In between episodes of Secrets in Stained Glass, we will have a variety of stories coming your way! This first one covers a key moment in the backstory of Dier Venture, and another comes next Wednesday, August 2nd, about his sister Eliane. You can see all Secrets in Stained Glass content in our tag! Spoilers for Secrets in Stained Glass Episode 3 are below. For a PDF version of the story, click here!
Content Warnings: Brief depiction of violence, character death, abusive treatment
1010 FE: Three weeks before the Elariel Lakeside Solstice Party
The old man was in one of his moods again.
Dier wasn’t exactly surprised. Certainly didn’t take much these days to set his father off. Renholm Venture had become steadily more ill-humored and foul-tempered since cousin Straff took over the house and started subjecting him to the indignity of having a man twenty years his junior pulling rank to make him behave.
And he’d never been anything resembling a pleasant person to begin with.
But while the cold demands of his unyielding nephew were a source of frustration and stung pride, nothing got Renholm’s blood set to boiling more quickly than trying to rein in his willful, disrespectful, useless firstborn. At this point, Dier didn't even bother listening to what was being said as his father shouted himself red in the face. He knew what he'd hear: the same old, well-worn talking points from the dozens of other times they'd had this fight, over and over, ad nauseam.
You're a disappointment to this family, and an embarrassment to me! I'll be damned if I let you disrespect this house and our legacy! Be better! Do more! Just care!
Dier lounged back on the long chaise in his father's study, all but basking in the glorious sounds of his father’s shouting as he fiddled with his dueling cane. It didn't matter what his father was saying at this point. It wasn’t about the words anyway, it was about the tone. Renholm’s fury was nothing short of music to his ears.
Dier couldn't remember which of his many potential failures or offenses had prompted tonight's particular "lecture" about filial responsibility. Lord Ruler knew he’d left enough of those lying about for the house to enjoy.
Twist-click. Twist-click. Twist-click. The smooth metal join that kept his dueling cane together had a satisfying feel as he loosened and refastened the two cane halves across his lap. Most nobles kept solid wood canes, fearing Allomancers, but Dier's canes always had a core of steel beneath the wood exterior. No reason to avoid metal if you were one of those Allomancers everyone was supposed to be afraid of, after all.
Renholm was a large man, though neither terribly muscular nor particularly rotund. Just naturally broad in a way he knew how to use to be intimidating, a presence he’d learned to wield to make others feel small. His face, over the course of this scathing rant, had started to shift from sun-red to something verging on purple, and Dier absently wondered if perhaps his father had somehow found a way to shout so hard he wasn’t getting enough air anymore.
Now wasn’t that a pleasant thought?
“...will not hear any further snide comments or objections out of you! Am I understood?” Renholm towered over him as he barked the words, leaning in close enough that Dier worried he might get caught by spittle.
Dier listened in just long enough to catch his cue, nodding along without looking up. “Oh, don’t worry Father, you’ve made your point perfectly clear. I swear, never again will I…” He trailed off, snapping his fingers distractedly as he pretended to search for his next words. “Sorry, remind me what it is we’re talking about again? I’m sure you must have mentioned it somewhere in there, but I just can’t seem to—”
“How dare you mouth off to me, boy,” Renholm growled. “You will pay attention when I am speaking to you!”
Dier scoffed to himself as he clicked the cane-halves apart again. “Why? Were you planning on saying something worth listening to at any point?”
Renholm backhanded him, and immediately a sharp jolt of thick, suffocating fear surged through Dier, a raw animal panic. The blow was hard enough to make the room spin for a second, though Dier managed to lean with the motion to soften the impact. He had enough training to know how to dodge such a simple blow—something his father always seemed to forget—but he knew letting Renholm think he was hitting harder than he actually was would get this over with faster.
That fear that accompanied the hit felt like it was clawing its way up Dier's throat, a seizing terror that made him want to cringe down or plead for mercy. But he steeled his expression to annoyed boredom instead, refusing to let the emotion show. And as expected, it was gone in a moment anyway—as he’d known it would be—replaced by a burning shame and crippling insecurity.
