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“I do not doubt, I do not hesitate. I am the Lioness's daughter, and I have the Lioness's strength.” 

–Laia, An Ember in the Ashes


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Laia of Serra is a main character in the An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir. She is the sister of Darin and Lis.

About

At the time the story takes place Laia is a 17-year-old Scholar girl who takes on the risky mission of rescuing her brother from the Martials. Laia is unique in the Scholar society because although Scholars are forbidden to learn how to read yet she is extremely literate. This skill serves her will in her mission of being a spy for the Scholar Rebellion.

Background

Biography

Laia pretends to have fallen asleep when her brother, Darin comes home late at night. Soon, she learns that her brother is wanted by the Empire and quickly escapes with him through the backdoor of their house while Nan and Pop hold them off. Nevertheless, they run into a Mask on the backyard. Laia and Darin are brought back to their home where the soldiers steal Darin's sketchbook and murder Nan and Pop. They set a fire on the house and take her brother as a prisoner.

Laia runs through the Quarter, convincing herself she needs to find the Resistance which is a group of rebels she can trust to save Darin. In the catacombs of Serra, she encounters a group of armed people who later she realizes are the members of the Resistance. She is hauled to their hideout where she meets their leader, Mazen. She is given a mission which is to spy on the Commandant of the Blackcliff in return for their help. By the evening, she is accompanied by Keenan and Sana as they present her to the Resistance operative. The man rejects Laia at first but Sana manages to convince him.

The Mission

In the Commandant's office, she spots a wanted poster for her parents and realizes the woman must have killed her them. Izzi the Kitchen-Girl escorts her to the kitchen where she meets Cook, a surly old lady who does not seem to like her very much. Laia receives backlashes as her first punishment for delaying Commandant's evening tea on the ninth bell. She is flogged viciously but the misery does not stop there as Marcus who happens to come across her outside of the Commandant's room later also abuses her, causing her neck to bruise.

After ten days at Blackcliff, Laia finally has something to get on with. While doing the Commandant's hair in her bedroom, Laia risks a peek or so at a letter which appears to be politically suggestive. She is given an order to deliver a red sealed letter to the couriers' office and a black sealed one to Spiro Teluman. Laia begins asking around but only to receive a cold response from Cook. Izzi who has been slightly friendlier speaks out and tells her about him. From Izzi, she learns that the Commandant uses friendship against them - if she wants to make friends she ought to keep it secret.

I'm fairly certain that if I walked into the kitchen stark-naked and squawking like a chicken, I still wouldn't get a word out of them.

–Laia frustrating the unfriendliness of Cook and Izzi.

On her way to the couriers' office, Keenan signals her to an alley leading out of the square. Laia has no choice but to show the letter to the rebels. Despite the failed first report, she is given another chance to continue her mission. Outside their hideout, Keenan gives her some basics about spying. Later that night, she tries to get some words out of Izzi but suddenly, the Commandant appears in the kitchen and orders her to go upstairs. Laia receives a severe punishment from the Commandant; a letter 'K' is carved on her chest using a dagger for breaking the letter's seal.

The next day, Laia continues her duty untended. The infection eats up her strength. She nearly collapses but luckily she comes across merciful Aspirant Veturius. She is carried back to the slave quarters and warned by Cook to stay away from the rebels. During her second visit to the Teluman's forge, she learns that Darin was his apprentice. Later that night, she overhears a conversation between the Commandant and the Nightbringer. She is shocked and eager at the same time to pass the valuable information on to the rebels. However, the Resistance has not been looking for her.

A few days later, in the couriers' office, Laia is informed that her brother is to be executed. Despite the Moon Festival tonight, she is determined to meet up with Mazen. She lets Izzi join in because she has been insisting to help her and this time, showing her a hidden way out of Blackcliff. At the Moon Festival, Laia introduces Moon Cake to Izzi. She notices a Tribesman admiring her but she does not recognize him. During the meeting, she is given another task which is to find a maneuverable entrance to the Blackcliff. Once the meeting is over, she dances with Keenan before dancing with the Tribesman.

Laia and Izzi follow the Tribesman to an alley, escaping a raid. There, she realizes that the Tribesman is actually the Commandant's son, Elias Veturius. Although she chooses to trust him over the Commandant's punishment, she silently protests and keeps the skeptism to herself. Back at the slave quarters, she receives a bloodroot serum from Elias and reluctantly pretends to be raped by him. Their act is a success but the Commandant threats her before she can leave. The next day, she is told to send a folio to Teluman. At his forge, she chances upon Afya Ara-Nur.

At the slave quarters, Laia is scolded by Cook for being affiliated with the Resistance. Hours later, instead of minding Cook's warning, Laia teams up with Izzi to find the students' secret passage out of Blackcliff. They alternate nights, spying on the Farrars and eventually Izzi finds their secret tunnel. Just before they enter, Marcus spots Laia, captures and attempts to rape her. She is saved by Elias after Izzi runs to him for help in the hallway. Laia is bedridden and moribund to the point of seeing her deceased family but she is actually sung back to life by Aspirant Aquilla.

Laia is told that the tunnel has been sealed up by the Commandant. Having nothing to offer to the Resistance during the meeting, she braces herself to ask Darin's real location and when she is told that he is in Bekkar Prison, she believes it easily because she does not really know the idea of that place and Mazen speaks with such confidence that masks his deception. Her request (to be given more time) is granted but she feels like Mazen abandons her as he quickly leaves when Sana shows up informing him of something she does not quite understand.

After the Third Trial, Laia stays in Elias's room as a winning price and safely leaves the place by dawn. She is interrogated by the Commandant and about to be punished when an Augur claims her. At the amphitheater, she is to be executed by the aspirants and when the crowds are convinced that Marcus is the one who kills her, she is told to play dead while the Augur carries her a secluded place. Laia is brought to the Resistance's hideout by the leader of the Augurs, Cain. There, she learns that Mazen betrays her. She attacks him, holding him as a captive, threatening the Resistance to reveal Darin's exact location.

Before she realizes it, she is hit in the temple from behind by Keenan.

Elias's Freedom

Laia wakes up to find herself in a large shed and dreadfully tries to flee Keenan, thinking he might be a part of the betrayal but quickly puts her trust in him as he carefully explains the whole situation to her. Despite Keenan's offer to freedom, she forms her own plan and the first step is involving Spiro Teluman to break her cuffs. She carries Darin's scim, sneaks in the slave quarters to inform Cook and Izzi of her well-being. She tells them her plan, passes on the freedom given by Keenan to her friend, Izzi and joins Cook to make some harmless explosives as a sort of distraction.

Later that night, Laia together with Cook and Izzi spend the last hours depositing the explosives which are connected to one another in certain areas of the school. She awakes to Cook next morning telling her to gear up. At the courtyard, she hides under the execution stage. Once Cook gives her a signal from the clock tower, she lights the fuse which results in a chaos throughout Blackcliff. She saves Elias in the meantime and makes him swear to guide her all the way to Kauf Prison to save her brother before heading to his room for a secret tunnel to escape Blackcliff forever.

Appearance

Laia is described as being small in stature with dark hair, brown skin and golden eyes. She is called beautiful and multiple occasions.

She had a strange song, this girl, with with a fey beauty that raised the hair on the back of my neck.

Helene Aquilla about Laia, A Torch Against The Night

Fan Art

Trivia

  • Laia is Catalan diminutive of Eulalia meaning sweet-speaking.

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