Leafiara (prime)/Tales/It's a Wonderful Leafi

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Original Story: Lormesta 11, 5122

Night of Eorgaen 16, 5121

For at least a few minutes each night she sat in her office with her back turned to the entrance, pretending to have fallen asleep while she subtly watched a concealed mirror that gave her a view of the doorway. For two months she had been waiting for the assassins to come for her, and she'd prepared no less than five escape plans and twice as many confrontation plans. She might kill them. She might ally with them. She might arrest them. She might let them arrest her. Her approach depended on their approach.

But there was no approach. The assassins still hadn't come, and every night they didn't come was all the more surprising.

Two meetings in front of Moot Hall to defend her position on the bazaar and she hadn't. She couldn't possibly have. It was indefensible. And yet they didn't seem to know that, or at very least they didn't ask--not that they even should have needed to ask. The right thing to do would have been for her to talk unprompted, but she'd justified nothing, she'd explained nothing, and she'd even told them that she'd put barely any consideration into her decision.

She might as well have mocked every person in the crowd--no, every person in the Landing--and they were doing nothing about it. And, sure, not everyone was an assassin, but no one other than Bekke had even raised challenges. They went after Bear, Chandy, and Fahlo, but they'd left alone the only councilor they should have been going after.

Why aren't the assassins coming? Do they not understand Amos' machinations or do they not understand mine? Or are the Rooks intercepting would-be assassins--no, if anything they should be the assassins coming after me. Them and the Warcats, the rest of the militia, the Rone admirers, the Rook sympathizers, and the everyday citizens. And the non-Consortium merchants. Where's Tykel to point a crossbow at me like he pointed one at Crux?

She clenched the grip of her mirror tighter, scowling at the still-empty doorway to her darkened room.

Why isn't there a weapon buried in my neck?! Why haven't they figured it out?

Though her office hadn't enough light to see the details, her eyes wandered to one of the portraits she knew was hanging on her wall: the marshal leaning against the oak tree in the square. Her first mayoral run had been mere whim at a friend's request, but her subsequent runs and her council run had been predicated on believing the--at the time--captain's words about not underestimating the town. The Landing she knew wasn't the Landing the captain knew, but she'd wanted to see it. Only once in six years had she seen it: when the citizens stood up to Marshal Thadston to fight against Raznel sooner than evacuate.

But that was only a scant few. It's like the Landing's lost its identity. When did that happen? Was it the Ta'Vaalor deal? Was it appointing Thadston the marshal or electing him the mayor? ...or did I misunderstand Stormyrain? Maybe it was only ever a scant few who take a stand. Maybe the assassins will never come.

She narrowed her eyes. Or maybe I understood her perfectly and she was wrong. She could be wrong. I gave Amos what he wanted. I betrayed the entire town. Why did I vote yes on that bazaar? And why aren't they coming for me?

A subtle movement of light and shadows in her mirror pulled her out of her thoughts. She watched with rapt attention, a slow grin spreading across her lips, as a figure approached her wearing a dark hooded cloak, and she smirked to herself with satisfaction.

"Here to kill me?" she whispered.

"Oh," came a cheerful female voice, "you are awake! And yeah, I agree," said the grinning young lady as she lowered her snow-sprinkled hood, "'here it's chilly' tonight. That's winter for you!"

Leafiara's stomach turned. "I could practically cry," she muttered.

"It's alright, Councilor! I know construction can take a while, but that's why I've come by tonight with some words of encouragement."

"Lay it on me," she sighed.

"I already sent a word of thanks to Mayor Thadston and Bear's next after you, but I just wanted to say thank you and I'm really looking forward to the finished bazaar!"

Leafi flew to her feet, sending her chair clattering to the floor. "I'm out of here."

"Hey, it's okay, I--" The young lady stopped short as Leafiara brushed past her and she caught a full glimpse of the councilor's attire. "Whoa, aren't you freezing wearing summer clothes in winter!"

Leafi grumbled and turned around, then tapped the shimmering trinket she was wearing just long enough to reveal it visibly. "Much like everything else in Moot Hall, my outfit is a gradually fading illusion upheld by fleeting injections of mental deception. Welcome to the Landing, where we've somehow contented ourselves with a fragile, self-serving peace built on the unstable foundation of one man's schemes and lies."

The young lady blinked. "Sheesh, what's gotten into you?"

"Excuse me, I think I need to go commune with Onar or Zelia. Or both." Leafi nodded briefly and walked away, leaving behind a confused lady listening to her trailing voice: "Or Jastev... or Marlu..."