Then a gnawing guilt over how inadequate he was. Then a hollow sense of impotence. Then a jittery anxiety. Then a hollow dread to bring things back around to fear, for good measure. An endless slew of negative feelings, dragged against his will onto the surface of his psyche until they stacked up in a sloppy mess, each one vaguely burying the last. There were only so many ways a person could feel bad about themselves, but there were endless iterations within the themes, subtly different flavors, tones, and reactions.
And Renholm had enjoyed plenty of opportunities to practice getting creative. Whenever his temper flared, so did his zinc.
Most people thought emotional Allomancers were all subtle masters of manipulation, pulling the strings of others so carefully that their subjects never realized they were dancing to another’s tune. And admittedly, Renholm could be subtle when he wanted to be; one didn’t live in this house for long without learning to question any twinge of a feeling that seemed unexpected or potentially out of place.
But whenever things turned ugly, he preferred a stronger tactic. Once the gloves were off, it wasn’t about manipulation, it was about a show of power, about making sure whoever was unlucky enough to be on the other side of him knew what he was doing, knew they couldn’t stop him from getting in their head. An onslaught of powerful, unnatural emotions like punches to the gut, enough to keep anyone's head spinning, to make sure they had no chance of keeping their own thoughts straight.
Dier straightened from the slap, cheek still smarting, and forced himself to keep his expression trained to neutral apathy. Then he finally looked up at his father and pushed out a smile, knowing it'd drive Renholm crazy. Without Allomancy like his father’s to make manipulating emotions easy, Dier had always had to resort to more mundane methods to ensure Renholm felt as frustrated as he did. He liked to think his spite was equal to the task of matching his father’s zinc, and that was a reserve within him so boundless he’d been flaring it for years.
It took effort to keep the maelstrom of all he was being made to feel from breaking across his face, but he knew nothing would annoy his father more than not getting the right reaction from his endlessly defiant son. His smirk twitched as he held it in place, and he felt a bead of sweat roll down his back between his shoulder blades. He was determined not to let himself crack from this, internally keeping a white-knuckled grip on his control as the Rioting tore and tugged and yanked at him from all angles. After all, he'd had as much practice enduring zinc as his father had burning it.
None of it's real. He forced the thought through his head over and over. It's all fake. We've done this all before. None of it matters.
Renholm scowled darkly, stepping closer to try to loom over his disrespectful son. "Your behavior is unbefitting of any child of mine and it is unbefitting of a Venture! It’s as though you wish to intentionally provoke me and bring shame upon this house! As though you enjoy forcing me to deal with you this way. Enjoy leaving me no choice!"
And why shouldn’t I? I was never going to be good enough, and you were always going to ‘deal with me’ like this. Why wouldn’t I devote my life’s efforts to ensuring you feel as powerless as I do in this relationship? I can’t do anything to stop your tirades and your zinc, but I can make certain you know you can’t do anything to stop me from embarrassing the house and our good name. Why would I not enjoy seeing just how miserable I can make you too?
It was the thing Renholm had never managed to figure out about him. He thought Dier lazy, unmotivated. But he was wrong. So very wrong. Of course Dier was motivated by his father’s wrath. Motivated to ensure it never worked. Motivated to make sure that every time Renholm screamed at him to get better, Dier met his eyes with a smirk and intentionally made himself worse. Renholm, so obsessed with his own station in a house he’d married into, a Lordship he couldn’t even inherit, could not fathom how readily his son would throw it all away.
Despite how clearly Dier had proclaimed it in his every word and deed, Renholm never seemed to realize how gladly his son would set his own life ablaze if only for the chance to see his father burned down with him.
But saying any of that aloud would give the game away, and besides, Dier just couldn't resist the opening Renholm had left him. "Oh, and what would you know of what's befitting of the Ventures, Father? I'm the only true-born Venture in this room. But if I have any questions about how to marry into a stronger house and take my wife's name instead, I'll be sure to ask you about it."
