←  Keeps

Mistborn: The Inquisition


Feeling Pretty


Umbra Raisaal's Photo Umbra Raisaal 29 Sep 2013

One week to go. Less than that, technically.

Umbra and Lucar Raisaal had accepted their first invitation to a ball in what felt like an eternity, and Umbra, in an uncharacteristic display of femininity, was trying to decide what she would wear. Two years was a long time to live in seclusion, after all, and their first appearance after the fire - and their first appearance as members of a Great House - was a big deal. Even Lucar had kept himself secluded, though he had fully recovered long before Umbra had.

Soft silks and velvets rustled as Umbra ran her hands over the luxurious fabrics. She had grumbled and complained about wearing such frivolous ballgowns to formal functions, calling them a waste of space and protesting they made it harder to fight, but the truth was, she had liked wearing them. Oh, she wouldn't breathe a word about it out loud, of course, but they had made her feel beautiful. It was easy to lose track of one's femininity when wearing Hazekiller uniforms or the simple shirt and trousers she wore for training, but when she wore those gowns, she felt like a woman.

Or at least, she had. But not anymore.

Without realizing what she was doing, she reached across with her good hand to rest it on her burned arm. No, she wouldn't be wearing those dresses anymore. The necklines were too low, and they had little to no sleeves. She openly wore the scars on her face and hand, but displaying so much of her burned and twisted body was an entirely different story. Besides, ballgowns or no, she would never feel beautiful anymore, so what was the point?

At least she still had her dress uniform. Sure, it wasn't normal for a woman to wear such things in public, but it also wasn't particularly normal to have burn scars all over one's face, so she supposed it didn't particularly matter anymore. Not to mention, she wore uniforms all the time while on duty. Was a ball really all that different?

Well, she was sure most people would say that it was, but she didn't particularly care. If they didn't like it, they could just stay away from her.

There was one person who would never stay away from her though, who she didn't want to stay away from her. But she was so lost in thought that she didn't hear him come into the room.

Lucar Raisaal's Photo Lucar Raisaal 29 Sep 2013

It was said that twins often had a sixth sense in regards to each other, an unknown and inexplicable ability to understand what the other was thinking, or even what they were doing at a given time. Many people believed it, or claimed to, likely because it added to the mystique of the phenomenon of multiple human births.

Lucar thought it was stupid.

He didn't discount the accuracy of the idea, just the methods people assumed were in play. He couldn't read Umbra's mind, not in the sense that people thought. It wasn't anything mystical or magical; it was far more accurate to equate it with the way a skilled Soother or Rioter could read the emotions of people to better manipulate them. He knew what Umbra was thinking, because he knew her mind better than he knew his own. He couldn't read her thoughts because he didn't need to, nor did she need to read his.

His boots clopped softly against the stone floors of Keep Raisaal, walking a path that he was surprised was not worn into the floor by now. Honestly, he didn't know how other people got by without such a strong connection and understanding with another person. Not having Umbra felt as alien as not having arms, or not knowing how to breath.


He ignored the phantom burning sensation along the scars beneath his coat.

He knew where she was. He'd known where she would be the moment he'd seen the invitation. Addressed to him, but already opened, the paper laid flat against the dining room table, envelope torn open and discarded. It mattered not to him that Umbra was reading his mail; they kept no secrets, other than each others.

An invitation to the Elariel Ball in one weeks time. The name sent a wave through him, emotions too mixed to properly identify, fear and hope chief among them. It seemed somehow... fitting that the last people to see them before their forced seclusion were the first to be hosting them upon their return.

He paused, thinking about that for a moment. Fitting? Perhaps a better word was "ironic." He nodded, his pace quickening by a hair. Irony was better. It held greater potential for cruelty.

He stopped at the door to his sister's chambers. It was open, kerosene lamps within sending long shadows dancing across the wide corridor. He leaned silently against the doorframe, watching as she stood in front of a full-length mirror, several gowns in hand. He'd known she would be here, of course, and he'd know what she would be doing. There had not been time nor need, during their recovery, to bother with fashion and luxury, but he knew the invitation would have sparked it in her, as much as it sparked the longing within him. Different needs, for different reasons.

"You always looked lovely in the red, little sister," he said softly as she held two gowns up to her slender frame. "Do you think the ruffles are still in fashion?"

