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Right to the Peace

Chapter Text

Sarai couldn't come to terms with what happened. It was impossible. After all, who could have assumed that Callum would hide between the packages and travel with them to the Xadian side of the border. The moment she discovered Callum was between them came when she returned for Viren. Without him, the entire trip would have been unsuccessful. It was close for Thunder to finish them all off. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Callum appeared. She herself did not believe what she was seeing.

 

 

The little boy screamed, begged, and called the dragon to let her go. The dragon hesitated- but not for long.

 

He grabbed the boy in his claws and demanded an explanation. After a short and stormy conversation, the Dragon looked at them and said that Xadia would give them both the peace and the food they needed. The condition was that Callum will spend 10 years in Xadia as a hostage. In case of refusal, the boy will die. Sarai had no intention of leaving her son in their hands, Harrow either. However, refusing the deal would cost his life. They had to agree. Then something broke inside her. After returning to the castle, she locked herself in their bedroom. She hadn't eaten, drank or slept in two days. Harrow tried to help her, though he was in a similar condition himself.

 

 

-Your Highness… -Sarai heard Opeli's voice, her childhood friend, behind her.

 

-Please, Opeli. Leave me alone. - she said. She was trembling all the time. What have she done? She had failed her son as a mother. Opeli, however, came up to her and put a hand on her shoulder.

 

-I cannot imagine what you are going through now, but Your Majesty, you must live on. Callum is alive,but is just a hostage for the next 10 years in Xadia. He will come back, and it will be in your best interest to make sure the Elves will not feel threatened by humans in any way. If there will be no incident at the border, they will let him go and it'll be all right. They're going to send food for our people and to Duren, and everyone will  live like none of it happened.

 

-But what if ... What if someone will provoke the elves on purpose to ... kill him? He is at mercy of the enemy, Opeli. I ... I let him down ...

 

-You speak exactly like Harrow. I talked with him. He sees it as his failure. People are starting to worry. Viren, Amaya, the whole council, the garrison of soldiers and even the people are with you. They are ready to save your son, and even in a gesture of solidarity to make a contribution for the redemption of the prince.

 

-I doubt it would work, but thank you. It's good to know that people are not deaf to the suffering of a child. Food shipments from Xadia are expected in a week's time. Then I will try to at least convince them to let me write letters to him.- Sarai said.

 

-We are with you. By the way, your younger son misses you too. Harrow is trying to calm him down, although I think only you can do it.- Opeli patted her on the shoulder.

 

 


 

 

 

-No, no, no, and no again!- Runaan protested. - We can't do it. It's a human! You know what they are doing. Their Dark Magic ... Even if we accepted him, other children in his age would tease him, at best.

 

-Runaan, this is the order. He'll be safe only here. We can also put an Illusion on him. Anyway, he is only 10 years old and is harmless. We can say that it is a child of one of the members of the Dragon Guard. Lain argued.

 

-It's a political game. He is a hostage that can provide us with peace for years. His parents took the remnants of one of Avizandum's subjects for a test of the Dark Magic ritual. There would have been a massacre if not him. People will not risk the life of one of the Monarchs children. In addition, Avizandum was charmed by his courage. He stood up for his mother. And for her is the greatest fear. I know from my own experience what it feels like when you can't be close to your child. -Tiadrin looked at the door to Rayla's room. -She will definitely search for him, gather information.

 

-And here even other Elves have trouble to find us. If we weren't  sometimes go out to trade with other elves, they would see us as a myth.

 

-It doesn't change the fact that ...-Runaan continued to protest.

 

-Runnan, please. You know Rayla would love to have somebody in the house to play with. We have one spare room. If we can persuade the boy to walk all the time in the necklace with Moon Opal, the illusion will endure.- Ethari interrupted. Runaan looked at his husband. Of course he was trying to convince him, only he was capable of it.

 

-... Fine. We'll try to ... Preserve him...- Runnan said.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Rayla opened her eyes. She looked around the room.It was still hard getting used to living with Runaan and Ethari. She didn't understand why her parents couldn't take her with them. Maybe she did something wrong and that was supposed to be punishment? Ethari said that when she will get older she would understand it.

 

Rayla got out of bed and left the room. She thought it would be better to let Ethari know she was up.

 

Ethari was nice and friendly, Rayla really liked this blacksmith. However, his husband, Runaan, terrified her. He was always quiet, talked little and never actually smiled. Rayla felt strange around him.

 

As she entered the kitchen, she found both men talking about something. She didn't want to interrupt them so she went to the cupboard to get some fruit and bread. From what Runaan said, breakfast was the basis of healthy life.

 

-It's a nice morning today, isn't it Rayla?-Runnan asked her. It surprised her so much that Rayla jumped.

 

-Yes ... I guess.- she said hesitantly.

 

-I think so too. Your new friend probably thinks so too. Right? - Runaan replied.

 

Only now Rayla noticed that a little elf was sitting at the table. He was about her age. The boy had brown hair, green eyes, and cream-colored skin. Oddly enough, he had no facial marks or horns. Even his hands had five fingers. He was wearing a blue tunic, black pants, and brown shoes. He also seemed strangely frightened by the presence of adults.

 

She sat down in front of him. She couldn't take her eyes off him, and after few minutes the curiosity was stronger making her finally spoke up.

 

-What's your name?

 

The boy looked at her scared.

 

-What kind of elf are you?- Rayla asked the question again.

 

The boy again didn't answer. He looked at Ethari, but older elf just smiled.

 

-You can speak? -Rayla asked again.

 

-He knows ... I heard he persuaded our King to a ceasefire with the humans.- Runaan smiled.

 

-You must be very clever. I'm Rayla, what's your name?- Rayla countered.

 

-C ... Callum ...- replied the Boy.

 

- Nice to meet you, Callum. This is Ethari and Runaan. I've lived with them since my parents… -Rayla paused for a moment. Ever since my parents had been summoned to the Dragon Guard. She only lived here for three months. -... they had to leave on an important matter. And your parents? Where are they?

 

-My mom ... and my brother live in a castle across the red river.- the boy said uncertainly.

 

-Callum is human Rayla. He will stay with us for some time. Maybe you can show him your room?- Ethari said. At these words, Rayla turned pale.

 

-But ... Runaan said that ...-Rayla said unsure.

 

-I know what I was saying about humans. But this one is nice. Right, Callum?- Runaan asked the boy. He smiled gently. The boy nodded nervously.

 

-Alright. Come on, I'll show you my room!- Rayla grabbed the boy's hand and pulled him inside her room. Ethari watched the children disappear around the corner. He smiled.

 

-I swear she fell asleep about three hours ago. Where does she get so much energy from?- Ethari laughed.

 

-It's from her parents. You know, those two were a pretty troublemakers when they were in her age. They could argue one day and get along three times, and at the end of the day they could sneak into the forge and pour into the blacksmith's shoes sand in such quantity that it was impossible to put them on.- Runaan laughed.

 

-I remember that. We were watching if nobody was coming, and they were pouring ... Those were great times ... - Ethari said looking through the window.


Rayla opened the door and walked in, dragging Callum behind her. She closed the door behind him. The room was small, walls were purple and the floor was white. The room had a wardrobe, a desk and a bed. Plush toys, wooden blocks, a bow and a few arrows were scattered around the floor.

 

-So I sleep here. Nice room, right? Runaan said it was his room when he was my age. Rayla looked at her folding swords on the desk. These miracles of blacksmithing were forged by Ethari when she was 7 years old. A bit too heavy a gift for a child, but according to Runaan it is future-proof. -Ethari gave them to me for my seventh birthday, cool right? - Rayla said, picking up and unlocking one of the swords. The blade came out in a flash.

 

Callum suddenly stepped back and fell. Surprised Rayla tried to approach him but he crawled backwards. She saw the terror on his face. Finally boy stopped at the wall. In an act of helplessness, he cried and closed his eyes.

 

- Please, don't drink my blood!- Callum squealed.

 

Suprised Rayla looked at him as if he had gone mad.

 

-But why ... It's gross. I don't want to drink your blood.- Rayla said putting the sword back.- Why would I drink your blood?

 

-Because ...my friend said ... That ...- Callum felt stupid. He was blushing all over. - ...That you .... I mean elves ... she said you drink blood.

 

-What? No. It would be disgusting. We eat normal things, like as fruit, vegetables, bread ... - Rayla began to count.

 

- So ... You're not gonna hurt me?- Callum asked.

 

-No. Why should I?

 

-Because my mother recently came to Xadia. And we met a dragon. It ... It wanted to hurt her. Then I ran out ... to ask him not to hurt her. But he caught me and told my mother that if she did not agree to his terms, he ... - the boy started to cry. Rayli felt sad about him. She walked over to the boy and hugged him.

 

-Hey ... I know it doesn't look like that, but it will be fine. Your mom probably misses you, but she knows you'll be okay. Runaan will not allow anything to happen to you.- Rayla said. In reality, she repeated what Ethari had told after first week living with them when she was unable to sleep.

 

The boy hugged her too. They sat like that for a long time. Finally Rayla released him and sat down next to him.

 

-See. Everything will be fine.- Rayla said.

 

-I miss my mom ...-Callum said.

 

- I miss my mom too. And Dad. But they are there and everything is fine with them.- Rayla said.-Well ... And what also do humans say about elves?

-That you are fast ... And deadly ... And that you are very unfriendly. - Callum mentioned.

 

-Not at all! Most Elves are friendly. Well, maybe Runaan is scary ... but I think it is his job.- Rayla replied.

 

-What do the elves say about humans?- Callum asked. Slowly, he grew calmer in the conversation.

 

-That you have unloved thirst of power, that you are greedy and lying. And that you like to hurt animals in order to be able to gain power to the Dark Magic from some of them.- Rayla replied.

 

-My mom says Dark Magic is bad. And even though Lord Viren seems nice, she told me to not approach him or talk to him for too long.- Callum said.

 

-Your mom must be very smart.- Rayla said.

 

-And she is!- Callum confirmed.

 

-Okey. Since you are no longer afraid of me what you want to do?- Rayla asked.

 

-We can ... I don't know. Draw something?- Callum suggested.


Ethari visited the children every few minutes. It seemed that despite the fact that Rayla was taught from an early age that humans were monsters, she seemed to be having fun with Callum. At first, the children tried to draw.

 

Ethari noticed then how well the boy draws. He had to admit that his drawings were very accurate for his age. He saw mainly four people on them. A little boy, him, a grown woman and a man. Ethari frowned. They took him from his family at that young age, and the boy was supposed to live here for next 10 years. A cruel but probably necessary solution.

 

In the evening he entered the room to check how the children were doing. Seeing what he found would melt any heart.

 

The boy was asleep and Rayla was sitting next to him, with her hand on his head. The girl showed adult to be quiet. She covered the boy with a blanket and left the room.

 

-How is your new friend doing?- asked Ethari.

 

-I think he's good. Runaan was wrong about humans, because Callum is not a bad. He's really nice.- Rayla said.

 

-I'm glad about it.- Ethari smiled

 

-But, Ethari, there's something I don't understand.

 

-What do you not understand?- Ethari asked.

 

-If King Avizandum is good and wise, why did he threaten that he ... would kill Callum." Rayla asked uncertainly.

 

Ethari didn't know how to answer on that. Finally, the child asked a question from the politics category. It was hard to explain.

 

-Well ... The king probably lied to get the best deal for Xadia. Callum's presence here and not in a dungeon is proof that our King does not want anything bad to happen to him.

 

-Ah ... And why humans say we drink their blood?- Rayla asked again.

 

-Em .... I don't know. They probably haven't seen the Elf for a long time and they are guessing how he might look and act. Callum told you about this?

 

-Not really. I showed him my swords and he got scared and begged me not to drink his blood. Later he said that his friend told him that.- Rayla replied.

 

-I understand. Okay. Brush your teeth and go to sleep. The day after tomorrow you will show Callum the area, right?- Ethari said.

 

The girl headed for the bathroom. At the same time, Ethari put Callum in his new bed in the boy's new room. He felt sorry for the boy, but could not help him.

Chapter Text

-... And it's done. In this disguise, no one should recognize that you are human. If anyone ask, Callum is the Sky Elf and his mother serves in the Dragon Guard. Under no circumstances should you argue if anyone mentions or tell something about humans. Also, don't take this necklace off. He holds the illusion that makes you look like an elf. We understand each other, right?- Ethari asked. Callum just nodded and went back to looking his hands. He could feel a fifth finger, but he could only see four.

 

The boy looked in the mirror. He couldn't believe what he saw there. There were marks on his cheek extending from his chin, similar to those of the elves, and there were horns on his head. The boy tried to touch one of his horns. The finger flew through the illusion. The boy looked at Ethari uncertainly.

 

-It's for your own good. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to walk freely on Silvergrove. I hope you understand.- Ethari assured the boy.

 

The boy nodded a little more confidently. After all, he had no other choice.

 

-Great. Rayla, you're gonna show Callum around the neighborhood, right? So that he would meet other children.- Runaan asked.

 

-Yes. Come, with me Callum.- The girl smiled. She grabbed the boy's hand and dragged him outside with her. As soon as they disappeared in the doorway, Ethari sat down and sighed.

 

He felt it was beyond his strength. Rayla really had an unfulfilled energy. She could only sleep 6 hours sometimes to get up and play all day. However, for the last two days the girl has been focused in playing with Callum. The boy seemed to get along with the girl and if he talked to someone, it was only her. He was afraid to say anything to the older Elves and even to look at them. Ethari tried to talk with him, but it was far from breaking for him. The elf guessed that the boy knew he was in captive and was probably afraid of them.

 

While Ethari was accustoming the boy to his house, teaching the basic letters of the elvish alphabet and the basics of elven culture, Runaan got some extra clothes, a sketchbook, some pencils (which made him a little more friendly in the eyes of the little human) and also got deal with the illusionist who helped put an illusion spell on his necklace. After clarifying the matter, the magician decided to forget about the fact that he was helping to hide a human child among the elves. The Silvergrove Council of Elders had a similar position, which, if necessary, would take the boy away from the village if his identity were discovered, although they did not hide their dislike for the boy. They only agreed because they respected Runaan.

 

- I have to admit, Rayla really likes this human. They haven't been able to detach from him for two days.- Runaan smiled.

 

-I'm not surprised. Only with her does he seem to have some kind of relationship. Finally ... She understands what it's like to be away from your parents. But you know... He is afraid of us, Runaan. He knows he's a prisoner.- Ethari replied, resting his head on Runaan's shoulder.

 

-I know. However, I hope the boy will break and talk to us someday. After all, he will spend 10 years here.- Runaan replied.


Callum had to admit Rayla had a lot of friends. This belief may have come from the fact that since his mother married Harrow, his only friends were Soren and Claudia, and the children of the other nobles weren't friendly to him. Still, it was nice to be around the the other kids - even if they were little elves with which he was scared from childhood.

 

Rayla introduced him to her friends: Geren, Geatan, Eleanor and Liadrin.

 

Geren and Liadrin were twins. The marks on their faces were the inverted versions of Rayla's, but unlike her marks, the marks stretched from the eye to the ears. Liadrin's marks ended the same as Rayla's, while Geren's marks had a slight rounding. Their hair was gray and their skin tone resembled Ethari's. They seemed cheerful, but they were far from the energy that Rayla represented. Besides, they looked almost identical except that the girl's hair was longer. Their parents were coopers.

 

Eleanor was younger than Callum by a year. The marks on her face traced down her nose to her mouth. She also had shoulder-length white hair braid on her back. She seemed a little shy but not like Callum who was terrified about everything in Silvergrove. Her skin was almost snow-white. She also seemed to be looking more curiously at Callum than the others. Her mom was a  illusionist and her dad was a jeweler.

 

Geatan was the only one who wasn't a Moonshadow Elf. From what Rayla could explain to Callum, he was a Earthblood Elf, linked to another Source of Magic. When Callum asked what all those Sources were, Rayla replied that she didn't know. Geatan seemed calm. His skin was slightly orange and his hair was a brown tinge. Navy blue marks on his face extended across his cheek from his mouth, ending in a roundness. His mother was also a Earthblood Elf and worked as a merchant, as was his father who was a Moonshadow Elf.

 

-And you Callum? Who are your parents?- Eleanor asked. Callum paused for a moment. The smile faded from his face. After all, he never even knew his own father. He left his mom before he was born.

 

-My mom ... She is in the Dragon Guard .- at these words everyone except Rayla sighed in surprise. Service in the Dragon Guard was something of a high prestige among the Elves of Xadia. The highest honor that warriors from all over Xadia could gain.


-Woow.

 

-Cool.

 

-Wow! Your mom must be really cool. And what is your dad doing?- Eleanor asked.

 

-He... Well... I don't know. Mom doesn't like to talk about him. My aunt told me he was gone before I was born.- Callum said. Rayla looked at him with surprise, while the others were embarrassed.

 

-I ... Sorry, Callum. I didn't know that ... Well ... - Eleanor began to say. After all, she brought it up after all.

 

-We're sorry. We didn't know that ... Well ... - began Liadrin.

 

-... Your dad .... Well ... You know.- Geren said.

 

-No worries. I didn't even know him. Besides, my mother met someone else. So ... What do you usually play?- Callum asked, changing the subject.

 

Moments later they playing all the games they knew: hide and seek, tag, elves versus humans and the king of silence. Callum was having so much fun that he forgot about the recent events. He laughed with them, ran with them, and didn't even notice how day ended.

 

On the way home, they made an appointment at the same place tomorrow at noon.


-How are you the kids, did you have fun?- Runaan asked the children entering the house. He trained recruits to become hunters and assassins until late so he didn't know what kids were doing.

 

-Yes. Callum met my friends. We all had fun together.-Rayla confirmed.

 

-Yes. And it was fun!-Callum said. Runaan smiled at the boy's momentary joy. After all, in the morning he was afraid to say anything.

 

-Great. But now it's time to sleep, don't you think?- Runaan asked.

 

- We are going, sir.- Callum said shyly. He remembered who he was finally talking to.

 

-You can call me Runaan little one.- Runaan said disappearing around the corner.

 

-Good night Rayla.- Callum said going to his room. However, Rayla wanted to ask about one thing she had been thinking about all day.

 

-Wait, Callum. About your your... you know ... It's true? He died?- Rayla asked.


She didn't want him to feel bad, but curiosity at that age was the standard for everyone. Of course, with one question she ruined the boy's humor.

 

-Dad? He is not dead. He left my mother because I was about to be born. He left and never came back. Mom doesn't like to talk about it. Then she married Harrow.- Callum replied.

 

-But why? Why would he leave her ?!- Rayla asked. It was unthinkable for her that someone would leave a wife and child alone.

 

-I do not know. I don't want to talk about ... Home ... Please.- Callum said.

 

-Okay ... Callum, I'm sorry ... I didn't mean to ...- Rayla wanted to say, but Callum disappeared in his room. She wanted to follow him, but then felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked back. Runaan was standing behind her.

 

-He needs rethink it now.You know- collect your thoughts, rest. Sometimes good friends need to give others space for them to get well. Callum just needs to be alone now. I'll talk to him later.- older Elf said.

 

The girl wanted to follow the boy, but she knew that her caretaker was right.

 

-Now go to your room. Practice sharpening and cleaning your swords as I taught you. A letter came from your parents. They agreed that you can be trained as an Assassin. We're starting in a week after you both go to school with Callum. Are you happy?-  Runaan asked.

 

-YES! Means yes. Very!- The girl almost bursted out with joy. Runaan smiled.

 

-I'm happy with your enthusiasm. Well, but you have a job. Swords won't sharpen themselves, right?- Runaan said. The girl nodded and ran to her room.

 

Runaan walked over and put his ear to Callum's door. He heard the boy crying. He hadn't expected anything else. After all, the boy had been away from his mother for 4 days. It was the only family he had.

 

Elf entered the room. The boy was hunched against the wall. He turned away, wiping his tears away.

 

-Is something wrong please, sir ... I mean, Runaan?- the boy asked. He tried to pretend nothing happened.

 

Runaan sat on his bed. He put his hand on the boy's shoulder.

 

-I'm sorry about what happened to you. I can't imagine what my life would be like without my parents, but you should know that you are not alone. As long as you are in my and Ethari's care, we will do our best to ensure you are never alone. Everything will be fine. I promise.- the elf said calmly.

 

The little boy looked at him. Tears started to run down his cheek. Before Runaan could say anything, the boy suddenly hugged him and started crying on his shoulder. Runaan embraced him, repeating "Everything will be fine."

 

They sat like that for a quarter of an hour. Finally, Runaan broke the silence.

 

-See? It's alright. It will be fine. You'll see ...- the elf noticed that the boy fell asleep.

 

Slowly, Runaan put him to bed and covered him with a blanket. As he left, he noticed Ethari at the doorway.

 

-How long have you been standing here?- Runaan asked.

 

-That long to see my husband on the soft side.- Ethari smiled.

 

-I did ... what was right. And that's all.- Runaan said without hiding his blushes.

 

-And that's what I love about you. Let's go sleep, it's late.- Ethari said.

Chapter Text

According to the agreement, carts arrived at the border at dawn. There were thousands of them, all loaded fully with food, water, and everything else needed to survive the winter. The dragon kept his agreement, Sarai had to admit. However, she was afraid that the deal would end there.

 

The cargo has been unloaded. In the course of activities between the elves and humans, there were sometimes brief exchanges of views, however, all contact was mainly limited to looking to the other side and passing from hand to hand. In some cases there was even rivalry between both sides. The best examples were General Amaya and the Golden Knight Janai who unloaded entire wagons just to show that one side is better than the others. Amaya showed off, of course, as well as Janai did.

 

Sarai, despite the presence of her sister, Gren, and all the friends she had among the soldiers in the nearby posts and garrison, felt lonely. Harrow had to go to diplomacy meeting with representatives of other kingdoms on this side of the continent to beg them not to take any action against Xadia at all costs in a gesture of "human solidarity". Despite his task which was important, Sarai would prefer him to be next to her. She just felt the need to hug him.

 

-Queen Sarai?- she heard a voice behind her. She turned back. Behind her stood a white-haired elf. He seemed older than she was. He wore a blue armor with a dragon symbol on his shoulder.

 

-Yes?- she asked.

 

-I am Lain of the Dragon Guard.-The elf bowed. -My lord, King Avizandum wanted to ensure Your Majesty that the boy is safe and under the protection of the Moonshadow Elves in my home town. He also wanted to ensure that Your Majesty may also send letters to your son every two months. Prince Callum can also write back.- he said calmly.

 

Sarai didn't show it, but she it was relief. She could have contact with her son. It was better than she expected. But that was just the beginning of the conversation with the elf.

 

- Is he ... Is he okay?- she asked uncertainly.

 

-Of course. Today came a letter in which his caretakers wrote that he had stopped to be silent and started talking to them. According to their letters, he also began to play with other children. He seems happy, although he is clearly missing home.- Lain said calmly.

 

-Do his caretakers ... know how to take care of the child?- Sarai asked. She felt turning conversation in the wrong direction. However, the elf showed emotion for the first time during this talk. He smiled almost mockingly.

 

- They can. After all ... They also look after my daughter.- Sarai looked at the elf. She could see the longing in his eyes. She realized that he could not look after her own child through the service in the Dragon Guard.- Letters can be sent in by a crow. However, I doubt if they would find people who know the route to the whereabouts of Your Majesty's son. You can try to send letters here to your border posts and send a messenger to our posts. Of course trusted one. From there, the Sunfire Elves will send the letter further. Does Your Majesty have a trusted messenger?

 

-Of course. I have a trusted messenger.- Sarai said. After all, who would be more trusted than your own sister?


-Excuse me Ethari, can I ask you a question?- Callum asked uncertainly.

 

-Of course. What is it Callum?- Ethari replied. Callum liked to hang out in the Ethari's workplace and talk to him about anything and everything.

 

Three weeks have passed since the boy came to live with them. Callum was still shy, which did not suit the cheerful and daring Elves of Heaven. However, it could not be otherwise. Ethari and Runaan explained it with the change of environment and homesickness.

 

-All elves have signs on their faces. And adults also have them on their arms. What does it mean?- Callum asked.

 

-I'm explaining already. You see, each Elf is born into a community centered around one of the Primal Magic Sources. So in order to show the achievements in a given community that a given elf showed, he have painted signs on his face with body paint. For example, you and Rayla have simple signs because you are children and have not achieved anything in your life yet. They only mean belonging to an elven community. But Runaan and I have more of them. We got permission from the Council of Elders to add them to ourselves at the Solstice of Magic celebrations every 10 years. Just a month before you got here, there was this celebration. Anyway, do you see the tattoo here?- Callum asked, taking a break from working on the necklace for a moment, pointing to the tattoo on his arm. The boy nodded with curiosity.

 

-I got this tattoo for long and diligent work as blacksmith. Runaan has other on his shoulder, he got them for being one of the best hunters. Of course, every elven community has different symbols and meanings, but with us it is to show the experience of a person. It is not obligatory, but not many Elves decide to do so. Rayla's parents, for example, preferred not to paint a tattoo about their appointment to the Dragon Guard. There are few Elves who choose to do so, but there are more and more of them. It's something more common among younger generations.- Ethari said, putting the necklace aside on a pile of other necklaces of the same type.

 

-I understand. May I ask you one more question?- Callum asked.

 

-Go ahead.- Ethari replied.

 

-You and Rayla mentioned the Sources of Primal Magic. What is this?

 

-They are huge, powerful beings of the natural world that are sources of magic. These sources are the: Sun, Moon, Stars, Earth, Sky, and Ocean. Elven mages can draw from these Sources to cast various spells. All of Xadia's magical creatures are connected to this Sources and as such their powers and abilities reflect that source. Each magical creature in Xadia has a connection to its source, called the Arcanum. The Moonshadow Elves, for example, are connected to the Moon Arcanum. This allows us to disappear in full moon, for example, or create illusions, such as holding your disguise. We are also in the process of being under full moon stronger and faster.- Ethari explained, putting together another necklace.

 

-Woow. And are humans connected to some Arcanum?- Callum asked.

 

Ethari put his tools down for a moment. He turned to the boy. Callum was smiling. After all, he was an innocent child. He couldn't blame him for the mistakes his ancestors made. He could, however, tell him the elven part of the story.

 

-Sadly but no. Tell me Callum, do you know why humans live on the western side of the continent, and why elves and dragons live on the eastern side of the Rift?- Ethari asked.

 

-Mom told me that long ago people discovered Dark Magic. The elves felt that this magic was evil and decided to banish the humans westward so that they would not be a threat.- Callum said hesitantly.

 

-I have to admit, your mom is a really smart person. I didn't expect people to know the elven version of the story. However, that is not the whole story. Although it's better to call it a legend because it is not known what the truth was.- Ethari sat in the chair in front of Callum.

- According to legend, one of the Startouch Elves, Aaravos, fell in love with a human woman. She, however, was blind, so Aaravos wanted to restore her sight. His brothers, other Startouch Elves, refused to help him. So he decided to create another source of magic, known today as Dark Magic. He sacrificed the eyes of one of his relatives to restore her sight. But then Dark Magic turned her into rock. Aaravos couldn't stand  death of his beloved one and tried by all means to bring her back to life. Then the other elves decided to imprison him for using one of them as a source of power for the Dark Magic. A fight escalated during which the statue was destroyed and thus the Aaravos love of life couldn't return. The archmage swore revenge on the elves who in his view were responsible. He taught people to use the Dark Magic, which did not escape the attention of the king, by then Sol Regem. Dragon demanded from human mages to reject Dark Magic. They refused and wounded the dragon. Aaravos tried to save humans and to this ended in evacuation of the entire city from which the mage who wounded Sol Regem came from. Then he moved against the Startouch Elves whose city it was located on the highest peak of Xadia known that day. There was a bloody fight during which Aaravos killed almost all of his brothers. However, he was imprisoned beyond time and space by the last of his brothers and the Dragon connected to the Arcanum of Sky. Nobody knows where this prison is, but everyone knows he is still there and is waiting to take revenge on the elves for their pride. The humans, on the other hand, were banished to the west, whether they supported Aaravos or decided to remain neutral and observe the course of events. I don't know how much truth there is, but the story is old. Humans accepted a gift that they shouldn't have. It sealed their fate after Aaravos defeat, but it is also known that people have long been aware that they are not able to use magic. They could discover the Dark Magic themselves and teach Aaravos. However, no one knows the truth.- Ethari said.


Callum looked at him uncertainly. After a while he asked a question.

 

-But ... He wanted to do good, right? He just wanted help. His brothers were bad because they wouldn't help him, not him-. Callum said.

 

- They were and most of them had to pay a price. But that's not the point. It's about his use of the Dark Magic.Dark Magic is all about stealing the power of a magical creature, to the point where it doesn't have any life left. Nobody has the right to do so. I don't want you to ever try to use Dark Magic either. It is dangerous and even in a noble cause it is a crime. Promise me you'll never use Dark Magic.- Ethari said. There was silence. The elf guessed that the boy didn't know what to say. After a while, however, he replied with the answer elf expected.

 

-I promise never to use Dark Magic. I promise.- Callum said confidently. Ethari smiled involuntarily.

 

There was a chance that when the boy came back among the humans, he would tell the truth about the elves, and not the stories that humans invented to scare the children. Looking at the boy, he felt relieved - humans were not the monsters he thought they were when he was at Callum's age. The boy was living proof that they are not.

 

-Well, maybe we'll try to cook some vegetables?  Rayla and Runaan will be back from training soon.- Ethari said. They both headed for the kitchen, but as they entered the corridor, they heard the door open. Rayla and Runaan were back.

 

Rayla had started training with Geren and Liadrin two weeks earlier. These workouts consisted of physical exercises and the basics of hand-to-hand combat along with sword fighting. Due to the extra-curricular activities and school that had started two weeks earlier, Rayla had less and less time to play with her friends. A couple of times Callum did double homework, which made him Rayla's best friend. Sometimes Rayla was returning with bumps and scratches, as it happens during exercise. Ethari has treated smaller wounds more than once. This time, however, Rayla came back alive and well (to Ethari's relief).

 

-Callum, Ethari, we are back!- Runaan called.

 

Rayla, despite the fact that she returned without any health damage, was almost exhausted. She was barely standing and you could see her falling asleep while standing up.

 

-Tough day?- Ethari asked.

 

-Besides she got crazy about being the fastest in the whole training group and achieved her goal, no. -Runaan smiled. - By the way, Callum, I have letter for you.- Runaan said.

 

Callum looked at the scroll with surprise. It had the seal of King of Katolis. He guessed it was a letter from his family.


He thought about this letter through whole evening. While Ethari questioned Runaan about the news in the town, what was doing Rayla during practice and stuff like that, Rayla was almost felling asleep over her plate, Callum quickly ate his portion and waited for everyone to finish before he could go to his room to read the letter. When that happened, he sat down at his desk and opened the scroll. He recognized the handwriting immediately. And the tear marks on the sheet of paper.

 

Dear son

 

   I apologize with all my heart for what I did. I shouldn't have agreed. I should have watched you and Ezran personally. It's my fault. I hope you will forgive me someday. However, as you know, I had no choice. Harrow also regret it happened. We're so sorry.

 

   The elves let us write letters. I am glad that despite the fact that I do not deserve it, I will have contact with you. Ezran has been sad since you disappeared. Even Soren and Claudia stopped making trouble. Without you, the castle is simply empty. Even Lord Viren regrets that he didn't check the cart before we went on that trip. I even stopped one expedition of your aunt who wanted to break through all of Xadia to save you.

 

   You have to be strong despite everything that will happen to you. You will have to spend at least 10 years at Xadia, which is almost as old as you are. It hurts me that I won't be able to see you grow up. However, I will do everything in my power to help you come home safely one day.

 

   Write what's up with you. Where do you live, with whom. Are there any children around. Write to us as soon as possible. We are dying of anxiety. And remember, we still love you, no matter what.

 

Your family

 

Three hands were impressed at the very bottom of the page. One was quite large, the other was smaller and slender, the third was the smallest between them. Callum understood whose handprints it was.

 

He didn't understand why mom should be angry on herself than on him. After all, he did the wrong thing. It was he who hid between the supplies and remained silent until the moment they fought stone monster. It was he who jumped out when the dragon was about to finish off his mother. Why was she angry on herself? He was guilty, not her.

 

He didn't understand how adults thought. Once they say one thing, then they do another. They are always in a rush and then they are always late. They once say that you have to be sensible to do something meaningless. They worry about unimportant things. Callum thought that when he grows up, he won't be like other adults.

 

He decided to write back immediately. He wrote until dark. Ethari looked into his room many times. He didn't know what the boy was doing. Finally he asked.

 

-Callum, you said you did your homework. Did you lie to me the? -Elf asked.

 

-No. I really did my homework. I'm just replying to mom's letter. Ethari, you can help me send it, can you?- Callum asked.

 

-I guess I have no choice.- the Elf smiled.

Chapter Text

Gren really hated the frontier.

 

Despite the fact that since they made deal with the Elves (who in his opinion were brutal because they took the child from their parents for 10 years) and there was no clash or skirmish on the border, the climate still was like a little hell on earth.

 

The steel plates on his armor had already warmed up, making his guard a growing torment every minute. Sweat was pouring off him like from a waterfall, and if not the fact that it was steaming quickly, his clothes would have been twice as heavy (considering the fact that he was wearing full armor, he would not be able move). Suddenly several figures appeared on the road. He sounded the alarm quickly.

 

When the elves approached the human outpost, all the people waited with their weapons ready. Sweat started pouring down even more, as it happens in tense border situations.

 

Gren managed to send a messenger with information to the main keep, and before the elves approached, General Amaya arrived with an additional force. She ordered soldiers to stand by in the nearby tunnel wait.

 

-Halt! Who's coming?- Asked Gren.

 

The leader of the Elves was a tall elf who seemed too young to command. Her dark red hair was pulled back into a long strand similar to pigtails and her eyes were dark orange while her skin was as dark as the rocks around her. However, both Gren and Amaya recognized her immediately.

 

-Golden Knight Janai and my squad. We have no hostile intentions.- Janai raised her hands to show that she had nothing in them.

 

Is he looking for a tumor or what? What the hell does she want? - Amaya showed in sign language.

 

"General Amaya greets you, Golden Knight, and asks about the purpose of your journey to the human side of the border," Gren replied. Janai seemed surprised by his answer, not General Amaya.

 

-Forgive my curiosity, but she has a seal with the general's markings on the shoulder pad. Why are you speaking on her behalf?-Janai asked Grena. Gren thought that he probably imagined humans as proud creatures who would use other people lower in the hierarchy, both military and civilian, as slaves. How far was she from the truth ...

 

- General Amaya has been deaf since birth. Her family refused help from mages to restore her ears, and the General has been using sign language to communicate ever since. She speaks with hand gestures. I've been her translator since we joined the army together.

 

-I understand ... I honestly didn't expect ... Such answer. About your question. A letter came from Stormspire. I assume that the nephew of General replied to the letter his mother sent two weeks ago.-saying this, she pulled a scroll from her belt. It was tied with a dark blue ribbon. - And not only from him. Apparently his current caretakers also sent a letter to his parents. I guess these are questions about a boy's favorite things, his birthday and the things like that. Do not see us for monsters, our king with a heavy heart separated this family and he wants the boy to stay in Xadia as much as possible to be normal. Even as a hostage.- told Janai, then handed both letters to Gren.

 

Gren translated everything into sign language. Amaya must have understood half of the words from move of her lips, and continued to struggle to figure out the Elf's accent.

 

It was also standard for Amaya that she did not mince words.

 

Tell her that she should skip talking about my nephew's "normal stay" at Xadia. I have her explanation somewhere. If they do something to him, turn him into a statue or drink a little bit of his blood, I will personally crucify every elf who lives on the other side of this damn border and set fire to each of these crosses.

 

-General Amaya says she is pleased that your leaders have been kind enough to allow correspondence through the border, and that they have shown enough interest in his life to seek information about his favorite things from home.- Gren said. Amaya looked indulgently at him, but nodded.

 

On many occasions, Amaya nearly made war with neighboring kingdoms. Despite being a born leader and a great fighter, she often did something first to then think about her stupid decision.If it not for the fact that almost no one understands sign language, Katolis would probably be a kingdom depleted by war, or even a constant battlefield.

 

-I understand. I'm glad we came to an agreement. -Janai bowed.

 

Amaya, of course, communicated her will.

 

Gren, I won't tell respond greetly. I can't physically bring myself to do it. I also have no intention of being nice to these monsters. I'd rather put that whole Golden Knight of her sword right in her...

 

-I guess those were long farewell words.- Janai said in surprise.

 

-The general ordered to pass that she wishes you a quick and safe return to your homes and posts on the other side of the border. As for the rest, they were ... private matters.- said Gren.

 

Amaya looked at him as if she was going to eat him ... in a romantic way. Several of the soldiers chuckled softly under their noses.

 

Janai seemed to be fooled by Gren's lie. She bowed once more and her squad turned back. Amaya patted Green on the shoulder.

 

Gren. What would I do without you...


-... Well. Now write "Moon and Sun cannot exist without each other".- Runaan said.

 

Rayla and Callum wrote the sentence on the sheets of paper. Runaan leaned over to check what the children had written. Despite the slight distortion of the letters in Rayla's and Callum's unnecessary comma, they copied the sentence perfectly.

 

Callum had lived with them for a month and a half. At that time, his caretakers discovered that the boy not only has a talent for drawing, but also a photographic memory. He had mastered the basics of the Elven language and was on Rayla's level. He also began to learn some runes which meant words in draconic.

 

Rayla, on the other hand, worked hard in her training. More and more often she came back tired and battered. Nevertheless, she managed it maikng Runaan proud.

 

-Good job. As I said, you can go out and play with others now. But you have to come back before dark.-Runaan said.

 

-Okay, we'll be back on time!-Rayla said.

 

The children ran out of the house and went to the fountain in front of their house. Geatan and Eleanor were waiting there.

 

-We thought you won't come. What take you so long?- Eleanor asked.

 

- We had to do our homework. Where are Liadrin and Geren?- Callum asked.

 

-They are grounded. Something about using a bow inside home.-Geatan said.

 

-Okay. So what are we playing?- Rayla asked.

 

-I have another idea. When I was near the town, picking mushrooms for soup with my parents, I found an interesting thing. I think you will like it.- Geatan said.

 

The children followed him. However, while passing by the Gathering Bower, Callum collided with another elf.

 

-Hey! Look where you go, Bird Brain!- Feren yelled.

 

Feren was the son of one of the hunters in Silvergrove. Even though he didn't know Callum and Geatan well, he was disgusted by them. From what Runaan had managed to tell Callum, his father had problems at home and divorced his mother who was a Sunfire Elf. Since then, he has become a stubborn calling for the closure of the Elves in the communities according to the Arcanum that the elves represented. This also passed on to his son who spared no insults at the elves who were not connected to the moon.

-Better look where you go. Leave him alone!- Rayla silenced him.

 

-Uuuuuh. Now I'm scared. Why do you care for, he's just an overgrown pigeon.- Feren said.

 

-Live me alone, huh?- Callum said, who had already stood up.

 

Seeing that he was alone on four children, he actually gave it up. Mumbling something under his nose, he walked towards his home.

 

-Bastard.- Eleanor said.

 

-So much. -answered Callum.


-Well then! We are there.- Geatan said. He was standing in a field where the grass was waist-high. The other children stared at him as if he was mad.

 

-Well ... the field is really big. But what's so special about it?-Callum asked.

 

-Look.-Geatan said as he picked up a little hairy ball from the ground and walked over to Eleanor. Then he put a ball against her neck. The ball stuck and began to tickle the little girl. Eleanor started to giggle absently.

 

-Alright, if it's these little balls and they tickle it, it's great.- Rayla said, picking up another ball from the ground. There were so many of them. But suddenly the ball opened its eyes and yawned.

 

-By the Garlach! It's alive!- Rayla jumped in surprise.

 

-Of course. It's Adoraburr. I thought they only live in the woods near the Brown Woods, where my grandfather is from. We did not expect with my dad and mom that they live in the Moonshadow Forrest .- Geatan replied tickling one of the balls next to his face. The ball smiled visibly.

 

-Cool!-Callum said.

 

Callum tried to approach Rayla but he fell. As she tried to come over to help him get up, she noticed that the Adoraburrs had completely covered him up. Only his face was free of little balls.

 

-Look, I am Adoraburr!- Callum laughed, standing up. Suddenly he felt all the balls tickling him. He couldn't help himself and fell to the ground, dying of laughter. Everyone started laughing. Rayla was laughing so much that she landed herself on the ground and looked just like Callum.


-Long watch? Tiadrin asked.

 

Lain just got back from watch. Because he was Moonshadow Elf, the watch's schedule gave him the most frequent watches during the night. He honestly wouldn't mind if his wife were next to him during the activity. But she wasn't, so he could focus on watch. The schedule separated them so that they could only contact each other during their free time while on duty they didn't have any distraction.

 

-Long and cold,- he said and hugged her.

 

Warmth emanated from her. If it was up to him, he could stay like that until his death, cuddled up to the most beautiful elf he had ever met. But he knew she spent the night in the room and he spent the night outside. He guessed he must be unusually cold to the touch. He moved away after a moment.

 

-Before you ask: No, I haven't freezed yet. Warming up with you is the best thing under the moon, to be honest.-said Tiadrin, reading her husband's thoughts.

 

-The last time you said that, nine months later in childbirth you cursed me and called me the worst bastard.- Lain smiled.

 

-Is it a suggestion?-asked Tiadrin looking at him with pity.

 

-Maybe another day ...- Lain said.

 

Tiadrin looked at him.

 

-I know that expression on his face. Something's wrong, right?- asked Tiadrin.

 

-A letter came from Silvergrove. From Runaan.-Lain said.

 

-Is she okay?-asked the his wife.

 

-Yes. You can see for yourself.-Lain said, giving her the letter.

 

Dear Tiadrin and Lain

 

   We hope you are fine. We heard that there has been a recent storm over the Storm Spire. We hope you are safe and sound.

 

  I regret to write this to you, but Rayla and Callum have messed up. Specifically, they brought the Adoraburrs home. Of course, they didn't tell us anything and when I got up in the morning I almost had a heart attack when I stepped on one of them. We managed to collect over 150 of these small balls and, despite the children's protests, we took them to the field where they lived. Even though you know how cute these little balls are and how tickle they can, we can't keep them at home. Of course, fearing for their safety, we had to bring them back to where the children had taken them.

 

  Callum turned out to be an exceptional child because he has a good memory for letters and numbers. He learned our alphabet quickly and also is drawing very well. Rayla, on the other hand, is making significant progress in training. Maybe it is not quite good with the bow (if not for my reflexes, arrow would probably hit my knee), but she is much better with the sword. She seems to be inspired by you.

 

Tiadrin continued reading the letter. The letter described everything that had happened since their last visit. She smiled as she read how Rayla and Callum became inseparable like siblings. The letter was long, but it was nice to read (I had no idea what to add to this letter - author's note)

 

   We hope you will come back soon. Rayla, me and Ethari miss you.

 

Your faithful friend

 

Runaan

 

Tiadrin understood. Lain just wanted to come back. He missed his daughter.

 

-I know you miss her. You know there is no night when I whould't cry about it. However, as soon as Avizandum will have a heir, they will set up a new Dragon Guard. We'll probably come home in five or six years.- she said, putting her hand on her husband's shoulder.

 

-I'm not afraid of that. I'm afraid of what she will think about us. She probably hates us. We had no choice ... But you know ... - Lain said.

 

-Yes ... I know ...- said Tiadrin.

Chapter Text

Eight months have passed. Sarai still couldn't pick herself up. She lived in constant fear of the anti-elvish party that had started a revolt near the border less than a month earlier. Several radicals urged to start conflict with Xadia, one of them was one of their barons. He gathered a small group of people under him and announced a rebellion against the "passive crown". He joined a group of one of the priests from Duren, forming a small group capable of capturing a smaller garrison.

 

Similar rebellions broke out in all kingdoms. On the news that monarchs and mages decided to dance for 10 years as the elves played, many radical opposers of the Elves gathered in groups of no more than a thousand people to gather on the expedition against Xadia and overthrow the rulers. As this could lead to another war and threaten Callum's life, the monarchs refused to support them and even declared them criminals. They all sent their forces to crush the revolts before they could do more damage.

