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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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Niklaus Venture



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#1 Niklaus Venture


  • Captain of the Coinshots

124
Prelan
  • Age45

  • Relationship StatusWidowed

  • OriginLuthadel

  • Allomantic StatusKnown

Posted 11 May 2014 - 07:32 PM

Niklaus Venture
Noble Misting



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Name/Handle: Noelle
Contact: Look at my profile, it will tell you






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Name: Niklaus Venture
Type: Noble
Age: 45
Gender: Male
Place of Origin: Luthadel
Occupation: Captain of the Guard Coinshots
Relationship Status: Widowed






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Type of Powers: Misting
Metals Used: Steel
Degree of Skill: Advanced
Status: Known




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Standing 6'6", Niklaus is extremely tall, however he is not burly or overly muscular. Indeed, while his shoulders are broad and his chest large, his long limbs give him the look of a shorter man who was stretched to be the height he is.

Niklaus's face is weathered, but still handsome. Even features and a strong jaw lend his face a certain level of nobility. His dark gray eyes are set deep beneath thick eyebrows. His hair is long for a man, dark brown and curly, and tends to be stringy and unkempt, as if it could really use a wash. He doesn't go clean shaven like most nobles, but lets a ghosting of stubble grow on his chin.




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In a word, Niklaus can be described as weary. Weary of his life, of the world, of the constraints society has put upon him. He hides this weariness behind a cold, emotionless shell that he only ever lets drop for close blood relations and then, only rarely.

Duty is what drives him past this weariness, it is ingrained in him, so much a part of what he is that he never thinks to question it, except in his darkest moments. But outside those moments, no matter how terrible his duties are, no matter how horrific the things he must do, he does them without question, because he knows he would be lost without it.

Beneath his weariness and hurt he is a passionate man, who has learned to temper his reactions so as to not seem as such. Passion used to drive him too, but it has withered since the death of his wife, and the only thing he can feel anything for is his family, specifically his son.

He loves his son with all his heart, and does his best to express that. The few smiles and laughs he can manage are usually directed at something Ulrich has said. He has spoiled his son with attention and giving in to whatever he wants, although that is in part because Ulrich’s demands are never too outrageous. If his son wants to go jumping around the city after their practice together, who is he to begrudge him a little levity? So long as he does not stay out too long.

He is extremely protective of Ulrich and what he feels is his son’s right to be how he wishes. So long as Ulrich does not damage the House’s reputation he should be allowed to act as he wants. Niklaus has taught him his duty to his house, and he trusts his son to take that duty seriously. No matter how casual or bombastic Ulrich may seem, he is never rude, and that is what is important, in Niklaus’ eyes. He knows that one day Ulrich is going to be changed by the things he’s going to have to do and go through being a Mistborn of House Venture, he just hopes that day will be very, very far away.



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Special Skills: Following Orders, Being Indomitable, Being Overprotective.

Strengths: Niklaus is an extremely skilled Coinshot, and his height and weight put him at an advantage in almost every pushing match he might be in. Age has done little to dull his strength or reflexes, and in fact his vast experience has only made him a more dangerous opponent.

Weaknesses: He is inept at social interaction, leaning towards terse and taciturn to anyone who is not closely related to him. His massive size and tendency to loom make him rather… off putting for most people, and he is often avoided. Niklaus also has a huge blind spot in the form of Ulrich. He is extremely overprotective of him and does not really realize that his son is no longer just a child, and has not been just a child for years, this blindness may result in some harsh realizations for him.





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Niklaus was born in 873, shortly before his twin sister, Gisela came into the world. His parents, Fredrick and Ellen Venture, had been trying for nearly ten years to have children and so the bounty of two at once came as a welcome surprise.

Niklaus was a rambunctious child, however he didn't spend much time with boys the same age as him. He much prefered the company of his sister, and the two were partners in crime on many a childish prank. His parents were good natured about it, however, and while they didn't exactly encourage the twin's troublemaking, they were too busy doting on them to do much about it.

Things turned much more serious when Niklaus and Gisela turned seven though, because that was when they were beaten to see if they had Allomancy. Niklaus Snapped into a Coinshot where Gisela did not Snap at all. Niklaus was happy about this new and wonderful power, even though Gisela did not have one, but when his days were suddenly filled with lessons on steel rather than time roughhousing with his sister he became irate. He had had lessons apart from Gisela when he was taught the basics of dueling, but they had nothing on his new training regimen.

It came to a head one day when his father was taking him to a lesson. He stopped walking and his father, a tall, broad man like Niklaus would one day become, actually dragged him several feet before realizing his son had stopped moving.

"Niklaus, what's wrong?" His father asked, "Are you not feeling well?"

"I feel fine." Niklaus said shortly, "But this is dumb, I don't wanna go to all these lessons I wanna play with Sela."

"You have a duty to the House, Niklaus, you know that. The Lord Ruler has given you this wonderful power and it is your duty to use it well." His father's voice was gentle, and he took a step forward, but Niklaus stood firm.

"No. This isn't fair. I wanna play with Sela, not do these stupid lessons. All they do is make me do the same thing over and over, it's dumb." He yanked his hand out of his father’s grasp and crossed his arms, looking up, up, up to glare into his father's eyes.

Fredrick knelt down and put his hands on his son's tiny shoulders, "But it is fair Niklaus, don't you see? The House and the Lord Ruler have given you everything you've ever wanted. They've given you food and clothes and a roof over your head. They've given you toys to play with and gardens to run around in, they've given you me and your mother and they've even given you Gisela, and all they want in return is for you too work hard and do your lessons. You understand, don't you son?"

"But I wanna play with Sela!" Niklaus shouted, losing his temper.

Fredrick didn't get angry though, he just squeezed his son's shoulders and said, "And you will, once you finish your lessons. The harder you work in them the more you'll get to play with Gisela, I promise."

Niklaus narrowed his eyes then lifted one hand and held out his little finger, "Pinkie swear?" he asked seriously and his father nodded solemnly.

"Pinkie swear." Fredrick linked his own long finger with Niklaus' tiny one and added, "You have my word as Lord Fredrick Venture."

"If you break your promise I'll tell Uncle Denton on you." Niklaus threatened, and his father laughed.

"Don't worry, Niklaus that isn't going to happen, but remember he's Lord Venture... can we go to your lesson now?" Fredrick asked and after a moment of thinking Niklaus nodded.

"I guess." Niklaus said, and Fredrick stood up, grabbed his hand, and led him to his steel teachers.

With the reward of being able to spend time with Gisela, Niklaus actually bothered applying himself to his lessons and that was all it took for him to excel. He was riding high on this triumph when he finally started practicing dueling in earnest. It was there he met the man who would become his archnemisis. Magnus Venture.

He was a Pewterarm, and he was perfect. Where Niklaus would complain, Magnus was silent. where Niklaus would merely pretend to try, Magnus would apply himself, where Niklaus would be sloppy, Magnus was precise. What was worse was when they practiced, Niklaus only won one duel out of five with the other boy. It was intolerable! He was obviously cheating and using pewter, that was the only explanation, but when Niklaus voiced this opinion he was smacked and told to not make excuses. Like he was lying! But the worst thing, the absolute worst thing, was how Gisela felt about him.

She liked him, like a man liked a woman. She was seven it was much, much, muchmuchmuch too soon for her to like someone. Especially someone related to her. Especially Magnus.

"He's so dreamy." Gisela sighed one day, after Niklaus had worked his butt off in lessons to get to spend time with her.

Niklaus just stared at his sister, "What does that even mean, that you dream about him? That's gross."

"Dreamy: adjective, wonderful; marvelous." She said as if she was reciting something out of a book.

Niklaus tried to understand, he really did, but he did not know what his sister was saying, "I only understood one of the things you just said. Have you been reading that book with all the words again?"

Gisela looked down her nose at him, "All books have lots of words, barbarian."

"I mean the one that you get all these weird words from!" He said, pointing at her like that explained everything.

"It's called a dictionary!"

"Yes that, why do you read that? Why do you need all these words, especially ones to describe him." The venom in his voice was clear, but Gisela just drew herself up, they were almost the same height still, and stared her brother down.

"His name is Magnus. And I'll have you know we have a scintillating discussion the other day, he actually thinks, unlike some people." She tossed her head and crossed her arms.

Niklaus wasn't buying it, "You have to be making these words up now. Sin-tahl-lae-ting? That can't be a word."

She gave him the evil eye, "Well it is, so there."

"What does it mean?"

"I'm not telling you."

"Because you don't know what it means."

"No because you're a gigantic, inarticulate, plebeian and you don't deserve to know!" She started stomping away.

"Try using real wordswhen you insult me, it'll work better!" He shouted back and started plotting vengeance against Magnus. Taking his sister away from him was going too far.

It turns out, however, that breaking a dueling cane over another boy's head, even when he can burn pewter, even when he stole your sister, does nothing but get you punched in the face. Niklaus, naturally, punched him right back, and he was saved by retaliation when their instructor dragged them apart.