Renholm's red face purpled further, and Dier knew he'd struck home. “Don’t you dare mention your mother to me, you insolent brat! As though selfish, reckless conduct like yours isn’t exactly how she nearly brought this house to ruin! She was lucky her unbridled decisions that night led to no one’s death but her own!”
Dier’s smirk faltered momentarily, crumpling into a grimace as Renholm punctuated that sentence with a hard yank on not only his shame, but his sense of grief as well. He struggled to force it back in place, not wanting to concede even that small victory to his father, but his own expression resisted him. How deeply unfair that he could still ache like this, even knowing how blatantly he was being Rioted, even after how many times he’d endured this. How could the cautionary tale of the late Fedrienne Venture still be so sharp despite how many times his father had scraped it against his ribs?
Not to mention, it was hard to take such warnings seriously when no one was ever willing to say what the hell it was she’d actually done. No details, nothing about what had truly happened all those years ago. Everyone tiptoeing around like talking about the real answer would dredge it all back up. No, the only times Dier ever heard anyone speak of his mother’s fate was to throw her misbehavior in his face: their proud, talented, overconfident Mistborn who’d struck out on her own against orders and gotten herself killed in the process. How he was like her in all the worst ways whenever the house was displeased with him. Such a tragic, senseless loss of a key Venture asset for no other reason than hubris and disobedience.
At least she’d been kind enough to Snap her son into a Coinshot before dying in such an inconvenient way for the rest of them. An eight-year-old untrained Misting to replace their fully fledged, adult Mistborn. A trade no one in the house would have chosen, particularly that worthless new little Allomancer they all simply had to put up with until he’d learned enough to be of value to them. All his life he’d felt the weight of her absence, the impossible expectation that he needed to be worthy of her legacy, fill the hole she’d left behind.
You have to be your mother’s son, Dier, but… No. No, not like that.
He knew what he was to his family: Never enough. Their only chance to make back the Allomantic debt his mother had left in her irresponsible wake. A constant reminder to his father of the worst parts of his beloved wife: the part of her he hadn’t been able to control, the flaws she’d indulged that took her from him too soon.
Dier tried to maintain his strong front, but the Rioting never gave him a moment to think, and Renholm still knew how to hit his son where it hurt. So all Dier could do was make sure he did the same. “Do you think she’d be proud of you,” he asked, looking upward slowly and feeling his lip tremble as it curled into a snarl, “to see how well you raised her only son after she was gone?”
Renholm lunged forward, snatching towards his son’s throat, but this time Dier did dodge, shoving the arm out of the way with one of his cane halves. "You will learn not to speak to me with such disrespect or I'll–"
"You'll what?" Dier said, finally managing to find his grin again. “Shout at me? Riot me? Slap me across the face, perhaps? I think you’re running out of credible threats, Father. Might need some new material.”
He tried to find his satisfaction in his defiance, knowing it was there somewhere beneath the over-zinced emotional mess his father had made of him. He’d feel it later, remembering this look on his father’s face, knowing how deeply he’d struck back. But he wanted to be able to feel it now, desperately. Here he was, sitting across from the hard-earned reward for all the effort and planning and care he’d put into his delinquency and misbehavior and that damn zinc wouldn’t even let him taste the joy of it.
Though that vindictive pleasure he rightfully deserved eluded him, there was one constant he could still grasp through the roiling seethe; one feeling that he knew was his own: a churning, delirious rage. That burned brightly enough to shine through whatever shame, guilt, or fear his father unfairly manifested, and Dier clung to it, his lifeline in the maelstrom. Renholm would never be so stupid as to stoke such an emotion within him, after all. He'd never encourage something that could lead someone to defy him. So Dier held onto that beautiful, pure loathing, knowing it was his, and knowing that his father could pile whatever meaningless, false feelings he wanted on top and it didn’t matter. Rioting couldn’t do a thing about this other than try to choke it out with something louder. Renholm had no Soothing to take that hatred, that fury, away from Dier, and Dier relished it.