 

The kingdoms of Katolis and Duren did not have adequate forces in the area of the outbreak of the revolt to deal with the rebels, so they had to ask the elves for help. These have agreed to send a thousand Sunfire Guardians led by Golden Knight Janai to, together with Amaya's Standing Battalion, General Sturn's First Regiment of Duren, pacify the Rebels, both here and in Duren. In less than a week, the rebelions on this side of the continent were crushed by the armies of all five Kingdoms.

 

However, despite small losses and a quick victory, the queen was not happy. Her sister nearly died, crushed by rocks during attack on rebels last bastion. It was Janai who had pulled her out from the stones. The elves offered to heal the injured humans. Reluctantly, the people agreed. Amaya, along with a dozen people, went to Lux Aurea, the capital of the Sunfire Elves.

 

They were another hostages, but this time for a shorter time. However, the elves showed no hostility or even respect for the wounded soldiers with whom they fought side by side. They promised that both Callum and the wounded were alive and were no problems with them.

 

Sarai looked at Ezran. The little boy was still asleep. Sarai smiled. He was probably only, apart from Harrow and Sister, person who could cheer her up. A six-year-old boy was watched over by his mother all the time. She didn't want to lose him too.

 

She heard the bedroom door creak. She turned to look at the entering. It was Harrow.

 

-Sarai? It's late, why are you awake?- Harrow asked.

 

-I can't sleep. Did you learn anything about the rebels?- Sarai asked.

 

-Viren claims it is some cult of Dark Magic radicals called Salamanders. Yes, that Salamanders.- Harrow said, taking off his shoes and sitting down on the bed.

 

-The same ones that almost turned all 5 kingdoms upside down 100 years ago? They were supposed to be killed to the last.- Sarai said.

 

-As you can see, they weren't or someone inherited the symbolism for nothing. Even Viren is concerned about this information.-Harrow replied.

 

-If he is worried about something, it means that something is happening. And while we're talking about it. How's his divorce case?- Sarai asked.

 

-Lissa has stopped it. She told me that Viren had changed since Callum was taken prisoner in Xadia. He tries to take care of children, uses the Dark Magic less often. As if guilt had stifled his ambitions.

 

-Viren hasn't dared to look me in the eyes for over 8 months. He's also gotten more spooky. And ... His lab has been closed for 3 months. Maybe it is better? Who knows if he would ever dethrone your heir to start a war with Xadia.- Sarai joked ironically.

 

-I trust him ... And I'm glad that I trusted him. He's a good friend. Now how are you? Something happened when I was at the meeting with the advisors?

 

-Except Ezran tried to talk to Pip, nothing in real. I even had the feeling that Ezran could actually understand what Pip meant. But it might also be my imagination. Also a letter from Callum came.

 

-How is he doing?-Harrow asked as he laid down next to Sarai.

 

-I don't know, I was waiting for you to open the letter.-Sarai said, unrolling the parchment.


Rayla agreed to go to the water with them because she didn't like being alone at home. It was summer after all, who wants to be home in this time. Beside Callum wanted to see the river, he had lived here for 8 months and had never been here yet. However, everyone was surprised when Rayla refused to enter the water. She said she didn't have a swimsuit. She didn't want them to know the truth.

 

Of course, everyone accepted her decision. After all, why not? Only Callum seemed to disbelieve Rayla's explanation. However, Liadrin and Geren literally dragged him into the water.

 

Rayla stared at the water. She was calm, the water was far away, and she was sitting on dry land. Nothing could have happened to her. She was breathing calmly, as Runaan had taught her to calm down.


Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

 

She looked at Callum. He noticed she was looking on him and waved to her. She waved back, pretending the biggest smile she could. However he was not fooled and started walking towards her. After quickly changing a few words with Geatan and Geren, he got out of the water and walked towards her.

 

He sat down next to her. The water ran down him in streams. He smiled, though Rayla continued to stare at the sand in front of her. Callum didn't have to ask to know something was wrong. However, he asked.

 

-Rayla, are you okay? You seem ... like something is bothering you. Callum asked.

 

-Bothering me? Rayla asked.

 

-Yeah? If there is any activity or fun, you are always the first to do anything. But now ... You seem sad. You sit quietly and seem distant from others. Did something happen?- Callum asked.

 

Rayla looked at him. She could tell him what happened ... But she didn't want to be laughed at. After all, what happened happens to everyone ... Right?

 

-No ... Callum. Nothing happened. It's just ... Never mind. As I said, I forgot my swimsuit. And that's it.- Rayla said trying to stay calm.

 

-Rayla, I know you too well. Something has happened and you are trying to avoid the subject. I want to help you.-Callum said putting a wet hand on her shoulder.

 

-Callum. Please let it go ... Anyway, I don't have to tell you anything. What are you interested in?-Rayla said, turning her back to him.

 

-When I came to live here, you did not let go. And I'm interested because this is what friends do.-Callum argued.

 

Rayla looked him in the eye. All she saw was concern and a questioning gaze. She took a deep breath.

 

-I ... Well ...- Rayla tried to explain slowly. -Promise you won't laugh.

 

-I will not. Blacksmith helper word.-Callum said.

 

Ethari and Eleanor's father, Galahir, taught Callum a few things about blacksmithing and jewelry. It started with assembling individual necklaces, but after some time Callum helped with the engraving of the runes and often remembered runes combinations that were difficult even for Ethari to remember. The blacksmith decided that he would teach the young human about his profession.

 

-Fine ... Well ... I'm afraid ...- Rayla muttered the last word under her nose.

 

-Rayla repeat. What are you afraid of?-Callum asked.

 

-I said ... I'm afraid of ... Water.- Rayla said with strong resistance. She closed her eyes and covered her face. She finally confessed to what she had been trying to hide for as long as she could remember. Only Ethari, Runaan and her parents knew about it, and Rayla didn't want anyone else to know about it.

 

However, instead of being laughed at or called silly, she felt that Callum hugged her. Despite the tears in her eyes, she looked at the boy. She didn't see the ironic smile or the indulgence in his eyes. He just hugged her. After a while he moved away.

 

-Why are you afraid of water?- Callum asked.

 

-Well ... Because ... When I was younger, my parents and I went to the water and ... I swam too far. When I realized that, the waves had taken me too far, I couldn't see the shore. I got scared and started to drawn. If it wasn't for the Tiebound Elf swimming in the area ... Well ... You know ... -Rayla said.

 

-But this ... It's awful. Why should I laugh about it? Rayla, you've had a rough time and you just don't want it to happen again. Everything will be alright. Who would be that rude to laugh about such thin?.- Callum said putting his hand on her shoulder.

 

-Barris would laugh. And the others after her ... I don't want anyone to know. You're not telling anyone, are you?- Rayla asked.

 

-I will not say. I promise. Blacksmith helper word.- Callum said.

 

-Thanks ... So what now? Will you convince me to go to the water?-Rayla asked.

 

-Nope.I will sit here and keep you company.-Callum said.

 

-For sure? You know ... It's kinda boring in here.- Rayla said.

 

-Even tough. It's the same at school, and we sit there somehow, right?- Callum said.

 

After a moment of sitting and talking about everything and nothing, they heard the crackle of a branch behind them. Behind them stood Feren and some of his freinds.

 

-Callum and Rayla sitting under tree, kissing! - they laughed and repeating this sentence endlessly.

 

Of course, at the age of eleven, hardly anyone thinks about love and cannot be sure about feelings because it is too early for such things. Besides, Rayla and Callum were just friends and closer to being siblings. However, children of this age liked to mock the friendship between boys and girls. It was no different here. Both Rayla and Callum blushed.

 

-Not at all!-Callum shouted.

 

-Of course!- Feren laughed.

 

-No, it is not true! Leave us alone!-Rayla shouted.

 

-What? Are we bothering you while kissing?-Yeavin, Feren's friend, mocked them.

 

-You haven't heard me? Leave us alone!- Callum snapped irritably.

 

-Yes? And what are you going to do to us, Bird Bra ... - Feren tried to mock him when he suddenly got hit by stone in the head. He saw Geren and Geatan. Eleanor and Liadrin were already running up to them.

 

Noticing that Callum and Rayla were not alone, the "attackers" fled into the woods.

 

-And don't come back! Idiots!- Geren shouted after them.

 

- It was a good throw, Lia.- Eleanor said.

 

-Yes ... It was amazing.- Geatan said. Liadrin blushed at his compliment.

 

-Are you all right?- Geren asked.

 

-Yeah , we're fine- Rayla said.

 

-They are not coming back here anytime soon, so we definitely have peace. We're going to go swimming a little more. Are you coming with us, Callum?- Geatan asked.

 

-No ... I'm tired ... That's all.- Callum said.

 

The other children believed (or pretended to believe) his explanation and continued to play. Callum sat with Rayla in the distance until the end. Rayla felt really good from the very beginning of the day. Callum was a really good friend.


-Hey, Callum?-Rayla called after him when they got home.

 

-Yes?-Callum asked coming back to the corridor.

 

Rayla walked over to him.

 

- Thanks again for ... You know. Help near the river.- Rayla said.

 

-Nothing big. That's what friends are for, right?- Callum asked smiling.

 

-Yes ... You are my best friend.- Rayla said giving him a kiss on the cheek. She was expecting a loud "BLEEEH!" in response to this friendly gesture, however, Callum froze. He turned red all over his face.

 

-Thanks again. Good night!- Rayla said entering her room.

 

She didn't realize Callum was standing still for another five minutes. Walking down the corridor, Ethari noticed the boy.

 

-Hey. Callum, it's time to sleep. All right?-the older Elf asked.

 

Callum suddenly woke up.

 

-Yes. I'm going, good night.-Callum said nervously, disappearing into his room.


-... and the next day Rayla found a bouquet of flowers in her room.-Sarai explained what she read in letter, laughing.

 

-You can laugh, but if it goes on like this, this Rayla will be your daughter-in-law.-Harrow joined the laugh. After a while, they both stopped.

 

-I just realized that Callum can come back already married, and even with his own child.-Sarai said.

 

-You talk like it's bad. It is also unknown whether elves and humans reproduce in the same way.-Harrow said.

 

-I have the impression that rather yes. Anyway, from what Callum writes it seems that he and Rayla are a harmonious duo. A bit like Lissa and Viren their age. You know what Viren could do to impress her. Once he almost drowned. May our son not have to go through the same.-Sarai said.

 

-Yes ... but that doesn't bother me.-Harrow said.

 

-Then what? You mean ...-Sarai trying to guess what he meant.

 

-That's a little selfish ... In my opinion, of course. However ... I was hoping Callum would call me ... "Dad" someday. But now ... When he comes back, he'll probably have a reflex to call me "Your Majesty" or "Sir". Do you understand what I mean?-Harrow asked, looking at the wall.

 

-I understand. I'm afraid he won't be able to say "Mom" to me after all this. But let's hope that time does heal all wounds. Who knows, maybe we'll all laugh about it again in the company of his children.-Sarai said.

 

-It's just a guess. But who knows… Maybe it will be…-Harrow replied.

Chapter Text

Callum knew he was dead. He promised not to do it. Never. But he did it.

 

The elven mage urged him to draw the rune of Aspiro's Spell. The boy miraculously drew a rune. Despite the terror that overwhelmed him then, he pronounced the Spell and blew as instructed by the mage. The boy triggered a small tornado that nearly blasted the mage away.

 

He used mage inattention to run away. He needed to talk to Ethari. He didn't want to be like Viren. Whatever it takes to don't be like Viren. Anything to don't be like Viren.

 

He found him in a workhouse working on bracers for one of the hunters. He hesitated. Eventually he did something bad. He could feel tears trickling down his cheeks. However, he decided to admit it. Maybe Ethari won't be angry. He lived with him for 13 months so there was a chance he wouldn't punish him and it wouldn't be that bad.

 

-E-ethari? - Callum swallowed - C-can we talk? - Callum asked uncertainly. He felt fear paralyze him from inside.

 

The elf turned around to see him. He was surprised to see the boy who was clearly crying. Especially since he should be in school by this time.

 

-Callum? What happened? Why aren't you at school?- He asked, coming up to the boy.

 

-Ethari I'm sorry!- Callum said hugging the adult. Ethari hugged him as well. -I didn't want to ... I really didn't want to ... I didn't know it was possible ...- Callum cried.

 

-Callum, what happened? But Ethari wasn't able to get out of the boy what happened. - Breathe. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Calm down. - he slowly calmed the boy - Callum. Tell me what happened.

 

-Ethari ... I ... I did something wrong. he told Ethrai. He hesitated. - I ... I used Dark Magic. -he said in a trembling voice.

 

-But how? You can't do it yourself. Maybe you thought you did something. Tell me what you did.- Ethari said. For him, it was impossible for Callum to suddenly learn Dark Magic by himself. No it is not possible. Something happened, somehow.

 

Callum wiped his tears as he began to talk.

 

-Well, because ... There was a break in school and with the other kids we went to see the preparations for the Moonberry Festival ... and there was an Skywing Elf. He said his name was Ibis and he would teach at our school. He asked if I knew any runes. I told him no. He showed me a Spell rune ... And I drew it ... And then I said the Spell's name and blew it. Then there was a tornado.- Callum said with tears in eyes.

 

-Can you repeat that?-Ethari asked.

 

Callum looked at him uncertainly. He stepped back and did something that made Ethari dumbfounded. The boy drew a rune and chanted a spell and blew.


-Aspiro.

 

Suddenly a strong wind began to blow in the room. So strong that the box in front of him hit the wall and shattered. Callum looked horrified at Ethari, who was looking in his direction in the same way.

 

-I ... I'm sorry ...-Callum said.

 

-Callum ... It's not ... It wasn't Dark Magic ... But it's not possible. You would have to be connected to ... the Sky Arcanum.-Ethari said.

 

-But ... Ethari, you said yourself that people are not ...-Callum denied, still convinced that he had used Dark Magic.

 

-I know what I said. Go to your room. I'm gonna have to talk to this Ibis.-Ethari said.


- As for Callum, I must admit that he is very powerful. I have not seen a child his age possess so much power. I won't say, even it scares me a bit. He has great potential to become a mage.-Ibis said.

 

Callum's caretakers, Runaan and Ethari, however, didn't seem pleased. More like scared. They were both pale . Ibis didn't understand- magic was a blessing. They should be happy, after all, not everyone has the same potential as Callum. He himself had to work to make the power of his version of Aspiro that powerful. Callum, on the other hand, was probably using Spell for the first time in his life.

 

-But it's not possible. Callum cannot be connected to the Sky Arcanum.- Runaan contested.

 

-Why? He's a Skywing Elf just like me. It's in his nature.- Ibis said calmly.

 

-It's not , because ... How can I say it calmly ... Did you hear about the border incident last year? In which Xadia took a human prince captive?-Runaan asked.

 

-Yes. But what this ... -Ibis suddenly realized what they meant- You're not saying that the boy ... -Ibis said, paling even more than Ethari with Runaan.

 

-Yes. Callum is human.-Ethari said.

 

-But... without the Primal Stone... he shouldn't ... Are you sure it's not an illusion? As you say, he helped in your workhouse, he might have unknowingly put on an additional necklace ... - said Ibis.

 

-We checked. He only has the one with the illusion applied to make him look like an elf. And even without it, he managed to repeat the spell. What should we do?- Ethari replied.

 

-First of all, inform King Avizandum. He will probably, along with other elven mages, decide to subject him to the Lux Aurea ritual of checking. As a blacksmith you must have been to Lux Aurea, so you know what I'm talking about?-Ibis asked.

 

-Yes. A ritual that can both reveal the true form and show all traces of Dark Magic. However, I didn't know that this ritual can be performed on children.- Ethari said.

 

-It is possible. Especially when it comes to a human who is able to somehow wield Primal Magic. If I were you, I would start writing letters to the elven leaders about it.-Ibis said.

 

-We should notify Lain and Tiadrin too. And also the boy's parents.- Ethari said.


Callum escaped from class. Rayla didn't understand why, and especially why he hadn't told her anything. They were best friends after all. However, ever since Callum found out about her fear of water, he began to behave strangely. He spent time with her more often, and was much nicer to her.

 

Often strange things also happened in the house. Somehow, flowers began to appear in her room quite often. Rayla, however, didn't know from who she decided to not tell the adults about it. She guessed that these were probably from her friends making stupid jokes.

 

However, she focused on Callum's disappearance after school. When she got home, she found out that they would have to leave quickly. Ethari sent letters while Runaan packed them. Meanwhile, Callum locked himself in his room.

 

Rayla tried to enter room through the window. Jumping from branch to branch, she finally made it to the window. Runaan's training did well for her skills. She knocked on the glass. Callum opened, staring in disbelief.

 

-Rayla? What are you doing?- he asked, terrified.

 

-And what does it look like? I am coming to your rescue!-She said sarcastically (Ethari said that spending time Runaan and "growing up" was changing Rayla's character) jumping inside. Callum was more scared and backed away.

 

-Wait. Stay back!-Callum said backing away from her.

 

-Why? Callum, what happened? You haven't been so pale since I showed you my swords a year ago.-Rayla said coming up to Callum.

 

-I ... Rayla I did ...-Callum said, stepping back even more. He looked at her with tears in his eyes. -... I used Dark Magic.- Callum said.

 

-What? How? Why?-Rayla asked incredulously. How could Callum do something someone would have to teach him?

 

Callum told her about the situation with Ibis and what later happened in the workhouse. During the course of the story, he came close to crying. Rayla hugged him.

 

-Callum, you are my best friend, whether you accidentally used Dark Magic or not. You're still the funniest, nicest and smartest human I've ever met. It will be fine. You learn not to use the Dark Magic, and that's it. It will be same like always.- Rayla said. Suddenly she heard a knock.

 

-Callum. It's me, Runaan. We need to talk.-they heard from behind the door.

 

Rayla opened the door. Runaan looked at them coldly, but with pity. He looked at Callum.

 

-We need to go to Lux Aurea. The Moon Dragon Vas is coming soon. He'll take us there. We don't think you used Dark Magic. However, on the other hand, we don't know how did you used Primal Magic. We want to make sure that no one is playing on our nerves and makes you a bad mage and us crazy. I also wanted to say that ... everything will be fine. We will not let anything happen to you.-Runaan said hugging Callum. Callum felt a little better, although he still felt uncomfortably scared.

 

After a while they were dividing, then Runaan looked at the two with a smile.

 

-But there's one thing that bothers me.-Runaan said.

 

-Y-yes?-Callum asked uncertainly again.

 

-May I know what you two were doing alone in a locked room?-Runaan asked smiling while Rayla and Callum blushed deeply.


Janai prepared an escort. Two dozen Sunfire Guardians and four mages. Guard worthy of a war criminal. However, what she saw stunned her. The custody was intended for an eleven year-old child.

 

The boy stared at the crowd in horror. So did his caretakers and the elven girl who came with them.

 

The boy, seeing the elves prepared as they were going to hurt him, got scared and hid behind his caretakers. Janai had to save both her sister's face and the whole situation.

 

She walked over to the boy.

 

-Hello. I am Janai, Golden Knight Lux Aurea. You must be Callum, right?-Janai said, making a welcoming gesture with a slight bow.

 

The little boy nodded nervously. He looked at the armed elves as confused as Janai.

 

-You don't have to worry about anything. We, Sunfire Elves, always protect and care for our friends. And their family. Your aunt is here, you know?- Janai said.

 

-Aunt Amaya? Where?-Callum asked looking around at the area.

 

-I will take you to her. Kazi will lead your caretakers to our queen. They have a few things to talk about.- Janai said, reaching out to the boy.

 

-Can ... Can my friend Rayla come with me?- Callum asked timidly.

 

-Yes. Can I Ethari? I can?-the girl asked.

 

-Of course. We will join you soon.-Ethari replied.

 

Janai took Callum and Rayla to the hospital wing of the palace.


-... If what you say is true, it could change everything we know so far. -Avizandum replied. The dragon glared at them, although apparently he believed them.

 

-Humans with the ability to use Primal Sources of Magic can be an even worse threat. If we teach them to use magic, we will not be able to have the advantage we had so far.- said Kheesa, Queen of the Sunfire Elves.

 

-What if it's an opportunity? An opportunity for peace with humans? This boy will be living proof that coexistence and rejection of Dark Magic is possible.- Haren, Chieftain of the Earthblood Elves Clans, objected.

 

-I agree with Haren. This gives us a chance to wipe out the Dark Magic once and for all and teach humans our way of Magic.- Air Master of Salla agreed with the previous speaker.

 

-And you think it will change anything? Humans may not need us as fuel for their hideous rituals, but that doesn't mean their nature will change. They might as well use their new abilities to fight us.- Kaidor, the Archmage of the Moonshadow Elves, protested.

 

-I support Kaidor's view. Humans are unchanging. The boy should stay in Xadia for the rest of his life.-Ariel, Queen of the South Sea, agreed.

 

While the elven dignitaries argued Runaan, Ibis and Ethari wondered if they had any idea that they were talking about a harmless child who cried out about his parents at night for almost six months. However, the doubts were dispelled by Archmage Valahir, representative of the Startouch Elves.

 

-It's enough. Please, friends. I know each of you as I knew your fathers, mothers, grandmothers and grandparents. I know you have the best interests of all Elves at heart. However, I remember the times when, out of contempt for the humanity, it joined the renegade Aaravos. The First point is that you don't wonder how humans see us. They see us as blood-drinking monsters, and in that successfully assisted  Sunfire Guards and Elven pirates in the South Sea for centuries, not to mention the few Moonshadow Assassins who smiled at their executioners when they were sentenced to scaffold for slaying their monarchs. However, since the ceasefire took place, Katolis and Duren ceased their atatcks into our side of the border, and the ships of the Evenere Kingdom stopped entering the Xadian waters. Humans even began to trust us, so much so that they asked us for help in pacifying the revolts in their part of the continent. Many of them are here to heal their wounds and rehabilitate after battles with the cultists. In my opinion, this is an option to end a dispute that has been going on for thousands of years. The Second point when it comes to "advantage" is that humans have achieved it long ago, but they don't know it themselves. 20 years ago in Del Bar they created a mix of saltpeter, sulfur and coal that can explode in contact with fire. Properly used, this invention can become a lethal tool that we cannot stop. During the last revolts in the western human kingdoms, this weapon was used to suppress the rebellion. The fortress occupied by rebels was blown up by creating underground storage of this "gunpowder" and exploding it under the fortress . No one from the fortress garrison survived. And this is just the beginning. - seeing that he managed to get the attention of the elves rulers, he continued - If we show that we are not monsters, they will not focus on the development of this weapon and will not use it against us. By showing that we can live together, people will stop investing in these weapons and forget about them. The Third point, as you yourselves remember, concerns the incident from a year ago. Eventually Callum ended up here because his people had to use Dark Magic to survive the winter. Many times after the establishment of the Border, letters were sent to our side begging for help in fight with hunger and diseases. We treated them as beings not equal to us. We let pride flourish and we isolated ourselves to not escalate the conflict. But we have to end with it, otherwise humans will destroy us. Callum will be the perfect opportunity for this. He will be a person who, due to his young age, can be easily manipulated to speak in our favor. You will agree with me, don't you?-the Elf finished.

 

Most of the elves in the room (except Ethari, Runaan, and Ibis) nodded to him. The last thing his caretakers wanted Callum to become a puppet in the hands of the elven leaders. Or worse, a weapon.

 

-I have the same opinion. Everything will be settled after the afternoon check ritual. You can leave for now. However, I am asking the boy's caretakers to stay.- said the Dragon.

 

All the mighty left, leaving the Startouch Elf and Dragon with Ethari and Runaan.

 

- Forgive me for using such words, but some of them do not understand any language other than military. We prefer Callum to be more symbol than ... a puppet.- Valahir said. Runaan and Ethari breathed a sigh of relief at his words.

 

-Okay, but what next?- Runaan asked.

 

-If it turns out that Callum is indeed connected to the Sky Arcanum, the Ibis will train him.-said the Dragon.

 

-So ... The boy will be okay?-Runaan asked.

 

-It is noble that you care for him as for your own offspring. Same as for the daughter of Lain and Tiadrin. This is something I respect. The boy is safe. However, if he has magical abilities, we will have to train him to not hurt anyone.- Avizandum said.

 

-It will be done, Your Majesty.- both Moonshadow elves bowed.

 

-Well. Now go. I think that someone is waiting for you outside the door, looking forward to meet their own daughter.-Valahir said. Ethari and Runaan left, bowing once more. After they left, the dragon turned to the elf.

 

-I trust that your vision was right this time.-he said to the Elf.

 

-This time I decided to follow the voice of reason. We have ignored Aaravos' problem. We lived under the conviction that even an elf cannot fall so low to try to take magic from another creature in order to do Dark Magic. If my vision comes true, the boy will bring peace for centuries to our continent.-the elf said.

 

- As for the rest ... I think the mirror should be destroyed.- Avizandum said.

 

-I don't have heart to do iy. Me and the rest of my brothers are guilty here. We have failed him. And they paid the highest price. You know, old friend. -answered Elf.

Chapter Text

Amaya couldn't believe her eyes. She didn't believe Callum was standing in front of her. The boy grew older, true, but still barely reached his head above the adult's waist. She looked at him as if she saw a ghost. He had little horns on his head, his little fingers were gone, he had dark blue marks on his face. He was dressed in a dark shirt, tunic, and green pants with boots.

 

Amaya noticed that the boy recognized her. She read "Aunt Amaya!" From Callum's lips. The boy ran up to her. She also ran over. She grabbed him on the run and hugged him tightly. She felt tears trickle down her cheeks. She was probably not happier than ever. After all, her nephew was alive. And that mattered most to her.

 

She finally released him, seeing the boy slowly choking  She set him down on the ground.

 

She began to speak in sign language.

 

But you have grown up. I'm glad you're alright. Everyone worries about you. But you are alive. You live.

 

-Of course, Aunt. Runaan and Ethari are really cool. You have to meet them.-Callum said. However, Amaya focused on his masking illusion.

 

Callum, what's on your head? They didn't do anything to you, did they? All right? How did you get here? Where are your caretakers? What happened to your little fingers?

 

Callum told her everything and confirmed that everything was fine and they didn't do anything to him. He explained to his aunt that the fingers and horns were an illusion so as not to attract attention in the elven community. His caretakers were talking to elven lords or something like that now. He said Janai brought him and Rayla to her. Only then did Amaya notice Janai and the elven girl.

 

Janai tried to tell her something in sign language. However, as befits a novice, she made mistakes. Awfully lot's of mistakes.

 

Amaya, the healers instruction you not to do any physical activity three months.

 

The next part of the message was slightly vulgar and Amaya laughed while Callum stared in amazement at the gestures which he did not understand (at least for now).

 

-I said something wrong, right?-Janai asked.

 

Amaya showed in sign language and Callum translated.

 

-Aunt says she appreciates caring but everything is fine. As for the rest of the message, it says it's a tempting proposition, but things like that are only to be done after the wedding. Better to go on a date first. -Callum said.

 

Janai fell overheated from embarrassment. She guessed what her messagemeant. Her face flushed all over. Kazi was just teaching her sign language and she started getting along with Amaya since the pacification of the rebels in Katolis. If it weren't for Amaya, Janai would be healing now, not her.

 

-I ... Well ...- Janai thought for a moment. She wanted to get out of it with her face. Suddenly she had an idea: - Tell your aunt that I am inviting her on a date. Tomorrow at sunset.-Janai said. She asked herself what she was actually doing now. She blushed even more.

 

Amaya also seemed to feel awkward after realizing which way this conversation turned. She also blushed. However, using sign language she confirmed (horribly for Janai) that she accepted the invitation. Janai thought she was going to burn out with shame.

 

-I ... Well ... I'll give you a moment. You probably have a lot to tell each other, right?-Janai said leaving the hospital room in which Amaya was accommodated.

 

The room itself was not big. It had space for a bed, chest, chair and a nightstand table.

 

Sit down kids and tell what's up. -Amaya said in sign language.

 

-Right! Aunt, I want to you to meet Rayla. Rayla is my aunt Amaya, my mother's sister,- Callum said.

 

The elven girl who was silent most of the time came closer. She wore a green shirt, a dark tunic, green pants, and boots that ended above the knee. Rayla nodded shyly.

 

-Good evening, ma'am,- Rayla said.

 

Amaya replied in her usual manner.

 

So this is your best friend Rayla? The one who helped you get used to living with the elves. And the same one where you've been leaving a lot of flowers in her room lately. It's nice to meet this fastest, kindest, smartest and prettiest elf who my nephew likes so much.

 

Callum blushed more at the last sentences than Janai had a moment ago.

 

-. .. Auntsays that ... Nice to meet you. - Callum said not mentioning most of her words.

 

-The pleasure is all mine.-Rayla said.

 

After a while of talking about living in Silvergrove and both Rayla and Amaya's favorite things (and asking about their favorite flowers, which Callum guessed correctly), Rayla and Amaya seemed to even get along. Amaya even stated that Callum couldn't find a better friend.

 

After a while, four Elves entered the room - three male and one female. Two of them were wearing armor similar (the differences were the seals with dragon symbols and the blue color of the armor) to those worn by the Sunfire Guard of Lux Aurea. Both of them had their hair shorted. The men behind them were dressed in normal clothes, though their hair was longer. Amaya also noticed more tattoos on their arms than on other Elves. Rayla looked incredulous when she saw them.

 

-Mom? Dad?- she asked hesitantly, thinking it was an illusion. However, their response was what she had hoped for.

 

-It's us...-replied Tiadrin.

 

Rayla ran to them with tears in her eyes. A moment later she was already in arms of her parents who embraced her tightly. Amaya saw tears roll down her parents' cheeks. Amaya felt her heart melt as she watched the sight. Behind them, the two men admired two meetings of separated families. They were holding hands. Amaya realized it was the Ethari and Runaan that Callum had written about.

 

They decided to go out and give the families time alone.

 

-So you are going to be back soon?-Rayla asked.

 

-We do not know. We're really sorry. We would like to, but we cannot.-Lain said.

 

-Oh...- Rayla said. Her smile faded from her face.

 

-Hey ... I heard there's a hot chocolate stand nearby. Maybe we'll go have a drink? What will you say, little one?-Tiadrin asked.

 

-Well ... okay.- Rayla replied unconvinced.

 

Rayla and her parents left.

 

-I feel sorry for Rayla, Aunt...- Callum said. -She just wants to go back to her parents. Just like me. She doesn't take being away from them well. Sometimes she cries at night.

 

I understand. It's very lucky to have a friend like you. How do you do without the parents? - Said Amaya.

 

-I'm fine. It's not their fault the dragon caught me. It's not Harrow's and Mom's fault that I can't live with them. It's the bad dragon's fault.-Callum said shaking remembering the events from past year.

 

Amaya understood. The boy feared Thunder. But she knew that a child's fear of a monster could turn into anger and hatred. She knew she would have to seriously talk to Callum before he will leave.

 

Further conversation was interrupted by the appearance of two more Elves in blue armor. Janai entered with them.

 

-We're sorry, General, but we have to take the boy away.- said one of them. Callum followed them while Janai stopped Amaya.

 

Where are they taking him?

 

-For the ritual of checking. I just found out what they are planning. We have to stop them, no human child survived this.- Janai said.


Only  Khessa understood on who she had ordered the ritual. She was surprised at the reactions of her servants and their attempts to talk with her. She silenced everyone trying to care for the good of her people. Only now she understood at what cost.

 

They brought the boy into the room. He was perhaps eleven years old, but activities were carried on. The Dragon Guards grabbed the boy. He felt something was wrong and tried to break free, but the members of the Dragon Guard held him.

 

Then the Sunfire Elf mage approached the boy with a staff.

 

-You must look into the light. Don't close your eyes.-the magician said. He brought the staff closer to the boy's face, which began to emit a strong light.

 

Suddenly Amaya bursted into the hall. Janai ran after her. However, they were stopped at the entrance of the Sunfire Guards. It made distraction for enough time to the ritual end.

 

The Dragon Guards released Callum. He fell unconscious to the ground.

 

-Khessa! What have you done !? - Janai shouted.

 

-What ... What have I done?-Khessa asked aloud. Human children rarely survived this ritual. She probably killed him.


-Hello.

 

Callum heard a voice. He looked around. He was in the tunnel. The only light he could see was the fire by which sat strange figure.

 

An elder man was sitting in front of the fire. He looked about 50 years old. He had a chin and the end was braided. His gray hair was pulled back in a ponytail. He was dressed in an old jacket, faded brown pants, and old shoes. He had a backpack on his back and a strange medallion with the symbol of the cross around his neck.

 

-Who you are?-Callum asked uncertainly.

 

-They call in lot of names. But where I come from they call me Khan. I presume you are Callum. You're probably wondering how do I know about you? Basically, I was waiting for you. The greatness is destined for you Callum. Your decisions will leave a visible mark on the world you live in. But I have come to warn you.

 

-About what?-Callum asked.

 

-About people. About yourself. About human nature. About mankind, which is always fighting itself and everything around. Many of the humans and elves you know are good. However, others ... they, in the name of ideals, religion or greed, are ready to harm their own brethren. I've seen what people like them can do.

 

Suddenly, they moved from a dark and wet tunnel to the high ruined tower. The sky above them was covered with dark clouds. The ruins of mighty buildings loomed in the distance. Callum had never seen houses like this before. They were in the middle of a sea of ruins.

 

Three men stood with their backs to him and Khan. One of them was kneeling near strange device, while the second and third sat at the strange chest. They had strange metal objects in their hands like crossbows, but without arms, and much longer and made of metal. They wore strange suits and there strange masks on their faces.

 

-Confirmed. Yes, Comrade Colonel! Over, they flew! Rockets in the air! The Colonel says we should wait for contact! We are about to fry your black ... - the man's voice was drowned out by a roar in the distance. The blast illuminated in front of the figures.

 

One of the characters suddenly stretched her hand forward, as if she wanted to grab something. Suddenly she regained consciousness and rushed to the figure with the chest. Halfway through, however, he froze as if he knew he couldn't do anything.

 

Callum and Khan approached the men. There were three powerful fireballs in front of their eyes. The boy saw a massive explosion engulf the sea of ruins.

 

-What ... What was there?- Callum asked.

 

- Beings seeking understanding. Close to people, yet distant. Like the elves of your world. However, they did not despised people. They were not afraid of them. They wanted to help them. Help them live in a world that was built on the ashes of an earlier one that mankind had destroyed. This boy here - he pointed a finger at the other figure who had previously moved his hand - was their last hope for understanding. However, he was afraid. Fear drove him through tunnels similar to the one in which we met, in search of people capable of destroying creatures that wanted peace. He realized that he was supposed to be the connection between but too late. It was destined for him to save all, but he damned everyone. He sentenced everyone to death. This is a warning to you. Do not seek relief from pain in anger or solution in violence. Violence creates even more violence and goes on and on. Remember what you just heard. For only the one who has the courage and perseverance to look at the darkness for all of his life will be the first to notice a glimmer of light in him.-Khan said.

 

 Callum suddenly felt loosing consciousness.


-Callum!-Rayla shouted.

 

The boy didn't even have time to sit up  properly when Rayla hugged him tightly.

 

-You alive! I thought you were gone.-Rayla said.

 

-I think I'm fine.- Callum said.

 

He looked around the room. He was in the exact same room where he met Aunt Amaya.

 

-Where is ... Where is everybody?- Callum asked.

 

- As far as I know, they went to the Sunfire Elf Queen to scold her for what she did. The argument has been going on for an hour by now. Your aunt nearly broked her nose out. It was ... a political scandal? I don't know, I don't know anything about it. Anyway, I know there is a sharp exchange of words going on and mom told me to sit here with you. She said I'd learn too many swearing words. Here, you must be thirsty.- Rayla said, giving him a glass of water. Callum drank all at once.

 

Suddenly an elven mage entered the room. He looked different from the other elves. His skin was navy blue, and the marks on his face were set in a constellation.

 

-Hello, Callum. I am Archmage Valahir of the Startouch Elves. Forgive me for coming in a moment when peace and quiet are appropriate for you. However, I would like to ask you for one thing. You know rune for Aspiro Spell, right?- the Elf asked.

 

-This is a hurricane-doing spell? But I don't… -Callum tried to protest.

 

-You have been subjected to a ritual of checking that destroys and reveals traces of the Dark Magic. If you do what you did before the ritual, it will mean that you are the first human to be connected to the Sky Arcanum.- the elf said calmly.

 

Callum slowly did what the elf asked him to do. He slowly drew a rune, that actually showed up. Rayla smiled at the sight of this.

 

-Aspiro.-Callum said, and blew.

 

The tornado that arose then was even more powerful than the one in Ethari's workhouse.

 

-So you are connected with the Sky Arcanum. I will give you an artifact as a sign of trust and friendship. This is one of tree Keys Aaravos'.-The Elf said, giving him the cube. On each of its walls, Callum recognized the symbols of each of the 6 Primal Sources of Magic. As he approached the key with his hand, the rune meaning Sky glowed. - Ancient artifact crafted by the elven mage Aaravos. Keep an eye on him. And now I leave you ... Alone. I must stop your caretakers and your aunt from regicide and starting a war.- The elf said disappearing as quickly as he appeared.

 

-What actually happened?- Callum asked.

 

-You are a mage Callum. This is great!- Rayla said.

 

-I am a mage? I am a mage!-Callum shouted with joy.

 

-Callum. Nobody likes loud mage.-Rayla said, pulling him to her to hug him again.

 

-Sorry. Just that ... This is great. Finally, Feren will stop making fun of me.-Callum said.

 

-Ignore him. You are cool to me all the time.- Rayla said.

 

At these words Callum smiled and blushed. He cared only about the opinion of his friends.

Chapter Text

Despite the success in the end, Amaya was angry.

 

Janai's sister risked the life of her nephew. The broken nose, which was the result of the "radical version of sign language" (Sarai's joke when they both served as younger officers) the Queen of the Sunfire Elves got was in her opinion to small punishment for her stupidity.

 

After a short and brutal fight (during both Amaya and Khessa severely injured the opponent to such state that  Amaya had to stay for another month of rehabilitation in the hospital wing and Khessa had to live in the next room) and very specific word exchange that weren't spared by Tiadrin and Runaan it was almost sure that the war between Humans and Elves was matter of time and even between some elven factions. Janai, Ethari, Runaan, Ibis, Lain, Tiadrin and many other Elves were ready to defend the boy who, out of hate for his race, was almost killed.

 

However, the presence of Archmage Valahirin the hall, as well as his appeal for calming down, stopped the riots. Both sides calmed down. In the end, Prince of Katolis was alive and not harmed, and it was confirmed that the boy had a connection with the Sky Arcanum. Later, the boy used a spell to summon a small storm in front of everyone. The shock he caused was indescribable. Ibis was chosen as his teacher, and Amaya also agreed to confirm the events in Katolis.

 

After a long and exhausting day, both Rayla and Callum fell asleep. The boy was sleeping on a pillow resting on the wall. Rayla held her head on his shoulder. The girl's parents covered the children with a blanket.

 

Adults talked to late night about events and things that the children preferred to keep quiet.

 

-So Callum brought the flowers? I knew that it was one of her friends, especially since I had recently taught many children from her group to climb trees, but I didn't expect him.-Runaan said.

 

- Same as me. Although if you look at it from his perspective, he's been shy since he moved to Silvergrove. I doubt he would dare to give Rayla flowers himself.-Ethari said.

 

Amaya used a few signs.

 

-Amaya says he is backed since his mother's wedding to Harrow. Too quickly, from a simple child he became ... Well ... a noble. I feel like I understand him. Monarch children are often raised in a restrictive manner. However, for a child who knew a simple but happy life away from the limitations of "It would be a scandal if you ..." or "Your wrong gesture may ..." is a scary thing.- Janai said.

 

Amaya nodded at her words. At the end she added something from herself.

 

-Amaya said it shocked the boy. Strongly. He simply felt like an intruder in the world that he entered. Especially when he was suddenly bound by etiquette and the obligation to know tradition. In addition, most of the children of Katolis nobles disliked him because of his mother. She also said that being hostage in Xadia and being able to live as a normal person was the best thing that could happen to the boy.-Janai added.

 

-Well ... To be honest, Runann and I wanted to raise a child. You understand, to left something after our death. We didn't really mean the human boy connected to the Sky Arcanum...- Ethari said.

 

-... But in the end, kids are a blessing, right?-Runaan said.

 

- In addition, compared to other children in Silvergrove Callum is the least troublesome child.If not him, teachers would have a low opinion of their profession.-Runaan said.

 

-About the other kids. What about Rayla ... Is ... She ...- tried to ask Tiadrin.

 

-Yes. She's still crying. Less often, but still. She takes it so hard that she closed herself in small group of friends.- Runaan said.

 

-I understand- Lain sighed. -What have we gotten ourselves into ...- Said Lain while Tiadrin slowly grabbed his hand. She squeezed her husband's hand.

 

-I don't know if this will please you ... but her character has recently started to change. He spends too much time with me and it goes to bad direction. I am afraid that in the future she will rather have a character ... - said Runaan.

 

-...Her mother?-she finished Tiadrin for Runaan. - Why it isn't surprising me.

 

- Besides, Rayla is the most gifted of my students. She is a really talented fighter. Like her parents.-Runaan said.

 

At these words, Tiadrin and Lain smiled, though not without tears in their eyes. They were missing the best years of her childhood. After a while, Lain asked.

 

- If we are talking abou Rayla... I know that's stupid question ... But does she look for boys already?

 

-Lain ...- said Tiadrin, placing her hand on her face. However, her smile was still visible.

 

- As for boys, Callum is closest to her. However, you have heard about his ... "courtship" yourself. Besides, she has two other friends. One is the Earthblood Elf and the other is the Moonshadow Elf, son of Orion and Ivraine. However, as far as I know, they are not as committed to friendship with her as Callum." Runaan said.

 

-Soon in a few years and it will have to watched over them. But to be honest, I would be calm if I saw Callum as her boyfriend, but you know...- Ethari said.

 

- He does seem to suit her. As if by stronger force was drawing them to each other. But only the Startouch Elves know what's written for us in Stars.- said Tiadrin.

 

Amaya made several signs in sign language. Janai translated quickly.

 

-Amaya says it's better not to look so far into the future. The decision is theirs after all. We have to focus on making children grow up safely. And then ... Well ... She would love to come to both Callum and Rayla's weddings. And who knows if it won't be one and the same wedding.-Janai translated.


Rayla felt betrayed. She knew her parents could not otherwise. That they were heroes that all Xadia respects. That they would like to train younger generations of elven warriors in their hometown of Silvergrove. But she couldn't forgive them anyway. It was a funny paradox. She hated them but also loved them.

 

However, she closed it in herself. She didn't want their explanations or promises. She didn't want more lies. However, she nodded. She couldn't tell them to their face what she thought.

 

Callum said goodbye to his aunt. He seemed less… affected by the distance from his family. She didn't understand it. After all, he was in the same situation as her. He should be angry. Why did he seem to don't?

 

It was night when they got back to Silvergrove. Everyone went to their rooms, but Rayla couldn't sleep anyway. There was a full moon, and she was also full of thoughts.

 

Was she hoping to live with her parents again? That it will be like it used to be? She wanted it to be so. So that they can watch the sunset with her again and read her bedtime stories.

 

She started to cry. Why they? Why her? It was just unfair. After all, she hasn't done anything wrong. She listened to them. She always fulfilled her tasks and household duties. What did she do wrong?

 

She felt her pillow soaked in quite a few of her tears. She sat up and wiped her tears. She decided it would be better to get up and wash her face.

 

She left the room and headed for the bathroom. On the way, she met Callum. Sleepy, he probably got up to drink some water. How was he doing this? How he carried on without his parents?

 

-Hey, you were thirsty too ... Oh dear. Rayla, what happened?- Callum asked seeing her eyes red from tears.

 

-Nothing ... It's just ... I have to wash my face. Something popped into my eyes ... - Rayla lied. She felt even worse. She told Callum everything, she trusted him. He made her feel better every time they went out to the water or to school. And now she was lying to him. But she wasn't ready to share it with anyone.

 

-Uh ... Are you sure?-Callum asked. Rayla nodded. -Okay. As if something was happening ... Then you know, I live behind the wall. Good night.- Callum said.

 

Rayla went to wash her face. She felt even worse. Eventually she returned to her room and went to sleep. After all, crying won't change anything.


Callum began extra lessons with Ibis. The training required many long hours of meditation, exercise, and many other things. However, Callum, slowly, learned how to use Primal Magic.

 

Ibis couldn't say enough good words about the boy. However, he had repeated one thing to him. Magic is the only to self-defense. Under no circumstances he was allowed to hurt anyone or anything for no good reason. Callum, however, had no intention of hurting anyone. After all, he was warned about this.