That didn't mean he wasn't in trouble, of course. His parents lectured him for nearly an hour on why what he did was wrong, and how it must never happen again. Niklaus got through it by trying to figure out how long Magnus was going to sport a black eye. He had pewter to heal after all, so maybe a week? His parents eventually realized they weren't getting through to him and so they just told him he wasn't getting any playtime with Gisela for the next two months.

Niklaus tried to weasel out of it, of course. He pointed out that Magnus had been cheating at their duels, and that he was annoying, and that he'd tried to steal Gisela, and also that he'd deserved it, but that only got him another month without playtime with Gisela and he gave up.

It had been totally worth it though.

The best part, however, came when he saw Gisela again, she was angry with Magnus, her little crush was gone. It was wonderful.

"The only thing he's verbose about is dueling, and he punched you in the face. No one punches you in the face except me." She told him, hands on hips.

"Hey!" Niklaus said, secretly happy, "I think you mean no one punches me in the face."

Gisela just looked at him, then at her fists and Niklaus hurried to say, "I mean of course, yes, you're right little sister."

Gisela hurrumphed, "What's so fascinating about dueling anyways?"

"You get to hit people, with sticks. What isn't great about that?" Niklaus asked, gesturing wildly, "I get to hit Magnus with a stick it's the best thing ever."

"Maybe I should learn how to duel, if it's so amusing I deserve to know how to duel."

Niklaus almost, almost, said 'but you're a girl, girls don't duel' but even as young as he was he knew how bad an idea that was, Instead he tried to play it cool as he said, "I could teach you."

"Do I really want you to teach me, though?" She asked, "Perhaps I should ask Magnus, he seems the superior duelist."

Niklaus glared at her, "You just said you didn't like him, not two minutes ago."

"I'm willing to make a sacrifice if it means I get the most exceptional teacher." She said.

"Maybe if you want a cheating cheater who cheats." Niklaus spat, "Magnus is nothing without his stupid pewter, I'm way better than him, I promise."

Gisela was quiet for a while, then, "I suppose I can deign to allow you to teach me." Niklaus' nonplussed expression made her roll her eyes, "That means yes Niklaus."

"Oh ok, sure, I'll teach you once we're allowed to play again then!" he said happily.

It was hard getting through the next three months. Magnus had a grudge against him now, and his pewter burning must have gone up because Niklaus started winning only one in ten duels with the other boy, but whenever it got too unbearable Niklaus just remembered how'd Magnus had looked with a black eye and he was content.

Gisela turned out to be a horrible student however, she was always complaining about everything. She complained about the blisters she got, about how her arms were tired, about how he'd hit her too hard, but whenever Niklaus tried to give up teaching her she drew herself up, looked down her nose at him and told him to continue or else she'd beat him up.

Life continued like that for several years, Niklaus' initial hatred and jealousy of Magnus became a deep seated, ever present loathing that he kept inside. Gisela grew into a woman rather than a girl, which meant that while their dueling lessons continued there was no more roughhousing or light hearted play. Niklaus himself had grown into a man, at least in the eyes of society, he himself still felt like a boy in the body of an adult.

They debuted at the age of fifteen at a ball held by Venture itself, ostensibly in their honor. Niklaus stuck close to Gisela, she was his anchor in this world of glamour, secrets, and silk wrapped daggers. It was not as if he was unprepared, no Niklaus had been trained from an early age in the ways of the court, but he had never been a people person. He was too passionate, too easy to anger. With time he had learned to temper his reactions, though it gave him the appearance of a cold, emotionless person.

Gisela was the opposite, charming and vivacious she offset Niklaus' cold demeanor. It seemed little of the girl his sister used to be remained at times, then they would duel and Niklaus would be reminded she was alive and well, merely hidden.

There was a downside to his sister's good nature however, suitors appears left and right seeking her hand. Few, if any, were drawn in merely by her personality. No, Gisela was an extremely eligible bachelorette, being of rather high birth in a Great House, the fact that she was a good person was merely a footnote to these men. Naturally, Niklaus scared them off like the good brother he was, although Gisela didn't seem to appreciate it.

She confronted him one day while he was at one of his self-defense lessons.

"Niklaus, we need to talk." Was all she said.

"I'm a little busy right now, sister," Niklaus bit out from where he was being held, one arm twisted painfully behind his back as his instructor demonstrated a hold.

"I'll wait," she said sweetly, and stood there for several minutes watching him practice holds and counters until she lost her patience, "Any time now, big brother."

"Gisela I'm busy, can you bother me after my lessons please?"

Gisela looked down her nose at him, no mean feat considering he was now several inches taller than her, "No, you've inconvenienced me, it's time for me to inconvenience you."

Niklaus sighed and begged a few minute's break from his instructor before following Gisela to an empty room, where she rounded on him.

"Alright brother, you have to desist with all this... overprotectiveness."

Niklaus rubbed his eyes, "I'm... sorry? What are you talking about?"

"You threatened to kill Allyn Ewing if he ever looked my way again."

"What? No I didn't. I just told him if he looked at you like that again I'd shove my dueling cane down his throat."

Gisela just looked at him.

"It isn't necessarily fatal," he said, looking a tad uncomfortable.

“Do you even listen to yourself talk?”

Niklaus crossed his arms, “What do you want from me, he was eyeing you.”

“Because I wanted him to!” Gisela burst out.

What?!

She gave a disgusted sigh, “Allyn Ewing is charming, handsome and rich, Niklaus. Why wouldn’t I want to catch his eye? Lord Ruler why did you think I was wearing that dress.”

“Gisela that’s unseemly!” Niklaus’ voice cracked.

“My dear, sweet, innocent brother,” Gisela purred, “Some of us are actually interested in the opposite sex.”

“It’s not my fault you and Mother are a hard act to follow.”

For a moment, one blissful moment, Gisela seemed caught off guard, maybe even touched, then her eyes narrowed, “You can’t wriggle your way out of this so easily.”

“I’m not trying to wriggle out of anything,” Niklaus said, “But you can’t really expect me not to say anything when men are looking at you like that.”

“I can and do.” Gisela said, and the look on her face was almost predatory, “And if you don’t I’ll start giving you details.”

“Huh?”

“Details, dear brother,” Gisela was scaring him now, “Details on what I find attractive about these men.” When Niklaus didn’t look properly terrified she added, “And what I’d like to do with them.” His face twisted and she pounced, “Allyn has such nice hair, don’t you agree. Niklaus? I wonder what it would feel like to run my fingers through it.”

His entire body shuddered, as if he could shake off what his sister had said if he tried hard enough.

“Benedict Tekiel has nice arms, too. I wonder what it would be like if he just scooped me up and-“

“Stop!” Niklaus begged, but Gisela ignored him.

“He’s a duelist too, isn’t he? I wonder what he’d look like without a shirt on, or pan-“

Enough!” Niklaus clapped one hand over her traitorous mouth, “I’ll stop, alright? Just let us never, ever speak of this again. Please.”

“Don’t forget that promise,” Gisela said after he’d removed his hand, “Or I will tell you everything, dear brother.”

Niklaus had another involuntary, full body shudder, “Trust me I won’t.”

Without Niklaus to interfere, Gisela quickly caught the eye of a relatively high ranking Sureau, his name was Gareth and Gisela liked him well enough. It was a simple match, Sureau was at the top at the time after all.

It was strange for Niklaus when Gisela finally left. She'd been around his entire life after all. He was used to seeing her multiple times a day, for good or ill. The new norm of only seeing her a few times a week was annoying. He got used to it in time, but he never liked it.

In years to come he'd miss this time abominably.

It happened when he was twenty, Kilian Venture came to speak to him one afternoon. The man was high up in Venture's military services and was usually the one to give Niklaus his orders. It would not be the first time Niklaus was sent on a mission, having a choice in the matter, however, would be a first.

"There's going to be an attack on House Sureau tonight." Kilian said, once they were alone.

"What? Who's attacking Sureau? We need to warn them-"

"We're the ones attacking attacking Niklaus."

He froze, his mouth opened, but no sound came out, it took him several moments to speak, and when he did his voice came out as a quiet, scared little thing, very unlike his usual tone "Why?"

Kilian looked uncomfortable, "They are weak and the time is right, that is all I am at liberty to say."

Niklaus just stared at him, he tried to think, to reason, but his brain just wouldn't work. They wanted him to attack House Sureau? They wanted him to attack Gisela?

Kilian seemed to understand his look however, and he hurried to say, "You'll be attacking priority targets, Niklaus, everyone will be, your sister isn't a target."

"That won't stop her from being caught in the crossfire." He bit out before he could stop himself. He shut his mouth immediately, angry with himself for not keeping control over his reactions, but Kilian didn't get mad.

"No. It won't. That's why I'm giving you a choice in going." he said.

"A... choice?" Niklaus asked, confused.

"Yes, if you don't want to, if you think your personal ties to Sureau," He said, as if Gisela was just an inconvenience to an otherwise good soldier, Niklaus wanted to deck him, "will get in the way, it's in the best interest of the House that you stay here anyway."

Niklaus licked his lips, "And is... Willem being given this choice?" He asked, but he knew the answer.

