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Overview

Appearance

A petite individual. High cheekbones silhouette a thin face and frame incandescent eyes, burnished a bright blue hue. Narrow shoulders lead to narrow hips and her stature, overall, is rather short - for one of her kind at least. In keeping with the theme her chest is rather small and her musculature could be described as "mildly toned" at best.

Simple earthen toned dresses are her preferred attire when at leisure. For more risky ventures leather armor is the selection - often in similar muted shades. Little marks her out among the crowd, though she does boast some small accents: an acorn on a silver thread worn around her neck and a sprig of preserved mistletoe woven into her hair above her left temple.

Personality

She tends to quietude when left to her own devices - frequently turning her focus inward. She prefers caution when able, owing to many misdeeds born from a lack of proper preparation.

She has an excessive propensity for empathy and nurturing, something she admits may be a reflex of guilt she bears and loss she's suffered. It's a trait that often works to her detriment, but she is insistent in her ways.

Overall she is genial and, if you catch her attention, earnest in conversation. She is also a stout proponent of introspection to keep oneself balanced; she'll tell you that a peaceful walk alone amongst nature can help solve many ailments.

Motivation and Goals

Her foremost goal is the maintaining of balance both within oneself and the world at large, something that holds great importance to her as an individual and as a druid. Thus she seeks to enact the will of the Cenarion Circle by ensuring the natural order is maintained - patrolling the wilds to heal corruption and purge fel taint; Felwood is a favored haunt of hers for this reason.

She is passionate in utilizing the healing aspect of druidic magic. While she understands the necessity of both sides of maintaining balance - culling as much as nurturing - she takes far more pleasure in the latter, her carefree disposition quickly subsuming beneath a stolid exterior when effecting the former.

Relationships

Family

Leilara Leafwind

Leila's mother, a Sentinel in the Darnassian Army. A loving and capable mother, although her frequent absences for military work left her and Leila's relationship less developed than it could be.

Kitherian Lorahil

Leila's father, a druid in the Cenarion Circle. He resides in Dolanaar, Teldrassil where he helps to train new druids. Leila and Kitherian have a strained relationship over his staunchly conservatives views on female druids.

Friends

Elyssa Ahrinoar

A former love interest of Leila's. A female night elf born in Ashenvale who took up the role of Sentinel. She was stationed in Thalanaar, Feralas as part of her military postings for most of her life. She died in an orc raid some time ago.

Affiliations

Cenarion Circle

Leila serves as a Druid of the Wilds within the Cenarion Circle helping to maintain balance in the natural world.

Dethroned

Leila is a member of the guild Dethroned; she collaborates with them on a number of important tasks. Multiple friendships have also been fostered with members of the organization as well.

History

Abridged

Before the Third War

Leila was born to her parents, Leilara and Kitherian, in the quiet village of Dolanaar, Teldarassil. Her father had lived in the area for some time assisting the local druid trainer Mordant Strongoak with handling new recruits. Her mother was on leave from Sentinel postings in Ashenvale. The two met by chance and quickly developed a profoundly loving relationship. Marriage soon followed and Leila was conceived shortly thereafter.

Leila's formative years were comprised of a happy family life and saturation in the natural majesty of Teldrassil, something that would kindle a fierce love of nature in her heart. She would often sit in on her father's druidic training sessions with astute focus and fascination - frequently mimicking the lessons. Less often she would observe her mother as she performed her Sentinel training rituals, though she quickly realized she lacked the martial prowess to excel in such a profession.

The Third War

The Third War was a tumultuous time for Leila. Her father became inundated with tasks - healing injured soldiers, struggling to keep up with the influx of new Druidic trainees, and trying to care for his and Leila's needs as Leilara was called away to campaign.

During this time Leila began taking on small jobs to help alleviate some pressure from her father. During one of these jobs she realized she had an affinity for natural magic - calling forth a wrathful bolt of natural energy to ward off attacking firbolgs on a reagent run. She approached her father, asking for his permission to explore this affinity and begin training as a Druid under Mordant and himself. He flatly refused, a staunch conservative on such matters.