Chapter Text

Viren sat in the hospital wing of the castle. If there were any gods, he prayed to all of them for his daughter's health. Claudia was lying unconscious on the bed next to him.

 

It all started when Amaya returned from Xadia the year before. The sister of the Sunfire Elf Queen Janai came with them as a delegate. They told about Calluma, who they believed was connected to Primal Source of Magic. He could use magic available to the Elves, which meant that other humans could also use magic.

 

Viren couldn't believe it. There was a chance that he could still be a mage and not have to use Dark Magic. However, the real excited was Claudia. She started doing her best to connect with any Primal source of Magic. She also wanted to be a mage to make her dad proud. Her efforts were so intense that she almost drowned in the river. She was saved by Soren and his friend Marcos.

 

However, despite their quick reaction, Claudia still didn't wake up. Though she was breathing, she was unconscious. She had a fever and no one knew what was wrong with her. Viren was on the verge of desperation. He wanted to give a part of himself so that his daughter could survive. However, he tried to hold on because he didn't want to use Dark Magic.

 

-Dad?- Soren asked, and Viren turned to the voice.

 

Soren was already 15 years old. Still, he looked much like his mother. She needed a moment to be alone. Viren didn't stop her- he understood her.

 

He got up from bed for a moment. He walked over to Soren and hugged him. Marcos stood in the background. After a moment, Viren turned to him.

 

-I don't know how I can repay you. Really.-Viren said to Marcos.

 

-I ... Well ... I did what I was supposed to do, sir. Anyway, I was just helping. It was Soren who saved her.- Marcos said.

 

-I know. But your help also turned out to be needed. I will not forget it.-He said patting the boy on the shoulder.

 

Marcos left. It was already dark, his parents must have been worried.

 

-Soren. Check where your mom is. Tell her we're waiting for her here.-Viren said.

 

Soren nodded and went to look for his mother. Viren sat for the next hours watching his daughter. Claudia suddenly started rolling from side to side. He saw her expression on her face full of pain. Viren grabbed her hand. He was leaning against his daughter's bed on his knees.

 

-Claudia come on. Please, don't leave me. We're going on a trip to Duren. Just like you asked. Please don't leave us.- Viren pleaded.

 

Claudia continued to wriggle in pain. Suddenly she stopped. Viren felt her hand go limp. Tears began to run down his cheeks.

 

-No ... No, no no no no no no no no! PLEASE! DO NOT GO! I WILL NEVER USE BLACK MAGIC NEVER AGAIN! I swear! I swear ... I swear ... -Viren wept openly.

 

He felt guilty about her death. He felt it was his fault. For years of using dark magic, life punished him as severely as it could: taking his beloved child away. Why her? He was guilty. Not his baby girl.

 

-Dad?

 

Viren couldn't believe it. He looked incredulous. Claudia opened her eyes and sat down on the bed. She looked at him surprised.

 

-Claudia!-Viren shouted in joy. He hugged her with all his might. He was crying again. This time with happiness. His daughter was alive.

 

-You live. Thanks to Heaven, you are alive!-Viren rejoiced.

 

-Yes. Are you ... crying?-Claudia asked.

 

-Yes. Yes, I am crying. I thought I lost you. I was so scared. Never do that again. You are grounded and I am not letting you to approach the water. Why did you do this?- Viren asked.

 

-I wanted ... I wanted to be a mage like you. Make you proud of me. To make you happy with my achievements.-Claudia said.

 

-Dear. I've never been more proud of anything than you and your brother. You are the most beautiful thing that has happened to me. Your mom and I are glad you exist.-Viren said.

 

-But ... I'm not a mage. After all, without that… -Claudia tried to say.

 

-For me, you are the best at everything. You are my beloved daughter. And that's all that matters to me.-Viren said.

 

Claudia also started to cry. She hugged Viren. After a while, Viren felt someone hugging him from behind him and he saw Soren in front of him. He was happy.


-What? Harrow asked.

 

-As I said. I ... I wanted to leave my position as court mage. I don't want to work with the Dark Magic anymore. I'm giving up for good.-Viren said.

 

Everyone gathered was shocked. Nobody expected repentance and change in such a proud and ambitious man.

 

-But... you can't.-Harrow said.

 

-Unfortunately I can, Your Majesty. Don't take it personally. You are a good ruler. This is about me. I've been corrupted by the Dark Magic too long. It is not known how it would have ended. Who knows if it would ever take me to the throne or dethrone you or your heir. I don't want the worst-case scenario to come true.-Viren said.

 

-But ... What about you? You have a family. How are you going to earn to live?-Harrow asked.

 

-Your Majesty forgive me interrupting , but I have a suggestion. Let us vote on Viren's membership of the Council. Who votes to Expel Viren from the Royal Council? - Opeli spoke.

 

Viren was surprised. Nobody was in put hand up. All the ministers, lords, barons and class representatives were sitting and said nothing.

 

-Well. Who votes to hire Viren as the Archive Master and leave the royal library books under his care?- Opeli asked.

 

Strangely, everyone raised their hands. Deeply inside Viren smiled.

 

-So it's settled. Congratulations, Master of the Archives.- Harrow told him.

 

Viren was happy. He had a job close to friends. His family was now closer than ever. Everything was going for good, and in the end, everything would be fine ... Right?


-Alright, Claudia, what you want to show me so important that I had to get out of the drill lessons?-Soren asked.

 

They walked away a little from the castle. They were in the deepest woods.

 

Claudia had been acting strange since the accident. She disappeared for whole days, either to the library or just to the woods. When asked what she was doing by her father, she replied that she was walking, picking mushrooms or studying.

 

However, Soren knew her too well. She was hiding something from him. From her older brother, with who she never had secrets. So for a good five months Soren tried to figure out what Claudia was hiding. Of course, spying and eavesdropping was useless.

 

In the end, he was going to find out from her. And waiting for that irritated him the most.

 

Maybe she had a boyfriend? But who? Right, Marcos evidently had a crush on her, but they were far from having such close relationship.

 

Is she in trouble? Maybe someone is blackmailing her not to hurt her? Maybe she got into debt with some bandits and now she is paying off the debt?

 

Maybe she's taking care for sick dragon? After all, it is said that in the near of the border, such creature was recently seen flying by.

 

Finally, from the forest they came out into a clearing by the river. Claudia walked over to the water.

 

-Look.-she said to Soren.

 

Suddenly, she raised her hand and drew a spell rune similar to the ones their father had drawn before he gived up being mage.

 

-Aqua Frigilis!- Claudia shouted.

 

Suddenly, five icicles shot out of her fingers and crashed against the tree. Soren was speechless, although Claudia was evidently incredibly happy.

 

-Claudia ... Are you?-Soren asked, terrified.

 

-Yes! I am a mage. When Callum comes back from Xadia, I will ask him about all Water spells. You will see, I will be the best Mage in the world.- Claudia rejoiced.

 

-But ... You have to tell Dad. What if… -Soren tried to stop her.

 

-No! Dad can't know. At least for now. It will be our secret. Swear you won't tell anyone.-Claudia pleaded.

 

-I ...- Soren waved. Eventually his sister risked something to happen to her again. But he hasn't seen her so happy for a long time -... Okay. I promise not to say anything.-Soren said.

 

-Thanks! You are the best big brother in the world.-Claudia said hugging him. However, Soren wasn't sure if he had done the right thing.


-The second human? Are you sure?-Asked Avizandum. The dragon still had trouble believing in one human capable of using Primal Magic. But two?

 

-It's correct. If I understand the vision correctly, this girl lives in Katolis. She merged with the Arcanum of the Ocean.-Valahir said.

 

-It'd be better to leave her for now. We shouldn't be taking her out of the house. It was enough that we did it with Callum. For now, let's forget about the whole thing.-the Dragon replied.

 

-It will be done, Your Majesty.-Valahir replied leaving the room.

Chapter Text

It was a strange holiday for Rayla. After all, once a year, love was celebrated more than usual. She thought that love should last all the time and not be celebrated every now and then.

 

However, the celebration of the Spring Solstice had a certain charm in itself. Both boys and girls sent letters to each other at school, and the prices of jewelry in stores dropped slightly. Everyone also seemed more cheerful.

 

Rayla decided to spend the afternoon with Liadrin and Eleanor. Geren, Geatan, and Callum had something to do (probably another dumb idea about pushing snow on Feren's head). The holiday itself had a slightly funny name. After all, it was still full of snow outside.

 

After leaving school, Rayla and her friends headed for the New Moon Inn. This was the best (and only) inn in the area. It was built in the crown of a huge oak. To enter it, you had to go through a lot of long stairs.

 

-I hate ... those ... stairs,- Eleanor gasped. Rayla and Liadrin stopped to wait for her.

 

-We're not even half way to inn. What are you carrying in that bag?-Liadrin asked.

 

-Extra housework, three Brown Forrest animal encyclopedias, a gift for your brother, some stones will tumble ...-Eleanor stopped her counting abruptly when she realized what she said.

 

-Wait. Come back. What gift again?-Liadrin asked.

 

-I ... Well ...- she tried to explain.

 

-Can we talk about it the inn? It's a bit cold in here, don't you think?- Rayla said.

 

The two girls nodded and followed her. Liadrin helped carry Eleanor's bag. She wasn't mad at her about her brother, especially since she didn't know what was going on. She was more like curious.

 

After a while they reached a large door. They entered a large hall. It was even empty, considering that day. There were over 20 large tables in the room. There was a stage in one half and a fireplace in the other. Opposite to the entrance there was a long counter behind which the innkeeper sat.

 

They ordered three cups of hot chocolate and sat down at the table in the corner. Liadrin was out of her curiosity so she asked.

 

-Tell me finally about this gift. Please, I'm curious.-pleaded Liadrin.

 

For a moment, Eleanor seemed to be waving. Finally she replied.

 

-Okay. I will, but as long as you don't tell him anything and help me pass it on. - she said. She was blushing as if she had eaten all the Sunny Pepper. She took out of her bag small package wrapped in gray paper and a piece of paper.

 

-It can't be that bad...- said Liadrin. However, after reading it, she was close to laughing. - It's still not bad. Really .- tried to calm Eleanor who simply hid her face in her hands.

 

Rayla took the note and began reading.

 

You are sweet like moon berries

Nice in touch as silk

I want to give you my heart

And make you like me all the time

 

-I think it's cute. What's in the package?-Rayla asked.

 

-I asked Callum for help. He helped me make a silver bracelet. Besides, there is also a chocolate heart ... But ... I don't know ... I have a feeling that this is a bit silly. He's won't like it ... - said Eleanor.

 

-Hey. My brother is an idiot, but he's not that stupid to not like you. He's a boy, you know how it is with them. We will not understand them. But with him... Give that time. I just want to add that he marked September 3rd in home calendar for a reason.- Liadrin patted her shoulder. Eleanor looked surprised because she had her birthday on September 3rd.

 

-Yeah. Besides, he asked me about your favorite flowers. That says something, doesn't it?- Rayla asked

 

Eleanor smiled. She enjoyed having such like friends.


-Runaan, Ethari, I'm back!- Callum said entering the house.

 

He took off his shoes in the hall and hung his coat on a hanger. He slung the bag over his shoulder and started down the hall.

 

-Callum, could you come to the kitchen?- he heard Runaan's voice from the kitchen. After the voice he felt that something had happened.

 

He entered the kitchen where he met Ethari and Runaan. From their expressions, he saw that he was in trouble, though he did nothing wrong.

 

-Sit down please.- Ethari said.

 

-Did I do something wrong?- Callum asked as he sat down at the table.

 

-Nothing. But we have to talk ... - said Runaan.

 

-It's about your interests in girls ...- Ethari said.

 

Callum blushed. He didn't know how, but they found out. He was not ready for this conversation. Not with them. He decided to play stupid.

 

-W ... What interests?- Callum asked.

 

-Well. You are already 13 years old. You are already entering a certain age when boys begin to feel an interest in the girls. Mostly, because there are exceptions, like Ethari and me, but still.- Runaan said embracing Ethari.

 

-So ...?- Callum asked.

 

-So, me and Runaan would like to explain to you where babies come from.- Ethari said. Callum breathed a sigh of relief.

 

-So ... at some point in life, the elves start to grow up. As far as I know it's similar about humans. In the case of young Elves, there is muscle growth, slight facial hair and hair on the chest. It grows also…-Runaan was saying

 

-I know more or less what's going on. Before we go any further: I know where babies come from. The teacher was one day ahead of you. But we talked in class about the male part of society. We were going to talk about the female part tomorrow.- Callum said. It was a bit awkward. Very.

 

-Oh ... well. We now have to talk to Rayla about growing up. You know, her changes will be more noticeable. At least they should be for some boys.-Ethari said.

 

-I understand. I am in my room if you need me.-Callum said as he left. Being in the corridor, he heard the conversation of the older Elves.

 

-It went better than I thought.-Runaan said with relief.

 

-It's not over yet. Remember, we have to talk to Rayla.-Ethari said.

 

Callum, however, did not go to his room, but turned into Rayla's room. He took a silver heart necklace and a note from his backpack in a hurry. He opened the window and, after twisting the letter into a small roll, put it on the windowsill away from the snow so that Rayla could see the letter. On his way out, he closed the window and door and headed to his room. After all, he had a work on the history of Elven society to write.

 

It wasn't long before Rayla returned home. Of course, had a conversation about growing up and reproducing. She tried to ran out, but finally she listened to the whole lecture, blushing to red like Callum's scarf. Then she unpacked her backpack in her room and came to Callum's room to sit and talk to him about everything as always.

 

-They got you too, right?-Rayla asked sitting down with him on the bed.

 

-Me? Well, I get out of it. After all, we had it today in nature science.-Callum said.

 

-Seriously? You're just telling me about this now?-Rayla asked incredulously.

 

-It was just about the male part today. It's only tomorrow for the female part.-Callum said.

 

-Lucky guy.-Rayla said. After a while she asked. - Hey? In your case ... I mean. Does it go the same to humans? I mean ... growing up and everything... Including what you have in pants...-Rayla asked, blushing a little.

 

-From what I've seen so far, everything looks the same as in the pictures in the book. If you ask for that.- Callum said, red as a tomato.

 

-Mhmmm ... Well ... I was just curious if humans reproduce in the same way as elves. Just curious... -Rayla said.

 

-I guess so? Honestly, I do not know.- Callum said.

 

There was an awkward silence which was interrupted only by the sound of Callum writing on the paper. Rayla broke it.

 

-By the way. I got a letter. On the occasion of the Solstice. And a medallion with a heart.- Rayla said.

 

-Sounds nice. What's on it? Callum asked. He knew what, he wrote it himself. But he wanted Rayla to read it for sure.

 

-I read already. Ekhm. "Dear Rayla, you are beautiful like a full moon. Your beauty is knocking down and your long hair sparkles like dew in the morning. I cannot get my thoughts from you. You exude kindness and honesty, and your strength and skill is indescribable. You are the nicest person I know and your sense of humor makes me want to live." At the end, the author drew a heart. It's cute.- Rayla said.

 

-Congratulations, you have a quiet admirer.- Callum said, pretending he didn't care.

 

-And you? Did you get anything?-Rayla asked.

 

-Besides the snowball from Feren? No, only you are that lucky.- Callum said.

 

-He teased you again?-Rayla asked as she got out of bed and walked over to Callum.

 

-Yes. You know, sometimes I really want to try this Aspiro Friglis spell that Ibis taught me. I wish he would finally stop by then.-Callum said.

 

-I know. But don't worry about him. Don't lower yourself to his level. Whatever this moron says, you're the smartest, funniest, strongest, and best human I know.-Rayla said hugging him. He hugged her too. Still, he didn't feel well.

Chapter Text

Ethari watched calmly as Rayla and Callum played in the snow building a snow elf. They were in the middle of construction. Ethari smiled at the sight.


-What day is today?- Runaan asked as he entered the kitchen.


-Monday 15th February, after the Spring Solstice.-Ethari said.


-Thanks. I am only 80 years old and I already have memory gaps.-Runaan said.


Suddenly, Ethari understood something. And what he understood made him very sad. He came back from the window and sat down at the table.


-Ethari, I know that face. What happened?-Runaan asked.


-Runnaan, I realized that we ... We will live longer Callum.- Ethari said.


-Wait ... On average, Moonshadow elves live ... 150, 200 years? And the humans?- Runaan asked.


-If I remember correctly a barely few live to 100 years. It means that ... We will see him ...- Ethari put his hands to his face. He realized that the boy he treated as his own child would die of old age earlier than he.


-Don't even say that. True, Callum may die earlier than we do, but who said it wouldn't be both his and our best moments in life?-Runaan asked.


-Don't say you don't care ... - Ethari said.


-No where. Of course I do. This boy is like a son to me. We just ... Let's not worry about death because in fear of it we will have nothing in life. No memories, no joy. We must enjoy life while we still have time.-Runaan said embracing Ethari. Ethari cuddled up to him.


- "Dear Parents. I know that lately I seem to be sending fewer and fewer letters. However, it is due to the excess of responsibilities at school and those related to Magic classes. There is a lot of it, but I manage." good boy.-Sarai read form letter.


-He got it from his mom.-Harrow said.


Sarai rolled her eyes.


-You and your compliments. How do they work? -Sarai asked.


-I do not know. But I'm glad because without them I wouldn't have had such a wonderful wife.- Harrow replied.


- "... Regarding your advice, I wrote Rayla what I think. I gave her this necklace as well, but she didn't even seem to care. But she said what I wrote was cute. Of course I didn't write from whom or admitted to writing letter. I don't have enough courage. " Why do I get the feeling Callum really doesn't want to tell her how he feels?- Sarai asked.


-Are you surprised him? From what she describes, she treats him like an older brother. Anyway, I understand him because it was no different with me.-Harrow said, blushing.


-Yes. We were with feelings like children in the fog. But it was good that you finally wrote this letter.- Sarai said.


-Yes. What's next in it?-Harrow asked.


Sarai looked at the letter. The smile faded from her face.


-He wrote that he had argument with her afterwards ...- she said.


-And you think it's good?-Callum asked. Rayla could see the anger in his eyes.


-No, it's better to treat him with one of your spells right away so that he doesn't get up. Callum, you can't protect me from the world all the time. I know you're afraid that Feren will start teasing me like you, but that doesn't mean I can't help him.- Rayla replied. She was also angry.


-And I have to wait until he thinks of bully you, calling you like me or even beating you? I will not give him such an opportunity!-Callum shouted angrily.


-And maybe it's not about him ?!-Rayla started screaming as well.


-Who, then !?-Callum replied.


-Maybe someone just needs revenge? Maybe someone's human nature speaks up to hurt and destroy ?!-Rayla asked.


-I don't know, maybe someone's elven nature wants to save the world by hanging out with a scumbag !? - Callum asked.


-Yeah! Because he doesn't deserve a second chance, but the disgusting human does!-Rayla shouted.


- You can give a second chance if someone regrets. While he, if you haven't noticed, doesn't regret even the smallest thing!


-The only person who regrets anything is asking for the opinion of a hideous, greedy and disgusting human!- Rayla replied to him.


-And I wish I wouldn't answer the question about my opinion to an arrogant, mean and dumb elf!- Callum answered her.


There was silence. Callum and Rayla stared into each other's eyes. They both saw tears in the eyes of their opponent, but none of them was willing to apologize to the other side. They both turned around and went to their rooms, slamming the doors.


Seeing the whole thing Ethari and Runaan didn't know what to say. They were still sitting in the living room, where before their eyes there was a veritable exchange of heavy and sad words between, it seemed, inseparable friends.


-... Remind me how it happened?- Ethari asked.


-Rayla said Feren started talking to her recently, you know that son of Kholis. He wanted to hang out with her and go to New Moon Inn and she wanted to ask Callum for his opinion. He stated that "this idiot would not even be able to open the door to her, let alone start a conversation with her during which he wouldn't bore her to death about his hatred of other Elves". Rayla told that Callum was exaggerating and misjudging him. Callum answered that she is blind to not seeing how he behaves towards him and Geatan. She told that she knows it but hopes to change him. Word by word they started reproaching each other that she was naive and that he was prejudiced, and finally Rayla called Callum a loathsome, greedy and disgusting human, and he called her an arrogant, mean and dumb elf.-Runaan said.


-Should we intervene?-Ethari asked.


Runaan got up and stretched.


-Of course. I'm going to Rayla, try to talk to Callum.-Runaan said.


-Rayla? It's me, Runaan. I came to talk.-Runaan said.


He knocked again. Finally the door swung open. Rayla was standing behind them. It was evident that she was crying.


-About what?-Rayla asked.


-About what happened downstairs. Can I go inside?-Runaan asked.


Without a word, she entered the room and closed the door behind him. Runaan sat down in the chair by the desk. Rayla sat up on her bed and wrapped her arms around her knees, pulling them together.


-So what now? Am I grounded for what I said?-Rayla asked.


-No ... I just wanted to ask why you think Callum is wrong about Feren?- Runaan asked.


-He ... He's looking at what Feren has done. He thinks he's bad to the core. But he's just ... Lost. I thought maybe if I had talked to him, maybe he would leave Callum and Geatan alone. That he could be converted to the right path.- Rayla said.


-And Callum doesn't want you to have any contact with him?- Runaan said.


-Exactly. He act like I'm a little kid and whatever I do, he comes with me to "watch over" me. As if he was afraid of me getting burned by air. I am older than him and I know what is better for me.-Rayla said.


-You know ... Maybe Callum knows Feren from the side that he doesn't show up to you. Even with that Callum is in a good situation because if Feren knew the truth about him, he would not have a life among children. He just doesn't want you to suffer as well as he does.- Runaan said.


-I don't know. Callum seems scared that something will happen to me. I am able to defend myself. If Feren were to try to do something to me, I would have used the movements you taught me. He wouldn't have a chance ... - Said Rayla.


-... Same as Callum if he used his spells. However, you yourself told him not to use them. He endures Feren teasing him despite the fact that one spell and he could even kill him. He just doesn't want you to think about using force either. He's trying to protect you from Feren because he knows you have to cut off from people like him. Anyway, what could he want from you? You don't have common interests and you rarely see each other.- Replied Runaan.


Rayla didn't thought about it. After all, what could Feren want from her? Runaan was right, they had no common interests. After a while, Rayla understood what he meant. She looked at Runaan and he nodded.


-Yes. It is correct. He's just looking for a girlfriend.- Runaan said in a calm voice. Deep down, however, he wanted to kick the smartass as well as his Father who spoke too rarely with his son.


-So ... Callum was right after all. He's just bad.- Rayla replied. She realized that Callum was simply trying to care for her. And she called him a hideous, greedy, and disgusting human. -Runaan ... What have I done ...- she said in despair.


- Calm down, I think we can fix this.- Runaan said.


A hideous, greedy and disgusting human. That's what he was for her. A hideous, greedy and disgusting human. However, Callum knew she was right.


After all, he was just jealous. Jealous that someone like Feren had the courage to talk to her. In the end, Feren told Callum that he would destroy his life. Callum endured it. But when he mentioned Rayla Callum he barely hold himself from jumping at the elf.


However, when Rayla said that she could try to change him and hang out with him, he did not want to let it happen at all costs. Even if she hated him, he was still ready to make sure that nothing happened to her.


Besides, he was not deceiving himself. He knew elves lived over 200 years. He couldn't even hope that Rayla would feel the same and sacrifice the best years of her life for him to be with this weak man who would die after 80 years.


He heard a knock.


-It's open.-he replied.


Ethari entered the room. Callum didn't even moved. He was laying and staring at the ceiling.


-How are you holding up? -thari asked.


-Besides being hideous, greedy and disgusting, it's even good.- Callum took a deep breath and sat up. - She can't see him, Ethari. He ... He just wants ... - Callum tried to say.


-I know what boys in his age might want from a girl who is two years younger. More than once I have seen how guys like him hurt girls when they leave at the first chance. I understand that. But try to understand Rayla. You know what it is, right?- Ethari replied.


-I know. She ... She's too good. He would hurt her, Ethari.- Callum replied. Ethari looked pityingly. He understood the bottom line of the whole thing.


-You can see. You won't do anything with Feren. But with her ... You have to get along with her. I'm not asking you to give up and let her hang out with this guy, but to try to be there for her. Like an older brother.-Ethari said.


-Callum ... Can we talk?- Rayla asked.


Callum opened the door. He didn't seem surprised.


Rayla tried to hide the new sketchbook behind her back. However, she had a big problem with this because the book was quite large.


-Rayla ...- Callum tried to start.


-Callum ...- Rayla tried to start.


-... I want to apologize to you downstairs. You are not at all a hideous, disgusting and greedy human ...


-... I also wanted to apologize for that .. You are not at all arrogant, dumb and mean elf ...


-... Will you forgive me? -They both asked the same question at the same time. They started laughing. Finally Rayla pulled a book from behind her back.


-You did not have to. Thanks.- Callum said.


-It's nothing, really.- Rayla replied pulling him into a hug.


-Promise me you won't get too close to Feren. He really is… -Callum whispered in her ear.


-I know. I promise. Thanks for caring.-Rayla said, then gave him a kiss on the cheek. Callum froze as if petrified. He turned red all over. After this friendly gesture, Rayla backed away.


-I am in my room if you need me. Good night.- Rayla said. Callum was still standing still. Ethari saw the whole thing.


-Callum?-Time to sleep. He told boy and patting  him on the shoulder. Callum suddenly jumped.


- Good night.-He said nervously entering his room.

Chapter Text

-Happy Birthday Rayla! - everyone jumped from behind the table. Rayla almost had a heart attack.

 

-Thank you, though that  average 200 years of mine could have ended on 15.- she replied, gasping for breath.

 

- Sorry. We wanted to surprise you.-Ethari said.

 

There was a huge Moonberry Surprise on the table. Several packages lay in the background.

 

-Thank you, you guys are wonderful.-Rayla said. They really were.

 

-Rayla I would like to wish you a lot of health, happiness, prosperity, joy and nothing but success.-Ethari said.

 

- Same as me. Plus passing the final trials as Assassin and finally some sensible boyfriend. You know, at the age of 15, you should be slowly starting to think about it...-Runaan said. Rayla turned red like the scarf Callum got from her parents for his birthday.

 

-Runaan! - Ethari laughed hugging his husband.

 

-Hey. Rayla?- Callum came up to her.

 

Ever since Rayla and Callum got along after their argument, Feren tried to talk to Rayla several times, but she simply dismissed him. Then he tried to Liadrin, but she simply send him to the floor with a few smooth movements. As Rayla could see, Callum was right about him.

 

Callum himself has changed a bit. Even though he was still shy with people he talked little to, he seemed to be less scared with his friends and caregivers. After all, only she, Runaan and Ethari knew him really.

 

He was funny, cute, smart, and magically gifted. He knew how to draw amazingly and create amazing magical artifacts, not to mention the fact that he already had several swords of his own production.

 

-Yeah Callum?-Rayla asked.

 

-You know ... Well ... We have prepared one gift for you with Ethari ...- Callum tried to say. However, the boy was nervous for some reason.

 

-Stop kidding Callum. You did all the work. I just chose the materials and engraved the appropriate runes.- Ethari said.

 

-... But I wanted to give you one more thing. I made it some time ago for this occasion. It is small and handy. I hope you will like it.-Callum said, handing her the box. Rayla opened to find a dagger inside. It was no longer than 2/3 of her forearm. It had a shortened handle and a slightly curved blade.

 

-Callum ... It's a really beautiful dagger. You're wonderful.- Rayla said hugging him. Callum smiled.

 

The first gift she opened was from Runaan. He gave her a new travel bag and prepared a Moonberry Surprise for her birthday.

 

The next one was from her parents from Storm Spire. It was a book about Xadia's animals and plants. Besides, they included a letter that Rayla hid in her pocket.

 

Another one was from her friends. Geatan and Liadrin have recently attempted to make Moonraspberry Juice. After determining whether it was fit for consumption (Geren suffered from a sudden attack of diarrhea during the first tests), they packed and handed Rayla two huge bottles of juice.

 

While Liadrin and Geatan were making the juice, Eleanor and Geren bought her a new set of arrows. All arrowheads were designed to pierce heavy armor or thick skins, which was useful for hunting.

 

At the end, the biggest gift was left. It was a set of greaves, breastplate and bracers made by Callum and Ethari. The young human tried to make the gift serve Rayla as long as possible so he made a larger size adapted to the adjustment. In addition, the whole thing was painted dark blue. After Callum's presentation, Rayla put on his gift.

 

-I barely feel it. Have you checked your endurance?-Rayla asked.

 

-Yes. Runaan tried to shot in it with a bow. He hit the water jug with a ricochet.-Ethari said.

 

Rayla did a back somersault. The armor was light, as if it weighed nothing. She also noticed that there were runes carved into the armor.

 

-You added protective runes?-she asked, trying to read the inscription.

 

-Yes. It was mainly my idea. I've added draconic runes to suppress the sounds of the armor and add durability. Of course, we did the arrow test before crating the runes.-Ethari said.

 

-Of course, for full armor you also need epaulettes and plates to cover the legs above the knees. But that's all there is to do, right?-Callum said. He was proud of his achievement which was armor.

 

-Thanks again. You are the best.-Rayla said hugging each one individually.

 

She carried the armor to her room. Suddenly, a letter from her parents fell out of her pocket. She was so busy with the armor that she forgot about the letter. She sat down on the bed and unwrapped the letter. She started reading.

 

Dear daughter

Your father and I are happy about your birthday. Fifteen years ago, when you were born, we thought you were the most unique being in the world. We were proud to be with you when you learned to walk and talk, making our lives the happiest elves under the moon. Even though we cannot be here in person, we would like to wish you all the best and apologize to you. Apologize for leaving you to serve in the Dragon Guard. We wanted to serve there, but when we did, we didn't expect to be the parents of a wonderful girl like you. However, we had no choice, as refusal would have resulted in both us and you being ghosted from elven society. However, that does not excuse us.

Your dad and I apologize for missing 5 years of your life. For the fact that we were not there to support you, to advise you and enjoy your successes and help you in growing up. Everything you know you owe to Runaan and Ethari. We will understand if they are closer to what can be called parents to you than we are.

We know you have great friends like Callum. You are the smartest, strongest, brightest and fastest elf we know. From the pictures that Callum painted, we know that you are also beautiful (although we do not know if sometimes the author's creativity  does not go beyond his worldview). As a gift, we give you a book about Xadia's animals and plants. We think you should like it (although from what Ethari said you prefer practical subject than books).

We also have good news, of course, if you'll forgive us. We found out a few days ago that Queen Zubei is expecting a baby. She will lay an egg soon, and a new Dragon Guard will be formed once it hatch. This means that we will be able to go home, probably in a few years. We hope you will want to live with us again. We are not forcing you to make this decision, and we will understand if you decide to continue living with Ethari and Runaan.

We wish you a very happy birthday once again. We love you very much.

Mom and dad

 

Rayla started to cry. She read again the sentence "We love you very much."

 

She felt that something had died in her. She felt as if it was relief. She no longer felt hatred for them, anger, or a sense of betrayal. She ... forgave them?


-Hey? Rayla? Hello? -Callum walked over to her. Rayla was sitting on the kitchen window sill, staring at the moon.

 

It was early evening. There were fireflies everywhere, and there was silence all over Silvergrove.

 

-Callum ... Can we talk?-Rayla asked looking at him.

 

Callum's heart stopped to beat at this sight. In the moonlight, she was even more beautiful than usual. Callum could have sworn he would never have thought of it, but he wondered what would happen if he kissed her on the lips.

 

Callum shook himself a second after the idea popped into his head. After all, it was Rayla, she was too good to think of her that way.

 

-Sure ... you mean ...  about your parents?- Callum asked, sitting down next to her.

 

-Yes ... This is a stupid question, but what would you do if ... If after 5 years your parents came back and offered to live with them instead of with their current caretakers?-Rayla asked.

 

-Well ... I would live with them. I think Ethari and Runaan would understand. Why do you ask?- Callum replied.

 

- There's a chance ... They'll be back Callum. They wrote that soon the Dragon Prince will appear in the world. After his birth, they will raise a new Dragon Guard. They will come home.-Rayla replied.

 

-How do you feel with it?-Callum asked.

 

- Honestly ... It's kind of easier for me. Before, I hated them. I thought they didn't want to ... They were afraid to raise me ... But ... they had no choice ... - Rayla started to cry. Callum hugged her. She cried for a long time, but finally stopped.

 

-Everything will be fine. You will see. You will still make up for those years. Anyway, I will continue to live here for another 5 years so nothing will change. You will just live with them.-Callum said.

 

-Yeah, you're right.-She wiped a tear from eye.

 

- Anyway, I think you will finally be glad that there will be no such queues to the bathroom.-Callum joked. Rayla laughed.

 

-That's for sure. Thanks Callum. You're wonderful.-Rayla replied.

 

They sat in silence for a while. Callum thought about her and how he felt about her. He wanted to tell her the whole truth. He gathered himself up.

 

-Rayla ... I have to tell you something ...- Callum said hesitantly.

 

-Yes?-Rayla looked at him surprised.

 

Callum hesitated, but continued.

 

-We have known each other for several years and I wanted to say that ... that whatever happens, I will always be there for you if you need me.-Callum said.

 

Inside, he rebuked himself for his cowardice. He was close to saying how he felt about her but chickened out. He did not have that much courage, and he will never have that much.

 

- I know Callum. I am with you too if you need me.-Rayla replied hugging him once more.


-I chickened out again.-Callum replied.

 

They were sitting at a corner table in New Moon inn with Geren and Geathan. Geren was just eating a potato pancake.

 

-Here we go again. Callum, let it go because in fact you're just torturing yourself. I'm not saying that you should give up on Rayla because you both fit together like a gloves, just give it a moment to rest. When was the last time you slept? -Geatan asked.

 

-Two days ago?- Callum  replied not sure.

 

-Two days!? How are you ... - asked Geren who broke away from the pancake surprised at this answer.

 

-I've been drinking brown potion for several days.- Callum replied.

 

-It's not good. You need to get a good nap, anyway. Start taking care of yourself because Rayla will start to worry and you wouldn't want her intervention, would you?-Geatan replied.

 

Suddenly, Feren and his buddies entered the inn.

 

-Troubles. Feren entered.-Geatan replied.

 

-Is not going to start a brawl on the entire inn, right?- Geren asked.

 

-With that bastard, you never know.-Callum replied.

 

As predicted, Feren and his colleagues headed towards them.

 

-May I know what you're doing in our place?-Feren asked.

 

-Your place?- Geatan asked.

 

- Here . Get away from here, and I will forget about you.-Feren said.

 

-If pinworms tire you, you can sit on the ground. We're not going anywhere. -Callum said.

 

-I think your eyes is itching. Last chance, get out of here.-Feren bit back.

 

-The only person who can get out is you. And now if you have nothing better to do, let the simple elves sit still. If you want to get some steam out, you always can hit your head against the wall.-Callum retorted.

 

Feren approached Callum.

 

-Your will, Brain Bird. This time your friend Rayla won't save you. We'll be waiting for you at the door. - He whispered and then left with his friends from the inn.

 

-Well, we probably already have meeting  with him?-Geren said.

 

-We? You know that he has the greatest aversion to me. You don't have to, I can handle it.-Callum said.

 

-You're kidding? You're not going anywhere alone. This is starting to get boring. Maybe when he gets a thud, he'll get something straight in that horned brick. Whatever the case may be, we're going with you. We have enough of it ourselves.-Geatan said.

 

Callum smiled. Geren and Geatan were his best buddies, confidants and advisers on all sorts of things.

 

-Alright. However, we must have a plan. You don't want to go blindly fight them, do you?-Callum asked.

 

-Runaan taught you and me a few tricks, Geatan restrained the hippogriffs so no one is missing anything. Only Feren and his buddies have to start it first, we don't want to have problems. You can also use a few spells for self-defense. Are we going to keep them in suspense?-Geren asked.

 

-Why not? Let's wait.-Geatan replied.


Feren thought they chickened out. However, they left the inn after an hour.

 

-You're not so smart right now, are you?-He asked walking towards Callum.

 

-I think I already know why you can't find your girlfriend.-Callum replied.

 

Behind Callum, Geren drew his sword, and Geatan drew runes that made his hands grow stiff branches. Callum, on the other hand, used a spell to strengthen the found brush stick with ice.

 

Yeavin and Isengrim followed Geren with their weapons: Isengrim a folding spear and Yeavin two longer daggers. Feren pulled out his mace.

 

-You know that we can diverge without problems. We give you a choice - go away and we will forget about it, or attack us, and we will beat you so much that your bones will hurt you when you breathe.-Callum said.

 

-Play some music!-Feren replied, launching himself at Callum.

Chapter Text

Ibis was shocked. He had never expected to find such sight. Especially with Callum in a situation like this.

 

Six teenagers lay in front of the inn. There was ice and scraps of clothes all over the place. There were also some traces of blood.

 

Geren, the Moonshadow elf, was sitting on the steps. His nose was knocked out and he had a few cuts on his arm. But that was nothing compared to his arm, which was broken at the wrist. The boy was leaning on his sword.

 

Opposite on him was Isengrim, also a Moonshadow elf, leaning on the railing of the stairs. This one had a cut lip and a black eye. There were a lot of bruises on his hands. His weapon laid a little further away, stuck in the ground in front of the inn stairs.

 

Another Moonshadow elf, Yeavin, was lying on his back on his back. He looked like he had a collision with bushes. The left side of his face was blue, as if someone had hit him with a hard piece of ice. His weapon was beside him. Blood oozed from a cut eyebrow.

 

Against the wall sat Geatan in even worse shape. He used the spell to stop the bleeding of his stomach wound. Someone ran the blade hard across his belly, but the wound was more painful than life-threatening. Apart from this wound, he had a dagger mark on his cheek and a black eye.

 

In the corner he saw blocked in ice by Aspiro Firgis Spell Feren, another Moonshadow elf. Despite the layer of ice that chained him to the wall, he could see that his entire body was full of bruises. There was a trickle of blood running down his head on his head. Besides, he had a blue cheek and a black eye. He stared enviously at the last participant in the fight.

 

The last of the fighters was Callum. He was sitting leaning against the wall. Beside him lay shattered brush stick and ice. There was a fracture on his leg. Blood seeped on his arm for a short time, although as soon as Ibis arrived his apprentice was just stopping the bleeding by ice-coating the wound by the Asprio Frigis spell. Blood poured from his nose and lip. Besides, he had a lot of bruises on his body.

 

-What happened here ?!-Ibis asked.

 

-He started. - Pointed Callum on Feren's.

 

Ibis called the innkeeper. Together with him, they moved to the homes of the participants of the fight. He and his friends ended up in Callum's house, while the rest of the fighters went to Feren's house. They were separated to prevent further fighting.


Runaan couldn't believe it. It didn't suit Callum. He came in front of the inn to meet the Elder Cirdan. This one has already checked with a spell what happened.

 

-Before you ask Runaan, Callum and his colleagues did not start it. They have no problems. However, Feren ... I'm afraid he will be banished from our community. After all, it's not the first time there hasstarted such fight.-replied Cirdan.

 

-Thanks to Garlach. But ... What was the fight about? Why did this happened?-Runaan asked.

 

-Feren argued with them about a place in the inn. Callum, however, dismissed him, so Feren and his friends decided to attack him. Callum gave them the choice to let go of the fight. However, Feren delivered the first blow. After a short but intense fight, only they remained on the battlefield. And then it happened ... -Cirdan used a spell.


Only the two of them remained. The rest fell off and couldn't fight any more. Isengrim on Geatan, Geren on Yeavin, and Callum on Feren. Only Feren and Callum were on their feets now.

 

Callum was holding the arm from which he was bleeding. He had lost the broomstick, which he used to beating his opponent without hesitation. Feren pulled out a knife. He walked over to him and picked up his collar, hitting the wall. He was older so stronger.

 

-You can ... And ... Be a mage ... But anyway ... She'll choose me sooner than ... you ...-Feren said through clenched teeth. At that moment, Callum suddenly lost control of himself.

 

Feren did not even notice how he used the Fulminis, Aspiro, Fulminis Frigilis and Aspiro Frigilis spells in a row. Electrocuted, pushed by the force of the hurricane against the wall, hit by a lump of ice, and nailed to the wall by a layer of ice, Feren finally understood why it was a mistake to attack this mage.

 

-You should be happy ... that I have no strength ... This combination of spells could ... kill you ...- Callum said, sliding down onto the Wall. He stared at his opponent, panting.


-I have to admit, this combination of spells would be really hard to master for most elven mages in full strength. And here, as you can see, Callum was able to defeat his opponent with only his last strength. And don't kill him. The Ibis trained him well.- replied Cirdan.

 

-Yes ... Which doesn't change the fact that he wasn't supposed to use spells against anyone.-Runaan replied.

 

-Note that the opponents did not care about their health. One of Callum's colleagues who took part in the fight, Geatan, was almost gutted. Just because he had jumped back, the wound was superficial and easy to heal with a simple healing spell. Callum also used magic as a last chance. Pay attention to this before you punish him.-Cirdan said.


-Callum !? What happened?-Rayla asked.

 

Ibis helped Callum into the house. Callum avoided her gaze.

 

-They got into a fight with Feren and his friends.-Ibis said.

 

The innkeeper followed Ibis supporting Geren and Geathan. They were both in a similar condition.

 

Ethari took the medicinal herbs out of the cupboard. One of the village healers also camed.

 

As it turned out, Geatan was in the best condition. He used fighting magic to heal his wounds, and most of his wounds were gone. He could walk alone, although it was obvious that it hurts him. However, after using magic, he was tired, although he still offered to help his friends, which was forbidden by the healer who arrived at the place.

 

A healer took care of Geren. After taking his clothes off the waist, it turned out that he had a lot of bruises all over his body. Nevertheless,he still had the best humor of the wounded. The healer began cleaning the wounds and putting a splint on his arm. At that time, the innkeeper went for the victims' families.

 

Ibis was explaining to Ethari what had happened. Meanwhile, Rayla helped Callum get into his room. She took extra medicines and herbs from under the bed. She also brought a bowl of water and a towel, and some bandages. She also found a Bottle of Earthblood Spirit, which was the strongest alcohol in Xadia - perfect for drowning sorrows and cleaning wounds.

 

-Callum, I want to help. You have to take off your vest and shirt so I can see what's going on. And tuck your pants up above the knee so I can put the splints on my leg later.-Rayla said.

 

Callum obeyed without a word. Rayla looked at his bruised body in terror. She noticed a lump of ice covering his wound on his arm. Suddenly her hands started shaking.

 

-I need to remove this piece of ice. It will hurt.- she said, grabbing his hand. Callum nodded. Rayla hesitated before causing him pain. But moments later, she efficiently yanked a piece of ice from his shoulder. Callum hissed in pain.

 

-I'm sorry ...- Rayla whispered, laying down a towel with alcohol to wash the wound. Callum hissed even louder. Rayla felt her heart breaking as she caused him pain. She didn't want to cause as much pain to anyone as Callum.

 

She soaked the towel and began to wash the wounds where there was blood. After washing, she applied bandages with a healing ointment. With every touch and hiss of Callum's pain, her guilt grew. Even so, he didn't say anything. And that hurt her the most. No jokes, comforting words like "It used to be worse" or "Until your wedding it will heal." No words to reassure. Callum was simply silent. She was starting to miss the Callum she knew.

 

-Callum? What happened? Who started. Please say anything.-Rayla asked.

 

Finally Callum looked in her direction.

 

-We had an argument with Feren about a place in the inn. He was waiting for me at the door. The guys ... came with me. Feren almost won ... But I used Magic. Rayla, I almost ... - Callum shaking unable to speak. Rayla hugged him, trying not to touch the wounds. She started to cry. After a few minutes, they both calmed down.

 

-Callum, take off the illusion necklace for a moment.-she said after a moment.

 

Callum hesitated.

 

-Rayla, I can't. What if… -he tried to say.

 

-Callum please. I need to see the real Callum.-Rayla said.

 

Callum took off the necklace. His horns and facial marks are gone. He tried not to look at her.

 

-I'm monster Rayla. I almost killed him ... - Said Callum.

 

However, Rayla thought otherwise. Callum was cute as a human. It was a bit strange for her to look at him without illusions, but Rayla knew it was his true face. Tender, kind, friendly, wise and charming face.

