Leafiara/Tales/Mother and Mother
Original Story: Fashanos 14, 5119
A hooded figure stood on the horizon--the only person Leafi had seen in hours as she wandered a desolate and broken land of fragmented, grey earth caked in layers of ash. She couldn't help but approach; at worst she was looking at the very one who caused the destruction, but at best she could get answers. After some time she made her way to the unmoving figure, who kept a back turned without acknowledging her presence.
"It's been a long time since I've returned here," Leafiara began. "Do... do you know how all this happened?"
The figure tilted its head down, but said nothing.
"...did the Empire finally attack?"
Leafi let out a sigh. "Captain... is it you? You sent the vision of this future to Balley, but we didn't understand what you meant or how to stop this... Maybe we can send a different vision back. Maybe the past can still be changed. But we have to know: who did this?"
The figure surprised Leafi with a low growl--a male growl. "Who did this?" he repeated.
"That's what I'm ask--"
In the blink of an eye he tackled her hard and brandished two daggers, pressing one blade to her throat with his left hand and his right hand raised and poised to stab her. "You did this! You and that cripple!" The figure tossed his head sharply, flipping his hood backward, and glared coldly at her with steel blue eyes, his dark brown hair wild and disheveled.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Leafi awoke with a start. The dark of night filled the room and a light rain still tapped at the roof of the Solhaven Inn.
Rysus again. Rysus always. She'd never seen his face before that night--that night of her birthday, that night of his deathday--but now it haunted her most every week. So too did his words: You'll wish for me. You'll beg for me. When the noose is too tight.
And now the Rook Mother was speaking of an Imperial response unlike any other to Grishom Stone, all while the Vaalorians were expanding into nearby territories. But will the new Rooks oppose them? Rysus would have... for all his faults, I know he would have...
The half-sylvan lass sighed. The Mother says almost all the right things. A truce with the militia, opposition to our enemies, belief in our freedom... If I took her at face value, she's seen all the sense I hoped Rysus would. It's like she's keeping the best of his ideals and leaving behind the worst of his practices...
"So why?" Leafiara whispered aloud, lightly banging her fist on the bed sheet. "Why can't I believe her?"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Ten years ago
The sixteen-year-old half-sylvan carefully hung up the strapless milky white dress, its pink sapphire accents gleaming in the light. Leafiara grinned even as a faint blush colored her cheeks, still on a high from her role in her troupe's latest play.
"A delight to see something you value more than money," teased her mother Florania. "I am curious, however: is a costume all you will take away from the production now that its run has ended?"
"...what do you mean?" asked Leafi.
"The moral of the story, sweetie. 'If something seems too good to be true, it usually is'--such was the message, yes?"
Leafi nodded briefly.
"A pragmatic message for your audience of children, perhaps, but... does such a message not in and of itself seem too good to be true?"
Leafi turned to fully face her mother. "I almost don't want to know, but: what do you mean?" she repeated.
"Consider that idea," Flor said lightly, "or rephrase it. 'More often than not, intuition suffices to determine the truth of another's claims and intentions.' No need of careful consideration, nor discussion, nor experience, but intuition alone will do?" Flor took a sip of tea, casting a bemused look at her daughter. "My, if only life were so simple."
"So... what?" Leafara asked slowly. "I should take people at face value all the time?"
"Hardly," said Flor, chuckling. "I am only saying that you will likely discover that people are more complex than aphorisms."
"Sayings," Flor sighed. "You are an example of such yourself--you've no idea how many parents privately shared their surprise that you would be interested in playing a princess on stage. They thought you a tomboy because you are so boisterous. ...lively."
Leafi shrugged. "I'm just who I am," she said, chuckling.
"That is my point, dear. Perhaps it was an oversimplification to see you as such--or perhaps you are changing with age."
"I'll never change with age!" Leafiara scoffed, waving a dismissive hand.
"Mm, we shall see. You and your father are quite reckless at times, so perhaps I should embrace a play whose message urges you to caution--but I cannot. Not fully. Recklessness is not necessarily a bad thing--we would not have each other nor you had he not approached me, heedless of consequences and cultural taboos. Idealism and pragmatism can complement and temper one another; likewise faith and cynicism. I hope you shall neither trust nor dismiss others too readily."
Leafi tilted her head, a look of partial understanding on her face.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Can't sleep anyway... might as well get back to preparing...
Still half-awake, Leafiara sang a brief Light spell to illuminate her room at the inn and retrieved a small bloodscrip pouch from under the covers.
Raznel's the only guaranteed target... but will I also be turning my weapons against the Vaalorians or the Empire? And are the Rooks more friend or foe this time?