The Day After Magic Vanished
It wasn't any easier the day after. Callum fumed. For the first time in his life he was good at something, had a purpose. Now it was gone. He kicked a small rock and sent it flying.
Zym growled and paced back and forth. Being so young, he'd adjusted to the lack of magic quick but knew his caretakers were frustrated. So he was frustrated too.
Rayla sat against a rock, head between her knees. It felt like an intangible part of her had been torn away. But that emptiness was already fading to familiarity. She stood up.
"It's no good mopin'. We need to move."
Rayla scooped up Zym and started walking. She waited for the telltale sound of Callum's footsteps following her, but they never came. Looking back, Rayla saw Callum kicking another rock in the same spot she'd left him.
"Come on!" She motioned for him to get moving.
"You don't need me, I'd just slow you down now," Callum said.
"Uh, yes I do. Yer the one who has to return Zym fer it to have any meanin'. I'm the expendable one."
Callum frowned. "And what will I tell Zym's mom? 'Look at me! I, a human, brought your son back! We're not all bad! Even though the elf did all the work. I was useless so I guess that's not really saying much for humans anyway.'"
"Yer not useless. Ya can, uh," Callum was many things, clever, brave, compassionate, but none of those things were physical skills, "ya can draw!"
"Oh yeah, I'll draw a really unflattering portrait of whatever attacks us, that'll show 'em," Callum waved his arms sarcastically. "You're the one who can fight, who can hide, and climb, and get food, who knows Xadia, who protects me and Zym. Without magic, I can't do any of that back for you."
Rayla couldn't really argue. The dangers in Xadia would be far greater than what they'd faced before. She had an idea.
"Alright." Rayla set Zym down and walked over to Callum.
Rayla withdrew one of her assassin blades and handed it to Callum. "I guess I'll just have to teach ya to use this."
Callum stared at the blade in his hand. "You'd do that?"
He inspected the blade. "I've tried to learn sword fighting for years and never made any progress."
"Maybe ya just didn't have the right teacher?" She drew her other blade. "Let's do some sparring. Show me what I'm workin' with."
As the days passed, Rayla learned that Callum was right about one thing. He was giftedly bad at combat. But little by little, Callum improved.
Six Months After Magic Vanished
Callum escaped into the night. He knew the dragonguard could probably see him, but they wanted him gone as much as he wanted to be gone and didn't intervene. Guilt tugged at him for leaving Rayla and Zym like this, but it was better this way. He'd made good progress. Callum had gotten out of sight of the Dragon Queen's lair and vanished into a nearby forest. Once he was far enough away he'd make camp for the night, then resume his journey back home in the morning.
While he didn't expect to be followed, he kept his eyes and ears open for any sign of pursuit just in case. The forest was quiet save for his own movement through the underbrush and the chirping of insects. Callum was in the clear.
A figure dropped down from the branches overhead. Callum cringed. Even without moon magic, she was stealthy enough to catch him completely unaware.
"Where're ya headed?" Rayla glared at him, her arms crossed over her chest.
Callum sighed. There was no use arguing. "Back to Katolis."
"On yer own? That's certain death!"
"Ezran needs me, and I'm obviously not welcome here."
"So let me come with ya."
Callum glared back. "No. You're safe here, and the Dragon Queen said its an all out war at the border. You'd be killed as soon as we got anywhere close to Katolis. You don't need to help me."
Rayla groaned. "How can ya be so smart when yer such a dummy? I don't need to help ya, I want to help ya! Wherever yer goin', I'm goin'."
"I can take care of myself!"
"Big talk comin' from mister 'I can't do anythin', I'm so useless without magic'!"
"If it means not having you get killed when we try to cross the border, then yes, I'm fine on my own!"
"Ya couldn't even make it to the border in the first place without me!"
"I'd rather try than get you killed!"
"And I couldn't live with myself if I let ya kill yerself tryin' to not get me killed!"
"I love you too much to have you die helping me!"
"I love ya too much to let ya go off and get killed!"
They froze upon realizing the realization of what had just been said.