 

She put her hand on his cheek and lifted his head. Callum put his hand to hers. Her other hand grasped his hand. Her four fingers fit perfectly between his five.

 

-Callum. You were never a monster and never will be. You are the best person I have ever met.-she said, touching her forehead to his. Callum smiled involuntarily. He cuddled up to her, ignoring the pain, and began to cry. Rayla hugged him.

 

Suddenly Rayla felt something she never felt looking at him. Her heart sped up and her stomach felt as if a flock of butterflies were prowling inside. She blushed when one strange thought came to her mind that so far did not fit in with Callum. She began to wonder what his lips tasted like.

 

Suddenly she blushed even more. She was glad Callum wasn't looking at her. She didn't know what to do with what she felt. However, she decided to do nothing. She had to ... rethink it.

 

Suddenly she heard a knock on the room. Callum suddenly backed away and groaned in pain. However, he quickly put on the necklace to make the illusion work again.

 

Geren entered the room with Eleanor's help. Behind them came Geatan limping, followed by Liadrin. Both girls were furious.

 

-You're a bunch of idiots. What went off in your head ?! If it weren't for the fact that Feren and his buddies had already beaten you up, I would have beaten you up one by one.-said Liadrin.

 

-There's already line,Lia.- said Eleanor, who helped Geren sit on the floor. Geren hissed in pain.

 

-But you know they started it? We gave them a choice. It is not our fault that they chose the second solution.-Geatan replied.

 

-Shut up1 Do not you dare to speadk! You're an idiot. Understand? IDIOT! Ibis told me what he found. You could bleed out there, you idiot. BLEED OUT! Does life mean so little to you?-Liadrin was furious. However, Callum noticed that the other hand she was not using for gestures was shaking.

 

Geatan said nothing. Liadrin, however, looked at him and simply began to cry.

 

-Never do that again. I forbid you. Do you understand moron? I forbid you .- hugging him.

 

Geatan didn't know what to say. Despite the stoic calm, it was evident that he himself, under the influence of emotions, worried about the situation. He embraced her uncertainly.

 

Meanwhile, Eleanor adjusted Geren's dressings. He groaned in pain.

 

-I'm fine ... Thanks El ... you're great. - He said.

 

-But you are an idiot. I'm not going to talk to you right now. I'm leaving you here with Callum and Geathan. Don't break anything.-Eleanor said. Geren stopped smiling.

 

Immediately afterwards came a healer who placed splints on Callum's broken leg.

 

-We should give them a while. For now, we need to clear up a few things.-said the healer.

 

Everyone except the wounded left. As the door closed, Geren laughed.

 

-Really ... I guess I'll start calling you Geatan brother-in-law.- said Geren.

 

-You know ... I didn't expect Lia ... to react  on it this way. Really ... Guys ... What have we done?- Said Geatan.

 

-We defended ourselves. We gave them a choice, and they chose.- Geren said.

 

-Yeah ... At one point I thought we were gone. But seriously. Especially when Feren pinned Callum to the wall. But Callum swept the floor with him. Why didn't you use magic at first time?- Geatan asked.

 

-Because I could have killed someone. Feren is a moron, but he doesn't deserve to die. I used it as a last chance. If I had used it at the start of the fight, Feren would have been on his way to the Shadow Valley cemetery by now.-Callum said.

 

-Oh yes. I swear when they took Feren he was bleeding hard. However something tells me that he'll want revenge on you.-Geatan said.

 

-I'm more worried about Runaan right now. I think I will be grounded for a year.-Callum said.

 

-So do we. Plus the girls will bully us for it. By the way. How did Rayla react to this situation?-Geatan asked.

 

-She was terrified. It hurts more than my nose and leg that I let her down. I promised never to hurt anyone ... And now? She probably hates me.-Callum said.

 

-Dude, don't be that harsh for yourself. Eventually it will pass away for her. She must have treated you more gently anyway, unlike my sister and Eleanor. They did everything to make me feel pain and regret ... At least Liadrin did.-Geren said.

 

Geatan suddenly noticed something.

 

-Callum .... Is that Earthblood Spirit?-Geatan asked.

 

-Yes. Don't make it worse, leave it alone.-Callum said. The last thing they needed now was to get drunk.


-I still want to punch them.- Eleanor said.

 

-It's enough for them. After all, Feren and his friends had already punched the silly ideas out of their heads. Besides, Runaan said ours were defending themselves. We bully them for not letting themself being beaten.-said Liadrin.

 

The girls were sitting in the same place as their male part of their group few hours earlier. They ordered tea. They wanted to de-stress after what happened.

 

After a short conversation with Runaan and the rest of their parents, they learned that Feren had been ghosted from Silvergrove for 15 years. His father disappeared after the trial. However, he managed to pass to the families of the victims that he was sorry for his son's behavior.

 

Runaan was almost stoic. He even seemed to be partially satisfied with the way things had ended. Partly, because five teenagers were beated, not counting Feren who was sent to wander alone in Xadia.

 

-But they could let this jerk sit where he wanted. They would be alright. They don't care if someone cares about them.-Eleanor argued.

 

-Thwy are boys. You won't understand their way of thinking.- said Liadrin.

 

There was silence. After a while, Eleanor asked.

 

-By the way. Do you ... and Geatan ...

 

-No. I'm just worried about him. That's all.-replied Liadrin, blushing.

 

-You looked more shocked by his fate than your brother.-Eleanor said.

 

-Because my brother is an idiot? Anyway, you were the first to help him.-said Liadrin.

 

-Would you look at that, now suddenly you are disturbed by the feelings between your brother and me.-Eleanor said.

 

-As if you ever had a chance to be with him. He won't even notice you even if you kick him in the face.-Liadrin bit back.

 

Suddenly, Eleanor stopped her with her hand. Surprised, Liadrin looked back. Their attention shifted to Rayla looking at her cup of tea. She seemed distant, as if her thoughts were with something else. Or with someone.

 

-Rayla? Hey Rayla?-Liadrin shook the shoulder of the thoughtful elf.

 

-Yes?-she asked without even turning to face them. She didn't seem to be focusing on them.

 

Liadrin had an idea.

 

-Can you tell us what you think about Callum?-Eleanor asked as she continued the game of Liadrin.

 

-I have known him for over 5 years. Nevertheless, only now did I understand how much I would miss him in my life if something would happen to him. After all, he was with me for better and for worse. He helped and cared for me. At the same time, he is very funny, kind, wise and charming. He can draw amazingly and knows amazing spells. He's just awesome ... - Rayla said. Both girls noticed that Rayla had "butter eyes" when talking about him.

 

-Well ... I never thought I'd say that, but congratulations Rayla. You're in love. said Liadrin. Rayla only understood everything at these words. It was even redder than Callum's scarf.


-How are you holding up?-Runaan asked.

 

Callum was lying in his bed. He managed to take off his pants and put on his pajamas.

 

-Wrong. Not because it hurts ... It's just ... - Callum fell silent. Ever since the fight, he seemed to be ready for death.

 

-Well ... I don't approve of the use of magic. But I know you had no choice. You did the right thing to not stepping back in argument with Feren. You know, in adulthood, sometimes you have  to defend yourself. You cannot endure harassment and humiliation all your life. You didn't let me down today and even though you almost killed today I have to say I'm proud of you ... - Runaan said, placing his hand on Callum's shoulder.

 

-Really? No ... -Suddenly, Callum howled in pain. Runaan quickly took his hand away from the wound he accidentally touched.

 

-Whops. Forgive me ... - Said Runaan.

 

-It's okay ... Really.-Callum replied gritting his teeth.

 

Runaan smiled. He looked at the boy. Callum, however, still seemed to be dissatisfied with the situation.

 

-Something bothering you?-Runaan asked.

 

-No ... Well, yes, actually. I think Rayla will not forgive me for ... That's what I did. I have feeling she hates me.-Callum said.

 

-She? She was more terrified of what happened to you than what you did to Feren. You are best friends. Soon you will be talking as if nothing had happened.-Runaan replied.

 

-Yes ... Friends.-Callum said. Runaan felt he was saying it with regret. Runaan guessed what this might be.

 

Rayla herself seemed distracted today. She answered after a moment, seemed to be distantly somewhere else. She had been silent since Callum came home. Runaan knew she was either concerned with what happened to Callum. Or for the first time in her life she felt butterflies in her stomach and learned what love meant.

 

Whatever the answer was, Runaan knew these children were slowly growing up.

Chapter Text

Callum hissed in pain as Rayla changed his bandages. Two days have passed since the fight and the injured slowly began to recover. However, the worst case was with Callum, who was a human, and therefore the Elven medicine had less effect on him. Ethari and Runaan explained it with an allergy.

 

-Thanks for the help. I don't know what I would do without you.-Callum said.

 

-It's hard to call making you pain help, but since you like it ...- Rayla smiled as she adjusted the bandage. Callum hissed in pain.

 

-You like to hurt me, huh?- Callum asked.

 

-Me? Me you? No I'm not!-Rayla said laughing.

 

-You can't lie to me Rayla. I see that you enjoy bullying on the wounded.-Callum said pretending to be sad. Of course he was joking.

 

-O no, you found out my secret. I have to shut you down before you tell anyone!- She joked, throwing a pillow at Callum. The pillow hit a wound on the arm.

 

-Ouch!- Callum groaned.

 

-Callum sorry, I didn't mean to ...-replied Rayla, terrified that she could hurt him.

 

-It's nothing. Really.-Callum said. He smiled. He pulled the shirt on and sat on the bed. Since the fight, Rayla began to spend more time in his room with him. Callum was glad he wasn't lonely.

 

They sat in silence for a while. Rayla was writing homework for school. Callum had already written it in a moment when he was bored.

 

-Rayla ... It's a bit silly, what I'm going to ask you, but...- Said Callum blushed a little.

 

Rayla turned into his direction. She had a tiny bit of hope that was what she was thinking. But she torpedoed the idea. Callum probably didn't felt the same. Impossible for him to feel the same.

 

-Let me guess ... what our human may think ... Hmmm ... Would you like to complain about what otherhumans do and then do the same?-Rayla joked coming closer to him.

 

-Very funny. You will never learn how to pretend to be human.-Callum replied.

 

-Oh come on! You'd be surprised how well I would pretend to be Human Rayla. And humans usually do that.-Rayla argued.

 

-Yes, and I become a blacksmith to repair shoes. You know this is a awful stereotype, right? - Callum asked rolling his eyes.

 

-Said the human who 5 years ago asked me not to drink his blood.- Rayla bit back.

 

-You were very convincing holding your swords back then.- Callum said.

 

-I was? You know, I could be too now.- Rayla said reaching for her swords.

 

-You should cool down.- Callum said. Suddenly, he drew a rune of Aspiro's Spell and gently blew at Rayla. Her hair rippled slightly.

 

-Very funny. - Rayla corrected her hair as she sat down on the chair. - So what did you want to ask?

 

-Aaa ... Oh yeah. The point is, can  I ... draw you? You know, just to pass the time.- Callum asked. He blushed.

 

-You know you don't have to ask.-Rayla said, blinking one eye knowingly.

 

Both Callum and Rayla started to work. Rayla over the homework and Callum over the drawing. Rayla tried not to move and looked at Callum. She was perfectly visible on the chair from where Callum was sitting.

 

-You don't usually cooperate like that. You feel itchy sitting still or need to use the toilet every time I want to draw you. But now? Rayla, you're just nicer to me. Why?- Callum said. He was surprised that Rayla been kinder to him for the last two days. He didn't understand it, and he had various theories about it in his mind.

 

-Except that a few days ago you got the booty from a guy who wanted to kill you and I had to watch you suffer? No, nothing new.- Rayla lied.

 

-It would be worse if you didn't help me. I really don't know what I'd do without you.- Callum said.

 

-Same as me without you ...-Rayla whispered so that Callum did not hear. This one, however, was engrossed in drawing.

 

Suddenly the door to the room opened.

 

-That's just me. You're sitting in this stuffy room so I'm gonna open the door a little to ventilate a little.- Ethari said.

 

Callum and Rayla looked at each other in surprise, then at the window that was open. Room was not stuffy, that's for sure.

 

-The window is open, the draft is such that you can feel it even with the door closed. What do you think he really means?- Rayla asked.

 

Callum suddenly blushed. He scratched his head.

 

-You know ... Maybe the point is that ... Ekhm ... How should I say it ... he may be afraid that ... I mean without a reason, but ...-Callum stammered, nervous as ever.

 

-Callum, speak up.- Rayla said.

 

-... That we ... didn't ... You know ...- Callum said blushing more and more. Rayla understood what was going on. She blushed as much as him.

 

-What? We? I mean ... You're a good friend but ... We're far from ... Well ... You know ... - Rayla said.

 

-Well, yeah ... You're a good friend yourself ... you just ... It's too far for us, isn't it? After all ... We're more like siblings, aren't we?- Callum asked.

 

-Yeah. Like siblings.- Rayla replied.

 

Despite the smiles they both exchanged, they both felt hopeless. Callum felt that he was giving himself futile hopes again. After all, she was an elf. What could be attractive in human for her? Nothing could.

 

Little did he know, however, that at the same moment Rayla felt trapped in friendship. She thought it over and thought Callum would never feel the same way. After all, why would he? They were like siblings, he'd sooner find somebody for her than start to feel the same.


Callum was already snoring when Ethari came in to check on him in the evening. What surprised him was Rayla holding Callum's hand as she slept in the chair next to the bed.

 

-Runaan. I need your help.- Ethari said.

 

Runaan approached her husband. He looked inside.

 

-And her mother says growing up doesn't apply to her yet.- Runaan said.

 

- Growing up will come for everyone. Same as love.- Ethari said.

 

-Mhm. If we don't take her, they'll both have a heart attack in the morning. Come on, help me move her.-Runaan said.


-Wait what?-Rayla asked.

 

-Can you not ... I don't know ... Help me on my date with Geren?-Eleanor asked uncertainly.

 

It's been a month since the fight. Callum was able to walk alone now and Geren's hand was fully recovered. It was the last one who had some hones moments with Eleanor and they decided to try dating each other.

 

-I have to go as a chaperone, right? I didn't think you were so temperamental.- Rayla asked smiling. At these words, Eleanor blushed.

 

-Rayla! It's not that… -Eleanor said, terrified.

 

-So what? Unless you're proposing a triangle-... Rayla continued to laugh.

 

-Rayla!-Eleanor squealed red with embarrassment.

 

-I know, I'm kidding. I'm not gonna steal your boyfriend. I have someone else in mind.-Rayla said.

 

-I know. But the point is, I don't feel confident enough going alone with him. You know, I'm afraid to screw it up.-Eleanor said.

 

-I understand. And it's better to not invite her sister.- Rayla said.

 

-Exactly. We're having a date at dusk today. Meet us at the fountain in the square near market.- Eleanor said.

 

-Should I get dressed like I'm on a date or everyday?-Rayla asked.

 

-I think the dress will be appropriate.-Eleanor said.

 

-I hoped you wouldn't say that but fine. See you soon.-Rayla said.

 

-See you soon.- Eleanor said, turning away.

 

Rayla entered her house.

 

-Runaan, Ethari, I'm back!-She said entering the room herself. As she walked by the door to Callum's room, Rayla noticed that he was preparing his clothes while wearing only shorts. She stopped and rested an arm against the door frame.

 

Rayla had to admit that the exercises with Ibis really made well for him. Callum above the waist was quite muscular enough that Rayla couldn't take her eyes off him.

 

Callum turned for a moment and saw Rayla. Suddenly he jumped up, terrified. He turned red all over his face.

 

-H-hey Rayla. How long have you been here?- Callum asked.

 

-Long enough.-Rayla said blushing. She tried to pretend that internally she had no need to collapse into the ground so she tried speak confidently.

 

-So ... What brings you here?- Callum asked, straightening up.

 

-I admire the breathtaking views. But seriously, what are you preparing your clothes for?-Rayla asked.

 

-Geren has a date today. He asked me to go in the role of "support / mediator" ... Rayla are you okay? You're a little red on face.- Callum said.

 

- Oh dear... It just...  Eleanor asked for the same. It looks like we're going there together.- Rayla said. She blushed slightly.

 

-Well well. How small Silvergrove is, right?- Callum replied. He also blushed.


-Hmmmm ... The law says nothing about that he is not able to marry her.- Ezran said. He was already browsing through the next paragraphs of Katolis Law from the library. They sat in the Royal Library while their parents discussed political issues, signed treaties, and did stupid things that didn't make the slightest sense from a child's perspective.

 

Recently, Callum's letters have been mainly based on how great Rayla is and how beautiful she was. In the mind of a ten-year-old, simple conclusions could be drawn quickly. However, Callum described the matter as "lost in the start" and Rayla as "unreachable for him".

 

-Yeah, but you know what it is like with court life. After all, our parents are an exception. Many royal marriages today are political. Callum could cause a scandal by marrying an elf.-Aanya replied as she read the Katolis Code of Laws and Codes.

 

Aanya, despite the busy schedule that her mothers set in her education, always accompanied them on every diplomatic missions. On the one hand, she was curious about the world, and on the other hand, she did not want to be alone at home. She managed to make friends with Ezran, about who she even jealous that his parents did not insist on his education. With him and his friend, Ellis, she felt like herself. Whenever she came to Katolis, she was leaveing her mothers to work in peace and not worry about her just to concentrate on being a kid with Ezran and Ellis.

 

-Yes, but Ezran's mother comes from the village where the last time someone from the aristocracy was seen when his mother joined the army. Since she "married" into the royal line, Rayla shouldn't have any problems with it. - Elis replied browsing recruitment reports from 10 years ago.

 

Ellis lost her parents when she was little. A squad of soldiers commanded by General Amaya found her. Since then, she has been taking care of a girl whose family and loved ones simply disappeared.

 

Her hometown was the scene of a strange phenomenon. Over 150 people disappeared overnight. A messenger from the village who reached the capital was riding a horse already dead. No one could say what killed him, but he had a letter from the mayor of the city asking for troops to be sent to investigate the disappearance of several families living off at the age of village. Two days later, the city was searched. The only survivors at the time were 7 years old Ellis and her wolf Ava.

 

-But something doesn't let Callum say he likes-likes her. Otherwise he would describe in his letters that he does the same things parents do when they think we can't see.-Ezran said.

 

-Like kissing? Bleh, gross.-Ellis replied.

 

-Maybe he's afraid to spoil his friendship with Rayla?-Amaya asked.

 

Suddenly they heard a stone scraping against a stone.

 

-You heard that?-Ellis asked.

 

The three of them ran to the end of the bookcase from behind which made a sound. A door suddenly appeared behind a bookcase in the wall. The children saw General Amaya come in.

 

-You think what I think?-Aanya asked.

 

Aanya looked at Ellis and Ezran, who were looking at her as if they were asking for permission.

 

-What are you waiting for? We follow her!-said Ellis.

Chapter Text

-Rayla! Are you ready !? We're going to be late! -Called Callum. Rayla's preparation took longer than usual. Admittedly, she rarely wore a dress (which was described as an "uncomfortable bag") and makeup (which, according to Callum, she did not need), so Callum had no idea how much it usually takes for the females.

 

-I'm coming!-Rayla replied. She left the room into the corridor. Callum's jaw dropped.

 

She was dressed in a turquoise sleeveless dress slightly below the knee. Her hair was pulled back into a little braid and she was wearing light makeup on her face. She looked at him like she felt awkward.

 

-So ... How do I look?-she asked shyly.

 

-You look gorgeous.- Callum said blushing.

 

-Thanks ... You don't look bad yourself. Although without that shirt and vest, you also look good.- Rayla replied blushing.

 

-Since when did you start paying attention to what I look like without a shirt?- Callum replied.

 

-Since you started to leave the door to your room open. Come on, we're going to be late.-Rayla replied. Both started down the corridor to the door. But there was Runaan standing with a rather unfriendly face.

 

-Runaan? Something happened?-Rayla asked.

 

-Nothing yet. And it is supposed to stay that way! You are to be home by midnight. No "funny business" in the bushes and nothing like that. Got it?- Runaan told them, pointing his finger at them. Rayla and Callum understood what he meant and blushed.

 

-Runaan, we already explained that this is not our date. We are going there in the form of support.- Callum explained.

 

-The word was said, kids. Now go ahead. And you are to be back before midnight.- Runaan replied opening the door for them. When they left, he closed the door behind them. Ethari left the kitchen.

 

-You couldn't let this joke go,do you?- Ethari asked.

 

-I could not. The joke was too good. Anyway, to be honest, I would be the most peaceful elf under the moon if Callum was her boyfriend.-Runaan said smiling.

 

-Nothing by force. But true, I wouldn trust no one more than Callum.-Ethari said.


Despite good intentions and preparations, the date of Eleanor and Geren was a total disaster and even the help of Rayla and Callum couldn't change anything.

 

The couple they were supposed to support had problems with stress and establishing a longer conversation. Most of the conversation was driven by Callum who Geren asked about the jewelry (which surprised Callum, especially as he was less knowledgeable than Eleanor about it). For an hour or so, they could not discuss any other topic. Finally, Geren went to the toilet. Callum followed him, intuitively feeling that he would be needed there.

 

As it turned out, Geren left the inn.

 

-A month ago it was full of ice and our blood. -Callum said coming up to his friend.

 

-Right? It's surprising that there is no sign that there was a fight here- Geren replied.

 

-Mhm. I must admit that the view of the city from here is even nice.-Callum replied. For a moment they looked at the Silvergrove market which was located in front of the inn stairs. It was already dark, so the merchants returned to their homes, leaving the square quiet.

 

-Okay, tell me what's going on. I can see that something is bothering you.- Callum said after a long moment.

 

-I ... I'm afraid to screw up Callum. I just have a blockage and I don't know what to talk to her about ... - Geren said.

 

-So just be yourself. She likes you for that, right?-Callum replied.


-And that's it? Am I supposed to be myself?- Eleanor asked.

 

-Well, who else? I guess that's why he asked you on this date. -Rayla said.

 

-What if he ... decides it's not that? That he doesn't feel anything? That it seemed to him and it wasn't feelings at all?- Eleanor asked.

 

-It's not like that. - Rayla replied.


-How can you be sure? -Geren asked.

 

-You circle around yourself for year. You think it wouldn't have died a long time ago if it wasn't honest and true?- Callum asked.

 

-Maybe ... Maybe you're right ... But what should I do then?- Geren asked.

 

-I have an idea. But for that you owe me a few deniers for it.-Callum replied.


-They are coming back. I guess it'll be okay. You will see. Someday you will laugh about it.-Rayla said.

 

Geren walked over to the band playing a soft tune in the corner of the inn. Usually, Elven musicians traveled between elven settlements playing in taverns for the money of both the innkeeper and the guests of the inn. After exchanging a few sentences with them, the musicians started to play happy music. Geren and Callum returned to the table.

 

-Eleanor ... Listen ... Will you do me this honor and ... dance with me?- Geren asked, blushing. Rayla couldn't believe that Geren, bursting with confidence, could be so shy like that.

 

-But ... I don't know how to dance ...- said Eleanor.

 

-No worries. I'll teach you.- Geren said extending his hand to her. Eleanor then grabbed his hand and followed him onto the dance floor.

 

Callum sat down across the table in front of Rayla. Several pairs have already gathered on the dance floor. They started dancing. Step by step, pirouette after pirouette, those couples danced to the rhythm of the music. Among them, Eleanor and Geren danced more confidently.

 

-I really would count on more than dancing.- Rayla said.

 

-Well, it worked. I hope for a long time.- Callum said.

 

-It better do. I'd like to go on another date, but not as a support.-Rayla said.

 

-Huh? Usually elves go on a date with someone special. Who would you like with?- Callum asked.

 

-If I told you, I'd have to kill you.- She replied smiling.

 

-Really good price about knowing who Rayla from Silvergrove thinks about. -Callum replied with a smile.

 

-You can go on this date as a chaperone. But be warned, the truth may shock you.- Rayla replied continuing the carousel of laughter.

 

-Really? Anyway, I would like to go on a full date myself.- Callum replied.

 

-And you are mocking me. Then tell me Callum, with who would you go on a date?- Rayla asked.

 

-I will not say a word.- Callum said shaking his head.

 

-Come on Callum. After all, you tell me everything.- Rayla said. Indeed, she found it strange that Callum didn't tell her about a girl who would be so important to him.

 

-Okay. This is someone really important to me. I don't know if I would have survived the last 5 years of my life without her support. She is beautiful, clever, agile, fast. Needless to say, she is caring, funny and kind.- Callum said blushing.

 

Rayla wondered who it was. After all, this person was her rival. Jealousy, however, did not allow her to connect the facts with her own person.

 

She did a quick count of all the girls in Silvergrove and every girl she had heard from him, including Claudia who lived in Katolis, but he hadn't had contact for last 5 years. But none of them matched the description, or was close enough to him. Closest was she, Eleanor and Liadrin. She dismissed idea about herself thinking Callum would tell her. Liadrin remained on list, because Eleanor was 5 meters away occupied with Geren.

 

-Of course I won't know the name?- Rayla asked.

 

-Maybe someday. In any case, you won't find out now. Maybe you can tell me about that guy now. I'm curious about who you think you want to go on a date with ... - "and who am I to beat down." thought Callum.

 

-Well ... he's special to me in a some way. He's funny, nice, cute, a little handsome. He also knows everything about Magic like no other guy. I can tell you this much.- Rayla said.

 

Callum began to count all the people who had anything to do with magic. Eleanor was busy, he had to be careful of Geatan, Ibis was too old for her, like most of the elven mages who lived here. There were only a few illusionists in their age. However, Callum didn't know any of them. On them, he decided to be double-minded.

 

They sat in silence for a while, watching the dancing couples. Most of them were elves with a hundred years old, but they were doing quite well. However, there were also a few of younger couples, the youngest being Eleanor and Gerena, both 15 years old. They seemed happy. Eventually, when the music stopped and everyone returned to the tables, they were both still huddled in the middle of the dance floor, whispering in their ear. In end, the couple's lips touched in a kiss. Rayla and Callum looked at them with a smile. It looked like they saved their date.

 

-You have that feeling too, that you would like to be in their place with this special someone?- Callum asked.

 

-A little. But everything is ahead of us. We're just teenagers after all. What can we know about life?- Rayla said.

 

-Right? I mean ... It's a bit unreal ... I have a feeling that after all this is over ... You know. The whole peace deal ... And I'll come home ... Then I'll never meet her again. That when I leave, he'll find someone ... Anyway, I wouldn't have a chance. If someone like me - pulled a necklace out from under his shirt for a moment to show Rayla what it was - could count on someone like her to feel the same.-Callum said.

 

-Oh, Callum ....- Rayla sighed, sitting down next to him. She hugged him. - You gotta give it time. Who knows, maybe she'll see it different later ... Or maybe you're looking in wrong place? You know, there aren't few girls in Silvergrove. It doesn't have to be her ... There are sure to be a few girls that might like you. Don't worry, Callum. It will be fine.

 

-If you say so ...- Callum replied.


They returned by midnight as Runaan ordered. It was not unusual for the children to be outside until midnight, especially since the Moonshadow elves were connected to a moon whose influence was strong at night.

 

Callum was sitting in the kitchen when Rayla entered the room. She was already dressed in pajamas.

 

-You're not sleeping yet? It's soon dawn. You're training with Ibis tomorrow.- Rayla asked.

 

-I can't sleep ... I'm thinking about what you told me ... About that girl. I don't know how to go about telling her what I feel ... How do you think I should do that?- Callum asked. It was a brilliantly stupid move to ask Rayla how he should say how he felt about her.

 

-I don't know honestly. Maybe you could try to pass it on to her as a surprise? You know her better than I do, so you know better how to talk to her. Now good night.- Rayla said taking a glass of water and walking out of the kitchen.

 

-Good night ... Beautiful ...- Callum said.


Callum opened his eyes and sat down on the bed. He still felt the sweat on his back. In his dream Rayla was falling from the Storm Spire and Callum tried to save her.What a terrible dream.

 

It was almost noon, and soon training with Ibis. He ran out of the room, putting on his clothes on the way. He passed Rayla in the corridor on her way back from the bathroom in a bathrobe and a towel on her head.

 

-Hi Callum. Where are you running like that?- Rayla asked.

 

-I'm going to train with ibis. See you in the afternoon.- He turned over shoulder and ran outside.

 

-Callum Wait!- Rayla called after him, but he had already run outside. She knew he wouldn't be back until tonight. She wanted to run after him and pass it on to him, but she couldn't follow him in just her bathrobe.


-I thought you'd be late. However, you did not disappoint me.-Ibis said.

 

Callum ran to the clearing where he usually exercised with Ibis. He made it on timr. Ibis smiled because he did not have such a disciplined and diligent student all his life, and he lived for 140 years.

 

-I'm already. So what are we doing today?- Callum asked.

 

-Before we start the training, I wanted to tell you that your caretakers have agreed that you undergo training in the field of combat magic. After the incident from past month, they think you should know how to use magic to defend yourself and be able to do serious harm. I hope you are happy.- Ibis replied.

 

-Alright. So ... - before Callum could ask the question, Ibis used an Aspiro Spell that knocked Callum off his feet. Callum fell to the ground under the spell.

 

-We will practice combat combinations of spells known to you. The final task will be to Test the Eagles' Wings and create your own Prime Stone. For now, you will have a duel with me. A few.- Ibis said with a slight smile.

Chapter Text

Amaya lit a torch. If Viren had guessed right, the library book thief used these tunnels to move around and steal the castle.

 

She walked slowly, looking carefully from side to side. She held a torch and a shield in one hand and a sword in the other. Something passed in front of her so she stopped. Suddenly she felt something hit the ground behind her. She turned around, ready to deliver the sword slash. She was horrified to discover that Ellis, Ezran, and Aanya were standing behind her. At the last moment, she held the sword over Ellis's head. She felt a shiver run through her as Ellis closed her eyes and screamed.

 

She sheathed her sword and began to communicate in sign language.

 

Children, what are you doing here? You shouldn't be here!

 

Ezran translated the others then replied. Amaya read from the movement of his lips:

 

-We were curious what you are doing here. We followed you.

Perfect. Children in a place like this. Suddenly, Aanya pointed towards the tunnel behind Amaya and screamed out what seemed to sound like ...

 

-Behind you!

 

Amaya turned to see the enormous monstrosity. The creature was unnaturally muscular and was a head taller than the woman. There were shreds of clothing and black armor on it.Its face was deformed so much that it was only possible to tell where the eyes were and the mouth from which the rotten teeth protruded. In its hand, the creature held a scythe cut upright, which appeared to be small compared to the beast. Several bolts protruded from his back. This meant she found the creature that had attacked the Mergerberg garrison patrol a week ago.

 

The monster charged Amaya and waved its scythe. Amaya took a step forward and blocked the blow with her shield. The scythe ran across the shield with sparks. The monster, however, threw itself at her, trying to hit her with its huge paws. Amaya parried her blows and hit the monster's shoulder with her sword. The arm fell to the ground and a fountain of blood flew into the air. Then Amaya hit the sword between the beast's armor plates in the stomach and pushed. However, the monster didn't even seem to be concerned about it.

 

The monster hit Amaya with the other arm. The force of the impact caused Amaya to fly into the tunnel wall, destroying it. Amaya burst into one of the rooms in the castle. The monster went through the hole in the wall he had knocked out by throwing the General ready to finish her off. However, as he entered the hall, several bolts and one lightning bolt flew towards the monster. The monster shook and fell to the ground.

 

Amaya, despite the incredible pain she felt along the entire length of her back, looked back. The room she flew into was a watchtower above the castle gate. There were several soldiers inside with Gren and Viren. The soldiers reloaded their crossbows while Viren drew another rune while holding the Primal Stone he had once received from his father.

 

She wondered how she survived such an impact and was able to move. But she remembered the farewell gift - chain mail with the Sunfire Elf protection runes from Janai.

 

Then Amaya felt a trickle of liquid run down her temple, and a second later she passed out.


-Take the general to the hospital and inform the king. Call reinforcements from the barracks and put the garrison on alert. At once!- Gren ordered the three soldiers. They took Amaya to the hospital a few meters away and went to the barracks in the castle.

 

-There's something else in the tunnel. - Cahir, the medic of the Royal Guard said. All ten soldiers aimed at the opening in the wall. However, instead of a similar monster, children emerged from the hole. More specifically, Ezran, Aanya, and Ellis.

 

-Prince Ezran ... Princess Aanya, Ellis, what are you doing here?- Viren asked.

 

-We followed Aunt Amaya as she entered the tunnel. Where she is?- Ezran asked.

 

-She ... She went to the infirmary. For now, you have to go back to your parents. Really fast. Soren will escort you.- Viren said.

 

-Okay kids. Follow me.- Soren said leaving the room with the children.

 

As the door closed behind him, Gren approached the creature and ligtly nudged it with his foot, pointing his crossbow at it.

 

-What ... What is this?- Marcos asked, putting a bolt on his crossbow.

 

-I don't  know. He looks like a human ... But after treating with magic ... Lord Viren, you know magic, what do you think?- Gren asked.

 

-I don't even have to look at this thing to find out that someone was experimenting with the Dark Magic on people under our castle. When we talked to Amaya about the thief who uses the old tunnels, I didn't expect her to meet a mutant. This creature experienced an accelerated evolution. You all know what evolution is, right?- Viren asked.

 

A couple of people shook their heads. Suddenly they heard a grunt from the creature. Everyone watched in horror as the monster moved.

 

-What the hell?!- Gren shouted as he noticed the monster trying to get up.

 

The soldiers launched another bolts. The monster shook again and stopped moving. However, the soldiers fired more times. The monster looked more and more like hedgehog.

 

-Resistant to pain, bleeding and magic. It doesn't look good. We have to search the entire network of tunnels. I'm going there, you if you want to.- Viren said.

 

The soldiers reluctantly followed him. They left Marcos with Cahir to guard the beast.

 

-As I give the signal, the first row kneels and the second one bends. We shoot the monster with volleys.- Gren said before they entered the tunnel.

 

They walked slowly and carefully down the corridor. They searched the entire network of tunnels and halls, finding nothing but dust, but after an hour of wandering through the tunnels, they reached a room with alchemical apparatus and an exit to the cave under the castle. The tables were full of test tubes, kettles and ingredients. In the corner was a strange chair with handcuffs. There were old dusty books on the bookshelf, and on the wall hung a large banner with the symbol of the Salamander.

 

-Lord Viren, did you know about this?- Gren asked.

 

-No. I even regret it.- Viren said.

 

Suddenly there was a terrible roar behind them. A monster similar to the one they massacred earlier charged, battle hammer in hands, straight at them.

 

-Volley!- Gren shouted.

 

The soldiers fired a volley of bolts, but the bolts had no efect for the beast. With a single swing of the hammer, he killed one of the soldiers by breaking his ribs and crushing internal organs, and he threw his corpse at the corner on two other soldiers, including Viren. He then picked up Viren and began to choke him while pressing down his leg with the hammer handle. Gren, who had already reloaded, fired a bolt straight into the monster's neck. The beast suddenly fell dead, letting Viren fall to the ground.

 

Gren reloaded his crossbow and studied the monster. It seemed they took the monster away, which was good. However, they decided to make a few more volleys just to be sure.

 

-I owe you a favor, Gren.- said Viren, rising from the ground.

 

-A beer at the local inn is enough.- Gren said, reloading the crossbow. Even so, it was evident that his hands were shaking.

 

They did not have to check whether the beast's first victim was alive. At the sight of what was left of the soldier, one of them  turned away to not vomit on the other people.

 

-We need to take it to the infirmary and examine it. I've never seen things like this, and you just have to study it to know how to stop things like that.- Viren said.


-... The monster was incredibly strong and resistant to everything we have, from magic to weapons. He could see well in the dark. The only place that is vulnerable to damage is the spine line on the back and neck. A blow to this place can be deadly for the creature. In addition, the monster was close to death from kidney and liver failure.- Viren said. He had to report on the section on mutant bodies.

 

It was quiet in the throne room. Each of the council members pondered the Viren report. If there were more of these creatures, it could mean that the human kingdoms are threatened by these mutants and even the army that Katolis, strong both numerically and qualitatively, could be not enough to stop this things.

 

-So ... Someone with the use of Dark Magic created such monsters under our castle?- Harrow asked. The king still wasn't sure what to do.

 

-I'm afraid so. The apparatus comes from Neolandia, and this is where the best alchemy kits come from. In addition, there were also quite a few rare herbs from Duren, which are strong alchemical distillates. Whoever did it was a specialist who had the resources to do it. And it belonged to Salamander.- Viren replied.

 

-Are you sure? You know it could be anyone ... - Harrow tried to say, but Gren interrupted him.

 

-With all due respect, Your Majesty, however, this banner is proof to everything.-  Gren said, unfurling a flag bearing the symbol of the Salamander.

 

-Cultists with the symbol of Salamnder were exterminated four years ago by human forces and elven volunteers. These are probably the remains of them.- Neha, Queen Duren said.

 

-Or they were never fully exterminated. There is also an option that these outbursts were just a reminder that the Salamander was still operating.- Sarai took the floor.

 

-However, it is not necessary to notify the monarchs of other kingdoms and to sensitize them to trade in both strong alchemical distillates and apparatus. As for the current situation ... Is that all, Viren?- Harrow asked.

 

-We also found packages with the marks of the van Horst family. I suspect these merchants are trading with Salamander.- Viren replied.

 

-So we have a lead. Gren, take two dozen soldiers and wait for me outside the gate. We will pay a visit to the van Horsts. For the rest of the meeting, I think that's it. Thanks to everyone for your presence.- Harrow said.

 

Everyone left the room except for both royal couples. It was evident that both queens of Duren were not satisfied despite the fact that nothing happened to their daughter.

 

- Sorry for what happened. We didn't want to endanger your daughter.- Harrow said after a moment's silence.

 

-Unfortunately, I'm afraid it's her fault. We gave her too much freedom and she got into trouble. We'll take care of it. We have nothing against you. You didn't know yourself what you got under the castle.- Annika said.

 

-So what now?- Sarai asked.

 

-Aanya will probably be grounded. For her own good, she will be kept under lock as long as she will be responsible enough. As for the events in the dungeons of your castle ... We'll search our fortresses. Just in case.- Neha replied.

 

-We understand.-replied Harrow. Even though he did not approve of their parenting way, he knew that nothing would change.


Ezran and Ellis were sitting on a bench in the castle gardens. Aanya approached them with a really heavy heart.

 

-Ezran, Ellis. We can talk?- Aanya asked. The two children turned towards her. They noticed that she was crying.

 

Aanya just wanted to run away. She did not understand the decisions of the mothers. And she did not want to. Why should being shut off from the world be a good thing? It is not her fault that such events took place in the tunnels under the castle.

 

However, she had no choice. Her mothers wanted it for her own good, even at the cost of her limited freedom. All she could do was to nod.

 

But what hurt Aanya the most was the lack of contact with her friends. No games with Ezran and Ellis. Zero new contacts. Everything was breaking up. And it hurt her the most from the inside.

 

-Aanya ... Are you okay?- Ellis asked.

 

-I wanted to say goodbye. Forever. We may not meet again, so… -Aanya tried to say.

 

-What?! Why?- Ezran asked.

 

-The thing is ... Mothers want me to be safe ... So I'll be sitting in Duren where they think I'll be safe.- Aanya said.

 

-And we... Won't see you again?- Ellis asked.

 

-I don't know ... I just wanted to say goodbye. - she hugged two children. Ezran and Ellis both felt her tears. They hugged her too.


Amaya woke up in the infirmary. She was sitting in the shirt she kept under her armor. Suddenly, with horror, she remembered that not so long ago a powerful monster had punched a hole in the wall with her.

 

She sat down on the bed. When she made sure that she could move her legs and arms smoothly, she sighed away with relief. Although she still felt the pain, she was sure that she was not paralyzed. If it weren't for Janai's chain mail, she probably wouldn't have survived it.

 

After a while Sarai came, followed by Gren holding a tray of food. Immediately Amaya began to ask.

 

Where are the children? Are they okay?

 

-Everything with the kids is fine. Ellis was a little afraid that something happened to you, but Ezran helped her calm down, Sarai replied. Amaya breathed a sigh of relief at these words.

 

May I know what almost broke me by destroying the wall?

 

-Viren claims that this is some Mutant created by the use of Dark Magic. There was one more in the basement. He hit one of ours and he flew like a rag doll. However, according to Viren, these monsters can be easily killed by hitting the back of the neck.- Gren said pointing to his neck.

 

It's nice that someone finally explained it to me. Now it will be easier to hack them.

 

-How are you? Sarai asked.

 

Surprisingly I don't feel much pain. In some way everything is fine. Strange, I thought being a wall-destroying battering ram was more painful.

 

-Doctors can't believe you're not at least paralyzed. It was a miracle in our opinion.- Gren replied.

 

Amaya still knew thanks to who she was alive and reasonably well. The chain mail from Janai, a farewell gift after her return to Xadia, was still in use. This friendly gift was really useful. Amaya admitted that Janai was a really good friend. Suddenly, a question appeared in her head: Just a friend? After all, not even Gren and Sarai understood her as much as she did. She thought. She didn't notice how she blushed.

 

-Amaya? Are you okay? -Sarai asked, placing a hand on her shoulder. Amaya looked at her questioningly.

 

What would you do if I fell in love with an elf?

 

-I ... Wait what-? Sarai replied hesitantly. She thought she misinterpreted something. However, Amaya repeated the gestures and Sarai was sure that she had never imagined it.

 

-Well ... I don't know. Callum has the same, and I don't think that's anything wrong. If you feel good about it, that's fine with me. Anly your opinion counts. For me, you will be my dear little sister anyway.- Sarai replied patting her back. Amaya hissed in pain. However, she was not angry anyway.


- Boss, we really screwed up. First robbing those guys with the wolf's head medallions, then breaking that crystal from the Magister, and now this. We are up to our ears in a swamp.- Manfred complained.

 

-Shut up Manfred and pass me the other crystal. Maybe I can connect to the base.- Borch replied, plugging another crystal into the Megascope. Suddenly the room was filled with blinding light.

 

-AAAAAAAH!!! MY EYES!- Borch shouted.

 

After a while they looked in the mirror. On the other side was an elf resembling a night sky. He seemed both proud and arrogant.

 

-Welcome. I am Aaravos. How may I serve you?

Chapter Text

-... And then I say to this smart-ass from Del Bar, "This isn't my hand!" as in training with Captain Hamerfalt. And so I repeated over and over until he left me alone. But he didn't notice how I unhooked his sword from his belt.- Gren said. The soldiers around him burst out laughing.

 

They waited for the king at the gate. He had to say goodbye to the Duren delegation and put on his armor. It took a while, but they had time. They planned to visit the merchants in the night so that the crowd of soldiers in full armor would not attract attention. While waiting, the soldiers listened to Gren's stories from the time when he started working in the army.

 

Gren, Amaya, Corvus, and Sarai were among the longest serving soldiers to the crown. They were respected by both officers and lower rank soldiers, and only among high-ranking aristocratic commanders were they as salt in the eye by treating each soldier equally, regardless of whether he was from the countryside or the city, and whether he was noble born. The resentment intensified even more after Sarai became queen and the barons who were generals could not marry their daughters to the King, losing the chance to increase their influence. This affected Calluma, who was terrified by life in the castle and whose existence was a nightmare for the barons.

 

There were also veterans such as Vernon, Gren's right-hand man, but such veterans were mostly treated with distance due to their experience. Such soldiers were often traumatized after difficult experiences, but thanks to the support and respect of their younger colleagues, they continued their work. There were also many young and talented officers like Cahir who turned out to be geniuses of tactics.

 

-Commander Gren.- Vernon called. Gren departed from the crowd to Vernon.

 

Vernon was a skinny, seasoned veteran who was about 10 years older than Harrow. He was wearing an old vest under which he wore chain mail. He wore protectors on his pants and shoulders, and he wore a chaperon on his head, which distinguished him from other soldiers who preferred helmets. During the reign of Harrow's father, he commanded special forces supporting the current king of Neolandia, Arhling, in restoring power during the civil war and defending against the Elven invasion on the Katolis coast. During these events, his unit was wiped out, and he was the last survivor to be assigned to the Standing Battalion. When General Amaya Vernon took command, he was assigned as the deputy commander of the General's detachment.

 

-What's up Vernon?- Gren asked. Corvus was standing next to Vernon.

 

-Corvus is back. He made reconnaissance at the traders facility from the inside.- Vernon replied.

