Lejla "Leli" Mrnjavcevic
Code Name: Penance
Age: Approximately 16 (birthdate unknown)
Height: 5 ft. 5 in.
Weight: Undefinable due to the characteristics of her mutation, although in stature she is very lithe, almost emaciated.
Eye color: milky blue, no visible irises or pupils
Hair color: brick red
Distinguishing Characteristics: Lejla's skin is bright red, and her hands and feet taper into powerful claws. The entire surface of her body is covered with razor sharp ridges (see powers). Because normal clothing would shred, Lejla wears apparel designed for her by Dr. Hank McCoy. These garments consist of kevlar-lined leather, which is secured to her body with numerous straps and buckles. This coverage includes her neck, the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet. She may also wear a head wrap of the same material to bed or at other time her hair needs to be confined.
Lejla does not speak and is purported to be deaf. Only Lejla knows the profoundness of her own hearing loss, but she does respond to loud noises. Lejla can read lips and understands Serbian and Romani perfectly. Her grasp of English is not complete but it is improving. However, Lejla will pretend she does not understand if she doesn't like what is being said. She communicates using basic sign language. Her knowledge of this is also incomplete.
Mutant powers: Lejla's mutation produces a condition of impenetrable density almost like a living black hole. As a result, her molecular structure has atrophied, collapsing within itself until her body now has the density and sharpness of diamond. Every edge of her body, including her hair, is sharp enough to slice through stone. Her dense body also makes Lejla highly resistant to physical injury, and anyone striking her without protection would probably injure himself. The microscopic ridges on her skin make touching her with unprotected hands nearly impossible. Lejla is just beginning to find that she may be able to control her molecular density, reducing the sharpness of her skin, allowing her to share direct physical contact with others and perhaps someday the ability to wear normal clothing. At this time, however, her control is very minimal. Anything that creates agitation or fear quickly causes her to lose what little control she's developed.
In addition to its sharp surface, Lejla's dense skin bends light, allowing her to blend into shadow. Lejla's seemingly inexhaustible appetite, especially for sweets, while maintaining an almost waif-thin figure, may be a direct result of her mutation as well.
Weapons: Lejla's only weapons are the long sharp claws on her hands and feet, although her uncovered skin could also be construed as a weapon. She has been known to intimidate people by threatening to kiss them.
History: Born in war-torn Yugoslavia, within the region that was later to become Bosnia, Lejla has little memory of her earliest years. She was orphaned at a very young age and has no memory of her parents. What childhood memories remain of those times are filled with hunger and fear, one day melting into the next as she struggled for survival. These vague images surface mostly in her dreams and during heightened moments of anxiety.
Lejla was a talkative little girl with brown hair and brown eyes, rather pretty if one looked beyond the dirty face and bedraggled clothing. At the age of six, a half-starved Lejla was taken in by an elderly gypsy woman. Originally the old lady planned to use the girl to fetch and carry, treating her as little more than a servant. But as time passed, the gypsy grew to love the little girl and began to treat her like a granddaughter. The woman taught Lejla how to read and write in both Serbian and her own gypsy language. For a few years Lejla knew better times. At about nine, while Lejla was doing her chores the old woman went to the market. She never returned. Lejla could only assume that she'd been killed in one of the "ethnic cleansing" raids. In due time Lejla was back on the street, scrounging and stealing what she needed to survive.
She was occasionally taken in my well-meaning nuns who felt it their duty to care for the numerous war orphans. At the age of ten, during one of her sojourns with a Catholic charity, her body started to change. Her fingernails grew faster until they took on a claw-like appearance. No scissors would cut them, or her thickening hair. The nuns turned Lejla into the street calling her 'devil child'. Shortly after that Lejla's skin and hair began to change color. Red like the devil, and Lejla thought herself cursed. She was mocked and shunned even by the other street children and forced to forage by night.
Lejla eventually became a prisoner of Emplate (also known as Marius), a mutant who fed on the bone marrow and life energy of other mutants through fanged mouths on his palms. Lejla was his prisoner for a long time, although she has no recollection of exactly how long. When the X-Men finally rescued Lejla, she was suffering from starvation. She was also mute, Emplate having taken away her voice after several failed attempts to escape, telling her to consider it her "penance". Her inner mouth bears the scars of his punishment.
Emplate eventually brought Lejla to NYC, where she finally attacked him in an attempt to escape once again. Xavier discovered her through the use of Cerebro and sent the X-Men to retrieve her. She does not remember what happened during the fight, but when the X-Men arrived on the scene it looked as if a bomb had exploded. Emplate disappeared and his whereabouts are unknown. As Kurt's first successful mission, he was responsible for finding her and bringing her to safety. He discovered her unconscious in an alley, carrying her without regard to the damage her razor-sharp skin was doing to him. His arms and chest were so lacerated that Jean had to cut him out of his uniform in order to treat his wounds.
When she awoke in the medbay, Lejla was very confused. She thought she had traded one prison cell for another and in her terrified frenzy she started to rip the room apart. Jean, who was the only one present at the time of Leli's revival, had to restrain her by using TK. Alerted to her distress, Charles Xavier spoke to her telepathically, his words soothing her enough to realize the error of her behavior. When she was completely calmed down she began to accept that she was indeed free and in a place of safety.
Lejla was quite wild, skittish and untrusting, for several weeks after her rescue, which is understandable in view of the hell her life had been up to that point. Initially considered to be too dangerous to live with the other students, Lejla was housed in one of the third floor bedrooms. Jonothon Starsmore was the first student to befriend her, and along with the fatherly words of Professor Xavier, and Kurt's kind and generous care, the three did much to transform Leli from an almost feral state to a contributing member of the school.
Lejla has now been a student at Xavier's for several months and is beginning to integrate more easily with the rest of the students. She has recently moved from her room on the third floor to one of the rooms in the girl's section of the dormitory.
Personality: Lejla's difficulty with communication would tend to leave her somewhat isolated, and to some she holds herself aloof. At times she does feel lonely, but she doesn't usually allow this to draw her into bouts of self-pity. Lejla still has a skittish, fearful nature from years of living in a country torn by civil war (old habits die hard). During her first weeks at the school, she had an almost irrational fear that Emplate would return to reclaim her, although that fear is slowly receding into memory. She still occasionally suffers from nightmares resulting in insomnia. On those nights she has been known to wander the school in search of Jono (and food).
Leli attends junior high classes for remedial special education even though she should be a sophomore. This is due to neglect and not a deficiency in her native intellect. Lejla is a quick learner, intuitive and with a talent for things of a tactical nature. She is slightly inclined to use this in a deceptive and sometimes vengeful manner unless she is kept well occupied.
Likes/Dislikes: Leli loves to paint, especially in watercolors, using this as a therapeutic release and a means to convey her moods. She uses her sharp claws to cut paper and carve. (She really enjoyed cutting jack-o-lanterns at Halloween). Unfortunately, this also includes carving Cyrillic letters into the wood paneled walls of the institute. She knows Kurt is aware of this habit, and that he has covered for her. She really doesn't care if she gets caught. She likes to read and play board games, although she realizes that she could easily damage either if she is not extremely careful. Kurt's love of cinema has infected her, although she would rather avoid any movies that include graphic violence, and especially gunfire. Perhaps in an attempt to reclaim a lost childhood, she has discovered animation. She could spend an entire afternoon watching one Disney movie after another. She has a voracious appetite, especially for sweets.
She doesn't like people who are too lazy to learn how to communicate with her properly and she is terrified of other mutants whose powers include draining another's energy and/or powers.
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