler's perfect Final Empire is slowly devolving into chaos.

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#2961607 Tea and Other Things

Posted by Heliotrope on 24 March 2014 - 08:39 PM in Keeps

No subject pleased Lady Isovel more than that of escorts and balls. Her rheumy eyes lit up with pleasure as Daerra broached the subject, and she sat up, arranging her bulk with grace and dignity as yet undiminished by age. She continued to smile indulgently at her own flesh and blood, lifting her cup and saucer in her elegantly manicured, mittened hands. Her body may have shown the wear of excess and age, but her motions still showed her upbringing. For all she walked heavily with a cane these days, she had been quite the exquisite dancer in her prime.

A soft "mm" of agreement left her lips as she sipped daintily at the small cup of fine bone china, barely leaving a hint of lip rouge along the pale rim. Her thin brows lifted as she lowered the teacup and saucer, neither utensils making any noise as she placed them with care. The mention of Phyra Venture caused Isovel's face to darken dangerously, and she sniffed with an imperious sort of expression.

She waved one of those fine, ring-laden hands at her granddaughter, dismissing the mad Mistborn. "Indeed, my jewel. I would not let our dear Aaron near her again, not without a fight." She smiled mischievously at her dark-haired granddaughter. "But you make a point regarding Anton and Alistair. Your father can be subtle, when he wishes, but the more feminine act of matchmaking has always been beyond even his grasp." Taking a breath which inflated her already copious bosom, she sighed heavily.

"I was hoping there might be time for one little soirée before the ball, sweet. I was hoping that you and Aaron might get another chance to speak with, oh, I don't know... Aldwin Tekiel, perhaps, for you? And I still have not discounted the widow Lady Mia Casuana. Poor lamb needs some comfort in these dark times..." She eyed Daerra, smiling primly. Of course the girl would have some ideas of her own, but it didn't hurt to throw out names merely to check for a reaction. Besides, anyone that Daerra turned down could be shuffled off at Claudia, if she could just pin down her other granddaughter.

"But, no. You came to me with certain names, did you not? I suppose I might waive my usual fee, at least for family." She picked up a small, slim case from the side of the table, pulling out a small kretek. She did not light it, but chewed on the end, and the scent of tobacco and clove came clearly from the little cigar.

#2961588 Tea and Other Things

Posted by Heliotrope on 21 March 2014 - 08:25 PM in Keeps

Isovel was already sitting up. She had considered meeting her granddaughter in bed, but a sudden surge of action had her upright. Her dyed hair had been meticulously tended to, every last detail from jewel to pain immaculately applied. She was beautiful, for all she was aged, and the matron of Elariel house even managed to rise to her feet with some respect as her misting-grandchild made her appearance.

While Isovel was known for her marked, cutting appraisal of others, she kept a few thoughts deep inside, nestled near her heart like small birds. One of these thoughts rose to the surface as Daerra approached, and Isovel reflected on how so very like herself the girl appeared. She remembered being so young, so beautiful and wanted. A bit of her ached as she met the girl's bright, clear grey eyes, but the elderly woman smiled indulgently, her lace-mittened hand taking up Daerra's gently.

"Do sit down, dove. Come now, I've sent for fruit cakes, cucumber sandwiches, and even some fish pâté and toast. We mustn't starve as we chit-chat, hm?" The flaccid skin around her throat wobbled as she curled her mouth in pleasure, settling back down in the wicker chair near the fire. With all due elegance, she poured herself a cup of flowery, cured tea, offering a bone-china cup to Daerra as she filled it.

"Now, child. My birds tell me you have a thought for me, hm?" It was here that her warm, flabby smile turned sharp. Isovel knew much about the world, for all that she lived most of it in her warm bed.

#2961531 Chap

Posted by Heliotrope on 12 March 2014 - 02:35 AM in Skaa

Skaa Craftsman

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Name/Handle: Heliotrope
Contact: PM

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Name: Chap
Type: Skaa Craftsman
Age: 30
Gender: Male
Place of Origin: Luthadel
Occupation: Journeyman Carpenter
Relationship Status: Single

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For a Skaa, Chap is remarkably tall and lean, with an easy smile that invites you to join him. It is hard to tell his colorings from his generally sooty appearance, as he would rather spend more time at the workshop than trying to waste time bathing. Beneath the ash, hidden from view, are freckles that dot his face like chopped nuts sprinkled on custard, and his soot-darkened hair is actually a vibrant shade of red, like the color of the sun behind the mists.

Chap is no allomancer, to be gifted with a natural grace of motion or strength of body. He is just himself, awkward elbows and knees, bad posture and all. Six feet tall with shoes on, he tends to stoop slightly no matter what he does, back bent even further when he is diligently at work, detailing a piece of wood or carefully carving inlays. His fingers are a little too long, like the rest of him, giving him the look of a man who had every limb down to his pinkie stretched on a rack.

