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Mistborn: The Inquisition


Within and Without

Aaron Elariel's Photo Aaron Elariel 03 Jan 2014

Aaron was surprised by Marisha's response. He had expected her to laugh at him, or turn him away, or even, unlikely as it was, forgive him. He'd never even suspected she'd try to thank him though.

"I... I don't know what to say, Marisha. Normally I'd say you’re welcome but... I don't deserve your thanks. I've done nothing but offend you and put you in danger to serve my own selfish needs. I'm not trying to be some charming suitor, winning you over with compliments. I'm trying to apologize. If anything, it's me who should be thanking you, even if it's just for being yourself, or for teaching me there's actually something to math, or for showing me things about myself that I would have never even fathomed at on my own." Aaron stepped back, and bowed formally, lower even than he would for a high prelan. "Thank-you, Lady Marisha Nathar. Thank-you."

Marisha Nathar's Photo Marisha Nathar 22 Dec 2014

Marisha was a cautious woman. She was sure that was what had kept her alive until now, the only thing that had gotten herself and Nerid away free. She did not make any moves without a great deal of forethought. But she had done exactly that, disregarding her better judgement. She would be hurt again - perhaps it wouldn't hurt as much since she knew it was coming? Perhaps that would offer some defense? It was a terrible idea to do this. She could have been killed after the ball; Phyra Venture's rampage afterwards was no secret. This wasn't a simple or a safe thing to do.

But his words momentarily made her feel special, as if she mattered. As long as she remembered that wasn't true, it would keep her safe. As long as she didn't really believe anything he said... he had a lot to say, the words spilling out almost as if he was as anxious as she was, things she never could have believed in a thousand years. How could he sound so sincere? She couldn't look away from his eyes.

She hesitated for a few beats and then answered tentatively, "If you would like to... should mathematics interest you, I would be happy to study with you..."

Aaron Elariel's Photo Aaron Elariel 26 Dec 2014

And so, once again, everything came back to math. Aaron couldn't help but chuckle a little, letting out a little bit of laughter despite the sombre situation. Quickly realizing how that laughter might be interpreted in the given circumstances, Aaron interjected before Marisha could assume he was making fun of her in some way. "I'm sorry, I wasn't laughing at you, I promise. If anything, I was laughing at myself, or at our situation. I mean, it's almost as if things have come full circle, haven't they? Here I am, in way over my head as per usual, faced with the prospect of discussing mathematics, which you will remember I'm completely useless at." Despite himself, Aaron laughed a little again, glad to feel the mood lighten slightly.

"If I'm honest with myself, I suppose it will likely be important to improve myself in that area. After all, how will I calculate my new-found importance without a strong grounding in mathematics?" Great, now he had managed to make something Marisha was interested in look like a joke. That would go over well. "If I haven't invalidated your offer with my obvious idiocy, might I take you up on it? I would be delighted to learn from you. If you wanted, we could even make the position official. My uncle has taken a larger interest in my education since my cousin's death, so I'm sure he would be glad to see I've taken the initiative to improve my grasp of mathematics, and compensate you for your pains."

Wait, now am I suggesting I want to buy her friendship? "That's only one option, of course. I mean, I'd completely understand if you would want to keep thing casual. After all, you probably have your own house business to be about here in Luthadel, and don't have the time to professionally tutor someone. Besides, doing so would probably be below your station. I wasn't trying to imply that...not that it matters... or if you really would like to..." Aaron sighed as he forced himself to stop talking, and took a deep breath before continuing.

"I'm sorry, Marisha. I don't know what's come over me. Might I have your permission to stop digging this hole I'm in, and give you a chance to pull me up out of it?"

Marisha Nathar's Photo Marisha Nathar 20 Jul 2017

Mathematics was the only subject on which Marisha could hold forth with confidence - where she knew her ground. It was a safe haven. And it could not be argued that there was anything wrong with talking about mathematics with someone - could it? Aaron was laughing lightheartedly, though, as he joked and Marisha gave a hesitant smile until he mentioned his newfound importance and she remembered she was speaking to the heir of House Elariel. Again she berated herself - what are you doing? Her mind spun wildly, trying to formulate a safe course of action on ground that was inherently unstable.

He somehow seemed as uncertain as she was, as if his statement that he was in way over his head was true. But why would he be uncertain? Aaron Elariel knew what he was doing. He was one of the Luthadel elite, he was the heir to a Great House. He could dance circles around Marisha any day. Like his sister, he was a master of the game.

