After the awkwardness of his arrival faded, Laronar once more found a routine. He spent half the day teaching, half learning, and spent his nights being shown around the new Kaldorei Empire by Shandris. Though calling it an empire was very generous, several cities of marble and various trees had been skillfully created by the fledgling druids, and slowly, the elves recuperated.
What little sleep he did get during this time was either spent in the saddle or under the stars, which was another thing he had to adjust to. In an effort to increase the pace of their training because of the apparent looming demon threat, Malfurion had the druids practice during the day, just as he had under Cenarius.
That it all but kept Shandris and Laronar apart was purely coincidental. Cenarius had trained him by the daylight, and now his students would do the same. Having a Tauren master, it wasn't that big of a switch for Laronar, though he still preferred the night.
He had asked his fellow druids about any remaining demons, and while hunting rumors of Satyrs kept the newly formed Sentinels busy, those who still remained after the Legion fell hardly seemed to warrant a threat, at least in Laronar's eyes. The story of the war itself, something he had largely missed because he'd been so young, had been enlightening.
The portal that the Highborne had created was closed now though, and without the Well, surely the Satyrs, who he had been told were actually Highborne who'd embraced the demons entirely, could not make another. Not without the Kaldorei noticing. Even though the new 'empire' all but shunned the arcane, they had enough skill to keep wards up for detecting such a thing.
Time passed, and the young druid managed to juggle his training and his various relationships fairly well. He improved much under Malfurion's strict guidance, and that he had other students to help him along only sped up the process. Soon, it was time for the next step in his training. What that next step would be had been hinted at, but each of his peers felt that their words would not do it justice, and so Laronar had waited. Until now.
"When the dragons gave us Nordrassil, they gave us three gifts," Malfurion reiterated for their assembled group. "The Life Binder ensured our ability to repopulate, Nozdormu gave us our immortality, but Ysera's gift was something else entirely. She bound our very people to her own realm, the Emerald Dream."
He paused, seemingly thinking about how to describe it to one who had not walked it. "The Dream is Azeroth as it was in the beginning. No mortal races, no buildings, entirely untouched, and in some places, unfinished by those who shaped both it, and our world. Those who live within the dream are creatures, from squirrels to dragons, who have passed on. It is a spiritual realm that, for many, acts as a sort of afterlife. The green dragons are the ones who guard it, and Ysera, its mistress, has bid that we druids guard it as well."
As Malfurion explained how and why druids could and should walk the Emerald Dream, Laronar began to realize that the other's training in this area had been all but halted with his arrival, and the focus had been on learning to shapeshift until now. Though they still spent time practicing with their animal forms in mock combat, there were only a few, like Ralaar and Naralex, who truly enjoyed shapeshifting to the degree Laronar did.
Still, even those two could not match Laronar and Malfurion. It hadn't taken him long to see why the antlered druid was regarded with such esteem. He had all but matched Laronar after only a few months of practice, and their sparring now regularly resulted in stalemates. Their leader was, in a word, a natural.
As the others entered the Dream, Laronar had no trouble falling asleep, and his mood brightened considerably as he realized that if they were to train like this every day, he would be far more awake for his time with Shandris. To the other druids, the fact that he appeared in the dream realm with a grin on his face was owed to its inherent beauty.
While it certainly was majestic, Laronar felt that it was, in some way, wrong. There was something about the realm that even his as yet unrefined senses picked up. Malfurion floated over to him as he glanced around. "What do you think?"
The area they were in was much as it looked in reality, but there was an ephemeral beauty to it that could, if one looked long enough, entrap one's gaze with it. Still unnerved by what he sensed, Laronar managed to avoid losing his focus. "It's…beautiful really, but…so very different from our own world…it feels…off, somehow." He frowned, trying, and judging by Malfurion's expression, failing, to explain what he sensed. Evidently, the other druid did not sense...whatever was bugging his instincts.
"Your subconscious has likely guided you here before. That may be why it seems strange, yet familiar. Those who live in and guard the Dream are granted many powers from it, and apparently, are even able to transcend death itself. I've yet to see if that's true, though."
Laronar simply nodded, not quite in agreement. It wasn't the familiarity bugging him, it was something…deeper. Something tied to the very realm itself. He decided to follow his instinct then, nodding as Malfurion warned him not to wander too far from them. He didn't intend to, for what he sensed was relatively close.
He moved through the Dream easily, flying through the green haze as he headed south, and east, towards the coast. Then, he saw a patch of forest that looked uncannily familiar, and as he continued flying eastward, he grinned. Though the city wasn't there, this was, undoubtedly, Eldarath. He kept following his instinct, landing near where, by his best guess, the temple to Elune had stood.
It took a long moment of focus, but eventually, he willed the world to reveal itself to his dream form, and gasped at what he discovered.
The sea did not exist in the Dream, for there, the land was yet whole, and many things that once were, still remained. As he gazed upon reality, he saw quite a different sight. It was, undoubtedly, Eldarath. His home. Nature had begun to reclaim the city, and only the white marble foundations remained after so many decades. This meant that, aside from the temple itself and a few fountains, most of the city had been burned away.
He looked towards the ocean, and that was when what he'd sensed grew clearer. It was...hard to discern what he was sensing. There was almost something malicious about it, but as he reached out to touch it, whatever it was, with his senses, it suddenly vanished entirely, as if it had never existed. He probed the seas carefully, but whatever he'd sensed had utterly disappeared, and the black ocean revealed nothing within its depths.
Somewhat uneasy, he returned to the druids, who were busy studying tree leaves, and how they differed in this realm from their own. Truly fascinating stuff.
While the Emerald Dream was indeed lovely, and he felt closer to Ashamane here than he ever had on Azeroth, he did not fancy the idea of spending years in this strange realm. Nor did he feel overly fond of it. His fellow druids however, were utterly enamored. From the largest tree to literal blades of grass.
Laronar, for his part, did not see the appeal. He preferred real trees. Real grass. These strange ephemeral copies were lovely, yes, but he knew he'd always find Azeroth's real, natural beauty far more appealing. Malfurion claimed the two realms were connected, and that the Dream's very existence helped foster life upon their planet, but he wasn't entirely convinced.
He awoke with a yawn, before the others. A sign of his eagerness. Once the group departed, Laronar shifted into his Cat Form, and raced off before anyone could really notice. He tracked the scent of the one he sought, and prowled around her silently, until he determined she was, in fact, not busy.
Thus, he pounced at her with the skill of a master, purring all the way, even as he re-took his elven shape, not that Shandris minded. They had often wrestled during what few quiet periods the war had offered, and once she'd challenged him again, claiming he'd no doubt gotten sloppy in his years away, they'd begun 'sparring' with regularity.
Sometimes he initiated, sometimes, she got the drop on him, but it was a nightly ritual, and one he was glad to have. While his actual hand-to-hand skills were indeed rusty, their sparring had brought his skill up considerably. There was a reason Shandris led the Sentinels. Once the spar ended, the rest of the evening was quite enjoyable, as were the ones that followed. Now that he no longer fell asleep so much, he truly saw just how far the Night Elves had come with only a few decades to rebuild. It was still, however, a far cry from what they had been, and signs of the Legion's rampage could be easily seen, if one but looked under the foliage slowly covering the scars they'd left.