 

-There are at least 8 people inside. Outside, there are always 2 in front of the entrance, and 6 behind the warehouse. They are not heavily armed, mostly knives and clubs. They are probably inside on time of night. Besides, they do not expect an attack, they walk freely, fearing nothing. One had a brooch with the symbol of the Salamander on it.- Corvus replied.

 

-Well. Nevertheless, we must remain vigilant. We'll hit there after dark. Vernon, take half the crossbowmen and place them on the roof in front of the building. They will protect us as we break through. The other half will be guarding the back exit, aiming at whatever comes out of the back exit. Meanwhile, Cahir will lead the armed men ahead to simulate a larger attack and force the merchants to flee, which will be blocked by Vernon. Gren explained.

 

-This plan in case the negotiations fail?- Harrow asked. The king was standing behind them in full armor. He had a sword and shield at hand.

 

-Your Highness, with all due respect, but you should wear a helmet, not a crown. You will be the main target for enemy sharpshooters.- Gren protested.

 

-We go there mainly to talk. If the conflict escalates, we're going to need force. Let's make a plan for now. We have 27 people for a potentially 16 people. Nevertheless, we need to limit losses on both sides. For our side for obvious reasons, and for a hostiles, to question about Salamander further.- Harrow replied.


They waited in silence. Corvus and Gren were standing around the corner near the building. In the distance they could see Vernon and the six crossbowmen lurking near the back exit. The main forces were waiting around the corner.

 

The building they encircled had two floors. Building was standing in front of the street leading to the market square. However, it was lower than all the others buildings in the area and, in addition, its right wall adjoined the wall of the neighboring building, which housed a bank loyal to the crown. However, from the left wall there was a small street with no windows. Only at the back there was an exit, which made them sure that the people inside were trapped, unable to leave without encountering someone from the attackers. Crossbowmen lined up on the roof of the building opposite. Hidden on the roof watched the windows of the merchants' residence.

 

There was a full moon. Gren reloaded the crossbow while Corvus removed his mace from his belt.

 

-Heard the Moonshadow Elves only fight in the light of the full moon.- Corvus said.

 

-You can scare your children with this. Speaking of which, how do you do with Opel? Babies are demanding, I know from experience.- Gren asked.

 

- Honestly, our Sonya is an angel. He rarely gets up at night. She cries a little and is incredibly calm.- Corvus replied. Nevertheless, Gren knew how difficult parenting was, especially when it came to caring for a child one year old. Opeli and Corvus tried to be at work after all. They often took turns to look after their daughter.

 

-The fun starts when kid learns to walk. Once I got a heart attack when Oleg was trying to walk alone. I barely caught the little one when he fell.- Gren smiled.

 

-Yeah. However, it is far from there. Sonya is only two months and five days old, so she still has to go far.- Corvus replied.

 

-You are counting the days?- Gren asked.

 

-I'm happy with every day. Although, knowing life, before I notice this she will be chasing after the boys. And it was not so long ago, we waited for her with Opel ... - said Corvus.

 

-You got very sentimental like Amaya when someone mentions her old hairstyle.- Gren joked.

 

-Very funny. By the way, have you heard the rumors about Amaya?-Corvus asked.

 

-The ones that he's having an romance with the elf who was here four years ago? They were friends then. But now ... I honestly don't know. I think Amaya finally found something like "this one person".- Gren replied.

 

-She's close to settling down. She's caring for that girl from the Cursed Caldera. I won't say that I'm not happy about her happiness, but I have the impression that it seems ... Different, you know? After all ... Do elves also have feelings similar to ours?- Corvus asked.

 

-From what I've noticed, elves and humans are more alike than either side might believe. But I know one thing for sure - whatever General Amaya decides it is not our business to judge. Everyone deserves a quiet life after all ... - suddenly they heard screams.

 

-It begun. Vernon, we're going in!- Gren ordered.


Harrow and the two bodyguards who were going to talk to the merchants backed up behind the cover of the barrel cart that stood in front of the main entrance. The bolts whistled beside him. Harrow only lived because the shooter missed, making a light mark on his neck with the bolt. Whatever the case, it meant that the negotiations were not the merchant's goal.

 

The Guards with Cahir ran up to him using their shields. The crossbowmen on the roof also woke up. Suddenly a scream was heard and a figure in a dark suit fell out of one of the building's windows, holding his belly. The crossbow fell to the ground behind the figure.

 

-Your Highness!? Are you hurt!?- Cahir asked. The king touched the scratch on his neck. There was blood, but it's nothing serious.

 

-No time for that. We make a wall of shields and get inside the building. On the second floor, stay away from the windows. We don't want our shooters to mistake us for the enemy.- Harrow gaved orders. Suddenly they heard another scream. The shooters hit another opponent, but this time he did not fall out into the street like first one.

 

-On three ... One, two, THREE!- Harrow ordered. The "three" soldiers followed him, shielding themselves from enemy bolts with their shields. They reached the building without loss. Suddenly, one of the soldiers was hit in the thigh with a bolt and staggered and fell. The king stepped back and covered the soldier with his shield. Meanwhile, two other soldiers dragged the wounded aside. Another dead enemy fell out of the window.

 

Eventually they made it to the door. It took the soldiers a moment to crack open the wooden door with axes. They were close to going inside, but Harrow made a gesture of his hand to stop them.

 

With another gesture, he ordered them to breach the door with their shields. The soldiers obeyed. Due to the fact that they had shields in front of them, they avoided a volley of bolts that would probably punch holes in their comrades with axes. The bandits did not expect a squad with shields, and before they managed to grab some other weapons or reload the crossbow, the armed men with Harrow burst into the corridor. Cahir hit one of his opponents in the stomach with his mace, while the next was disarmed with a blow from the hilt of the King's sword. The last two tried to escape through the back door at the end of the long corridor, but a volley of bolts greeted them opening the door. Vernon, Corvus, and Gren entered the building.

 

-We caught three, we shot down two when they tried to climb the nearby roof with a ladder. With these ten here, what is the situation with you, Your Majesty?- Vernon asked.

 

-The sharpshooters took three from the windows. There were just over three left upstairs and van Horst himself.- Harrow replied.

 

Suddenly, another man emerged from the door on the left. He wore no shirt and but pendant with the symbol of a salamander around his neck. He looked as if he had just got up.

 

-What the ... - surprised, he tried to answer looking at the people gathered in the armed room. Suddenly he tried to pronounce a spell in Dark Arts. - Tel ymene ei ... AAAAAAH!- He screamed suddenly in pain as a dagger landed in his shoulder. Before anyone could react, Vernon pushed mage on the ground with his arm twisted upwards.

 

-The whole trick is not to let them finish the spell. Now, somebody give me some cloth to plug that bastard mouth. And hell, search the other rooms! -Vernon replied, pressing the mage's head with his shoe. Cahir gave Vernon a cloth that Vernon had gagged the magician. Meanwhile, the rest of them swept through the rooms like a hurricane. They pulled out another three sleepy men with salamander marks.

 

At the same time, Harrow and Gren cleaned the floors. There they found a mass of weapons, armor, and alchemical herbs and distillates from Duren. There were also some Neolandian alchemy equipment. In addition to these finds, they found a mass of false coins and the goods that van Horst was actually supposed to trade - furs, silk and other fabrics. A white powder with a strange odor attracted their attention. The merchant seemed to be earning extra money by trading arms and drugs, not to mention trading with Slamander.

 

On the top floor they captured the merchant - Velrad van Horst and two other bodyguards who, knowing that they had no option to escape, gave up. A lot of papers and books were confiscated. The basement remained uncleared.

 

-Does anybody have the impression that what we find there will be a really unpleasant surprise? - Ves joked, Ves was for Vernon like a daughter. She was about Claudia's age. They were both friends.

 

-Don't talk so much. Aim at the door. Whatever  pops up and wants to kill, you have to shoot it.- Vernon replied harshly. They opened the door and walked slowly inside. Inside, they found a laboratory similar to the one under the castle.

 

-It's too quiet here ...- Corvus replied.

 

Suddenly Vernon turned around and pushed Harrow. At the same time, a spear passed through the soldier. Trying to catch his breath, Vernon fell to the ground.

 

Behind them stood a mutant similar to those in the castle. Before the creature took the spear out of the soldier, the other soldiers simply massacred him, sending the monster a barrage of bolts and hits. When the monster fell dead, they focused on the wounded.

 

-Vernon hold on, the medic is on his way.- Harrow replied, tampering with his own robe.

 

- Take it easy Vernon, you got out from worse situations ... You'll pick yourself up after that.- Gren also tried to stop the hemorrhage.

 

-I beg you, don't leave us, Vernon!- Ves pleaded with tears in her eyes.

 

Vernon just smiled and coughed. Blood leaked from his mouth.

 

-I did ... What I could ... For this kingdom ... I leave the rest to you ... I have one request ... Come to my ... Funeral ...- Vernon's last word was his last breath. After that, Vernon stopped moving. He died serving his kingdom like a true patriot.


-Gren, is something wrong?- Helen asked. Gren looked at his wife. She was waiting for him in a nightgown and coat. She was standing in the corridor waiting for him.

 

Without a word, Gren walked over to her and hugged her. She realized that someone was dead. He started to cry.

 

-Vernon ... He ...- his voice began to break.

 

Vernon was a mentor to him. He was almost important for Sarai, Corvus, and Amaya, for he had trained them all after all. He taught them tactics, combat and how to survive in the wild. He didn't cared if Amaya  was deaf or Corvus was an orphan from the street when he trained them. It was thanks to him that they were where they were, becoming the most important officers in the Katolis army.

 

-It's alright ... He's in a better place ...- Helen replied. She wanted to calm him down. However, the only thing that could calm him down at the moment was the blood of the people who were responsible for creating the mutant that killed him.


-General asks for your boss.- Gren replied.

 

The mage just smiled. He was all bruised and his nose was dripping blood. Despite this, they have not yet proceeded to further torture.

 

-They call him the dog ... And they say he sleeps with your ...- the magician tried to resist. Then Gren slapped him in the face with all his strengt.

 

-Shall we move on to plucking the nails or will you decide to speak out?- Gren asked.

 

He sincerely wanted to strangle the bastard. Under the law drug trafficking, organized crime, assault and attempted regicide were crimes punishable by beheading at best. In the extreme, the mage had to be broken by the wheel, which was rarely used under King Harrow rule. According to Green, he deserved such a punishment. But Amaya tried to calm down Gren.

 

Gren, calm down, we need him alive.

 

-Yes, General, I think a prisoner will like being drowned. After all, a sludge like him must really like water.- Gren replied, hitting the mage in the face. The mage spat his tooth out and laughed. Amaya looked at him in horror. Usually she was the one who needed to calm down. This time, however, Gren released all the brakes.

 

GREN, hell, calm down. What are you doing?

 

Gren also responded in sign language.

 

Amaya, you know very well we won't make him talk otherwise. Anyway, for what he created, we should burn it at the stake.

 

Amaya continued.

 

He didn't kill Vernon, but the mutant.

 

Gren replied furiously.

 

And what? I have to wait until he creates another one to kill my Oleg or Helen? Either Ellis and Ezran or Callum? How about Harrow of Sarai? A bastard like him shouldn't be alive.

 

The quarrel was interrupted by the sound of the lock opening. The cell door opened. Viren entered.

 

-I am back. I have what will make him talk.- Viren said. He had a purse with coins in his hand. He walked over and showed one of the coins to the mage. Horror mixed with disgust appeared on the mage face. He moved away from the coin. Viren smiled.

 

-I see you know what it is. I've never used these coins ... But it's time to change that.- Viren grinned.

 

-No, No ... I'll talk. I will talk! Just take it away. Take it away!- The mage pleaded.

 

Amaya asked in surprise sign language.

 

You scared him with inflation? What's with this coin?

 

- I'll explain later. Talk. Who is your boss?- Viren asked the prisoner.

 

-They called him Magister, but we haven't had contact with him for a year. We were recently in command of van Horst, but he doesn't know the big fish at the top. In his old place, through the "magic mirror" we met some Aaravos or whatever the guy is called. We made a deal with him. He said he would help us by teaching some of us Magic in return for a favor. It was about that Prince Callum in Xadia. We were supposed to send four groups and find him. They should be crossing the border now.- said the Mage.

 

-What do you want with Prince Callum?- Viren asked.

 

-His death, of course ...-replied the mage. Amaya felt a shudder run through her at these words. She left as soon as possible to write a letter to Storm Spire to warn the elves.

 

-You will tell me about the numbers and equipment of these groups. Only with details if possible.- Gren smiled, coming closer to the prisoner again.


-The key to balance is the wind flow. If this gives you double the strength, so do to your spells.- Ibis said.

 

He and Callum meditated on a branch in the forest. It was already dark. The moon shone brightly on the clearing below them. Nothing interrupted the silence that reigned in the forest. It's been a good eight months since the fight. During this time, Ibis made Callum really work out his muscles. He also began to walk in a vest and sleeveless shirt that gave him advantage him in terms of magic. Some of Silvergrove's girls started looking after him, but he didn't have time for them, not to mention he was still thinking about one particular girl.

 

It often happened that he was not at home all day or even two. Sometimes he was returning  all battered or so tired that he fell asleep in his clothes. Without the support of Ethari, Runaan and Rayla, the boy would not really  managed this training.

 

-You hear these voices and sounds too?- Callum asked, opening his eyes. Ibis was pleased but also worried. He was pleased that his student was able to connect with the wind and listen to the sounds it brings. But what he heard in the wind bothered him.

 

A group of about 25 heavily armed men was walking towards Silvergrove. For them it was a death wish, after all, today it was a full moon, so the town guards together with the Assassins could kill them in few seconds. However, humans were forbidden to stay in this part of the continent and their presence here could endanger Callum politicaly. Ibis knew that if Callum was to be recognized as a friend, he would have to fight humans. Besides, it would be a good test for him...

 

-I heard. They have no friendly intentions. However, they don't expect two mages to cross their path. You will show them what you have learned.- Ibis said. They came down from the tree and broke the necklaces every elf living in Silvergrove received in case of an emergency. They casted a spell to change their appearance into bushes and went to meet the group.

Chapter Text

Manfred knew the expedition was failure from the start. After all, how were they going to find a human prince in the land of the Elves? Not to mention surviving the threats that lurked around them.

 

The first group was massacred by a huge golden dragon. Not even shoes were left from them. The monster didn't even hesitate, burning all of them alive.

 

The second group was unlucky enough to run into the Sunfire Elves who attacked them as they tried to cross the river. Half of the people drowned in the river and survivors were captured by the elves.

 

The third group also had contact with the elves, but in this case the elves attcked the group with bows hiding among the trees. The elves took no prisoners and slaughtered the group to the last.

 

Now their fourth group met two elven mages who decided to practice their spells on them.

 

It started when they came out to the middle of a clearing in the forest. Suddenly a strong wind blew away the whole group. Before they could get up, two elves appeared out of nowhere and began throwing lightning bolts, pieces of ice and everything that their spells allowed  them for left and right. Suddenly a fog appeared out of nowhere in which two figures loomed, which repeatedly struck the fleeing people with lightning. Before the group leader could get them to retreat, there were only seven of them.

 

Now they were escaping to the river near which they camped the day before. When they reached the river, they met one of the mages. He seemed to be no more than 17 years old. He had brown hair and cream skin. What made him different from them were the horns, tattoos on his face, pointy ears and four fingers.

 

-I give you a choice. You will return to your land and surrender to the army of Katolis or you will be buried here.- the boy said.

 

Of course they tried to attack him.

 

Out of nowhere, a stick covered with ice appeared in the kid's hands. He drew spells with one hand and hit them with a stick with the other. They tried to block the spells with shields, but it was impossible because they destroyed shield after shield. The kid circled between them, beating each of them.

 

Eventually, however, Manfred was close enough to the kid to slash him with a sword on the back. The mage, however, dodged, using another spell to push everyone else away. Then he broke his stick and used another spell that pushed the mass of ice debris towards the humans. The shards shredded their clothes and plunged deep into the bodies of the victims, who gaved an agonizing screams.

 

Then Manfred regretted volunteering for this mission. He leaned against the tree looking at the boy. He looked at the dying people in horror. Manfred realized the kid killed someone for the first time. In the end, he even felt sorry for him. But what choice did they give him? Either they or him. Moments later he passed out and bled out.


-Callum was a brilliant combination of spells. Callum? Hey Callum, can you hear me?- Ibis walked over to him.

 

Callum stood in front of the dead bodies with horror in his eyes. Suddenly he fell to his knees. Ibis quickly walked over to him. He wasn't hurt after all. However, something happened.

 

-Ibis ... What have I done ...?- Callum replied after a moment.

 

-You had to defend yourself. You know it's probably the same group that was supposed to find and kill you. If it weren't for us, they could hurt someone. You know you did what was required.- Ibis said, putting a hand on his shoulder.

 

Callum, however, seemed bad. After all, who is content with killing their kind?


Rayla knew that effective Assassin will kill without hesitation. That it's her job. Still, she had doubts. After all, what was glorious in killing unsuspecting humans?

 

A group of humans was really unlucky enough to come across Runaan and his group of Assassins in training. They were supposed to practice archery, but suddenly a fight broke out. There were only a few wounded among the Elves, but a whole group of humans were killed in the attack.

 

Rayla killed three using bow. Even though she knew why they were here, it was still hard for her to say without a burden on her heart that she had killed.

 

After returning to Silvergrove, everyone went home. Runaan and Rayla walked along the path in silence. Runaan looked at Rayla. These were her first kills as an Assassin. The night before, she couldn't sleep, and she hadn't eaten anything since this morning. He decided to try to calm her down.

 

-I know that the first victims are the hardest to survive. You did great, I'm proud of you.- Runaan said.

 

-Runaan ... I don't feel good about it. About what happened in the forest.- Rayla said.

 

- It will pass over time. Remember, however, that they would not hesitate to hurt you. You protected yourself and your loved ones. We both know these people did not come to camp in our forest.- Runaan said.

 

Rayla, however, was not convinced she had done the right thing. She could disarm them, make them surrender. And now she was a murderer. She killed humans like Callum. He will probably be afraid of her, he will hate her. Various terrible visions of his reaction to what she did terrified her. Busy with her thoughts, she didn't notice when they got home.

 

In front of their house, they met Ibis who looked worried.

 

-Hello, Ibis. Something happened?- Runaan asked.

 

-Greetings Runnaan. I'm afraid so. Me and Callum came across a group of people by the river. Callum is alive and well ... Buthe had to kill some of them in self defense. He didn't say a word since then.- Ibis said.

 

-I understand. Rayla, can you leave us alone for a while?- Runaan asked.

 

Rayla nodded and stepped inside. She put all her luggage and bag in the doorway. Ethari was probably in the workhouse downstairs. Rayla went to the kitchen where she found Callum sitting at the table. The boy stared blindly at the table top. She understood what he was going through. She walked over to him and just hugged him from behind. Callum realized who it was and got up to turn around.

 

-Hey ... How was training?- Callum asked uncertainly.

 

-Okay ... Just ... A group of humans attacked us. Nothing happened to anyone on our side ... But they ... You know ... I had to... three of them.- Rayla said. Callum understood what happened. However, instead of pulling away from her as Rayla predicted, he hugged her tighter.

 

-It's alright... Everything's gonna be okay. They are gone. I also ... - said Callum.

 

-Ibis said what happened. You did what you had to.- Rayla interrupted him. They both stood there in silence. Rayla now noticed that Callum was about half of a head taller than her. Over the past seven months, they have been busy with their own business to look closer on each other. She felt strangely small with him, but also safe.

 

-Rayla?- Callum asked breaking the silence.

 

-Yes?- she replied.

 

-I'm glad you're okay.- Callum said. He gathered up all the courage he had and did something that he had been thinking about for the good two years - he kissed Rayla on the cheek.

 

They were both red like Callum's scarf. However, it did not bother them. After a while, however, they began to stare at each other awkwardly. Callum stepped back.

 

-I'm sorry ... I just wanted ... So friendly just ...- Callum began to explain.

 

-It is okay. Really, nothing happened .- Rayla replied. But inside, it felt really strange.

 

She didn't understand why he would care about her after what she had done. After all, she killed other humans, just like him. He should be afraid of her, hate her. However, he was still affectionate towards her. It didn't bother her. What mattered was that nothing had changed for her. She felt her heart speed up again. She was sure then that she loved that stupid human.


Rayla and Callum needed a week of break. The exercises were really intense and after the recent events they had to simply rest. During this time, they spent time together walking around the neighborhood and watching what Rayla read from her parents' book in nearby forest. After a few days (to Ethari and Runaan's relief), their behavior returned to normal.

 

-Do you ever think about what happened? I mean from a week ago ...- Rayla asked him.

 

They sat on the branch of a giant tree watching the sunset. There was something charming about it, she thought. Rayla felt good each time watching it. However, there was one condition - she had to watch the sunset with Callum.

 

-Honestly I don't. It happened and that's it. We can't do anything about it. Do ... are you still having trouble sleeping?- Callum asked.

 

-No ... just...you know ... You seem thinking about something.- Rayla replied hugging her knees.

 

-It's no big deal. I just think… -Callum said, looking at the sunset.

 

-About what?- Rayla asked.

 

-I just wonder ... If I hadn't hid in the cart then when my parents were in Xadia, would we ever meet? I mean ... You see ... If I had stayed at home, we could live on the edge of the world unaware of our existence. We might never get to know each other. How much would our life change? For the better? Worse? We could also meet in other circumstances, for example if we had to go on a mission to save the Dragon Prince and stop Xadia and the human Kingdoms from war. Just wondering ... - Callum said, hoping that through his thoughts Rayla would not think he was weird. However, she smiled.

 

-Hmmmm ... I think we'd meet someday after all. Though probably not on such a mission. Who knows, maybe I would have to chase you all over Katolis Castle as a target to kill?- Rayla asked. Callum smiled.

 

-Why do I feel you would enjoy it?- Callum asked.

 

-I wish it were you than some pompous prince in the human kingdom. You are only one in your kind. -Rayla replied.

 

-And that's why I have guaranteed this fun? Are you gonna try to kill me? What a death ... - "by the hand of the most beautiful angel of death," Callum added in his mind. The joke came out anyway, and Rayla laughed.

 

-I know a better way to have fun than running after you around the castle. Come with me.- Rayla replied going down to the leaf.

 

Callum went down to the leaf behind her. The leaf was enormous and could hold up to four people. After Callum climbed onto the leaf, Rayla began cutting the leaf from the tree.

 

-Rayla ... Is it safe?- Callum asked.

 

- As long as you hold on tight.- Rayla replied. At that moment the leaf fell off and began to fall off. Callum grabbed Rayla's hand to get her balance. She smiled.

 

The leaf swirled and after a while it landed on the ground. Callum stepped off the leaf and helped Rayla down. They were still holding hands. Callum suddenly removed his hand.

 

-I ... I'm sorry ... It was by accident ...- Callum said blushing.

 

-It's alright. It was a.. bumpy ride ...- Rayla said. She also blushed.


It started to rain as they returned home. The rain was falling heavily, and in an instant they were both wet\. While Callum didn't even seem to feel cold and damp, and even seemed to be happier and more excited, Rayla was in no way pleased with the fact that she had to come back in the rain. Her mood had deteriorated so much, and only Callum's presence kept her from whining about all things that were alive. After a while, she also began to sneeze and sniffle.

 

-How...the... Hell ... You... are... Not .... cold ...- Rayla asked, shaking.

 

-Long training with Ibis. Apparently, at a later stage of the training, resistance to cold is needed. Now I hardly feel it.- Callum replied.

 

Rayla nodded without conviction. She started shaking. Callum knew she was not used to this kind of weather. He took off his scarf and tied it around her neck. He also took off his hooded shirt and handed it over to Rayla.

 

-You didn't have to ...- Rayla said hiding her head under the hood.

 

-At this moment, I do not accept returns. Anyway, you will feel warmer in it. You can probably spare your pride for a while, right?- Callum replied. Rayla did not want to argue with him and quietly walked with him to Silvergrove.


After "explaining" to Callum and Rayla that dating in such weather was a bad idea, Runaan decided to look into the guest room anyway. There, Callum and Rayla were sitting on the couch. She was sleeping on his left shoulder, holding his hand while on also sleeping Callum's knee was his sketchbook with an unfinished drawing of a sleeping Rayla.

 

Runaan picked up the sketchbook in his hand. He was curious what his ward could draw. What did not surprise him at all, more than half of the drawings showed Rayla, mostly as she is sleeping or doing some activity. There were also a lot of him and Ethari. A little less their friends. In recent drawings, however, he found a drawing that did not quite fit here.

 

A drawing of a man with long hair in a quilted jacket. He had a sword in his hand and a medallion with a wolf's head around his neck. He had no doubt that this character must have came from his imagination. He doubted that Callum would meet any human other than those who had hunted him recently in the last 5 years.

 

Runaan looked at Callum. He hadn't even noticed when Callum had grown like this. Not so long ago, he was a scared little boy afraid to breathe in their presence. And now? One of the most powerful mages ever to walk the world. Runaan felt that he and Ethari had done a great job in raising him.

 

His eyes went to Rayla. She also grew and it was safe to say that she drew her beauty from her mother. Here, too, Runaan and Ethari have proven themselves as parents. After a while he looked at them both. They acted like a couple and they looked like that. Runaan wondered if they had decided not to tell them about their relationship.

 

He decided to cover the two of them with a blanket. He slowly returned to his room and lay down next to Ethari.

Chapter Text

Callum was awakened by a sneezing. He looked around. Only then did he remember that Rayla had fallen asleep on his shoulder. He looked at her, ignoring the fact that he woke up with her covered with a blanket he didn't remember touching yesterday.

 

Rayla was all pale though her nose was all red. She seemed tired though she slept more than he did. Callum felt as she was shaking. He touched her forehead, which was incredibly hot.

 

-Uhhh ... how cold ...-Rayla groaned, curling up to him.

 

Callum knew what to do. He picked her up and carried her to her room where he laid her on the bed. He covered her with two blankets up to the neck.

 

-Callum ... I'm cold ...- Rayla murmured.

 

-I know. You must have caught a cold. Don't worry, I'll take care of you.- Callum said.

 

-I told you ... That you are lovely how do you care?- Rayla looked at him with glassy eyes.

 

-You didn't tell me that. And you will only say that when you recover. Rest for now, I'll make an infusion of Moonshadow herbs, it'll get you on your feet.- Callum replied. He left her room for a moment, then returned with an infusion of herbs in a glass and a bowl of cold water to beat the temperature down.

 

-You need to drink this.- Callum said helping her to get up.

 

-If you say so handsome ...- Rayla muttered. Callum blushed, but he didn't hope she was really thinking that. She was simply raving because of fever. She drank the cup of herbs and then winced as if she had eaten a handful of grass.

 

-Bleh ...- she replied, lying on her back again.

 

-I know, this have a bad taste, but it won't change anything. I could always try to make an ointment out of them, but I would have to put it on a place that you would kill me for touching.- Callum replied with an innocent joke.

 

-You always care ... You are charming ...- Rayla replied. Callum didn't expect a joke from her. What a cold was doing to her started to scare him.

 

He soaked a cloth and held it to her head to cool down the temperature.

 

-Callum ...You have no idea how I love you ...- Rayla muttered. Callum blushed.

 

-W-what?- he replied surprised.

 

-I love ...- Rayla muttered. She sneezed suddenly.

 

-Rayla, you have a cold. You are raving because of it.- Callum replied. He tried to think rationally, even though it hurt him.

 

-I can both have a cold and be in love ...- Rayla muttered.

 

-Yes, and I'm a Startouch Dragon.- Callum replied. He continued to lower her temperature until it seemed Rayla was now stable. He touched her forehead, which was already cooler. During this time, Rayla fell asleep. Callum suddenly heard someone open the door. He looked out into the corridor and saw Ethari with Runaan.

 

-Where were you? - He asked.

 

-We have arranged the delivery of materials for the workhouse. Are you up already?- Ethari asked.

 

-Just me. Rayla caught a cold and had a fever, but I got the situation under control. I'm gonna go pick some herbs and mushrooms for the soup, okay?- Callum asked.

 

-Deal. Come back before noon.- Runaan said.


Callum had been picking mushrooms for a good two hours when he found traces. They belonged to an elf who simply made no effort to hide. This disturbed Callum, who knew that something might have happened while the elf was not trying to hide around Silvergrove. He followed these footprints and saw an elf who had left marks. The person he met made him shudder.

 

-Well well, hello. Long time no see, huh?- Feren replied. He was wearing the Wolf skin. He was holding a bundle in his hands. He seemed even more calm than usual.

 

-Stand where you are, or I'll make you leaky like a sponge.- Callum replied drawing the rune of the Fulminis spell.

 

-Calm down. I'm not going to take revenge. Don't cast a spell at least because of the little one.- Feren replied. The bundle purred and moved. There was a small Shadow Paw in the bundle.

 

-Is that ... a little Shadow Paw?- Callum asked.

 

-Yeah. His mother was killed by the Wolves. There is no one else for him. I have no bad intentions.- Feren replied. Callum only stepped back.

 

-How can I be sure that you won't throw the pet right away and decide to murder me?- Callum asked.

 

-Our mutual friend, Khan, once told you that revenge is a vicious circle.- Feren replied stroking the animal in his arms.

 

Callum straightened. He had never told anyone about Khan, and Feren knew about him. Callum felt that he should let go after all.

 

-And what did he want from you?- Callum asked.

 

-To find a way of life. And I found it. I was stupid and naive to think that I would violently regain what I had lost after my mother left. But then ... Khan helped me. He showed me a path other than violence. You don't have to forgive or trust me. Just live and let others live.

 

Callum reluctantly blurred the runes. Feren, however, contrary to his expectations, sat down on the ground and scratched the little animal behind the ear. The Paw purred and pressed against Feren.

 

-What happened to you after you were Ghosted?- Callum asked.

 

-Currently, I am headed for the Storm Spire. I have a letter of recommendation for appointment to the Dragon Guard. I lived in Lux Aurea for most of my exile.- he replied.

 

-You will be accepted into the Dragon Guard after what happened in Silvergrove?- Callum asked.

 

-I have a letter of recommendation from my mother and the Sunfire Elf queen so I hope so .There is a chance. Plus I don't have emotional attacks like I used to. You could say that a certain person helped me to calm down along with Khan. What are you doing here by the way?- Feren replied.

 

-I pick herbs and mushrooms for soup. I'll go in my direction.- Callum replied turning back to the path.

 

-Wait. Can't you take care of that Shadow Paw? I can't take him with me. He needs a home, and you know he can't survive on his own in the wild. -Feren asked. Callum hesitated but nodded.

 

Feren handed him the Paw. This one wanted to jump to Feren's hands, but Feren gestured for him to stay.

 

-He likes being scratched behind the ear. Thanks for taking him. I'll be on my way to my goal. And sorry for that in front of the inn. Goodbye Callum.- Feren said. After that, the elf started walking towards his direction. Callum also started walking towards his direction. He looked back a moment later on the place where he had met Feren. The figure of the elf loomed between the trees, heading further towards the Storm Spire.


-Here, Callum. Where did you get this little one from?- Maran asked, handing him the fish. Little Shadow Paw sat in his backpack and gazed greedily at the fish that Callum was placing next to him.

 

The market in Silvergrove was a quiet place. Despite the presence of many Elves, it seemed to be quiet here. The sellers did not exhort and advertise their products as people used to. They focused on fair market exchanges rather than greedily seeking to deepen their capitals.

 

-I found him in the woods alone. I think the Wolves killed mother. I bet he prefers the fish than fruit and vegetables.- Callum replied.

 

-I bet he do. Stay good kid. And say hello to Ethari with Runaan.- Maran replied.

 

Callum moved through the market. He passed stalls selling bread, wine, barrels, jewelry, fruit, vegetables, Sunfire smithy products, herbs from Earthblood gardens, Skywing Books or magical artifacts. It was at the last stalls that Callum stopped.

 

-Hello, Callum. What are you looking for?- Cirdan asked.

 

-Something connected to the Arcanum of the Moon. As part of my studies, Ibis asked me to create a Prime Stone. I just need a source of power to create a stone.- Callum said.

 

-I have something just right. This is Lunar Opal. Legends say that in well-crafted jewelry can make those who wear it fall in love with the jewelry maker. Of course, this is only a legend, but you know how it is with these. It costs 300 denars.- Cirdan said, taking out the opal.

 

-Sure, hold on.- Callum replied putting the purse with coins on the table.

 

Cirdan counted all the coins and smiled.

 

-You gave three too many. Here, your rest. -the Elf replied.

 

-Thanks ...- Suddenly Callum heard a loud burp from his backpack. He looked inside to see the skeleton of one of the fish and a little happy Shadow Paw.

 

- Runaan and Ethari finally let you take your own mount?- Cirdan asked.

 

-I haven't asked them yet. I found this little one in the forest alone. He couldn't survive on his own, so I took him. I hope they will let him. He's a cute.- Callum replied scratching the little one behind the ear.

 

-Wait until he grows up. Then he won't be so cute anymore. You can always leave it for breeding.- Cirdan replied.

 

-I hope I don't have to. Thanks again. Goodbye-. Callum replied leaving the stand. He headed home.

 

-Hey, Callum!- Eleanor waved at him. Her father often left her to sell the goods he produced. She had a keen eye for business.

 

-Hey. How's the business going?- Callum asked.

 

-Slowly forward. There may not be such a need for trinkets as during the winter and spring solstices, but jewelry is highly priced.-  replied Eleanor leaning against the counter.

 

-Sure. Listen, do you remember what we talked about last week?- Callum asked.

 

-I remember. I tried to get Barris away, but she'll try to get you again. You caught her eye.- Eleanor replied.

 

-Thanks for your help anyway.- Callum replied.

 

-Nothing big. I owe you both this for saving my date with Geren.- Eleanor replied.

 

-Both? Callum asked.

 

-Well ... you and Rayla. After all, you guys are a couple, right?- Eleanor asked.

 

-We ... We are not a couple .- Callum replied. It was as if someone had slapped him on the cheek with full strength. The awareness that even if he tried, it would be nothing, because Rayla would not love him anyway, was stopping his need to live.

 

-Oh ... Got it. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to… -Eleanor began to back away.

 

-Nothing happened, let's change the subject.- Callum replied.

 

Callum spoke to Eleanor for a moment about the rumors circulating around Silvergrove. He learned that an edict was signed that  was prohibiting the practice of Dark Magic in Katolis and Duren. Callum was glad to know that his parents are safe after all and try to cut off from the filth that was Dark Magic. However, he was less pleased with the outbreak of another rebellion of fanatics demanding the legalization of the practice of Dark Magic. The rebellion, however, was small and Katolis's forces were about to give them a battle. After this conversation, he headed home.


Rayla was awakened by a strange feeling of touch on her hand. She smiled.

 

-Callum, one more moment please ...- she replied, turning her head to the other side. Suddenly she felt something licking her face. Surprised, she opened her eyes to see the little Shadow Paw.

 

The creature, apparently overjoyed that he had managed to wake her up, tried to help her sit up. Rayla was surprised and sat down. She looked back and saw that she was in her room. She remembered falling asleep on Callum's shoulder in the guest room. It was evening already, and her stomach was rumbling deeply. She slept all day?

 

-Hello little onr. How did you get here?- Rayla asked. The animal, however, jumped on her lap, and it curled up into a ball and lay down. Rayla stroked the Paw and he purred happily.

 

-You're just cute. - she said.

 

-Runaan like him too. You don't even realize how he begged Ethari to let us keep him.- Callum replied. He entered the room with a bowl of soup and a cup of Moon Raspberry juice.

 

-O ... Hello, Callum. Will you tell me how I got here? And where does this Shadow Paw come from? -Rayla asked.

 

-You woke up in the morning with a fever. I carried you here and gave you medication. It wasn't bad, but you drifted away completely and raved about things. Then I went to buy a few things in the city and gather ingredients for soup in the forest. This is how I met Sapphire. His mother was probably killed by the Wolves. I couldn't leave him alone.- Callum replied.

 

-You're a lovely guy, do you know that?- Rayla asked.

 

-It seems that when you were raving, you mentioned it. By the way, I made mushroom soup. You must be hungry.- Callum replied, giving her a bowl of soup.

 

Rayla had to admit that he even had a good soup. But she felt that it still wasn't it. Both Callum and Runaan, from whom Callum learned to cook, made dishes appropriately good, but she and Ethari ruled the kitchen as masters of cooking. Although the soup came out better than usual, she would have used other spices that would significantly improve the taste. Nevertheless, she decided to praise him.

 

-It came out fine. Thanks Callum. How long have I been off?- she asked, eating her soup.

 

-Half morning. You rested all day. You are sitting here tomorrow too, because you have to cure yourself to the end.- Callum replied.

 

-You are charming, despite the fact that you will probably sit here and bore me to death.- Rayla replied.

 

-That was also what you said when you were raving.- Callum replied.

 

-Seriously? What else did I say while I had fever?- Rayla asked. Callum blushed at that question.

 

-Are you sure? What you said might be a little ... Awkward to listen to.- he said uncertainly. There was a strange longing in his eyes.

 

-It can't be that bad.- Rayla replied. After all, what could she say?

 

-Alright. I'm dead serious now, and I'm not going to make fun of you. You called me handsome, said you love me so much and that you can be sick and in love at the same time.- Callum replied. Memories were just beginning to come back to Rayla, and she remembered that she did say so. She blushed, not knowing what to do: tell him she was really serious? Turn it into a joke? Pretend not to believe him?

 

-Callum ... I ...- she tried to answer, but Callum interrupted her.

 

-Nothing happened. I know you didn't mean it. You didn't control what you said and it just came out. Everything is fine in our friendship.- Callum replied with a bit of bitterness. Rayla suddenly felt bad. However, he didn't actually felt it like her. She felt her heart just start breaking from the inside.

 

-Okay ... what you say.- Rayla replied trying not to show him any emotions.

 

-Alright. If you need anything, hit the wall, I'm in my room.- Callum said as he left. As the door closed, Rayla flopped back against the pillows. She started to cry.

 

She felt rejected. Although it was her fault because she did it to herself. She deluded that maybe they would become a couple and quietly live together in Silvergrove. That maybe someday they will start a family. That they would be happy until the end of their days together. Naive dreams.

 

She just wanted to be loved by him. To know that he will be with her forever. But could she blame him for not feeling the way she did?

 

Suddenly she felt Sapphire as he licked her hand. He jumped into her arms and clung to her. Rayla smiled despite her tears. Before Callum return to Katolis, she got 3 years. Everything could still change. This little horned ball of fur gaved her hope.


-This is getting really boring. They are either incredibly blind or incredibly stupid that they can't see what one feels for the other.- Geren replied. They sat with Eleanor by the river and admired the stars.

 

-I know. And I have an idea how to push it forward.- Eleanor replied.

 

-Is that one of your great plans?- Geren asked.

 

-One of these. And for you ... I have a slightly different one.- Eleanor replied, pushing Geren to the ground and laying down on him. This one seems to be embarrassed. After a while, their lips connected passionately. They parted after a kiss from the kiss.

 

-I thought we would move on further.- Geren replied. Deep down inside, he felt a little relieved.

 

-Do you want to?- Eleanor asked uncertainly.

 

-As long as you feel comfortable with it. I really don't know if ... I'm ready for this.- Geren replied.

 

-If you don't want to ...- replied Eleanor kissing him again. She breathed a sigh of relief, terrified of what they could do and what consequences could await them.

Chapter Text

Callum almost suffered a heart attack when all the other family members entered his room shouting "Happy Birthday!". He was glad that they remembered, but in his hand he was holding a delicate object that could destroy a lot if it hit the ground.

 

In flight, he caught the Primal Stone he had been working on for the past 4 months. He breathed a sigh of relief getting up from the floor.

 

-We thought you were still asleep ... Callum or you ...- Runaan tried to ask him, but Rayla interrupted him.

 

-You were supposed to go to sleep last night! This is another night that you were working on this stone. You can't tire yourself for one stupid stone!- Rayla started shouting at Callum. Callum, however, seemed untouched by this (at least on the outside). Runaan and Ethari knew, however, that Rayla and Callum cared when either of them had a problem.

 

-First, it's a good morning. Secondly, I will not work anymore because I have finished. I can show you.- Callum said.

 

-Go on. A little presentation won't hurt.- Ethari replied. Callum drew a rune and chanted a spell.

 

-History of Viventem.- Callum said.

 

Suddenly, the outline of a little elf appeared before them. He looked like he was about 10 years old. He was busy building a castle out of wooden blocks.

 

-Runaan, dinner on the table! - heard someone's voice in the distance.

 

-I'm coming, mom!- The little elf replied, disappearing beyond the spell's range.

 

-I have to admit, it's good job. Ethari and I put the presents on the table. Come down when you're ready.- Runaan said and he and Ethari left the room. Rayla stayed in the room, who seemed to be angry on him him. She was standing in his room with her arms folded.

 

-You promised to go to bed during reasonable hours. Callum, do you realize you lied to me again?- Rayla asked.

 

-I know, but I thought it was worth spending the night to make this stone. You know I would have to sit on this all day.- Callum replied.

 

-Yes, and now you'll be dozing off all day. I don't know what's cool about sleeping off your own birthday party, but I don't want you to have to waste your nights on something like this.- Rayla replied. It was evident that both of them were irritated by the current situation.

 

-You're not my mother Rayla. You don't have to remind me every now and then what I need and what not.- Callum replied.

 

-Yes? And you're an idiot because I'm not gonna watch you get tired. What's next? Will you jump after me from the Storm Spire? Will you follow me into the portal to the world of the dead? Do you realize that without you I don't know what to do with myself? Anyway, why am I making the effort, you are a stupid human after all, and you will not understand anyway.- She replied leaving the room.

 

-And what's her problem again? How do you think Sapphire?- Callum asked little Shadow Paw . He just looked at him questioningly from his bed in the corner of Callum's room. It hurted Callum that she said again that he was not an elf, but he felt that something had happened. He thought maybe he would find out something from Ethari.

 

Callum shrugged his shoulders and left the room to see what he had received as a gift and eat his breakfast. The rule that his mother had taught him and that Runaan reminded of him was still in force. On his way out, he met Ethari in the corridor.

 

-I heard your argument. Don't be angry on her.- Ethari replied.

 

-I'm not. However, I wonder what could have happened. After all, I know she cares for me, but usually she's less ... Upset? And as far as I know it's not this time in the month.- Callum said.

 

-She got a letter from her parents. Queen Zubeia laid the egg two days ago. Soon her parents will be returning from service in the Dragon Guard. Rayla doesn't know how to react to this and hasn't slept last night. She's just tired. Give her time to cool down.- Ethari replied.

 

-Alright. I don't think I have other choice.- Callum replied.

 

Callum got a new set of tools from Runaan and Ethari for crafting trinkets and repairing smaller weapons. Callum was surprised that they additionally gave him a book on how to create female's jewelry.

 

He got a new coat with a hood from his parents. It was all black and the buttons in it were gold showing the coat of arms of Katolis. There was also a letter in the package. In addition, Ezran also gave him a new set of paints, and from his Aunt Amaya a book on Sunfire Elf Smithing.

 

He got a cooking book from Eleanor and Geren. The whole thing was written with a dedication saying: "With a dedication to Callum that he would finally break down and tell her about how he feels." Callum thought it was an innocent joke, though he didn't know how to laugh at it.

 

Liadrin and Geatan, in their standard custom, handed over two bottles, but instead of Moonraspberry juice, they switched to distilling wine from Moonberries. A note with it said, "Tell Ethari and Runaan it's Moonraspberry juice. The wine is perfect for melting sorrows and celebrating important love successes." Callum didn't laugh at the joke either.

 

The last one was Rayla's gift. It was a small locket, almost identical to the one he had given her many years before on the spring solstice. However, it was not the same, because it was carved with a rune symbolizing the Sky Source of Magic. There was an inscription below it, "For Callum, the best mage I know". Callum smiled. This gift was the best of them all.

 

He hugged Runaan and Ethari. Rayla wasn't in the kitchen. However, he decided to give her a moment to cool down.


She was lying on the bed thinking what she had done. She felt guilty. Again, during the argument with Callum, she pointed that he was human. As if he was worse than the worst monsters, though for her he was the best of the best.

 

She began to wonder how to apologize to him, make him smile. She remembered the book of illusions that her grandparents had given her for her fourth birthday when they were still alive.

