Leafiara (prime)/Tales/Everybody Dies and (Almost) Everybody Lies
Original Story: Koaratos 19, 5120
Back and forth, back and forth, combing through the rubble, pushing through the brush, turning over boulders, casting the occasional Light spell to battle the depths of the night's darkness, Leafiara paced rounds near the scorched wagons at the base of the Sentoph. Her body sought surrender to sleep, but her mind willed her on, racing with a heavy dose of fascination and a tinge of excitement over another puzzle to solve.
Everybody dies and everybody lies. The former problem she so frequently caused and so frequently undid that it no longer thrilled her; it had become rote, dull, tedious. The latter problem was the greater challenge to unravel, and so it engaged her.
If the Rooks had attacked the wagons she was now thumbing at, she could find no satisfactory explanation for it, at least not in her exhausted state. Explanations came easily enough and numerous enough, but only the kind driven by emotion--the mundane kind, the boring kind. Vengeance, old grudges, paranoia, all so dull in every way save the faint possibility of a truth belying their simplicity.
But if the piles of apparent corpses were Grishom's doing, or better yet Malluch's doing, things grew interesting. Even while Leafi picked through the wreckage, nudging over a body here and there, her eyes were as distant as her thoughts. The possible motivations and the ideological nuances, the short-term and long-term ends, the overlapping goals and the conflicting ones and the parallel ones, Malluch's alternate agenda...
Before she realized it, night had given way to faint morning light and she shaded her tired eyes against the rising sun. All too aware her body would give out soon, she summoned a spirit guide to return her home for one last bit of business.
Captain Khylon, We're investigating an incident from late last night with several wagons that were on the way to town but were attacked and destroyed by bandits--and no ordinary bandits, at that. They were well trained to target our healers first and were well equipped with steel arrows and even explosive prisms that looked identical to the ones Fortney made so much use of in 5118. The two primary suspects in this are the Rooks, who have denied involvement, and Malluch himself arranging this as a setup to frame them. The former seems to me like a pretty unprecedented move of overzealousness if we only consider the time since Mother has taken over, but is of course pretty well in line with past Rook leaders. (I know I hardly need to tell you that, of all people.) The latter would fit past behavior patterns, since Malluch warred against the Rooks two years ago and also used a very similar plan of trying to frame Mayor Cruxophim by leading us into a staged torture scene. We're looking for clues either way, so please spare some of our guards' shifts, as you can, for combing the area at the base of the Sentoph and the near vicinity of the Upper Trollfang. My hope is that we can find at least one of the arrows or a prism that failed to detonate, then investigate it for anything tracing back to its creator--perhaps a loresong or a seer's ritual. Undetonated prisms should be safe to touch, but need to be handled with care. I've also been spending some of my own time searching and will continue doing so when I can. Macabre as it is, I'd also like at least some, if not all, of the corpses taken back into town for investigation. They were burned pretty thoroughly, but if any of them has enough left to be identified as a patchwork golem, then we have our most likely answer. Even if none are golems, though, I have another reason for my request. Malluch claims that he's unable to restore the bodies to life, but it's entirely possible that either he is able or Grishom Stone is able. If this were a setup, then it's certainly convenient that the wreckage is reasonably close to the Deadfall where Stone is dwelling. It's also possible that they prepared for our taking the bodies during the investigation, so I'd treat them with caution in case they rise up and attack. I'm writing nothing off right now. Thank you for your service in challenging times. Yours, Mayor Leafiara
Leafi briefly slumped against her table with weariness as she watched the messenger depart, then forced herself to her feet and started a slow, rhythmic march toward the Stone Baths--then thought twice about it, wanting to be alone for the night and field Eyona's questions about where she was later, and headed for her home in the woods.
As the trees neared, as the cottage neared, as the bed neared, as she slipped under the covers, as she closed her eyes, and as she drifted away, she wondered only if it had to come to this again.