Umbra Raisaal's Photo Umbra Raisaal 29 Sep 2013

Anyone else might have jumped at the sound of another person's voice suddenly speaking in a closed room, but even though she hadn't heard him enter, Umbra wasn't surprised at all to hear Lucar addressing her. It made perfect sense for him to be in here, so here he was, and that was all there was to it.

"Thanks, little brother," she said softly, gently dropping the emerald green gown onto the pile and keeping hold of the red. "I suppose the ruffles are just as much in fashion as they always were." She may have liked dresses, but she had never been the most fashionable of people, at least without help. Other people picked out the dresses, and she wore them.

It was a beautiful gown, an off-the-shoulder style in a deep, shimmering red taffeta that rustled with every move. The overskirt parted towards the side to give a peek at the ruffles underneath, and there was a little crystal beading here and there, but other than that, there was little ornamentation. The color, and the way the gown hugged her curves before flaring out into a full skirt, were ornamentation enough.

Too bad she could never wear it again.

"It shows too much," she said simply, trying to keep the longing out of her voice as she held the gown up for them both to see. "Even with long gloves, it wouldn't look right."

Lucar Raisaal's Photo Lucar Raisaal 29 Sep 2013

Lucar wasn't up on the current fashions - self-imposed seclusion had kept him out of the loop - but he didn't expect much would have changed in two years. The red dress was in a classic style, and the classics never truly faded. He supposed, however, it would be better for a new dress to be made; they were a Great House now, and Umbra could not attend a ball wearing something that wasn't new. It would send the wrong message to the other Great Houses, and begin rumors that perhaps Raisaal's finances were not as strong as they should be.

"It shows too much." His heart broke at the longing in her voice, despite how she tried to mask it. "Even with long gloves, it wouldn't look right."

He cocked an eyebrow at this, tilting his head to one side. "Whatever are you talking about?" he asked, stepping into the room. it was a stupid question, one that he already knew the answer to, but he felt he had to voice it. "If this gown shows too much, then we can have another made that will cover more and make every man at the ball wish that it didn't."

It wasn't a matter of modesty, not in the normal sense. He knew and understood her reasons, even if he did not agree with them. She was as beautiful as she ever was; any who could not see past her scars did not deserve her attention.

Umbra Raisaal's Photo Umbra Raisaal 29 Sep 2013

How did anybody survive the struggles and tribulations of life without a twin to rely on? Lucar knew her every thought, her every breath even, and every time she felt like she was about to break, there he was by her side, giving her strength. Like right now, for instance. She didn't feel beautiful anymore, and knew she probably never would again, but it was like he didn't even see her scars. Of course he acknowledged them, but in his eyes, Umbra knew she was the same woman, the same sister she had always been. There were no words that could possibly say what that meant to her.

Thankfully, with Lucar, she didn't need words.

She looked back to the dress again, thinking about what Lucar had suggested. Making a new dress, one that covered more. One she could wear without exposing too much of her scars. She appreciated the thought, but...

"I'm not sure it would be the same," she said finally. After all, she wore dresses to feel beautiful. What was the point when she couldn't feel that way anymore?

But it wasn't fair to Lucar to keep acting depressed like this. As much as he gave her strength, she needed to be strong for him, too. So instead of dwelling on those unpleasant thoughts, she turned, holding the gown up so that from her perspective, it almost looked like he was wearing it over his uniform.

"Since you like it so much, you could try wearing it yourself," she teased. "I'm sure it would look lovely on you. You might even win at wearing dresses, don't you think?"

Lucar Raisaal's Photo Lucar Raisaal 29 Sep 2013

He would not force her, of course, although he supposed it was within his power as heir to order Umbra to attend in whatever he told her to. But ordering his sister... no. He could not do that. Theirs was a partnership, and while he may officially be her superior, he would never see her as anything less than an equal. If she chose to not wear a gown, then that would be that.

Still... he could remember the look on her face the last time she had worn a gown, so many years ago. They did not get the chance to dress in formal clothing often, their wardrobes since they began their training consisting of workout clothing and Raisaal military uniforms, both practical and ceremonial. Dressing fancy was a luxury, and one they had reveled in every chance they had. They could act like other nobles for a time, and not as the soldiers and trained killers they had been forged into.

It almost felt like another life, now. They could not get that life back, but he knew he could bring back that smile.

She turned suddenly, and held the dress up to him, the corners of her lips failing to fight back a grin. "Since you like it so much, you could try wearing it yourself," she teased. "I'm sure it would look lovely on you. You might even win at wearing dresses, don't you think?"

