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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.

Read the full prologue!

Topics on the forum will contain spoilers for the Mistborn Trilogy









Mistborn Series © Brandon Sanderson
Allomantic Table, Symbols, and Cartography by Isaac Stewart
Luthadel Images: mking2008
Other Graphics: KChan at 17th Shard
Final Empire, Metallic Arts, and Style Guides by Chaos at 17th Shard
All original characters, places, and documentation are property of their creators. Do not reproduce or republish without permission.

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Mora

Member Since 04 Jul 2015
Offline Last Active Today, 02:49 AM
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Wants & Wares

28 February 2018 - 02:28 AM

“Caps! Wool caps! Black an’ grey an’ brown! Not the least bit itchy! Caps!”

The proprietor of the hat stall held up a black cap in one hand, then bowed his head and removed a grey one from his head with the other, revealing a brown one underneath. Kess didn’t stop or even slow for his choreographed routine. Her own grey cap was in fine working order, currently atop her head, with most of her brown strands tucked underneath, save for the locks draped over her right eye.

“Brooms! Getchyer brooms! Keep th’ash off your doorstep!”

The old man hawking his devices swept some ash across the aisle of the outdoor market, right in her path, prompting Kess to adjust her trajectory to avoid a collision. The petite skaa glared as she passed.

“Shoe shine! Cheap’n’fast!”

Of course the shoe shiners were just beyond the brooms, as you’d likely walk through a low ash cloud given the near-constant demonstrations. But she had no mind for that, either.

Kess walked with purpose through the bustling marketplace. At neither a sprint nor the lazy stroll of a noble on holiday, her gait was deliberate, even confident, the measured steps of a woman on a mission. Get to the market. Get the goods. Get back to HQ.

. . . With Nessa.

Make sure to bring back Nessa.

That last bit was the one that concerned her.

The new recruit had a habit of running off. This was the first time she’d been let out of the den since the last incident. The market run was a test of sorts, to see if Nessa could handle being out in public again, without going off on her own. Kess had gotten an inkling this going-off-on-her own ash, might have something to do with a boy.

She’d been that kind of stupid once.

She didn’t recommend it.

Kess had mostly been silent for the duration of their walk to the market, as was her way. But that didn’t mean she didn’t keep close watch of the teenager, and check in. She did so again, turning her head to look up the taller girl.

“Grab a bite! Bay wraps!”

Bingo. A vendor Kess was actually interested in. She’d been advised that food might help her in her quest to contain the young Thug, so she wanted to get some in Nessa’s hands as soon as possible. She looked to Nessa, catching her hazel eyes and nodding toward the wooden food cart.

“We’ll take two,” she told the proprietor, handing over the necessary coin, and getting the pair of wraps in return. She almost didn’t order one for herself but she didn’t want to make things any more awkward then they had to be. She resolved to eat fast, so she could have both hands free again. She walked a few paces from the stall, out of the way but so she could have a good view of the market activity around them. She passed a wrap over to her companion with a nod and took a big bite of her own.

Silence didn’t bother her, but she knew others weren’t as comfortable with it. Her conversation skills were such that quiet might be the better of the two options. With her mouth full, she had at least a few moments to try to string a few words together.

“Not bad,” she said after her first swallow of vegetables. It wasn’t the best she’d had but it beat the hell out of a lot of meals she’d scavenged over the years.

House Sorelle

16 January 2018 - 03:37 AM

HOUSE SORELLE
Major/High House

Player Leadership Information
Handle: Mora
OoC Account: Mora
Contact: PM or Discord

General Information
House Name: House Sorelle
Classification: High House
Socioeconomic Rating: 6
Colors: Ivory & sky blue
General Description: House Sorelle, a building house in the Eastern Dominance, is in turbulent times. Lord Jasper has mismanaged the family fortune, and the house is on the verge of ruin. Jasper's goal is to give Avril's hand to a wealthy suitor who would gift the family a substantial sum that would allow him to pay down the family's debts, not unlike selling off a prized cow.

Character Information
Head: Jasper Sorelle
Heir: Aric Sorelle
Player Members:
-Jasper Sorelle (b. 855)
-Avril Sorelle (b. 899)
NPC Members:
-Aric Sorelle (b. 906)
Miscellaneous:
-Heved, Terris steward (b. 837)
-Vela, skaa servant (b. 856)

Inquisition Notes

Home & Wealth
Current Location: Luthadel
Ancestral Home: Lynwood, Eastern Dominance
Financial Avenue: Building and construction; House Sorelle trains and employs architects and mastercraftsmen, and also has the natural resources of lumber and stone to fuel their trade

Diplomacy
-House Entrone – [Mostly positive] – Overall, the relationship between the two houses is a friendly one based on their long standing contract. However, the relationship is starting to show signs of wear as payments to Entrone have begun to trickle in past due.
-House D'Orsay– [Positive] House D'Orsays success expanding their presence throughout the Empire has sent work to House Sorelle. As D'Orsay works to expand the horse racing part of their business, Sorelle could benefit. The D'Orsays have a soft spot for Sorelle as their ancestral home was built by Sorelle hands.
-House Faarskar – [Neutral] House Faarskar has recently employed House Sorelle to build a manor in Fellise, but the arrangement was less about the merits of Sorelle craftsmanship and more about avoiding House Sureau.

Contracts
House Entrone: House Sorelle purchases cinderblocks and insulation from House Entrone's operations repurposing ash.
House D'Orsay: House Sorelle builds stables and other buildings for House D'Orsay, while the D'Orsays provide carts, draft horses, and drivers to haul stone and timber for House Sorelle.
House Faarskar: House Sorelle is actively working on building a manor house for House Faarskar. House Sorelle routinely enlists Faarskar's decorative metal and gemwork for building projects.

Governance & Customs

Jasper Sorelle is the official head of the house, but where generations of Sorelles have built the house from the ground up, brick by brick, Jasper has managed to bring it to its knees in less than a generation, through neglect, and destructive behavior.

His heir is his son, Aric, his second-born, as the line of succession favors male children and will only pass to daughters if there are no sons available to inherit within the main branch of the family. If the Lord is childless, the title would past to the closest living male relative.

History

The Sorelle family was granted lands in the Eastern Dominance by the Lord Ruler himself in times long past. The area the family settled came to be called Lynwood forest, after one of the earliest ladies of House Sorelle, Lynesse. Rich in timber and stone, it was a perfect place for the Sorelles to ply their building trade. The family, along with the other early settlers, and skaa rented from the Lord Ruler built the area up from wilderness into the vibrant community it is today, timber by timber and brick by brick. The Sorelle family is still one of the key drivers of the area's economy today, with its workforce of skilled architects, builders, masons, carpenters and craftsman, and skaa quarriers and loggers.

Lynwood Manor stands as the long-standing example of Sorelle design and craftsmanship, a hillside palace of sandstone and slate with round turrets reaching up like extended hands trying to grasp at the infinite sky. The impressive structure took over one hundred years to complete, while the Sorelle legacy took even longer to build, as the house ascended the ranks bit by bit over the centuries, to attain the rank of high house.

It took far less time for that legacy to begin crumbling.

Just over a decade ago, Lady Ashley Sorelle died in childbirth, her Soothing presence was gone from the world forever, and Lord Jasper Sorelle became a monster. He gave himself over to drinking, gambling, and whoring, draining the family purse while simultaneously barely lifting a finger to secure new contracts and maintain old ones. His daughter, Avril, with the help of their house steward, and few remaining skaa servants is trying her best to keep their legacy - and ancestral home - from falling apart, with her eye on the day when her brother will inherit the title of Lord Sorelle.

Manor Description

Lynwood manor is an old, majestic building, that had humble beginnings as a simple wooden structure back before records were kept. That was later replaced with a soaring architectural marvel of white sandstone, with tall, rounded towers reaching into the sky, shorter sections topped by high pitched roofs of dark slate roof tiles, crenelations, and romantic, conical peaks, each topped with the pale blue and ivory flag of House Sorelle. Built on a rocky rise, the manor dominates the surrounding landscape of brown and pale trees that provide lumber, along with the massive stone quarry where stones are cut for building. But the design elements don't stop with the exterior design, different areas of the structure boast a gallery of massive, stained glass windows, ornate mosaic tilework, and impressive ceilings - some fan-vaulted, timbered, cathedral-like, and others painted with frescos.

But the massive structure is not in its golden age. It has fallen on hard times, and though Avril and Heved work very hard to keep it in the best shape they can, their efforts are simply not enough. The exterior is partially kept up by a program Avril and Heved started, leveraging apprentice craftsman to do maintenance work on the building as part of their training.