"No, he's too key to the plans. You are not as key, but still important. You will be missed if you do not come, but if you decide not to it will be understood." Yes, understood, understood that he placed his sister higher than his House. Understood that he was not loyal enough, brave enough, hardened enough to do as he was asked. Niklaus wouldn't care what other people thought though, not really. He cared what he would think of himself if he chose not to go on this mission, or if he chose to go on it.

"What about Emeric? Hans? Lukas? Are any of them being given this choice?" Am I the only one who is having his loyalty tested? All three men had ties to Sureau, some perhaps not as strong as his, but still.

"They are not under my command," Kilian shrugged, "So I do not know, I imagine so though, we need this attack to go off perfectly."

Of course you do.

Niklaus did not want to be given a choice, he wanted to be given these orders against his will, to be able to rail against them even while doing them. He did not want to choose, because he knew what he would decide. It did not matter what was right or wrong, duty to the House came first, they were his blood just as much as Gisela was.

“...I’ll go.” He said, eventually.

“You’re sure about this, then?” Kilian needled, after all they couldn’t have a liability now could they?

“Yes, I’m sure.” Anger made his speech terse, each word bit out in a staccato rhythm.

Kilian looked like he wanted to ask again, to make absolutely sure Niklaus wasn’t going to ruin everything by letting petty things like family get in the way of the House’s goals, but he must have seen something and Niklaus’s eyes that stopped him, because all he said was, “Very well then. You’re to meet up with the others in the courtyard and receive your orders there.” His expression softened a fraction, and when he spoke next it was with more warmth, “Thank you, Niklaus.”

He got a grunt in reply, Niklaus could not bring himself to say anymore to this man, to anyone. Not until this was over with. He went and got his orders, he waited until the night came, and he marched on Keep Sureau.

It was dark and misty, as all nights were, the only lights coming from the Keep in question and the torchbearers of the Venture contingents. There would be nothing to note about the night if not for the attack.

At first it was easy, guards were easy to kill, in comparison to others, their uniforms and bearing all looked the same, they could blur together, one man dying from a well aimed coin died just the same as all the others.

It was when he started finding people in their night clothes, or half dressed, that it became a problem. They were not opponents, there was no honor in their deaths, even the ones that fought did so without hope, there’d been no warning, they fell to swords and axes and Niklaus’s coins easier than the guards had for the most part, but their deaths did not blend together.

Each scream followed him, echoing in his mind as he traveled with his unit through the keep, murdering their targets and any who got in their way. Each scream, each patch of blood, each fallen form could have been Gisela’s, but he never saw her. He checked every female body he came across to make sure, every time he went to look his heart stopping for a moment before he could tell it wasn’t her and everything just. Kept. Going.

There was no halt, no stopping. Just kill and kill and kill and finally, finally they left. Niklaus wanted nothing more than to lose himself in the mists, to go jumping as only Coinshots and Mistborn can through the night until he was too exhausted to move, to think, until maybe the screams and blood and bodies left his mind, replaced by nothingness, but instead he stayed with his unit, as per his orders. He wasn’t allowed to leave after they returned to Keep Venture, they had to be ready for any counter attacks and that did not involve letting one of their Coinshots wander around in the night and possibly get themselves killed.

So he sat in his room, awaiting a call to arms, while the screams and the blood and the bodies played over and over again in his mind, never growing fainter as the time past, never ceasing so he could close his eyes and sleep. It was only after the sun finally rose and burned away the mists that his eyes shut of their own accord, sending him to dream of his sister dying just like all those Sureaus had, murdered by a dark figure and a handful of coins.

Niklaus awoke to the afternoon sun glaring through his window and no news. No one had come to disturb him during his sleep, which was good because it would have been hard to explain the tracks of tears that had run down his face in his sleep. He wiped them away, cleaning his face and his hands and his body, changing his clothes, combing his hair, and did not think, did not feel. He could not focus on anything because to do so would be to contemplate Gisela’s death further. Every motion was mechanical, like clockwork that stuck just a little, the movements jerky and unoiled.

It was evening before he got the news, Gisela lived. She had been injured, but someone had recognized her and kept her from being killed. She couldn’t, for obvious reasons, come to see them. In fact she was confined to her bed, but she lived.

It didn’t mean he hadn’t lost her all the same.

The following weeks were a blur in Niklaus’ mind, highlighted only by the dreams he had every night of the attack, playing again and again with perfect clarity. He concealed his wounded psyche, burying it so deeply that he could pretend he didn’t even have it in the first place. The mists, which had for so long been a refuge for him seemed dark and foreboding now, reminding him only of then, and so he could not even go steel jumping to calm his mind.

He could not go to see Gisela, the Sureaus would murder him if he so much as approached their Keep. He could not send letters to Gisela, his hand shook too much everytime he tried to put pen to paper. He could not tell his parents of his fears, it was weakness, pure and simple. He had been raised to be better than that. So Niklaus was stuck, alone with the horrors he had committed and seen for the several weeks that it took Gisela to heal enough to go to a ball.

When he saw her, looking the same as ever, so light and pure and untainted by the death that had almost taken her, he did not know what to say. He did not know how to even approach her, but she saw him. He was immaculate, his expression perfectly relaxed, there was nothing in his bearing that could give away to the thoughts he had inside, but he saw concern in her gaze when she looked at him nevertheless. It was not something he deserved, he knew, but it gave him hope. Hope enough to speak when she came up to him.

"I'm sorry." He managed, he had never had Gisela's way with words, and now every syllable felt like a massive effort.

"For what, Niklaus?" She was smiling at him, he did not deserve such a thing.

They were not in private, he did not know if they would ever be in private again, he could not beg her forgiveness the way he wanted to. He could not tell her how he hadn't wanted to, how it had been duty and honor that had compelled him and that if he could have he would have traveled across the city and gotten her out before it happened, kept her from being hurt.

"I'm... sorry." He said instead.

Her smile turned into a grin, "Big brother, what have I told you about using your words? Why it feels like we're seven again, your vocabulary has regressed so."

I don't blame you. I never blamed you. It's not your fault. She did not need to say the words for him to see them in every move she made. She did not treat him as some sort of monster, even though standing there he felt like one. She treated him as she always had, if not better, and it dawned on Niklaus. He had not lost Gisela. His greatest fear was unfounded.

"Gisela..." He was so desperately happy to be able to say her name and not be referring to someone dead and gone, "Can I have the pleasure of a dance?" So I can convince myself that you are real, that you are whole, that I did not lose you.

Her grinned widened and they went and spun across the dance floor, moving with the practiced ease of people who had learned to dance with each other as partners. As they did, as his sister tried to tease forth words from his mouth, he felt the hole in himself, the one he'd had since he went in Keep Sureau and spent all his time ignoring, become, not smaller, it would never be smaller, but less important. It became a bearable wound, rather than a mortal one. Something he could heal from, or at least learn to live with.

The attack on Sureau would no longer keep him up at night with nightmares of the people he'd killed, but it would make him treasure all the time he had with Gisela, knowing she could have been one of them.

This meant of course, that he did not pay attention to any women who crossed his path. They were not interesting enough to deserve his attention, and anyways it wasn’t like he needed to marry anytime soon. His father was a hale, hearty man, and Gisela had been married young, there was no need to marry Niklaus off just yet, right?

That was just what he told people, though. Really Niklaus just didn’t know what he would do exactly, when he had a wife. He did not feel the urges his fellows spoke of when they were around women. He never felt the need to sleep with a skaa to relax any tension, he didn’t really see the point of the whole thing when he was so disinterested, but eventually his parents got tired of his avoiding the subject and arranged a marriage for him.

They didn’t consult him when they went looking for a bride for him. He was twenty three, he’d had eight years to court a woman and hadn’t, it was time for them to take matters in their own hands, by the time Niklaus learned of what they were doing the contract had already been made and he was officially engaged to one Desidera Levaine. They were a wealthy, if lesser, House and Desidera’s dowry was substantial, so it was an easy match for his parents to make. It wasn’t as easy for Niklaus to comprehend, however. He was supposed to spend the rest of his life with this woman and he hadn’t even gotten to meet her, and when he did meet her, well…

The first thing he noticed was her size, and his mind was suddenly filled with the laughter he knew Gisela would be unable to contain when she saw the two of them together. Desidera was, in a word, tiny. Fourteen inches shorter than him and built as delicately as a china doll, Niklaus, who had by this point grown into his height and was comfortable with it, felt awkward and lumbering standing next to her. Why she looked like she’d snap in a stiff breeze, or from a single touch, her waist was so tiny, her neck so slender.

It was an effort to bow low enough to kiss her hand, but he managed it, when he straightened she was examining him with a critical eye.

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Lady Desidera.” He said, managing not to shift beneath her gaze.

She gave him a crooked smile in return, craning her head back to look him in the eye, she had beautiful eyes, dark and soulful, but they had little effect on Niklaus, “Is it really, or are you just being polite?”

“What.”

“It’s a simple question.” She said, and there was something in that crooked smile of hers, something that told Niklaus she was just trying to get a rise out of him, he had plenty of experience with that of course, “Is it really a pleasure to meet me?”