"I would..." she said hesitantly, "It was not a... quid pro quo, my Lord. Mathematics is something that I love, and I would... be glad to share it with someone else. It would be a pure pleasure and I would ask nothing in return. I don't... work professionally... I am self-taught, from books, and I should not charge for sharing what understanding I have. I have never tried to teach anyone else before." Marisha bit down on her lip. "I may do a terrible job as an instructor, but if I can show you the art in the subject, then I will consider myself to have succeeded. Yes, it can be a tool, used to predict the world around us - physics, economics, or your codes - but fundamentally, mathematics is pure truth, my Lord... it is a precise beauty that cannot be explained but only discovered. Everything else in this world is so very... unclear, and... you can never be sure of anything. The elegance of an equation is different."

Her eyes had lit up despite her nervousness and her hands clasped together in front of her. "I would... have to say that it is more akin to poetry or music than anything else. What they are to emotion, mathematics is to reason and thought. It is the highest expression of the mind."

Aaron Elariel's Photo Aaron Elariel 20 Jul 2017

Aaron frowned slightly as Marisha responded to his sorry attempt at making her feel comfortable. The fact that he and Daerra together had struck such a blow to the confidence of someone as competent as Marisha was disturbing to say the least. He began to wonder how many others had he, unintentionally or at Daerra's direction, hurt in this way? Realizing his expression might be misconstrued as disapproval, Aaron tried his best to save the thought for a later time, and focus on what Marisha was saying.

Only to realize that he barely understood any of it.

Math was art? What did poetry and music have to do with numbers? Lord Ruler how do I get myself into these situations? Aaron's thoughts stilled again as he met Marisha's eyes, which were alive with light and enthusiasm. The hesitance and uncertainty of earlier seemed to fade away, and the real Marisha began to emerge.

Aaron decided he had to keep this discussion about math going at all costs.

"That sounds amazing," In that I'll be amazed if I ever understand it. "But how do numbers and equations create art or predict the future? Aren't they just for keeping track of boxings or tallying scores in Shelldry?"

Marisha Nathar's Photo Marisha Nathar 21 Jul 2017

"Oh no, not at all," Marisha said. Her eyes widened at this unfortunate misconception. "The world operates on mathematical principles. If I throw a stone in the air, I can calculate where and when it will land using a simple kinematics equation - of course air resistance makes things more complicated, but still, it can be predicted. I can use mathematics to predict the load of force on a building and design a structure that can hold up. There's a library in Fellise that is sinking into the ground a few inches every year because the engineers forgot to calculate the weight of the books when they built the foundations. And there are very complicated forms of mathematics that can predict the odds in games of chance and help you maximize your hopes of winning."

She hesitated, then reached for the neck of her jacket, which was buttoned high against the ash, catching hold of the silver chain there and drawing out the pendant at the end. She fumbled with the clasp, and held it out to Aaron in the palm of her hand. It was a stellated dodecahedron made of a fine silver framework. "This is a stellation of one of the perfect polyhedra - the dodecahedron. Each side is a pentagram; the edges are extended outward to create this star."

Aaron Elariel's Photo Aaron Elariel 21 Jul 2017

Aaron tried his best to resist the urge to zone out as soon as Marisha started using words he didn't understand. Kinematics? He needed to show her he valued her company; he needed to focus and to really listen for once. Why had he been born with ash for brains? Why was it that he could understand exactly how to correct his path in light of wind resistance and elevation when he was flying through the air instinctively, and yet not grasp the basics of...

Aaron almost interrupted Marisha as soon as the realization hit him, but he held back, and tried to listen as his thoughts raced back and forth, trying to figure out how he could show he understood for once, without giving away his secret.

Marisha's bauble provided a welcome distraction, something easy to focus on. Or rather, it was difficult enough to focus on it that it kept Aaron's attention. Every time he tried to perceive it's whole, the pendant would shift slightly and change before his eyes, forcing him to study individual facets one at a time.

"A stella-poly-what did you say?" Aaron took the necklace from Marisha, and held it up to the light. "It's pretty, but what does that have to do with equations?

Marisha Nathar's Photo Marisha Nathar 21 Jul 2017

"A stellated dodecahedron - artwork created from a geometric concept," she explained. "I had it made by a siilversmith in Fellise. There are five perfect polyhedrons, or geometric shapes, where each face, edge, and corner is exactly equal to every other one. The one everyone knows is the cube, of course."

Aaron Elariel's Photo Aaron Elariel 21 Jul 2017

It took Aaron a moment to follow what Marisha was saying, but having the visual representation helped. "So, all of the sides of this are equal . . . and the silversmith who designed it used an equation to figure that out?" Aaron chewed on his lip, wishing he could coax the mathematical secrets out of the pendant by staring at it.