The truth is easier to see on the inside, as the interior has been stripped of much of its former glory. Save for a few public rooms, the manor has very little furniture. The vast majority of statues, tapestries, fine china, decorative candlesticks and paintings have been sold off to pay bills, along with most of the books in the library. Most of the staff that is required to maintain the building has been dismissed, as funds are to tight to keep them on. What's left is a skeleton crew, which includes Avril herself, as no job is above her, despite being the lady of the house.

Sadly, this small band is unable to keep up with the volume of work the building requires, something is always in disrepair. This is made worse by the fact that Jasper contributes to the damage in his drunken rages.

Avril Sorelle

27 December 2017 - 08:40 PM

AVRIL SORELLE
Misting


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Name/Handle: Mora
Contact: PM via the board or Discord

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Name: Avril Sorelle
Type: Misting
Age: 19
Gender: Female
Place of Origin: Eastern Dominance
Occupation: Lady of House Sorelle
Relationship Status: Single, her father is actively seeking out a match

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Type of Powers: Misting
Metals Used:Pewter
Degree of Skill: Novice
Status: Partially known, as her father tries to use her allomantic status to attract suitors

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Light blue eyes rimmed in dark grey - approaching black - appear innocent as they behold the world, without so much as a hint of evidence at the things they've witnessed over the last nineteen years. Tall and skinny, she stands at 5'9", her pale form possesses slight curves that leave much to be desired among those who prefer voluptuous women. All in all, she appears a frail, easily broken thing.

Avril garners comparisons to her late mother, something that outwardly gives her father pride, and privately gives him grief. He makes sure to let her know where she falls short. oo skinny. Blond strands a dull wheat rather than a silken gold. A nose less delicate than it should be. Skin a touch too pale. Freckles here and there that make her appear common, like a skaa milkmaid rather than a descendant of a noble bloodline.

Avril has no illusions about her appearance. She knows she is no great beauty by Final Empire standards, but she doesn't place a lot of importance on it and doesn't try too hard, as she has more important matters on her mind. The old, hand-me-down dresses and gowns refitted to her smaller frame don't do much to improve her appearance; instead they provide more fodder for criticism, as they're years out of fashion.

Beneath the outdated frocks, Avril has small collection of scars, most of these are old and faded. The worst of these is across her back. Where her flesh was once smooth and white, raised scars crisscross where the lash cut her open. She's quite self-conscious about those markings and will never wear a dress or gown that shows her back.

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Avril's childhood was cut short when her mother died. The world was drained of any magic, her young mind eradicated of any whimsy, replaced with a startling sense of practicality usually seen in those far older than seven and a fierce protectiveness of her baby brother. Toys were sold away, and the little girl couldn't practice her hand at motherhood with dolls. She practiced with her brother instead, but not as part of some game, as a force to dry his tears and see him raised in the absence of the woman who brought them both into the world. As the staff dwindled, she became her own maid. She pushed herself into the management of Lynwood, pressing the steward to accept her help. She was more self-sufficient than had been expected, a trait borne from her situation.

She learned to take physical and verbal abuse. It was the norm in the Sorelle household. She didn't pity herself for it, and she wouldn't let Aric pity himself either - or her for that matter when she was hurt.

She knows sometimes being quiet is the smartest form of action, but that doesn't always keep her from answering her father. She's become used to the feel of his hands on her. Sometimes it is more worth it to say her piece. Other times it isn't. Sometimes it depends on where Arick is, as she knows it pains him to see her hurt.

She hates her father. She can't imagine hating anyone more than him. She isn't afraid of him so much as she's afraid of the damage he could do to Aric. She's survived this long and she intends to continue to do so. Ultimately, Avril doesn't think she can be shocked by anything. She's seen firsthand that monsters can parade around in the guise of humans.

Avril lessons in the arts were neglected. She never saw learned another instrument after her piano was taken away. She never took up drawing or painting. She can, however, sew. In a rather unpleasant series of lessons from her drunken father, supplemented by their steward, she learned a bit of dancing. While she hasn't been taught to charm by masters of conversation, she is generally a sweet person.

She was taught to value her old blood, but it doesn't seem to mean much. She was taught to look down on skaa, but that lesson never took root in her brain. The skaa servants that used to care for her home did a good job of it, and never treated her badly despite her father treating them like slaves. They never treated her poorly, in fact, they treated her better than her father did and often patched her up in the aftermath of his rages. While she has missed out on formal lessons, the few skaa staff that are left at her family home have helped fill some gaps. They've helped her continue to improve her sewing, mending, and clothing alteration skills. They've also helped her learn cleaning, basic cooking skills, and some folk medicine to help care for the wounds she often carries.

Most of the time she is in Lynwood, where it doesn't matter what she wears or what she looks like. But outside, in public, she is a bit embarrassed at having to wear antiquated gowns. She tries to avoid it if possible. She doesn't let her embarrassment show, though. Not because her father would make her regret it, but rather because she'd prefer he embarrass himself without involving her at all.

Avril's life, though riddled with suffering, has purpose. She works for the day her brother will be Lord of their house, so she and her brother could work on restoring their home, their name, and standing in society. She isn't concerned with getting involved with politics and intrigue, but with regaining their footing, making an honest living, and a contribution to the Empire. She's doing her best to prepare her brother for his future.

Avril is still a teenager and even though she was forced to grow up very fast, she's still subject to some aspects of being a teenager, like wanting to fit in, wanting approval, and having crushes.

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Special Skills: Reading, household management, sewing, doing more with less, cleaning, basic cooking, wound dressing, horseback riding (though she hasn't had the opportunity for the latter in quite a while)

Strengths:
Avril is a survivor. She's been beaten over and over but she keeps getting back up because she has purpose. She has inner strength and determination, and thanks to pewter, a bit of physical strength that helps her withstand the physical blows that come her way. As she has already been through a lot, she is determined to keep pressing on with the business of life, even though her circumstances are not optimal. She is a quick learner and persistent in tasks that matter to her.

Weaknesses:
In many ways, Avril has been neglected. She has not gotten the full education expected of noble ladies and lacks the artistic skills that are often expected. She isn't the most charming of ladies, and tends to be on the quiet side. Similarly, though an Allomancer, she is untrained and raw, so she has never learned to fully harness the power of pewter.

Above all, her brother, Aric, is her weakness. She has devoted her life to him and needs to continue protecting and raising him.

While Avril is not the most prideful of people, she does have a sense of shame. She is ashamed of her father and the mess he's made, and she is embarrassed of the scars on her back, and the hand-me-down clothes she's forced to wear. Their ancestral home and their townhouse in Luthadel are both sparsely furnished and falling apart in places beyond a few public rooms. She has no choice but to carry these secrets about the extent of their financial ruin.

Despite her inner strength, she is still only the daughter of a broken Lord. She has not been able to overcome his will in certain areas, like sending her brother away to be raised in a better environment. Similarly, she knows she'll have little sway over her fate as her father tries to negotiate a marriage arrangement that will financially benefit their family. Once she's sent off to live with her husband . . . she won't be able to protect her brother from their father's wrath.

Trust is a difficult thing for her. She hasn't had close relationships outside of those within her household (her brother, the house steward), and she's seen firsthand how monstrous humans can be - even family.

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Avril came into the world in autumn of 899. The little girl was adequately doted on as the sole progeny of Jasper and Ashley, with fine dresses and toys and a beautiful piano, with lessons, and a fine governess and tutors. Her baby brother, Aric, joined the family in the spring of 906, filling the void of House heir. Life was good, the arrival of the little boy prompting celebrations that the girl of six - .going on seven - was immersed in - at least before bedtime - with fancy food and drink and jugglers and mummers - the best her father could buy.

Little Avril was happy to be a big sister. Any time not spent in lessons, riding, playing piano, and sewing with her governess, was spent playing with baby Aric and watching him grow. She even tried to teach him to talk, taking credit for sounds that weren't near actual words yet. Word reached her tiny ears that she would have another little sibling to look after and play with. Thus, the little one spent time fussing over her pretty mother and her delicate condition and asking all sorts of questions including those about baby names and if the new addition would share a room with Aric.

But her Lady Mother seemed to be tired most of the time. Sometimes, apologetically, too tired for her questions. Avril worried at that. Her worries were justified when her mother went into premature, complicated labor. Avril was swiftly pulled away when the blood began to flow and confined to another room with her baby brother and some servants. Aric wouldn't stop crying until she took him from his nurse and did her best to soothe him. But any calm she managed to create for her brother was shattered when her father was dragged into the room, yelling, and screaming, and breaking whatever he could get his hands on. Predictably, Aric erupted into tears once more. Jasper yelled for the brat to be silenced lest he do it himself, as he stood, menacingly, over his little girl as she clutched his one year-old son.