Deflated, Leila continued her odd jobs and - occasionally - tried to develop her Druidic skills; calling upon memories of her younger days watching Mordant and her father training Druid recruits. She had mixed success at best and several of the methods she used to try and master more advanced techniques would create an unhealthy reliance on pure instinct - completely letting go of her conscious self, giving entirely to the natural urges she felt. The consequences of these habits would have a significant impact in her later life.

After the Third War

With the end of the Third War Leilara returned home and Kitherian's responsibilities slowly tapered off to more manageable levels. A general levity returned as things resumed their normal state. Unfortunately it did not last, Leila had begun deteriorating mentally. Her increasingly frequent and dangerous self-training sessions saw her spiraling into a pit of self-loathing, emotional volatility, and impulsiveness. Years of practice and she still couldn't shapeshift. It incensed her and caused an increasingly brash and negligent reliance on complete relapse of self-control, a foolish attempt to try and become more in tune with primal instincts she thought would prod her animal forms into existence. She was becoming feral.

Her father eventually caught on, noting her behavioral changes and following her into the woods one day to observe. He was nonplussed and berated Leila, telling her how reckless and stupid what she had been doing was. He realized she would likely not stop her efforts and feared for the harm she would cause herself if she continued. Reluctantly, he allowed her to train under Mordant Strongoak. Leila's excitement was tempered by the strain placed upon her relationship with her father. Despite the recent decision to allow female druids Kitherian was still solidly opposed to the idea and, while he gave Leila his permission, he refused to train her himself.

Leila struggled immensely early on in her training, constantly fighting to control herself when shapeshifted. Her frequent loss of autonomy led to many regrettable actions. However, a number of mentors helped push her through this difficult time and she was eventually able to surmount her troubles.

((This is the official end of the bio. The "Fragments of the Past" section below goes into further detail on the events including and following the last paragraph above but isn't really necessary. It contains details closer friends and family might know.))

Fragments of the Past

((Perpetual WIP - These are a creative outlet for me and help me flesh out the character, I don't expect anyone to actually read them - but I enjoy writing them and here's as good a place as any to stick them. They're basically journal entries/thought monologues in chronological order detailing specific pivotal moments of Leila's life.))

The first time - Shadowglen, Teldrassil
Blood hammers in my ears. My heart thunders in my chest. Control is held, but I'm teetering on the edge of a void. I blink away the haze of tears. I try to find myself.

A hand grounds me, firm and reassuring. I look up and see Mordant, a soft smile on his lips. He's said something but I didn't hear it. He speaks again. "It is expected", his look is comforting - but I am afraid. I dig my fingers into the soil. I try to will the coolness of the earth into my soul, to quench the fire within, to tether myself to something real.

The spirit yearns to be freed again. It constricts my lungs, quickens my heart, brays at the fringes of my mind. I feel myself slipping away. I dig my hands deeper. Only moments ago I shapeshifted for the first time. I have never felt so alive. I have never been so scared.

Blood and instinct - East of Wellspring Lake, Teldrassil

I am savagery unrepentant. Claws sink deep, rending flash and lacerating skin. Fur is matted, slick with blood and sweat. Rivulets of crimson drip from yellowed claws. In the moment it's difficult to tell whose blood it is. The creature across from me paces wearily with hoarse, labored breaths. It tenses, readying a strike, but just as quickly the tension is released. The creature collapses, feline form slumping to the earth and going still.

It was a panther. I suppress the bear spirit and feel myself returning to my true form. I shudder for a moment. Keeping control is easier now, but the will of nature is strong. I glance down at my arms and torso and wince at the sight of deep wounds. A sudden and pervasive pain accompanies the sight, alerting dormant nerves to the injuries' existence. Some measure of blood was mine it seems.

Grasping at tethers of magical energy I weave a spell of rejuvenation. A restorative warmth fills me as wounds are quickly mended. Adrenaline fades and lucidity returns in full force. With it comes disgust.

The panther attacked first. Territorial maybe. Were its young nearby? Regardless, it didn't deserve this. I kneel beside it and trace a finger along its bloodied muzzle, a dull ache thrums in my heart. A needlessly cruel mauling. It could have been quick instead. It could have even avoided. Is this balance? Whatever it may be, I do not like it.

A soft sigh escapes my lips. No sense in letting things go to waste, regretful kill or not. I reach to my belt, pulling the leather wrapped skinning knife free and unfurling it. The point is unsteady, my hands still tremoring. I fill my lungs with a deep, meditative breath of iron-tinged air. The knife sinks into skin and flesh.