Still, his thin face was made for wide smiles, and his gray-blue eyes are always filled with laughter. The Lord Ruler's might has never harmed him; Chap doesn't know the feel of an obligator's boot on his neck. He may fear the Inquisitors, as everyone does, but has never had cause to meet one. When all has been said and done, he has lived a remarkably happy life, and it shows in his quick, springy steps and in the way that smiling comes so easily to him.

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Most everyone knows Chap, or "Chappie" to some, as a fellow who is always good for a laugh, and never too above himself to laugh along. Easygoing and always a mite unsteady, the ungainly carpenter is a man who can get along with just about anyone. A magnificent drinking partner, some like to say that he "could make an Inquisitor piss his britches laughing", although Chap would never get close enough to one to find out if such a feat were even possible.

Since he joined the Meson workshop, he's been an endless source of amusement to his peers, as well as the nobility. He is an earnest man, hard-working and with an eye to detail, but he has an innate sense when to let his work lay aside so he can give his friends a good chuckle. It's hard to stay mad at a man who tries so hard to be likable, and his even temper and warm smile is often enough to keep most quarrels between his fellow craftsmen at bay.

He can come across as thoughtless, as he lives his life in an almost offhand way, taking things as they come and "rolling with the punches", as they say. The more comfortable he is around someone, the less likely he is to be paying attention, operating under the assumption that everything is running smoothly. This careless nature has led to a rather unfortunate love life for the man, for his relationships start out full of solicitousness and warm attention, but soon degrade into idle comments and distraction. He never means to be rude, and always has something clever to say or do in order to save his skin, but in the end he's found it better not to let his guard down anymore. This has led to uncomfortable "relationships" that have ended abruptly, often to the surprise of his partner.

The journeyman is the epitome of a good man, his pleasant demeanor unsullied by the brutality of the Final Empire. He is no rebel, no criminal, no hidden allomancer, but only a steady and reliable skaa, dedicated to his work and happy to be content with his meager lot in life. He has a more flexible and forgiving nature, and is always the first person to admit when he's been in the wrong.

Chap is an obedient skaa at heart, industrious and astute, with an eye both for the finer details of his craft as well as the needs of others. This is, perhaps, why he has such a strange reputation as a clumsy, silly fellow. His ability to read into other's emotional states, as well as his desire to be liked, prompts him to act the fool. "No man is your enemy if you can make him laugh," says Chap. As long as others regard him with a warm smile, he's done his job.

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Special Skills: Heightened sensitivity regarding the emotions of those around him; all work-related aptitude afforded a journeyman carpenter; can whistle complex melodies with great talent; excellent at pratfalls and stupid stunts

Strengths: Reliable - is patient and steady; generous - understands and wishes to fulfill the needs of others; easygoing - difficult to rile up, can be a well of calm in a chaotic environment

Weaknesses: Apathetic - has no desire to change the long-term lifestyle of the skaa; lacks courage; hidebound - values tradition and convention; pedantic - can't let go of a project until it's perfect, no matter how long it takes

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Born in 888 to Hem and Jerei, a pair of merchant skaa who owned a miserable little bakery, Chap was a blessing to the older pair who had long thought that their fertility was dried-up and gone away. Instead, they welcomed the squalling, red-faced, red-haired infant with grateful arms and loving words, and it was in that moment that the ex-criminals knew they had something important to protect; something more than a little shop, something bigger than the both of them combined. Chap was the last straw for a couple that had spent their prime years sneaking and spying, and they finally, for the last time, severed all connection with the Black Arm that they had once been a part of. They would raise the boy with as much honor and dignity the skaa could afford, and, as far as they were concerned, Chap was a rousing success.

The infant was easy enough to control; between Hem's Soothing and Jerei's Rioting, they could make him happy, or quiet, or even slowly put him to sleep. Eventually, however, Hem weaned herself from using her allomancy on such a tiny victim, convincing Jerei that it would be cheaper if they didn't waste their dwindling reserves of metals on a child. Still, Chap proved to be an amiable babe, even without the use of his parents' Allomancy. He grew up humble, quiet, and obedient, a diligent student of his father's breadmaking techniques and his mother's ability to successfully sell the wares at prices several clips higher than the nighbors.

The observant mind that they had bestowed on their son did not follow with the other children. Chap's birth had signaled an apparently long-dampened fertility in his parents, and soon the bakery was swarming with children. Loud children, quiet children, obedient and willful children, sweet children and tart children alike. Chap was indispensible to his parents as he helped raise his siblings, but he was never in need of a friend or a helping hand as he grew. The family grew to three boys and four girls, at a pace of almost one a year, until Hem's body had enough and ceased it's monthly flow.