The short, skinny child held on to her baby brother all the more protectively, trying to quiet him down in the face of the monster her father had become, tears trailing down her face. The news all of them had feared came some hours later. Avril cried louder then. As did Aric. As did her father. But he made no move to comfort his children or be strong for them in any way. It was his loss that filled him up completely. That day Avril lost her mother. But she also lost her father, too, just not to Death.

The monster who she first glimpsed when her mother's situation became more dire was there to stay.

Gone were the days of happiness in Lynwood. They were replaced with something much darker, as Jasper seemed perpetually in a black mood, perpetually with a cup in his hand. He didn't shave often and his hair grew out. He looked more like an animal to her eyes by the day. She stayed with Aric as much as possible, even though she didn't think he was old enough to understand what had happened, he seemed to pick up on the black mood in their home, and didn't laugh much like healthy babies ought to. She made herself his protector, always putting herself in the middle when her father made her brother the object of his anger. She would take him to sleep in her room, feeling he was safer with her to defend him should her drunken father try to retrieve him in the middle of the night. It wasn't uncommon for him to wake them up out of sleep to drag them into another room to witness his drunken ramblings, and to fall victim to the violence it often sparked. Why did you LIVE and not HER? Avril always bore the brunt of it. She was always fiercely protective of Aric.

Things didn't get better with time. They grew worse. His gambling and drinking habits, in conjunction with his lack of will to work, to forge new contracts, started to drain the family coffers. Items were taken from the house and sold off. Her beloved piano, the most prized of her possessions, was taken away. Probably so he would no longer be annoyed by the sounds of her playing it. She had tried to keep the men from removing it from the music room, but her father pulled her out of the way by her hair.

She hasn't shed a tear since that day.

Her fear turned to hatred.

More of Lynwood was sold off before her eyes, and the staff was cut down, bit by bit, too. Despite letting go of many servants, her father kept their Terris steward, because he thought it would look like an obvious cost-cutting measure. Heved had served House Sorelle since Jasper was a child, he’d seen the ups and downs since that time, and apart from admitting financial hardship with the gesture of shedding the trusted steward, Jasper wasn’t ready to let in someone new, someone he didn’t trust, to help manage the House’s business. So Heved stayed, fortunately for Avril, but unfortunately for him.

Her maid was dismissed, and she was told to clean her own rooms, which had grown continually more empty. Dolls were for babies. They, too, were sold away. Avril had to grow up faster than was normal. She took a more prominent role in her brother's upbringing in the absence of her mother, and in the face of her father's neglect. She took to following their Terrisman steward, Heved, around until he agreed to teach her about what he did to manage the family keep as best he could, and how he decided what to sell. She shadowed him and as she grew, she became a greater force in the management their ancestral home, as her father didn't consistently involve himself in the decision-making.

She was twelve when she petitioned the steward to have her mother's ruby and diamond necklace sold instead of numerous volumes from the library. He advised her against it. She insisted her father wouldn't notice. But he did. Scarcely a day later, he had visited Ashley's chambers, trying to smell her perfume from the old gowns, running his hands along the jewels he had bought for her in better times. He noticed the missing necklace and grabbed the person responsible for selling it - Heved. But Avril wouldn't let the man be blamed for her folly, despite the look in his eyes that begged her to leave, that he could take it better than she could. She took credit for what she did and pulled her father's attentions away from the older Terrisman. The feel of his fist and his open palm was not new. More often than not the Sorelle daughter sported black and blues.

But this time was different.

Jasper decided to see what his daughter was worth. He grabbed her by the wrist and took her and Heved up to the winding steps in one of Lynwood Manor’s towers, to what was known as “the breaking room,” where Lords had everything they needed to attempt to snap their offspring. A vial of metals in alcohol was forced down her throat, then he beat her until she was bloody, until her bones were broken in multiple places, until there was a fire in her belly that wasn't there before. Jasper hadn't even bothered to bring in a Seeker, since he'd pursued this with a hot head and no formal plan beforehand. Heved was forced to help crudely figure things out, asking questions, and trying to illicit specific allomantic reactions. Throwing coins at the bleeding child didn't spark steelpushing or steelpulling. Despite Jasper’s taunting, were ill-equipped to detect the invisible and emotional arts, though Heved had hoped Avril would turn out to be a Soother like her mother. They knew she was an Allomancer, she had described the burning sensation, but they didn't know what she was until some days later. At Jasper’s insistence to ashing figure it out, Heved kept dosing her with metals, and helped change out the dressings on her wounds. She always seemed a bit healthier after each dose, some color returning to her pale face. He came to notice she was - thankfully - healing faster than the average person, while continuing to report that burning feeling inside.

She was a Pewterarm.

But she was left raw and untrained. Her father didn't want to financially invest in her skills, and he didn't want her to gain an edge over him when it came to fighting.

Avril continued to try to stem the damage to Lynwood, but she and Heved never received any support from her father who continued to send them deeper and deeper into debt.

She taught her brother that he must be harder, that he mustn't feel bad for himself or for her no matter what happened. Self-pity was a destructive force, as they well knew, as witnesses to their father's existence.

Around age thirteen, things got even worse. When her father got drunk, he'd call her Ashley. He'd look at her differently, in ways that a father should not look at a daughter. At night, he'd haunt her bedroom door, knocking on it, crying and calling for his dead wife. One night he went as far as her bed, but Avril fought to get him off. She pulled a dagger from her bedside table, but he managed to yank it from her hand and make her regret that decision. Aric found his way into the fray and jumped on his father's back to get him away from a badly bleeding Avril. Avril ended up with multiple fractures and broken ribs. Jasper decided to bring in whores in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the event that nearly went too far.

Avril made it known she thought Aric should be fostered outside of their holdings. Jasper didn't react well to that suggestion. Wanted to take his boy away from him, did she? Over his dead body maybe. He was the Sorelle heir. Everything he needed was in Lynwood. He could learn everything here, just fine. For that particular offense, Avril was whipped, her back torn apart by the lash, leaving the worst of her collection of scars.

Having lost the fight to move her brother to a healthier environment, Avril incorporated Aric into her work managing Lynwood with their steward. Their father didn't teach Aric much of anything, except maybe, what not to be like. She had him start training with dueling canes, swords, and knives. He needed to be able to protect himself, against their father and any other threat that might come his way. Still only a child, the lessons made Aric feel empowered enough to declare himself a man. He said that he should be the one to protect her, but Avril hasn't changed her protective behavior despite his arguments.

She wants to be there to keep him safe for as long as she could. Aric gives her purpose. One day he'll be Lord and he will help restore their House to what it once was. She lives for her brother and for the dream of that day.

But her father has thrown the "m" word around recently. She's not afraid of having a different man to call her Lord, but she is worried about what it would mean for her brother's welfare. She'd rather stay in Lynwood until her brother has ascended to Lord of their House, regardless of the fact that it would make her an old maid.

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“ASHLEY!”

Jasper yelled, his white shirt partially unbuttoned, only half tucked in, soaked from sweat and whiskey that had missed his lips when he’d taken an uncoordinated swig from the glass decanter. There wasn’t much of the amber liquid left. He’d gotten close enough to draining the ornate bottle that he’d had it refilled once already, and then he’d realized the inefficiency of his ways. Why keep pouring glasses when you could cut out the middleman-er-cup? The fewer obstacles between himself and his drink, the better.

“ASHLEY! Why’d you not come when I call you?! ASH!”

He seized the doorknob to the mauve sitting room, one of his wife’s favorites. The brocade wallpaper was missing in places, drooping down the wall in others. The floor was bare but for dust, scraps of wallpaper, and bits of plaster that had fallen from the ceiling. The rich floral rugs that had warmed the floor had long since been sold, as had the lush divans, cushioned chairs, and lacquered furniture. The room had once been filled with ornate vases and fresh flowers; now, it was just a broken shell. That fact didn’t register with Jasper. Instead, he remembered what the room had been. He remembered the sound of his wife’s laugher trailing down the hallway, the scent of gardenias. The way she looked at him when he opened the door to her domain, the way her lips would spread into a beautiful smile that reached all the way to her pale blue eyes, an expression sparked by him, an expression that belonged to him. His soul had been filled with happiness and peace.

She was his joy, and he needed her now. She had to be here somewhere, in one of the other rooms. This had always been her favorite part of the manor, with the mosaic tile floor, the vaulted ceilings . . .