“I suppose that depends on you.” Niklaus replied, clasping his hands behind his back and keeping his back straight, not letting any emotion cross his face, “Will you make it a pleasure or will you make it onerous?”

She grinned, dark eyes twinkling, “I wonder, which shall I choose?”

“I think we both know the answer to that question,” Niklaus answered before he could stop himself, he knew now why this woman, who was so aesthetically pleasing with her pure black hair, even features, and delicate build, had not been married earlier, she didn’t have the good sense to not try and prove herself smarter than any who tried to court her.

“Why you presume much, Lord Niklaus, to think you know the answer so soon.” she said with that same crooked smile.

“Or maybe I presume just enough, in fancying us equals.” He replied cooly.

Her laughter was clear as a bell, but it did not make Niklaus want to laugh along, there was too much hidden in the laughter, some sort of jibe at him, he was sure. “Whatever gave you that idea, Lord Niklaus?” She asked.

There was no use getting angry with her needling. Niklaus had learned long ago how to keep his anger hidden and in control, this woman would not get the rise out of him she wanted, although he still could not fathom why she was acting this way. Her behavior could reflect poorly on her House, didn’t she care?

Niklaus sighed, suddenly feeling old and tired, he did not know what he expected of marriage or his eventual bride but it had not been this, “We’re going to spend the rest of our lives together, Lady Desidera, must we really start on the wrong foot?”

“I know the answer to that, the question is, do you?” She asked impishly.

Niklaus did not groan, though he wanted to, while he loved his sister he never wanted to marry her, this was not looking good at all. “I fear we are going in circles, my Lady.”

“I know, isn’t it fun?”

Most of their conversations went like that. The woman was even more frustrating than Gisela, because at least Gisela was only annoying when she wanted something from him, Desidera made it her life’s mission to be a thorn in his side, and for the longest time Niklaus could only wonder as to why. But eventually he thought he had discovered the answer to his questions.

“I understand why you act the way you do.” He told her one day, when they were alone, he had finally figured out the enigma that was Desidera, he felt a little triumphant. They could finally end these childish games and become friends, or so he hoped.

“Do you, do you really?” She asked, eyes wide with fake wonder.

“You’re insecure about your lack of Allomancy,” He said, it had taken a lot to figure this out, certain palms had to be greased to learn more about the Levaine’s but he had done so. He was desperate to understand the woman he had to spend the rest of his life with, “Your father is Mistborn and your mother a Smoker and yet you have no Allomancy of your own.” He did not say it with the triumph he felt at learning the truth, that would be insensitive. His voice was gentle, understanding, “It must have been a huge disappointment to you, so you felt you needed to prove yourself in other ways, like, for instance, outsmarting every man you came across.”

“Only it backfired, it made you an outcast where you would have been accepted and befriended and that made you bitter.” He gestured vaguely, “And then your parents engaged you to me, a man you had never met, a man far higher ranked than yourself, and you felt even more insecure.” He looked directly at Desidera, trying to make sure she understood, “But I don’t care about any of that. You have nothing you need to prove to me. I just wish to know the real you, not this mask you put on.”

Desidera stared at him, her eyes genuinely wide now, and Niklaus was content to let the silence stretch between them, she eventually covered her face with her hands, and her shoulders started to shake; Her voice cracked when she spoke, “You’re right.” She said, “It’s so hard sometimes…” She trailed off, but started shaking harder, her sobs were no longer silent, he could hear them now, they almost sounded like… laughter?

A moment later Desidera straightened, a grin across her face, laughter bubbling in her voice, “To believe I’m engaged to you of all people.” She laughed, pure, clear laughter that nevertheless cut deep into Niklaus, “Really? You think I’m insecure just because I don’t have Allomancy? What an idiotic thing to think.”

Niklaus jerked back from her, and he felt his temper flare, his jaw tightened and a flush rose to his face. He raised his hand and fisted it in his hair, but for an instant as his hand rose, he saw Desidera shrink, her gaze pinned on his hand and nothing else, as if it was something to be afraid of. As if he would strike her, and something clicked in Niklaus’s head. It would take time to confirm of course, but maybe he had not been so far off after all?

That didn’t stop him from speaking, though, the anger was too hot and fresh for him to remain silent or to reassure her, she would only turn it back on him in some sort of insult anyway, and there was something freeing about giving Desidera a piece of his mind, “At least I try to make this work.” He snapped, “At least I am not so childish as to repeatedly insult someone who’s only crime is attempting to get to know me. At least I don’t make sport of every single thing you say, for no other reason than pure spite.” He didn’t wait for her to reply, he just left, he had things to research, after all.

The truth came to him eventually, with enough thought and research, it turned out that he had been right, in a way, Desidera’s lack of Allomancy was part of the reason she was the way she was. Or rather, the reason her father had made her that way. When she hadn’t Snapped he’d had her beaten again, just to make sure, on top of being known for hitting the women in his life in the first place. It had given her a bad outlook on men in general, and she’d done her best to scare them all off. She’d done her best to make Niklaus rise to her bait and how his “true colors” as a man, but he never had. Niklaus had no idea how intimidated she must have been when she met him, a tall, broad man so much larger than she, but she’d never shown it.

He didn’t come to her with this realization, however, he knew that she would only deflect and turn it into some sort of barb at his expense. He was at a loss to figure out how to actually reach her. No matter how patient he was, no matter how much gentleness he showed, she remained the same, he ended up feeling merely indifferent to the whole thing, at least until their wedding night approached.

Niklaus was not looking forward it to say the least. Sex had always seemed… intimate to him, something to share with someone you cared about, not something to do with someone who hated you. He floated through his wedding day thinking of how awkward it was going to be and it was only when he was alone with Desidera and saw the sour expression on her face that he make his decision.

There was no way, in the entire world, that he was going to sleep with this woman. There was no need to put either of them through something so uncomfortable. They were stuck with each other the rest of their lives, there was plenty of time to conceive an heir, like, perhaps, when they didn’t loathe one another. It was possible, right?

So instead of trying anything, Niklaus merely stripped himself down to a shirt and briefs, never looking Desidera, and staying as far away from her as possible. Then he slipped into the bed, turned his back on her and tried to go to sleep.

What do you think you’re doing?” She said after a minute, and Niklaus sighed, but moved to make himself more comfortable, this conversation was going to be annoying.

“Going to sleep.” He couldn’t help but add, “You should try it.”

He heard a rustling of cloth and then she said, “You can’t really expect me to believe that.”

“I don’t care what you believe, Desidera,” He said, “I really, really don’t care.”

“You’re not man enough to take me, that’s it isn’t it? Terrified I might hurt you?” Desidera laughed her bell of a laugh.

“No.”

“Or maybe you’ve gotten your fill from sleeping with skaa.” She snapped, “That’s it isn’t it.”

“No.” Was all he said.

“Then you have some sort of mistress, then, who’s sated your base desires.” She sounded so damn triumphant, it was irritating as all hell.

No. Lord Ruler Desidera, is it so hard to comprehend the fact that I might just, I don’t know, not want to sleep with you?” He sat up and looked at her, “You don’t even want to sleep with me either I don’t know why you aren’t just taking the out.”

She crossed her arms and stood straighter, “We’re married it’s expected of us to do this.”

“It’s also expected of us to be civil with each other, and you certainly haven’t let that happen, what’s one more thing?” He laid back down and pulled the covers up higher on his shoulders.

“...You’re serious.” Why was she so disbelieving of him? She’d treated him like dirt for months and then expected he’d jump into bed with her given the first possible chance? Niklaus didn’t understand her.

“Yes. Now can we just go to sleep?”

“Fine. But you do realize that we’re going to have to… you know… eventually.” He could hear the blush in her voice.

“A problem for another night.” He snuggled deeper into the bed and put a pillow over his head, holding it in place with an arm. Conversation over.

He didn’t hear her sigh or call him an oaf that didn’t know a beautiful woman when he saw one, the pillow was extremely effective that way, but he did feel the bed shift slightly when she got in. She stayed on her side of it though, and Niklaus had no trouble going to sleep.

When he awoke, early the next morning, he was surprised to find that Desidera was cuddled against his back, a small warmth there. It actually wasn’t that terrible a feeling, even if it was Desidera causing it, but it was still a little awkward. She’d be intensely embarrassed if she showed him any sort of affection after all, and as amusing as her discomfort would be Niklaus wasn’t a bully, so he left before she awoke.

The following months resulted in a change in Desidera. While she was still prickly and hard to deal with most times, the spiteful, hard edge to her insults was gone. It wasn’t actually a chore to have a conversation with her, and Niklaus even came to enjoy her company.

There was a tension growing within Desidera that he didn’t know about though, his warmth towards her was enflaming feelings she already had, and he was completely oblivious to them. He missed every sign she threw at him, he’d awake with her cuddled against his back more nights than not and think nothing of it, any affection she showed him in public he thought of as only a charade to make people think they were a happily married couple. Eventually Desidera gave up trying to hint to him, she just made it blatantly obvious.