It wasn't until he was eight that Chap was taught, secretly, what his parents' secrets were. He himself had no Allomancy, but the lessons of reading and understanding others proved themselves to be invaluable. The good-natured child delighted in making people laugh, and for a time he kept up acrobatic antics in an attempt to help his family sell their bland baked goods. The other children were kept in the dark, and luckily none of them ever displayed the ability to work wonders as their parents had. Seven skaa brats, and none of them cursed with a noble's powers. It was a relief to their parents.

They were an idyllic family, for skaa. Happy enough, and only hungry some of the time, and, as far as Chap knew, were as safe as anybody else. He knew his parents' secrets, and knew how important it was to keep silent about them. He didn't even know about their involvement with Jonesi's crew, nor their connection with the Black Arm. He had no way of knowing if such people had a hand in the sudden and brutal deaths of most of his family.

He was eleven when he found the bodies, mangled and nearly unrecognizable in the back of the tiny bakery. Both Hem and Jerei were dead, bodies wrapped around the pale corpses of their four youngest children. Chap, his elder sister Kensei, and his brother Lerrisen had been out and about that day, practicing a number of theatrical tricks for coin. It was the first and only time that they felt the cold, iron grip of the Steel Ministry, or so they were told by the man called Grin. "We're lucky we got you in time, boy. Come along, it's time you went to work where your parents had been." How lucky for them that they were taken in so swiftly. How fortunate that they had been spared the fate of their parents and sisters!

While Kensei and Lerrisen moved on to work in other areas of Luthadel, Chap proved to be worth his weight as a carpenter, a valuable addition to the workshop, and potentially a valuable addition to the crew. Knowing his gentle and honest nature, he was not initially pulled into the group that his parents had once been part of, merely allowed to exist as first an apprentice, then a journeyman and an industrious craftsman. His skills at reading people, and his ability to put others at ease by mocking himself have not gone unnoticed, and Grin, now going by the monicker "Chips", has taken a special interest in grooming the ever-smiling man into a valuable con artist... one trick at a time.

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Chap leaned over his project, his rough, long fingers tracing over the delicate designs on the long, unbroken moulding. With great care, he continued his work, a tiny chisel dwarfed in his large hands. Tip tip tap went the hammer, and he became absorbed in the intricate details, carefully carving out wee leaves and long stalks, completely oblivious to the fact that a pair of nobles had come into the front of the shop.

They weren't the wealthy or renowned nobles -- those higher-ups were never seen down in the slums, let alone perusing a woodworking shop. They were practically skaa in their pockets, only their mannerisms and dress separating them from the man who sat at the bench, still detailing the long rod of soft wood with plant life. The man was grey at the temples, and tapped his cane impatiently, but the girl was younger, possibly sixteen at first guess. She approached Chap curiously, bending over his work until one of her dark curls spilled into his view.

Slowly, Chap looked up. His wide grey-green eyes met those of the noblewoman, and without warning, he fell off of his stool, rolling comically. The girl burst out laughing, but the man -- her father, perhaps? -- looked less than amused. Chap came to his feet, hunkered over slightly in a half-bow to the pair, his eyes lowered. "Beggin' your pardon, milord, milady! You two were quiet as meese, you was!" He looked up with a smile, but only the girl smiled back.

"I think you mean mice," she giggled, but her father interrupted her with a bang of his cane.

"Get your master, boy!" He snapped. Chap tugged his forelock obediently, amused that even at the age of thirty, he was being called "boy". The nobility seemed to like to throw that word around at skaa of any age, though, and he didn't take it personally as he leaned through a doorway to shout.

"Boss! Wasin' of havin' the comp'ny!" He hollered back into the workshop. The girl in front of him was having trouble keeping quiet, and she pushed her fingers against her mouth to stifle another laugh at him, her dark eyes darting toward her father, who looked grim. The man muttered something about "appalling service" and "rude skaa", but Chap bowed to him and kept his mouth to himself for a moment.

Everything would be all right. The man was the moneybags, to be sure, but Chap could already tell that the blushing girl had her father wrapped around her little finger. If she wanted her rooms edged in gilt leaf and redwood, the man would likely provide. And if she demanded that the red-haired skaa with the handsome smile be the one to install it, well, could Chap really say no to such a pretty face?

"Pipes will be right with you, milord, milady." He said with pristine politeness. "Might I have permission to return to my work?" His face was pointed toward the man, but his eyes flicked to the girl, and he offered her a quick, almost imperceptible wink.

"Certainly not!" The man blustered. "And you will--" but he was cut off by his daughter whacking him with her fan, glaring at the mustachioed gentleman with a look that could cut glass. After a moment of cowering under his daughter's gaze, the man merely nodded stiffly to Chap, and the skaa returned to his work, a faint smile on his lips.