 

She knew little of her grandparents herself. Her mother's parents died as Assassins sent to Del Bar abroad, and her father's parents lived to a ripe old age (for an elf) 200 years. Her parents were 70 so that was kind of understood. The longevity of the Elves was related to their problems with having children. Especially for the Moonshadow Elves whose population never exceeded five thousand.

 

When she found the book, she started turning page after page. She found a spell similar to the one Callum was using. She wasn't sure if it would work, magic was mostly Callum's theme after all. She herself preferred traditional strength solutions.

 

Rayla focused very hard drawing a rune and focusing on how Illusion should look like, but without success. Only after the twenty first attempt a beam of navy blue light appeared around her and entwined her. She, on the other hand, fell to her knees exhausted from casting spell.

 

After napping for a moment, she opened her eyes. She staggered to her feet and went to the mirror to see if she had succeeded. She looked in the mirror and jumped at the sight of what was inside.

 

Her white hair turned blonde and her skin turned creamier. Her facial marks, ears and horns were gone. The fifth finger appeared on the hand as well. She watched in disbelief, unable to believe it had succeeded. She didn't look bad at all.

 

She was ready to meet Callum as the Human Rayla.

 

As she stepped out into the corridor, she met Ethari.

 

-Rayla? Is that you?- Ethari asked.

 

-Yes. I'm going to Callum. It's part of the birthday gift ... - She replied shyly. It was the worst idea she had ever had.

 

-I see you are ready to make an incredible sacrifices for Callum.- Ethari laughed as he passed the door to her room with the wood for the stove. Rayla blushed, but neither did she answer.

 

She left the room and started looking for Callum. She found him sitting in his room reading a letter from his parents with the door opened. Rayla knocked to let me know she wanted to talk.

 

Callum looked at her in disbelief. He stared down at him and began to blush incredibly. Deep down, Rayla was glad he was speechless at the sight of her. She decided to say something, though the only idea she had was stupid. But she had no other.


- Greetings, human friend! Friend human! Here I, Human Rayla, came to visit you to talk about what you are doing wrong, then do it yourself, and then eat a lot of very unhealthy food! - Rayla joked although it was obvious that she was not doing it and was not sure about it what he does.

 

But Callum didn't care. It felt weird looking at Rayla in an illusion. It seemed ... fake. She wasn't like at all. It was not the same Rayla. Callum understood that she was trying to change to make him feel better, though he didn't want her to sacrifice her character for him.

 

Callum stood up and simply walked over to her and touched her cheek. She blushed just like him. However, he decided to continue to save her from the awkward situation she got into.

 

-You look amazingly beautiful. But I prefer the real Rayla. - He said.

 

-You sure? I thought you would feel better seeing another human ...- Rayla replied.

 

-Rayla, I don't feel as comfortable with anyone as I am with you. You don't have to pretend to be anybody, because only when you are yourself are you perfect.- Callum replied.

 

Rayla gave a hesitant smile. She removed illusions. The real Rayla was standing in front of him. No illusions or makeup. Beautiful as the full moon reflecting off the lake's surface. Callum puled her into a hug. Rayla smiled and hugged him as well.

 

This Rayla he loved. Honest, tender, funny and beautiful. He already knew why he had fallen in love with her years ago. How he was both a fortunate and an unlucky man. To love such a wonderful and at the same time so inaccessible girl.


-The idea was brilliant ... But the rest ...- Callum replied.

 

He and Rayla laid covered with a blanket on his bed. Rayla laid herself on his shoulder as if she knew that this place was reserved for her forever. He hugged her around the belly. At first he was afraid that he was going a little too far, but she seemed to need it and held his hand as if she was afraid he would let her go.

 

-I know. Although I didn't look as bad as a human ... - she replied.

 

-I told you. I prefer Rayla as an Elf.- Callum said.

 

-To be honest, I prefer human Callum. I'd like to see the real you. I feel guilty on my own walking without illusions as you've been struggling with it for eight years.- Rayla replied.

 

Callum took off the necklace and put it on the nightstand. Rayla was looking at the real Callum. She smiled.

 

-When did you grow up so much silly?- Rayla asked.

 

-The same time when you.- Callum replied.

 

They remained in silence for a while, enjoying their presence both of them. After a moment, Rayla spoke up.

 

-I'm sorry for the row this morning. I was tired ... - She tried to explain herself.

 

-I heard about the parents. Do you want to ... talk about it?- Callum interrupted her.

 

-No, I do not want to. Maybe tomorrow ...- Rayla suddenly noticed the necklace Callum was wearing around his neck. It was the one she gave him for his birthday.

 

-You liked the gift?- Rayla asked.

 

-Yes. Probably the best of all. You got a similar necklace once on the Spring Solstice a few years ago.- Callum replied.

 

-Yes, I still have it. That's where I got the idea. Until now, I don't know from who the letter with the necklace came from.- Rayla replied. Callum smiled without conviction: she remembered that necklace after all, though she didn't know from whom.

 

It hurt him to lie to her and pretend he didn't know what was going on. He was behind every little gift and note she received. He began to ask himself does it make sense? Will it ever work? He was stuck between a painful feeling he had repressed for several years and a fear of rejection.

 

-Hey ... Rayla?- Callum asked.

 

-Yeah?- Rayla asked.

 

He wanted to tell her. He tried to say those simple words. What was difficult about saying "I love you"? Basically everything. Callum was afraid to say it out loud. He remembered the words in the letter his mother had written. "Tell her what you feel. Honesty is the best foundation of love."

 

-Callum? Are you?- Rayla asked. Callum, however, decided to save himself and decided to change the subject.

 

-How is it getting on with you and ... that guy?- Callum asked.

 

-With him? Honestly, I do not know. We're close, but ... We're far from a being a pair. I'd like to tell him how I feel, but ... You understand. I'm afraid that. I'm afraid he doesn't see it that way. And I just don't know what to do.- Rayla said.

 

She felt strange. She talked to him about him as if he were someone else. She was tired by her own feelings, but on the one hand, she couldn't let it die and she didn't want to let it go. On the other hand, however, she was afraid to push it forward. She couldn't say the simple words "I love you" on her own. And it was killing her. She was in it and she couldn't get out of it.

 

-Ahm ... You know, maybe it's not him? After all, there are quite a few Humans and Elves in the world. Who knows if this silent childhood admirer of yours still doesn't think about you?- Callum replied.

 

- That would be weird ... But also romantic. However, I doubt he would think of me anymore .- Rayla replied.

 

-But he still thinks ...- Callum mused.

 

-Wait. You know him?- Rayla asked. Callum only now realized he had said it at loud. He blushed all over.

 

-Emm .... No? I mean ... I mean, he's probably still thinking ... - Callum tried to save himself.

 

-I'll believe you. Maybe he thinks… -Rayla replied. - And between you and that girl ... Are you okay?- Rayla asked.

 

-I have a similar problem. I don't know how to tell her how I feel about her.- Callum replied.

 

-I don't know how to help you. However, I think you are looking wrong. There are definitely other girls worth more attention than she is.- Rayla replied. "If only she knew who it was ..." thought Callum.

 

-Don't finish me off at least you. Without her, I feel like the last loser.- Callum replied. Rayla turned and hugged him.

 

-Hey, you're not a loser. Everything will be alright. You will see, you will still be happy with her.- She replied hugging him.

 

Maybe that was the key to finding peace? Letting him be with who he wants? After all, she wanted him to be happy, so what's the point?

 

No. She wanted him to be happy with her. With her and no one else. She decided to take care of everything tomorrow and get ready to tell him how she felt.

 

Already thinking about how to win his heart, Rayla yawned. She felt peace and relief in his arms. She closed her eyes, not wanting to wake up from this beautiful dream.

 

Callum didn't even notice when she fell asleep. He lay snuggled with her and looked at Sapphire. Little Shadow Paw slept in hi's corner. Eventually a dream began to sink into him. He thought how to finally tell her that he loved her. Ideas swirled in his head until he fell asleep.

 

The next morning they parted in awkward silence. However, each of them had a plan that they thought was perfect. They went to prepare.


-You know that only one in ten Elves succeeds in it, right? There's no way you can… -Ibis argued. They met as usual, in the clearing west of Silvergrove. He meditated on a stone.

 

-Please. I can do it, just point me in the right direction and ... - continued Callum. Ibis, however, knew what was going on.

 

-You want to impress her, don't you?- Ibis asked. However, Callum decided to answer the truth.

 

-Yes ... I want to.- Callum replied. Ibisa was surprised by the honesty of his student, but he smiled. An old elven proverb said love gives wings.

 

-Okay ... And so you have your initial test for the title of Mage in next year. This spell will help you more than harm you, so let's do it.- Ibis replied, drawing runes on the ground with a stick.


-So you've decided to do it. Finally! I was already going to lock you both in one room alone with Geren and let you out when you talk to each other honestly.- Eleanor laughed.

 

-Very funny. I doubt it would work, but I have no strength to pretend that I feel nothing for her.- Callum replied walking with his backpack loaded with food.

 

-Oh, come on. What could go wrong? -Eleanor asked. He forgot that she doesn't know who he really was.

 

-Let's say Rayla knows more about me than you do. That's enough.- Callum replied.


-... Wine with a raspberry flavor.Best for a date. Who's the lucky guy, Rayla?- Geatan asked, putting the bottle on the table.

 

The winery they had founded with Liadrin a month earlier was slowly beginning to bustle with life. Even though Liadrin and Geatan have been slightly quarreling over recent quarrels about differences to their version of business development, the wineryremained. Their flagship product was wine produced especially for dating.

 

-Let's say someone special.- Rayla replied leaving the store.

 

-I thought Callum preferred apple one.- Geatan called after her. Rayla stopped leaving. She returned to the counter.

 

-Give me some apple wine.- She replied taking out a pouch with denars. Getan smiled as he pulled the cylinder out from behind the counter.

 

-I held for this occasion. It's about time you stopped hovering around you, because it's getting boring to watch.- Geatan replied.


- I think you should go in turquoise one.- Liadrn replied.

 

-You sure? You know ... I feel strange in her.- Rayla replied trying on the dress in front of the mirror.

 

-You know, in my opinion you look amazing in it. Along with your makeup, I'm sure Callum won't resist you.- Liadrin replied.

 

Rayla sighed knowing she was sacrificing it all for Callum. And anyway, what couldgo wrong?

Chapter Text

Rayla stepped back to block the blow. Another flew after the blow, but she parried and in counterattack she send the hit herself. Barris then took a step back and deflected Rayla's blow. Both girls jumped slightly back and began to slowly make circles, waiting for the opponent's mistake or distraction.

 

Barris was a Moonshadow Elf. She had dark skin and long hair made into two braids. What distinguished her from most of the elven girls was the larger breasts and more feminine shapes which she seduced or tried to seduce most of the boys in Silvergrove. Her parents were an Assassin couple and were friends with Rayla's parents. Although they were friends, they competed with each other to get into the Dragon Guard. The second couple succeeded, and although her parents didn't had anything it against them, their anger at their parent's failure passed onto their daughter. She honestly hated both Rayla's parents and Rayla herself. Over time, Barris for Rayla had become something like what Feren had been to Callum. The girls did not like each other, and the fuel to the fire between them was added by the fact that Barris liked Callum. Due to her character and ambitiousness, all Rayla dreamed of was to cut her leg as it descended from the Storm Spire.

 

Currently, they were in a small arena where the Assassins were practicing. Other students and Runaan sat around them. They watched the last sparring for today.

 

-You seem withdrawn. Are you afraid that I would beat you?- Rayla sneered.

 

-I have to limit bruises. I have a date soon.- Barris replied.

 

-Is it? And who is this unlucky guy whose feelings you will be palying with this time?- Rayla asked.

 

-I'm not going to confess to the instructor's pupil.- Barris replied. Rayla was essentially the best Assassin in the group as Runaan put preasure on her when she was younger, making her current results high. Barris, however, explained this by the sentiment Runaan had for Rayla.

 

-Ooh, does your own hand decide to reject you again?- Rayla asked.

 

-You won't be laughing when your boyfriend and I will have a great time.- Barris replied.

 

-I do not have a boyfriend.- Rayla replied surprised.

 

-So you won't mind when I claim Callum for myself, right?- Barris asked. This was enough to provoke Rayla to attack.

 

Rayla jumped over Barris and kicked her in the back. She arched in pain and slashed blindly with her axe, cutting Rayla's sleeve on her shoulder. Rayla, however, backed away and used her blades to undercut her opponent, tearing at her legs. She fell to the ground and pulled Rayla down. For a while, they both rolled on the sand, exchanging blows.

 

-That's enough!- Runaan ordered. However, both girls continued to fight.

 

-You're nobody!- Barris said, kicking Rayla to the side.

 

-Slut! ...- Rayla hissed, tapping Barris in the stomach. Runaan interrupted the further fight, separating the two girls.

 

-I said that's enough! What got into you !? Your parents will find out what happened and I'll talk to you at home. So much for today.- Runaan replied. The two girls silently walked away.

 

Rayla headed for her bag.

 

-Rayla. What happened in there? Hey Rayla!?- Liadrin asked. Rayla looked at her and Geren who was next to her. She was still shaking with the adrenaline rush.

 

-Nothing ... Nothing happened.- Rayla replied shaking further.


After leaving the arena, Runaan looked at Rayla coldly. She had a torn sleeve and the rest of her clothes, along with her hair, were in the sand. However, he could see that Rayla seemed more sad than angry. He knew that both girls would love to kill each other, but Rayla was usually not provoked by Barris taunts that easily.

 

-What happened there? Why you both jumped to each other's throats?- Runaan asked.

 

-Nothing big. It's just ... Such stupid jokes and that's it.- Rayla replied.

 

-No one has fought like that before for "stupid jokes". You know you can tell me anything.-Runaan replied.

 

-I know. But I do not want. At least now ...- Rayla replied. Runaan noticed she had wine in her backpack.

 

-Are you going somewhere with your friends on the weekend?- Runaan asked. He hated using blackmailng to get information from her, but he had no choice.

 

-Yes ... At least I had such a plan. I can't go, can I?- she asked.

 

-You can. Just when you tell me what happened there.- Runaan replied. Rayla looked sadly at her feet. Runaan really hated doing this.

 

- We argued over a friend with whom ... I have feeling for. We both compete for him ... And we just ... You see ...- Rayla replied. Runaan began to regret asking.

 

-I understand. I'm not pushing more. I'll talk to her parents. As for this boy ... Do I know him?- Runaan asked.

 

-Yes. But I don't want to talk about this matter.- Rayla replied. They made it home. Rayla went to wash yourself and change clothes. When she left the bathroom, she went to the kitchen to eat dinner. She met Ethari there.

 

-I heard you had a violent fight with Barris today. It was about a boy, right?- Ethari asked.

 

-Yes ...- Rayla replied putting vegetables on her plate. She sat down at the table and Ethari sat next to her.

 

-I know that maybe I'm not the best person for this and probably the last person you would like to tell about your love life, but I want to help you. Tell me what's the problem with this boy.- Ethari said.

 

- The point is ... I'm afraid he doesn't feel the way I do. He's a really good friend and I'm afraid that after I tell him it will all break down. And the longer I wait with it, the more girls are interested in him and I'm afraid that in the end ... that he will eventually choose one of them over me. I don't know how I can handle knowing that the person who cares about me so much will reject me. I'm just afraid ... - Rayla said with tears in her eyes. Ethari hugged her.

 

-I understand what you're going through. Before Runaan and I were together, I was afraid he would not love me back. You know what it's like ... But honest conversation is the key. Without it, love does not exist. You need to talk to him.- Ethari told her. But Rayla just hugged her tighter. After a short while, she calmed down.

 

-And how? Better?- Ethari asked. Rayla nodded. - I'm glad. Speaking of boys, could you please get Callum home? He was supposed to come back for dinner from the market and he's still gone.


Rayla met Callum where she expected to meet him. He was in the market, of course. The only thing that didn't suit her was Barris talking to him at the steps to New Moon Inn.

 

It was not the first and probably not the last girl who tried her luck with Callum. He usually didn't have time or didn't know the girl as well as she didn't know him. However, Rayla knew Barris was stubborn. She walked over to them.

 

-... So I thought maybe you'd come over to my house tomorrow? My parents are gone, I have some  Earthblood Spirit ... It would be a pity if you didn't come.- Barris pleaded with disgustingly sweet voice. Callum's face expression showed that he needed help.

 

-I'm sorry, Barris, but I can't ... Because you see ... Tomorrow ... I ...- Callum tried to tell the best lie.

 

Rayla decided to intervene because Barris was indulging in too much. She knew why Barris wanted Callum at her house, and the mere thought that this slut would sleep with him made her furious.

 

-... Because he is going on a date with me tomorrow. Right, sweetheart?- Rayla entered the conversation. She wasn't sure who was more surprised, Barris or Callum, but the effect was achieved. Rayla hugged him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Callum seemed to understand what was going on and hugged her as well.

 

-And you said before that you don't have a boyfriend.- Barris replied. It was evident that the news was a great shock for her and a fact that she could not bear.

 

-I don't have to confess to a slut like you about everything.- Rayla replied.

 

-And what Callum? It's your girlfriend? Are you going on a date with her?- Barris asked. However Rayla could see in her eyes that her pride and ambition had been severely damaged. Rayla smiled at the sight.

 

-Yes. This is my beautiful, funny and brilliant girlfriend. And I'd love to go on a date with her.- Callum replied confidently. Rayla felt him grab her hand. Either he was pretending very well or he was panicking.

 

-And now ... Can you stop looking for trout in someone else's stream? Find your own boyfriend and leave mine alone.- Rayla replied, then turned to Callum.-Come on sweetheart, we're going home.- She said, then squeezed Callum's hand and pulled him towards the house with her.

 

They walked in silence on the way home. Rayla avoided his eyes while he looked at her as if he saw an angel. When they were far from the market, Rayla sat down with him on a nearby bench.

 

-Callum, listen, I'm sorry. I know that we are not a couple, but I wanted to help you because I know that ... - Rayla tried to explain. Callum interrupted her, however.

 

-Nothing happened. You saved my ass, and I am immensely grateful to you. Honestly ... Rayla ... Listen ... Maybe tomorrow we would actually tomorrow ... somewhere ... You know ...- Callum scratched his neck.

 

-You mean that ... On a date?- Rayla asked.

 

-Not so much a date as ... You know ... Friendly. But it can be on a date. If you want… -Callum continued, avoiding her eyesight.

 

-I was actually planning something similar ... You understand ... Friendly ... And ...- Rayla really didn't understand what was going on. Callum either pretended ... Or he really felt something for her.

 

-I understand. Anyway ... I have something special for this occasion. You know ... I think you'll like it.- Callum said.

 

-So ... Tomorrow afternoon?- Rayla asked.

 

-Yeah... I think so.- Callum replied.


Callum was laying staring at the ceiling. What happened on the market today was beyond his most honest imagination.

 

Rayla pretended they were a couple, called him "sweetheart" and kissed him on the cheek. This, even though she was pretending, made him feel amazing. He was happy for a moment. Still, he knew it was just play for Barris to leave him alone.

 

A single tear ran down his cheek. It hurt to know that what had happened there was only a help. There was no love at all in it, and it never will be.

 

After all, why should it be so? She was an elf and he was a human. She was beautiful and he couldn't show himself on the street without illusions because he was a monster. She saw good in everything, he couldn't. She was funny and nice, he was just a shy idiot.

 

Suddenly he heard the crack of a broken branch outside the window. Callum got up and looked out the window. It was raining, though Callum could see a figure in a cloak coming down from the tree. He studied the figure carefully. It was Rayla.

 

-Sapphire, stay.- Callum commanded the little Shadow Paw. Sapphire sat down, though he wanted to follow Rayla with him.

 

Callum grabbed his vest and coat and followed Rayla outside. In nothing but pajama bottoms, vest and coat, he ran after Rayla. She seemed to be walking towards the forest. Callum chased her on. He followed her to a tree where they often sat watching the sunset.

 

She was sitting on a tree branch thoughtfully. As Callum climbed, he wondered why she was here.


She had to think about it in the fresh air. After all, she was going to tell him tomorrow. She was so afraid of this that she had to get some fresh air.

 

What could he think about her when she put that naive play at the market? That she is stupid? Naive? Weak? Jealous? Pathetic?

 

He probably wanted to go out with her tomorrow to make her feel better after this. Or to thank her for helping to get rid of Barris. A comfort prize and that's it.

 

They didn't match at all. He was human and she was an elf. He was a skilled mage, genius blacksmith, and talented painter in one, and she was just an Assassin who couldn't get trough after the murder of the first three victims. He was a prince and she was a simple elf. He could do amazing things, and she only destroy.

 

That's why her parents left her. Because she was pathetic. Because she was weak. Because she did not got up to their heels. She was a failure for them. Because she didn't have the courage to just tell one person that she loved him.

 

She was sitting curled up with her hood on her head. Life has been hard for her lately. She wanted to calm down, take a breath, think about everything.

 

-Rayla?- she heard Callum's voice behind her.

 

She froze. He wasn't here. She was starting to go crazy with the rush of emotions.

 

-Rayla, are you okay?- she heard Callum's voice again.

 

He was actually here. But how? When!? Where?! He should be asleep. How was he here?

 

She turned back. She saw Callum all wet in his coat. He stared at her in surprise. She couldn't believe it.

 

-But ... How did you get here?- Rayla asked.

 

-I was following you. I heard you coming down from the tree and I was following you.- Callum replied, sitting down next to her. Rayla couldn't believe it.

 

-But ... What are you doing here? You should be sleep… -Rayla argued.

 

-Just like you. Rayla. I see something happened. Please, I want to help you... - said Callum. Rayla looked him straight in the eye. Those awful beautiful green eyes. She decided not to tell him anything. Again.

 

-It's about ... Parents ...-Rayla began to say. It was half-true. -The thing is ... I'm afraid I won't be what they expect of me. I'm afraid I'll be too weak for them. That, according to them, I would be pathetic and naive. That when they come back they won't want to know me. I'm afraid of Callum ... - she said, starting to cry. She vented her emotions again. Tears started running down her cheeks. She felt pitiful, like the last desperate. She felt warmth as Callum hugged her.

 

-Rayla ... You're not weak. I don't know any faster, more agile or stronger elf than you. You're not naive. You are just sensitive to the harm of others. You have a good big heart. You're not pathetic. To be honest, you are wonderful. You are clever, kind, affectionate, fun and beautiful. You are the most wonderful person I have ever met.- Callum told her looking straight into her purple eyes holding her hand.

 

Rayla smiled. She felt better. She felt good with him. She wanted to not have to hide her feelings anymore. She could no longer suppress it within herself. Without thinking much, she approached Callum.

 

Callum didn't know what Rayla was going to do. Before he could react, Rayla kissed him on the lips. Callum looked at her in surprise while she closed her eyes and drifted away in a kiss.

 

The shock it caused frozen Callum completely. He had the purest chaos in his head. What happened? Why? Is that really Rayla? Does he dream about it? Why did he suddenly feel hot under the already thin layer of clothes? Callum didn't know how to react to what happened. He panicked, which was his biggest mistake.

 

When Rayla finally pulled away from him, Rayla kept looking at him. He looked at her paralyzed. Rayla was surprised and afraid that she had gone a step too far. Callum finally moved.

 

-... I didn't expect that.- he replied.

 

-You said all these things ... I thought that ...- Rayla explained.

 

-I did. But not to make me ... You know ... She kiss me, just ... - Callum explained himself. At that moment, something broke in her. She was right from the start: he didn't love her at all. She was actually naive. He just wanted to cheer her up because he was a good friend. Rayla put her hand to her mouth in horror. She turned back. She thought about a solution to come out of this situation with face. Finally she turned back to him.

 

-We are not going to talk about this, understood?- Rayla said.

 

-Sure of course. But Rayla, I… -Callum tried to explain to her.

 

-NotCallum. We're not seriously talking about it. If you tell anyone about this, I will personally bind that I will kill you. Understand!?- Rayla asked furiously.

 

-Okay ... We're not gonna talk.- Callum replied.

 

Rayla shot him an angry look and in a few leaps she left the tree and then went to the river, as far as possible from Callum and Silvergrove.

 

Callum watched her disappear among the trees. After a while he hit his forehead. He was an idiot. A fool. It was close. She did love him. He had a chance. And what did he did with it? He wasted it. Rayla thought he didn't feel it. It made her feel bad. He hurt her. What a moron he was?

 

He sat devastated for a moment. After a while, however, he got up.

 

It wasn't over. It couldn't be. He could still fix it. He must succeed. There is no other option. Callum stood on the branch. He spread his hands and repeated a spell he had practiced with Ibis not so long ago.

 

-Manus Pluma Volantius ...- Callum said. Suddenly he felt a strange itching in his hands and suddenly his hands turned into wings. Callum couldn't believe that the spell he learned that day had worked right away.

 

He flapped his wings once. He went up slightly. He waved a few times and stood up. Callum started waving intensely. He finally rose. He headed in the direction Rayla had gone. He flew to save what he broke.

Chapter Text

Rayla walked slowly along the river. She felt bad. The boy she loved rejected her, and her parents will soon come home and will probably leave her again because she was a pathetic loser. What a great, beautiful night.

 

Tears streamed along with the rain down her cheeks. She felt something inside her dying. Rejection from Callum was the last thing she wanted. She looked at the river. She wanted to be able to go on as a river as calmly as possible, not caring about what stood in her way. Of course she couldn't. She just couldn't do anything but feel ashamed.

 

Suddenly a shape appeared above her. A huge bird began to circle over her. Rayla drew her swords after all - maybe life was trying to kill her from the inside, but that didn't mean that she would let an overgrown pigeon kill her. In her opinion, only the fools and the desperate gave up on life.

 

She watched the shadow of the giant bird as it circled above her. Suddenly lightning flashed in the distance. Rayla saw the creature in its full glory for a split second. It wasn't a bird. It was Callum with eagle wings.

 

-Rayla, wait!- he called, flying lower and lower.

 

-By Garlach, Callum leave me alone!- Rayla shouted. She didn't want his comfort after all this. Minute by minute his person was losing importance to her.

 

Suddenly, lightning struck Callum. Rayla heard his scream. She saw lightning pass through him and then he fell into the river. The sound of the splash as it fell into the water gave Rayla a shudder.

 

-Callum!- she called after him. She hesitated for a split second. Eventually he fell into the water, but she loved him. She wished she hadn't such a good heart.

 

She noticed where Callum was swimming and, despite the resistance, jumped into the water. She felt, with horror, the emptiness under her feet as she swam. After all, she swam to Callum. He was lying unconscious on the surface of water on his stomach. Rayla grabbed it with one hand and slowly began to swim to the shore, all the time trembling with horror at the thought of the water in which she was located.

 

When she reached the shore, she made a quick inspection. Callum was struck by lightning below the neck where he had the necklace from her. When she saw it , Rayla wanted to throw the necklace to the bottom of the river. And she will do that as soon as she gets the stupid man back on his feet.

 

She began to press on his chest. After a few moments, water spilled out of Callum's mouth and he sat up choking and coughing. He breathed slowly and deeply, not sure if he was alive. As he sat he looked at Rayla as if he had seen an angel. Rayla was angry anyway. The love for this stupid man returned for a moment.

 

-Rayla ... Did you save me?- Callum asked uncertainly.

 

-Yes of course. May I know what's going on in your head ?! Flying in the middle of the storm !? I don't even ask how! You are an idiot! ...- Rayla yelled at him out of anger.

 

-I know.- Callum replied.

 

-... a moron! ...- Rayla continued furiously.

 

-I know.- Callum replied.

 

-... fool! ...-

 

-I know,- Callum continued.

 

-... Do you realize that I love you you dumbass !? That I feel useless without you !? You have no right to risk yourself like that. Never!- Rayla shouted.

 

-I know ...- Callum replied.

 

-What do you have to say to me? Explain yourself idiot!- Rayla said. Callum, instead of explaining, came closer. Rayla felt she shouldn't move away, although she had a very great desire to punch Callum.

 

-That I wanted to tell you on the branch, even though you didn't let me.- Callum said. At the same time, Callum kissed her lips. Rayla was surprised at first. She hadn't expected this.

 

Did that mean he loved her too? Was he playing with her feelings now? Rayla didn't know what to say. However, if he actually felt it the same way in the tree then Rayla, under the influence of emotions, led to one big misunderstanding. Rayla closed her eyes. She kissed him back. After a few seconds, however, Callum slumped.

 

-I'm sorry ... I ... I was a bit overwhelmed ... I didn't want to ... You know ... hurt you ... I wanted to tell you tomorrow and ...- Callum explained nervously. Rayla looked at him then rolled her eyes.

 

-Shut up. - she said.

 

-What?- Callum asked unsure but then Rayla broke off, drawing him to another kiss. They both closed their eyes. Rayla felt her heart speed up and butterflies prowling in her stomach again. The whole thing was an amazing experience. After kissing for a while, they both hung up panting. Nevertheless, the smile did not leave their faces.

 

-I love you Rayla too. Very much.- said Callum embracing Rayla. Rayla, on the other hand, cuddled up to him. It couldn't have been better.

 

They sat on the river bank for a long time. Wet and wrinkled, but most of all happy.


-So ... all those notes, flowers and necklace I ever got were from you? Oh Callum ... - Rayla replied giving him a kiss on the cheek. They both went home. Callum's leg hurt and Rayla helped him walk. Only now has Callum confessed to all the letters and flowers she has received in the last 7 years from the "silent admirer".

 

-Yes ... As you can see ... I know it might seem strange, but it started when you kissed me on the cheek after our first trip to the river together.- Callum said.

 

-And for seven round years you didn't say anything? Why?- Rayla asked.

 

-I was afraid you would reject me. After all ... You know ... I'm human. A monster.- Callum said lowering his head.

 

-Callum, take off the illusion necklace.- Rayla said. Callum took off the necklace. His horns and ears are gone, his tattoos are gone, and the fifth finger has appeared. But that was it. Callum still looked like him. Even so, he avoided her eyes.

 

-So ... That's what I look like. You still want to be with ... this thing?- Callum asked.

 

She understood why Callum hated himself so much as a human being. Everywhere the elves were complaining how evil and monstrous creatures humans are. Callum, who saw the conflict from an elven perspective, had an impression of shame for his race. He simply despised himself for what his ancestors had done for centuries. But it didn't matter to Rayla. He was different from the humans described to her from an early age. Rayla pulled him to her for another kiss.

 

-Absolutely. I would be more concerned about my aiming too high. After all, you are a member of the royal family of the human kingdom.- Rayla replied after a moment moving away from him. Callum smiled.

 

- I might as well give up my title and continue living in Silvegrove. Just say the word.- Rayla said.

 

-I don't want you to isolate you from your family. However as you want. I say right away that I have no intention of becoming a princess. Dresses are not my thing.- Rayla replied.

 

-Let it be so. And you? Since when did you start thinking of me as a "potential partner"?- Callum asked.

 

-It started after your fight with Feren. When I realized that you can ... Be gone, I felt that my life would change for the worse then. You cared about me and I didn't know how I would do without you. That's when I started seeing it that way.- Rayla replied.

 

-I doubt I can leave now. Now I am associated with Xadia for good. Here I have a job, friends, life, a beautiful girlfriend- ... - Callum began to count.

 

-You are toady, did someone tell you that?- Rayla asked jokingly.

 

-I think it's just you, but this is a sacrifice I'm ready for.- Callum laughed.

 

-Toady.- Rayla replied.

 

-But your toady.- Callum replied. Rayla couldn't take it. She laughed.

 

They walked on in silence. It began to dawn. They both knew that when they got home, they would surely meet one of the adults.

 

-I think we should it's over with our date.- Rayla replied.

 

-We're not going anywhere. Runaan will be furious that we wandered in the forest at night.- Callum replied.

 

-Right. But you know ... We can postpone the date to another day. In the end ... Rather, no one will beat my boyfriend anymore.- Rayla laughed.

 

-And my girlfriend. Anyway, who said that we can't have a romantic dinner and do something together at home. For example, we could paint something ... Or do something together in Ethari's workhouse. I'll try to teach you something.- Callum replied.

 

-Willingly. But there is one condition.- Rayla said seriously. Callum looked at her in surprise.

 

-Yes?- Callum asked uncertainly.

 

-You need to wash yourself first. You have seaweed behind your ear.- Rayla chuckled.

 

-Ladies first.- Callum said.

 

-You weren't so smart when I got you out of the water. Or how you came over to it. By the way, how did you do it? Rayla asked.

 

-With the wings? I used a spell that Ibis recently taught me. I was afraid that I would fail the first time ... - Callum explained when suddenly Rayla turned towards him furious.

 

-What!? Are you telling me that you not only flew in the storm at night, but that it was your first flight? What kind of idiot do you have to be to risk that much!?- Rayla shouted at him.

 

-An idiot in love. You didn't let me say a word in the tree. Was I supposed to give up and let go of someone as awesome as you? I wanted to save the situation. And on foot, I could not catch up with you.- Callum replied.

 

-I'll forget that I'm mad at you and feel need throwing you back into the river I picked you up from.- Rayla replied. Callum didn't said a thing. They were right in front of Silvergorve.

 

-You think we should tell Ethari and Runan ... You know ... About us?-Callum asked.

 

-I think not. It probably won't come up.- Rayla replied.

 

-Aha. It's the forbidden romance situation. - joked Callum. Rayla rolled her eyes, then suddenly placed a finger on his lips.

 

-Runaan must never know.- she said in a mockingly dramatic tone.

 

-I understand. The world is not ready for what is between us... - Callum said with artificial sadness.

 

They looked each other straight in the eyes and then laughed at the common joke.

 

-Yes ... But let's not tell anyone yet. For our good.- Rayla replied.

 

-Whatever you say, sweetheart.- Callum replied.

 

-Sweetheart? Are you so serious?- Rayla asked, not hiding a smile.

 

-Somehow yesterday it didn't bother you to call me that in the middle of the square in front of Barris.- Callum replied.

 

-I was jealous, okay? I am not without flaws.- Rayla said.

 

-I love how jealous you are.- Callum said.

 

-And me when you are such a toady, sweetheart.- Rayla laughed.

 

They were in front of their house. Rayla grabbed Callum's hand. She looked at him. He was looking at her as well. They kissed one more time before entering the house and then headed inside.


-Where were you?- Runaan asked from the kitchen in front of the door to the corridor. In his hand was a book signed "How to Understand a Teenager?". The book did nothing to help in understanding the two of them that nearly drove both him and Ethari crazy.

 

Rayla and Callum knew they would not be able to escape and entered the kitchen. They were both muddy and soaked. At least Rayla came out in casual clothes while Callum was barefoot and in pajama bottoms.

 

-We were ... On a walk.- Callum replied.

 

-Yes ... On a walk.- Rayla replied.

 

Runaan looked at them. They were holding hands. They might have missed this detail, but he didn't. Internally, he was glad that the two had finally stopped playing fooling around and decided to talk honestly. But dates at night were a bad idea when it came to safety, especially for Callum. Maybe they killed humans who came to Xadia to look for him, but that did not mean that there were no others who would not want to get rid of him.

 

-I don't have to tell you that you both are grounded to leave the house for two weeks, right?- Runaan asked.

 

-Right.- both replied at once.

 

-Great. Tomorrow I am going out with Ethari to New Moon Inn for our wedding anniversary. I hope you won't mess up at home when we're away. I am counting on your responsibility.- Runaan replied. They both looked at him, unsure if he meant their everyday behavior or if he had any idea about their relationship.

 

-Let's take care of the house. We promise.- Callum said.

 

-Well. Now go wash yourself. Separately.- Runaan added. He loved to make fun of them that way. He smugly watched as they both left the room with their blushes on their faces.


Rayla sat down in a bathrobe on her bed. She looked at the locket Callum gave her all those years ago. She was amazed that he had endured with his feelings for seven years. But in the end he succeeded. She was wearing this necklace. She could proudly say she got it from someone really special.

 

After drying herself and putting on her pajamas, she left the room. She was waiting for Callum. He finally left the bathroom in spare pajamas. He yawned. Rayla had to admit that Callum looked cute when he was sleepy.

 

-Hey ... Are you going to sleep?- Rayla asked.

 

-That is my plan. And you?- Callum asked.

 

-I thought we might ... You know ... They slept in my room ...- Rayla asked.

 

-Why not ... I mean ... if you want.- Callum blushed.

 

But Rayla grabbed his hand and dragged him into her room. With the window draped over the window, they both lay down on her bed. Callum lay down on the left and hugged Rayla on the right side of the bed. They lay in silence simply resting. Rayla grabbed Callum's hand. She felt his hands feel nice to the touch. Looking at her four fingers laced with his five, she didn't even notice when Callum fell asleep. She smiled.

 

-Sweet Dreams, sweetheart...- she said kissing his forehead. She closed her eyes as she slowly fell asleep. Eventually they succeeded. They were together.


-So we're going out tomorrow so they can be together alone for a while, right?- Ethari asked. He and Runaan sat in the kitchen drinking tea.

 

-That's the plan. I'm not afraid that these two will get carried away because they are both too responsible for it. But for now, let's pretend we don't know anything and their little romance is their secret, ignoring the fact that an hour ago when I looked into Rayla's room I found them sleeping in the same bed. And that I saw them through my front window kissing.- Runaan replied

 

-You think we should notify their parents? Even though it might spare them problems, I doubt that sometimes it would do more harm than good.- Ethari replied.

 

-I don't think so yet. Don't let the kids worry about what they say. Let them be for themselves for now.- Runaan replied. He wasn't going to ruin the kids' best moments in life.

Chapter Text

The door closed behind Runaan and Ethari. Callum and Rayla were still standing in the corridor.

 

-So what are we going to do?- Callum asked scratching his neck.

 

-Cooking maybe? You know, I think you could cook better.- Rayla laughed.

 

-Seriously? My last mushroom soup was good. You said so yourself. - Callum said, embracing her waist.

 

-I was sick then. Plus the soup itself wasn't bad. Still, I think it was missing ... - Rayla said, embracing his neck.

 

-Let me guess? Love?- Callum laughed.

 

-You even put too much of that in there. But the onion really was missing.- Rayla replied.

 

-Onions? Seriously?-Callum asked.

 

-I'm deadly serious now.- Rayla replied.

 

-So we have to cook ...- Callum replied kissing her forehead. After that they went to the kitchen. Callum brought in the food bags he had bought to cook for yesterday.

 

-So you were gonna cook for our Date. Well well.- Rayla replied.

 

-Well ... I've been thinking about it. I thought buying wine would be ... Too strong? In fact, I didn't know how to go about it. I was hoping that I would come up with an idea by reading recipes from the cookbook from Geren and Eleanor .- Callum replied, taking out the bread and vegetables.

 

- About the wine ... I bought two bottles from Geatan. Moonraspberry and apple. He said he kept the second one for the occasion. I wonder what he meant ... - Rayla asked, laying spoons and knives on the table. Callum suddenly blushed.

 

-I ... I could consult him several times on matters of the heart. In total, I asked a few people about it. I'm surprised it didn't get to you around.- Callum said.

 

-The only answer I can think of is that we have good friends. Or we are really blind. Now show me this book.- Rayla replied. Callum brought the book and they flipped page after page. They paid attention to the cakes stuffed with Moonberry.

 

-You think the same as me?- Rayla asked.

 

-Too early to drink wine.- Callum replied. Rayla rolled her eyes.

 

-Very funny. I meant food.- She pointed to the cookie recipe page.

 

-So Moonberry Cakes? It shouldn't be hard ...- Callum replied.

 

In a moment they made mass and filling. Finally, when the cookies began to bake in the oven, they both sat down at the table.

 

-We'll wait a while for the cookies. What are we doing now honey?- Callum asked.

 

-I still can't get used to this whole "honey" stuff.- Rayla replied.

 

-So I won't say that. If you want, of course.- Callum said.

 

Rayla noticed that Callum was trying to slowly move on in their relationship with every thing they did, but seeing that she didn't want something, he simply withdrew. He was not intrusive and was simply withdrawn. Rayla knew he was afraid to screw up.

 

-So ... What are we doing now, honey?-Rayla asked. Callum smiled.

 

-I have an idea, though follow me.- Callum said.


Rayla was drawing line by line slowly. Callum, sitting behind her, was helping her draw all the time. She felt ridiculous as if she was a little girl again that her parents teach to write letters. The only difference in drawing was that then her dad was sitting behind her, and now  was her boyfriend

 

-How much does such a drawing usually take for you?- Rayla asked.

 

-About afternoon. Maybe there are a lot of details from a day or two.- Callum said.

 

-I am not surprised that I have not painted anything decent in my life. It's terribly boring.- Rayla said.

 

-We can do something else.- Callum said.

 

-Nonsense. We've started one thing, we'll finish it, and then we're just starting the second thing.- Rayla replied.

 

After a few moments, the sketch was ready. It was a picture of everyone living in the house. Callum and Rayla were in the foreground, followed closely by Ethari and Runaan. They all stood smiling looking forward. Rayla tried to draw Sapphire herself. Even though she drew his head too large and the pet was in the wrong proportions (but this is just a small detail that only Callum could see), it even turned out well.

 

-It's awful, isn't it?- Rayla asked.

 

-To be honest, it's not even bad.- Callum said.

 

- You talk so as not to upset me.- Rayla said.

 

- True, there are small details, but these are just details.- Callum replied.

 

-Mhm. And also tell me that I would draw better than you. I don't know about you, but I got hungry. Maybe we can cook dinner?- Rayla asked.

 

-Why not. We were supposed to take care of the house, and dinner fits in with that. Right?- Callum asked.


Rayla and Callum took care of baking potato pancakes, making a salad of vegetables and removing the insides and seasoning and putting fish on the pan (Sapphire liked baked fish) and then sat down satisfied.

 

- It took us a good half a day to cook. I think we will have a real feast with the cookies.- Rayla replied.

 

-Yes. But you know ... Why a feast right away? Dinner for two is more romantic.- Callum said.

 

-Romantic dinner and then?- Rayla asked looking at him as if she wanted to eat him ... in a romantic way.

 

-Hmm ... I don't know ... Wait, half a day?- Callum asked. Suddenly he got up and ran to the kitchen. He remembered the cookies. Rayla followed him.

 

At the last moment, he took them out of the oven.

 

-Good thing you remembered. I already thought that the cookies are gone.- Rayla replied.

 

-I thought they were already burned. Glad you reminded me.- Callum said, setting the pan with cookies on the counter.

 

Rayla took one of the cookies and puffed, then took a small bite. The cake was a little sour, but very sweet as well. She smiled.

 

- They even came out well.- she replied.


Curtained windows, candles, food with wine on the table. Almost everything was ready. They also decided to dress as for a date. Rayla went to wash herself while Callum prepared their clothes. Rayla had managed to leave the bathroom and Callum was halfway dressing when they suddenly heard someone knock.

 

Panicked, thinking it was Runaan and Ethari, they quickly put on the clothes they had in reach of their hands. Rayla didn't even notice she was wearing the short-sleeved shirt that belonged to Callum. Callum only wore his vest and pants. They opened the door behind which Eleanor stood.

 

-Hello. I came by to see how ... You are ... - Eleanor fell silent seeing the two of them out of breath and dressed in a visible rush. She noticed the shirt that belonged to Callum and was worn by Rayla.

 

-Everything is fine with us ... how about you?- Callum asked blushing. He knew what it looked like ... And it looked indecently bad.

 

-Okay ... Well ... I see I'm disturbing you ... So I'll move out ... Have fun ...- replied Eleanor turning back. Callum closed the door.

 

-I wonder what she wanted. She looked flustered, Rayla said.

 

-Well. My shirt on you was very suggestive to her.- Callum replied. Rayla just noticed what she was wearing. She blushed.

 

-Oh ... I grabbed what was at hand. Will you give me a moment in it yet to come? So that I could change my clothes.- Rayla asked blushing. Although they were a couple, they were only together for the second day. They continued to try to give privacy whenever the other part needed it. They were not in such an intimate relationship that they would not feel awkward and embarrassed wearing less than underwear in the presence of their other half.

 

-Sure. Maybe let's skip dressing in elegant clothes? Too much trouble with them.- Callum said.

 

-You don't even know how much.- Rayla replied. But she seemed pensive.

 

After a while Rayla left her room dressed in casual clothes. Callum was waiting in the corridor without his shirt.

 

-Can I get my shirt back? - He asked. Rayla handed it to him. -Thanks.- Callum said. They silently placed the pies on their plates and poured them into glasses of wine. They sat down at the table. Rayla finally spoke.

 

-Callum ... I have this question for you. A bit indecent.