Renholm opened his mouth, taking a deep breath—no doubt to find some inept new insult or take the whole affair from the top again—and some long-strained cord in Dier just… snapped. Before he could think about what he was doing, his steel warmed to a comfortable glow in his gut and lines of blue sprang into existence across his sight. In the same moment, he raised the hand holding the top bar of his cane, carefully judging the angle, then opened his hand and Pushed.
That steel-cored bar, about the length of his forearm when separated from its bottom half, flew up and caught his father right under the chin, sending him stumbling backward. Dier secured himself on a handful of anchors behind him and then let the other half of his cane fly, hitting his father in his stomach with it and knocking the wind out of the blustering man. Dier leaned forward in his seat, bracing himself as he shoved hard against the bars, Pushing until his father was pinned against the wood-paneled wall of the study.
Renholm sputtered, grabbing the bar against his throat with both hands to try to push it back and regain his air. Dier stood slowly from the chaise, carefully managing anchors behind to ensure the pressure on his father didn’t let up. Renholm outweighed him, but Dier had caught him by surprise, and now, with Renholm in such a disadvantageous position and Dier braced as he was, he had no trouble keeping his father pinned.
It took a complex net of steelwork to hold him down, but that was another thing his father never seemed to remember about him. That despite how much of an inept failure the house might see him as, he wasn’t entirely useless. Vasha, at least, had taught him well.
“Before you finish whatever unoriginal threat you were planning to deliver, I’ve had a realization.” Dier shrugged as he walked forward, finally starting to find that satisfaction he’d been craving at the shocked look on Renholm’s face. His father gave a little jerk as every step forward Pushed on the bars a little more. “I’m done with this conversation. In fact, I think I’m just… done. With all of it.”
He stepped right up next to his father and flared his steel to give a little extra shove against the cane-half against his father’s neck, ensuring Renholm wouldn’t be able to talk back. Dier's emotions flickered frantically through him, a zinc-stoked cacophony and unnatural in every way, but he focused on what it told him, not what it made him feel. It was his father’s panic, shining through every Rioted sensation, Renholm’s Allomancy trying to grab onto anything in Dier he could, anything that might make him stop. He knew which of his feelings were real, his wrath and joy blending into a cocktail so intoxicating, no false Rioting could distract him from them now.
Dier simply let his grin spread, not even having to force it this time, and loosened his signet ring on his finger. He set it gently against Renholm’s forehead, that symbol of the inheritance that no one actually wanted him to have, and held it there with a very soft Push of its own when he pulled his finger away.
“Shhh,” he said, savoring the fear in his father’s eyes at the threat the little ring represented. “Haven’t we said enough to each other? Haven’t you surely found every possible way to express your profound disappointment with me by now?”
Renholm’s mouth worked as he struggled against the cane halves, trying to get out from beneath them—or at the very least, get the higher one off his neck—but Dier’s steel was relentless. The Rioted emotions in Dier were manic chaos, overwhelming but practically indistinguishable in how quickly they flickered over him.
Dier started, caught off-guard by the sudden disappearance of his father's Allomancy in his head. Renholm never let up on him during a fight like this, it was unthinkable. Which was why, a moment later, Dier was hit full-force when a singular, all-consuming sense of love for his father slammed into him, drowning everything else out.
It was a terrible, aching affection affection, strong enough to bring tears to his eyes as his chest seized up. He gasped softly, staggering, but as Renholm tried to surge forward to escape, Dier instinctively shoved on the bars again to hold the pin. He looked at his struggling father, feeling nothing but warm, soft sentiment inside for the man he’d loathed his entire life, and just slowly shook his head.
“No,” Dier said, making his face contort into a grimace against the sickeningly unnatural emotion, even as he blinked those ill-begotten tears away. “No, I think we both know it’s far too late for that, Father.”