Oh yes. Daughter controlled the purse strings for sure.

#2961530 Lady Isovel Elariel

Posted by Heliotrope on 12 March 2014 - 02:35 AM in Nobles


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Name/Handle: Heliotrope (Helio)
Contact: PM or AIM OnCloudPine

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Name: Lady Isovel Elariel
Type: Noble
Age: 65 (but flatter her and tell her she looks 40)
Gender: Female
Place of Origin: Luthadel
Occupation: Socialite, Matchmaker
Relationship Status: Widow of Anton Elariel

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Lady Isovel is a handsome woman, to be sure, with a regal mien to rival the Lord Ruler himself. Although her hair has long lost it's luster, she uses cosmetic dye to great effect, tinting her curled coif a handsome chestnut hue, although she occasionally allows her temples to remain untouched, "to lend an air of wisdom", as she likes to put it. This dark hair is complimented by dark eyes; eyes that have lost their lustrous lashes due to age; eyes with tired rings beneath that no amount of makeup could hide entirely. Her brows have become sparse with constant plucking (as has always been the fashion), her mouth and cheeks faintly stained by an encounter with poorly-blended makeup in her youth. One would never notice the residual signs of an allergic reaction gone awry, however, once she skillfully applies her (thankfully hypo-allergenic) cosmetics. Her face expresses warmth and kindness quite well, it's shape and coloring not suited toward anger or sorrow. A genuine smile from her could light up a room, but also pushes the fat and age of her face in a manner that she finds unflattering, so instead she merely curls her mouth primly, like a debutante at her first ball, and lets her eyes speak for her.

She is no longer the fluttering youth from long ago, but a woman heavy of body and austere of character. A lifetime of indulgence and idleness paired with a genetic predisposition for roundness has left her twice the woman she once was, turning her once twig-like stature into satisfied rolls of well-fed woman-flesh. While some might whisper cruelly how the once-delicate lady has "let herself go", Lady Isovel is content with her appearance, no longer concerned with keeping her form to catch the eye of a young milord, as she happily remains a widow. Instead, she eats freely of the delicacies found at balls and parties, employs a veritable legion of specialty cooks, and has become quite popular for her varied and fine dining table. To be invited to one of her intimate soirees is to be invited to, perhaps, the best meal of your life.

True, she wears the tightest corsets that can be made. True, she spends lavishly on only the most superior cosmetics and gowns. She even hides the silver in her hair, and all of this for vanity's sake. Yet even were she to dress in skaa rags and allow her complexion and roots to show through, she would be the same woman with the same air of natural stoicism and unaffected magnificence.

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It was as though she were born to be noble. Everything that makes nobility what they are is exemplified in her, from her amiable and social nature to her dignified presence, from her excellent speech craft to her easy grace, she practically oozes with aristocratic perfection. Some are convinced that her charming mask doesn't cover much of anything else, and that there is nothing more beneath than the purest of plain-brained aristocrats. This is not entirely untrue, but to assume this makes her weak, easy to read, or depressingly boring is to discount a woman with such force of personality and such an iron will.

Her goals in the twilight of her life are simple enough: ensure that the next generation is paired off successfully, and that all strategic matches have been made with just a little love thrown in for good measure. The true power of the ruling class always lies in the next generation, and the only way to ensure the prosperity of Luthadel's nobility is to, as she so fondly enjoys saying, "set them up for success". Lady Isovel is no Allomancer, so she could not train the Mistings. She is not a scholar, so she could not pass on knowledge. She is not even a philosopher, to breed wisdom and prurience into the younger crowd. All she has is her indomitable drive, her keen eye for social lubrication, and an excellent sense of balancing duty and emotion into quite the deadly blend. She is most effective as she skates through parties and gatherings, leading introductions and learning a little about every eligible youth that passes under her scrutiny.

Of course, special care is taken for her own family. Lady Isovel is perhaps too stringent with the standards she sets for her grandchildren, as her thirst for matchmaking did not come on fully until her own sons were paired. She pushes the most for Daerra to wed, even so far as to considering pushing her into a somewhat lesser house, hoping to play the long game in a group of rising stars. For Aaron, the heir, and Claudia, the Mistborn, she is much more picky, secretly nursing a desire to wed one or both into Venture, back into her own family, to "strengthen the blood and re-bind the connections", as she tells herself.