...

I clean the blade in the grass before carefully folding it back in its leather sheathe. The bundle of flesh and skin is lashed to my pack. I push myself off my knees, brushing dirt and debris free. In the silence that follows a quiet prayer to Elune is muttered. I turn South, a return to Dolanaar is overdue.

A calm exterior belies the turmoil in my mind. Druidic lore is filled with stories of those who've drifted too far into the clutches of that all encompassing and feral natural instinct; some even perverting that instinct into a scapegoat for bloodlust. I am terrified of making those same mistakes.

Balance - Grove of The Ancients, Darkshore

I stumble into a clearing, fog pulls back from my mind - receding alongside the pine trees. Cracked, dried blood covers my arms and chest, is caked around my mouth. The taste of copper is poignant on my tongue. I'm drawing in shallow breaths, trying to calm myself. I'm not running anymore, I'm barely even walking. My legs give out and I collapse to my knees. I squeeze my eyes shut and wring my hands in my lap. A rolling, rumbling voice rings out in Darnassian.

"Night child", a tumbling of boulders akin to a thoughtful hum issues from the creature. "What ails you?"

Opening my eyes and craning my gaze upward I find the source of the words. An Ancient towers over me, long creaking limbs of wood, branches festooned with leaves, and a living face carved in bark. I glance to the sides and take in my surroundings. Stone obelisks jut from the earth in a circle - massive lintels resting atop them. There are others here as well, other kaldorei. They share looks of concern, some consternation.

"What ails me?", I mutter - unsure myself. I try to recall what happened. I try to divine the answer.

**Some time earlier**

Blinding whiteness flashes through my vision as a heavy paw slams into my skull with a resounding thud. I roar out a bestial response and return in kind, jaws clamping down on the attacker's still extended limb. Blood pools in my mouth as flesh quickly gives way to teeth, but then teeth meets bone and the vice is kept from fully closing. I will all the strength I can into the bite and at first the bone refuses to yield, then suddenly a loud snap rings out. With a preternatural need I jerk my head hard and find satisfaction in the sickening pop that follows. I slacken my jaw and let the arm fall out, backing away as I do. It hangs limp, broken and dislocated - the bear struggles to walk on the three able limbs it has left. This fight is as good as over. A reddening haze seeps in, clouding all.

...

I blink in confusion. I've returned to my night elf form. The struggle has ended and the bear lies dead before me. A mound of muscle and fur surmounting the pine-needle stricken forest floor. This is not right. I kneel down, reaching a tentative hand out. No lesions. No scarring. No corruption. This bear wasn't plagued. How could I not notice? I think back to the dozen other bears I've slain today. How many of them weren't corrupted either?

A grimace sets upon my lips. Emotions boil up within me. Anger. Confusion. Shame. Fear. A breeze blows in through the copse of trees and I feel coolness in streams on my face, on my hands. I open my eyes in puzzlement. I'm crying.

Panic wells up. Fear-laden breaths try to claw out of my lungs faster than I can control. My heart is drumming in my head, drowning out all thought. I need to get out of here. I need to run. I need to hide. From this. From myself. I stumble upward and begin sprinting.

**Back to the original memory**

I've found my answer, and it threatens to tear me apart - overwhelming emotions assail my mind again. I respond in between hitched breaths and barely contained sobs, "I am afraid. I am f-failing. I can't keep the b-", a gasping sob breaks out. Several long moments pass before I can continue. The Ancient waits patiently, immobile. I grasp for a tether of calm. I find it in a tenuous thread and cling to it desperately. I slow my breathing, arrest my mind, and utter words, "I lose myself. I lose control. I... I can't be a druid. I'm becoming something horrible. S-so much bloodlust... I h-hate this, this piece of myself". The words drip with loathing. I unclench my hands and crumble beneath the admission. "I hate this piece of myself. I hate that it is *winning*, that... that I don't know if I'll be able to keep it from overtaking me. It's so *strong*, so... inevitable". I am ready to give up.