Renholm snarled, still gasping for breath against the pressure on his neck. “You’ll… regret this… you damned… ungrateful…”
Dier leaned in, feeling a strange moment of certainty within, an unexpected eye in the storm. “You know what, Father? I really don’t think I will…”
With a cruel grimace, he flared his steel and Pushed on that ring with all the Allomantic strength he could muster. With a sharp crack and a wet crunch, the zinc stopped, false emotions evaporating in an instant. The room, and Dier’s mind, went blessedly quiet.
Dier stepped back, taking hold of the pieces of his cane as he released the anchors behind him and let the body drop in a heap to the ground. With the Rioting halted so abruptly, he felt unnaturally numb in the aftermath, like it hadn’t fully sunk in yet what he’d just done. With rote motions and a blank expression, he locked the cane back together again, then leaned on it as he stood there, staring down at what had once been his father.
It wasn’t the first time he’d killed someone, not even close. As a Coinshot, he was often pressed into house courier duty, and it just so happened that occasionally the messages he was tasked to deliver were sprays of coins sent at speed toward something soft and vital. He’d never minded getting his hands dirty if a job needed to be done. Honestly, what surprised him in this moment was how simple it had been. He’d thought it would be harder somehow, acting against his own flesh and blood, but really… it scarcely felt any different from cleaning out a rival house’s skaa.
Hmm. The real question is… what am I supposed to do next?
Even he couldn't ignore that this presented a logistical problem. Unlike a bunch of skaa, the death of such a high house lord would have repercussions. Their family wasn’t the leading branch of the Ventures; that dreadful duty had thankfully fallen upon his cousin Straff instead; but his mother and Straff’s father had been siblings. Straff’s sister had married out to House Erikell years back, leaving Fedrienne’s line next in the ranking. They were far from unimportant in this lineage. Assuming Straff’s little brat of an heir ever came down with a nasty cough—Lord Ruler forbid—Dier had the most obvious claim to inherit the house title. Something neither he nor the rest of the house had ever been pleased about.
And if it came out to the house that Dier had been the one responsible for his own father's death? Well, that would cause all manner of unpleasantness for him, he was sure. He ran his fingers through his dark hair, pushing back the messy strands at the front which always escaped the loose braid he usually wore.
What to do? What to do?
Could he blame this on another house, somehow? Frame it as an assassination by one of their rivals? He needed some way to get out of this. As satisfying as the crime of passion had been, he was forced to admit that perhaps something premeditated might have been wiser. A chance to give himself time to come up with a plan before it happened.
He’d have to pay the Ministry somehow for the killing, which wouldn’t be cheap, particularly since he hadn’t gotten an authorization in advance for an assassination. Technically Renholm had struck him first… Could he find an obligator that would take payment for it as an act of self-defense? Not to mention the bribe he’d need to keep his culpability quiet. He was smart enough not to risk Ministry sanction for not paying his dues, but he would need to make sure whomever he paid also knew to keep the details to themselves.
Of course, there was one person who’d probably know exactly how to handle this with the Ministry, but how in the world was he going to explain this to h—
A floorboard creaked outside the office, and Dier, still tense with adrenaline, reacted immediately. He grabbed a thick anchor behind him—his father’s hidden safe cabinet—and shoved on the office door’s hardware, sending it swinging open with a bang.
Revealing, much to his frustration, his wide-eyed younger sister crouching on the other side.
Eliane jumped back with a yelp as the door nearly hit her, locking eyes with him in a panic and starting to try to back away. Of course it would be Eliane, Dier thought with thick annoyance. The servants knew better than to be in the same wing when Renholm was in a bad mood. The old man had always been prone to breaking things when he lost his temper, and skaa were infinitely more replaceable than furniture or the Keep’s valuables. His sister, on the other hand, had always been too fond of sticking her nose in other people’s business for her own good.
That little habit would get her in trouble someday.