Night of Eorgaen 17, 5121

[Town Square Central]
Speaking to Leafiara, Fahlo asks, "What're you up to?"
Speaking sagely to Fahlo, Leafiara says, "Awaiting assassins."
Speaking to Leafiara, Fahlo inquires, "Assassins?"
Leafiara mutters, "Though at this point I've been waiting for two months."
Speaking dubiously to Fahlo, Leafiara says, "Well, the votes on the bazaar were public, so I don't understand why the assassins haven't come for Thadston, Bear, and me."
Speaking to Leafiara, Fahlo says, "Why would assassins come for you three?"
Speaking to Leafiara, Fahlo asks, "Just cause of that vote?"
Speaking to Fahlo, Leafiara agrees, "Of course."
Speaking to Leafiara, Fahlo says, "Yah, but one misstep can't out-weigh the entirety of a person's character.. I mean come on."
Speaking to Leafiara, Fahlo states, "At least it doesn't for me."
Speaking helpfully to Fahlo, Leafiara says, "This is the Landing, there are always assassins waiting around."
Speaking to Leafiara, Fahlo says, "If you insist."
Speaking to Fahlo, Leafiara concedes, "Well, so I thought at least. But like I said, at this point I've been waiting for two months and nothing."
Speaking to Leafiara, Fahlo says, "Well, maybe you're jumping at shadows."
Leafiara blinks at Fahlo.
Speaking to Fahlo, Leafiara clarifies, "No, no, not jumping...expecting or hoping, maybe."
Speaking to Leafiara, Fahlo blurts, "Why would you hope for that?"
Speaking wryly to Leafiara, Fahlo asks, "Oh... looking for some action?"
Fahlo nods in agreement.
Fahlo exclaims, "Always up for a fight!"
Fahlo raises his fist defiantly.
Speaking vaguely to Fahlo, Leafiara says, "Because if no one comes for me, then I can get away with pretty much anything and that means anyone else can too."
Stormyrain looks thoughtfully at Leafiara.
Speaking in Sylvankind to Leafiara, Stormyrain asks something you don't understand.
Fahlo raises an eyebrow in Leafiara's direction.
Leafiara glances skeptically at Stormyrain.
Fahlo glances between Stormyrain and Leafiara.
Stormyrain raises her eyebrow, the dark bloodjewel half-ring set within only enhancing her skeptical expression.
Speaking in Sylvankind, Leafiara confusedly asks something you don't understand.
Leafiara furrows her brow
Stormyrain says, "I do not."
Leafiara gazes up into the heavens.
Stormyrain says, "I spend my time with the militia. And paperwork."
Speaking to herself, Stormyrain mutters, "So much paperwork."
Stormyrain says, "Not everything makes it to my desk, if you will."
Stormyrain leans against the tree, taking a momentary rest.
Speaking distantly to herself, Leafiara says, "Ironic."
Speaking to Stormyrain, Leafiara says, "The vote on the bazaar."
Speaking to Leafiara, Stormyrain asks, "What about the vote on the bazaar?"
You notice Kippe moving stealthily west.
Leafiara relents, "I'm beginning to think you were right--"
Leafiara glances west.
Leafiara amusedly says, "Oh, there he goes."
Leafiara yells, "Get back here Kippe!"
You hear very soft footsteps.
Leafiara surprisedly says, "Didn't expect that to actually work."
Stormyrain stares at Leafiara.
Speaking to Kippe, Leafiara relents, "I'm beginning to think you were right--"
Speaking to Leafiara, Stormyrain asks, "What. about. the vote?"
Speaking to Leafiara, Kippe says, "I doubt it."
Speaking cautiously to Kippe, Leafiara says, "Maybe I *am* just as odd as Crux."
Kippe looks thoughtfully at Leafiara.
Speaking to Stormyrain, Leafiara elaborates, "It was a yes vote and it's sure to result in endless trouble in the future when Amos uses the funding to nefarious ends."
Speaking to Leafiara, Kippe assures, "Trust me.  You are."
Stormyrain says, "I'm..confused. I thought Thadston had already approved the thing."
Stormyrain squints.
Stormyrain says, "But ok."
Stormyrain looks thoughtful for a moment, then shrugs.
Speaking to Stormyrain, Leafiara says, "Well, yes, but that was only because the town council went to a tie on it and forced the decision to him."
Kayse glances between Stormyrain and Leafiara.
Stormyrain asks, "Oh. And you think people will assassinate you because of that?"
Speaking to Stormyrain, Leafiara admits, "I sure thought they would."
Stormyrain squints at Leafiara.
Leafiara mutters, "They probably should."
Stormyrain squints at Leafiara.
Stormyrain slowly says, "You have some strange ideas."
Speaking wryly to Stormyrain, Leafiara says, "Hence what I just said to Kippe."
Kippe glances skeptically at Leafiara.
Speaking in Sylvankind to Leafiara, Stormyrain says something you don't understand.
Stormyrain looks thoughtful for a moment, then shrugs.
Leafiara philosophically says, "It was a cowardly and self-serving move, very probably the most evil thing I've ever done. But... apparently nobody minds, so maybe neither should I."
Leafiara stares off into space.
Cryheart asks, "What was that?"
Cryheart glances at Leafiara.
Stormyrain asks, "It was evil to..vote for something that could bring more revenue into the town for the townsfolk?"
Stormyrain can offer Leafiara only a blank expression.
Kippe chuckles to himself.
Cryheart says, "Oh..the vote."
Speaking to Cryheart, Leafiara says, "The yes vote on the bazaar."
Kayse shakes her head, totally at a loss.
Speaking to herself, Stormyrain murmurs, "If that is the new definition of evil.."
Cryheart says, "More revenue to the town."
Leafiara says, "I'm beginning to think nobody is taking Amos seriously enough to know what he's going to do with that money."
Leafiara says, "It's only a matter of when."

