Leafiara (prime)/Tales/The Only Recognition...

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Original Story: Jastatos 25, 5116

Opening Notes

Nothing for TownCrier here again since it's all OOC knowledge, but more character exploration and also a thank you to pretty much everyone I've spent any time with at all. Even if you haven't participated in story events directly and have "only" spent time talking about their aftermath with me in TSC or at a table or at a Dreavening for a few minutes, every little thing mattered to me and helped me understand Leafi better. (Trust me, I didn't go digging through dozens of game logs to pull out direct lines just for fun!)

Truth be told, when I started playing I could barely have cared less about RPing in this game, but if I'm going to do something at all then I want to do it right--and along the way it did start to matter to me, and that's because of all of you. So, again, thank you.

I'll say more after the story!

The Only Recognition...

Leafiara was dreaming again about killing Chaston. Always the same scenario: the Blameless had been defeated and the Prelate himself was captured and set to be executed by decree of the Emperor. To ensure that he'd die in disgrace, his executioner would be a half-elf--and here, in Leafiara's dreams, it was always her.

Tonight it was still her.

As ever, the eonake studs of her gloves and the eonake-lined edges of her sandals' sides and soles shone with a righteous gleam.

As ever, she stepped forward and made a proclamation. Her speech changed from night to night, dream to dream, but one part always remained the same and here again she spoke it clearly:

"Prelate Chaston, your delusional campaign ends here. In the record books, all of your atrocities will be only a stain for historians and archivists to puzzle over. But some day, be it years or decades or centuries from now, everyone else who then lives will have no memory that you existed--and neither will I."

As ever, she closed her fists then and prepared to strike.

But as never, Leafiara closed her eyes--just a moment too late to hold back a tear.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

With the outside world now invisible beyond her own eyelids, an image of a table at the Wayside Inn came to her. It was one of their largest tables and a huge crowd gathered around to see Dreaven and his friends, but in this world within a world--in this memory within her dream--most faces were faded and Leafiara's friend Ysharra stood in a light that shone only over her. Ysharra spoke words that she'd heard from no other half-elf:

"I feel sorry for him."

For Chaston. That was when Ysharra had gone on to tell Leafiara everything she knew of his past: about his mother slain by half-elves and himself barely escaping with his life. Leafiara had never had so much wind taken out of her so quickly, not even when she'd learned the truth about the deal her mom had made with her fellow sylvans.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Another image flashed to her: now at the Raging Thrak Inn, her friend Rubi listening to her from across the table.

"As I told you and Shinann before," she'd said, "I've fantasized about killing him before."

"It should stay that way," he'd said. "A fantasy. Killing someone for real... changes a person." Some time passed and then he spoke again: "I hardly ever see you sitting still. Ever. Or not talking to someone. It's good to see a bright spirit in such a dark place."

"I--th... thank you," Leafiara had managed to say,

"I think you'll play a vital role in keeping this place whole."

She'd squealed in spite of herself, then felt her face flush over it. Not even bothering with an apology, she explained, "I may have needed to hear that just a little much... I was worried that lately people aren't seeing the real me because I've been so stressed in all the turmoil."

"Everyone's pretty wrapped up in what they have going on, it seems," Rubi had said. "But you have to pay attention to everything else, too... it's all still there. Just have to know where to look."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A third image, a third memory, captive on a ship and bound by some unseen force.

"You are impure," Chaston had said plainly. "An abomination to the Empire, to the God-King."

The witch Raznel leaned in toward her prisoners, cackling and whispering: "Isn't it so darling that he believe such?"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Leafiara opened her eyes again in the present time. Several tears flowed freely down her face, but she maintained a steady gaze on Chaston and continued speaking in a clear and strong voice honed by years of her mother's singing lessons.

"However many years it takes for this world to forget you, I have to live through all of them. Your time ends here and now, but I have to go back to a more peaceful life. And I will go back. I'll go back as me--not as whoever you've believed half-elves are, and not as someone walking your path of revenge and trauma. I..."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Even with her eyes still open and looking at Chaston, more images flashed into her memory, moving backward in time.

A table in the Abandoned Inn--Areigha had insisted on it, saying spies would hear them if they spoke at the Wayside. Leafiara had taken three friends to plot in secrecy, believing she was the target of a twisted mind and needed help from the shadows where the militia wouldn't or couldn't intervene.

Their plotting session was over and now Areigha was speaking to Tolan, her man: "You are my voice of reason and clarity. She is my innocence."

Even in that time of extreme darkness, Leafi had almost never felt so warm inside.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sitting next to Severine in the town square the night after she was released from the cleansing camp, feeling more vulnerable than she ever had. Normally she would have hugged her, but instead Leafiara instinctively imitated an unfamiliar motion she'd seen from Ylandra and Adavelle before, snuggling up to her friend.

"Sorry, just being a little needy today after... you know."

Severine returned her embrace. "No apologies."

Some time passed as they leaned against each other and eventually they spoke in whispers. Not even a day had passed since Leafi was captive and she was already back in the role of reassuring her friend that everything would be alright. Soon the Emperor himself would wage war against Chaston if he didn't stand down, she told Severine, and though it might get worse before it would get better, her friend didn't need to leave the Landing.