"Wait, I think I'm getting it, sorry for being so dense." Aaron felt a slight blush rising in his cheeks and did his best to ignore it in the hopes it would leave. "So, if I measure one of these little segments, then I'll know exactly how big all of the others are. The same goes for the space in between and so on. It's a comparison, kind of like when you judge distances by using visual references or cues, right?"

Marisha Nathar's Photo Marisha Nathar 21 Jul 2017

That was... close enough for now. The stellation of the dodecahedron made any attempt to explain the concept of a polyhedron more complicated. "Yes, that's approximately right. I can show you how to construct one of these, but that's for later. I just wanted you to see that you can create something beautiful from a mathematical concept."

Aaron Elariel's Photo Aaron Elariel 28 Jul 2017

"Makes sense to me!" Aaron said, smiling, happy that Marisha was wiling to treat him like a human being, rather than the Deepness itself.

"I'm have to admit, my appreciation of the concepts you are laying out is more in the form of awe than true understanding." Aaron's enjoyment of Marisha's company helped him to temporarily set aside his feelings of inadequacy, and his smile genuine and unblemished by his self-doubt. "Though I suppose, my education on the subject is somewhat lacking. How did you develop your adoration of artful arithmetic? You obviously love it, but someone must have helped to get you started, no?"

Marisha Nathar's Photo Marisha Nathar 29 Jul 2017

Marisha thought awe was the right place to start from with mathematics, instead of bored resignation. Maybe Aaron really did want to learn something... maybe he saw something of value or use at least in what Marisha knew. She was, at least, good at this - it was the one area in which she had any talent, outside of her Allomancy.

She hesitated, and her gaze dropped to the ground at his question. This was a more personal question that touched, if lightly against things she didn't want to talk about. "Books, my Lord," she said, flushing. "I am self-taught, I... my family has a rather old collection in their library that no one else was interested in, so no one cared if I read them, and I have followed the Proceedings of the Mathematical Society by the post."

Aaron Elariel's Photo Aaron Elariel 29 Jul 2017

Marisha looked away at his question, eyes falling to the ground. Her earlier enthusiasm for the subject of math seemed to lessen, though she still gave him an answer.

Of course she's hesitant to speak about her past, so soon after being hurt. Aaron had betrayed Marisha's trust, and he knew he would need to work to earn it back before she would start to trust him more easily with personal details. I will have to be very, very careful with this.

"That's incredible, Lady Marisha." Aaron tried his best not to sound too familiar. Despite her demure attitude, Aaron couldn't help but be a little awestruck by Marisha. While he had grown up surrounded by the most expensive tutors and one of the most impressive libraries in the Empire, Marisha had found her brilliance all on her own, piecing together what she could from the books her family happened to have around the manor.

"I can't imagine teaching myself something as complicated as mathematics, especially at the level you've demonstrated. The Lord Ruler knows I've had difficulty with even the most simple of concepts, no matter how many tutors or books my family throws at me."

Marisha Nathar's Photo Marisha Nathar 31 Jul 2017

To Marisha, being self-taught without any guidance meant that there had not been structure to her education, she most likely had gaps in her knowledge - possibly significant ones she did not even know about. Any real mathematician would surely have taken her measure as a dilettante and laughed. You are good for only one thing, Marisha. Remember that.

She sought for an answer, perhaps some way to dismiss or deny the charge - brush it away somehow like a cobweb settling uncomfortably onto her. She did not dare to look up in case he still had that expression in his eyes and she ended up staring again. Her mouth opened and closed a couple of times. "Oh, help," she said, not sure to whom she was appealing, and only realizing that it was out loud belatedly. Horrorstruck she scrambled for a correction. "I meant to say - I meant - I meant - I don't know, my Lord, I am not good at anything else, especially not talking." She should have gotten a conversation book and memorized it, so that she had a rote, bland answer for anything anyone could say. "My Lord, you are, you are so clearly a man of... of great intelligence in every respect, perhaps it is only that you have not yet... found that which inspires you to a passion for learning."

Aaron Elariel's Photo Aaron Elariel 25 Sep 2017

Aaron smiled at Marisha's momentary slip, but tried his best not to appear amused, lest she think he was mocking her. That was the last thing he wanted. Marisha needed to know he could listen, and take what she was saying seriously. She . . .

