Leafiara (prime)/Tales/Don't Go Overboard Now

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Original Story: Olaesta 1, 5121

"Alright, I'm listening. Why'd you tail me all the way to Solhaven?" Leafiara propped her arms up on the walls of the crow's nest as she watched the scantly-starlit waves stretching before her into the void of twilight.

The figure removed his grey-beaked mask and lowered his hood, revealing a human face scarred down the left cheek. "I heard Cordarius has called for more Imperials."

"Yeah." She said no more. The crow's nest rocked beneath their feet as the Fearless Phoenix's Song cut northward through the Kestrel Sea due toward Darkstone Bay, the steady rhythm of the ocean punctuating an awkward silence.


Leafi shrugged. "And nothing. It's better that Cordarius beats Amos to the punch than the other way around. He went to the dwarves instead, and hopefully that mining operation is--"

"More Imperials are never any good," the man interjected, staring a hole through her.

"You don't have to tell me twice," she muttered. "And Cordarius knows it too. Said it himself a couple weeks ago when he told us."

"So why not drive 'em off?"

Leafi sighed and turned her gaze to the stars. "Four years ago, Rysus was in Puptilian's office one night. He called it 'manageable' to have Imperial soldiers moving in, but said the Hall of Mages was a deep root we shouldn't allow to grow. He was right on both counts, but like Mother's said... he was never great with execution. He attacked the Imperials many times and it ended up bringing more of them. Hapenlok said the same." She glanced at the man. "How long you been a Rook, anyway? Not since Rysus' time, I take it."

The man shook his head and leaned back against the bucket of the crow's nest. "Nah, been jus' a month now. I joined 'cause of the current troubles and I'll leave when they're over. If Mother doesn't slit my throat for comin' here, anyway. Ain't like she ordered me ta follow ya."

The half-sylvan frowned. "I wouldn't wait. Leave it now," she said quietly.

"Why? Ya think she really will off me?"

Leafi shook her head. "Not her. The Imperials. Or Thadston. Or Amos. Or all three." She paused. "It's probably too late now, but from the beginning, Mother should have disbanded the Brotherhood."

The man met her with two raised eyebrows as he mouthed the word "what."

"At least under that name," Leafiara continued. "Keep the network, the intel, the people, the talent, but... if she was going to break away from past methods anyway, then make it a real break. A real fresh start. The way things are now, these soldiers will come after all of you too since 'the Brotherhood of Rooks' is a recognized organization. What did she even keep the name for?"

A mild sea breeze stirred, sending her cherry red hair and her knee-length skirt lightly fluttering, but she no longer felt the cold.

A voice equal parts incredulous and tired broke the silence: "You really think it's that easy, don't you?"

"Why wouldn't it be? The Empire never knows what's going on. Dennet claimed their outpost for a year and they were too dumb or too lazy to notice. A year! A year, but they want to act so superior?" She growled and glowered suddenly, balling her hands into fists and slamming them into the railing of the platform, then shook her head. "So yes, it's that easy. Change your name, cut the beaks off, paint the orbs green, and the Imperials would need half a decade to catch on. ...if that soon!"

The man lifted an open palm, signaling her to stop. "Spare me yer rantin' unless yer gonna do somethin' about it."

Leafiara peered quizzically at him.

He gave a weary sigh, shaking his head. "Look, I wasn' gonna say it, but this kinda thing is why Rysus never wanted you. It's why not as many Rooks voted for ya as ya might imagine. Mos' of all, it's why ya could never have taken over the Brotherhood."

She returned her own weary sigh. "The poison wasn't me trying to take over. If anything, it was the aftermath of--"

"I know. That's my point. A Leafiara who plotted to kill Rysus might have had a shot, but you ain't her. Yer plan was the easy route. Right?"

She glanced at him, then turned her focus back to the gently rolling waves, accented by glints of silver light.

"I'm takin' that as a yes, and that's yer problem. End of the day, ya won't do what it takes. A half-sylvan takin' half-measures. That's you," he said, jabbing a finger into her abdomen. "Ya show flashes of hope, like attacking the armigers, and then ya stop before reachin' yer potential. Ya won't assassinate the people ya know need to be assassinated. If I'm wrong, tell me how, but ya can't. Ya know I'm right, and ya won't argue 'cause yer too honest--or so ya tell yerself."