It happened one night when he was half asleep, Desidera’s voice was full of something he could not place, but it worried him, “I like tall men.”

“What.” He blinked his eyes open and turned over to look at her.

She was staring at the ceiling, not meeting his eyes, but he could see her blush, she was quiet a while before she repeated herself, “I like tall men.” Her eyes snapped over to his and they narrowed, “Go on, laugh. I dare you.”

“I don’t…” Niklaus rubbed his eyes, “Why is this important?”

Desidera’s face turned completely red, and Niklaus wasn’t certain if it was anger or embarrassment. “How dense are you?” She asked, poking him in the chest.

“Desidera, can you just explain yourself rather than stringing random sentences together, it’s late I would really like to-” He was interrupted by Desidera kissing him.

It was Niklaus’ first kiss and it was both amazing and scary at the same time. It elicited desires he’d never felt before, wanting to be closer, as close as possible, to Desidera, and when they finally separated it was Desidera who pulled back.

She took a great, gasping breath, her face was flushed with the heat of their kiss, and probably some anger considering how sharply she kept poking him in the chest, “I like tall men and you are the tallest man I’ve ever met and I’ve been attracted to you since the moment I met you and you rejected me on our wedding night and we’ve slept in the same bed for months and you haven’t touchedme and do you have any idea how frustrating that is?!”

“I think I have some idea, yes.” Niklaus said and he couldn’t keep a pleased smile from crossing his face. These feelings weren’t new, he realized. He’d been attracted to Desidera for a while now, he’d just never noticed it until it was brought to his attention. He liked his wife, this was wonderful.

“Oh don’t you dare smirk at me,” She said, starting to poke him again, “You don’t get to be smooth after being so utterly hopeless.”

She kept poking him, so Niklaus grabbed the offending hand and kissed her knuckles before pressing his cheek against her palm, she had such small, delicate hands. “I don’t?” He asked, leaning his face into her hand.

She glared at him, “I refuse to be taken in by your stupid charm.”

Niklaus kissed her wrist, “You’re sure?”

“Yes, I had to beat you over the head to get you to even see me, you don’t get to be charming.” She informed him.

“Alright then.” He said and turned over, pretending to go back to sleep.

He could feel her vibrate with anger, “Niklaus Venture if you think you get to go to sleep after doing that you a sorely mistak-” She was cut off when he turned back around and silenced her with a kiss. She kissed back eagerly and the rest of the night passed in a blissful blur.

Things went much more smoothly after Niklaus discovered their mutual attraction, and it didn’t take long for him to fall deeply in love with his wife. Their marriage wasn’t perfect, after all they were both highly opinionated and proud people who frequently disagreed with each other, but at the end of the day, they were still in love, and that was enough.

As time passed without Desidera getting pregnant however, she grew truly insecure. What if she was barren, wouldn’t Niklaus have to find a new wife to produce an heir? Would he set her aside as duty dictated?

Niklaus, on the other hand, was pretty sure the problem lay with him, not Desidera. His parents had taken nearly ten years to have him and Gisela, and Gisela herself had taken four years to have a child, so there was no use worrying. If it happened it happened, if it didn’t there was no way Niklaus would set Desidera aside, that she could be confident about.

The true test of their marriage came when Niklaus’s parents died. It was sudden, Fredrick came down with an illness that his old body just couldn’t take, and he died. It was a huge blow to their entire family, and Ellen wasn’t the same after her husband’s death. They’d been together for so long, it was really like Ellen had lost half of herself when he died, and one day a few months later she just didn’t wake up.

With them gone, Niklaus didn’t really know what to do with himself. He had grown apart from them as time passed, but never distant, and their loss hurt him deeply. Desidera was the one to help him through it, her constant support let him move past it.

Only a few months later Desidera finally got pregnant, however she miscarried not long in, it was hard on both of them, but they got through it together, and a few years later Desidera got pregnant with Ulrich.

Desidera gave birth and for a few shining moments they were a family. For a few moments Niklaus could not ask for more, and he was content. And then those few moments were over, and tragedy struck. It started out innocently though. Niklaus was in the room with her as she held Ulrich for the first time, the midwife had left to give them a little privacy with their child.

“I thought babies were supposed to be cute.” Niklaus said, waving a finger in front of little Ulrich’s face.

“Dear, please don’t tell me you’re calling your first born son ugly.” Desidera gave him the Look, the one that meant he better backpedal as quickly as possible, but Niklaus didn’t see it so he couldn’t be cowed.

“Well I mean, he’s all red and his head’s all pointy, aren’t babies supposed to be adorable things of love and cuteness?”

“Give it time, Niklaus, he’ll be adorable soon enough, here you hold him, I’m feeling a little dizzy I just want to close my eyes.”

That was, of course, the worst thing she could say to him, “Are you alright? Do you want me to get the midwife or something to make sure you’re not injured. I mean-”

“I’m fine Niklaus, anyone would feel a little dizzy after giving birth, just hold him for me.” Desidera said, rolling her eyes, and Niklaus did as she bid.

His son was so small, it was kind of cute, if you ignored the pointy head and all around redness. But one of Ulrich’s hands looked smaller than Niklaus’s thumb. He held them together for comparison, and sure enough he was right. That didn’t stop Ulrich’s hand from wrapping around his finger though, and the firmness of his grip surprised him, he even heard Desidera inhale sharply.

“Niklaus.” She bit out, but Niklaus was only half paying attention, “Niklaus get the midwife.”

“Huh?” Niklaus looked up at her, and saw her face was dead white, that snapped him out of his happy mood, “Desi, what’s-”

Get the midwife.” She gasped, and then she started bleeding.

Niklaus ran for the midwife, nearly dropping Ulrich in his hurry, but there was nothing the woman could do. She couldn’t stop Desidera’s bleeding, and Desidera soon passed out from bloodloss, never to awake.

Niklaus stood, frozen, staring at Desidera’s unmoving form, he couldn’t really focus, because to focus would be to contemplate Desidera’s d-

But she wasn’t… she couldn’t be…

“I’m sorry sir, she’s gone.” The midwife said sadly, and those words broke something in Niklaus, he’d been able to pretend for a few moments that Desidera wasn’t lost to him forever, even with her corpse in front of him, but to have someone confirm what he knew deep down broke him in ways he would spend years trying to understand.

“How…” He whispered, and realized distantly that he was still holding Ulrich, “I don’t understand… she was fine.” He turned to the woman, eyes wide, “She was fine!”

“It happens, sometimes.” The midwife said gently, “Something happens to the woman inside and she starts bleeding, sometimes the bleeding stops and sometimes… it doesn’t.”

“I don’t…” He trailed off, staring at Desidera, the midwife walked up to him and took Ulrich without him even noticing and he stood in silence for several minutes as the sheet he midwife had used to cover his wife’s body grew tacky with blood.

“Desi…” he whispered, walking over to her side, he touched her arm and it was still warm, “Desi please…” He held her hand, squeezing it, but she didn’t squeeze back. He kissed her pale cheek, but she didn’t move, didn’t breathe. He kept saying her name, as if he could bring her back if he begged enough times, but there was never any response.

He didn’t notice when he started burning steel, but he did feel a pressure build inside him. He didn’t notice nails trembling in their moorings, or the metal on the bed starting to groan just a little as it bent away from him. But he felt the pressure keep building, holding him together, it was only when someone tried to come in the room and was stopped and almost thrown backwards that he realized what he was doing.

“Lord Niklaus!” someone yelled to him, “Lord Niklaus you need to stop!”

The pressure he was exerting on himself was the only thing that was holding him together. The warmth in his stomach the only heat he felt in his entire body. He let it go out, and then he was falling, falling, down into darkness, except he didn’t fall unconscious.

Everything happened like in a dream, he was led away from Desidera, people gave their condolences, but he didn’t reply to them. He didn’t notice when he started crying, but they left him alone when he did, and he just sat there, staring at nothingness, trying not to feel, not to think, because to do so would be to contemplate Desidera’s death further.

But this was not like the attack on Sureau. There was no happy ending to this. Desidera was dead, and Niklaus was broken. Seven years, seven years he’d known Desidera. She’d wormed her way into his heart and soul, he’d loved her like he didn’t think was possible, and now she was gone. Forever.

He was much like his mother was after his father died. Like half of him was missing. It was as if someone had come and sucked out all the warmth and life in his light and left behind only an empty shell. He still lived, still breathed, but he could not, would not, let himself think or feel. To do so would be to break, once and for all.

Eventually someone decided the best thing for Niklaus was for him to go to a ball and see Gisela. Niklaus wasn't in a fit state to argue, he went, wearing a suit as black as night and watched the color and splendor of the ball pass by with dull eyes. Part of him wanted to see Gisela, sure, but another part knew it would just bring up feelings he was trying desperately to hide from.

He didn't have to find Gisela, she approached him. She was quiet though, and for that Niklaus was grateful. He was so very tired of people telling them how sorry they were for his loss, it was just another reminder that Desidera was gone. A reminder that he didn't need because the thought played in his head over and over, She's gone, she's dead, you'll never see her again.