He slammed the door shut and moved down the hall, calling her name with anguish, with need. But no answer came.

He rammed his fist into the next door.

Avril rose from her bed with a tired sigh. A few more minutes and his fists would threaten to break down her door. Why his whores couldn’t keep him in their rooms, she’d never understand. He prioritized paying for those services above many others, for those women knew too much, had seen too much, and Jasper considered them a necessity rather than a luxury. So lack of payment was not an excuse. Perhaps they were too lazy to do anything besides lie on their backs. Or maybe they cherished these breaks from his company, when he wasn’t good for much apart from sloppily crying against their chests.

She couldn’t blame them for wanting to escape her father. Lord Ruler knew she wanted to, as did Aric.

No one had the guts to try to keep this man in line. He had to have woken up the rest of the house, but no one moved to redirect him back to his rooms. No one dared to tell him to shut up, despite his drunken screaming. Everyone knew that made everything worse before it made it better. Everyone knew that would make them the target of his grief and anger, moreso then every living person in this house already was.

She had to bear the brunt of his madness. Over and over and over again. It was a life sentence for the crime of staying alive after her mother died.

She retrieved her robe from where it was draped over a simple wooden chair and put it on. She didn’t have much furniture to speak of. A bed. A chair. A mostly empty built-in wardrobe in the corner. Most of her clothes weren’t hers at all, but her mother’s, and they still hung in her mother’s chambers. Her father took stock of it often.

More banging. More drunken screaming.

“WHY DO YOU HIDE FROM ME?”

“Noo,” Aric begged with mournful eyes, sitting up, still holding the coverlet.

“He won’t shut up otherwise,” she said, shaking her head.

“Please, Avril, just ignore it!”

“Aric, go back to your room,” she gestured towards her closet. Her room was connected to her brother’s through a somewhat hidden passageway, which would be better concealed if she had more clothes hanging in the wardrobe.

He looked at her with disappointment. She knew he wanted to pretend this wasn’t happening. Maybe they could just let him scream and pound on doors until his strength drained away and his voice eroded to nothing. Then they could sleep in peace.

“Av-”

She swallowed. Experience told her that idea wasn’t likely to work. She knelt down and grabbed a vial of pewter suspended in alcohol from a box under her bed. Heved had given it to her, for situations like this. “Go,” she said with a pointed look before downing the metal.

“ASHLEY!”

Huffing, he got out from under the covers and retreated through the passageway. He closed the door behind him as quietly as he could manage, the hinges of the old built-in creaking. Avril moved to the door, her bare feet quiet on the hardwood. She took a deep breath and her hand hovered over the flimsy lock.

Her eyes widened at the groan of a door opening nearby.

Inquisitor’s eyes.

She hastily turned the lock and flew into the hallway to find her little brother standing in front of their inebriated father.

“SHE’S NOT ANSWERING BECAUSE SHE’S DEAD!” he yelled, his face turning scarlet, though not as red as the drink had made their father’s.

“DON’T TALK ABOUT YOUR MOTHER LIKE SHE’S NOT HERE!” Jasper screamed, water pooling in his bloodshot eyes. Everytime he was reminded of the truth, he felt the heartbreak anew. Avril knew that anger was quick to follow.

“But she’s NOT!” Aric yelled back, defiance on his young face. “I should know! She left me here with YOU!”

“. . . Because you killed her,” Jasper responded quietly, his nostrils flaring. His face morphed from sad longing to fury. He threw the whiskey bottle into the wall. It shattered, sending tiny pieces of glass everywhere. Then, he moved to grab Aric by the neck of his pajamas but Avril moved in front of him, shielding him from whatever came next.

Jasper just looked at her for a moment, at hair like wheat and eyes a pale, striking blue. Avril stood there, breathing, her feet hip distance apart to better grip the ground. She felt a light burn in her stomach. She didn’t have good handle on how much she was consuming, and how to adjust, but she knew she’d need the help, to heal.

“Ashley?”

“IT’S AVRIL! MY SISTER!” Aric shot back, his young voice pained and emotionally exhausted. He’d gotten around Avril and was now punching his father’s arm and kicking at his legs. Jasper pushed him away with one large hand.

Avril caught her brother as he fell, and shoved him behind her. Jasper grabbed at her wrist and pulled her towards him. Clenching her teeth, she tried to resist, but his grip was tight, strong. A question flickered in her father’s eyes, and he opened his mouth to give it voice.

“Why-?”

“I’m Avril. Not one of your whores.”

He smacked her across the face, and her head moved with the force of his hand. Her blue eyes were on fire when she looked back at him, glaring at him like he was the most awful person on the planet. No. He wasn’t the best man. Maybe not even a good man. But he was not the worst. That much he was certain of.

“No,” he answered. “They’re much prettier.”

He pushed her wrist back towards her, but she kept her balance and didn’t fall.

“Good. Go back to them,” she spat.

But that only fanned the flames of his anger. He moved quicker than a drunk person had any right to, slamming her against the wall, where the decanter had struck earlier. Her bare feet crunched on the glass, a hundred tiny pieces cutting her pale flesh. But her pewter dulled the physical pain, a slight flicker of it shown on her face, a little sweat shined on her forehead. Jasper’s big hands held her frail form back by the shoulders as he moved his face close to hers.

“This. Is. My. House. I will do anything I want. DO YOU HEAR ME?”

Avril’s lips spread into the shadow of a smile. It was because of him. It belonged to him. But it gave him neither peace nor joy.

“Yes,” she answered. “That’s the problem, Father.” She swallowed, feeling the only a fraction of the sting from glass shards mingled with whiskey, as she continued burning pewter. “We’d like to hear less of you.”

His hands moved to her milky neck but didn’t squeeze. Why had she gotten so much of Ashley? Aric wasn’t even blonde.

He needed another drink in his hand. That would help him.

He dropped his hands and walked back down the hall the way he’d come. Avril and Aric watched his back disappear down the hall and around a corner. Once he was gone, Aric moved toward his sister, but she put out a hand to stop him from taking another step.

“The glass,” she said in a hushed tone.

Her brother looked down at the shards all over the floor, and the blood pooling beneath her feet. His eyes began to water.

“I’ll wake someone,” he said in a small voice. He moved back slowly, still focused on the blood puddling on the floor, until he forced himself to turn about and run down the hall.

Sighing, Avril lifted one foot and turned it so she could survey the damage for herself. The damned thing a little hurt more as she looked at it, her brain reacting to the sight of the blood flowing and jagged pieces of glass sticking out of her skin. She stepped over most of the glass and moved to Aric’s room on her toes. She grabbed two washing cloths and moved his waterbowl from the dresser to the floor, sat down, and started taking the glass out of her feet one shard at a time, as best as she could with her fingers, until her brother came back with Vela and Heved.

The Terrisman did his best to remove the tiniest beads of glass with tweezers, and Vela cleansed the wounds with ointment that stung the cuts anew. She’d endured far worse, and pewter made it much easier to take.

Too bad it didn’t dull emotional pain. She wished she could shield Aric from that aspect of things.

When she was all bandaged up, Aric lay with her, leaning his head against her chest, with an arm loosely stretched over her waist, his fingers holding on to her side, as though if he just held her that way, if he kept her here, he could protect her.

“Why couldn’t you just ignore him?” he asked, his voice heavy with sadness.

“Why couldn’t you just stay in your room?” She kissed the brown strands at the top of his head, and brushed her fingers through his hair.

“I wanted to take care of it before you tried to . . .” He was crying now. And he hated that. It made him feel like such a baby. But he wasn’t a baby. He wasn’t. He was a man of twelve.

“I didn’t want him to hurt you.”

Kess

26 November 2017 - 06:52 PM

KESS
Skaa Misting



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Name/Handle: Mora
Contact: PM


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Name: Kess
Type: skaa
Age: 24
Gender: Female
Place of Origin:
Occupation: Smoker for Datura’s Smuggling Crew/Rebel Cell
Relationship Status: Single

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Type of Powers: Misting
Metals Used: Copper
Degree of Skill: Intermediate
Status: Known to Datura’s Crew, her former crew, Ollie, and Meb

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Most of the time, Kess isn’t interested in attracting notice. There’s a good chance you’ve passed her on the streets of Luthadel without even knowing it. Dressed most often in drab greys and faded blacks, she looks like any other skaa among the slums and ash heaps. Her clothing is like that of most ska laborers, well-worn, and austere, equally suited to running down alleys and carting piles of ash to the trash heap. Most of the time, she’s got a tarnished silver pocket watch on her so she can keep precise track of time. On the streets, she tends to wear a lopsided newsboy cap, sometimes with most of her long, dark brown hair tucked underneath, some strands purposefully draped over her right eye, her green eye, while her brown eye looks out at the world without any obstructions. It wouldn’t be unusual to mistake her for a boy, especially with her mid-back length hair hidden. With her jackets and loose shirts, the gentle curves of her slender frame are largely concealed by the fabric, as is the small layer of muscle carefully cultivated through a strict exercise routine. Her clothes also hide a small collection of self-inflicted vertical scars on her right thigh and lower abdomen.