 

-I think I can answer.- Callum smiled.

 

-You ever thought that we could ... You know ... Get some sleep? Like with you know...- Rayla asked. Callum understood imadietly. They both blushed, and Callum even choked a little. He had not expected this question.

 

- About that-that sleeping?- Callum asked. Rayla nodded.-Honestly ... I never got this far with my imagination. Too early for me to think about it. We are too young for that and I think we are still far from it. I don't know if I'm ready for this ... - Callum said. In fact, he wasn't ready for it. The thought terrified him.

 

-I understand. It's just that after this Eleanor situation, I was wondering about it ... You know, I'm a little scared of it myself ... And so are the side effects ... I think we can just ... Give it time? When we are ready.- Rayal replied.

 

-Yes ... When we're ready...- Callum replied.

 

They ate in silence. Rayla noticed that Callum began to think about something and sat in thought.

 

-Callum? All right? Is something bothering you.- Rayla asked. She was afraid that Callum was still thinking about what she said.

 

- I wonder if we should tell the parents. You know ... I've asked mine a couple of times what to do with you and me. On the one hand, I would like them to know that we are together now, and on the other ... You know ... - Callum tried to express himself.

 

-... that they might not accept me?- Rayla finished.

 

-Exactly. I don't know how they will react. They have never been angry with the Elves, especially in the last 5 years. However, I am afraid that they may disagree and force me to make a choice. Either they or you.- Callum replied. Rayla felt a little sad. After all, Callum just wanted to be happy. She got up and walked over to him. Callum instinctively stood up and Rayla hugged him.

 

-Everything will be fine. You will see. Your parents will want you to be happy no matter what you choose. Besides ... I can always ... You know ...- Rayla said pointing at Callum's necklace.

 

-Are you sure? It's troublesome, you know. I don't want you to sacrifice anything for me.- Callum replied.

 

-If this is the price of love ...- Rayla replied kissing him. Callum returned the kiss. After a while they both hung up. - Anyway, I'm worried about what my parents will say. You know ... They may not be traditional like many other Elves, but ... You understand ... - Rayla said.

 

-Yes. After all, I am human ...- Callum replied.

 

-... Which doesn't mean you're bad. Anyway, they know you. Although the last time they saw you when you were 11, maybe it won't be too bad. And Runaan and Ethari should be better. After all, they both raised us,.- Rayla said.

 

-Yes. Although what don't expect what happened between us.-answered Callum.

 

-They think we are like siblings, so ...- Rayla replied. Suddenly they heard a screeching sound. Callum felt something tug on his trouser leg. The sapphire was at his leg and it was moving in a circle. Callum realized that little Shadow Paw wanted to go on a walk.

 

-It seems that someone has to take care of our pet.- Rayla said.

 

-All right ... I'll be right back. Callum said giving Rayla a kiss on the cheek. He opened the door and walked out with the little Shadow Paw outside the house. Pet imadietly ran into the bushes. Callum didn't even notice when Geren approached him.

 

-Hello there. How are you doing?- the Elf greeted.

 

-Hey, I'm fine, thanks.- Callum replied. He noticed that Geren had a trace of lipstick on his neck. In addition, he seemed a little tired. - I see you've been busy.

 

-Not like you and Rayla. I am now coming back from Cirdan because I had to do some errands. Before that, as you may have noticed, I visited Eleanor. As for you ... I didn't know you were a couple.- Geren replied.

 

-We've been together for two days. And not. We weren't busy. Rayla was washing herself up and I was changing in my room. Nothing happened.- Callum replied.

 

- Relax. I am not interested in your bed life, especially since I have mine. I wish you happiness in this new road of your life. You will soon find out what that bitter-sweet taste is.- Geren replied.

 

-Thanks. But I'm terrified of screwing up. Any advice from a veteran?- Callum asked.

 

-Don't be overprotective, because eventually you'll get the leaf from her.- Geren replied.

 

-Noted. I have a request. You and Eleanor aren't talking to anyone, okay?- Callum asked.

 

-Deal.- replied Geren.


When Runaan and Ethari returned, Callum and Rayla were long asleep.

 

-Hmmm. Cookies on the table. Dinner on the stove. Shadow Paw was on a walk. It seems they can actually be trusted.- Runaan replied looking at the kitchen.

 

-I had no doubts about them. To be honest, I knew you were worried in advance. They are a couple, they are as old as they are. In the end, they will both get to the point where they get so close to each other.- Ethari replied.

 

-I know. But I have this strange awareness that they will both waste their lives. That they would settle down first. And most importantly - they withstood each other.- Runaan replied, loading the dinner on plates that Rayla and Callum prepared.

 

He looked at the drawing of all the household members that the children drew that day.

 

No. Not children anymore. They'll be adults soon., Runaan thought.

 

He felt something just died inside him.

Chapter Text

-You are afraid?- Rayla asked. Callum didn't answer.

 

He wanted to be honest with his friends. Ever since he knew them, he had lied to them. They took him as someone he was not. He could feel the sweat beading down the back of his neck. Instinctively, he grabbed Rayla's hand. She squeezed his hand without saying anything. Callum felt a little better. He knew he was not alone in this.

 

When they reached the clearing where they played with the Adoraburrs years ago, everyone was already there. Eleanor sat leaning against Geren's shoulder under a tree while Liadrin sat beside him. Before her, Geatan lay on his stomach on the ground. With Callum and Rayla in sight, Geatan turned on his back.

 

-Greetings! You wanted to tell us something.- Geatan greeted them. Everyone was staring at Callum and Rayla. They hesitated for a moment what to say. Finally Rayla took a deep breath and spoke.

 

-Callum and I ... are a couple.

 

-When? How long are you together? Tell me.- Liadrin replied.

 

-I knew you would finally make it.- Geatan praised them.

 

- Geren and I have known for two weeks.- Eleanor replied.

 

-And you didn't tell us anything?- Liadrin asked.

 

-Callum asked not to speak.- Geren said.

 

Callum and Rayla sat across from them. They started answering questions.

 

-So you've been together for two weeks, right?- Geatan asked.

 

-Yes ...- Callum replied.

 

-How? After all, as far as I know, you both had an adventure when Ethari and Runaan were not at home ...- Geren replied with a smile. Suddenly he got hit by elbow in the stomach from Eleanor.

 

-Another such stupid joke and you're sleeping on the couch.- she threatened Geren. Her boyfriend nodded softly.

 

-Well ... The day before that, we had a conversation at night. Rayla wanted to think about a few things herself and then ran away from home. I ran after her and ... - said Callum.

 

-... After an honest conversation and the moment when Callum almost drowned in river, we became a couple.-Rayla finished his sentence.

 

-Sounds romantic.- answered Liadrin.

 

- Believe me, it wasn't. Rayla replied. She remembered how bad she felt then, thinking that she was almost alone. But she felt Callum embrace her. She smiled.

 

-So, what are you planning? You are going to continue living in Silvergrove or are you moving to the Dragon Mountains?- Eleanor asked. The Dragon Mountains were where most of the Skywing Elves lived. Callum felt a shiver run through him. Eleanor brought up the subject he was afraid of.

 

-We don't know. But we are not thinking of the Dragon Mountains.- Callum replied. He felt Rayla's grip in his hand. He never thought he would need it that way.

 

-Why? Rayla doesn't like heights?- Geren asked. He was elbowed in the stomach again.

 

-Not completely. Callum, can I tell you the truth?- Rayla asked. Callum nodded. Everyone looked at him with surprise. -Callum has never been to these Mountains. He is not from them because he is not a Skywing Elf.

 

-Wait, what?- Geren asked.

 

-What?- Eleanor asked.

 

-But ... Then what is he?- Geatan asked.

 

Callum reluctantly removed the necklace. The illusion was gone. He looked at them. They stared at him with shock. They preferred to be wrong than to guess what Callum was.

 

-So ... That's what I look like ... I'm human.- Callum replied. He closed his eyes, ready for criticism, mockery and insults. He felt the need to sink into the ground.

 

-So ... You were human all the time?- Geatan asked.

 

-Yes. Before you ask, the spells I'm using weren't related to Dark Magic. I am connected to the Sky Arcanum, this is confirmed by the Lux Aurea check ritual.- Callum replied. His friends continued to remain silent. They didn't know how to react.

 

-Rayla, did you know that?- Eleanor asked.

 

-Yes. I knew from the very beginning. The fact that he is human changes nothing. I still love him.- she replied, squeezing his hand tighter. Callum felt a little better. At least Rayla was still with him.

 

-You know ... I ... I don't know what to say ...-Geatan tried to express himself. Eleanor cut him off suddenly.

 

-Stop. Before any of you decides to challenge him or banish him abroad, think about it. He lived with us for almost 8 years. He was playing with us. He grew up with us. We went to one school. He was getting into trouble with us. He has helped us many times. He is our friend, regardless of whether he is an elf, a human or even an overgrown ant. Callum did not hurt anyone and anything so he cannot be as bad as we were told about people from the beginning.- Eleanor protested.

 

-I have the same opinion as Eleanor. Callum has lived with us for so long and has a reputation for being a diligent and kind magician. Don't you think that if humans were bad as they describe them, Callum would start acting like that? After all, he only hurt the elf once, and it was in self-defense. Besides, Feren doesn't count. Say what you want but I stand behind Callum.- Geren answered.

 

-Well ... That was not what I expected ... But well, nobody knows what life will bring us. You are the first human I have ever met. It doesn't really change much, except that you'll feel more at ease between us. -Geatan said. Everyone spoke except Liadrin. This one did not seem surprised at all.

 

-Well ... I've known for a long time.- she replied.

 

-What?- everyone asked at once.

 

-I knew Callum was the human from the fight with Feren. You left the door gap with Rayla as she was helping him with the wounds and I saw him take off the necklace. I didn't want to add problems to him so I prefer to remain silent  ...-answered Liadrin. At these words, Geatan exploded into fury.

 

- So I have to confess where I was, what I ate and what I dreamed about and you "prefer to remain silent" that you were rummaging in my bag and that my friend is human !? You are unfair Liadrin! When you realize that ... or no. You know what? I do not care. Do what you want. - Geatan stood up - I'm going to spend some time in the company of plants. At least they don't lie like some Moonshadow elves.- he said, walking away.

 

Liadrin was sitting on the ground, not knowing what to say. Finally she jumped up and ran after Geatan.

 

-What ... Happened here?- Callum asked.

 

-They? They have a crisis in their ... I don't even know what to call it anymore.- Geren replied.

 

-Liadrin was jealous that Barris tried to go on a date Geatan after failing that with Callum. She tried to control what he was doing and with whom. Geatan finally caught her fumbling in his bag. Liadrin has been wary of him anyway since the fight with Feren. Geatan, as you know, endured it somehow, but in the last two weeks he just started breaking out. They had a couple of quarrels and now this.- Eleanor replied.

 

- They love and hate each other equally. Such a little old marriage. And to be honest, they should get a room ... - Geren said and then he was elbowed in the stomach again.

 

-A lot happened while we were sitting at home.- Rayla replied.

 

-Actually. But I'm still interested in Callum. Tell me Callum, what do people eat? I heard that the meat of various creatures.- Geren asked.

 

-Well ... Yes. From what I can remember, people have animals that are specially bred to be killed and eaten.- Callum replied.

 

-Barbarity.- Eleanor said in disgust. Most of the elves were vegetarians, though some of them were no strangers to eating fish on the occasion of holidays or other important events for them.

 

-I know. I haven't had meat in my mouth for 8 years, so take it easy, I haven't eaten anyone.- Callum replied.

 

-Okay. Anyway, where did you get here among the elves?- Eleanor asked.

 

-Do you remember this border incident 8 years ago?- Callum asked.

 

-Yes. Xadia enslaved a human prince as part of a peaceful exchange and diplomatic advantage. We're to understand that you ... Are you that prince?- Geren asked.

 

-Yes ... But only for the title. King Katolis adopted me after marrying my mother. Living in the royal castle, I was salt in the eyes of all lords and barons.- Callum replied.

 

-I'll tell you Rayla, you have amazing taste in boys. A human prince connected with Primeal Magic ..- Eleanor laughed.

 

-Very funny. Callum can also be a beggar. It doesn't change what he really is. Plus we think with Callum how to solve this case.-Rayla replied.

 

-Yes. I don't remember well the time when I was a prince, because from a simple child I suddenly became a child of monarchs. I was not allowed to go outside the castle, I was always guarded by two knights wherever I went. I had to memorize etiquette and traditions. And learn sword fighting. I didn't master anything on that list, and then I ended up here. And I do what I love. I have a job here, friends, life, a beautiful girl ... - he said, putting his head on Rayla's shoulder.

 

-Toady.- she said rolling her eyes.

 

-So you don't want to go back to Katolis?- Asked Eleanor.

 

-No. I'd rather stay here. I just hope the parents respect it. And if not ... Well ... As far as I know, the law in the human kingdoms allows you to renounce or resell your title.- Callum replied.

 

-Politics. But going further. How is it with Dark Magic? You know people who use this ... thing.- Geren asked.

 

-Yes. His name was Viren, and he was my stepfather's court mage. I remember that my mother told me not to get too close to him and not to talk to him too much. He was oddly serious. Mostly, so that's how I remember him.- Callum replied.

 

-And that's it? One mage for the entire kingdom?- Geren asked.

 

-There are smaller mages that no one knows about. Since I came here, a sect called Salamander has been operating in Katolis. As far as I know, there were a few mages among their members that no one knew about.- Callum replied.

 

-Sounds awful,.- replied Eleanor.

 

-And so it is. But as far as I know, my stepfather has been a staunch enemy of the Dark Arts for a while now and is exterminating this sect. That's great for me. Callum replied.

 

-My opinion is the same. And say ... what else do humans have, apart from no horns, round ears and an extra finger?- Eleanor asked.

 

-Nothing ... Everything seems to be like our books.- Callum replied. Rayla laughed at these words.

 

-Callum do you remember that conversation? 5 years ago?- she asked, hiding her face in her hands. Callum heard a soft chuckle from her.

 

-Rayla! This is not funny.- Callum replied blushing. Eleanor and Geren understood what they were talking about.

 

-Forgive me ... But I had this scene before my eyes. Somehow I remember it was more funny.- Rayla said.

 

They continued with questions. They learned from Callum, among other things, that as part of an engagement people give a ring to a loved one, several traditions in Katolis, the feudal system that prevailed in most human kingdoms, and how elves are seen by humans. Geren laughed as Callum told him about the "drinking of blood" that scares younger humans. Memories flashed back to him when he met Rayla. If he could change anything in his choices, he would not change anything. He was happy with what happened to him.


In the evening they returned homes . Geatan and Liadrin returned calmer and apparently happier a few hours after their disappearance. They also held hands. Nobody asked what happened, but everyone suspected that they finally managed to come to an agreement.

 

When Callum entered his room, he saw that Rayla was already sleeping in his bed. He smiled at the sight of her. He took off his everyday clothes and put on his pajamas. He slowly lay down beside her. He covered himself with her and lay waiting for sleep to wear out him.

 

He began to think what would happen next. After all, he was happy here. He wanted to continue living in Silvergrove. However, he felt a longing for his parents. He wanted to see them again. Introduce them to Rayla, tell them about her. He also wanted to spend some time with Ezran who was now 13 years old. Meet childhood friends: Claudia and Soren.

 

However, he was afraid that they would not accept him as he was. That they wouldn't want to know him anymore because he was more elf than human. That he got involved with Rayla. Thinking about it, he looked at her. She was sleeping soundly next to him. She was beautiful while she slept. Callum always felt in the depths of his soul that he was more fortunate than he had wits, but having a girl like her, Callum felt he was the luckiest man alive.

 

Suddenly Rayla quickly rolled to the side. And again. A grimace of pain appeared on his face. Rayla started rolling from side to side. Callum sat down next to her. He grabbed her arm.

 

-Rayla, what's going on?- Callum asked. But she continued to thrash in her sleep. Before Callum could do anything, Rayla sat up immediately, waking up.

 

-No!- she screamed terrified with tears in her eyes. She looked at Callum. She hugged him with all her might. Callum also embraced her, surprised by the whole situation. But the most important thing for him was to calm her down.

 

-I am next to you. See? I'm fine.- He replied patting her lightly on the back. Rayla continued to cry anyway. Callum held her until she fell asleep. He laid her gently on the bed and lay down by himself. Embracing her, he also fell asleep.


Rayla woke up in Callum's arms. She breathed a sigh of relief. So it seemed to her, last night's nightmare was still just a dream. She breathed a sigh of relief. She looked at Callum. He looked lovely while he slept. She was lying there thinking what she dreamed yesterday.

 

Her parents, Callum and Runaan, were trapped in blocks of ice by a human mage. He threatened to destroy them for what Rayla had done to him, even though Rayla didn't even know the mage. She did not know what she could do to him, but he decided to kill all the imprisoned. Then she got up at night. Callum was with her the whole time. He was safe.

 

After a while, she heard a knock. Ethari entered the room holding two letters. Rayla lay still, not wanting to wake Callum, though she wanted to escape.

 

-I ... I can explain it...- Rayla tried to explain.

 

-There's need. Runaan and I know you are a couple. You don't know how to keep it a secret as you would like.- Ethari replied.

 

-Ah ... well ... It just happened...- That's it. Rayla replied.

 

-I know. Love works in a strange way. However, I would like to ask you something else. Are you happy with him?- Ethari asked.

 

-Yes. I am.- Rayla replied.

 

-I am happy with this. Letters from your parents came today. I think you will both enjoy them.- Ethari said putting letters on Callum's desk. - Oh, and one more thing. When Callum gets up, tell him that I need his help in the workhouse.- He reported leaving the Ethari room.

 

Rayla reached out for the letters and grabbed the one that was from her parents. She opened it and began reading.


All the Dragon Guards stood ready. It was their last assignment. The egg they were looking at was about to hatch. They waited a long time for this moment so that they could finally return to their homes. For 8 years they stood guard over the royal family. For 8 years they waited to be able to return to their families. Now they will come back as heroes. Only the Moonshadow Elf couple were dissatisfied with this.

 

They were glad to be able to return home. They have not dreamed of anything else for 8 years. However, at the same time they were afraid of what they will find. They left their daughter there, who had to grow up without them. Feelings of guilt and fear for her made them both terrified of returning. However, they did come back anyway. For their daughter.

 

Eventually the egg started to break. The shell began to break, and piece by piece a little dragon emerged from the egg. He was blue, just like his parents. He looked at everone with large eyes full of curiosity.

 

-Here is my son, Azymondias.- introduced the little Dragon Avizandum. With his birth, their service ended. They could go home.

Chapter Text

-Good morning. -Rayla said seeing Callum slowly waking up. He, however, did not want to get up.

 

-Five more minutes ...- Callum replied, turning to his side.

 

-Time to get up. Don't make me use your worst weapon to wake you up.- Rayla replied.

 

-Mhm, what weapon?- Callum asked not moving.

 

-I remember you are ticklish on your sides.- Rayla replied. Callum then opened his eyes.

 

-You won. I'm not asleep anymore. Hello beautiful.- Callum said sitting down next to her.

 

-That sounds even worse than "sweetheart." But what doesn't it sound like?- Rayla asked.

 

-I know. Did you sleep well?- Callum asked, stretching.

 

-It wasn't really bad...- Rayla tried to avoid the nightmares she had last night.

 

-You sure? After all, I remember yesterday you woke up screaming and cried. All right?- Callum asked.

 

-Yes ... I just ... I'm bad in lying. Ihad a bad dream. Just a bad dream. And that's it. I don't want to talk about it.- She replied turning away from him. She didn't want to go back to it.

 

-Hey, you know I'm there for you if you need me?- Callum asked, embracing her. She cuddled up to him. It was a nice feeling to know there was someone nearby to help in difficult times.

 

-I know. I just don't want to talk about it. Not now ... - she replied.

 

-All right. If you need me, you know where to look for me.- Callum replied.

 

-Knowing life to my left. I think that we are not bored with each other.- Rayla replied.

 

- It's good for me. But you know ... If you want to go somewhere ... Alone. Or with my friends ... Then you know ... I won't mind.- Callum replied.

 

-Calm down I don't mean you're boring or anything. I just wish we didn't run away from each other at some point because we spend too much time together. Maybe we can get some rest from each other. You go  do something with Geatan and Geren, and I'll do something interesting with Liadrin and Eleanor. We'll just take a break from each other.- Rayla said.

 

-And you are not afraid ... That then someone might try to seduce me? Or you?- Callum asked.

 

-I trust you to talk that someone off. As for me, you don't have to worry. I already have a boyfriend, I don't need another one. She replied smiling.- Callum preferred to be sure anyway and was afraid that Rayla might get to know someone better than him.

 

-Sure ... Are those letters?- Callum asked. He had just noticed the letters Ethari had brought. One with the seal of the Dragon Guard was unlocked, while the other, with the Katolis symbol, was intact.

 

-Yeah ... Looks like my parents will be back from Storm Spire in a month.- Rayla replied.

 

-You are worried?-  Callum asked.

 

-A little. In the end ... I don't know if I will be what they expect from me ... - Rayla replied. Callum put his hand on her shoulder.

 

-It will be fine. They probably can't wait to see you. They will surely be pleased with everything you have achieved. Maybe not me, because few parents would be happy that their daughter has a boyfriend ... - Callum replied.

 

-It's none of their business anymore. We're together and they can't talk crap about it.- Rayla tried to convince herself. After all, she was as afraid of this moment as she was of water.

 

-If you think so. You know, we can always try to move to one of the empty houses nearby town. Or build a new one. I hear Geatan has recently been thinking about moving away from his parents.- Callum replied.

 

-Sounds nice. But I think for this to happen, we both need jobs. Do you think they would take me to the City Guard?- Rayla asked.

 

-After Assassin Trials, they should do it without any problem. After all, you are one of the best adepts in Runaan's group. There should be no problem with that.- Callum replied.

 

-You're right. Although you sound like a total toady.- Rayla replied.

 

-I guess it doesn't bother you, does it?- Callum asked, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

 

-Not even a little ...- Rayla said.

 

They lay in silence. Rayla, leaning against him, wondered if there might be an argument between them. She did not want that to happen, but it was impossible for them to remain in perfect love all the time. After all, quarrels in the relationship were inevitable. She was afraid that such argument would put an end to what they felt to each other.

 

- Wait ... Where did these letters come from anyway? -Callum asked.

 

-Ethari brought them.- Rayla replied.

 

-And .... He didn't say anything to the fact that we are...-Callum asked, blushing.

 

-They know from the beginning.- Rayla replied.

 

-They... They're not angry? -Callum asked.

 

-Ethari probably not. Things can be different with Runaan, but I think he doesn't mind. Speaking of Ethari, he asked you to help him with one thing in the workhouse.- Rayla replied.

 

-It's a pity, I'd love to stay and cuddle here with you.- Callum replied giving her a kiss on the cheek.

 

-You know, it will be day tomorrow too, so ...- replied Rayla.

 

-All right ... I'm getting up.- Callum replied getting up from the bed. He went to the locker and took out his everyday clothes: a green shirt with short sleeves, a navy blue vest, black pants, black shoes and a scarf that his parents gave him. He started taking off his pajamas. Then he turned and looked at Rayla. She was lying smiling watching him change his clothes.

 

-You admire the views?- Callum asked with a smile.

 

-Yes. I have to admit you look handsome. You know, you could sleep more often without a pajama shirt.- Rayla replied.

 

-Well ... Maybe today. For now, I have to help Ethari. See you later ... - Callum replied fastening the belt on his trousers and leaving the room.


Callum didn't expect such an order. He knew that Liadrin and Geatan had a really close relationship and they were closer to lovers than anyone in their group could think, but he did not expect Geatan to decide to make horn cuffs on the second day of their relationship. Cuffs were human equivalents of human engagement rings.

 

-You say they're only on the second day? Either their relationship lasts longer than they tell you, or they rush to hide something. You know what I mean, right?- Ethari asked, already preparing the silver bars to prepare the cuffs.

 

-Possible. Their relationship has been a bit tense lately. But you could say that they were informally a couple from the fight with Feren.- Callum replied preparing the smith tools.

 

-Right. But you know, it's hard to give someone these cuffs if you don't love someone very much. I saw plenty of young elves scared to actually even after decades of love asking their beloved ones if they marry them. You thought about it?- Ethari asked, turning to Callum.

 

-About what?- Callum asked, adding some coal to the stove.

 

-About the proposal to her. You know, someday you may find yourself in such a situation with Rayla that you will want to propose. I'm not saying you should make your own cuffs as soon as we're done with  Geatan ones, but I want you to think carefully.- Ethari replied. Callum looked at him. It was nice to know that Ethari was quietly supporting them in their new phase of life. However, he wasn't sure Rayla would say so. After all, to be in a relationship with a human is different than to marry one. This would mean that it would probably be associated with him until his death. He didn't know if Rayla would like to sacrifice half her life to spend it with Callum.

 

-I didn't. But I will. You have my word.- Callum replied.


-You seem distracted.- Runaan replied.

 

They were in the market to buy food and a few household items. Rayla walked beside him in silence.

 

-Runaan ... Have you ever been afraid that what was between you and Ethari ... might fall apart?- she asked.

 

-In what sense?- Runaan asked.

 

-I mean ... Were you afraid that love between you with Ethari might just ... fall apart after one argument?- Rayla asked.

 

-Sometimes. But after some time I was sure that this would not happen. Right, I was afraid he would meet someone better, but I just trusted him. And as you can see, I don't regret it. Callum is a good ... - Runaan wanted to say an elf, but Callum was not an elf- You know. You shouldn't worry that after all these years where he quietly hoped you would pay attention to him, he now suddenly finds that what he is feeling is not love after all. He put too much effort into it for him to find out now that he does not love you. All you have to to is simply to trust him.- Runaan replied putting his hand on her shoulder.

 

-T ... That's it?I have to trust him?- Rayla asked.

 

-Yes. If you don't trust him yourself, you won't feel confident with him at all.- Runaan replied.

 

-I understand.- Rayla replied.

 

On their way home, they found Liadrin sitting on a bench. The girl looked pale and you could see she was shaking. Runaan decided to go home while Rayla decided to talk to her. She wanted to give Callum the opportunity to spend time with his friends by arranging with her friends.

 

-Hey.- Rayla greeted sitting down next to her.

 

-Hi Rayla. What is up?- Liadrin replied. There was fear in her voice. Something happened.

 

-It's okay ... I guess. You seem stressed out. Do you want to go for a walk?- Rayla asked.

 

-Why not ...- answered Liadrin. They both got up and headed towards her house. -So ... how are you with Callum? Are you not bored with each other yet?- Liadrin asked, pretending a smile.

 

-No, we're fine. Callum is in the workhouse with Ethari. Listen, I can see that something's bothering you. Everything okay between you and Geatan?- Rayla asked. Tears ran down Liadrin's cheeks after the last sentence.

 

-No, it's not. Rayla, I did something terrible. I ... I'm gonna have a baby.- Liadrin replied, simply bursting into tears.

 

Mostly elves had a problem with having children due to their longevity. Unplanned motherhood among elven communities was rare, but nevertheless there were young couples who got carried away one night. The symptoms were more stronger than in the case of human couples, so Liadrin, surprised by malaise and vomiting, went to a healer early in the morning who passed the information on to her.

 

-You ... and Geatan ... Are you gonna have a baby?- Rayla asked. Liadrin just nodded. Rayla hugged her friend, who at that moment needed her help more than ever.


-It can't be that bad. He certainly won't leave you.- Eleanor replied patting her shoulder. Liadrin continued to sit, terrified, staring at the table.

 

The three of them were sitting in the Liadrin house. Her parents and brother weren't at home. Liadrin only told her friends and Geatan. The one left her in the morning without saying a word and she hasn't seen him since then. She was afraid that he was simply scared and decided to run away.

 

-But ... We didn't plan on having children. We haven't talked about it. Hell, we are couple for only two days! We have recently established a vineyard ourselves and are barely making it go. How are we to reconcile this with raising a child? I am so dumb...- asked Liadrin, staring blindly at the table. Even though they were both adults, it still looked bad. At 18, elves rarely had children.

 

-I doubt Geatan just back off. You know he loves you and won't let you be alone with it.- Rayla said.

 

-But ...- Suddenly they heard a knock. Rayla decided to go open the door. Behind them stood Geatan and Callum.

 

-Hey ... Is Liadrin here? I have to talk to her.- Geatan asked. Rayla noticed the small box in his hands. Still, she was angry with him. She felt that Geatan wanted to withdraw, and for that she wanted to kill him.

 

-Listen to me carefully. Consider what you want to tell her. If you leave her with it now, I will personally kill you, you understand? i am dead serious, I will bind myself to finish you off if you will leave her right now. You cannot run away from it now and leave her alone with this burden. You are both responsible for it and you have no right to run away from it.- Rayla replied.

 

-Rayla, please. I know what I did. Please let me talk to her. I know I screwed things up, but believe me, I know how to fix this mess.- Geatan asked. Rayla gave him a distrustful look, but let him pass. Earthblood elf went to the kitchen. Callum stood beside her.

 

-Do I miss something?- he asked uncertainly. Of course, he knew nothing. Rayla couldn't blame him.

 

-Nothing ... It's just ... Geatan and Liadrin are expecting a baby. From the morning, Liadrin is afraid of what awaits them.- Rayla replied. Callum looked at her in surprise.

 

-Now I understand. Everything fits in.-Callum replied.

 

-What's again?- Rayla asked.

 

-Geatan ordered cuffs for horns from me and Ethari today. He told me he destroyed everything between him and Liadrin, but he knows how to save it. He came to propose to her.- Callum replied.

 

Rayla looked at him, then followed him into the kitchen where Eleanor, Liadrin, and Geatan were. While Liadrin and Geatan simply stood huddled in the center, Eleanor sat at the table smiling.

Chapter Text

-Dude, you look at this mug as if you wanted the beer inside to turn into water. Take it easy. The situation is bad, true, but it is not that bad. My sister is happy and you have my support. Our parents are furious, but they will help you if you need to.- Geren said patting Geatan on the shoulder. He was still sitting looking at the mug of beer.

 

They were sitting at the table in New Moon Inn. Callum and Geren decided to take Geatan to the inn to drink something stronger the day after he proposed to Liadrin. Their parents were furious with their lack of responsibility, but seeing the devotion of Geatan who decided to fix everything he had broken, they decided to support the young couple in their new way of life. In addition, the Council of Elders, which found out about their problem, gave them a grant for the expansion of the vineyard. Despite this, the situation for them was not optimistic.

 

-Guys ... I screwed up her life all the way. I made it difficult for her. She will be stuck with me for the rest of our lives. And yet she said yes yesterday. Why?- Geatan asked.

 

-Because she loves you? Dude, girls are not like us. They see it differently. Yet somehow, when we do things that matter to them, they still let us be with them. The woman is a strange creature… - replied Geren.

 

-Well, she was more terrified that you could leave her alone than that you would make her a mother at an age as young as an elf. After all, it is hard to be parent if you are only one parent. I didn't know my real father myself because he left my mother when he found out that I would be born. However, for her, these proposal was the best proof that you love her and that you will do anything to ensure a safe life for her and your child.- Callum replied.

 

-Yeah ... I can't understand her. Geren ... I hope you're not mad for ... You know ... I got your sister into this crap.- Geatan said.

 

-Easy head, brother-in-law. I dreamed of becoming an uncle one day. If necessary, I can babysit your baby when you are at work. I can't wait for my nephew or niece to be born.- Geren replied. He was very excited about becoming uncle. 

 

-Mhm. I wonder what Primal Source  the child will be connected to? I bet that with the Moon ...- said Geatan, then silently looked at the mug of beer called "Magma". It was a bitter product from the Sunfire Elves that was popular for its good taste. After staring at the mug for a moment, Geatan picked up the mug and drank the beer in a few sips.

 

-On your nerves, huh?- Callum asked.

 

-As hell, you know. When I think that in about nine months I will be responsible for a baby, it makes me feel fainting. I never thought about it, and especially never spoke to Liadrin. I'm simply afraid ... - replied Geatan.

 

-You know ... I have an idea that can give you a lot of money. In a way, I have contact with my parents from abroad. We could send them a few samples of your wine for them to pass to local pubs and taste it. If they liked it, you could sell goods in bulk abroad.- Callum replied.

 

-I need to talk to Liadrin and the Village Elders about this. And we will probably have to get permission from King Avizandum. But the idea is not bad ... Oho, here comes Barris. - Geatan said.

 

Callum turned to see Barris. She was carrying four mugs of "Magma". All three boys looked knowingly at each other. They felt something was wrong. In keeping with their concerns, Barris walked over to their table.

 

-Hello guys. What's up? - She greeted putting the mugs on the table.

 

-Everything in the old way, in fact. Everyone is well at home.- Callum replied.

 

-Mhm ... How's it going with you and your girlfriends?- Barris asked.

 

-Very good. Two of us are happy about great girlfriend and the third is about to get married.- Geren answered her question.

 

-Really? Which of you is getting married?- Barris asked. They saw the anger in her eyes. Apparently she was jealous that other girls were doing better in this field than hers.

 

-I do. - Geatan replied.

 

-Well well, who is the lucky girl?- Barris asked.

 

-Liadrin.- Geatan replied.

 

-I thought so too. Look, I have something nice for you guys. I bought you a mug of beer. Have a good drink.- Barris replied, placing the mugs of beer in front of them, then left with her mug. Those sitting at the table looked at each other with knowing eyes and then looked at the mugs.

 

-Something stinks here.- Geren said.

 

-Yes, and it's beer, unfortunately. I feel a potion. Do you know what this stuff is?- Callum asked. Geatan sniffed his mug of beer.

 

- Hmmm, mine doesn't stink. Give me yours. Geatan replied. After sniffing the beers, he finally replied. - She put the Starfern Solution into your beer Callum. This solution is better known as the love potion. The person who drank this elixir falls in love with the first person who kisses this person. I remember that it supposedly affects elves, but not humans. It adds the drug a salty taste with dishes. Plus it works for two days. She must have topped it up a moment ago, otherwise you wouldn't smell it. You are very lucky with one word.- Geatan replied.

 

-Mean move.- commented Callum. According to him, Barris was overdoing it by refilling the potion. She couldn't accept the fact that Rayla had a boyfriend and she didn't. Here, however, it was not about her, but only about to humiliate Rayla who was her rival.

 

-You sound like you had contact with this potion.-Geren replied.

 

-Because I had. Your sister really wanted to make sure I didn't choose another girl and tried to sneak it into my food several times. Not effectively. Even so, I still love her. - Geatan replied.

 

-Incredibly romantic, but I just wanted to mention that Barris is trying to seduce me. Again. Knowing life, she will probably wait outside my house to kiss me and break Rayla's heart in process. Do you have any idea how to get away from her?- Callum asked.

 

-Well, your beer can be drunk by me. But that's not what you mean, right? I have got some idea. I can walk you home, but that might not be enough.— Geren replied.

 

-There's no need to. As for you, I don't want to expose you to beer. And it's a pity of a good drink. Eh, I'll risk.-Callum replied. Among the Elves, it is common to use some things to the end, so that nothing is wasted. In this case, it was no different.

 

-Your will. We'll tell Rayla how it really was. Your health guys.- Geren replied. At these words, all three of them drank all their mugs in one go.

 

-What then, guys? Are we going back?- Geatan asked.

 

-I would stay. But since you insist ... - Geren replied, getting up from the table. All three took the dishes to the innkeeper and went to their homes.


Rayla was sitting in her room staring out the window at the stars. She once remembered a fairy tale about a certain Startouch Elf who predicted the future by looking at the constellations. She wondered if their future was in the stars.

 

She looked down on the street. The city was slowly going to sleep. She loved this quiet time at Silvergrove. Quietly and calmly, all residents returned to their homes.

 

She felt a slight scratch at the ankle. She turned to see Sapphire. He sat staring at her as if he was looking for someone's interest. Rayla smiled at the sight of him. Little Shadow Paw clung to her at the sight of her interest and sat there for a moment.

 

The Sapphire grew older the time he spent here. Pet was approximately knee-high. Even so, Rayla knew he would soon grow to this size that she would have to sleep in Ethati's workhouse where there was enough room.

 

She noticed Callum as she looked out at the street. He was walking slowly towards the house. He had promised to be back by midnight, and it was only dusk. Rayla smiled.

 

Suddenly, Barris appeared from across the street. She headed straight towards Callum. They mey in the middle of the road. Rayla looked at it in surprise. She didn't know what Barris might want with Callum. After a few words, Barris suddenly moved closer to Callum. Rayla realized what she was trying to do - Barris wanted to kiss him. Suddenly her heart sped up. She was angry that someone tried to steal her boyfriend.

 

But then Callum used a spell to chill Barris legs with ice to the ground. He pulled away from her and, after a few words, headed home. Rayla, seeing his reaction, breathed a sigh of relief. She left the room into the corridor. She heard Callum open the door. She met him in the middle of the corridor.

 

-Hey there beautiful ...-Callum tried to say, but Rayla cut him off kissing him. He kissed her back and hugged Rayla. This one felt the bitter taste of "Magma" beer in his mouth. She enjoyed it all the more because Callum was still loyal to her even when he was partially drunk. They finally split up.

 

-That's for not letting this slut get on your head.- Rayla replied.

 

-Did you see the whole thing?-Callum asked.

 

-Mhm. At one point, I wanted to go for a bow. But you handled it. I am proud of  you Callum.-Rayla replied.

 

-I know. Are we going to sleep, or would you like to do anything else?- Callum asked.

 

-Sleep. The only thing I can dream about now is going to sleep next to the best human I know.- Rayla replied.


Callum hadn't expected sleeping in just shorts to be so awkward. Although he slept like this more than once, but what really frightened him was that Rayla was sleeping alone in her underwear, cuddled up to him.

 

It was the first time he saw her without her everyday clothes, which was new to him. He always tried to not see her without her clothes thinking that would be awkward for both him nad her. He didn't mind it now, but it was a strange feeling to feel her body, not the clothes like he used to. Callum noticed that her skin was delicate and that she smelled like Moomraspberries, which may have been the result of their home-made soap with a similar scent. From now on, this smell will remind him of her and how she looks in underwear.

 

Just what she looked like was remembered by him mostly. She was beautiful, almost perfect. He thought about drawing her in this state, but Callum felt he shouldn't think of her that way. That it's not fair to her. Closing his eyes, however, he saw her take off her casual clothes and blushing to stand in front of him. He felt very bad then, as if she was forcing herself to do something she did not want. However, she herself assured that she wanted to be fair to him in this way. Callum himself did not quite believe that she did it without resistance. However, all he had to do was trust that Rayla was telling the truth.

 

He looked at her. She was sleeping snuggled against him. Callum didn't understand why she wanted to be with him anymore. After all, he was a human, a monster that had been a main bad character of nightmare for every little elf since their birth. However, he spent 8 years here. He thought that maybe he was closer to an elf than to a human? Maybe it was what she liked him so much? Love really did act in a strange way.

 

He looked around his room. He spent almost half of his life here. Suddenly he remembered the letter from his parents still lying on the nightstand next to his bed.

 

He reached out for the letter and unsealed it. He started reading.


Rayla woke up cuddled up to Callum. She was surprised that he beats with incredible warmth. She looked at him. Callum was still asleep, but he was not wearing a pajama shirt. Suddenly she remembered that they were both sleeping in their underwear. She blushed slightly, though she smiled nonetheless.

 

She wanted to take the next step in their relationship. She felt a little awkward, but she slept snuggled up to Callum wearing only her underwear. Callum himself was wearing only underwear, so she could say that they were just as fair to each other. Still, she felt even better knowing that they were already at a stage where they could feel more at ease in each other's company.

 

She hugged Callum further. Lying further, she noticed a letter lying in one of his hands. She put it down on the bedside table, trying not to read his correspondence with his parents.


-I am not worried that he wrote less than usual, just that the letters of subject about Rayla suddenly dropped out of the letters. - Sarai replied.

 

She and Harrow were walking down the corridor of the castle. They were just returning from the next council meeting. Reports reported the complete destruction of both the bandit groups and the remnants of Slamamander, but at the cost of considerable losses in the Standing Battalion. Some soldiers from the Capital Garrison have just been sent back to replenish the battalion's personnel. During the recovery of it's strength, unit was sent to the border, so that the unit could train recruits there in peace.

 

-There are two options. Either Callum was rejected by Rayla, or they are together and prefer to keep it to each other. In my opinion, it will be better if we don't ask about it.- Harrow replied.

 

-Yeah. But you know, it made Callum feel happy. Internally, I feel that if it wasn't for her, he would most likely still be afraid to look beyond the sketchbooks.- Sarai replied.

 

-I know. Nevertheless, it is better not to mention the topic. Just in case.- Harrow replied turning to the right. He opened the door to Ezran's room.

 

Their second son grew up slowly. He recently turned 14 and he and Sarai decided to talk to him about certain topics, like where babies come from. It was similar with Ellis who also began to grow up. As they entered the room, they found the two of them playing chess. As it was heard, Ezran lost.

 

-I won!- Ellis exclaimed.

 

-Yeah. According to the deal, I am supposed to give you something that you do not expect.- Ezran replied coming up to her with a smile.

 

-You won't surprise me with anything. I know you too well and ...- Ellis laughed, knowing that Ezran would not surprise her with anything. He, however, proved her wrong and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Ellis stopped and touched the cheek. - Alright... You won. It was unexpected after all. - Ellis answered. Sarai and Harrow looked at each other knowingly at the sight.

 

-I knew it. Trust me, I am... - Ezran tried to tell but this was a moment when his parent were to interrupt them. 

 

-I hope we're not disturbing you?- Sarai asked. At the sight of them, the teenagers jumped up and looked at them blushing. They weren't expecting adults right now. However, adults knew that the awkward moment for children was just about to begin.

Chapter Text

Deep down Amaya felt that this patrol was too quiet. Although together with the elves, more than once or twice, they organized patrols toghether during which often strong friendships were established, but when two soldiers were missing, one on each side, Amaya felt that something was wrong.

 

She and Janai decided to walk along the patrol route. If the missing two were still alive, they must have been on the way somewhere. The road itself was a tunnel that for centuries served people as a passage to the Xadian side of the border. Everywhere on the way there were many small crevices and caves in which even a man sitting on a horse could hide. Besides, there were no other roads leading off the road, so finding the missing was only a matter of time.

 

Do you remember who is the lost elf?

 

-This is a young girl who recently joined the Sunfire Guard. And on your side? -Janai asked. Amaya replied trying to remember the recruit's name.

 

A young boy who was just transferred from the garrison in the capital. If I were a fan of conspiracy theories, I would say that they both decided to make a date while on patrol.

 

-Love between an elf and a human? Crazy idea, don't you think?- Janai asked. Amaya blushed slightly, but decided to tell her point of view not involving Janai.

 

You know my opinion. If both sides are happy, why not? For the last eight years, there has been peace between humans and elves. Even recently, a trade was established and trading deals were signed for the wine from Xadia to be sold at the Katolis inn. And if it worked, then love is possible too. I'm counting on it because otherwise Callum and Rayla wouldn't have had a chance to be together. I believe they will succeed.

 

-The last time I saw them they were 11 years old. When that time has passed by... - answered Janai. Amaya answered her shortly.

 

Right? I wonder if I will recognize him when he comes back. Although I think Callum will rather stay in Xadia.

 

-Why do you think so?- Janai asked. Amaya answered her again.

 

He had spent too much time there. He has a job there, friends, probably a girlfriend in Xadia. He knows this place better than Katolis. I don't know if he will be able to find himself in the human world.

 

-Despite everything, I think he will rather visit you. He probably misses his parents and his parents want to see him and know that he's okay.- Janai replied. Amaya replied, but there was a void inside.

 

They care about him. We all care. Our court mage, out of guilt, stopped using Dark Magic and Callum's childhood friends stopped making trouble. Well, at the beginning I even wanted to try to free him myself from your, as I thought then, " cruel captivity".

 

-Noble, though doomed to failure. Immediately abroad there are Dry Hills where Sunfire Dragons live. One of them, Sol Regem, hates people very much. He burned the last group he met alive to the last.- Janai replied.

 

Hmmm, and even knowing the sister of the Sunfire Elf Queen wouldn't save me from him?

 

-Even if I married you. Anyway, that would be a bad idea ... I mean, in such a situation. I am not saying that it is a bad idea in general, because in a way it is even a good idea.- Janai replied. Amaya just rolled her eyes suddenly Janai stopped her with a gesture - Wait, I heard something...

