Leafiara (prime)/Tales/A Coraesine Carol

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Original Story: Ivastaen 10, 5118

The starlight shone down around Leafiara as she wandered the wilderness at some distance from Wehnimer's Landing, a burning wrotwood torch lighting the way before her. The air was crisp and fresh and the night still and quiet, save for the occasional sound of wildlife in the distance. The environment suited a sylvan-raised lass like her, but when she was honest with herself, she also loved the din and the--what was the word--poignant smells she'd just left behind at Helga's, where at least for now she hosted two town hall meetings each month.

At last Leafi's eyes fixed on a nearby field and a faint smile crossed her lips. She extinguished her torch, then untied her sandals, kicked them off, strode barefoot into the grass, and lifted her head and her voice to sing to the stars.

I've had a perennial vision since my earliest remembered days ♪
Skipping through fields and dancing around the flowers as a little girl ♪

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Her surroundings whirled into a blur just then, dizzying her, and when her sight stopped spiraling she found herself warm in the sunlight in a distant meadow--a meadow from her memories, from the sylvan woods.

"Wha--what just happened?" she asked--but her voice had squeaked. Leafi blushed and clasped a hand over her mouth, then felt a chill; neither her hand or mouth seemed quite right. She tentatively stretched her arm before her and turned pale at the sight before her--her own body, but her own younger body--some twelve or thirteen years old, perhaps.

Leafi shook her head violently, her mind racing. A delayed effect of curing the black blood? We're trying to reverse Larsya's aging--is this the same thing?

"No, no, no," she murmured, then whirled about--and behind her, as inexplicable and surreal as everything she'd ever been through, she saw the scene she'd just been taken from: the sunlit meadow she stood in now and the starlit field were just adjacent to each other. Her older self still stood in the field outside the Landing, gazing up into the stars, and Leafi rushed toward it only to find herself cut off by an invisible wall. She couldn't help thinking of Naimorai trapped in the past.

The older girl continued her song.

I've had a longstanding ambition, a fantasy of all the ways ♪
I'd leave a legacy and make my name resound with power throughout the world ♪

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The younger Leafi's surroundings whirled into a blur again and she found herself in Liabo Plaza in Solhaven next to her older self, who was speaking with her mother Florania and friend Khylynnia.

"Help!" the younger Leafi cried, waving her arms about, but soon her arms fell and shoulders slumped as none of the three paid her any mind.

"In many of these epic ballads and heroic poems," Khy was saying to Florania, "those who sought to become the hero ultimately betrayed their morality and their people and became that which needed to be destroyed by the 'hero.'"

"That is true as well," said Flora.

Khy turned toward Leafi. "One thing that all heroes have in common is that they are humble. They do not seek credit for actions, they seek only what is right. And what is just."

"Then I'll be a new type of hero!" Leafi said, her voice cheerful.

"She's gonna be the anti-heroine," Khy quipped to Flora.

Nearby, in the starlit field, the other Leafiara continued her song.

In my favorite meadow, as the time flew by ♪
I'd annually turn toward the azure sky ♪
My feet planted firm, the grass beneath my toes ♪
I'd renew my vow to build toward the life I chose ♪

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The younger Leafi's surroundings whirled into a blur--quicker this time, more a FLASH than anything.

She found herself underground, surrounded by a crowd of people confronting a man with golden eyes like the dawn.

And she heard her own older voice: "My dear friend Ysharra told me to say this to you if ever I saw you: that she's sorry about what happened to your mother."

FLASH. The younger Leafi found herself in the militia barracks.

Cyph's corpse was lying near a gathered crowd and two ethereal girls appeared near his body.

"Get out of here, you!" snapped the older Leafiara.

"Let them have their peace," said Cruxophim.

Leafiara turned her back.

FLASH. Inside Tilamaire's sanctuary.

"I'll give more of my spirit than I ever have," the older Leafi murmured, "if you can save him..."

"Stop! Stop these visions!" the younger cried.

The cleric closed her eyes in concentration, and soon her body went nearly as white as a sheet--

FLASH. The streets of Wehnimer's Landing.

A small crowd was gathered around Leafiara. Lylia offered the faint-looking cleric a handkerchief and she wept and wiped away tears while Severine, Chaoswynd, and Ysharra offered her kind words.

FLASH. The trail to Vornavis.

Chaoswynd and the older Leafi walked the trail, eyes alert, on a bandit patrol.

"You realize," said Cay, "even if you didn't get caught, you'd still have to live with yourself afterwards."