Night of Eorgaen 18, 5121

[Town Square Central]
Lady Nairena just arrived.
Nairena peers quizzically at Leafiara.
Nairena says, "You look very tired."
Speaking absently to Nairena, Leafiara asks, "Do I?"
Nairena nods at Leafiara.
Leafiara removes a coral-bordered ivory cameo from in her instrument case.
Leafiara gazes fondly at her reflection in the ivory cameo.
Speaking to Nairena, Leafiara admits, "I can't tell."
Speaking to Leafiara, Nairena says, "Still very beautiful."
Speaking to Leafiara, Nairena says, "But tired as well."
Leafiara frowns.
Leafiara dubiously says, "I really can't tell..."

Afternoon of Eorgaen 19, 5121

Another two bandits' heads exploded at the force of magic she hadn't even realized she'd used. Her eyes and thoughts were far from them as she paced the Cairnfang, awaiting another of the endless ambushes for which she collected pay. Her blades flashed with precision and power, but without purpose, moving with a cold and clinical lifelessness not unlike the undead.

I'm not tired, Nairena... I'm disappointed.

Night of Lormesta 2, 5122

Her body felt heavy, but no sleep came, leaving her to dwell in her thoughts. It was one of those seasons where the local life kept getting cute. Tonight had been wasps and minotaurs. The night before a double round: bandits in the Graendlor Pasture, and earlier in the night came the wolverines, orcs, spiders, and storm giants.

But if it hadn't been minotaurs or bandits or storm giants, it would have been frost giants like a couple weeks ago--or arctic titans, snakes, trolls, krolvin, hooded figures, flesh monstrosities, fanatics, ice elementals, and every other breed of foe to start a haphazard assault over the past month.

Most of them hadn't been threat enough for her to break a sweat in the winter cold. Casualties were practically nonexistent by Landing standards, yet she was troubled. Everything felt meaningless. She rested her forearm against her forehead and sighed. "I'm no better than Octaven. Dennet. Quinshon... Stephos... Kragnack... Raznel... Vlashandra... Praxopius. Amos himself? I don't even know."

"You do know," came a quiet voice of indiscernible gender.

Leafiara's groggy mind registered familiarity as she sat up to observe the robed figure standing before her: this was Echo, a mysterious being who had sporadically appeared to challenge and question her during crossroads in her life. What the being was, she had never known. Perhaps a manifestation of her subconscious, a trick of a mentalist, an entity created from expelled energy of some other valence she'd visited, or even an Arkati.

"The next time Amos kills people by the hundreds, it will be on your hands, with the wealth that your vote permitted him to obtain. Why did you do that, Leafiara?"

The half-sylvan perspired even in the winter cold, shaking not from the air but from her nerves. "I don't know."

"You do know," Echo repeated. "You have grown sick of thoughtfulness, consideration, and explaining yourself, so you voted in a way that would save your all-important time and preserve your all-important image at the expense of hundreds of lives. You knew what was wrong, you did it anyway, and in that moment you took your first step toward becoming the greatest enemy of Wehnimer's Landing."

"No, that can't be true..."

"Its truth is why you lie awake. Your mind wanders to Casiphia, Chandrellia, and Fahlo because their bravery and conviction reminds you that you are on your way as a fraud. They lack your strength, but you lack their courage. You had it once and tossed it away, leaving behind a coward who only fights battles she cannot lose. One so lazily resting on her laurels that she does not even try to change her situation and escape the intense pain she feels over every unwarranted word of praise from misguided admirers who mistake power, talent, and popularity for heroism."

"...then what do I do to change it?"

"You know the answer. Neither the ones who could forgive you of the blood debt you owe, nor the ones who could claim the debt by force, understand that you owe them. You thought Stormyrain would be the first in line to kill you, yet she will not and, indeed, there is no line. The assassin you hope for, Leafiara, is not out there but within. She is your own past self, who in disgust would have cut down the shell you are now."

