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Mistborn: The Inquisition


Songs of Uncertainty

Celia Elariel's Photo Celia Elariel 02 Oct 2016

The cascading notes of Marveille's Seventh Concerto filled the empty sitting room. It was one of Celia's favorite pieces, and one of the few she had memorized for piano. But while it's familiar warmth brought reassurance and comfort, tonight the notes felt hollow.

Perhaps it was because her heart wasn't actually in playing, and that her mind was everywhere but the keys in front of her. She had actually meant to retire early tonight, after the awkward dinner with her cousins, but upon returning to her rooms she had realized there was no way she could sleep right now. So she'd changed out of her formal dinner gown into something more comfortable, found the nearest sitting room with a piano, and sat down to play. Usually, when she couldn't sleep, a few piecesí worth of practice was enough to soothe her restlessness and help her relax. But tonight wasn't a usual night, and her anxiety wasn't the usual kind either.

Vivian was home. She was here, in the keep, alive. Just like Celia had always known she'd be. What she hadn't expected was what kind of homecoming this would be.

Yes, Vivian was home. But she was under guard, like some kind of criminal, barely allowed to so much as see her family, let alone speak to them. Her physical condition had been assessed by a doctor, but had anyone bothered to check her mental or emotional state? Or had they sent Lord Andrew to evaluate her likelihood of snapping and killing them all?

Meanwhile, Celia had her own frustrations to deal with. Not only had Daerra spent all dinner needling her even more than usual, but everyone in the keep was back to treating her like a small child. She had worked so hard to stand on her own two feet, and now as soon as something happened, she was back to being coddled? Ridiculous!

A discordant clang sounded angrily from the piano, snapping Celia back to reality. How worked up had she been, to go from playing one of her favorites to, well, this? The piano clanged again as she rested her elbows on the keys and buried her face in her hands. She tried to soothe herself with deep, measured breath, but it only did so much. She was too distracted by everything that had happened the last few days, and too off-balance to rein herself back in.

Maybe she should just go back to bed.

Aaron Elariel's Photo Aaron Elariel 16 Nov 2016

Unable to sleep, Aaron wandered aimlessly through the keep. After his escape the night before, he doubted that Viridian and Winston would give him a second opportunity to find comfort in the mists.

To keep his mind busy, he started burning iron as he walked, and began to practice by pulling gently on the light fixtures, door handles, and ornaments that adorned the wall. While bracing himself with a few anchors, he pulled just lightly enough to make his target quiver slightly before extinguishing his metal. As he got into a rhythm, he tried to speed things up, pulling on both anchors and his target the moment he starting burning iron.

Burn. Brace. Pull. Stop. Burn. Brace. Pull. Stop. Burn. Brace. Pull. Stop. Burn. Brace Pull...

"There's a ghost haunting Keep Elariel." Aaron stopped in his tracks, as the sound of a particularly loose door handle sparked a memory.

"Liar! There's no such things as ghosts!" Mikhail, just weeks away from his tenth birthday, spared a concerned glance for his little sister, whose eyes were wide like saucers. The little skaa girl who Daerra referred to as Claudia's shadow, gave her mistress's hand a concerned pat. Daerra had wanted Claudia to leave the thing behind, but their young cousin had insisted.

Daerra only grinned and brought the bottle of wine Aaron had stolen from the kitchens to her lips for another swig. The only light in the empty ballroom came from a few candles the children had managed to scrounge together. The stained glass windows in the ceiling were being repaired, and scaffolding and equipment loomed around them like skeletal mistwraiths.

Daerra wiped her lips delicately on a napkin and handed the bottle to Aaron. He was reasonably certain his sister didn't actually like the taste of wine, and she was just putting on a show to impress the others. For all he knew, she was probably letting the wine in her mouth fall back into the bottle after each swig to avoid swallowing the stuff. Aaron didn't much like the taste either, but felt it was his duty to drink as much as possible since he was the one who stole the thing. The foul tasting liquid made his head feel kind of dizzy, so he gave it a shake and then smiled, handing the bottle on. "Your turn Viv."

Vivian eyed the bottle skeptically, and then took a swig of her own, grimacing as she brought the bottle away from her lips. "None for you Celia, you're too little." Vivian reached past her sister to hand the bottle to Mikhail.

The heir eyed the bottle in Vivian's hand with a surprising amount of skepticism for a nine year old.

"We shouldn't be doing this. What if Odairn catches us? Father wouldn't want us drinking."

