While many of the Immortal Zero characters have been in development for nearly twenty years, Leas Steele’s character never existed in the first several drafts of the The Seven Stones. In fact, when she was first introduced in the original 2012 version, she and Tainean were added into the story for pure comedic relief, which – as some of you already know – is fucking ridiculous.
Aside from not even being particularly funny most of the time, she has a serious streak that rivals General Almadzi. In this article, I’m going to break down how our favorite thief was created and give some author insight into the complex character of Leas Steele.
This will be a spoiler-free article. While I’ll be referencing the original non-cannon work that was published in 2012 and comparing it to the cannon 2020 version, I won’t be giving away any spoilers for either book so don’t worry about that. I will also be making broad statements about Leas’ character for the purpose of describing how she was created, but I won’t be using examples or talking specifically about any plot points.
Originally the drafts of The Seven Stones consisted of primarily four characters: Leona Almadzi, Farid Lu, Semara Naomi, and Jas Armante (with their importance ranging roughly in order from highest to lowest). While each of those characters had varying qualities, personalities, and goals, the story still felt extremely… flat.
After a rewrite failed in 2008, I abandoned the series completely for nearly three years because I could not figure out why the story wasn’t pulling together like I wanted it to. The original draft sat on a hard drive somewhere forgotten and I didn’t even think about picking it back up.
That was until about 2011, when I started working on my Creative Writing degree in university. As part of my degree – and eventually for personal interest – I studied literature of all kinds, including ancient mythology and early classics from all around the world.
This is when I was introduced to the Atë, the Greek Goddess of mischief and ruin.
In many of the accounts, Atë was the daughter of Zeus who had many siblings each personifying a negative trait such as pain, lies and forgetfulness. Atë is a trickster god. She was able to trick Zeus into swearing an oath that made Eurystheus a great ruler. Because of the oath, he became the hero who destroyed all monsters to establish a new era for the Olympians.
After learning about Atë, I realized that all my characters shared one trait: they were all too noble. It made the story straightforward to the point of boredom. Everything felt too easy.
So, I started to play around with this idea of a trickster. I wanted a character that could shake things up and create a bit of chaos.
I wanted the character to be female – for no real reason aside from that’s what I felt I needed – and as I started to free write an Atë character a few things started to take shape. The color copper was extremely prominent in many of the free-flow writing activities. The fact that she was a thief came with the territory of being a trickster. And she gravitated towards airships for the challenge of being able to steal them.
Once the larger concepts of her character and appearance were starting to come together, I had to begin focusing on the smaller traits like her smoking habit and the way she talks. I wanted her to associate Avran with home for plot reasons, and so some of her dialogue uses colloquial terms and phrases that the other characters sometimes don’t understand.
Things like water under the bridge when referring to forgive and forget, or not the sharpest tool in the shed when talking about someone not too smart. These are terms many people from Northern America and Europe are likely familiar with – my grandma uses these phrases all the time. However, Immortal Zero is not set on Earth and so many of the non-Avrani characters misunderstand Leas and it often leads to some interesting dialogue.
As Leas took shape more and more, she started to surprise me with some of the things that came up while exploring her character. For one, she has an intense moral code. Despite being an agent of the underworld of Kalyn, she has strict rules around killing, both for herself and her Guild. Next, she is as analytical as General Almadzi, but not as much of an overthinker. In fact, I would argue that in most cases Leas sees things more objectively than the General does. And finally, she is also seen in the story as being extremely loyal to those she choses to befriend, even if they don’t exactly realize it.
The other fact that became apparent was that she was gay. This happened without me even realizing it. When I designed Leas into the story, she was immediately accompanied by Tainean, her partner but not in crime. It was an incredibly natural fit for her character. Due to her direct and confident attitude (whether real or a façade) her sexuality could never get shoved to the background or swept under a rug (not that I ever tried). She wore it proudly.
In the 2012 version of The Seven Stones, Leas was still a very raw character sketch. I still didn’t fully understand what motives she would have in the storyline or what her main goal was for the entire series. She kept illuding me and threatening to steal the spotlight from the main character, the General Almadzi.
Eventually I abandoned the 2012 version after realizing that the book two draft really didn’t sit well with me due to inconsistencies in Leas’ character. I had rushed her and tried to crush her into the shape of a comedic relief character and she was fighting it badly. After more years of working on the plotline and developing my other characters and Leas more thoroughly, Leas Steele was finally reintroduced in 2020.
As I work on the few final books of the series, I’m pleased that I decided to scrap the non-cannon 2012 version so that I could really take advantage of this character.
The Thieves Guild and the structure of my world’s underbelly hadn’t even been developed yet – a huge component of the entire series. None of the black-market operations, clans, guilds, assassination organization, slave market, or spy network was there yet – none of it existed before Leas Steele.
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