Great intelligence? Aaron laughed out loud, and felt some more of the tension he was holding melt away. "As I know you to be a woman of great perception, I'm not sure whether to assume you are joking, or if I am the joke you are making fun of." Aaron felt his cheeks push up as his smile widened. "Either way, you've made me laugh at myself, which I suppose is a success in either category." She wasn't meeting his eyes, which was a problem. How could he know if he was unintentionally insulting her or ruining things again if he could not see how she was feeling?

Be patient. He had to give Marisha time. He couldn't expect her to feel comfortable with him only because he enjoyed her company. The thought brought up an interesting question: what was Aaron's purpose here? Was his company benefiting Marisha in any way, or was he just being a self-serving fool once again? What did Marisha want from him, and what could he do to benefit her with his companionship?

You could start by responding to her directly, instead of changing the subject. "You pose an interesting question though; one I haven't considered. The truth is, it's not often I feel passionate about anything, really. I mean, I enjoy the usual things: dueling, dancing, and being in the company of friends, but I'm not sure if I've ever felt a passion for sport, revelry, or popularity. And I've certainly never felt anything but boredom whenever a tutor has opened their mouth, though that could be my own personal biases preventing me from giving them a chance." Aaron licked his lips, stilling his tongue for a moment. How could he expect himself to be aware of Marisha if he was doing all the talking? "You obviously have a passion for mathematics. Are they any other subjects you've found yourself drawn to?"

Marisha Nathar's Photo Marisha Nathar 26 Sep 2017

Marisha reclaimed the dodecahedron necklace where it hung from Aaron's fingers, closing her hand around it. She seemed to have made him smile, even laugh - but she had not meant it as a joke at all. She had been quite serious. Did he really find it ridiculous to suggest that he was intelligent? It was obvious that he was; his eyes were alive with intelligence. But he said he was not, he laughed at the very idea, and then he told her that he did not really often feel passionate about anything. That for the most part, he felt bland enjoyment and otherwise, boredom. "I was not joking," she murmured.

She wondered what it would be like, to have found nothing that kindled the mind. Marisha did not like that thought. It was the only thing she had in her life that gave her happiness, outside of her brother - and even her relationship with Nerid was tangled up in so many painful things that it was bittersweet. For some reason she wanted to know what might, if in the right situation, bring out something different in Aaron.

"I..." She hesitated, trying to think of a response to his question. It would not do to say physics because this was only applied mathematics. All of the other things she did were just... the mechanics of survival, and she had never thought very much about that. No one ever asked her these kinds of questions. Literally no one. Nerid didn't think to ask them and no one she had known had ever cared. It made it so hard to answer.

She wanted to give him an answer; she wished that there was something - music, art, dance, theater, something creative - that she could tell him about. She wished she was a violinist, or a singer, or something. The tessellation designs and the fractals did not count; they were mathematical, and they were not a kind of art that anyone would recognize. Marisha bit her lip and finally managed to say, "I... well, everything has its foundation in mathematics and so... but there is... I mean to say that... otherwise, I... I love to run, my Lord. It's not so easily done in the city... I understand it's not... safe, or appropriate for a woman to... but in the country it is open and you can run until you're so tired that everything is... quiet. In your head. And you are just there, in the mists... but I know that's not what you meant by... it's not a subject and it's not decent."
Edited by Borborygmus, 26 September 2017 - 01:18 AM.

Aaron Elariel's Photo Aaron Elariel 11 Oct 2017

Despite his efforts to set her at ease, Marisha remained hesitant. It took Aaron a moment to decipher her murmurs. Was she serious? The thought of a woman of Marisha's obvious genius thinking Aaron to have great intellect seemed laughable. And yet, isn't that what she had just stated? As he reflected, Aaron realized how foolish, and potentially insulting his earlier mirth might have been. Marisha wasn't the type of person to hold her intelligence over people or to make fun out of others weaknesses. So why had he gone and assumed that was what she was doing?

"I apologize for the broad question, " Aaron didn't know how to apologize for his earlier assumption, but hopefully an apology of any kind would help express his contrition. "I did not mean to steer to conversation towards indecency, or to put you on the spot. But really, I don't think you need to worry. Running might not be a common form of exercise, but our culture and gender roles can be unfairly limiting on a woman's options." Though the words weren't Aaron's own, they slipped out almost without his notice, ingrained within him from the many times he had been on the listening end of the argument. "I mean, some would see it as indecent for a woman of high birth to participate in most public sports, no matter the uniform, and most formal training regimens are designed with the male physique in mind. Running is a mostly private activity that one can perform on his, or her, own, without much training. I think it's a perfectly decent choice for a woman who wishes to improve her health. I mean, Daerra runs almost daily, so long as she can find the time. . ."

