Leafiara (prime)/Tales/Winter Chills
Original Story: Lormesta 23, 5121
All else aside, Leafi thought as she hung up her cloak and began to approach her soundly sleeping fiancee, at least this Consortium is made up of our citizens. So their resources are limited to town and we should be able to reason with them--
Her hand stopped just as she was about to pull back the covers and slip into bed.
...no, it's not made up of our citizens. Not all of them. Because I like her, I overlooked... I think somehow all of us overlooked...
Her eyes went wide and she snatched her cloak from the rack before darting from the room. She fumbled her way into the cloak, closing it to conceal her form as she raced through the well-beyond-freezing cold of the twilight air--toward the west gate, then southward into the grasslands, finally slowing her pace as she approached the Imperial outpost.
She gave a nod to the posted night watch. "Please notify the Lady Larsya that we need to talk."
One of the guards nodded briefly in response. "Very well, Mayor. You could have sent a letter, though. No need to trouble yourself in the winter air."
"I'm aware. Just passing through," Leafiara said.
The guard raised an eyebrow. "Southward? At this time of night?"
The mayor shrugged and smiled. "Some of my allies keep odd hours. In any case, have a good eve and pass along the message."
The guard nodded briefly again and the two of them exchanged a bow and a curtsy.
Leafiara continued due south, now with a growing intuition that at least one of the guards was staring a hole through her back. She picked back up into a brisk jog just in case she'd been spotted running before, willing herself all the while not to look over her shoulder.
...not good enough. Trust nobody.
Once she was certain she was out of view from the outpost, she slipped a grey-beaked dark hooded figurine from her cloak and rubbed it, activating an invisibility spell. About time this came in handy. Still don't know what it was doing on Caligos Isle or what that might mean for how far the Rooks' reach really extends, but...
Leafiara circled back through the Dragonsclaw Forest, taking the roundabout way and finally approaching the outpost from the north again in case the guards' eyes were still turned southward. She slipped off one shoe, thinking to avoid alerting the guards with the sound of her footfalls as she neared again, but the chill of the grass beneath her sole startled her back into the awareness that sneaking into the outpost well into the dead of night to plant a letter in some dark, secret corner where only Larsya would look was, regardless of its thoroughness, probably not her most brilliant or necessary plan ever.
Even if these Imperial guards were as gone as the Landing guards, she could return again later. And again, and again, and again, as needed to find Larsya and cut off Imperial funding flowing to the armigers. Sir Cryheart and Magister Cordarius would do their best to get word out to proper Imperial authorities, she was sure, but better still to go to the most immediate source; Leafi hardly trusted those in the Empire whose obliviousness had allowed Dennet Kestrel to take over the outpost for a year.
Cognizant that the night must still be as cold as she'd remembered when she was initially heading to bed, yet unflinching at the chilled air and ground, Leafi was slow to slip her shoe back on and slow to begin her return toward Wehnimer's Landing. Words and images raced through her mind.
Rone's words just a night ago: "The town is wounded, so I am wounded."
Rysus' dying words: "Pain... there is no pain. The only pain is watching you all lose your freedom."
I'm neither of you. I'm none of you. But I think I understand some of you a little more than before.
The mayor opened her cloak, inviting in the cold air, then nodded briefly without picking up her pace.
My body knows the winter, but my spirit has greater concerns.