Leafiara (prime)/Tales/A Series of Second Thoughts
Original Story: Ivastaen 16, 5120
The raw form of essence of soul bubbled up into a boil within the Twilight Hall cauldron resting at Leafiara's feet, but her thoughts were as distant as could be, sparing only enough concentration to finish the project before her.
Some considered alchemy an unexpected talent of the young half-sylvan, but she'd always found it instinctive. It was, after all, a process of creation not unlike the brews and herbal remedies of the forests. But this was no remedy--Vlashandra would likely use each essence to do something dreadful to someone again. The blood and flames had never given pause to the danger-chasing Leafi, but how many years had just been taken from the lives of Alisette, Alvyara, Balley, and Maelkyth?
Not like I'll live out a full life either... but at least my final death will be in battle...
She collected the hazy green liquid essence from the cauldron and poured it into the workshop's alembic for distillation--the slowest part of the process, leaving her mind wandering still further.
Stormyrain's words echoed in Leafi's subconscious. Stormyrain's words always echoed in her subconscious. Year after year, influence after influence. Now, too, they echoed in her conscious thoughts; Leafiara had misunderstood the captain's thoughts on Grishom Stone, and it troubled her that she could have misunderstood something else.
Two types of blood magic: creative and destructive. Practicing either risks a loss of self and control. Blood magic operates on will.
Wrong to deny others their choices.
No less heroic to ask for help in a battle than to rush out alone.
Maybe one day they'll rise up against me.
Images flashed through her mind. Cruxophim being turned into stone by Rone sympathizers, an angry mob confronting Lylia and Shinann, and Leafi's own imagination of an event she'd only heard of: Rysus' Rooks threatening Puptilian.
...right, they'll definitely rise up against me. The question is if I'll deserve it.
Though Leafi couldn't articulate it, she was at war within herself--or, more accurately, her two selves.
There was the Leafiara of years ago who had first moved to the Landing, who wouldn't be standing in this very spot waiting for an essence of soul that might very well be used to suck out someone's soul. She wouldn't--she didn't, at first--abide blood magic at all and had found it unnerving.
She'd had little love of Lornon nor Liabo, save a select few, and only wanted to be a champion of truth and freedom. A young dreamer. A glory seeker aiming to be a hero. An idealist in a world of black and white, dark and light, wrong and right. She could never have seen Rysus' Rooks for what they were, but on the other hand would have recoiled at Vlashandra's rituals.
And there was the Leafiara now who, somehow, stood as the mayor of the Landing after having changed, having taken in what she thought were the town's values. She'd seen Mayor Puptilian defending the Spider Temple from the Blameless. Sir Goldstr talking about a balance of light and dark. Captain Stormyrain saying the Landing accepted all walks. Ambassador Jastalyn swearing her in to Twilight Hall with the House's vow of tolerance. Captain Stormyrain defending Rhayveign from Marshal Thadston's desire for vigilante justice.
Captain Stormyrain saying some of those on dark paths had brought the most joy to her life. Leafi had found that too, having embraced the differences of the Landing's people--even reveled in them now, in every weirdo from Crux to Hapenlok, Evia to Pukk, Thailmore to Maylan, Erienne to Goblyn, Gutstorm to Nordred.
But some of those very people are the most unsettled by Vlashandra...
Leafiara collected the finished essence of soul and tucked it away in a jar, but stopped short of preparing the materials for the next. Is this a step too far? ...even if it is, people's free choices have to win out. Same reason we didn't destroy all of Praxopius' daggers.
She took a long, hard look at her cauldron, then picked it up. I'll finish the essences later this weekend, after everyone's donations are finished. Even if it's destiny for the Landing to rise up against every mayor, I really am here for everyone no matter whether I think their choices are wise or not.
But, just like yesterday, that applies to both sides... seems I have a letter for Mother after all.
Mother, I hope this letter finds you well. Thank you for your recent help against the patchwork armies, and even before that for your help with the sham trial--it definitely hasn't escaped my notice that it took all of the Landing, your demonstration certainly included, to get the positive verdict for Pylasar that we did. Anyway, I'm writing to let you know that, in addition to Pukk's ongoing requests to join the Brotherhood, Hapenlok too is now saying he might have to ally himself with the Brotherhood. (I'm unclear on whether he meant as a member, but I'm thinking not.) Pukk's motives are philosophical, about our independence in the Landing, but Hap's motives are more... pragmatic. He fears the worst about the energy motes in the air and the portal Vlashandra's created and is looking into options for damage control--anything ranging from backup to outright destroying the portal if it comes to that. I know Hap has an antagonistic history with the past Rook leaders, so I'll leave this to your decision, but as far as I can tell, he's not as concerned about your leadership as he was with Rysus or Drangell. Between Hapenlok and Chamorr, to say nothing of all those who you helped evacuate, I think you've been making great inroads with many people who were very opposed or distrusting of the Brotherhood before. -Mayor Leafi (P.S. Bear has no interest in joining, but he was bringing up the possibility of a trade partnership. I'm guessing you had eyes and ears at that town meeting and already know that, but I digress... Maybe we can discuss that in slightly less troubled times, or other ideas like getting symbols of the Brotherhood away from the target practice games at Frontier Days and into the shopping pavilions.)
Now how do I actually get this to her? Not like she lives in some Great House I can send it to...
She paused to reflect.
Maybe I'll just, uh...
Leafiara withdrew to a back alley of Wehnimer's, did her best imitation of the signal she'd seen Mother give to summon a girl to hurl rocks at a golem, and waited for someone to emerge to take the message.
Nothing ever came of the letter, so I'm just going to write it off that Leafi attempting to summon an orphan out of the shadows didn't work, heh.