While a positive angel of charity among her peers, there is a darker side to this woman that is politely never discussed. She is, like most nobles, disdainful of the skaa, but her attitude is far from dismissive. A deep-seated loathing of the working class has fueled her since she was a child, and has given rise to occasional, horrifying cruelty. Where others merely dismiss the skaa, disposing of them like dogs or lesser beasts, she finds them more akin to a dark plague that lurks in the very corners of society; a threat to the pure love and sanctity of the marriages of the upper class. While the rest of her peers merely kill the skaa mistresses and prostitutes that are used by bored noblemen, she has been known to exact vengeance on them, especially if they step into any of the pairings she has arranged... And Lady Isovel has arranged many. She takes a sick delight in torturing skaa women especially, and has trouble keeping female servants in her staff, for even one wrong look at her sons or grandson is enough to send a scullery maid to "Madame's Parlor", a nightmarish private room deep in Keep Elariel. The mutilation and depravity that takes place inside that room is never spoken of, but some say that more skaa have died directly from Lady Isovel's hands than they have beneath the heel of the Ministry. The city skaa avoid her carriage when it rumbles through the streets, and it is a dark day when, once a year, she travels to a brothel to "treat herself".

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Special Skills: An excellent memory for names, titles, genealogy, and social standing aid her in her matchmaking. A frighteningly clinical knowledge of the human body aid her in her torture of skaa. She is also deadly at most of the popular parlor games, especially the various card games favored by ladies.

Strengths: Nothing frightens Lady Isovel, and nothing can make her back down. Her age and her usefulness demand respect, and she is so self-assured that, were she younger, some might mistake it for cockiness. Injury and illness and violence mean nothing to her; she is no wilting flower to turn away from such things, whether in stories or in reality.

Weaknesses: Her age and stature have taken a toll on her health; although Lady Isovel is strong of character and will, her body is fragile and worn. Sickness takes her more easily, and it takes her much longer to recover. Injuries last longer, and no longer heal with the precision they once did. She is no athlete nor warrior, and even dancing for great lengths can drain her of strength. She walks with a gilded cane, and sits as often as she can. The Lady is also frightened of skaa, more specifically the men, and refuses to set foot anywhere near a plantation, factory, mill, or anywhere where one might encounter a male skaa who has any semblance of strength. Her prejudices keep her closed off from most places that are not noble manors, and make it difficult for her to keep staff around her that she trusts. Clinically, she would be considered a sociopath with a severe lack of empathy (although she makes an excellent show of it among the nobles), and a genetic predisposition for dementia has finally started to settle on her in the last few years. She keeps it together, of course, but this will effect her more and more each passing year.

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Born in 853 to Alsa (nee Lekal) and Roget Venture, first cousins to the then-Lord Venture, little Isovel was a blessing to her family, long thought barren. She was the one thing to repair the shattered marriage between her parents, and this mending was something her parents spoke of often. Her mother especially loved Isovel, for her husband's affairs with numerous skaa women cut her more deeply that he could ever know. The Lekals, notorious for their habit of liaisons with skaa, had twisted Alsa's view of love and devotion, and she was determined to teach her child better than that. Ashamed of his past habits, Roget also made a point of emphasizing the "wrongness" of skaa, especially "those vile, inhuman seductresses". Perhaps she was spoiled, but she never knew the service of the skaa, not directly, and her youth was spent being served by lesser nobles from vassal houses.

Isovel was never a romantic child. She was not one for novel-reading and plays, preferring the simpler world of her studies. She took a great liking to genealogy and history, especially those of the great houses, and spent many long house poring over birth certificates and marriage licenses. Her greatest childhood achievement was a complete web of a family tree, detailing the long and confusing history of all of the houses and how they interconnected.

She lost all desire to keep working on her initial project after she was beaten. The traditional whipping of the noble youth to attempt to Snap those with Allomantic powers was well known to her (for she had made long notes on her family tree about who had what powers, and when they had Snapped), but that did not make the experience any easier. She had hoped to have something, anything at all, but she left the encounter savaged half to death, and nursing night terrors for several years after that.

Her father had trouble at first, trying to decide who would hurt his precious flower, and for some time he stalled having her beaten, but in the end her mother's insistence won out. Rather than forcing a Pewterarm to come down on her, nor wishing to risk the damage that might be done if a male relative were to administer the beating, they had bought a man off the streets -- a skaa. He seemed strong enough to them, and all he had to do was rough up a little girl. He was hesitant at first, when he faced the doe-eyed child in the Venture courtyard, almost unbelieving as she waited for him to hurt her. She didn't show fear, but it was there in those big brown eyes as he started, barely slapping her to begin. The skaa got a few weak blows in before he stopped.

"I can't do this!" He cried. Two nearby guards lowered crossbows at him, and he cowered. "I can't hurt a child, please!" He looked to Isovel with an apology in his eyes, but the girl had stayed near him, and the look she gave him was chilling... Like the way a man looked down on a disobedient hound.

