Leigh closed her eyes and turned her head into the breeze as the rays of the morning sun warmed her face. It always felt like the forest was waking up when she was like this, even though she knew it never really slept. There was always life about, even here on the edges where the trees grew thin and even the forest floor was touched by the light of the sun. There were times where she missed the rich dark of the deep woods, the air rich with scents and sounds as the seasons crept by in their unending cycle. But the edges of the woods held a presence that she had not felt in ages: a human with power coursing through their veins the likes of which she had thought lost to the species.
By the time the whispers of this anomaly had reached her, it seemed he had been settled into the forest long enough to make the space his own. Where other humans would find the forest unwelcoming if not actively hostile, this one was welcomed like the humans of old had been. It seemed to be more unconscious than anything, though, since she had encountered no wards nor evidence of any of the traditional rituals that bound the humans of old to their land. Even so, she had made no move to approach him in his territory, preferring instead to spend the time settling back into the skin that used to be as comfortable to her as her fur. There was a courtesy to these things, after all, and it would not do at all to offer this human an insult just because it had been so long since she had any direct contact with humans.
Which had brought her here, walking around on two legs close enough to the edge of the forest to smell the fires of the human settlement when the wind was right. It was easier than she'd expected to slip back into old habits, and she'd even managed to slip into a couple of markets to listen and observe until she felt confident to join in herself. All in all things had been going well, and she was pretty sure she could work up to approaching the human on one of his runs into the city sometime soon.
Would he know her for what she was? Did he know what had happened to drain the magic from the human lineages? Did he have anything to do with the ones that tried to delve deep into the forest with their stolen magics, or was he really a callback to the humans that could live in harmony with the woods, rather than being either fearful or covetous of its powers? Judging from the way the forest had welcomed him, she doubted he was allied with the hollow magi, but it always paid to-
Leigh frowned as a shiver rippled through the trees. Something was wrong. She was on her feet and running before she consciously made the decision to do so, unease crawling over her skin. She'd grown accustomed to the presence of a human in the forest, but that had been a human the forest welcomed. Whatever it was that had forced its way into the wooded sanctuary, it was something that was very much not welcomed- and that could not bode well.
Instinct had her grab the bow from her back, and her two legs carried her through the underbrush and over fallen logs as surely as if she had been born to them. The sense of disturbance got stronger as she approached its source, and she didn't even hesitate as she passed the border of what she had previously categorised as the edge of the human's territory. She may not have been called on, but there was a treat. And if there was one thing that came natural to her, it was fending off intruders when they forced themselves into where they were unwelcome.
It wasn't long before she could hear running and voices, the intruders calling out to each other as they ran down their prey. There were at least three of them, probably more, and they seemed to be closing in on someone. Leigh slowed down just enough to limit the sounds she was making, and nocked an arrow while searching for a target through he trees. A human form burst through some bushes- bow and arrow in hand- and aimed somewhere out of Leigh's sight. Her own arrow released a moment after his, but it was too late to prevent the pained shout and sudden scent of blood on the air. She could feel the spirits of the forest sing at the offer of blood, the timbre of it something dark and raw at the unwilling nature of the sacrifice. Followed by satisfaction when the archer keeled over with Leigh's arrow stuck in his throat.
She managed to let another arrow loose before she's spotted, but the second assailant was still standing after taking it in the shoulder. Leigh dropped the bow and jumped forward with dagger in hand before the rest of them get a chance to prepare for her. The third nearly walk into her after rounding a corner, and got a dagger in the throat for their trouble. As they fall, Leigh plucks a sword from their hand, an upgrade from the short dagger she came into the fight with.
With the element of surprise gone, she moves to keep the intruders in her sight. If they were surprised to encounter her, the have already recovered well. Professionals then, but not in service of the public, if the dark mask drawn over their faces are anything to go by. Two of them lay bleeding out on the ground, and one had their sword arm taken out of commission by the second arrow she'd shot. That left two more that she could see, and possibly more out of sight.
Not great odds, but she'd faced worse and had come out on top. And it was highly unlikely these people had ever gone up against anything like her, which was good. Unfortunately they were still between her and the man she'd jumped in to protect, which was less good. Better keep their attention on her.
"Welp, looks like your companions could stand to pay better attention to their surroundings," she goaded, baring her teeth in a savage smile. With the blood from her second kill sprayed over her face and chest, she might just make an intimidating enough picture to keep their attention.