Lucar cocked an eyebrow, meeting her eyes. "MIGHT win?" he asked, the words sounding foreign. He took the dress from her, holding it closer to himself. He smirked, glancing down at the gown and then back up to her. "You know full well, my dearest little sister, that I would look just as stunning as you in this. There is no 'might'."

Umbra Raisaal's Photo Umbra Raisaal 29 Sep 2013

Lucar played along with the joke, just as she had hoped he would, and Umbra couldn't help but smile. Honestly, red did look striking on him, but the beads and ruffles looked a little out of place. Even the eternally unfashionable Umbra could tell that.

"I don't know, little brother," she said with a smirk, "I'm not sure you have the curves to pull it off. Being shaped like a woman is something I'll always be the one to win at, after all." She winked, then moved to take the dress back.

"Now then, I've got to change if we're going to get any sparring in today. So go on and get ready yourself, or I'll beat you down there."

Lucar Raisaal's Photo Lucar Raisaal 30 Sep 2013

Lucar laughed as Umbra playfully shoved him out the door, closing it behind him. Shaking his head, he moved into a slow jog down the hall to his own chambers. As if she could beat him to the training hall.

Once inside his chambers, Lucar stripped out of his coat and trousers, his mind idly playing her words back, and the smile on her face as she had teased him. It was so good to see her smiling again. In the two years since the fire there had too few instances of true happiness in his twin, he himself - despite winning at humor - only able to occasionally crack the smallest of smiles from her.

Pulling open his wardrobe, he began sorting through, searching for a set of training clothes. A small frown crossed over his face, and his hand suddenly struck his forehead. Of course. The laundress had come by this morning and scolded him for not calling her up sooner; all of his workout clothing was in the wash now, and his wardrobe was filled with dress uniforms and Raisaal hazekiller attire - neither of which was suitable for a simple sparring match with Umbra.

He stood there, cognizant of the fact that this delay would mean Umbra might actually make it to sparring before he did, ending his perfect winning record. Cracking the door open, he saw Umbra leaving, rushing down the hall.

And leaving her door open.

Lucar stared for a moment, and his lips slowly curved into a smile. He could let her win this one. He could win through other means.

Umbra Raisaal's Photo Umbra Raisaal 30 Sep 2013

Umbra hurried to slip out of her uniform and put on her simple training clothes instead. They were just a simple shirt and a pair of trousers, comfortable and sturdy. Despite the casual nature of the outfit, though, she always made sure her training clothes were neatly pressed, and even in her haste to give Lucar a run for his money, she made time to make sure everything was just so. Lucar might win at close calls with the laundress, but Umbra did her best to win at presenting herself neatly.

When she was satisfied, she hurried out of her room, walking fast to make up for the couple extra seconds she had spent getting ready. Lucar would no doubt be down there already, counting the seconds it took for her to walk in after him, just like always.

Except hhe wasn't. When Umbra walked into the training room, it completely empty. Even the rafters, from whence he used to sometimes jump out at her when she arrived too late for his taste, looked to be noticeably lacking in the little brother department.

Just in case this was a trap, Umbra crossed the room and picked up a dueling cane, keeping a sharp eye out as she did so, then settled in to wait. Whatever Lucar had in store for her, she would be ready.

Lucar Raisaal's Photo Lucar Raisaal 30 Sep 2013

Lucar ignored the looks of the guards and servants as he strode through the corridors to the semi-isolated training hall in the center of the keep. There were fortunately few witnesses, but by the murmurs he overheard, he knew it would be spread throughout the keep by dinner. He didn't let that deter him, his steps confident, heels clicking on the stone floors like coins against wooden armor.

She was waiting when he arrived, dressed in nondescript training attire that was cut for the Raisaal style of combat. Her eyes seemed to dart about, as if expecting an attack from the shadows - a reasonable thing, considering he did that often enough. Despite years of trying, Lucar could never completely win at ambushing his little sister.

He smirked, giving his neck a quick crack. That was going to change; she was prepared for an ambush, but not an ambush like this. He waited until she turned her back to his door, then threw it open, burning a bit of Steel as he shot a coin at her back.