"Beat me, or die," she said. The words coming from the mouth of an eleven-year-old were chilling and unreal. She had been taught from an early age of the value of a noble with Allomantic powers -- her parents, especially, hoped that they might provide a Mistborn to their house. Her little mind was impressed with the importance of Allomancy, and she could not fail her family by losing her chance to snap. She would not allow a skaa beast to deny her the chance to become the perfect noblewoman!

Isovel stared down the tall skaa man, her eyes bright with determination. Her pretty, round cheek stung with pain, glowing red from the slap, but it wasn't enough. It wouldn't be enough. The guards began to count down from ten, and the man lunged for her, more afraid than she was.

He stopped only once more after that, when she started crying in pain, but he could feel the guards taking aim again. Even her screams couldn't stop him as he fought for his life, wondering just how he was going to live with himself after this.

"Enough!" Roared her father as the child passed out from pain. Still in a panic, it took three guardsmen to wrestle the flailing skaa away from the child. Chest heaving, eyes wide with fear, the man looked up from where he was pinned. His mouth opened, he wanted to apologize, he had just beaten a Lord's daughter into a swoon and he just couldn't take the money, not now...

"Put him in the dungeon." Roget said, coolly. Three days later, when Isovel was mostly healed, she attended a formal execution of the very same skaa. It was a reminder to her of the power of her family, a way for her father to reassure her that, no matter what happened, he would always protect her -- or at least seek vengeance for her. It was another lesson for her about the usefulness, the danger, and also the evil of the Skaa.

The rest of her youth was spent in study and at balls, and although she was never the most beautiful of debutantes, young Isovel was articulate, charming, and skilled with cosmetics and other appearance-altering means. She knew had a limited time to catch herself a husband, and her parents would need all her guile to catch her someone meaningful of a Great House, for their only daughter could never inherit the Venture title. She would have to vie for a strong match with a potential heir.

Poor Anton never had a chance. She was a blaze of smart comments, sweetness, and careful appearance when he first met her, and she only worked harder from then on out. It was up to her parents to convince the heir of House Elariel that a match with a Venture cousin would not be entirely to their detriment. Had their honey-tongued daughter not been working Anton quite so skillfully, the match might never had taken place, but her beau had some choice words to say to his parents when they first declined the match. A few meetings with the charming young Isovel, and they reconsidered, and the match was made quickly.

Some said that the wedding was much too quick, but the pair had their minds made up, and as far as Anton knew, his wife was besotted. It wasn't until they expected their first son that he had any doubts, for she became distant, blaming her coldness on her pregnancy. In 873, Andrew was born to them, to the delight of both parents. Her warmth did not seem to return in full measure, and her second pregnancy left her colder still, and at the birth of Alistair in 876, Anton worried that Isovel would never share a bed with him again.

To his surprise, she was tender again, full of that kindness she had shown years ago at the balls. Perhaps time had given her reason to love the man who fathered two strong sons upon her, but the reason didn't matter to him, only that she laid with him at night, and ate with him during the day. He needed that goodness from somewhere, for the ill health of his father, the current Lord Daeron Elariel, weighed heavily upon him. Isovel watched him labor as though he were already the Lord, and either longing for her husband, or desire for him to claim his inheritance, gave her the ability to love him again.

The death of Daeron, and succession of Anton, was the peak of Isovel's triumph. She was finally titled, the wife of the Lord of a Great House, and her balls and functions were among the most popular. She had a hand, albeit an almost untraceable one, in the rise of her husband's house from the fifth tier up to the second, led by a thirst for social power and standing. She would not die a rank lower than she was born, instead demanding better for herself and for her sons.

Finally, she could turn to the development of her children. She encouraged the rumors that Andrew might be Mistborn, praying that her own lacking of Allomantic powers would not serve her sons ill. She encouraged Andrew in his studies and fed his arrogance, treating him almost as some sort of pet or show dog, but Anton saw what his wife was doing. He took steps against her, refusing his son's demands for Allomantic lessons and trying to instill some sense of humility into his boys before it was too late.

Unfortunately, his wife already had her hooks into them, especially Andrew. She didn't even cry when he threw himself from roof of the ballroom, and there were whispers that she looked... Triumphant that he had snapped. Instead of being relieved when he recovered, she was clearly disappointed. A mere soother, although she knew she should be grateful that he had any form of Allomancy whatsoever.

During her son's recovery, she saw the way he looked at people, and an idea came to her. He could learn much about guile from her, and with his natural ability to control the emotions of others... She was eager to make him, as she considered, "perfect". His tutors may not have had a hand in his social development (excluding the cunning Terrisman, Odairn), but the things he learned were by no means taught by chance.

Poor Alistair never had a chance. Like his mother, he had no Allomantic abilities, and she shunned him for it, hateful that the boy was lesser in every way. Others might have rejoiced to have a son so gentle of spirit, so eager and honest, but Isovel was no normal woman, nor a normal mother. Once Andrew became an exemplary heir, she became utterly distanced from her younger son.