The Ancient reaches down to me, a single bough pressed underneath my chin raises my eyes back to theirs. He responds with slow, undulating Darnassian. "Balance is precarious, Night Child. In the millennia I've existed I've seen the world's balance waylaid, upset, overturned a thousand times for reasons born within and without.", he punctuates the thought with a series of slow, creaking nods. He then sits in a ponderous silence for so long I begin to think he will say no more, but suddenly his gaze is fixed back to mine and he's speaking again, "Would it not be prrrecocious, then, to think one so young as yourself - for you are very young indeed - would master balance, within or without, so quickly?"

"But what if I can't balance it? W-what if I lose myself like so many before me?", I whisper - dejected.

"Mmmmm", another thoughtful rumble, "It is possible you will fail". He pauses, studying me with uncomfortable scrutiny. Enough time passes in silence that I'm again wondering if he'll continue. He does, in a drolling tone - words flowing slower than frozen sap. "Mmmmrahumph. Yes, your scale is imbalanced. But if death presses one side down, life can lift it back up". He gesticulates the action of a scale with extended, leafy limbs. As he finishes the motion he swings a branch to me, leaves peeling back to reveal an acorn nestled within the bough.

"Take this acorn, Night Child. Hold it close to your heart and feel the soul of the forest, and my own, within. Let it take root within you and guide you to true balance", another rumbling sigh, "if you are ever afraid of losing yourself, Druid, look to that seedling and take stock of what needs to be trimmed and what needs to be nurtured. It will be a difficult exercise. Strength will be necessary, but if you succeed you will find yourself level and so too the world around you. You will find a seedling in bloom. A soul in harmony."

I reach out to the acorn and turn it over in my hand before another wave of emotion hits. My hands close around the acorn, clutching it to my chest. In my mind's eye I see a sapling with too many branches shorn. Tears fall anew.

Nurturing a sapling - Raynewood Retreat, Ashenvale

Padded steps barely register above the forest ambiance. Prowling unseen amongst tall grass and low hanging ferns my attention snaps to movement in the distance. A deer grazes on shrubs and fallen nuts. Instinct surges upward, a primal need. Whiskers twitch, muscles go taut. I am teetering again.

In my mind's eye I see a sapling, my hand wrapped around a fragile branch, ready to tear it off. I fixate on the hand, calling upon reserves of willpower, tempered by meditation and experience. I struggle to withdraw, to attenuate the waves of need crashing into my psyche. My breathing is uneven, languished. I feel the branch bowing, the wood groaning. "Do not cull this branch", I begin repeating to myself - over and over, incessantly. A chant, a hymn, of peace and control.  I feel the branch unflex. I feel my hand slip away, my breath abated. This time I will not abide. I relax, and I slink onward.

It's an exercise I've repeated several dozen times since my meeting with the Ancient. Sometimes I fail, another branch snapped, but more and more often I find success, and the sapling proliferates. Balance achieved, piece by piece. With it comes a trickle of satisfaction and confidence. Progress has been helped along by the mastery of a new form as well, a feline variation. More cunning and sly than the bear, and with a skillset that behooves avoiding confrontation as much as winning it. That's to speak nothing of the grace and litheness it offers, and which I very much enjoy. I am certain it will be my favorite shapeshift, no matter how many others I master.

Some time later I find my destination in the small outpost of Raynewood Retreat. I return to my true form and walk into the sentinel tower. Reaching a hand up to touch the acorn, now looped on a silver thread around my neck, a small smile appears on my lips, a warmth from within accompanying it.

Happier days - Lake Nazferiti, Stranglethorn Vale

I float lazily on the water, not even bothering to shift out of my feline shape. The current carries me on a slow journey Southward, but I've not a care in the world. I've traveled far from home and the tropical jungle that plays host to me now is treacherous; the local flora and fauna equally dangerous accompaniments. But it's beautiful, too - a land of serene remoteness and exotic charm. My head dips, wetting my ears - *flick, flick* - an instinctive reaction sends droplets of water spattering across the lake's surface. Even now I'm in peril. Crockolisks noisily snort on the near shore, in the distance the pings and whirs of machinery sound out - goblin excavators, beneath me carniverous fish swim their erratic paths. But in this moment I'm contented. I will swim in this beauteous lake until midday, then I will find a place to sleep the afternoon off.

