A figure walks through the forest.

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Flakes of white snow fall slowly to the ground as a figure stepped through the gathering mists into the forest. A deep breath escaped their lips, visible and hanging in the cold air. Shivering slightly, they pulled their hood up and wrapped their scarf around their face, doing their best to keep the cold off their skin. As the mist dissipated, they scan their surroundings, trying to find a landmark of some sort to show where they landed. After a few moments of walking in circles they found one of the carvings that would lead them home. A deep sigh rumbled within them as they started on what would be a long trek through the snow.

“Had to return at some point” they said at barely a whisper, trying to convince themselves that this had to happen. They walked, for days they walked deeper and deeper into the ever-growing forest. Climbing over fallen trees, cutting through the brush, doing what they could to stay off what was considered the path in these parts. Nights were spent under a cloak, camping out under uprooted trees, or in someone else’s old camp, probably someone who made the same trek they were making. Some nights they dreamt of their friends and of happier times. Other times the visions they had experienced in New Acarthia dominated their dreams. Visions of fire and death, their people running in terror, and the torn faced smile that haunted them for years. Sleep didn’t last those nights.

Finally, the day had come, they had made it home. The same sigh escaped their lips as they stared up at the two large gate doors and the wall of trees so thick that nothing could make it through. Seeing this meant their journey had just begun. Climbing out of the forest two guards’ approach from the entrance, weapons at the ready.

“Who goes there, identify yourself at once!” The taller one shouted.

More grumbles escaped as they pulled their scarf and hood down, then raised their hands.
The two guards relaxed and released the handles of their weapons, seeing features now displayed. “We were wondering when we would see you again.” They said warmly, reaching out to shake hands. After a few moments of pleasantries and small talk the giant gates slowly swung open, revealing the familiar sights and smells of Turomfalls.

Walking through the glades slowing making their way to their old home, more small talk was had, speaking with old friends and neighbors. At times they could only take a few steps before they were stopped again, another familiar face coming up to say hello.

After a few hours they had finally made it to their first stop. A large and ancient tree loomed before them, candles, small portraits, trinkets, and other small knick knacks surrounded it and lined a path that lead up to it. The tree itself had words carved into it neatly, forming lists that ran up and down its sides. They walked up and scanned the tree for where the carvings looked the freshest. After a few moments his eyes fell upon what they were looking for. He closed his eyes and placed his hand onto the tree, running his fingers over the five names he was looking for. A single tear rolled down his face as he stared at the names, his written underneath the five, but crossed out.

After taking a few moments to collect himself, he turned to continue his walk but stopped before he was able to take his first step.

“A you can see, we found out you survived! We’ve been waiting for the day you could return home.” A woman exclaimed, her sylvanborn face still young, but with the faintest touch of age lines around the eyes. Standing beside her was a sylvanborn man, whose face also gave the slightest hint of his true age. They all ran forward and embraced, tears being shed by all three. The rest of the day was a blur. Food and drinks were shared, stories were told, tears were shed.
He stayed for the next month, as the guilt that are at him for years slowly washed away. He reconnected with old friends and family and told his stories many times over. Many were shocked that the staff wielding, wise cracking scholar that left them almost a decade before had returned a battle-hardened spell sword. His stories of parties and lovers had been replaced with storied of The Dark Reaches, fighting greater fae, death, and parties and lovers. As the month came to an end, he spent one afternoon in the home of an old friend, with a bottle of mead, and a bottle of ink, his friend tattooing his arm with memories. But now the time had come for him to leave and continue his trek. Bundling up he bid farewell to his parents and walked through the gates, feeling like a different man than the one who had come here just a month before.

Feet crunching through the frozen snow that covered the ground, he walked the path onto his next destination, disappearing into the woods once again.
For weeks and weeks he walked through the forest, taking back trails, staying away from main roads whenever he could. The weather kept getting colder, and sometimes late at night he would consider taking off to the main roads and finding the closest portal to make this trip easier. But come morning his resolve would return and he knew that this was the way to go. The quiet was refreshing, no one making demands, no one yelling, no one dying, just him and the cold.

Then he was there, cresting over that hill in the middle of the day. He had made it to his second stop. A smile spread over his face as he made it to the outskirts of the village to where he always visited first. He walked between the gravestones, stopping as one he had spent many moments at. Brushing the snow away he tried to remove his necklace to lay it down as he had done countless times before, but it wouldn't budge.

He chuckled. "I forgot about the spirit link". After spending a few moments in silence he moved into the village. He made his way to the old hut on the edge of town and unloaded his cloak and bags. Looking around he smiled again, the memories flooding back, a lifetime of memories. Taking a breath he searched under the bed for the bottle he left there. Finding it, he filled two glasses with mead, placing the other on the small table, and lit a fire in the hearth. It only took a few minutes of smoke rising from the chimney for the door to burst open and a woman in her mid 60's to come in. Without looking up from the fire he raised his glass to greet her. She smiled and shook her head, pulling up a chair and picking up the glass.

"Such a man of mystery you are father" She said with a chuckle.

Together they sat and talked about the past year. More family came over to visit, the twins were almost walking. The next month was spent with family, tending to the gardens that would survive the cold, tanning hides, making mead, and stories. But sadly the day came where the leaves started to return to their lively green, the grass was peaking up from it's snowy cover, and the animals had started returning to graze. He knew it was time to return to his duties, with the people he truly belonged with, for the time being. After he spent the morning saying goodbye to everyone in his family he slowly gathered up his things and once again headed out through the forest. He looked up and felt the sun shining down on his face, and smiled.

"Time to return home"
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*thread closed... for now*
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