One could imagine her surprise when Andrew fell in love with Jenelle Tekiel. To be sure, the girl's house standing was on par with Andrew's, and at the match would be an excellent one, politically. To Isovel, however, the girl's "ruse" was obvious, in that she had none. A player could recognize a player, as the saying goes, and Isovel saw nothing cunning or quick in the child. Her son was smitten, and as though history demanded to repeat itself, Anton and Isovel could not deny Andrew's choice of bride.

But first came the great betrayal.

Oh, Andrew played his cards right, of course. Isovel was always a cunning woman, and aware, with (tin)eyes and ears in all the right places and fingers in all the metaphorical pies. She watched her eldest's plot with amusement, and it was to her credit that she never interfered. It wasn't that she hated her husband; they did well together, raising Elariel to great heights and bearing two sons. Only she knew she wouldn't mourn long if he passed. And, of course, Alistair deserved to fall if he couldn't see his brother's plan.

She didn't count on her younger son seeing through it all. You see, Isovel hadn't counted on the Terrisman known as Odairn to be of any use -- for he was no Allomancer, nor a noble of any sort. For once in her life, she was impressed by Alistair, and surprised at the conspiracy between him and his loyal Terrisman. Isovel was surprised that the young man had not only discovered the plot, but uncovered enough evidence to unseat Andrew from the position of heir. She was one of the few witnesses to the situation, and sat as though made of stone as her sons and husband unfurled the nasty plot. Her face betrayed nothing, although her rheumy eyes spared one poignant look to Odairn.

She never spoke of it to anyone, not even to Anton in private. The only time it was mentioned was the day after Andrew lost his inheritance, and they passed each other in the Keep's great library. Isovel sat at a desk, reading a large book on Elariel family history, when Andrew came up to kiss her dutifully before resuming his walk.

"If Alistair knew, you deserved to fail." she said, quietly. Her words whispered against Andrew's cheek as they touched jaws in the customary air-kiss of nobility, and for a moment she locked eyes with her eldest son as they drew back.

He said nothing, but kissed her forehead gently. It would be all they ever said on the matter.

Since then, Isovel has been content to let the men do the political "heavy lifting", as it were. Her boys were married satisfactorily, children came to be, and she spent years cultivating loving and indulgent relationships with Aaron and Daerra, Mikhail and Claudia. The grandchildren came at the right time, soothing her troubled heart when Anton passed away. Isovel was surprised to find she missed her husband, having spent so many years not loving him. Some small worm of tenderness had buried itself in her heart, and to this day she knows she is not the same woman without him.

One disturbance, later in life, cemented her current fascination with the torture of skaa women. The change in Jenelle and Andrew's relationship led her to discover many instances of infidelity, truly the only sin that Isovel ever hated. Every filthy skaa that befouled her son and daughter-in-law's relationship was "taken care of", and Isovel found a new source of satisfaction in her life, and a distraction from her mourning.

Taking into account her love of genealogy, her hatred of skaa dalliances, and her own charming and social nature, it didn't take long for the House Elariel Matron to become a popular matchmaker. Houses of all standings know to request the highly respected woman's aid in pairing their children, and letters from parents and single youths alike are sent to her. Her little parties have become the height of social standing, and to be invited to one is to ensure a new connection when you leave.

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"Lady Mering! May I say, you look stunning," Lady Isovel cooed, taking the girl's gloved hands in her own and smiling upward at the slim young debutante. "I have just the gentleman I wish you to meet this evening. I took in the description you gave me of your ideal..." The young lady blushed and stammered, worried that the plump, matronly woman would reveal the secrets she'd written in her letter, but it was an unfounded fear.

"Now, now. Tall and fair, you said, yes? I specifically remember how you described his smile, and I thought you might like to meet him." Pulling the flustered teenager's arm forward, Lady Isovel put her free arm through the girl's crooked elbow, standing with the aid of the waif-like girl, but mostly with the aid of her beautifully decorated wooden cane. The matchmaker smiled indulgently as she steered little Lady Mering around the dance floor, approaching a small group of young men who were laughing uproariously at a particular comment made by one of their members. The timid girl paled and hung back, but Lady Isovel would not be discouraged.

"Find your strength, girl!" She smiled reassuringly, leading the reluctant young woman toward the men. They graciously opened ranks, allowing the pair to join them, recognizing the purpose of any visit made by Lady Isovel when she had a pretty lady on her arm. "My lords, do excuse the interruption, but I know you have all been waiting for an introduction to our maid of honor this evening. If I may...?" She asked it like a question, but nobody refused her. They never did.