I step onto the shore and take purview of my surroundings. Satisfied in my isolation I settle in a bed of fallen fronds and bathe in the warmth of the sun. It is sublime, I've become infatuated with catnaps - particularly ones in direct sunlight. My senses dull, my heart slows, and I quickly find sleep.

*Flick, flick*

I stir slightly, a breeze perhaps. The inertia of sleep wins out, though.

*Flick, flick, flick*

I stir again, my ears are flitting about - searching for the source of now obvious rustling nearby. My eyes snap open as I jump up. It is dusk, shadows stretching, light fading. I scrutinize the thick foliage, scouring the jungle for the source of the sounds. Suddenly, the cracking of a branch, the heavy thuds of feet, frenzied grunting. Something large I estimate. I prepare myself - focusing on the direction the sounds emanate from; every sense is on overdrive, every muscle ready to explode.

A massive gorilla bursts into the clearing not five feet from me, slamming muscled arms into the ground in a confrontational display, I instinctively jump back - claws extended, hind legs digging for a better pouncing base. My fangs are bared and a warning hiss flies past them. Suddenly the jungle is filled by an ensemble of chaos descending on the small clearing as three, four, five more gorillas arrive joining in their compatriot's show of power. I am surrounded. Panic is creeping up the back of my spine, mixed with a familiar feeling of anger, bloodlust.

But I am in control. I have been for a long time. A fleeting moment of conscious effort snuffs out the building primal urge. I study my situation with acuity, not alarm. The fronds I was sleeping on were a nest - an old and unused one but it's clear the troop hasn't moved far. There must be young nearby. There's no need for blood. I snap my gaze back and forth searching for a favorable gap in the encircling ring of gorillas. I find it. I release the energy in my hind legs, launching into a full sprint - a gorilla swings a trunk of an arm to block me, I dig my left paw into the earth and pivot off it. A near miss and I'm clear of them. In the open now I lengthen my stride, quickly outpacing my flagging pursuers.

I run until the sun has set, until the noise of pursuit has long since died. I stop, drawing in heavy breaths of cool air. I glance up at the night sky - an umbrella of wonder cast above me. Stars scattered across the black canvas, all dwarfed by the beauty of Elune herself. I smile to myself, overcome with an inane joy. The adrenaline and thrill of the chase, the beauty of the world, the inner peace I have found - it all coalesces into sheer and utter euphoria. Each day of this new existence I find myself happier than before.

Mistletoe, not holly - Thalanaar, Feralas

I kneel down, forehead to ground, and breathe deeply. The scent of earth mixes with wildflowers and grass. It lifts my heart. I've been traveling hard for days, through Tanaris, the Shimmering Flats, and Thousand Needles before arriving at the edge of Feralas. A dry, hot, and lifeless trek constantly harried by Horde. I am glad to have reached my destination at the small elven outpost of Thalanaar, even if it is only a temporary stop.

Most of the journey was spent as a cheetah, a form that lends itself to crossing great expanses at a quick pace. The prolonged shifting has had its affect, though, and I subconsciously find myself stretching like a feline - satisfying pops echoing up my spine - before I roll over onto my back and stare up at the ocean of blue.

I smile to myself and absentmindedly thumb the acorn around my neck, lying still and allowing my beleaguered muscles their much deserved rest. A moment later my eyes are closed and I'm lingering on the edge of sleep. A rustling of grass is joined by the sudden presence of shade and my senses refocus. I peek an eye open and find a Sentinel leaning over, a flask of water in her outstretched hand.

"Ishnu'alah, water? You seem parched", hearing another voice is jarring after so long alone - but the lilting cadence she speaks in smooths the edge.

I prop myself up on my elbows, "Thank you!" I happily exclaim, taking the flask and drinking deep the refreshing draught. Eyes close in enjoyment and after a contented sigh they slide open and find her again. I offer the flask back, which she accepts. "The kindness is appreciated! And what may I call you?", I ask her.

She smiles and replies succinctly, "Elyssa, Elyssa Ahrinoar".

I nod and find myself enraptured. She is stunning. Taller than myself, if guessed at - though one of us lying and the other leaning makes it hard to be certain. Smooth, pale-blue skin complements glowing silver hair that falls in tresses over her shoulders. Well defined cheekbones rest high on her face, focused blue eyes peer out above them. Her nose is a subtle note between sharper features, almost shy in its presentation. Her lips seem caught in a perpetual smirk. Beautiful. She clears her throat, bringing my mind back into focus. "Yes?", I ask.