Daerra rolled her eyes. "Please, Mikhail. Uncle won't be around forever, you know. Eventually you are going to have to start making your own decisions."

"But it's supposed to be bad for children..."

Daerra snorted, "That's just a lie they tell us so we won't have too much. Aaron and I drink small amounts of alcohol all the time with our metals when we practice allomancy." As the only ones above the magic age of ten, Daerra had been using her and Aaron's status as allomancers to their advantage with the other children ever since Aaron recovered from his beating. As their father had decided to snap them early at the age of seven, they'd had several extra years to practice their new skills and impress their younger relatives. "You're going to have your snapping ceremony soon, aren't you? If you do snap, don't you think your father would want you to be prepared to drink your metals down like a man?"

Mikhail frowned, and then slowly took the bottle, sniffing the wine inside. He took a deep breath, and then took a gulp, refusing to grimace as he tasted the bitter drink. "There, I've tried it, now can we go back to bed?"

"I supposed you could, but then you would miss hearing about the ghost." Daerra's grey eyes shone with eagerness, glimmering like stars in the candle light.

"Not this again."

"Come on Mik, don't be such a stiff." Vivian grabbed the bottle and took another sip, this time managing to retain more of her composure. "I'm not too scared to listen to a ghost story."

"I'm not scared, and don't call me that. My name is Mikhail."


"Stop fighting you two, are you going to listen or not?" Aaron was always impressed with how adult like his sister managed to sound, even when addressing Mikhail and Vivian who were only one year their juniors.

Vivian stuck her tongue out at Mikhail, who sighed like an old man. "Very well, get on with it."

"Thank-you for your permission, my Lord," Daerra gave a mock bow. "Now, have any of you heard of Lydia Elariel?"

"Of course we have, she was our great-grandmother, the wife of Lord Daeron Elariel." Aaron didn't pay nearly as much attention in their house history lessons as Daerra and Mikhail did, but he nodded anyways as if he knew all along and was just agreeing with his cousin.

"Well, both her and Lord Daeron lived to be positively ancient, but Lord Daeron died first. After his death, our grandfather decided that he would be buried in a special mausoleum that Daeron had constructed below the Keep for our family. However, he also decided that these tombs should only house the bodies of true members of the family, people with Elariel blood running through their veins."

Daerra lowered her voice, obviously enjoying being the centre of attention and having everyone around her hang on her every word. "Poor great-grandmother was quite old by then, and had gone a little batty, so she wasn't given a say in the matter. And so, when she died, she was buried in a separate crypt beneath the keep, reserved for lesser family members and their spouses. Her spirit, enraged at being separated from her beloved husband, has roamed these halls ever since. She seldom shows herself, but sometimes, if you are walking the halls at night, and you are very very quiet, you can hear her rattling door knobs or knocking on windows, trying in vain to locate the love of her life."

As she neared the end of her story, Daerra subtly nudged Aaron's leg with her foot, giving him the pre-arranged signal. Focused as he was on the ghost story, and still feeling groggy from the wine, Aaron almost missed his cue, but somehow managed to burn iron and pull gently on some of the tools and scaffolding around them, making them rattle at just the right moment.

Mikhail's face paled slightly, and Celia and Claudia's skaa screamed in unison. Claudia's big blue eyes grew moist and filled with tears and Vivian burst out laughing.

Daerra smiled.

It was funny, how after all that time, a simple sound could bring the image of ten-year-old Daerra's smug grin back to him so clearly. She had been truly happy in the moment, genuinely enjoying getting a reaction out of their cousins. It wasn't often that all of them had spent time together like that, but somehow Daerra had made it happen, orchestrating the whole thing so that Aaron could use his new powers to give the other children a good fright. Better yet, then they had been a true team, co-conspirators in a grand plan to take on the world.

As if on cue, piano music began to echo through the hall. Speak of the Deepness... Only, the music seemed wrong, somehow. Aaron didn't know much about music, but he had heard Daerra enough times to recognize her distinct touch on the keys. Was she purposefully playing differently to lure him in? Perhaps he was imagining things, and she was playing normally. Desiring to avoid a confrontation, Aaron began to turn to walk away from the music, when the sound of someone slamming down on the keys made him jump.

Before he knew what he was doing, Aaron was down the hall and through the door of one of the piano rooms.

"What... Celia?" Instead of Daerra, Aaron found his cousin, Celia, with her head face down on the keys. "What's going on?"

Celia Elariel's Photo Celia Elariel 18 Nov 2016

"What... Celia?"