She took his hand, and he let her, it was a great effort to look at her, to see her and not just blank nothingness. "D-" He stopped himself, "Gisela." They looked nothing alike, he had not mistaken one for the other, he had just been thinking about someone who wasn't there, "It is good to see you sister, are you well?" There was no feeling to the words. They were spoken with blank politeness, it was all he could muster.

If she noticed his slip, she gave no sign, "That is a stupid question. Of course I am not. I have been stuck feeling useless for weeks because I cannot leave Gareth to comfort you. But I do not matter right now. I could not be there when we lost mother and father, but I can be here for you now and I want to help. I cannot pretend that I know what you are going through, but I can at least be here for you, right?" She said, and Niklaus did not know how to feel, because he wanted oh so badly to just let her comfort him. He wanted his sister to make everything better, as her presence always had, but knew at the same time that such things were lost to them with the divide between their houses. Her offer was heartfelt and genuine, but in the end also naive.

He smiled, it was a rictus grin, but it was still the first time he had smiled since Desidera had died. He placed one hand over hers and said quietly, "Gisela, we both know that you can't see me outside these balls unless you were to leave House Sureau, and we also both know that is not something that is going to happen as long as you have Isabelle." Gisela might be able to leave Sureau without igniting a House war, but if she ran with Isabelle? Niklaus did not know what Sureau would do, but it wouldn't be good.

He patted her hand, "But thank you, really, Gisela." He meant it, even if he didn't sound it.

"If I did not have Isabelle, I would have left already. I have considered it once or twice, despite Isabelle." She said, and Niklaus stiffened, that was dangerous to say, especially in a place as public as this, but her next words made him freeze, "Speaking of children, how is the child doing?"Because he didn't know, he honestly had seen his son less than a handful of times since Desidera's death. His nurses had come to him with Ulrich, as if his son could bring him out of his melancholy, he'd sent them away each time.

"Fine." He lied quickly, "Ulrich is fine."

She rolled her eyes and Niklaus averted his,"You cannot lie to me, Niklaus, even when it is a tiny lie. I am sure he is doing fine, you just have not paid enough attention to him yet." Which was true enough, but she didn't have to say it. "Children can be magical, Niklaus, if you let them." She added, and Niklaus remembered for a second the moment he had held Ulrich, right before, and it had been magical, but it was also tainted by how it ended.

"I know." he whispered, "But I'm not sure I'm ready for it just yet, Gisela."

"Children do not care if you are ready. They will grow up either way." his sister said lightly, and it sparked a bit of anger in Niklaus, as if he didn't know this.

"He's a month old, it will be years before he can even remember anything Gisela. Forgive me if I wallow in my grief for just a little while longer." He said, glaring at nothing. He was just so tired of... everything.
"Grieving is okay, big brother. I would never tell you to stop grieving, and I would not want you to just let it go. I just do not want you to waste away. "She ruffled his hair, and he was stonily silent while she did, he was thirty, couldn't she stop treating him as if he was a child,"How about a dance? It will give us more time before Gareth finds me again." Gisela asked and Niklaus felt he just did not have it in him.

"No, Gisela... I'm just not up to it tonight." He said, and desperately wanted to be alone. He could not handle her cheerful demeanor, he just wanted her to go back to her husband and her daughter and her life free of having to murder people for the good of her house. He just wanted her to go and leave him alone so he could just let go. If she could just leave him be he could let himself sink and disappear and be at peace.

That was all he wanted anymore. Silence. Darkness. Peace.

She held his hand as if by doing so she could hold him together. Two fingers, pressed against his cheek after she kissed them was the limit of her displays of affection. She could show concern, she could say,"I love you, big brother." She could beg, "Please don't leave me like this." And through it all Niklaus could not break down, could not let even a shred of emotion appear on his face, because to do so, to crack even a little bit, would mean an out rushing of emotion. Emotion unbefitting Niklaus Venture. It was not that he cared what other people would think of him if he were to break down in public. It was what he would think of himself if he chose to do so.

Still, he felt it, like lightning it struck him, and like thunder it built into a rumbling that made him want to tremble. The loss he could not deny, the sorrow that he always pushed away. Do not think, do not feel. He told himself hurriedly, but it built anyway. His vision swam for a moment, and he blinked until it cleared. He was breaking, so quickly he could not stop himself. He looked at Gisela, he needed her to let go of him, to hate him, and the words to do so came to him, unbidden.

"I love you too, sister," He said, face impassive, "But I loved her more." Then he turned and walked away before she could reply, before she could try to stop him, and disappeared into the mists.

The following weeks had Niklaus spiraling the drain when it came to mental health. Perhaps, had he been able to talk to someone about how he was feeling, to let loose all the anger and pain and sadness and fear to a sympathetic ear, he might have been able to come out of the spiral, but instead he had to keep it in. He could not speak of his weakness, his grief, so it built and built and built until there was nothing else left of him. It was no way to live, so Niklaus could not keep the idea of suicide from crossing his mind.

It was mad, kill himself? But as time passed it seemed less and less mad and more inevitable. He was going to die eventually anyway, what did it matter if it was a bit sooner than expected? Ulrich was a babe, he would not remember Niklaus, he would be an orphan sure, but even if Niklaus didn’t die, how could he be a parent?

He didn’t know when he came to the decision, but he knew when he did how it had to happen. He had to die in duty to his House. Everything he had ever done had been for his House, his death would be no different.

It was difficult getting Kilian to agree to let him go on missions, he rightly believed that Niklaus might be a danger to himself, but he was able to convince him that he needed to go, to do so that he could start the healing process.

The funny thing was, once he decided on his course of action, once he started to work towards something, even though that something was his death, he felt better. Infinitesimally better, but still, the little voice in his head, the mantra he could not help repeating ‘She's gone, she's dead, you'll never see her again.’ became quieter. It was relief surely, relief that it would be over, that he could just… let go.

It was months of going on missions before he got what he wished. He wasn’t going to just throw his life away and make it obvious he was committing suicide, that was such a weak thing to do, he did not want anyone to know. He would take that secret with him to the grave. But after months of missions, he finally got his wish, an enemy Coinshot’s coin directly in the torso, he let it slip through deliberately. It was not an immediately mortal wound, but without treatment it would do the trick, hopefully.

He hid his wound from his comrades, saying he was tired and wanted to sleep and going on ahead of them. He went to his room, empty and silent and laid down to wait for himself to bleed out. It was fitting he would also die of blood loss. His wound hurt, a lot, each beat of his heart sending a lance of pain through his side, but he ignored it, the end was coming soon, he would be free, he just had to be patient.

After a while his vision grew hazy, he was light-headed and the pain receded, just a little longer. Just a little…

“You know, it would be much simpler to just slit your throat.” Said the voice of someone who he had seen die with his own eyes.

“Desi..?” He murmured, looking around for her, but the voice had no source, it merely was.

“Really, killing yourself in service to the House? After everything they’ve done for you.” There was that acerbic tone to her voice, the edge that he hadn’t heard for years, “Raising you to kill, making you murder people, separating you from Gisela, all for the low low price of room and board.” The voice that sounded like Desidera giggled, it was not a happy sound, “If I’d known you were so easily bought I would have done it the day I met you.”

“Desi… you know, you know it’s not that simple.” Niklaus said, unable to think clearly, “It’s my duty to… to serve my House.”

“Duty?” She spat, and the venom in her voice made him flinch. “Do not speak to me about duty, Niklaus Venture.”

“I don’t… understand.” He blinked slowly, it was so hard to see.

“Don’t you think it’s a tad hypocritical to talk about your duty to House Venture when you’re completely neglecting your duty to me?” The voice asked, and Niklaus was confused.

“I don’t- what do you mean?”

“What could I possibly mean?” The voice ‘hmm’d’ exaggeratedly, “Maybe, I don’t know our son. You up and dying and leaving him an orphan isn’t doing your bloody duty, Niklaus.”

The words only stung because they were true, “Desi…” He whispered, his addled mind could not realize he was talking to a figment of his imagination, “Desi, I can’t… not without you.”

“Niklaus.” Her voice was different, softer, gentler, more like the Desidera he was used to, “Have you even tried?”

No, no he hadn’t. “I-” He sighed, “Please, Desi. I just want to rest. I’m so tired.”

“No, Niklaus.” Her voice was still gentle, “I know you’re tired, but you must live, Ulrich needs you.”

“And what about… what about what I want?” He asked, like a child not being given his way.

“Niklaus, dearest, when have your wants ever factored into anything?” Desi said playfully, “Now get up and go find a doctor, or a servant, or something before you actually do die.”

He did not want to listen to Desidera, not really. He wanted to let go and let himself sink finally into the abyss, surely feeling nothing would be better than feeling the sadness and hurt and loss he felt now. Surely not existing was preferable to this. But, she had said the one word that still meant anything to him.

Duty.

“You always asked the world, Desidera.” His body was like lead, but he pulled himself up and stumbled to the door, he wandered through the halls, not seeing clearly enough to send himself any real direction. Eventually he ran into a servant who took one look at his blood stained clothing and went screaming for help.