"What's that supposed to mean? I never lie. There's no reason--"

"That's what you--"

"There's no reason," she said again. She drew a deep breath, then let it out. "The town knew who I am and voted me in. The town knew who Crux is and voted him in. One day we'll have a drunken land pirate for a mayor and it might not even be Maylan. Someone else will pop up. And that's just mayors. We've got the Earlkiller walking among us, we have others branded as Imperial enemies, Raznel's own supporters outliving her, and no one bothers. Pylasar too, he aided Raznel, owned up to it, and still we ruled him innocent. So who cares what people know about me? There's no need to lie. And I'm not going to sink to the level of Amos. Dennet. Vlashandra."

The man shook his head. "Yer life's been too easy."

"Always the cryptic comments."

"I was gettin' to it. Ya interrupted."

Leafiara shrugged. "Go on, then."

"I know ya don't mean to deceive others, but ya do it anyway. Fooled the whole town 'cause ya've fooled even yerself. Ya wait on hard evidence before ya take action. Ya wait fer enemies to make the first move before ya take action. Ya motion for an orderly hearing of Thadston. All this like yer some honor-bound knight, but ya ain't. All this like ya care about the law, but ya don't. Landing mobs came fer Walkar, fer Pup, Crux, Lylila. Even Thadston, with those Warcats. But not you. Ya know why? 'Cause ya twisted in so many directions they never thought 'traitor' of ya. A fool, sure. Traitor, nah. Ya tried to accommodate everyone. But that's exactly why ya are a traitor--to yerself."

She said nothing and made no move.

"Freedom, honor, law, honesty. Those concerns're the luxuries of people who lived easy lives. People. Like. You. Res' of us are fightin' jus' to survive."

"Our principles outlive us all. Our ideals are greater than we are. If we sacrifice them--"

"There ya go again," he said, nodding at her. "Words of the spoiled. I'm askin' ya, stop fightin' fer ideas an'--"


"Ideas," he repeated without pause, "an' start fightin' fer people. The rest of 'em have started doin' that, haven't they? They've turned on each other. Arrested captains, deposed mayor, exiled Gryphon. Yer eatin' each other alive 'cause, end o' the day, yer ideas mean nothin' when yer actual lives are threatened. But yer clingin' on still. Ya can be so much more an' it's killin' me."

"Why is this always the way of it? Stonmel running around telling people how much better a job he could have done capturing Rone, but refusing to join the militia. People telling one mayor after another what they'd do, but they won't run themselves. Mayor, do this. Marshal, do that. Judge, do this. Town council, do that." Leafiara shook her head. "If you want paradise, create it. The power's in your hands too, every single citizen."

"But it ain't. Some of us got the sense to change things, but not the strength. I'm talkin' every meaning of strength. Might, magic, willpower, spirit. An' you? Ya got the strength, but not the sense," the man said, lightly knocking his beaked mask against the side of her head. "Good thing is, yer flaw's more fixable than mine."

She scoffed. "What's your brilliant plan, then? You critics rarely have one, and if you do, it's usually light on details."

He grinned in response. "All yer slogans have been the same thing in different words, and ya need to stop writing them on signs and buttons and write them on yer own heart. It's not the 'chaos' ya need to 'embrace.' It's yer own heart. It's not the 'frontier freedoms and ideals' ya need to be for. It's your freedom and your ideals. It's not everyone else ya need to 'deliver' to. It's you. It's not 'we' who need to give everything 'we' have for everything 'we' are. It's you. It's not everyone else's 'choices' ya need to honor and 'voices' ya need to listen to. It's yours. It's yer own wishes, yer own instincts, yer own lightest and darkest thoughts alike that matter. Let go. Become who ya've wanted to be. Because the Landing needs ya."

Leafiara sighed loudly. "No, the Landing is so much bigger than any individual. It's all of us, and it needs to be. Stormyrain told me years ago, it's no less heroic to work together than rush out on my own. I'm not alone."

"Coulda fooled me."

She peered quizzically at him.