"For doing what I should have done months ago?"

Leafiara led on and a half-elven thief leapt from hiding to attack her. An evanescent shield shrouding her flared to life and she spoke a brief incantation that froze the thief in his tracks.

The younger girl, looking on, turned pale. She remembered well what was coming.

The older Leafi jabbbed at the twitching bandit's arm, pushing it down to his side and leaving his chest exposed, and delivered a roundhouse kick that penetrated his heart.

She flashed a wide grin. Silvery motes sparkled across her skin, twinkling like stars, and she held her right foot in front of her before gesturing with her arm. A large spray of holy water doused her lower leg, washing away all traces of blood, and there in the sun the eonake on her sandal's sole gleamed pristine white.

FLASH. ...but the surroundings remained blurry, and two hazy figures seemed to be speaking with one another.

An indistinct voice: "If I were to take a single step backwards, I would turn and run into the chaotic mass of hatred and rage that follows behind me."

The younger Leafi nodded slowly, remembering her friend's words.

FLASH. Outside the temple of Lorminstra.

Leafiara and Cruxophim stood near a slain Lornieh; Cruxophim gave her a bite before healing her wounds and Leafi offered her a grin and a gesture before a silvery translucent thead appeared between them. A diamond fell from a pale green emblem Lornieh wore and Leafiara picked it up, cracked it, and waved it over her body, coating the ranger with a cobalt blue liquid.

Motes of silvery light sparkled across Leafi's skin, twinkling like stars--

She twitched, then blinked--then shrugged.

Motes of silvery light sparkled across Leafi's skin, twinkling like stars--

She twitched.

The younger girl watched with dismay.

Motes of silvery light sparkled across Leafi's skin, twinkling like stars--

She twitched, then clenched her jaw and took Lornieh's arm in hand, preparing to drag her. Crux moved to aid, giving Leafi a quizzical look, and the young girl followed them as they took Lorn to the square.

"Someone," said the cleric, "please raise her..."

FLASH. A table at the Raging Thrak Inn.

Their seats next to each other, Leafiara rested her head on Severine's shoulder, tightly clutching a gold paper in one hand, her eyes red and face wet from recent streams of tears.

"I could picture it clearly," the cleric said. "I'd go and strangle Dennet. I'd make sure to wear--" she paused, her voice choked up, and shook her head while tracing a finger over a lustrous ruby and diamond necklace she wore. "It would be just like his own family killing him. The irony... the justice..."

Nearby, in the still-adjacent starlit field, the other Leafiara continued her song.

Year by year, even through pain and tears ♪
I held to that dream, my heart young and sincere ♪

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

FLASH. Outside Moot Hall.

A crowd followed Stephos DeArchon toward his home; Hapenlok, Leafiara, and Puptilian stayed behind. A disapproving scowl crossed the red-haired cleric's face.

FLASH. A table.

A dejected-looking Leafiara sat before Shinann and Stormyrain, her body language fretful and weary.

"I guess I'll find out soon enough, then," she said quietly, "how much people really believe in second chances."

FLASH. A different table.

The young girl could make out her older self, but the other figure was blurred.

"The vigilante," said a female voice, "is a murderer who thinks he's not a monster because he has principles. An agenda. Because he thinks he's not indiscriminate."

"How..." asked the older Leafiara, "how am I different, then?"

"Because you're afraid you might be a monster, and that makes you stop and think and reconsider. What you're feeling now isn't something that damns you. What damns you is when you stop feeling it."

"I don't know if I understand that..."

The younger Leafi shook her head, frowning. Even now I don't...

"It's enough to know that there's still something left of you that's worthwhile," said the female voice, "something worth fighting to keep. And then you go and you fight to keep it."

FLASH. The Outlands near Vornavis.

The older Leafi walked the trail, eyes alert, on a bandit patrol--accompanied by a blurry figure.

"Am I a killer?" the older Leafiara asked the other figure.

"I've just been watching you kill bandits," said a female voice.

"Yes, yes, but I mean--" Leafiara trailed off, staring off into space before looking back at her companion with blushing cheeks. "I don't know what I mean," she said in a tentative voice.

"You're about to run into a great philosophical debate which too few people ever bother to think about." The other figure paused. "Which is, is there any difference between killing a half-elven bandit here on the trail and killing... say... me?"

FLASH. The roof of Moot Hall.

A large crowd stood before a white-cloaked man restrained by blood red ribbons of mana.

"Soon it'll be like you weren't even here," Ysharra said to him.

"It won't matter," he said. "What has started will continue."