She raises an eyebrow, "I asked you for your name, you have one - yes?".

I blink in surprise, I hadn't heard her say anything. I hastily stand up and give a reassuring smile, "The name is Leila Lorahil!".

"A pleasure", she replies, "are you heading to Feathermoon Stronghold? Most on this road are". She stands up to match me, she *is* taller.

I nod emphatically and try to focus on conversing - not staring. Why is Sentinel armor so revealing, it can't be practical. I train my eyes on the safety of her face, maybe so much time alone with nature isn't good for social etiquette. "That's the plan, Feathermoon Stronghold! Errands to run, leatherworking training, things of that sort. An adventurer's life, you know? I mean you're a sentinel, right? Of, course you are. So you've probably been all over!", I'm rambling - Elune save me.

She stifles a chuckle at my expense, but the look in her eyes is earnest. "Best rest here for the night then, the road to Feathermoon is dangerous and dusk is fast approaching", she tilts her head waiting for a response - brows raised as if the answer should be obvious. As she does I catch sight of something in her hair - a piece of holly woven into it above her left temple; a subtle, delicate accent. I feel threads tugging at my heart.

I catch myself drifting away in thought again. Trying to save face I quickly nod in agreement. I've never felt so flustered. She smiles, a brief expression of relief flutters across her features. "There's plenty of space, make yourself at home. I'll be returning to my post", she says as she turns, her gaze lingering for a second longer than needed. I watch her walk away with an unfamiliar longing, watch her hips sway with each step, watch the way the small of her back curves, guiding your focus to other places. It's intoxicating to watch her. She stops at a small stone outcropping and begins surveying the surrounding area. I'm still staring as she shifts her weight and flips her hair over her shoulder. Eyes follow the waves of silver until they find the sprig of holly, only... I squint... it's mistletoe, not holly.

Cold and warmth - Starfall Village, Winterspring

I stifle a shiver and pull my heavy fur cloak tighter as I trudge up the inclined pathway, trying to keep the chill at bay. The cold is pervasive, and it bites to the bone. Despite this, I've enjoyed my recent travels immensely - the beauty of nature here is unparalleled and alien to me. The snow covers all in a brilliant coat of pure white; sound is deafened and sunlight aggrandized by it. The silence brings a sense of solitude, but not in a lonely fashion. It is comforting, enveloping. I pause for a moment to properly enjoy it. Shortly after I'm underway again. I have a destination, and I must reach it before nightfall.

Snow crunches softly underfoot. Pine boughs whisper quiet protests in the stiff breeze. The air is crisp, sterilized by the coolness. A lazy dusting of snow has begun. In the distance the warm orange glow of lanterns is visible. It signals my arrival to the clandestine hamlet of Starfall Village, a cloistering of buildings tucked away in the slopes of Winterspring. Before long I'm in front of Starfall's inn, a small domicile crafted from heavy timbers and mortared walls. It bears a striking resemblance to other kaldorei buildings, only with attention paid to proper insulation from the weather.

I purchase a room for the night from the innkeeper, the thought of a warm bed and hot food is invigorating. Ascending the stairs and arriving at the threshold to my room, I fumble with the key for a moment before unlocking the door and pressing it open. As it swings to reveal the small dwelling that is to be my home for the night I gasp, my pack slipping out of my hand and crashing to the floor, my jaw hanging open in disbelief. A small desk tucked underneath an elongated window, old quills scattered across it. A plain dresser, wood warped by age, on the left wall. An unassuming bed, wool covers draped over it, to the right. A modest room. But it's the occupant of the bed that catches my attention. A figure sitting cross-legged atop the covers, a length of parchment unfurled in her hands. Silver hair cloaking her face, a sprig of mistletoe woven into it. My heart stills. "How...", I murmur - barely audible.

She notices me, stowing the scroll away she clambers off the bed and turns to face me. "Happy to see me then?", she coyly whispers. Her expression turns into a smirk, and as I stand there dumbfounded the smirk only deepens. After enough time has passed she shakes her head in mock disappointment and says "Well, I thought you'd be a bit mo-".