The youths smiled at the timid girl, bowing and kissing her fingertips upon each introduction. True to form, Lady Isovel introduced the boys with great care, working her way through the less eligible and eye-catching set until they finally ended with a very specific young man. "Lady Mering, Lord Rolend. Lord Rolend, Lady Mering. Lady Mering, you will be interested to know that my Lord Rolend is the heir to the House Ival shipping conglomerate. Quite a bit of traveling is done, and I'm sure he has a number of tales regarding the Outer Dominances to share with you." The lad was tall, with a mop of golden curls and a smile that was eager, yet held just enough of a smirk to feel dangerous. Lady Isovel's smile deepened as she saw Lady Mering quiver slightly, offering her small hand to the tall man.

It didn't take much to put them in discussion of travel and topography, and soon she had artfully shooed the group away from them, gently reminding one of them his promise to dance with her before the night was over. Still smiling in triumph, she turned away and began to limp back toward her table, clearly quite pleased with herself.

"Forgive me, my lady," her steward had appeared at her elbow, an imposingly tall Terrisman with a quiet, high voice. She turned to him, still smiling as she took his arm. The man led her away from the dance floor, murmuring as softly as he dared.

"We caught another one. She was crying in the kitchens, but once her story came out, we brought her to Madame's Parlor." Lady Isovel regarded him with surprise. There had been a sharp uprising of dalliances with skaa serving women as of late, with a number of women found half-naked in the midst of the last four balls. Lucky few had already been dead before Lady Isovel heard of it.

"Thank you, Benar," she replied smoothly. "I will take it from here, of course. Pass my apologies along to Lord Gendere and also to Lady Celise, and invite them both to my soiree tomorrow. While you're at it, invite Lady Helettia and Lord Namaniel." Benar nodded respectfully and departed to deliver his messages, and Lady Isovel made her slow way through the halls.

The Parlor was inconspicuous, at least from the outside. It was one door amid a hall of many private rooms, unmarked and unremarkable. Unlike the others, it had only one key, and could be secured from the inside with a number of wooden and stone reinforcements. Lady Isovel took great care to put every latch and lock in place as she closed the door behind her, and her warm smile turned into a terrifying grimace as the sounds of feminine whimpering met her ears.

Turning and tucking the key into her sleeve, she looked toward the woman who had been tied to the ceiling. Her wrists were bound, hanging from a strong hook that kept her just high enough from the floor that she could find no purchase. Her ankles had been bound as well, and her clothing had been disposed of already. Tears streamed down her face, and she opened her mouth to beg with the noblewoman.

"Please... Please, my lady! He... He found me scrubbing the hall and...!" She couldn't have been older than fourteen. Bruises already lined her throat and her ribcage, and a long cut was oozing on her left cheek, cutting dangerously close to her eye. Lady Isovel ignored her, carefully sliding a doctor's coat over her dark navy ball gown, ensuring her expensive clothing would be protected.

"He w-wouldn't stop..." The girl -- child, really -- blubbered senselessly, her body and mind clearly damaged by the event. Lady Isovel guessed that it had been her first time. "... By the Lord Ruler, my lady, please have mercy! I will never.... Do it again...!" The skaa wept, her fingers curling and uncurling, turning slightly blue from the restrictive bindings around her wrists.

Lady Isovel continued to act as though nothing was being said, removing her lace gloves and replacing them with a pair of dark mittens. They shone faintly, as though they had been treated to repel water. ".... I'm s-sorry! Please! I swear I will never get in the way of Lord Rolend Ivar again! Send me to a plantation! Send me to the mines! P-please... Please...!" she broke down into terrified sobs as the Lady approached a large rack of implements, taking one down almost out of instinct. It was a blade, curled almost into a circle so that it's edge pointed inward. It was a small knife in her dexterous hands.

To her credit, Lady Isovel said nothing as she cut out the screaming girl's tongue. She never spoke with succubae if she could help it.


"Lady Isovel, I must thank you," Lord Rolend approached Lady Isovel's table later that evening. "Lady Mering is... She's perfect." His face was flushed with drink, with dance, with love. "I never thought I could find a woman with such... Gentility, yet such a mind for adventure and excitement!" He grinned the wide, honest grin of a man in love. "Please, I owe you a great debt that you found me such happiness!" The youth leaned forward, hands on her table, and the matron merely smiled behind her fan.

"Oh! Lord Rolend, think nothing of it. The pleasure was all mine. Nothing brings me greater joy than a young couple in love." She fanned herself, signaling Beren over with a decanter and a few glasses. "But I will drink to your everlasting love. Come! Bring Lady Mering, and I will toast to the pair of you." Her eyes glittered as the boy hurried to find his partner, and the red wine glittered as Beren poured the dark, heady drink into three handsome crystal glasses.