As expected, she felt the attack coming and jumped, spinning in the air to face him. The moment she did, he was in the air, pushing against an ingot set into the floor to propel himself further. The skirts fluttered as he flipped and spun, landing only a few feet from his sister, sinking into a ready position as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

He grinned as she caught sight of him, one hand reaching up to adjust the shoulder of the red dress - she was right, it really wasn't meant for his frame. "I know what you're thinking," he said, running a hand through his hair and striking a pose. "Lord Ruler, Lucar Raisaal looks damn good in red."

Umbra Raisaal's Photo Umbra Raisaal 30 Sep 2013

There! It was a trap; she knew it! Snatching the cane into a ready position, Umbra spun to face her little brother, ready to counter. And right at that moment, everything about the situation stopped making sense.

There was a bright flash of red, a rustling of silk, and suddenly there was her little brother, red taffeta skirts fluttering into place around him.

"I know what you're thinking," he said, while Umbra struggled to keep it together. "Lord Ruler, Lucar Raisaal looks damn good in red."

And with that, Umbra completely lost it. It started slowly: a snrk here or there, then a snicker. Every attempt at a witty comeback just helped her fall further into a fit of the giggles, until she finally broke into outright laughter. She laughed so hard her sides hurt, and it wasn't long before she had to lean on the cane she'd grabbed just to keep her balance.

"You-- That-- You actually--" Umbra managed between gasps, but it was no good. She was laughing too much to actually speak coherently, but somehow, she was alright with that. Lucar, after all, would get the message loud and clear.

Lucar Raisaal's Photo Lucar Raisaal 30 Sep 2013

Umbra lost it. She stuttered and sputtered, trying to form words and failing as every sound turned into a giggle. Lucar had to work hard to keep his composure as his little sister broke down into full-blown laughter, leaning her weight on the cane to keep from falling over.

It took every ounce of his willpower to keep from joining her.

"You-- That-- You actually--"

Lucar couldn't help himself; a grin came over his face. He hadn't seen Umbra so happy in years, and it was more than worth making a fool of himself. Their father likely wouldn't approve once the rumors got to him, and it might take some damage control to keep this event from reaching the public, but at the moment, he didn't care. She couldn't vocalize it, but he knew what she was trying to say.

"You didn't think I'd do it, did you?" He asked, grinning wider. "Silly little sister, there's not depths I will not sink to to make you smile. But," his eyes twinkled, and he suddenly dropped to the floor, sweeping a leg toward her cane, "you realized you've left yourself op-AHH!"

His foot caught on the ruffles of the dress, throwing him off-balance and head-first into the floor.

Umbra Raisaal's Photo Umbra Raisaal 30 Sep 2013

Lucar lunged to kick the cane out from under her, and Umbra barely had time to react. She staggered backward, off balance, as Lucar's foot caught the ruffles of the dress and deposited unceremoniously onto the floor. This only made her laugh harder, and she stepped forward, using the cane again to try to regain her balance.

Unfortunately, the cane landed in a pool of taffeta, and happily slipped out from under her as the fabric slid with it. Down she went in a tangled heap, tripping over Lucar on her way down, laughing all the while. There was nothing left about this situation that was not completely and utterly ridiculous.

Which obviously made it the best sparring session they'd had in a long time, despite the fact that they hadn't actually gotten any sparring done at all.

Victre Raisaal's Photo Victre Raisaal 30 Sep 2013

Victre looked up from the reports he'd been perusing, giving the footman a level look, his eyes hard. "You cannot be serious," he said after several seconds of pregnant silence.

He didn't wait for the man to speak again, setting the papers down and rising to his feet. In a moment, he was past the man and out the door, heading for the central training hall. His children would be there; they always were, like clockwork, at this time of day. As he passed through the corridors, he wondered what could be going through Lucar's mind. Wandering the halls of the keep in one of his sister's gowns? Part of him thought it must be a joke, but he knew his servants and soldiers well enough to know when they were pulling a fast one.

His mind was already working on damage control. Servants gossiped, after all.

He came to a halt outside the training room, his hand raised to push the door open and demand an explanation. But he stopped, frozen in place as he listened.


The sound quenched the burning anger inside him instantly, and slowly, he peeked in through the open crack of the doorway. Sure enough, his son was in a dress, on the floor. His sister lay across him, her face red and tears streaming from her eyes as she laughed. Genuine laughter, full and rich with the slightest tinkle, echoing off the walls. The look on his son's face was no less amused, but Victre saw the pride and happiness in his eyes, and in that moment, he knew what the reason for this was.

A smile forming on his own face, without a word he silently closed the door and returned to his office.