At 5’3”, Kess doesn’t look physically imposing, but there is a certain gravity to her. She looks out at the world with a hard, bitter stare. She doesn’t smile, not really, she could feign one if she has to but it would look and feel forced, maybe even feral. In the privacy of the crew den, she doesn’t have any qualms about showing both of her eyes at once, as she’s no longer concerned that the uneven sight might be off-putting for some.

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Kess is a woman of few words, content to offer a nod, a look, or a single word in response when nothing more is required. She has no talent - or interest - in small talk and tries to avoid “long talk,” or unbridled conversations that can lead into personal territory. She prefers to keep other people at a healthy distance. That task generally isn’t difficult with her dour personality and her blunt manner. Her reactions to most stimuli are contained to bitter-edged indifference. Not surprisingly, she doesn’t typically give compliments and she also doesn’t know how to take them. A nod from Kess could be considered praise.

Beyond her unpleasant demeanor is a fierce sense of loyalty to her crew. Kess knows her place and takes her orders without complaint or hesitation. In general, Kess doesn’t offer her opinion unless it is asked for, but she might address someone privately if she thinks they are seriously endangering the crew. If she had the chance to help counterbalance that, she’d make the attempt. One moment of weakness is enough to bring everything down. That lesson is burned into her soul.

Since learning it, her ambition has been to become the perfect tool.

That doesn’t mean to become every tool, but rather to try to minimize factors that contribute to human error. Control over her feelings is at the top of the list. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel things. She feels guilt every second of every day for her failure. She feels hate for the Inquisitors who hunt and kill skaa half-breeds . . . who killed Mav. Hate for the Obligators who uphold the Lord Ruler’s government. Hate for the nobles who beat her kind, starve them, and rape them. Hate for the Lord Ruler for every breath he’s ever taken, every word he’s ever spoken, every move he’s ever made, for all of it has been in the service of tyranny and countless atrocities.

. . . And she hates emotional Allomancy, since emotions are at the root of many problems, and her biggest mistake.

Those feelings fuel her ambition; they give her the strength to keep pushing forward, to make herself stronger, less human.

Even when feelings cannot be crushed, she tries at least minimize any outward expression of them, sticking as closely as possible to the outward demeanor she’s cultivated.

When it comes to the notion of romantic entanglements, Kess has rejected the idea given what happened the last time she was interested in someone that way. Ever since, she’s taken a utilitarian approach to the concept, feeling that people may have physical urges to satisfy but that the emotion - or even a partner - isn’t necessary to take care of such impulses.

Being reliable is of paramount importance to Kess. Tools aren’t lazy, they don’t get caught up in leisure pursuits, or show up late for appointments. She makes every effort to manage and keep track of her time so she doesn’t fall short in those respects, even though life in a smuggling crew can mean keeping odd hours. When circumstances allow, sleep is prioritized, to minimize sloppiness from exhaustion. When not working or sleeping she’s likely working on improving her utility to the crew by improving her skill with copper, knives, archery, her fists, or even pain tolerance via self-inflicted suffering. The latter is limited to places of privacy, unless she can work it in on the sly, allowing herself to foul up at sparring just to force herself to take a good punch.

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Special Skills: Knife-fighting, archery, observation, blending in, sneaking, fast runner, heightened pain tolerance, emotional restraint, resourceful

Strengths:
Over the years, Kess has cultivated a strong sense of discipline and loyalty to her crew that helps guide her actions. Everyone has a job to do, and she intends to do hers right, which means continually sharpening her skills so she’ll be ready for her next assignment, and keeping track of time so she’s always where she needs to be. She has a strong sense of personal responsibility that drives her to push herself harder, to make sure she isn’t a weak link. She rejects frivolity as distractions counter-productive to her goals.

In the service of that mission, not to be a weak link, Kess has tried to increase her pain tolerance - both in the emotional and physical sense. She’s clamped down on her emotions and tries not to let them rule her as they did in her youth. As far as physical pain, she continually works to increase her tolerance through self-wounding. She’d rather be tortured and die in an interrogation than give up the rest of the crew.

After years living solo on the streets as a teenager, Kess has become resourceful and self-reliant. While being trapped is never a good situation to be in, she could probably figure out a way to leverage her surroundings. She isn’t the type to turn her nose up at sifting through trash if that’s what’s needed to keep from starving. She’s got no moral qualms with stealing for survival, either . . . or just taking something away from the nobles.

Kess left her sense of vanity behind long ago, and no longer cares if she’s pleasing to other people both in her appearance and blunt personality. She wants to be known as a good, reliable crewmember, but the rest doesn’t matter to her. She’s no longer ashamed of her eyes, and she isn’t ashamed of her scars.

Weaknesses:
Guilt is one emotion that Kess has never mastered control of. It’s what took her life to where it is now. She carries it with her always, and the biggest fear she has is feeling the way she did the night Mav died. Guilty and truly heartbroken. She knows she can’t undo anything that happened, so the next best thing is working against the Empire . . . and finding a way to kill those bastards with the spiked eyes. Since she keeps people at arm’s length, and has a certain demeanor to keep up, anything she doe feel, she needs to process on her own and carry by herself.

Kess’s devotion to the crew does come with a weakness. She’s a good soldier and doesn’t feel it is her place to disagree with orders given to her. That means she could find herself on tasks that perhaps weren’t well-planned or fully thought out.

While Kess has been trying to improve herself at all times, she still hasn’t learned how to read. This is one weakness she actively wants to eliminate.

Kess’s upbringing in the slums, years spent on the street alone, and generally sour persona means that she has no polish. She has no skill at small-talk and isn’t in a position to charm anyone. She’s not sure can smile without looking crazy.

At 5’3” and without the power that Pewter provides, Kess is no match, physically, for those who are far bigger and stronger. She can give a punch, and take one, but it’s probably easier to carry her off than she’d like to admit, thus she relies a lot on her weapons and her speed.

She currently carries a silver pocket watch tied to a string in her jacket pocket, since keeping track of time is so important. She’d like to eliminate this metal, but it will probably be a very, very long time before she can afford a watch made from alternative materials like wood or bone.

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Kess was always a bit different.

Born in the slums of Luthadel to a pair of overworked, abused factory workers, Lev and Jana, in 894, the infant was swiftly rejected as an anomaly. She was born with complete heterochromia, one green eye, and one brown. The couple was too afraid to wait and see if time would resolve the mismatch, because the baby’s green eye looked just like that of their noble-blooded overseer. It hurt for Lev to see it, as it made him to think about his inability to protect Jana from the man who “rented” them from the Lord Ruler. If it was obvious to him, the little girl was better off growing up in a different tenement, associated with a different business . . . where their overseer had no reason to visit. It was better off for everyone to think that the child hadn’t lived. The midwife knew what to do, where to send the child.

Kess was brought to another tenement, to a skaa woman called Meb, who accepted children who were parentless or broken in some way. The infant girl became the newest resident of the elderly woman’s corner of the group home. The bulk of the skaa who shared the overcrowded, dilapidated dwelling were superstitious. Having no explanation within easy reach for her “defect,” she was labeled a freak. But she wasn’t the only one of Meb’s strays with an unkind label. A boy of four, Ollie, had lost an arm in a factory accident. The two of them were commonly referred to as the “irregulars.”

As Kess grew enough to become more conscious of her surroundings, she realized that despite the close quarters there was usually a small space left around her as both people tried to steer clear of her, as much as their constraints would allow. Ollie and Meb were exceptions to this. The little girl took to positioning her hair so strands fell over her green eye, hiding the mismatch as well as she could.

She was six when she got into her first fight because of her “irregular” status. Kess was sweeping ashes when some older kids from the tenement decided to let her know just what they thought of her by way of fists and booted feet. They ran their mouths the whole time, calling her a freak, saying her parents threw her in the garbage because she had crazy eyes. She fought back as best as she could, making use of the broom but she was small and there were four of them. The beating was enough for Kess to Snap, for her to feel the burning sensation in her stomach for the first time without knowing what it was. Ollie, a Tineye, heard the commotion and ran to break up the fight. Pulling the kids off of Kess with his good arm, and pushing them aside with his body. He managed to carry her over his shoulder and back to Meb. Ollie helped Meb get Kess cleaned up and bandaged. Through tears, she asked if she was a freak, she asked if her parents threw her away. The old woman told her that they didn’t throw her away, but that they couldn’t keep her because it wasn’t safe. That she had to be a secret. As for the freak part, Meb asked why she wanted to be normal when she could be special. Ollie told her that he was more of a freak than she was. At ten, he’d had more time to accept it, but he told her that accepting it was the best thing he’d done. Fighting it, he said, was like fighting yourself, and you needed your strength to take on everyone else.