“Eliane,” he snarled through a paper-thin polite smile, “why don’t you step in here and join us? Shut the door behind you.” How much had she seen? He had to assume it was everything.
Eliane blanched slightly, but wisely realized from his tone that he hadn’t been asking, and ducked her head as she stepped in. Though she was only a few years younger than him, he’d always thought Eliane felt far younger than her twenty years. Eliane, whom Venture had sheltered, while they sent him to risk his neck for their politics and schemes. Where Dier had only ever been a reminder to their father of Fedrienne at her worst, Renholm had always treated Eliane like she was the sole remnant of all the lovely parts of their mother at her best.
When he looked at her now, he found resentment simmering within. He never went after you like he did me…
There’d been times in their childhood where things had been better between them, nights she’d waited up to make sure there was someone awake to see he was safe when he got home from a mission. Pity in her eyes as she’d helped stitch him back together after a job gone wrong. But now, as he saw that fearful tremble in her expression, he found nothing but disdain for his little sister and everything she represented.
She hid from conflict, he confronted it. She kept her head down and avoided attention where he always flaunted his presence at court affairs. Nervous, weak little thing that she was, Dier had always known she’d never have the temperament to survive amongst the cutthroat nobility.
Right now, she was a problem. And a problem was the last thing he needed.
Eliane closed the office door as requested, then carefully walked forward to join him when he pointed to a spot on the floor in front of him. When she was far enough in to catch sight of their father on the floor—and the new hole in his head—she clapped a hand to her mouth in horror.
"Sit down," Dier snapped, before she could say anything about it, "and don't even think about screaming."
Eliane stared at her brother aghast, but did drop to sit on the chaise when he pointed again. "Dier, what have you done?"
"Oh, don't start," he said witheringly. "The old bastard more than had it coming. Now, shut up so I can think."
Eliane opened her mouth to protest, but a hard glare from him snapped it shut again. She folded her hands in her lap, fiddling with her skirt as she laced and unlaced her fingers. Every so often her eyes would drift towards their father’s body, but she quickly yanked them away when she realized what she was doing, choosing instead to stare instead at a specific patch of the rug.
Admittedly, as he paced and tried to think of what to do next, a not insignificant part of Dier wondered if, as a witness to this impulsive little crime of his, Eliane might now be more trouble than she was worth. It was tempting to consider just getting rid of her too, make things simple. But he already had one murdered family member to deal with tonight. He reluctantly admitted to himself it would probably be wiser to deal with the first before he considered adding any more. Renholm had more than earned a hole in his head, but there were probably better ways of dealing with the inconvenience of Eliane than creating another corpse to have to cover up.
After a few minutes of Dier muttering to himself as he racked his brain to find a way out of this, Eliane looked at him again, fear and worry still writ plain across her face, and asked in a soft voice: “Dier… What’s going to happen to us?”
He started to tell her to be quiet again, when an idea finally popped. An idea that just might work. He stopped pacing and turned to face her fully, mouth splitting in a grin. The expression seemed to, if anything, frighten Eliane further.
“What’s going to happen? Nothing,” he said lightly, even giving a little laugh at how obvious it was, ready to kick himself for not seeing it sooner. “Nothing at all, little Ellie.”
Her expression hardened as she stared back. “Have you lost your mind?” He was almost impressed; perhaps his sister did have a backbone in there somewhere. Unfortunately, it was, for him, a deeply inconvenient time for her to have grown one.
“Watch your tone,” he said, lip curling. “You ought to be thanking me. Don’t try to act like you’ve got any kind of moral high ground here. You’d have done the same thing if you’d been capable of it. You just weren’t strong enough.”
Her hands balled and she pressed them against her thighs, crumpling the fabric of her skirts as she did so. “I’m not…!" she started to protest, then stopped herself. Wisely."Tell yourself whatever you need to if it helps you feel better about what you’ve done, I don’t care. But we need a plan, because now you’ve dragged me into this. What are we going to do?”