"Where're all your allies then? Where's the people doin' what ya wish ya could bring yerself ta do? Warcats got ya a ship and vanished. The latest Rone's gone soft. First one, merciless assassin? Would've sliced Amos' throat the moment he moved in. 'No excuses, no regrets, no hesitation.' Like that one song says."

Leafi glanced sharply at him, then just as quickly willed her gaze back toward the twilight void.

"I wouldn't've ever joined the Rooks if the first Rone was still out there. Yer a great fighter, but the Landing's got a thousand of those. It needs more killers. It needs that Rone, not this one. Honestly, an' I know the irony," he said, tapping his mask, "it needs less Mother and more Rysus."

"Like I thought, all you have for me are generalities," she said. "If you have an actual plan, I'd like to hear it, but otherwise we're done here."

"First step, kill off another Rook leader."

"...yeah, I'll pass on that."

"I'm serious. 'sides, think of how it'll bait Amos. We all know it ain't coincidence, the Daily Darkstone and Darkstone Bay Consortium. He wants a Rook Queen to battle against, to improve 'is image. I say give 'im one. Take over for real and teach 'im to be careful what he wishes for."

"...yeah, I'll pass on that."


"Mother must wear a mask for a reason. The others didn't. Exposing her identity is enough to oust her if we wanted, no killing needed."

"There ya go again. Easy route. Half-measures."

"I can't be a Rysus. I can't be a Rone. Not the Malluch kind, anyway. The Landing would come after me like it came after them."

"Ya said it yerself earlier. The execution was the problem. Jus' be smarter. Be better. Keep what was good about 'em and get rid o' th' rest."

She gave him a long, considering look.

"Yer ship's the Fearless Phoenix's Song. Didn't pick words out of a hat, did ya? No. Deep down, ya know what ya really want. Listen to the song in yer heart. May the old Leafiara go up in flames. May a brighter one rise."

She closed her eyes, turned her back, and began whispering to herself in the sylvan language.

"'ey now, I don' speak that one."

"I was counting on it," she said, then whirled around with a smirk and gestured at him, releasing her dispelling magic. The air subtly rippled around the man as his shroud of deception failed and his facial features changed before her eyes, giving way to a woman's appearance as Leafi nodded knowingly. "And what do we have here?"

"What're ya--" The woman stopped short, scowling as she heard her own voice revealed. Her hands flew to her sides, whipping daggers from concealed sheaths, and she lunged at the half-sylvan only to be pushed back by an evanescent shield flaring to life.

"Really?" Leafiara chuckled, making no move. "Even if you killed me, how would you get through my crew? And in the middle of the ocean?"

The woman rushed to jump over the railing, but Leafiara grappled her down to the ground, pinning her arms at her sides. "Who are you? Rook gone rogue? One of the Knave's people? Consortium spy? Firefly in training? Citizen with an axe to grind?"

The woman growled as she struggled, managing to bury one of her daggers deep into Leafiara's abdomen. The half-sylvan winced and her grip loosened, leaving the woman a chance to break free. Both scrambled to their feet and a quick slash left a deep cut in the cleric's upper arm, but created an opportunity to seize the woman's wrist. "I'll never tell," she spat.

"Pity," Leafiara said through clenched teeth. She slipped a hand through the slit of her skirt to the thigh-sheath beneath, and in one motion pulled her slasher free and stabbed it into the woman's chest, aiming for her heart.

The woman's eyes widened with shock and pain. "How did you know..."

"I never performed that song for anyone," said Leafi as she pulled her weapon back. "Talents of a mentalist. And you kept trying to play to my ego. All the people I'm closest with..." she gasped out. "All the ones I trust most... The ones actually on my side... Playing to my ego is the last thing they'd ever do." She let out a single dry laugh, then clutched at her bloodstained gut, wincing.

The woman lunged forward one last time, but her strength had faded and Leafiara shook her head sadly, holding her back with one hand as she chanted a brief incantation. She threw all of her weight into hurling the woman over the edge of the crow's nest, then released a dazzling bolt of silver flames at the limp body hurtling toward the deck below. One instant of the intense heat ignited her into a corpse ablaze and the next instant consumed her, leaving a flurry of ash scattering on the sea breeze into the ship's wake.

"Illusions," she murmured as she set to work bandaging her wounds. "...excellent idea for Thadston."