Celia jumped, causing the piano to clang once more in protest, as she spun around on the bench to face whoever was addressing her. It was her cousin Aaron, and he looked concerned. What was he even doing up?

"What's going on?"

Celia sighed, turning away from the piano. "I was trying to play myself to sleep," she explained. "Usually, if I'm feeling anxious or upset, the music will soothe me enough that I can relax and get some rest. But tonight, everything jumbled on top of itself and, well," she forced her hand down on the keys, making another angry, out-of-tune clang, "it felt like that. And the next thing I knew, my hands were doing it too." She paused, regarding him now with her own expression of concern.

"Are you alright? It's late."

Aaron Elariel's Photo Aaron Elariel 10 Dec 2016

Aaron nodded as Celia's explanation helped everything click into place. Prepared to bid her goodbye and be on his way, Aaron was about to turn when Celia continued.

"Are you alright? It's late?"

"I'm generally a bit of a night-crawler. After a monotonously busy day, it feels nice just to be, you know?" Aaron fell silent, mulling over what Celia had said. "Daerra always said music helped her to relax as well, but I've never gotten how that works. For me to unwind, I require activities that involve a little more physical exertion."

Celia Elariel's Photo Celia Elariel 10 Dec 2016

Celia nodded. "That makes sense for you, I think. You're used to being more active, and it's well known that physical activity can improve one's emotional state. Of course, Daerra and I don't have the luxury of easy access to training like you do, so we're left to find more ladylike methods."

She put her fingers to the keys again, playing one note at a time until they formed a chord.

"Music isn't just pretty sounds like a lot of people think it is," she explained. "It has feeling, emotion, of its own. Some people even say it has a soul. It's a reflection of not only how the composer was feeling when it was written, but how the performer is feeling while playing it." Another chord.

"You can celebrate personal joys," she played a few measures of one of her favorite bright and happy pieces, "or express grief and mourning." The music shifted to a requiem, sad and mournful, and then she stopped. "It's a rather expressive way to work through and process one's emotions without needing words. I found myself needing that release tonight, so here I am."

Aaron Elariel's Photo Aaron Elariel 25 Mar 2017

Celia's skillful shifting between cheer and melancholy reminded Aaron of that moment only days ago when he had walked in on Daerra playing a similarly bright melody to mask her true feelings. Had that really been only days ago? How had so much changed so quickly?

"That makes sense I suppose, though it seems like a lot of work." Lord Ruler,why couldn't he get Daerra out of his head? Had she foreseen their falling out as a possibility, and intentionally planted seeds that would remind him of the their bond wherever she could? How deep did her manipulation and control over him go, and how long had she been enveloping him in her web?

Would she ever let him escape?

"I mean, it must take a lot of skill, you know, to evoke the proper emotion when you are playing. An angry man with no skill can work out his aggression by striking a rock with a stick just as well as a master duelist, but without the talent to bring the piece to life, it seems like the struggle to play music beyond your abilities would only add to your frustration."

Aaron licked his lips. He needed to keep this conversation going somehow--anything to put off the tossing and turning that awaited him in his chambers. "So what mistwraiths are causing you so much trouble that they need release? If you don't mind me asking of course." Aaron laughed, trying to dispel some of the discomfort he felt. "I really don't mean to pry, but generally these bouts of pent up emotion have a source, don't they?"

Celia Elariel's Photo Celia Elariel 26 Mar 2017

Celia nodded. "Of course they do." What had Aaron meant by the struggle to play music beyond your abilities? Did he think her playing poor, or the music too complicated? No, probably not. Had those words come from Daerra, she wouldn't have had any doubts about their true intent, but Aaron didn't speak in veiled barbs like that. More likely, he was trying to sympathize with her frustration and happened to choose words that were less than ideal.

But that didn't mean she hadn't noticed, or that the unintended implication was that far off the mark. Piano was her secondary instrument, and she practiced it far less than she practiced the cello. Perhaps her technique was inferior, whether he thought it so or not. Perhaps she could shut herself in the music room with a piano for the next week, burying herself in practice until this whole troublesome business blew over.

Of course, she wouldn't be allowed to actually do that, no matter how badly she wanted to. So instead, she played a few bars of another piece - a playful and innocent tune, simple and catchy. Lesmille's Children's March.

"Ever since that night, everyone in this keep has been treating me differently. Like I'm somehow a completely different person with different capabilities and different feelings, for all I had nothing to do with anything that happened. They're doing it to you too, aren't they? In different ways, of course. Ways that are arguably worse than what they're doing to me, but it's still infuriating."