"You ever wondered what a halfling child would look like?"
The question catches her off guard, her finger nearly knicking on the sharp edge of her switch blade as she sharpened it with a whetstone she'd snatched off of one of the stalls in the town they'd passed through.
Blinking once, twice, she regained her composure before humming in thought. "Well, no, actually," she confessed. "Why? What brough' tha' up?" She eyed the human laying on the grass in front of her.
Callum shrugged, something like a blush dusting his cheeks as he stared up at the clouds. The sounds of laughing elven children filled his head — they'd passed by a bunch of families in the town, him with the hood of his cloak covering his hornless head and Zym rummaging around inside his pack — and it reminded him of the children back in his own home in Katolis.
Regardless of the war, he'd come to the realization that humans and elves were not so different after all. Families were still families. Mothers still mothers. Fathers still fathers. Children still children.
Sure, humans lacked the horns and elves lacked that fifth finger on each hand, but they were all still people, living, breathing, working.
Realizing he stayed silent for too long, Callum sighed. "Ray," his voice just above a whisper, "do you think it would be possible?"
The Moonshadow Elf gave him a warm smile. She wouldn't admit it, maybe not out loud, but now that he's mentioned it, maybe a halfling child wouldn't be so weird. Maybe, if it was with him, but they were still young and they had a long way to go before either of them would be ready enough for that kind of thing. Rayla released a breathy chuckle, shaking her head slightly. "You an' yer big thinkin' brain..." She slid down the boulder she sat on and onto the ground next to her human. "But, I don' doubt it," she whispered.
"You're serious?" Callum's eyes were wide, his mouth agape as he stared into the violets of his best friend's eyes.
The eyes of Katolis' first elven Princess in history.
The eyes of his wife of three years.
Rayla had been feeling nauseous for weeks now. At first they both thought that she had just eaten something rotten and it had messed with her. But then Rayla wondered why Callum hadn't been feeling sickly like she did, considering he ate pretty much the same thing.
It wasn't until the mood swings combined with dry heaving every morning into their bathroom toilet caused Callum's concern to spiral that he all but begged for Rayla to go see a healer.
Giving him that amused roll of her eyes and a grimace on her face, she finally complied, and he accompanied her to the healer, against her wishes that he stay behind to help Ezran plan for the annual peace ceremony.
When they'd gotten there, she demanded he stay outside in the waiting room while she was being checked. When he pouted in response to her request, she chuckled and gave him a kiss on the cheek, saying she'd 'feel a ton more comfortable without ya hoverin' all over me like I'm some fragile glass.'
Half an hour of tests later and Rayla finally emerged from the room. The moment he heard the door swing open, Callum jumped from his seat and walked over to her, immediately asking if she was alright. Rayla laughed at that and placed her hands on both of his shoulders in a bid to force him to calm down so she could explain to him what went on inside.
And now, here they were, with Callum a spluttering mess and Rayla trying so desperately to get him to stop bouncing so much.
Her smile grew, tears prickling into the corners of her eyes. "Seriously serious, Dummy," she whispered back, using the nickname she'd become so fond of calling him when they traveled to deliver Zym to his home all those years ago.
Callum's released a breath, then took in another and released, then another, before a grin started to break onto his features. He let out a breathy laugh before pulling Rayla into a tight embrace, before he realized and quickly loosened his grip.
"Sorry! Sorry, I probably shouldn't be squeezing you so–" Rayla's laugh cut him off. "I mean, ya shouldn't, but it's good ta know tha' yer excited fer the wee rascal tha'll be runnin' rampage aroun' the castle in the next eight months."
Callum's smile grew once more, and he embraced her again, gently this time. She hugged him back, her hand threading through the soft tufts of his hair.
"We're gonna have a baby."
Her breaths are full of so much pain and it shows.
She once told him that Moonshadow Elves are resigned in showing fear or pain, but the cases for that are different.
Now? Now, Rayla was in labour, and damn elven customs if she could feel her insides erupting in pain at the life force that was suddenly announcing its arrival to the world.
Callum tried his best to soothe her, one hand rubbing her back in comforting circles while the other held hers (or rather, was held by hers in such a vice grip that he could've sworn completely cut off his blood circulation). His voice whispered words of comfort into her ear as another shaky, pained breath escaped her.
"Alright, you're almost through, Your Highness. I just need you to push just a couple more times." The midwife sat at the foot of the bed, being assisted by Claudia, who was going back and forth handing the midwife wet cloths to clean up the messes, and taking back the blood-soaked ones to clean off.
Rayla's eyes snapped to her husband's. "Cal–" she choked. Callum hushed her, pressing his forehead to hers to soothe her. "Shh, shh, I know, but you're almost there, Ray. Just a few more." Seeing her in this much pain broke Callum's heart, but it would be worth it, he'd remind himself.
Today was the day he'd become a father.
"Cal– Callum, I can't–" Rayla's tears streamed down the marks on her face. Her breathing was even more strained and ragged and the already vice grip she had on Callum's hand became even tighter that he couldn't even find any feeling in his hand to squeeze back.