Aaron trailed off as his thoughts caught up to his mouth. He'd been parroting Daerra without even realizing it! How many of her opinions and arguments were hidden away, ingrained into his psyche? Had it been intentional? Could she have planned this from the beginning, deliberately implanting him with her ideas from an early age, and molding him into the creature she wanted him to be?

No! It can't be true. Daerra had changed. She hadn't always been the way she was now. Their childhood had never been idyllic, but their bond had been real, different from the many other relationships that Daerra moulded and manipulated. He had known the real Daerra.

But what if that was what everyone else thought too?

"I. . . ah. . . sorry. I just. . . um, lost my train of thought there." Aaron scrunched his eyes closed, trying to clear his head, and absently ran his fingers through his absent curls. "We were, talking about running, yes? Well I think that's great that you enjoy it. Yeah."

Marisha Nathar's Photo Marisha Nathar 11 Oct 2017

The cadence of Aaron's voice had changed distinctly, even as his choice of words shifted, and Marisha froze in place. It was like he had suddenly become another person. No, not merely another person - she recognized the voice. Daerra Elariel was coming out of his mouth, as if she was speaking through her brother. Marisha could barely process the words over the shift. She was already backed right up to the parapet wall; there was no way to shy back further. Her hand closed around the stellated necklace, the silver points digging into her palm and her fingers, and came up across her chest like a barrier.

It was not long before the shift reversed. A part of Marisha's mind tried to process what Aaron had been actually saying, but this was difficult. She was on the very edge of a spiral into panic. He had said that there was nothing indecent in women running, that the restrictions placed on women in general were not fair. She forced herself to try to consciously work this through. She had promised herself that she would just play into this. That by expecting the worst she would be ready, it would not hurt so much when it struck, and a simple flash of Aaron's true colors drove her into terror.

Because she wasn't capable of simply pretending. She could tell herself that she was, but Marisha was a stupid woman; she thought back on their conversation and saw that lit up in full color - her own reflections about what he said of himself, caring whether or not Aaron thought he was stupid and that he had something he could be passionate about. Marisha had decided to set up a wall to protect herself, and she couldn't keep it properly in place. She didn't even know why that was happening.

Marisha realized there was a slow drip of blood down her wrist and almost mechanically she opened her hand. The delicate silver of the dodecahedron necklace was crumpled out of recognition, and her fingers and palm had been cut.

The obvious answer struck her. Emotional Allomancy. He was Soothing her - or Rioting her. Or both at the same time. She hadn't picked up on the touch of bronze or zinc - both were all too familiar to her - but it made sense, didn't it? No. It didn't. He could have shut down this panic and kept her open to manipulation. Nothing made sense.
Edited by Borborygmus, 11 October 2017 - 01:41 PM.

Aaron Elariel's Photo Aaron Elariel 17 Jan 2018

"Marisha? . . . " Aaron trailed off as his eyes drifted down to Marisha's slowly opening hand. Was that blood? What have I done now? Frowning, Aaron tried to meet Marisha's eyes. Had he really caused her to seize up like that, making her cower like a recently bludgeoned skaa?

The look in her eyes, when he finally met them, stopped him from asking what was wrong. It was the same look she'd had that night on the Casuana grounds: pure terror and revulsion. She hates me. . . All at once, his feelings of shame and defeat from the night of the ball came crashing back to him. Who did he think he was, barging into Marisha's life like some arrogant, entitled, fop? Of course I thought I could fix things with a smile and wink, because an arrogant, entitled fop is exactly what I am! Had he not hurt her enough? What broken piece of him kept driving him back to her to open her wounds anew before they had a chance to heal?

"I . . . I'm sorry. I should go." Aaron paused for a moment, desperate to say something, anything, to make things better. He couldn't leave things like this, could he?

"Your tongue might be lined with Zinc, Aaron, but that doesn't mean you can just shape the world to your will. Zinc can only accomplish so much. Some situations require Pewter." Daerra's voice, so clearly imprinted in his memories, continued to haunt him. He'd always wondered about the comment--it was difficult to think of himself as charming after watching the way Daerra could effortlessly maneuver people to do as she wished--but he had to admit he was used to being, well, liked. Having people upset with him was always more trying than he'd readily admit, and part of the reason he often found it simpler to affect the appearance of amused indifference.

"Goodbye, I guess. Tell Lord Nerid I wish him well, and best of luck to both of you. Ummm . . . yeah, so . . . I'll be on my way." Aaron lifted his eyes from his shoes once more, hoping to catch even a glimmer of warmth with Marisha's posture or gaze.

He found nothing, and turned to leave.