Callum laughed nervously. "Well, that's out in the open now."
"Can't put that back in the bottle."
"Look, I just meant-"
"Callum!" Rayla placed her hand on Callum's arm. "If ya meant what ya said, then shut up and kiss me."
He meant what he said.
Three and a Half Years After Magic Vanished
Runaan and Tinker couldn't shelter them any longer. It was too big a risk for all involved. But there was one bright spot. The day before he and Rayla were to leave happened to be Callum's eighteenth birthday. He got to spend his indoors and in relative safety rather hiding in a cave like the previous three. Even knowing that tomorrow he and Rayla would be thrust out into the wilderness again couldn't dampen his spirits. Getting to spend at least one last birthday safe and sound was more than enough of a present. Sure he was stuck in the cramped attic of Runaan and Tinker's new home, given to them as part of the reward for Runaan's 'heroism' in Katolis, but it beat a cave. The only downside was that he'd spent his birthday mostly alone. Rayla was out gathering supplies for their departure and Runaan forbid Callum from leaving the house after he'd first seen 'elf Callum.'
The attic hatch flipped open and Rayla climbed in. Callum helped pull her up.
"Good evenin', birthday prince." They shared a quick kiss.
"Thanks. Did you get everything?"
"Yep," Rayla patted a new knapsack she'd gotten, filled to the brim with various supplies. "We're all set for the morning. But first," she set the knapsack down.
"I was speakin' with Tinker earlier today, and he knows someone..." Rayla trailed off.
"I know its kind of sudden, but I don't see us gettin' another chance like this." Rayla could barely hold back her excitement.
Callum smiled. "You're really building this up."
Rayla took Callum's hands in hers. "We've spent every day fer the last three and a half years thinkin' we'd probably be dead by the end of it, and one day that'll come true. We might be young, but we also might be dead tomorrow. So maybe we should just get it over with and get married."
"Really?" The joy on Callum's face was unmistakable.
"Is tha' a yes?"
"Yes!" Callum kissed her.
Reluctantly, Rayla broke off their embrace. "Well, come on then." She led Callum towards the hatch.
"Wait, right now? It's dark out."
"When else? Can't get married without the moon above ya. A full moon would be better of course, but beggars can't be choosers."
Callum grinned as he realized he had no idea what a moonshadow elf wedding was like.
"Alright, then. Let's go get married." He couldn't wait to find out.
The Following Night
They were under no illusions that they would be able to have much of a honeymoon. Even still, neither Rayla or Callum expected to spend the first night of it clutching each other for dear life as they hid inside a hollowed out, rotten log. Sounds of battle rang out around them. Just their luck for the Pentarchy's unified army to push into this part of Xadia at that moment. They were already well past the town's outskirts when the attack came. Rayla's first instinct had been to help defend the town. Callum offered to assist in a non-combat role, but when they arrived things became complicated.
Runaan led the town's defenders in a counterattack that kept the invading army far away from the civilians. In a pure soldiers versus soldiers battlefield, Rayla couldn't decide what to do. The answer came for her when a battalion of Pentarchy soldiers coincidentally charged their position. Callum found the hollow log and pulled himself and Rayla into it. They'd remained there for hours as the fighting intensified. Moonshadow forces arrived to cut off the battalion, keeping the area in a constant fracas.
A spray of warm fluid splattered against the log. It dripped down onto Rayla's and Callum's faces from one of the holes they'd peer out from. Both hoped it had come from someone splashing into a puddle and not the alternative.
By morning the sounds of battle died down. Rayla crawled from the log to investigate. The area was deserted, leaving only churned up mud and trampled bushes as signs of battle. That and the casualties. Rayla ignored those as best she could, to do otherwise wouldn't end well. She could see camps set up on the horizon. This battle wasn't over, and wouldn't be for some time.
Rayla knocked on the log, and Callum crawled out. He got to his feet while Rayla stared at the horizon.
"Whose side are we on anymore?" She asked.
Callum put his arm around her. "Our own, I guess."