He rolled his eyes. “If you’d listened rather than immediately mouthing off, you could have let me finish telling you the plan.” He leaned down, getting right up in her face and enjoying the way she flinched back from him. “I am going to stay right here and ensure no one else in this household… interrupts this very important conversation Father and I are having. And you, little Ellie, are going to go find SaeNinn and let him know his presence is required in the study.”
Eliane frowned for a moment, bewildered as she tried to understand his reasoning for such a demand. Her eyes slid back to their father on the floor and she flinched, realizing what he intended. She looked nauseous at the thought. “Y-you can’t be serious. He’s… he’s our father.”
Dier straightened again, giving a dismissive wave. “No. He was our father. Now, he’s an inconvenient corpse. One that needs to be dealt with expeditiously. Unless you’d prefer we sit here until someone else stumbles upon him in such a state?” He stepped back, pointing at the door. “SaeNinn. Study. Now. Tell him his Contract holder wishes to discuss an amendment.”
Eliane held his gaze for an extended moment without moving to obey, long enough that he raised an eyebrow at her in challenge. How exactly do you think this is going to go down, little sister? Is this really a fight you want to pick right now?
She broke first, dropping her eyes to the floor and standing. She even dipped him the tiniest curtsy when she was back on her feet. "Very well," she said, clearly not pleased but cooperating. "As you wish, my lord."
He smirked, trying to decide if she was being cheeky with the formal address. Hard to tell, though the look she shot him when she raised her head again was anything but respectful.
"Oh, and Eliane," he said, "I expect you to be back by the top of the hour. Otherwise, I'm coming to find you myself, and I can assure you we'll have a much less pleasant conversation if that becomes necessary."
Her mouth thinned to a flat line. "It won't be. I don't need to be threatened, Dier."
He shrugged, smirk undeterred. "Merely making sure we're both on the same page here. On you go, then." He sat down behind his father's desk, tossing his legs up on top of it and kicking back a fresh vial of steel dust. Just in case.
Eliane gave him one last dark look, then turned and walked out, off to find the kandra. Or off to make a very foolish mistake.
By the top of the hour he'd know which.
Dier didn’t have to wait long.
It was well before the bell when he saw the steel-lines of his sister's jewelry approach on the other side of the study door. He stayed tense, running his thumb over the handful of clips in his left hand, until he heard the knock and Eliane’s voice called through: “My lord, may I enter?”
He Pushed the door open again in lieu of answering, quickly checking that this wasn’t an ambush. Eliane was in front, startled again by his Allomancy, and behind her was a single figure he didn’t recognize. The young man had short silver hair, and he leaned around Eliane to peek curiously at Dier beyond, seeming interested in the display with the door.
Dier paused. He’d thought SaeNinn had been a Terrisman last he’d seen the thing, but perhaps he’d simply not been paying attention to the latest assignment. He supposed he ought to be thankful Eliane had known where to find this version of him. The role couldn’t have been that important, whatever it was.
And besides, it was over now.
Eliane stepped aside and indicated for SaeNinn to enter first, then closed the door behind them both. The kandra, clearly still in character, turned in a circle as he walked in, admiring the tall bookshelves before stopping before the desk and offering a bow.
“What a well-appointed room, Lord Venture. It is an impressive collection,” he said with a polite smile. “Your sister mentioned your Lord Father would be joining us to discuss business?”
Eliane grimaced, wrapping an arm around her waist. “That wasn’t… quite it.”
“Drop the act, creature. Your assignment’s over.” Dier stood, moving to pull back the window curtains he’d done his best to hide his father’s corpse behind. “As lord of this family branch and inheritor of your Contract, I hereby compel you to a new assignment. Thankfully, it's a target you’re fully familiar with, so I do not expect you’ll have any trouble with the role.”
Immediately, like the snuffing of a candle, any hint of emotion vanished from the kandra’s face, an inhuman emptiness left in its place. Dier had always found kandra disturbing, especially when the creatures stopped pretending, but he couldn’t argue with how damn useful they were.
