3 March

The faint light of an evening sun filtered weakly over the fields of the Stormwind outskirts, illuminating the tops of the trees with a pale golden crown. New spring leaves were budding, defying the devastation that had laid so much of the city to waste, trees eagerly welcoming the warmer weather. Leafsong bent down and dragged the bucket in the lake, waiting until it had gathered a full load of water before returning to her full height and calling to Analith and Mirae. The two young children, one running confidently, the other toddling unsteadily, headed towards her with clumps of river grass in their hands.
“Let’s go ‘ome” she told them, ignoring Analith’s cry of protest.
“No! More play” he insisted, stubbornly, staying out of reach of her groping hand. Leafsong bared her teeth at him, he bared his back. Mirae, momentarily distracted by a ladybug taking off from a nearby plant, clung to Leafsong’s skinny leg. Leafsong, sweating slightly from the exertion of carrying Flora on her back and Loredar on her front, dumped the bucket on the grass and lunged forward to grab Analith’s hand. He let out a yowl of protest.
“Quiet, you!” she hissed, her cheeks flushing as she gripped the bucket handle once more, keeping a firm grip on Analith’s chubby fingers with her free hand. “Mirae, hold Ani’s hand.” Mirae obediently placed her small hand in Analith’s sticky one. “Right, let’s go.” Slowly, laboriously, they began to make their way back towards the tiny ramshackle cottage at the border of the pumpkin field. The sun began to slip below the horizon with surprising speed, the chill of evening drawing in with alacrity. Leafsong quickened her pace as much as she was able, hoisting Mirae bodily over some of the larger pumpkins. On her back, Flora woke up from the jolting and began to make small sounds of hunger.
“Just a minute, just a minute, hold on, hold on,” Leafsong chanted through gritted teeth, starting to flag, her slender frame overburdened by bucket and babies. Flora grabbed at her unravelling plait and yanked, causing her mother to shriek.
“Agh, stoppit-! You little –mmph-“ she bit off the insult, slightly wild-eyed now, focusing on the cottage growing ever larger as they neared it.
“An’da!” Analith’s delighted cry jolted her out of her fixated stare and she paused. Analith ripped his hand from hers before she could clamp down on it and, summarily leaving his sister to flounder in a newly ploughed furrow, rushed off towards the lean figure of his father. Aphel, dressed in worn travelling leathers, strode across the field with his pack slung across his back, amber eyes fixed on his family. Analith stopped a few feet away, slightly in awe of the imposing male. Aphel reached down to pick up the child, holding him easily in one arm. Leafsong felt impromptu pinkness rising to her cheeks as Aphel approached her, letting Analith down between them. He looked tired, she noted, the grey streaks in his fading navy hair appearing silvery in the twilight, the shadows under his eyes more pronounced than usual. He gave no word of greeting, pressing his mouth against hers. He did not need to stoop to kiss his young wife; she was nearly as tall as he. Afterwards, she rubbed her cheek against his, feeling the stubble of several days.
“I missed you” she said, breathlessly, as he bent over to take the bucket and Mirae in his arms. He gave her a quick smile, sliding an arm around her waist.

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