That’s when she told them she’d felt a weird burning in her stomach for a little while, that she didn’t know what was wrong with her, that maybe the beating had broken something beyond bone. But the sensation sounded familiar to Meb and Ollie.

Meb fetched a vial of metals in liquid, and sent Ollie to retrieve Geord, a Seeker. On their way back to the child’s bedside, Geord instructed Ollie to burn and not stop until he was told otherwise. Upon their return, Kess downed the vial and confirmed she felt the burn worse now, with unwept tears and worry in her mismatched eyes. Ollie gave one of her hands a gentle squeeze, looking from her face to Meb and Geord.

“Are you burning, Ollie?” Geord asked, a bit impatiently.

The ten year-old nodded.

“And you’re sure you’re not, Meb?”

“By the Lord Ruler, I’m not, Geord.”

“Then it looks like we’ve got ourselves a lil’ Smoker.”

Ollie and Meb were her family in that place, their bonds made even tighter by their shared heritage as Mistings. Meb’s lessons expanded to train up the younger Coppercloud in their shared ability - and responsibility - as protectors. And as new children turned up in Meb’s corner, they grew up a among the “irregulars” such that they didn’t see much irregularity at all.

* * *
Kess was fourteen when she first met Mav. She was emptying a crate of ashes into a dumpster when the Lurcher rounded a corner and came barrelling down her alley. He yanked her behind the refuse container, and put a finger to his lips, as he tried to quiet his breathing. Surprise and confusion were written all over her face, as she readjusted her hair to flow down in front of her green eye again. After a few minutes of quiet, he peeked out from behind the container and relaxed.

“Thanks,” he said as he took a coin from a fancy purse, and put it in Kess’s left palm. “Sorry I got ash all over you,” he cracked a handsome smile. He couldn’t have been more than seventeen or eighteen. “The name’s Mav. What’s yours?”

“Kess.”

“You have a good one, Kess. I know my day is better for running into you. Literally.”

He inclined his head in goodbye, and headed back out into the streets of Luthadel.

But that wasn’t the last she saw of him.

She had been on her way back to the tenement when she heard the sounds of someone running, and she shifted to flatten herself against the wall, to get out of the person’s way. She could a glimpse of his face and recognized it immediately. Soon he was standing in front of her, breathing hard, and tweaking his appearance.

“Do me . . . a favor . . . just stay . . . with me, Kess,” he said flicking his eyes to the alley’s entrance, yanking off his coat and turning it inside out to reveal a beat up looking garment. He shoved his hat into an inside pocket, bent down and dragged his hands through the ash drifts on the cobblestones. He streaked his face with it, and then did the same to her, moving her hair back in the process.

“Just act natural,” he breathed, before leaning in close and putting his lips to hers, his hands finding their way to her waist.

Kess had never been kissed before. She hadn’t expected that another run-in with Mav would lead to that moment. Even when he asked her to stay with him, she didn’t expected this would be part of his cover and escape. But even knowing what this was for didn’t mean she was able to control her reaction to it. She’d seen other skaa around her age who’d felt something for each other, seen the looks they’d exchanged, their interlaced hands, kisses that ranged from the shy and sheepish to the shameless and all-encompassing. Like many other girls her age, she’d craved the same for herself . . . she just hadn’t had any luck in that regard. Possibly because of her eyes, or more than that. She didn’t know Mav, but he didn’t know her either, didn’t carry the same judgment that others around her age did . . . He was gorgeous and mysterious and had a charm that came through from their first, brief meeting. His touch, his kiss, and his attentions - or more accurately, partial attentions - were welcome. Her heart raced and she felt magnetized, her whole body drawn to him in ways she’d never felt before. Despite being unsure of herself, and what she was doing, she kissed him back. They stayed that way until his pursuers, complaining about losing the ‘scent’ of the Lurcher, stumbled upon the sight of them, mumbled under their breath about what they saw, and left.

Mav pulled his face back from hers, slowly, gently, separating their lips with care. His mouth curved into a mischievous grin. “That’s the second time you’ve saved my ass, Kess. That was,” his eyes dipped to her lips and back up again. “. . . sweeter than the first. Thank you.” He looked at her for a moment more, before releasing his hands. “Seeing as we’re on track to make this kind of a habit . . . maybe you’d consider joining my crew. So you’d know in advance, you’d be helping me escape.” He gave her a wink. “No rush, take some time to think about it. I’d introduce you to the others, see how you feel.”

“I’ll think about it,” Kess replied, reasonably sure her face was flushed. Her hand went to her hair and she realized it had been out of her face this whole time, since Mav had moved it to kiss her. He took her wrist gently, as she was trying to finger-comb it back into place.

“You’ve got beautiful eyes, Kess. You shouldn’t hide them - at least from me,” he smiled, “if you want to hide them from the authorities, I fully support that, because they’re not the kind of eyes you forget.” He took his hand back once more.

“I know where to find you.”

* * *
“Mav’s a criminal,” Ollie said, his arm crossed over his chest. At eighteen he was taller than an average skaa, and corded in muscle from near-constant manual work, which he carried out tirelessly without complaint.

“Is it really crime if he’s taking just a tiny bit back of what’s been taken from us?”

“You sound just like them.”

“Like who?”

“Like all the thieving crews who scoop up Mistings like us to do their dirty work.”

“At least they’re fighting the good fight, Ollie. What in the name of the Lord Ruler am I doing here anyway? How am I helping our cause?”

“You help keep this place safe, Kess. You burn while Meb sleeps. You help with the orphans.”

“They don’t need me. They’ve got Meb and they’ve got you, and they have each other.”

“You’re wrong, Kess. They need you. I need you.

“For once in my life, I feel wanted, Ollie. I’m going.”

“If this is the only time you’ve felt that way, Kess,” he punched his single fist into the wall, scraping his knuckles, so that blood started to flow. He swallowed, his voice emerging in a combination of whisper and growl. “Then I’ve been failing everyday. He wants your copper, Kess. I want you.”

“You don’t know him, Ollie. You don’t know that.”

“Neither do you.”

* * *
“You’ll always have a home here, Kess,” Meb said, loosening her hug and brushing the hair out of the young skaa’s face to kiss each cheek. “If you decide this move wasn’t right for you, you come right back here, no matter what time it is, no matter what has happened, okay? You’re loved here. You’ll always be loved here.”

“Thank you, Meb,” she said with an unsteady, small smile, the weight of what she was doing truly dawning on her for the first time.

Then Ollie pulled her close, crushing their bodies together, she felt his warmth and strength. For a moment all he did was hold her that way. “To say that I will miss you is the greatest understatement I could make,” he whispered in her ear. “You have been fighting the good fight, defying the nobles by helping the children, and Meb, and me build lives that have happiness and hope.”

He relaxed his arm a bit, so he could look at her. He gently pressed his nose to hers.

“I hope I see you again. I hope one day we’ll fight together . . . You know where to find me.”

His lips were close to hers, his breath warm on her face, but he didn’t let himself kiss her.

* * *
Kess was eager to please her new companions, and she took that attitude to every task she was asked to perform, and every lesson on crew life that she was taught, even the minor stuff like keeping the crew den tidy. Lesa and Gage served as Thugs, Shelle was their Soother, Jace was their Coinshot, Gierre - Mav’s brother - was a Seeker, and Rita was a Tineye. They were a young crew in general, but Kess was the youngest and least seasoned member. They’d lost their Smoker, a Coinshot, and two non-Mistings when a previous crew member, Dane, had sold the group down the river out of greed. His name had become a curse word of sorts among the remaining crew.

Gage had taken to calling her Mis - or sometimes Lil’ Mis - short for mismatched, on account of her eyes, even though Kess generally kept one covered. Her eyes were considered both an asset and a liability. Signals were sometimes given with her eyes, if her green eye was visible, Obligators or Inquisitors had been spotted, if the brown eye was visible, all was clear.