As he sat against the wall of one of the keep’s hallways he sighed, everything was so dark, he couldn’t see…

“One day, Niklaus,” came her voice, “one day, you will be allowed to rest, but until then, you’re to take care of our son.”
Talking was far beyond him at this point, he merely nodded, and secretly hoped for the voice to keep talking, it was so nice to hear her voice again, but there was no more to be said, and he soon blacked out.

When he came to, he was in a lot of trouble. No matter how much he denied that he had tried to kill himself, Venture knew what he had done. They put him on suicide watch, his access to steel was restricted and his windows locked, the Tineyes on watch no doubt ordered to keep an eye on said windows. Niklaus didn’t care though, they let him do what he wanted to do, see his son.

Ulrich was different than he remembered, no longer red or pointy for one thing, and larger. He was also completely and heartbreakingly adorable. He was still so tiny, so little it was simply precious how small he was. Hair as black as night, limbs long delicate, gray eyes as dark as Desidera’s brown ones had been. He was Niklaus’ son, Desidera’s son, and Niklaus had nearly made him end up an orphan.

“I’m sorry.” He whispered to the babe, who blinked uncomprehendingly at him, “I’m sorry, Ulrich.” He held his son close and decided then that he would not live for merely duty. His son would not be just another responsibility, he would be his world. He would let nothing harm the child he and Desidera had made.

Ulrich grew quickly, and was the happiest, brightest child Niklaus had ever known. He was as rambunctious as Niklaus himself had been, but Niklaus did not mind, let him have his fun, he was a child and aught to be left alone to be as such. Ulrich was simply so happy, was it wrong to want to preserve that?

When he turned seven Niklaus silenced any mention of him being snapped, and indeed would keep putting it off until Ulrich turned ten and he was forced to, but that was not for a few more years.

During those few years, Niklaus ended up outing himself.

It was supposed to be a simple matter: escort one Lord Herrick Venture, the key business man in a business deal Sureau and its ilk did not want to see happen, to the keep. Ellsworth had suspected Sureau might try to have him assassinated, so he sent a contingent of men backed with Allomancers, Niklaus was among them. He was masked, of course, to protect his identity, or at least as much as one could protect the identity of a six and a half foot man affiliated with House Venture. In a group of tall men though, perhaps he would not be recognized. Sadly that was not to be, for Ellsworth had not foreseen one crucial detail of the Sureau's attempted assassination.

They had paid off the carriage driver.

Instead of turning where he was supposed to the man swerved in the opposite direction and was soon in an extremely crowded area that the Venture contingent had to bull their way through. Niklaus understood what was happening, and when he saw men on the rooftops ahead he knew he had to take action. The choice between keeping a low profile and serving his House was an easy one, and Niklaus jumped over the crowd in one frantic flare of steel, soaring in broad daylight how he was so used to doing in the mists. Several minutes travel was made in only seconds and he landed on top of the carriage as it came to a stop.

Niklaus thought quickly, if the men had any sense they'd be using stone tipped arrows to stop him from just pushing their missiles away, and no doubt there would be foot soldiers to pull the man out of the carriage and kill him. This was not an envious position to be in, but he didn't have to win. All he had to do was stall for the few crucial minutes it would take the rest of the Venture contingent to arrive, he wouldn't even have to do it alone, there were two other Coinshots who had to be on their way over.

Sure enough one landed next to him as the archers let fly their arrows, and while Niklaus was already scrambling off the top of the carriage the other Coinshot was still finding his balance. For his ill-timed steel jump the other Coinshot earned several arrows to the torso and he went down with a gurgle. Wonderful. Two Coinshots against however many men Sureau had decided to use to kill Lord Herrick Venture.

He had a few seconds to strategize while the archers took aim, the first order of business was to get rid of the stupid mask. He couldn't see clearly and the people who were now fleeing screaming probably recognized him anyway; he tore it off without a second thought, erasing any doubt who he was to the few remaining that saw his face. The second thing to do was to kill the carriage driver, but when Niklaus made to do just that he found that the third and final Coinshot had arrived and taken matters into his own hands. He was heaving the body off the carriage when Niklaus got there, and as the man held the reins to keep the horses from moving he got an idea.

"Drive off, now. I'll take care of the archers." He told him.

"My thoughts exactly." the man replied, and snapped the reins across the horses' backs.

The carriage raced away, and the men who had been running forward to attack it were mostly diverted, chasing after something they would never catch. Now, it was time to deal with the archers, before they could get another volley in. Niklaus Pushed himself upwards just as they let fly again and the arrows broke uselessly against the cobblestone of the road. The men on the rooftops were already diving for cover when Niklaus let fly his coins, but there was precious little to be found; these buildings had not been made with battle in mind.

He wasn't sure how many he'd killed or injured, and as he had to spin to do the same to the other side of the street he didn't get a chance to check. However the archers were well and truly stopped by the time he landed on the ground once more, or at least all but one tenacious fool who shot an arrow that cut a furrow through Niklaus's right arm. He sent a few coins screaming through the man's head and focused his attention on the footmen.

They were running after the carriage, so he launched himself into the air again and started peppering their retreating backs with coins, dropping some. Soon he had to stop his efforts when the Venture contingent caught up and overwhelmed the footmen. Leaving them to their battle Niklaus went to see if he could take any of the archers alive, but after checking both rooftops found only dead men. Some he hadn't even killed, their throats had been slit by their own people as they'd retreated to keep them from spilling any secrets. It was unfortunate, but the important thing was that Lord Herrick still lived.

Ellsworth, while happy that Niklaus had saved Lord Herrick, was not as happy when the rumor mills suddenly became full of people talking about how Niklaus Venture was a Coinshot.

"Well, I suppose it can't be helped," he remarked, his expression oddly seeming simultaneously annoyed and amused. "Herrick is safe, and that's what important, but Lord Ruler, man! You put on quite the show for them, didn't you? There'll be no covering that one up, that's for certain. Well, at least you gave them a fine demonstration of Venture's strength in the process. You're a living example of that now, so see that you act the part."

It was just another duty, and it was not as if Niklaus was unused to this, and it meant people were even less likely to bother him when they knew he could shoot them full of metal. While part of him was annoyed he had ended up outing himself, at least he had kept it secret for longer than Magnus had by an order of magnitude, it was the little things you had to look out for.

The next few years passed peacefully enough, although there was greater and greater pressure on Niklaus to arrange Ulrich’s Snapping. He didn’t want to, he knew all too well the terrible things that happened when one was an Allomancer, and it was more than likely that Ulrich would be one. With a Coinshot for a father and a Mistborn for a grandfather, Allomancy was strong in his blood. Usually that would be a commendable thing, but not when you were trying to preserve your son’s innocence for as long as you could. Eventually though, Ellsworth simply ordered him to have Ulrich Snapped. No if’s, but’s, or maybe’s. A direct order, and Niklaus, as was his nature, obeyed.

He was there when it happened, he promised Ulrich as much. He’d told him too many times how harsh and terrible the beatings were for Ulrich to face the situation with a brave face. He tried, oh he tried the moment he saw Niklaus. But once the switch came down he was crying soon enough.

It was perhaps, the most powerless Niklaus had ever felt. Even when Desidera had died in front of him he hadn’t felt powerless so much as stunned, but watching his son be held down, beaten within an inch of his life? His son who had only know happiness and joy his entire life? No, it took everything he had to not pull them off Ulrich and kill the lot of them for making Ulrich cry like that. But as hard as that was to stand, what came next sent Niklaus’ world crashing in around him.

Ulrich Snapped.

But he did not Snap a Misting of some kind, oh no, that would almost be like fate didn’t have it in for Niklaus. No, Ulrich was Mistborn. He proved it by dragging himself free of his captors, crying something unintelligible, and Niklaus felt it, like a whip crack across his emotions as his son blindly Soothed everyone in the room, and Rioted them at the same time. Niklaus ran to Ulrich, heedless of the world around him, the boy looked up at him, wonder in his eyes.

“Father… I’m Mistborn!” He said excitedly, and he gripped Niklaus’ arm with an iron strength, it was starting to hurt, but Niklaus ignored it, “Father, aren’t you proud? I’m Mistborn!”

Those words were every fear Niklaus had been having since Ulrich had grown to Snapping age come to light. His son, his innocent, carefree son, was going to be a weapon for the House, for the rest of his life. Niklaus could do everything in his power to preserve his innocence, but eventually the son he knew and loved was going to die and be replaced with a Mistborn.

“Yes Ulrich.” He whispered, “I’m proud, so proud of you.” He forced a smile and Ulrich’s hold on him loosened.

“Then why are you…” Ulrich never finished the sentence, eyes rolling up in his head as he fell unconscious, pewter spent.

The next weeks were… trying, to say the least. Ulrich was recovering and the entirety of Venture seemed intent on reminding Niklaus through subtle hints and wordless glances that he’d kept a Mistborn from Snapping. For three years. Three years that Ulrich was now going to have to make up for with a more rigorous training regimen, although Niklaus still maintained some control, not much, but some, over how his son was taught. Having seen Phyra’s erratic behavior already Niklaus made it clear that there would be no killing until his son was older. There was no need for him to kill before he even knew how, after all.