Rayla's other hand gripped the sheets at her side and she gave another push. Her teeth grinded hard against each other that she could've sworn she felt a crack or two. The sheets crumpled under her fist and Callum's hand on her back moved to wrap around her waist and pull her to him. She squeezed her head into the crook of Callum's neck as the final push broke through her, and she gasped, deep breaths being the only sound in the room.
Before that sound was replaced by the wailing cries of a newborn baby.
Rayla's eyes snapped open, but she didn't move her head from where it rested against Callum. She was tired, sweaty, smelled blood, and felt sore all over. But she breathed at the sound of the child– her child's wailing.
She heard Callum take a shaky breath, slowly loosening his grip on her hand and gently moving away from Rayla to see the baby, now wrapped in a bundle of cloths and being gently held by the midwife. Claudia looked over the midwife's shoulder and into the face of the now-whimpering bundle. A small open-mouthed smile etched its way onto her face.
"Callum, it's a girl."
His breath hitched. That four-letter word made his hands shake as he slowly inched his way towards his friend, the midwife, and his baby.
A daughter. He has a daughter.
Slowly, shakily, he reached his hands out to the midwife. "M-may I..." He couldn't form the words. The midwife chuckled and slowly handed the baby over, being gentle with the fragile being. "There's no need to even ask, My Lord. She's your baby, after all."
Taking the bundle into his arms, Callum gently brought her up to his chest and finally took a glimpse at his daughter's face.
Her eyes were closed, but she had the cutest little button nose squished between soft, round, pale pink cheeks. She had a few thin strands of hair on her head, and from what he could see, they were brown, much like his own hair. She had markings on her face, much like her mother, except they were reversed, where Rayla's were fang-like marks under her eyes, the little one's marks started from her jaw going upwards.
And there, peeking just outside of the bundle, tucked under her little chin, was the tiniest hand he'd ever seen. Four little fingers were on her tiny hand, and he smiled. She definitely took after her mother.
Rayla watched them from under half-lidded eyes, her head now resting on the pillow propped up on the headboard behind her. She smiled as she took relaxing breaths. She always knew that Callum was going to be an amazing father, and now, seeing the sight before her, she knew she wasn't wrong.
"Alright, yew had yer time," she breathed, pushing herself up just a little bit. "My turn t' see the wee creature tha' caused me pain for the last seven hours." Callum chuckled, gently shifting around so he could hand his daughter over to Rayla.
The new mother held her to her chest, smiling at the sight. It was as if the baby knew that she was being held by her mother, for the moment Rayla finally got a good hold of her, she opened her eyes.
Rayla gasped at the sight of her eyes. They were green like her father's, but there were specks of violet littered around her iris, a violet like her mother's. Her eyes were gorgeous, for they held both of her parents at the same time.
Beside her, Callum laughed. "She's beautiful," he breathed. Rayla nodded her head. "Yeah, she is."
Claudia eyed the couple adoringly. "So," she spoke up after a moment, "what are you gonna name her?"
Callum and Rayla looked at each other for a while, then smiled and looked back down at the bundle wrapped safely in its mother's arms. It was Rayla who broke the silence.
"Her name's Sarai."
Callum watched from the window as his daughter ran through the castle gardens, her little steps bouncing with excitement as she laughed. Rayla trailed a few paces behind her, keeping watch over her while Callum was busy talking about the Trader's Festival with his not-so-little brother Ezran.
"–lum. Callum?" He turned his head to the young King, who was smiling at him. "You seem to be a bit out of it. You alright?"
The mage chuckled. "You know," he began, "years ago, I asked Rayla, wondering what a halfling child would look like." The memory still lingered there. A fond memory, one that he definitely reminisced now that he actually had one of his own. "It's been two years since she was born, but now that I know, I just can't bring myself to look away." He stared out the window once again. "She's beautiful, Ez."
Ezran smiled warmly at his half-brother and walked around the table to clasp a hand on his shoulder. "Once we're done here, you can go down to them," he said, and Callum nodded.
True enough, they finished their plans only twenty minutes later, and Callum was on his way down the castle steps that led to the garden. He saw his wife, her back to him as she watched their daughter run around one of the guards who was patrolling the area, causing him to lose his balance.
Callum laughed at the sight, continuing until he got just behind Rayla to wrap his arms around her, letting her lean her back against him as little Sarai tried to drag the guard to the fountain in the center of the garden.
"She's very excitable isn't she?" he asked her, his eyes never leaving Sarai as she peered over the fountain ledge. Rayla hummed. "Mhmm, she definitely has yer spirit." She twisted her head just enough to plant a kiss on his cheek. "Plus, she jus' turned two. Of course she's gonna be excitable. Don't tell me yew were a borin' babe." He rolled his eyes at her but laughed at the comment.
He placed a hand on Rayla's belly. There was a small bump already forming. He breathed into her hair. "I wonder how this one's gonna turn out," he whispered.
Rayla sighed and closed her eyes. "However he or she does," she started, "they're gonna be just as beautiful as her."