Kess generally got on well with everyone and proved herself a reliable Smoker. She sought out Mav’s praise more than the others, and generally he gave it to her, expressing his thanks, mussing up her hair, and giving her those winks and smiles that warmed her heart. They’d shared hugs, but the friendly crew hugs that were shared throughout the group after a job well done. He hadn’t kissed her again, not since that day in the alley, even as she grew into more of a woman.

It was easy to see why.

He and Rita were close. He and Rita gave each other those looks. He and Rita shared those touches that went beyond mere friendship. She’d seen them kiss more than once.

Rita didn’t like her very much. The feeling was mutual. Rita had something she wanted, and Kess was green with envy. She’d felt that feeling before, seeing other skaa girls who were pretty, who got positive attention, who had two eyes that matched. Rita was beautiful, tall like a noblewoman, with long black hair, big blue eyes, and an hourglass physique. Kess was short, slender, with subtle curves and mismatched irises . . .

Shelle was another beauty, blonde with a heart-shaped face, amber eyes and a smile brighter than the sunlight that made it down to the streets of Luthadel. With her practiced charm and Soothing abilities she knew how to make nearly any man fall at her feet, and often did, in service of the crew. For her part, Lesa was petite and powerful, taken to wearing form-fitting clothing. She was a natural born flirt who had Gage wrapped around her little finger.

It was intimidating being around Rita, Shelle, and Lesa. But it wasn’t easy being around the others, either. Crewmembers’ powers were part of everyday life, and by comparison being a Smoker seemed kind of lame.

Rita could see and hear what was coming long before anyone else. Lesa and Gage could knock out any threats with a single punch, and could carry wounded - or supplies - with little effort. Shelle could Soothe people to her will, and dampen all emotions that were not useful to their efforts. Mav and Jace were opposite sides of the same coin, pushing and pulling on metal as needed for combat or mobility or theft. Gierre could detect other Allomancers.

She could resist emotional Allomancy. And she could hide her crewmates who had more useful abilities.

She was a necessary part of the crew - an important piece of the puzzle - Mav had assured her. She was a protector, an escape. A place of refuge. One they’d desperately needed, especially if they were going to do real damage to the Final Empire.

* * *
Two short years later, it all fell apart.

She’d gone to wish Mav luck before their big job, but she’d heard him and Rita on the other side of the door, so she stayed her hand instead of knocking and caught part of their conversation.

“in love with you, Mav. It’s on her sleeve. Everyone can see it.”

“She’s just a kid, Rita - a good kid. It’s a crush. She’ll grow out of it.”

“She’s not ready.”

“She’ll have to. The time is right. After this job we were going to make it official. I’m putting a ring on that finger and everyone will be happy for us - including Kess - you’ll see.”

“Mav . . .”

“Relax, my Love. We’ve only got a couple of hours before I’ve got to go . . . I know how I want to spend them . . .”

When Rita spoke again, it was to moan his name.

* * *
In her sixteen years, Kess had experienced many emotions. But this was something different. She thought this had to be the heartbreak that others talked about. She didn’t know what to do with it. She felt broken. She felt a deep sense of loss and sadness. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to move. It hurt to stand still. It hurt to cry but that didn’t stop the tears from falling and the anguished sounds to form in her throat. She loved Mav. But he loved someone else. He thought she was a kid. Everything she’d felt had been one-sided. She retreated to her room and cried herself to sleep.

And missed getting into position in time.

She woke up to sound of her door nearly being ripped off its hinges. Rita hadn’t seen her in position from her perch on a nearby rooftop. She dragged Kess out the door and they ran hard, trying to get to the square where crowds and copper would both provide cover and confusion.

But they were too late. They were outside the main square when they realized what was happening.

Jace and Mav were being chased by an Inquisitor. He was so fast, so strong, so hateful. The crowd cover they’d needed so badly started to fall apart as fearful citizens cleared out of the way. Kess wanted to run across the square, wanted to jump on the Inquisitor, to use her last breaths to help Mav and Jace escape. But a hand clamped down on her quivering lips and another pulled her behind a large metal statue of the Lord Ruler.

“There is nothing you can do,” Rita said, her own anguish evident, as everything went from bad to worse before their eyes. Jace shot metal nails at the creature, but it’s push was too strong, it sent the nails backwards, pushing too many holes through Jace at once. With the Coinshot coughing his final breaths, the Inquisitor turned his attentions to the retreating form of Mav. It took seconds for him to catch up to the Lurcher who’d pulled himself across the square via the metal lampposts and fences. Then Mav breathed his last as the Inquisitor skewered him on the spiked tops of an iron fence.

Kess now knew what heartbreak truly was. It wasn’t the thing she’d felt before. As bad as that was . . . it was nothing compared to what she felt now. The carnage stopped then, the Inquisitor left the square, left the mixed crowds of noble and skaa behind to process what they’d seen.

“I can’t look at you right now,” Rita said through a veil of tears. Kess could only nod and turn and turn away. “But we can’t stay here . . . it isn’t safe.”

“But - I can’t - Ma-”

“We can’t. We can’t. It’s a trap. They want us to go to him. They want to catch us and impale us beside him.”

“I should just go. Let them kill me.”

“Don’t you dare, Kess. Mav cared about you. He wouldn’t have let you. I just. Please. It’s just hard for me to look at you right now.”

Gage and Lesa found them, then. Gage carried her all the way back to the crew den. Once they were there, Shelle Soothed Rita to make life liveable. She offered the same to Kess, but she wouldn’t let her. She insisted that she needed to feel this. Kess was beyond tears. Beyond words.

That experience defined the rest of her life.

If she knew one thing, it was that she couldn’t allow emotion to rule her, to get in the way of what needed to be done, to cause her to make a mistake.

Gierre was sitting outside her room when she opened her door the next morning, her few possessions in a sack over her shoulder.

“You don’t have to leave, Kess.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Rita is having a rough time, we all are, but we’ll get through it. We’ve lost people before . . . it’s never easy.”

She swallowed, and fought back tears. “But this time it’s my fault. She shouldn’t have to look at me. None of you should.”

“You’re part of this crew. You didn’t sell us down the canal . . . things just went wrong.”

“I went wrong. Me. I’m not worthy of this crew. You’ll find another Smoker, a better one.”

“Mav cared about you. And Jace. The rest of us still do.”

“You’re better off without me right now . . . maybe it won’t always be that way . . . But today, it is. Thanks for everything, Gierre. Pass along those thanks to the rest of the crew, all right?”

* * *
For the next few years, Kess went solo, determined to forge herself into a powerful tool, someone strong, someone not easily swayed by emotion. She wanted to shed as many weaknesses as possible before going back to crew life. She needed to be more worthy of it first, needed to know she wouldn’t endanger anyone else. She wanted to fight Mav’s fight, to demolish the Empire, to take from those who’d taken everything, to kill the creature who’d ended the man she loved.

Her first act on this path was one of vengeance. She’d cultivated some knife skill while part of Mav’s crew, but she hadn’t taken a life before. She knew of a guy who deserved to meet his end on the pointy end of one of her knives.

Dane.

The Smoker who’d let the crew down on purpose. Who’d let people die on purpose. Dane, who was the whole reason she’d been recruited in the first place. If she hadn’t been recruited, she couldn’t have failed . . .

Kess was a good observer and a good listener. She’d spent time in enough taverns to find out that Dane loved cards. And women. And alcohol. She kept tabs on his favorite haunts, and paid attention to the women he paid attention to. Most were of the paid variety. Something free might attract his interest . . .

She joined his card game and nursed an ale after he’d already been drinking for a good long while. She’d unbuttoned the top of her shirt, inviting his eyes and remarking on the heat in the room more than once. She threw a few interested smiles his way, like she’d seen Shelle do, and she let her fingers brush his as she changed out cards or showed her hand. She tried to flirt like Lesa did, commenting on how attractive he was, how strong he seemed. Ultimately, he was intrigued by the hair that hid part of her face, the newsboy cap worn at an angle.

Kess offered to show him that and more in the alley . . . if he showed her more of him, of course.

It was her first time. And his last. She got rid of her virginity, so it would never be something she held on to, something in the way of an objective or an order from a crew boss, so she wouldn’t think about sex needing to be romantic. She’d given it away for vengeance. For guilt. For Mav.

Dane was still enjoying himself as he mock pleaded for Kess to take off her hat and show her full face. She asked if he was sure he was ready for it, and he all too happily confirmed. She took off the cap, let him see both of her eyes, and brought her lips to his ear.

“Mav says hello,” she whispered, just before slashing his throat with the knife she’d concealed in her hat.