"I know it's tough," Leafi had whispered.

Severine had given her a smile, but then seemed to change subjects. "And, by the way," she said, "you're not a victim. You said that earlier tonight."

"Oh, no, no, I... That would have been too harsh for me to say. I put it more lightly. I said I was a 'damsel.'"

"I know what you meant, but it's not at all true. You're so brave. I look up to you."

The two half-sylvans exchanged grins.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The middle of a battlefield, surrounded by adventurers vastly stronger than her, desperately trying to keep up alongside them with waraxe in hand as they battled hordes of figures in white armor.

"This isn't who I want to be, crusaders! Not the face of vengeance! But because of you the dead think I'd just as soon kill them as raise them! So come out here and meet your end!"

She swung her axe again.

Five minutes later she lay dead in the courtyard of the Order of Voln and Archales was looking her over, shaking his head.

"Keep on laughing, coward," she sniped.

"Nothing is funny when I see someone so young throw their life away."

"And yet not minutes ago you said I was funny."

"Calling me cowardly for not running to get my head lopped off was funny. This is just sad."

"Do you know what I'll do as soon as I'm up?"

"Get killed again?"

"Yes. As many times as it takes."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At Vornavis, awaiting the arrival of the Prelate, shortly before the black blood had struck. Quane was there and she patted him on the head, giving him a warm smile.

"Don't know if this is the place for you, boy, but your presence is welcome."

Ylandra wouldn't teach him to speak for another several weeks yet, and at the time Leafi still regarded him as an animal--not that a girl from the forest looked down on that--but that he was there in Vornavis at all told her everything she needed to know about his loyalty.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Kahlanni and Spontae's wedding reception, a happy time before any of the recent horrors had begun. Leafiara's friend Brokkrsten pulled her onto the dance floor, leading her every step of the way, and she barely kept up with him with what natural agility she had.

In the present Brokk himself would soon marry Riixae--a union of a dwarf and half-elf even at a time like this--and, though Leafi was sure her friend would stick to dancing with his bride this time around, she'd vowed to be a better dancer anyway when the time came.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Leafiara held her eyes on Chaston.

"I'll probably be unsung and forgotten after I breathe my last some centuries from now, but I don't care. I can't be known to future generations for ending a life and be known to the present for restoring life. I can't strike you down here and be Leafiara, history's hero--no, just a historian's footnote anyway--because I have much more important things to do--"

She cleared her throat then and, continuing through steady tears that flowed freely and fell openly without a finger lifted to brush them away, she turned a grin toward Chaston and her voice suddenly softened.

"--because the only recognition I need is the smiles on my friends' faces."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Leafiara awoke with a start to the morning light through her window. That dream again...

Chaston and Raznel still lived, but their plots would be stopped one day. She'd continue to work for that along with the rest of the Landing, but she had to prepare for the future too. She knew only one thing she'd have to live with for the rest of her life: her own conscience.

Now where did I leave my dancing shoes?

Closing Notes

Back to OOC!

The dream scenario with Chaston is just from my own imagination and mostly for framing and a convenient way to bring in all these small scenes that mattered to me, but the memories involving other player characters (and Leafi's monologue in the middle of trying to smash crusaders in a big group when she was level 55) all happened and I wanted to recognize them even though they were "off the record," so to speak...

Anyway, I'm close enough with Leafi that, like her, I also cried several times while writing this and thinking about what she's been through, what she could have become, and what she hasn't. And, also like her, I didn't know about Chaston's past until Ysharra told both of us in the game.

I've obviously had so, so many more interactions with everyone mentioned here that I couldn't get into, plus others I might have forgotten about, and even the conversations I did include were trimmed down to the extreme just to pick out whatever meant most to Leafi. But once again, thank you all for being great. It's been a wild ride!

Looking Back OOC - May 17, 2018

One of the first vignettes I wrote up on the officials and still one of my favorites.

I like dream sequences and flashbacks--and in this case both!--as a way to tie together all these disparate conversations that make Leafi who she is. Dreams do have the downside that they almost inevitably pull the writer toward ending with a character waking up even though usually the climax of the dream is better by far than any following denouement--which was definitely true here.

But they're also extremely helpful for a situation like this to pull multiple scenes into one. Leafi's a young character and she does grow and change in response to even seemingly-flippant comments from others.

Speaking of young... The part about being the "target of a twisted mind" was an experimental plan from Legaci to try injecting Leafi with some other curse in hopes that it would overpower the black blood curse. Needless to say, I had no idea who I was dealing with at the time. :P

Also regarding that section: I know Areigha wasn't well-liked even by some of the nicest players I know, but she was always super nice to Leafi and me. I assume it had something to do with lnet (which I don't tune) or the PC (which I almost never looked at back then), but since I can't criticize what I don't see, I'll say even now that I had a lot of fun with her.

I miss Quane a lot too. He played a monk who was raised by wolves--he had the mannerisms of a dog and didn't learn to speak until Ylandra taught him through open RP over several weeks. Loved seeing the two of them at that!