"You will not matter," said Lylia.

"No, Mayor Lylia," he said. "All of this will matter."

"But you do not and you will not matter at all," said Goblyn.

The younger Leafi looked away--and saw that nearby, in the starlit field, her other self still sang.

Growing bigger and faster, smarter and stronger ♪
I swore I'd be the master of working harder and longer ♪

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The younger Leafi's surroundings whirled into a blur and again she found herself in Tilamaire's sanctuary.

The older Leafiara was slumped forward in her chair, her head resting on her writing desk and a frown on her face as she stared off toward a board hanging on her wall with several parchments pinned up, bearing names and symbols.

Chaston √ Raznel X~ Disean ~ Crux X√ Hapenlok X
Ambrus X Luxie √N~ Larsya ~? Dennet X Cyph XX
Reannah X Drandea X Carenos √ Quinshon X? Landing X
Crux X Osment X Acorn X Rodnay X Stephos X
Shinann X Lheren N Rooks ~? Rone ?? Landing X
Icemule X Crux X Thrayzar N Grishom N

And then most of the parchments--the ones marked with an X--began to remove themselves from the board and float toward the cleric. She didn't react, but the younger Leafi instinctively rushed over, shoving desperately at her older self as the papers danced in the air around both of them.

"You have to get up!" said the young girl.


The younger Leafi slightly recoiled, surprised she was getting a response, but then shook her head and pulled at her older self, tugging at her shirt. "I don't know what's happening here, but it's not right! You have to get up before these notes--do whatever they're going to do!"

The older sighed and made no move. "Whatever."

A merry yet mocking laugh began to ring throughout the sanctuary and the floating parchments began twisting, contorting, and glowing as if enchanted.

Next to the parchments marked "Reannah" and "Cyph," a pale winding seashell anklet and a lustrous ruby and diamond necklace materialized in the air--and then flew toward the older cleric and fastened themselves around her ankle and neck.

"Run!" the little girl shouted. "Get out before it's too late!"

The older made no move.

The younger spun about desperately, not knowing what she was looking for or hoping to see. "Stop the vision!" she cried, her body trembling. "This one's no memory! This never happened!"

"No," replied a deep, disembodied voice, "but it will."

"It won't!"

The merry yet mocking laugh rang out again, and next to the parchment marked "Shinann" appeared a large hand of hardened earth.

Outside the window, a red-haired half-sylvan lass sang in a starlit field.

I promised back then and I promise again ♪
'Cause ever since back when it's always been my way ♪
I promise the past and I promise today ♪
I'll-- ♪

Inside the sanctuary, the earthen hand hurtled forward toward the cleric, palm open to seize her. The young girl screamed and jumped into its path, launching herself as a sacrifice--

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Leafiara awoke with a start to the morning light, her heart racing and her body drenched in sweat despite her light sleeping attire. She closed her eyes, trying to slow her breathing, and at last swung her legs out of bed, relieved and half-surprised to feel the floor beneath her feet.

She glanced toward an envelope resting on one of her chairs: an undelivered resignation letter. She'd almost handed it over, and maybe one night she would--but not last night. Last night she'd left the town hall meeting, all business as usual, and found a place in the wilderness to sing to the stars.

"Good timing for a vacation," she mumbled. "Two and a half days... hope it's enough." Leafi cast her eyes toward the east, where there were rumors of coraesine.

Looking Back OOC - August 28, 2019

Am I too in love with these dream sequence vignettes? Maybe I am.

The FLASH scenes in order are: the final confrontation with Chaston in Eyes of the Dawn, [[::Keeping_Up_with_the_Kestrels_-_5117-11-15_-_Revelations,_Repentance,_Requiem#The_Last_Uncomfortable_Truths|Cyph's death]] in Keeping Up with the Kestrels, six consecutive scenes of fallout from Cyph's death, Leafi refusing to hear out [[::Mayor%27s_Minutes_-_A_Proposal_by_Stephos|Stephos' proposal]] to lure the first Rone (Malluch Burdos), a conversation with the militia captains, two conversations with one of Leafi's friends on separate nights while killing bandits, and the [[::Rise_of_Rone_-_5118-03-30_-_The_Lyon%27s_Share_of_Blood_Magic#Rone.27s_Capture|capture of the first Rone]].

Whether GM-driven or player-driven, everything flows together into a coherent narrative--though I have only hope that others see the through lines as I do.

And if they don't see, well... then maybe Leafi will have a public meltdown one day and it'll all come into focus then?