* * *
Until the age of 20, Kess scraped out a lonely existence on the street, derelict buildings, and rented rooms. She kept to herself until being solitary felt normal for her. She’d gone from living with Meb, Ollie, and a whole building of skaa, to Mav’s crew, so it took some time to get used to being alone. She needed to feel truly self-sufficient. She did odd jobs and scavenged to make that happen.

The full meaning of time hit her during those days, when she had to fill all the waking minutes with tasks that contributed to her ultimate goal of eliminating as many weaknesses as possible. She used the time to exercise, to observe the people of the city, to track people, to pick pockets, to practice her punches, and kicks, her knife throwing. She used it to build up her pain tolerance, slicing her skin open where no one would see unless they’d gotten her clothes off. In time the incisions she made grew deeper, creating a collection of raised vertical scars on her right thigh and lower abdomen. Vanity had no place in this new version of herself. She was all about utility. She would try to look attractive if and when it had a purpose.

She took an interest in alternatives to traditional metal knives, after seeing how easily metal could be turned on crew members in the field. She opted instead for knives made entirely from wood and some made with glass blades; they were just as easily concealed as the standard without the vulnerabilities that came with metal. To make herself more useful over distance, she practiced archery with wood, stone, and glass-tipped arrows. That skill was trickier to gain given that she couldn’t walk around with a bow in the open. She practiced in an abandoned, ruined factory that was partially caved in, using the expansive factory-floor to practice shots at different paces. She lived there for a while and kept the bow and arrows hidden under a loose floorboard when not in use.

More than her knives or her bow and arrows, Kess valued an old pocket watch she’d gotten back when she’d joined Mav’s crew, not just because of how she’d come by it, but because of its timekeeping utility. The watch was definitely stolen, and had the following engraving on the inside: “To Alexander, Love Christiane.” It was metal - tarnished silver - which was a liability, but Kess planned on keeping it until she could replace it with something else. For now, she wore it tied to a string inside her jacket pocket. It was tied such that with one tug the knot would come undone and she’d lose the watch. Better that, than get pulled along with it.

* * *
After about four years of going solo, she judged herself ready to join another crew, even though she was still far from perfect. She kept her ear to the ground, listening for chatter on what crews were active and where she might be a good fit. The name Datura came up a lot, more than most. She was known for being tough as nails, but for caring about those who worked for her. She was also famous for acquiring other crews. Datura’s crew became Kess’s first choice. She just had to figure out how to make her move.

Lyle was a small-time crew leader who had recently been absorbed into Datura’s operation. He’d acted amenable to the change in authority, but when he was in his cups, he slurred about out how he really felt. He wanted to take it from her. To absorb some of her people into his crew, take over from the inside, and reap all the benefits.

He definitely didn’t have the numbers, not at the moment, anyway. But he did have a Rioter’s touch, so there was a chance he could sway enough people in his direction. Even at the tavern people nodded at his drunken diatribes, those who’d come from his crew or who’d come to be part of Datura’s crew after hostile acquisitions pulled them in. Kess acted as though his rioting had an effect on her.

Lyle would be a good gift.

She took her time, following Lyle’s pub visits, conversations, and habits. She learned that after his sixth drink or so he tended to take a piss break. She anticipated one of his breaks, waited in the alley, and knocked him out with a loose brick.

She “borrowed” a wheelbarrow and carted Lyle right to Datura’s door, bound and gagged, and buried beneath a pile of ash. Kess explained the gift as simply as possible and suggested she send someone someone back to the tavern to hear some of the traitorous words for themselves.

And she pitched her services. Her knives, her arrows, and her copperclouds.

Thankfully, the bold move paid off, and Kess was accepted into the fold. She’s been a part of Datura’s outfit ever since.

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Lyle talked a lot of shit when he was drunk.

That wasn’t the only thing about him that changed under the influence of alcohol. His entire posture transformed from sitting up straight, emphasizing his height, to slumping over the table and leaning on both of his elbows, a full tankard of ale in between the two. Almost like there was treasure in that cup, that he was sloppily guarding from everyone else.

There was some truth to that. Kess had noticed the Rioter slip something into his own drink. Zinc.

Metal to ratchet up the emotions. Alcohol to loosen the tongues.

The formula wasn’t a stupid one. Lyle’s problem was that he let his performance become his reality. Instead of switching his drink to something non-alcoholic, or nursing his cups, he let himself become intoxicated, let his tongue become too loose.

Still, he commanded most of the room. She’d claimed a good spot with a view of him, but close to the door, at one of the tavern’s long communal tables. Everyone on the bench opposite her had turned themselves around to get a better look, to join his conversation. Even drunk, he knew how to pull their heartstrings.

Kess was burning copper, as she did every waking hour, so that shit didn’t work on her. Not that anyone could tell by looking at her. Outwardly, she’d joined the hive mind, drumming the tabletop, and raising her tankard of tea at the right moments - it was essentially the same color as the house’s medium ale.

Lyle had imbibed enough, and been cheered enough, that he decided to wax philosophical, on the top of his chair. He stood up, and put one unsteady leg on the seat, then the other, missing the middle of the seat and causing two of the chair legs to rise off the floor. The Muscle who sat next to him helped right the chair again, while Lyle grinned at his mistake and swayed a bit before regaining his balance. He held up his cup triumphantly and the crowd erupted in applause, which Kess joined in on. He wasn’t a bad looking guy, with golden hair, and big brown eyes, and a little bit of soot strategically smeared on his face to show that he worked his ass off like the lot of them, even though he definitely wasn’t the average working man.

Over her time observing him, Kess had seen that he did in fact possess charisma, which was vital to getting others to follow you, unless you ruled by fear alone, which was also effective considering the Lord Ruler’s track record. But Lyle’s fondness for alcohol weakened him. Kess would never understand this particular weakness in people. It was so easy to avoid.

“We’re out ‘ere, railin’ againsht tyranny. Puttin’ our lives ontha line. Organizin’ ourshelves, trustin’ eachoder. An’ wha’ dowee git fer it?” Lyle paused, surveying the room with his eyes. He caught Kess’s gaze for less than a second during his sweep.

“Anoderr fuckin’ tyran’. She dinks she could jus’ take eny crew she wants. Dinks it’s fine to imposh ‘er rule. We’re takin’ risk-ks, tryin’o be freer, to gobbern ourshelves, but no, she’s gotta make ‘ershelf a Lordessh o’er us awl!”

The crowd erupted into a combination of applause, table-drumming, and cheering, their anger and resentment likely helped along by the combination of zinc and strong drink. Lyle’s logic was sound, especially considering that he was on his sixth drink of the night.

No one seemed put off by the slurring that threaded its way through his speech. The crowd was in his ash-stained palm. He could’ve been so useful. So powerful. If she’d met him when she was a young teen, she probably would’ve fallen under his spell - if he’d been sober - and talked less. If only he’d focused his gifts on the Empire instead of letting his own sense of importance takeover. It was well and truly a waste. She almost felt bad about what she had to do.

Almost.

“Sho, I shay we take it backk fromtha bitch! We show ‘er that we’re nit ‘ers to conquerr! We mey’ave ben born slaves to the Lord Rulerr, but we’ll neber be ‘er slaves!”

More cheering. More whoops.

“We kin rise upp!” He shouted, thrusting his cup out before him to punctuate his speech, some liquid sloshing out the sides. “We kin take backk our crews!” Again, he punched the tankard forward, like a warrior with an ax or a hammer in-hand. “We kin turrn dose who’ve ben too af-fraid to step outta line! We kin awaken dere pride, dere loyaltee to where dey come from!”

Sweat shined in his golden hair, and on his forehead, passion and alcohol mingling inside him. He would’ve been a hell of a recruiter for the rebellion. Oh, Lyle, you self-absorbed ash-hole.

“She neber botered to earn our truss. Our loyaltee. She only threatened to throw us inna cinall. Thas notta choice, broads an’ gents! Thas disrespect! THATS BULLSCHITT!”

The crowd went wild as Lyle took another swig of ale. The drumming on the tables was loud, unified in a single rhythm, as everyone in the room chanted, “Lyle! Lyle! Lyle! Lyle!”

He pulled his tankard from his lips and his lips curved into a broad, boyish grin. The kind that melted weak hearts.

“We’ll give Daturrahh the same non-choice! Fall’n line . . .” He did another sweep of the room with those impassioned eyes. “Or sink to tha bottom o’tha cinall! WHO’S WITH ME?” He shot that mug out in front of him once more and everyone lifted their cups, chanting, “We are! We are! We are!”

In the chaos, of people rising to stand, lifting their glasses high, and Lyle chugging the remainder of his ale, Kess slipped out the door. She slipped he left hand in her coat pocket and tightened her fingers around the small brick she carried there.