Just like with the Snapping, Niklaus was prepared to make this last as long as humanly possible.

He taught Ulrich steel, and it was perhaps the one time he could feel happy about the entire thing. Yes, he was teaching his son how to kill, how to murder, but he was also teaching him about the greatest freedom anyone could ever know.

Flight.

He had flown Ulrich around before he had Snapped, quite a lot in fact, but to have his son beside him as they raced through the night air, for the moment free of any burdens except keeping themselves from being smears on the cobblestone, that was something he cherished. Ulrich seemed to as well, always asking to keep practicing once their lessons were over, leaping around the city in the dead of night, mistcloak flapping around his slim shoulders.

Niklaus let him, gladly, and it was impressive how quickly Ulrich progressed. Indeed he seemed to take to the combat quite well, which made sense, he’d never been anything less than enthusiastic about their dueling lessons, and while it annoyed Niklaus that it was now Magnus teaching Ulrich melee fighting… at least he was learning from the best, even if he was only the best because of pewter.

Yes, while Ulrich seemed to do well with the physical metals, the internal ones he did not seem to grasp as well. He was not an adept manipulator, and his touch on people’s emotions was clumsy at best. Niklaus could always tell the few times Ulrich tried to manipulate him with Allomancy. It was alien and awkward and obviously fake. Whenever it happened he merely wrapped Ulrich lightly on the forehead and told him to stop, and eventually his son gave up altogether.

His command of copper and bronze was similarly clumsy. He could change the shape of his coppercloud, it was only a matter of changing the burn rate after all, but he never was able to figure out instinctively how big or small that made his coppercloud and he floundered in having the same spatial awareness of a Smoker. As for bronze, as Ulrich complained, the pulses all sounded the same. Always. He could at least differentiate the different sources, but to name the metal? To know the metal reserves of his opponent? To sense which emotions were being manipulated? Those were all beyond him.

Still, he was meant to be an assassin, so these handicaps were not life threatening, or so Niklaus hoped. Pewter, tin, steel, iron, those were where Ulrich excelled, which made Niklaus happy because those were the things that would keep him safe.

During this time, few challenged Niklaus on his policy of not having Ulrich kill. Phyra’s instability was growing, and after she actually killed one of her instructors, a valuable member of the House and skilled Misting, Niklaus became even more firm in his refusal to let Ulrich kill. He agreed that it would have to happen eventually, but did they really want to risk Ulrich turning out like her? No, no they did not.

But still, Phyra served her purpose, while she did scare the everliving shit out of Niklaus, and made him fear for Ulrich’s safety and sanity even more, she also was given Mistborn duties in his son’s stead. She had been training since she was little more than a toddler after all, although obviously a little mad she was the better choice than a boy who had trained less than a handful of years.

Yes, Phyra served a purpose, which was why she was even allowed to act as she did. She was House Venture’s senior Mistborn, with Willem in Urteau, and Niklaus was happy to keep using her as an excuse to keep Ulrich’s hands free of blood.

Then of course the homicidal bitch went insane and went on a bloody rampage, causing all sorts of wanton destruction and murder, and really, they should have seen it coming. Niklaus did not know what Ellsworth had been thinking, not bringing her to heel before she did this, but an Elariel heir was dead and Ulrich was now the only Venture Mistborn in Luthadel. Or so Niklaus thought, until he learned Willem had returned the night of Phyra’s rampage, and with another Mistborn no doubt soon to join Venture’s ranks Niklaus is not going to be able to intercede any longer.

UIrich will take a life.

And the only question in Niklaus’ mind is: can his ever happy son survive such a thing?

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Niklaus knew he was needed on the walls but he didn't really give a damn.

Phyra had gone rogue, he had thought this might happen. The woman was allowed too much freedom -- she'd probably slept with skaa for Lord Ruler's sake -- and why? Because she was Mistborn? It was idiocy pure and simple. Why hadn't Ellsworth foreseen this and done something to stop it? That was his damned job, but no matter.

Niklaus would die before his son paid the price for others idiocy.

Because they would send Ulrich after her, wouldn't they? Like a lamb to slaughter they'd send his son to clean up their own f***ing mess. The boy was only fifteen, he'd been training for only a handful of years. He wasn't ready -- would he ever be ready? -- especially not to face Phyra. The woman may be insane but she was still skilled, his son, his son, was not ready to fight her, but what other choice did Ellsworth have? Willem was in Urteau, there were no other Venture Mistborn... why was Willem in Urteau? What possible reason could they have for having their most experienced Mistborn in another city? They needed him here, now, they needed someone, anyone, besides Ulrich to do this.

But what was he to do, betray his House and flee with his son when they only wanted him to do his duty? That would end well. But what to do, what if Ulrich was already gone? He hadn't even gotten to say good-bye...

It was with this thought in mind he burst into his son's room and saw Ulrich standing by the window in his mistcloak, looking out into the mists. The sight of this brought Niklaus to a sudden and complete stop even as the door he'd slammed open rebounded off the wall with an almighty crash.

"Lord Ruler!" His son cried, spinning around to face him, "Who- Father, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be on the wall?"

For several seconds Niklaus said nothing, trying to process the fact that Ulrich was still here and not among the mists, he'd been expecting an empty room, not this. But then his eyes narrowed.

"How do you know about that?" He asked, "You should have been in bed, asleep. You don't have training tonight."

Ulrich laughed nervously and suddenly became very interested in the ceiling, "Oh you know Father, I couldn't sleep I was just going for a walk to stretch my legs and I overheard-"

"Eavesdropped, with tin no doubt," Niklaus interjected, "What have I told you about using your powers frivolously, Ulrich?"

"It wasn't frivolous!" His son said, squaring his thin shoulders, "I learned important information, father!"

"So you admit it, then." Niklaus said, eyes even narrower and Ulrich groaned in defeat.

"Yes, so maybe I used some tin and listened in on a conversation I shouldn'tve, but does it really matter? Phyra's gone rogue father, you know what that means, I finally get to kick her ass."

"Language."

"Butt, whatever, the point is I finally get to be a proper Mistborn. This is the best father, my first mission will be so amazing!"

It's suicide you idiot boy, Niklaus swallowed the bitter words down, if his son was to survive he had to have some hope, "This isn't a sparring match, Ulrich. She's gone rogue, any fight with her is to the death."

"I know!" Ulrich said, drawing his daggers, "But Cousin Phyra doesn't think much of me, so when I show her how good I really am she won't stand a chance!" He made a few feinting thrusts with his daggers, eviscerating some invisible foe, then he stopped and seemed to think, finally, he looked up at Niklaus, one eyebrow quirked, "But really father, shouldn't you be on the walls?"

"I-" wanted to see if you were still here, Niklaus left the rest of the sentence unsaid. It was not something he could admit. "I came to wake you." He said instead, and grit his teeth at his son's easy smile.

"And you found me already awake and ready and waiting. Don't worry father, I can do this, I promise," Lord Ruler how had he raised someone so oblivious? He was so- so... eager to die.

No, he was eager to serve his house. He was eager to make his father proud. He was eager to push himself to his limits. He was not eager to throw his life away. Niklaus had instilled in him complete trust in Ellsworth's judgement, he would never think Ellsworth would throw his life away, if only...

"Lord Niklaus?" Damnit it was a guard, "You're needed on the walls, sir." How had they found him? Because you wouldn't have gone anywhere else. The man didn't deserve the glare Niklaus turned on him, but Niklaus couldn't really bring himself to care.

"Yes. I know." His voice was clipped, and he turned back to Ulrich, just a few more moments, that's all he needed.

"I was told to escort you, sir." The man said, and the trepidation in his voice was clear.

"Go with him, Father, I'll be fine! No doubt Uncle is sending someone down with my orders already." Ulrich said, smiling still, and Niklaus could not bring himself to take that away from him. He did not want his son's last hours to be filled with fear anyway. Better that he was like this, better that he didn't know what was going to happen. Yes this was... better.

And maybe Ellsworth won't send him, a tiny, ridiculously hopeful part of Niklaus thought, Maybe he'll realize that losing two Mistborn is folly and leave Ulrich out of this madness.

"Until those orders arrive, I expect you to stay here, in your room, and wait." Niklaus told him, he would not put it past his son to leave without orders and atium.

"But Father-"

Niklaus just looked at him, he let only a fraction of the worry and anger and helplessness he was feeling into his gaze, but it was enough to sober even the ever happy Ulrich and the boy sighed and said, "I understand. I'll see you soon Father."

Niklaus nodded to his son, and somehow managed to keep his voice from breaking, "I'll see you soon, Ulrich." Then he turned and followed the guard to his post, fully expecting to never see his son again.


#2 KChan

562
Atium Chandelier

Posted 15 May 2014 - 08:35 PM

Great character! You're still not allowed to make him any longer though. :P

Approved! One more vote to go.

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#3 Moru

231
Tineye

Posted 17 May 2014 - 03:58 AM

I have said this several times, but I still love that one-sided rivalry.

Approved!

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