SaeNinn’s blank gaze slid to Renholm on the floor, and he might as well have been staring at an off-color bit of paint on a wall rather than the corpse of a man he’d served since before Dier was born. “I see. You wish me to take these bones?”
“Yes,” Dier said, waving towards the body. “In case you need it said outright, from here on out, you will be Lord Renholm Venture, and you will ensure his true passing will be known to none beyond this room. Understood?”
SaeNinn bowed once. “Yes, Master. And what assignment would you have me undertake, in this new role?”
“Assignment?” Dier scoffed. “That’s it. Just be him. Do whatever you think he’d do. Oversee the house. Run interference for whatever Venture directives come down from Cousin Straff. Frankly, I don’t care what you do, or how you do it, so long as no one suspects you.”
For the briefest of seconds, there was a flicker in the kandra’s expression, and Dier wondered if the creature actually had emotions of its own under there somehow. “To clarify,” SaeNinn said slowly. “You… wish me to run your branch of the house?”
“I wish you to be the old man and ensure none suspect anything has happened to him. And yes, that means I expect you to handle whatever responsibilities he had,” Dier said. “Lord Ruler knows I’m not going to do it. If there’s some truly important decision that needs to be made, I can inform you how to proceed, but I do not wish to be bothered with mundanities and minutiae. Handle whatever comes up however you see fit.”
Eliane fixed him with such a look of shocked contempt as she heard the hands-off instructions, and he crossed his arms and cocked an eyebrow back. You really think you want to lecture me right now about not taking enough responsibility, Ellie? Because it didn’t go so well for the last person who tried tonight. Her frown deepened, but eventually she glanced away, wisely choosing to hold her tongue.
The kandra watched the silent exchange of looks between the siblings before addressing Dier again. “It shall be done, Master. I will need several hours undisturbed, but the transition will be complete by first light.”
Dier smiled, spreading his arms in a showy little flourish towards his sister. “See? Solved. As far as anyone else is concerned, nothing's happened. Nothing changes. And for us, dear sister? No more of his raving, no more lectures, and best of all: not another hint of zinc in this house. Never again.” He crossed the room and clapped her on the shoulder, a motion that made her flinch sharply. “You’ll see. This’ll be a good thing. You keep your mouth shut about whatever you think you saw tonight, and I assure you, it’ll all work out for the best.”
She pursed her lips, looking up and searching for something in his eyes. “If you say so, Dier. You know best. Clearly.”
His smile thinned, not appreciating that little spark of disrespect she still had. “Keep that thought in mind, won’t you? I think it’s a mindset that would serve you well in the days to come. It’s a trying time, after all. We’re family. We should support one another, shouldn’t we?”
I’m not an enemy you want to make, Eliane.
She sighed, giving one last look towards SaeNinn and the body, shuddering. Always too soft for the hard realities, she was, Dier told himself. But he had to trust that she was smart enough to not let her foolish sentiment get in the way. She’d see he’d been right in time, once the surprise and messy emotions faded. She'd be grateful their father was gone. And she was smart enough to figure out that defying him wouldn’t go well for her. She’d stay in line.
Dier turned back to the kandra, sweeping a sarcastically elaborate bow. “I suppose I’ll see you in the morning, Father. So glad we were finally able to have a productive conversation between us.”
He started to make for the door, putting a hand at the small of Eliane’s back to shove her out of the room along with him, then paused to turn back.
“Also, one last thing,” he said, remembering something, “when you’re done with it all, kandra, spit my signet ring out. Think I left it in there somewhere, and I’d really like it back.”
Eliane looked like she was going to be sick, stumbling a bit as he pushed her forward. He just laughed. There was that satisfied delight he’d been searching for. Honestly, the only regret in his mind as they walked from the room was that he hadn't done this years ago.
(Portrait Sketch by Elisgardor)