Before she can finish the sentence I'm across the room, arms thrown around her, lips crashing into hers. I run my fingers through her hair, finding the back of her neck and pulling her deeper into the kiss. She's radiating warmth, her scent is reminiscent of pine and I want more of it - more of her. It's been too long. I revel in the moment until it leaves me breathless and I finally step back drawing in frantic gasps of air. I lock my gaze to hers, my eyes are watering - I'm overwhelmed.

"Elyssa...h-how are you here? Y-you said at least a year after our last visit... I... I don't, th-this is real? I'm not unconscious in the snow somewhere?", I half chuckle the last part - pleading for affirmation.

Her palm reaches out and grazes my cheek, I lean into it. She smiles, a gentle smile, "I was granted early leave for a season. It took me a while to find your trail. You've been busy."

I squeeze my eyes shut, count to three, and slowly reopen them, relief floods me - she's still here. This isn't another dream. "So you can stay? You're not leaving?", I sound more desperate than I mean to - but over the years I've found it impossible to deny how much I love her. How much I need her.

"I can, and I will", she whispers the last part - palm dropping to my shirt and pulling me into another kiss. I become lost in the moment. The purpose I had, the goal I was pursuing melts away - fading into obscurity. The true cause for coming to this reticent hideaway unveiled - the cloak of fate pulled back to reveal her. My heart pours through every bated breath, I whisper her name. I love the way it feels on my tongue. I melt into her arms and savor every passing second, passion unbound. Her warmth washes over me. I sink into it, I let it overwhelm me.

...

"You were chased out of a cave by a firbolg chieftain and half of his clan? You're kidding", Elyssa states with blunt apprehension.

"It's true! I've never ran so fast in my life! I had to jump off a cliff to get away!", I offer in retort - hands waving about as I tell the story. We spent an eternity in blissful reunion before finally having dinner together and then taking up residence, side by side, on the bed regaling each other of our travels while apart. My hand falls to my side as I finish the story and Elyssa quickly takes it in her own - fingers intertwining.

"You know, for a while I didn't think I'd find you. I thought allll my traveling would be for naught and I'd have to wait in Thalanaar and hope you returned earlier than we agreed.", she utters the words with false exasperation. She squeezes my hand tight.

"But you did! You found me and here we are!", I exclaim jovially. I squeeze her hand back.

"Here we are", she says back. She rolls to face me. I do the same. We become lost in each other again.

...

It's been a week since I arrived in Starfall. A week gone too fast. I'm standing at the outskirts of the village, Elyssa too. I've put off my burdens for too long and she has to start heading back to Thalanaar before her leave ends. The day has been bittersweet, happiness dulled by impending farewells. "Be safe. Please. Write me when you can, I'll be in Everlook for a few months. No being a hero.", I try to keep my voice steady - but the quaver is undeniable. The goodbyes are always hard, but the news Elyssa has brought - rekindled animosity between the Horde and Alliance, frequent raids on settlements and outposts - it adds fear and uncertainty.

"I will be safe, I will write. You just try not to worry too much!", she speaks with mirth and optimism - she was always better at staying positive, or at hiding her concerns for the sake of others.

"I'll try", I offer a halfhearted smile. I can feel tears coming, I try to keep them at bay.

"Oh! I almost forgot, I have a gift for you", she exclaims as her hands reach to a pouch on her belt. After a moment of fumbling she pulls out a small bundle of cloth. She carefully unfolds it, "I made a point to travel to a very specific piece of flora on the way here, in Ashenvale - near Raynewood Retreat", the last layer of cloth is removed revealing a sprig of preserved mistletoe. "I thought you might like it - it's from the same plant as mine", she gestures to her own sprig woven in her hair.

I'm beaming, nodding emphatically, "I love it". She takes the sprig and begins weaving it into my hair. I relent and tears start to fall. She finishes, pulling her hands back and smiling in satisfaction at the job she's done. I reach up and run my fingers over the new addition. Warmth blooms inside me. "Thank you...", I step forward and kiss her deeply, "...I'm going to miss you so, so much".

"I am too", she replies. It could be the biting wind, but this time it looks like her eyes are watering too.

Letters from Thalanaar - Everlook, Winterspring

((wip))
((more to come))
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