The robed figure paused and withdrew backward with the subtle and unnerving movements of something with no muscles nor bones, and when it had fully faded into the rooms' shadows it spoke a last time: "Either end what you are to become reborn or you will eternally chase after redemption you can never have."

Afternoon of Ivastaen 9, 5121

Leafiara had known it for years: Casiphia was Mother. Of course. Casi had proposed deal after deal to Marshal Thadston during the battles against Raznel, always knowing exactly when he was in need, what he was in need of, and what he'd agree to. Who else could Mother have been but a close confidant?

But almost no one believed her until last night; being correct didn't matter. It never mattered. She'd guessed exactly what Dennet would have Quinshon do with Reannah since the dance at Silvergate Inn. She'd warned Rysus to test the vial and he had probably drank it right up anyway--

"But I'm the naive one? Why try with these people anymore? Maybe they get what they get."

Leafiara shook her head as she scanned her plotting board one last time, covered in dozens of snipped selections of TownCrier articles connected by a veritable spiderweb of red strings, and then lifted it from her desk and took it outside for a ritual burning.

Afternoon of Lormesta 10, 5122

Leafiara stared glumly out the window of her office, a wonderland of painted candy and chocolate contrasting the miserable councilor. Her old board came to memory; useless as it had been to convince much of anyone about much of anything, it at least passed the time. The theorizing had felt good in the moment, when she'd thought she was making progress.

Her face twisted into cautious bewilderment at the simplicity and profundity of a new thought: ...when have I actually made progress? What things have made me feel the best and worst all these years in the Landing?

A faint glimmer of eagerness sparked within her eyes and she seized a quill and large parchment, then bisected it into Triumphs and Regrets. And she wrote: "refusing to force evacuations" in one column, then "voting for the bazaar" in the other, then "black blood cure initiative" and "aiding with the Gryphons' escort" and "removing Thadston".

On and on she scribbled frantically until she had listed seven Triumphs and twelve Regrets. Her record wasn't great, but the pattern of why--and therefore the future solution--was clear as could be.

She burst into laughter and leaned back in her chair, shocked and gleeful at the obvious answer now written before her. You win, Casi! You win, Malluch! You win, Dread Pirate! I was a naive fool!

Leafi stuffed the parchment into her cloak and stood, wearing an uncontrollable grin.

Night of Lormesta 10, 5122

[Town Square Central]
Speaking abruptly to Chandrellia, Leafiara says, "Larsya is the greatest genius of our age."
Pietra giggles.
Leafiara nods firmly.
Pietra peers quizzically at Leafiara.
Leafiara hoots at Pietra.
Leafiara hoots at Pietra.
Speaking to Leafiara, Chandrellia asks, "Oh why is that?"
Speaking to Chandrellia, Leafiara explains, "Well, you see, she gave me some words of advice eight months ago that I've only just now understood."
Speaking sagely to Chandrellia, Leafiara quotes, "Just be Leafi."
Speaking to Leafiara, Chandrellia says, "That's all you can do hon."
Chandrellia snuggles up against Leafiara, who responds by cradling an arm around her.
Speaking excitedly to Chandrellia, Leafiara exclaims, "This is where I've been going wrong for ages, I've been listening to too many other people and not enough to myself!"
Speaking to Leafiara, Pietra says, "Please don't be Gutstorm, one is more than enough."
Leafiara dramatically declares, "Well, no more! I am the one and only me!"
Leafiara throws her head back and howls!
Leafiara turns to Pietra and cheers!
Pietra grins at Leafiara.
Pietra hugs Leafiara, who wraps her in a warm embrace.
Leafiara gives Pietra a friendly smooch.
Severine begins to giggle at Leafiara, then bursts out in a silly laugh.
Speaking to Leafiara, Pietra says, "You're adorable."
Speaking to Leafiara, Chandrellia says, "I can only be me, and if people don't like me, then they can go jump in the lava pit on Teras."
Leafiara theatrically exclaims, "Better to be seen as a villain if I think I'm a hero than the other way around!"
Leafiara strikes a heroic pose.
Leafiara turns to Chandrellia and cheers!
Pietra squints at Leafiara.
Speaking to Leafiara, Pietra asks, "Who would think you're a villain?"
Speaking to Leafiara, Chandrellia says, "You are my hero."
Chandrellia winks at Leafiara.
Speaking amusedly to Pietra, Leafiara says, "Yardie, Alosaka, Dendum, Geijon..."
Leafiara snickers.
Leafiara adamantly declares, "But I care no longer! Never again will I compromise!"
Pietra nods slowly at Leafiara.
Leafiara raises her fist defiantly.
A red forest fox's tail wags slowly back and forth!
Chandrellia turns to Leafiara and cheers!
Leafiara turns to a red forest fox and cheers!
Speaking to a red forest fox, Leafiara agrees, "Exactly!"