 

They drew their swords and slowly approached the cave on the left side of the road. Both adjoined the cave wall and slowly entered. The cave was not huge, but it was big enough to be able to turn a few meters. From behind the bend, Janai heard four voices.

 

- I am asking for the last time. Where is your outpost? Either you answer in the end or I tear out your friend's eye.- the first male voice threatened.

 

-Leave him alone. Leave him alone.- a female voice answered him.

 

-Maybe we should break her horns? Then she'll start talking.-added a third male voice.

 

-Leave her ... AAAAAAGH!- Janai heard someone howling in pain. Hearing scream gave Janai a shudder. She could only guess what they must have been doing to this person, making him scream that loudly.

 

Amaya looked at Janai, guessing what she was hearing. It was probably not the first time that she heard something like that. And not the first time she will have to kill to save someone. Both approached to see what was around the bend. There were four humans and an elf. Most of the humans wore black baggy clothes with brooches with a salamander symbol on their shoulders. The fourth man wore plate armor and chain mail. What distinguished him was the lack of one eye and the mass of blood on his face, but despite his injuries, Amaya recognized him as a lost recruit. He was sitting tied up against the wall and held by one of the humans. The elf, on the other hand, wore leather armor with golden details used by the Sunfire Guard Lux Aurea. It was held by the other human.

 

-It's enough to blind the boy to the end and...- one of the attackers tried to say as Amaya stabbed her sword in his back. Before the other two could handle it to react they were long decapitated by Janai. The lost elf, as soon as she was freed, immediately grabbed the wounded man's hand.

 

-What happened? Sabah, are you? Speak up, please! I can't see anything.- Said the missing soldier trying to lean against the wall.

 

-It's alright, Golden Knight Janai and your general saved us. We are safe. I'm so sorry ... - she said crying over the wounded man. The one simply searching with his hand in the air, found her cheek and put his hand on it.

 

-Do not cry. You did not know. We both didn't know.- Marcos replied.

 

-Were there more of them or were they just the three?- Asked Janai.

 

-Only those three.- Sabah replied.

 

-We have to take him to the field hospital in the human garrison, quickly.- Janai replied as she helped Marcos up.


-I couldn't save the eye. He will be blind on it for the rest of his life. The second eye is fine.- Cahir replied.

 

Even so, Amaya knew boy was lucky: if she was late with Janai by even a few seconds, he could lost his sight completely. More than once she saw what a human with knowledge and a knife could do to tied prisoner. The boy should be glad that the attackers either didn't have the time or the imagination to do more than just gouge his eye out.

 

I understand. Leave us alone. We need to talk to Sabah in private.

 

Cahir nodded and left the room. There was only a table and chairs in the room. Amaya sat down at the table where Janai and Sabah were already seated. The younger elf was given a blanket and a cup of tea. She sat staring at the cup as if she could see Marcos's eye in it. Amaya could guess what she might be thinking. How now, guilt gives up ideas of what she could have done to keep it not happening. But what happened happened, and no thoughts could change it.

 

-You have to tell us what happened there. How did you get into their hands?- Janai asked. Sabah just took her eyes off the cup and looked at Janai. There was a sense of guilt in her eyes.

 

-We wanted to talk to Marcos in private, so we slowed down. We often met on patrols, and it just so happened that we met a lot. Finally ... We fell in love with each other. I told him that today and ... We started kissing. We were so preoccupied with each other so much that we didn't notice how these three put their daggers to our throats and dragged us into the cave. And there… -Sabah paused. She didn't want to come back to it.

 

-What did they ask?- Janai asked.

 

-For the location and strength of outposts on the eastern side of the border, and a place called "Silvergrave" or something similar. I refused to provide information and that's why... They... - Sabah fell silent again.

 

-You don't have to tell what they did to him. These humans were talking about something? Did they have any distinguishing marks?- Janai asked.

 

- Nothing but the salamander brooches. They also said something about a Galibardi. Seems to be their boss.- Sabah replied.

 

-I understand. There is a hospital at the second door on the left. Marcos and you should talk about today. And for the future, focus on responsibilities. I know that it's hard for you to meet and to be together, but you have to find the best solution for it. Dismissed.- Janai replied. Sabah got up from her chair and left the room. As she closed the door, Amaya began to speak in sign language.

 

And you fear Humans because of the Dark Magic.

 

-Sorry, but I do not understand.- Janai replied. Amaya replied.

 

It is not Dark Magic that makes humans monsters Janai, but the brutality to which human can do. You saw what they did to that kid. He stayed with them for a dozen minutes, maby half an hour. I've seen people tortured for months. They returned without arms, blind, scarred or tongueless. Sabah should also be glad that they did not have time to see how elven women differ from human ones.

 

-I know from experience that not every human is bad. There are also those with a pure soul and a noble heart.- Janai replied. Amaya lowered her head in reply.

 

I'm not a saint myself, you know it very well.

 

-You don't have to be because it doesn't change anything. If you only weren't elf ...-Janai said, moving closer to Amaya. Amaya turned to face her and replied.

 

And you are an elf.

 

Their lips touched in a kiss. It wasn't the first time that both of them had been in this situation. Three months earlier, they had had a frank conversation that started their romance. After a while, they both separated.

 

-Did you told your sister?- Janai asked. Amaya replied.

 

No. Only Gren knows, but he covers us. And with you?

 

-Only Kazi knows, but she's just like Gren. You know, we don't have to hide if you want to…- Janai replied, but Amaya shook her head.

 

It would be better to keep silent about it. I don't want others to destroy it through race hatred.

 

Janai understood this better than anyone. After all, both had the respect of those they loved to lose for the sake of love. They hated the feeling of fear that someone would find out and tell the others. However, they did not want to give up the chance to be happy.


-So sewing is about that? It's amazingly simple. It's strange that dad can't do that.- Ezran replied.

 

He and Ellis were learning how to sew. His mother wanted to teach everything she knew from home. She taught them, among other things, to cook, the basics of the art of survival and even a few moves in self-defense.

 

As it turned out, Ezran did not have the talent of his mother for handling weapons, but he was quite good at learning traditions, geography and economics. Ellis, on the other hand, had an enormous musical talent playing the lute. After all, they both had to learn everything to at least an medium level.

 

-Your dad tried to learn. However, it does not do well for him. Ellis, how are you doing?- Sarai asked, looking at the girl. She continued to struggle with threading the needle.

 

-It's almost ... Shit!- Ellis hissed in frustration. At the sight of Sarai looking at her with pity, she blushed -I'm sorry ...- she added and began to struggle with the needle. Eventually she managed to thread it and began to sew.

 

In silence, they sewed together the cloak that Amaya had once torn while Sarai was getting married for the second time. All the wedding guests were shocked when she arrived in full armor, but nothing else was to be expected. Amaya didn't like dresses as well as Sarai. However, it was more like a slap for all the barons and nobles who opposed this marriage.

 

Back then it was unthinkable that a simple woman of the lower social class could marry the King. However, Harrow and Sarai did their best to do this, and together with Opeli they rebuilt the law to make it possible for such marriages. Shortly before getting married, Sarai was the target of three murder attempts which, fortunately for her, were unsuccessful.

 

The barons hated both her and Callum. As a result, he could not find any friends except Claudia and Soren because the rest of the children of all the nobles despised him. During five years of living in the castle, he became very shy. Then he was taken prisoner in Xadia and despite the apparent grief of the nobility after his departure, everyone breathed a sigh of relief knowing that the boy had disappeared for 10 years.

 

However, since the recent events with Salamander, the nobility began to lose privileges. Many barons (consciously or not) supported the Salamander effort, for which several ended up in untitled prisons, while all those less involved lost titles and fiefs. Sarai was internally glad that in the end most of those barons who had making everything hard for both her and her entire family for 10 years simply stuck in prison or barely made to live. Justice has become enough. While some of the old barons remained, and Sarai still had to put up with them, there was nothing to be done about it.

 

Sarai looked out the window. It was early September. Soon it would be 8 years since Callum was taken hostage. The queen consoled herself that there were two more years left and her son would return home. However, she had not seen him since he was 10, and Sarai wondered who he had grown into and who he had become. Has he set life for himself? Is he happy. What is he planning? Will he stay in Xadia? Will he come home permanently?

 

-Mom, how did you meet dad?- Ezran snapped her out of her thinking. Sarai looked at her second son. Ezran was already 14 years old. Not so long ago, he was a little boy who carried his glowing toad, Bait, everywhere. Currently, Bait sat next to him, dozing. Sarai smiled.

 

-Ezran, you've heard this story four times. - Ellis replied rolling her eyes.

 

-Yes. And I like to hear this story.- Ezran replied.

 

-I'm telling already. When I was young, I lived on our eastern border with Neolandia with Callum father. I was serving in the local garrison at the time with your aunt, Gren and Corvus. One day, a year after your brother was born, we were moved to the capital. Due to fear of attacks, security was assigned to your father who was then crowned. Together with Gren, I was his personal bodyguard. According to his version, he fell in love with me at first sight, although I think it was when I accidentally tripped and fell into the fountain with him. I was afraid that this would lead to the many problems for me and, at best, I would lose my job. However, your father saved me from barons and political consequences. He himself thought it was his fault, although I remember who fallen on who. Anyway, the next day he invited me for a walk in the woods. We talked about our lives, what happened to Callum's father, and many other topics. While we didn't notice when it started raining. We came back wet, muddy, and wretched to the castle. However, although he had no influence on anything, he apologized to me for the incident and he wanted to meet with me the next day for a walk to the same place. I agreed. Then I fell in love with him. We went for a walk almost every day, becoming almost inseparable. During this time, he also met Callum. Your brother was afraid to approach him, however your father managed to convince him by drawing with him in a sketchbook. You can say that then he infected your brother with an interest for drawing.- Sarai said.

 

Callum often sent them his drawings that seemed almost alive. Thanks to them, she could see what the place where he lives looks like, what he himself looks like and what the people with whom he lives look like. She knew exactly what Runaan, Ethari and Rayla looked like.

 

There were the most drawings with Rayla. They showed a young, slender girl with white hair and a beautiful face. What distinguished her were the horns on her head, pointy ears, marks on her face and four fingers on her hands. In the pictures, she most often wore green pants, a green shirt, a navy blue vest, and navy blue knee-length boots.

 

Pictures with Rayla were the most careful and most often colored. More than once in his letters, Callum also asked his parents about matters of the heart that concerned Rayla. Sarai, looking at the pictures and reading the letters, knew that her son not only had good taste and was lucky to find a girl like her. Admittedly, the last letter surprisingly did not mention Rayla at all, which worried Sarai. She still wanted Callum to be happy, so she hoped he would be with her.

 

-What happened next?- Ellis asked.

 

-Even though we were both in love, neither of us wanted to say what he felt for fear of rejection, until Ezran's father finally wrote me a letter explaining everything. Our romance lasted four months, after which he proposed to me. On this news, almost half of the older barons suffered a heart attack. Some of them tried to murder me or kidnap Callum, but I was very lucky and they didn't even get close to Callum. Then we got married. At that wedding your aunt came in plate armor and got into a fight with one of the barons. After all, it all went right. Then Ezran was born, and...-Sarai paused in the story.

 

Then Callum became a hostage. The memory of that day was something like an unhealed wound. Sarai at the mention of the dragon holding her child in its claws felt like the legs themselves bend under her. She never forgot what she did, and she never forgave herself.

 

A knock on the room broke the silence. Sarai got up from the table she was sitting at and went to the door. Opening she saw Raven Lord.

 

-Your Highness, a letter to the you.- He said entering the room. He was holding a piece of paper in his hand. He handed over the letter to the queen.

 

-Thank you.- Sarai replied. The Raven Lord bowed and left. Sarai knew who the letter was from.

 

From Callum.

Chapter Text

Callum never slept on the couch, and he didn't expect to sleep one day either. However, he was lying under a blanket on the couch in the living room because he had no other option.

 

He had an argument with Rayla this morning. He wanted to talk to her about the nightmares that had been tormenting her for several days. However, she was irritated and after his insisting on help she started arguing with Callum. During that, she called him a stupid human again. From then on, Callum ignored her, though he wanted to hug her internally.

 

Taking advantage of the confusion and the fact that Callum slept more in Rayla's room than in his own bed, Sapphire slept on his bed more often. It was no different that day. Callum couldn't get rid of the Shadow Paw, almost waist-high, so he decided to sleep in the living room.

 

Rayla seemed to give him a moment to cool down though. He knew she felt guilty for calling him human again. He wasn't angry with her because in the end he insisted that he could help Rayla who saw it as treating her like a child. He knew she was too stubborn and proud to openly say she needed someone else's help.

 

Yet he was sad. Every time they argued, she always was reminding him that he was human. However, if he could, Callum would gladly become an elf to be someone special to her, not a ugly, greedy monster. So that she would not have to be ashamed or afraid of him. That she could live like any other elf without fear that the person she loves will die before she reaches half of her life.

 

Callum lay thinking about it all and didn't notice someone entering the room. It was Rayla. She stood sleepy in her pajamas in the entrance to the living room. He could see from her sad face with trails of tears on her face that she needed a hug.

 

-Hey...- Callum greeted her. Rayla, hearing his voice, jumped.

 

-By the Garlach, I thought you were sleeping.- She replied coming up to him.

 

-I'm awake. Listen, I ... - Callum tried to justify himself, but Rayla cut him off.

 

-No. I'm sorry. I called you from the worst for wanting to help me. I thought I could handle it myself... But I can't.- Rayla replied.

 

-You want to talk about it?- Callum asked. Rayla nodded and lay down on him. Callum embraced her while she cuddled up to him. She laid there for a moment as if she missed him.

 

-Sorry. Just... I needed it.- She replied, breaking away from Callum for a moment.

 

-Alright. I'm with you.- Callum replied.

 

-I know. Sorry again this morning. I didn't want to... - Rayla tried to explain but Callum interrupted her.

 

-Call me a human again?It's fine. I guess I'll get used to it. Callum replied. Rayla hugged him tightly.

 

-You. Are. Not. A monster. Listen, I don't care if you're human. For me, you are the greatest guy I know. I will never again emphasize that you are human. I promise.- Rayla replied.

 

-Fine.- Callum replied.

 

-For sure? You are not angry?- Rayla asked.

 

-I'm not. I was just sad. Not that you called me that, just because I had the feeling that I wasn't good enough to be with you.

 

-But you are. I can't imagine my life without you. Please, forgive me.- Rayla replied.

 

They both hugged each other. They laid there for a while, simply wanting to enjoy each other's company. Finally Callum broke the silence.

 

-So what's next? - He asked.

 

-I...I wanted to talk about the nightmares. Of course, if you want to listen to me ... - Rayla replied.

 

-You can tell. I know you had nightmares but I don't know what about. I want to help you honey.- Callum replied. Rayla took a deep breath.

 

-It started a few days after we became a couple. I had a dream that I was in some cave. You, Runaan and my parents were there. You were trapped in a block of ice. There was also a man there. Older, with gray hair. He had a goat beard. He was furious and raised his head high. I think you even drew his face in a sketchbook once.- Rayla said.

 

-Hmmm. All I can think of is Viren, my stepfather's court mage.- Callum replied.

 

-I think it's him. He said that for what I did to him, you will pay for it, and then ... He killed all of you ...- Rayla replied with tears in her eyes. Callum just hugged her tighter.

 

-It's alright. I'm safe. Viren isn't here. And never will. Everything will be fine. Your parents will be back in two days. They are also safe. Runaan sleeps in his bedroom.He's safe too. We are all safe and sound.- he replied.

 

-Yes ... I just ... I want to be sure that it will be like this when I fall asleep nothing will happen to you then.- Rayla replied.

 

-But I'm sleeping with you. Then you know that nothing is happening to me. But I understand. I am with you. You need to take a nap.- Callum said.

 

Rayla considered. Callum was with her, so she was sure he would be okay. After a moment's thought, she nodded. She snuggled closer to Callum and closed her eyes. After a short while she fell asleep.


Callum woke up in the morning feeling a strange emptiness in his arms. He looked around the room. Rayla was nowhere to be seen. Callum sat up and stretched his head.

 

-Did your argument ended well?- Runaan asked from his chair. Callum noticed Runaan only now. The older elf was reading a book about plants.

 

-You can say so.- answered Callum.

 

-Good. You know, she's been a nervous wreck for a week. After all, her parents are coming home tomorrow.- Runaan replied. Callum remembered it's tomorrow.

 

Rayla bent over backwards to prepare their old home by then, so that it could be used without problems. Together with Callum, Ethari, Runaan and a few other elves, they repaired, prepared the house and washed most of the old clothes that belonged to her parents.

 

Rayla and Callum also decided to tell them that they are together. Callum admitted that he was slightly nervous about meeting them, but it was Rayla who felt the greatest fear. After all, she has not seen them for 7 years. However, she comforted herself that it would be fine. She also decided to live with them until she and Callum both passed their final trials as a mage and an assassin and she find a job.

 

-I know. And while we're talking about it, you don't know where Rayla is?- Callum asked.

 

-She's already gone to school. She told you to tell you to eat your breakfast in peace and meet her in the afternoon at the market square.- Runaan replied.

 

-I'll eat on the way. See you later.- Callum called, getting up and running out of the living room.

 

-Oh, these kids today... Always on the move.- Runaan replied with a sigh.


-But Rayla, you promised!- Bren insisted. Rayla looked at the gathered children who looked at her with a pleading in their eyes. She took a deep breath.

 

Since Ibis had sprained his leg the week before and couldn't care for the kids he was teaching, he and Callum had both been helping out at school. The children were about 25 in this class and they were all between the age from 5 to 10. Rayla won the sympathy of children by telling them old legends that her mother told her.

 

Thinking about her parents, Rayla closed her eyes. They were going back tomorrow. She was afraid of this moment. She did not know if they would be happy with what they found. Ever since they left, she has tried to achieve the best possible results while studying for Assassin Trials.

 

It will be fine. She assured herself. After all, what could she be ashamed of?

 

-All right. Which legend should I tell you?- Rayla asked.

 

-About Princess of the Moon!- Dell called.

 

-No, about the human Who Became an Elf!- Cried Bren.

 

-You promised to tell about the Two Sisters!- Isha called.

 

- Calm down kids, I have an idea. I will tell you the legend of the Little Ocean Elf. So a long time ago there was an Ocean Elf living near the coast of Xadia. He was curious about the world, but his parents did not let him stray from the safe depths. Once, on the shore, an Elf noticed an Elf connected to the Arcanum of the Sun. Seduced by her beauty, he tried to call her, but he was too far away. She didn't hear his call. Even though she didn't even know about him, the Elf never forgot about her. However, when she heard someone else's voice few days later, she came to the same place the next day. Finally she noticed him. Thinking that something had happened to him, she tried to swim towards him, but almost drowned in the mighty waves. The elf rescued her and carried her ashore. There he looked after her until she recovered and woke up. When she loosened, she did not know if the Elf was friendly, but she quickly realized that he did not want to have bad intentions. They talked for hours. Eventually she had to go home. However, they made deal to meet together at the same place at noon next day. 30 days and 30 nights, they met daily and nightly to fall in love with each other. He could give up his place in the ocean for her, and she could give up her legs and the possibility of living on land for him. But then ... - Suddenly Rayla screamed, terrified, feeling when someone tickled her. Surprised, she turned around to meet Callum.

 

-Callum!- cried the children.

 

-Hello there children!- Callum replied.

 

-What are you doing here? We were supposed to meet at the market.- Rayla replied surprised. Callum just hugged her.

 

-I thought that helping to look after the children would be a better option-. Callum replied. Rayla smiled and hugged him as well. She was glad that Callum showed up and tried to help.

 

-Mhm ... I'm glad you are.- Rayla replied. They both kissed without much thought

 

-Bleeeh!- some of the children shouted. Rayla knew almost all of them still didn't understand the adults, especially the symbolism of kissing. But that was before them.

 

-Okay, let's go back to the story.- Rayla replied sitting down with Callum in front of the children.


-School. Nothing has changed.- Lain replied.

 

They made it to Silvergrove a day earlier than planned. They decided to surprise everyone.

 

Entering the village they watched the elves who looked at them with interest. However, they were all friendly. They made an shocking impression wearing Dragon Guard armor. On the way, they met many friends who were happy to see them come back.

 

They reported to Cirdan and took care of all the formal matters. Then they went to the market to buy some food. At the end, they made their way to Ethari and Runaan's house. They were surprised by their appearance as much as they were delighted. They both couldn't get enough of their return. It turned out that Rayla was at school. They decided to go to her immediately.

 

The longer they walked around the town, the more they were happy that they came back. Not much has changed which made them even happier. But now their focus was on their daughter.

 

Ethari said she has grown up and that they might not recognize her. They both thought they shouldn't have any problems with it.

 

-Yes... Last time we were here, Rayla built a tower of chairs that fell on the caretaker. And now ... - answered Tiadrin. Lain just hugged her.

 

-Everything will be fine. We'll fix everything else.- Lain replied and kissed his wife. Tiadrin kissed him back. Eventually they split up and entered the building.

 

The room was large. The walls were green, like most public buildings in Silvergrove. There were several tables and chairs in the room, and at the far end of the room was a desk. There was a blackboard next to it and drawings made by children around it.

 

There were 27 people in the room - 25 children and 2 adults. Adults walked among children who drew various things.

 

One of the adults was a Skywing Elf who, to their surprise, was wearing clothes in the colors of the Moonshadow Elves, such as a green sleeveless shirt with a hood,  dark pants, navy blue shoes and a navy blue vest. He had brown hair and facial marks that Tiadrin seemed to see from somewhere.

 

The second adult was the Moonshadow Elf. She had her back to them so they couldn't see her face, but they could tell that her hair was slightly below her shoulders. She wore a green outfit, navy blue boots above her knees, and a navy blue vest. As she was standing closer, they decided to ask her about Rayla.

 

-Excuse me. We are looking for our daughter. Her name is Rayla. Apparently she helps with the children here. Do you know where is she?- Lain asked. The elf stopped at his voice. The second adult also turned to face them.

 

-Is everything alright?- Tiadrin asked looking at the elf. She slowly turned around.

 

Looking at her face, they noticed that the marks on her face were identical to those of her daughter. They understood immediately that it was Rayla. Their daughter looked at them as if she saw ghosts.

 

-Mom? Dad?- Rayla replied. She couldn't believe it. Her parents were here. They came back to her. She had prepared a little speech with Callum before to greet them, but now she forgot the whole plan. She didn't know what to do.

 

-Yes, baby girl. We are back.- replied Tiadrin.

 

Rayla felt tears spring into her eyes. Her parents returned to her. She walked over to them without resistance and hugged them. They hugged her too and started crying. After 8 years, they were back together again.

 

The children looking at it did not know who the elves in Dragon Guard armor were. They watched in amazement at what their caretaker was doing. They never saw Rayla feel sad and especially crying. Finally one of the children asked Callum.

 

-Who is this? Who are those elves?- Bren asked.

 

-These are Tiadrin and Lain, the heroes of Xadia who served in the Dragon Guard. They are Rayla's parents.- Callum replied. He alone stood slightly apart, giving Rayla a moment to spend with her parents.

 

At that moment, Callum felt a strange void in his heart. He felt, looking at Rayla and her reunion with her parents, need to see his parents. However, he had to endure two more years. For now, Rayla and her happiness mattered for him mostly.

Chapter Text

-Callum and I are a couple.- Rayla said. There was an awkward silence.

 

While Runaan and Ethari did not seem surprised by this information, Tiadrin and Lain both froze at these words. Their faces showed as much shock as surprise. Rayla did not expect any other reaction.

 

After meeting them at school, her parents agreed to help them look after children. Kids were fascinated by the former Dragon Guards and bombarded them with a lot of questions. Her parents talked about their work so far, gaining even more sympathy among children than Rayla.

 

When the parents picked up their children in the evening, the four returned to Ethari and Runaan's house. There they found dinner ready. During the course, Lain and Tiadrin inquired about changes to Silvergrove while they were gone, and about Rayla's life so far. In addition, they themselves answered questions from Ethari and Runaan who were curious about what the former Dragon Guards were up to. Lain planned to work as a carpenter again, and Tiadrin thought of starting a vegetable garden. They managed to collect a lot's of money from their payment (almost 200 denars per month), thanks to which they could have a peaceful and stable life.

 

They were also glad to see Callum again. They had to admit that the young man had grown up in the 7 years they had not seen him. What surprised them was his slightly nervous behavior and addressing them "Ma'am" and "Sir". They didn't know why the young human was acting this way - at least until Rayla told them they were together.

 

Finally, Tiadrin broke the silence.

 

-You ... and Callum ... Are you a couple?- the older Elf asked. Rayla felt her stomach rising to her throat.

 

-Yes.- Rayla replied.

 

-Rayla, can we talk six eyes with your mother in the hall?- Lain asked. Rayla nodded, then got up from the table with her parents and left the room.

 

In the corridor, Rayla immediately spoke up, giving her parents no time to say anything.

 

-I know what it looks like, but Callum is different. It is not like the humans described in the old legends. He was with me in hard times and supported me when I needed help. And it makes no difference to me that he is a human or a prince. I love him as he is, as he loves me. I understand you can be angry and not accept him, but I've never met a guy who is as good as he is.

 

Her parents looked at her in surprise. Rayla lowered her head. She was ready to oppose them and lose them again if they wanted to stand between her and Callum. Suddenly she felt her parents put their hands on her shoulders.

 

-Rayla. Answer us the following questions: Are you happy with him?- her mother asked.

 

-I am.

 

-Even though many of the Elves and Humans won't accept what's between you?- her father asked.

 

-Yes.

 

-Although he will die when you will be in the half of your life?- her mother asked.

 

-Yes.

 

-Although you may never have a chance to have children for your own?- her father asked.

 

-Yes.

 

-So we don't see any problems.- replied Tiadrin.

 

-Really?- Rayla asked surprised. She looked up to see their smiles. She noticed tears appeared in her mother's eyes.

 

-I'm not happy that you have a boyfriend...- Lain replied.

 

-Honey, please.- Tiadrin replied with a smile.

 

-... But that's mainly because I can't think calmly knowing that I have to share my daughter's love with another man. However, I am glad that it is Callum, and however his family reacts and whatever problems stand in your way, know that we are with you.- Lain finished.

 

-Like your father said. We felt the two of you would be together when Callum discovered he was connected to the Sky Arcanum. We then laughed with his aunt that you two fit together. But then you were 11 years old. And now you are adults ...- Tiadrin suddenly began to cry. She hugged Rayla. -I've never been so proud of something as you are, my dear child ...- she cried, cuddled up to her. Rayla hugged her mother. She felt her father hug her as well. She closed her eyes, not wanting the moment to end.


-Can we talk to Callum in private?- Lain asked.

 

Callum nodded, getting up from the table. He saw Rayla return to the table. She seemed calm, but Callum didn't know what was happening in the corridor. He was afraid of this conversation, feeling that it would end badly.

 

When he found himself in the corridor, he looked at her parents. It was evident that her mother was crying and her father was standing with a gloomy face. Callum had a growing feeling that the whole conversation was not going to end well.

 

-So you and our daughter are together?- Lain asked.

 

-Yes sir.- Callum agreed.

 

-Do you sincerely love her?- Lain asked.

 

-Yes, sir...- Callum replied. He felt his legs bending under him. He hadn't felt so terrified since he moved in here. Even so, he tried not to show his fear.

 

-Will you try to make her happy despite what life puts on your way?- Lain asked.

 

-Yes, sir ...- Callum replied.

 

Then suddenly her father put his hand on his shoulder. Terrified Callum jumped up, not expecting such a gesture from his father-in-law. But Lain smiled.

 

-Welcome to the family. Forgive me for building up the tension, but I couldn't let this joke go away.- Lain replied. Tiadrin just rolled her eyes as she listened to her husband's last sentence.

 

-Lain is enough. You can see that the stress boy is barely standing. But he tries to stay cool, and that is what values. Anyway, welcome to the Callum family.- said Tiadrin.

 

-Thank you, ma'am.- Callum replied smiling a little.

 

-You don't need to be so formal. All you need to do is call us by name.- the elf answered him.


They spent the rest of the evening talking at the table. Rayla's parents asked the young couple about their plans and details about their relationship.

 

-So you are already a good month and a half together?- asked Tiadrin.

 

-Yes. We wanted to keep it a secret so that we could enjoy ourselves. I hope you are not angry?- Rayla replied.

 

-We don't have on what. Your grandmother found out about us when she received an invitation to our wedding. She reminded us about it for the rest of her life.- Lain replied.

 

-Yes. In-laws can be scary. .. Right Callum?- asked Tiadrin.

 

-Yes...- Callum answered hesitantly. Everyone at the table laughed at his answer.

 

-Though to be honest we are the most peaceful elves under the moon knowing Rayla ends up bonding with you. When she was seven in school, she was in the limelight because she was a energetic child and was interest for most boys, such as Feren, who now serves in the Dragon Guard.- Lain said. At the mention of Feren, Rayla and Runaan's faces turned pale.

 

-He ... He serves in the Dragon Guard?- Rayla asked.

 

-Yes. He told us he was ghosted, but had a letter of recommendation from Queen Khessa of Lux Aurea. Avizandum saw no problem in accepting him.

 

-He didn't say what they banished him for? He attacked Callum with his friends. He broke Callum's leg and nose. I changed Callum's bandages for a month. Such an elf should be isolated and not allowed to serve in the Dragon Guard ... - Rayla began furiously.

 

-Rayla take it easy. Feren has changed. I saw him after the fight and ... -Callum interrupted her. She looked at him furiously.

 

-What?! Can you ... Excuse me, can I leave the table with Callum for a while?- Rayla asked. Seeing Ethari and her mother nodding, Rayla pulled Callum's arm out into the hallway. Suddenly, a string of curses could be heard from the corridor.

 

-I think she got it from her mother.- Lain replied.

 

-Very funny. But I must admit, from what I hear, our daughter has a temper.- replied Tiadrin.

 

-Well, Rayla has changed since you saw her 7 years ago. She puts her own way and stubbornly strives to do so. At one point, when one of the girls started competing with her for Callum, Rayla became incredibly jealous about him. If it weren't for the fact that Callum had been in love with her for a long time, she would probably have hurt that girl.- Ethari replied.

 

-I'm not surprised. Since when do you know about them?- Lain asked.

 

-Since first day. As it turned out after your letter and some incident on the market that they both do not want to talk about, Rayla sneaked out of the house to rethink everything and think about solutions to her problems. Callum, not wanting to let her run alone, followed her. The kids didn't say what they were talking about and where, but in the morning they returned home as a couple. They pretended they had nothing in common for several days until we realized that we knew.- Runaan replied.

 

-A quiet romance, huh? Well, then we were joking about them being a couple. It's good that we didn't bet with his aunt because we would probably lose the bet. Speaking of which, does his family know?- Lain asked.

 

-I do not know. Neither of us informed them.- Runaan replied.

 

After a while, Rayla and Callum returned. Rayla looked angry, though it was obvious that somehow Callum managed to partially calm her down and soothe her.

 

-Are you guys okay?- Ethari asked.

 

-Yes.- Rayla and Callum replied at the same time. They looked at each other and exchanged knowing looks.

 

-Mhm. Coming back to you. Does Callum's family know?- asked Tiadrin. Callum lowered his gaze to the question at the table.

 

-Not yet. Honestly, I don't know if I will have the courage to tell them this. I don't know how they will react ...- Callum replied.

 

-We understand. But know that you have our blessing and support. Anyway, I doubt if they had anything against Rayla. I met your mother once, shortly after ... after you moved in here. If I think correctly, she will be more happy that you settle down and be happy than angry that you date Rayla. Your mother is a good person. I think she and your father will be happy with what you've become.- Lain replied. Callum didn't answer. At the mention of his father, he simply felt something inside him twist. He got up from the table.

 

-I ... I need a moment to walk. I'll be back soon.- Callum replied, then left the room. Rayla wanted to get up and go after him,but Runaan stopped her.

 

-He needs to be alone for a while. Let him cool down.- Runaan said. Rayla reluctantly continued to sit at the table.

 

-Why did he leave? Did I say something wrong?- Lain asked.

 

-Callum doesn't like to talk about parents. He avoids this subject like fire. He once told Rayla the truth about his father. King Harrow is his stepfather. His real father left his mother before he was born. Just reminding him about it hurts him. Also I think that he is also sad to see Rayla regain her parents while he has to wait.- Ethari replied.

 

-I didn't know ... I didn't mean to offend him.- Lain replied.

 

-I don't think he'll blame you. He's just ... He need time. It will pass over time.- Rayla replied. There was an awkward silence which was finally broken by Tiadrin.

 

-So ... What are you planning? Are you going to live here or in Katolis?- She asked Rayla.

 

- Callum and I thought to buy a house here in Silvergrove. Callum wants to stay at Xadia and work as a blacksmith in Ethari's workhouse. I plan to join the City Guard. I know, not ambitious, but we don't want to change the world. We just want to lead a quiet and stable life.- Rayla replied.

 

-We understand. I know it might be a bit of a tougher question, but are you guys planning on having children?- Lain asked. Rayla was surprised by the question.

 

- Honestly speaking, we didn't talk about it yet. I don't know if I could do it as a mother. Plus, we haven't gotten so close to each other yet ... See, Callum tries to make us feel good together first. He's not pushing this way. He's just trying to love me to make me feel good. Speaking of Callum, I'll go check on him. Be right back.- Rayla replied getting up from the table. Her parents watched her leave.

 

-The more you tell about him, the more I like my son-in-law.- said Tiadrin.

 

-Same. I feel good seeing Rayla have a boyfriend like Callum.- Lain added.

 

-We too. Honestly, he made me change my mind about humans.- Runaan said.

 

-Truth. However, are you not afraid that Callum might be attracted to the Dark Magic? After all, he is human. Maybe I'm a little crazy with my imagination, but who doesn't when they think about their own children?- Lain asked. Tiadrin looked at him with pity.

 

-You can persuade Rayla to wear a dress before you will force him to deal with this thing. When he discovered that he was connected to the  Sky Arcanum, he came crying to me to tell him how not to use the Dark Magic. From then on, he began to see himself as a monster. After all, he grew up between us and, as you know, the elves promote hatred towards humans. Callum tried to cut himself off from all that was human and was sincerely glad to hear that an edict was issued in Katolis prohibiting the use of Dark Magic. -Ethari replied.


Callum sat by the door to the house staring at the stars. It's been 8 years since he lived in Xadia. But he had never felt so homesick for his family as he does now. Watching Rayla happily reunite with her parents returned, he felt joy knowing that her dream had finally come true. However, he missed his family. He simply dreamed of hugging his mother.

 

Suddenly he felt angry. He could feel rage and anger flooding him from within. He knew who was responsible for it. Who took away from him the opportunity to grow up next to his parents. Who has been a monster since the dawn of time. Who was the harbinger of death in the old fairy tales. Who nearly killed his mother.

 

He hated Avizandum. At the thought of the dragon, he felt an anger that burned inside him like a fire in a torch. He clenched his fist and gritted his teeth. This dragon was the monster. He should be ashamed of the hundreds of human lives he killed. Not only soldiers, but also women and children too, begging for help in Xadia.

 

He could have killed him. He could free the world from the tyrant and the monster. After all, he was a mage, and he could summon a storm strong enough that the dragon would crash to the ground. He would finish him off there.

 

He got up, wanting to fly to the Storm Spire. Suddenly he was awake from his madness. Had it any sense? He sought relief from pain in violence. He shouldn't be doing this. Not only would it be murder, there were further consequences. He would disgrace Ethari and Runaan. He would fail Rayla. He would prove that humans are unchanged after all.

 

He sat down on the ground. He began to meditate as Ibis had taught him. He was breathing calmly, trying to calm himself down.

 

Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

 

-Callum?- he heard Rayla.

 

He opened his eyes. She stood worried before him.

 

She was the person who made him want to live. Despite the longing for home, constant fear that someone will discover his identity and the shame of being a human being, he has survived the last 8 years. She was for him his refuge of peace. The only person who knew everything about him. The only person who loved him, regardless of the fact that he was a monster. She was his angel. She was the best friend and only love. He couldn't imagine his life without Rayla's help and care.

 

He tried to pretend he didn't want to cry out of powerlessness. That he never felt rage thinking of the damned dragon who was responsible for all of it. He smiled at her as he stood up.

 

-Hi. Forgive me for leaving ... I just needed a moment ... - Callum said, trying to convince her that he was okay. She hugged him without a word.

 

-You can't lie, Callum. I know you miss them. It doesn't help that my parents are back, but believe me, it's worth to wait. You are not alone because I am with you and I am not going to leave you. Everything will be fine.- she said hugging him. Callum hugged her as well. He felt safe in his arms.


-See you tomorrow.- Callum replied. Rayla closed the door quietly behind her.

 

She decided to live with her parents in their old house. Callum didn't mind, she dreamed of being with them again. However, knowing that when he gets up tomorrow morning he will feel empty in his heart.

 

They had spent most of their time together so far. Together, they got up, ate breakfast, helped at school, looked after Sapphire, helped Ethati and Runaan, had lunch, went out with friends, went for a walk in the evening, had dinner and went to bed. For the first time he felt a longing for Rayla. He knew she was there on the other side of Silvergrove, but he felt a strange barrier suddenly separating them. It hurted him.

 

He went to her room. It was almost empty. There are only pieces of furniture and few Rayla's things left. The rest of the stuff had already been transferred to her parent's house. Callum closed the room and went into his. He laid down on his bed.

 

He felt lonely. Usually Rayla slept next to him. Now, after a month of sharing her bed, the space in his bed seemed too much for him alone. Callum didn't know what to do with this place.

 

He changed into pajamas and tried to sleep. For the next hours he struggled with sleep, rolling from side to side. However, he himself felt strangely empty and could not fall asleep in any way. Finally, almost in the morning, he succeeded.


-So they are together?- Harrow asked walking to their room.

 

Sarai sat over the letter and cried. They were not tears of despair, but of happiness. Her son was settling down and was happy.

 

Since she married Harrow and Callum lived in the castle, marriage offers for the boy began to flow in from neighboring kingdoms even when he was held hostage. Despite the political benefits it brought, often for both sides, Sarai rejected offer after offer. She did not want her son to have to live in a marriage someone chose for him with someone he did not love. Harrow had similar opinion and finally remarked that Callum would choose whom to marry himself.

 

-Yes ... They're together.- Sarai replied.

Chapter Text

Put a finger on the trail of my exile, Let our ways weave the stars in defiance. Open the wounds of the splinters, and then heal, Until a pattern is formed in a tangle of fate.

 

You run away from my dreams in the morning, Tart as gooseberries, sweet as lilac. I want to dream white curls tangled, Lavender eyes wet with tears.

 

I will follow the wolf trail into the forest And track your stubborn heart, Through anger and sorrow, hardened to stone I will light my windswept lips.

 

You run away from my dreams in the morning, Tart as gooseberries, sweet as lilac. I want to dream white curls tangled, Lavender eyes wet with tears.

 

I don't know if you are my destiny, or if love has tied us through blind luck. When I renounced my wish, did you love me then, despite yourself?

 

You run away from my dreams in the morning, Tart as gooseberries, sweet as lilac. I want to dream white curls tangled, Lavender eyes wet with tears.

 

(In polish it had more sense - author's note)

 

Ellis stopped singing. All the guests at the inn applauded. Ellis bowed gracefully and jumped off the table. She went to the table in the corner and sat down next to Ezran. She rested the lute against the wall. When Ava saw her, she looked up at the girl happily.

 

-Bravo, you're popular.- Ezran replied rolling his eyes. He remembered Ellis, inspired by the situation with Callum and Rayla, writing this song. People thought it was her best song so far.

 

-I know. It was worth sneaking out of the castle. Admittedly, after the return, Opeli will reprimand us for the escape, but I think it was worth it.- Ellis replied. Ezran looked at her. Usually she did not wear a white shirt and red vest, but a green jacket. She also did not wear high heels on a daily basis, and she did not braid her hair. Somehow, Ezran liked this version of Ellis more than the quiet adjutant General Amaya.

 

They had known each other for a good 7 years. She was the only child in the castle his age. Ever since she showed up, Ezran had someone to play with. Of course, there were also Soren, Marcos and Claudia, but the age difference between them was sometimes to big for young prince. However, with the arrival of Ellis, Ezran finally found his soul mate.

 

-We should at least tell Soren and Claudia. You know this is about our safety.- Ezran replied scratching Bait's stomach. The glowing toad made a smug growl.

 

-Do not panic. They won't even notice that we've disappeared.- Ellis replied.

 

- Last time it was supposed to be like that too. And we are done with a grounding us for a month.- Ezran replied.

 

-It happens. But who said life has to be boring? Poets often have to flee for various reasons ...- replied Ellis.

 

-Mhm. And tell me that you will run away from your lover through the window like Master Dandelion from old fairy tales.- Ezran replied.

 

-Master Dandelion had an interesting and adventurous life. Although I do not intend to be like him in matters of the heart, I also dream of traveling around the world and singing in all five kingdoms.- Ellis replied.

 

- Whatever you say, pretty head.- Ezran replied. At the last word, Ellis laughed. Ezran looked at her in surprise.

 

“Pretty Head” Ezran? -Ellis asked, then laughed out loud. Only now did Ezran understand the resonance of his innocently thrown compliment. The young prince blushed.

 

-Well ... You're ... Pretty ... Listen ... You know I like you like friend .... Is that just my opinion or is it suddenly hot in here? - Ezran asked. Ellis smiled and just rested her head on his shoulder.

 

-Oh, Ezran. You're really cute when you compliment girls like that. You are a really great friend.- Ellis replied. Ezran smiled knowing he hadn't been overdoing it, and his friend still didn't blame him for that statement.

 

He had to admit she was beautiful. Of the many girls he had met in his life, both of aristocratic and lower class descent, few were as beautiful as she was. However, they were more like siblings and thus also inseparable.

 

-Listen, there's a meeting tomorrow morning to renew the trade deal with Duren. I have to be there. Can we go back now?- Ezran said.

 

He was hoping to meet Aanya again. Since he saw her for the last time 4 years ago, there has not been a day when he would not think back to her. At first, it was a longing for her. But then Ezran realized how amazing she was herself. Smart, kind and beautiful. Ezran could tell he had a crush on her right now. Every time a delegation from Duren came, he hoped to at least see her again.

 

-I understand. But are you bored of waiting for her to come back? Four years have passed. She's probably already engaged to some prince from Del Bar or local nobleman.- Ellis replied.

 

-What if it isn't? Maybe she also thinks about us? Maybe she misses us? We cannot cancel her because her parents locked her in the tower.- Ezran replied. Ellis took a deep breath and put her hand on his shoulder.

 

-Listen to me Ezran. I know you are almost crazy about her. Whenever you hear a mention of some news from Duren, you rush to read them. However, we have seen her for a long time. Many things could have happened during this time. I just don't want to see you suffer for not being able to be with her. As in the ballad about the fisherman and the cooperage, remember? In the end, the fisherman suffered because when he was at sea the cooperage got married to a blacksmith. I don't want you to suffer like this.- Ellis replied. Ezran looked down. He didn't want to let go of Aanya.

 

-You know that I will not let it go. Not now.- Ezran answered her. Ellis just sighed.

 

-Stubborn donkey. Okay, you won. Come on, we're going home.- Ellis replied getting up from the table. Ezran got up as well and took the Worm under his arm. Ava got up as well and followed them. They left the inn and headed towards the castle. It was already evening and it was already dark on the streets of the Capital. There was no one in the streets and the lights were on in every house.

 

They passed the ruins of the Van Horst merchant warehouse on the right. After the successful attack on the merchants, everything inside that would not be useful for the kingdom or did not contain information about Salamander was burned together with the building. It was the first controlled fire in the city to affect only one building. From the side of the main street, in front of the ruins, there was a monument to Captain Vernon Rocz, who died during the operation. Vernon deserved this monument from all of the soldiers.

 

The capital city was a quiet place. There were rarely major crimes here, but in human society there were abductions for ransom or smaller murders, but in general it was quiet here. Until two weeks earlier, Jacob Butcher appeared.

 

Ezran didn't even have time to react when an arm in a black sleeve grabbed Ellis and dragged her into the next alley. Her lute fell to the ground with a crash. The girl didn't had time to even scream.

 

-Ellis! Leave her alone!- Ezran shouted as he ran into the alley with the Bait. However, Ava decided to run for help.

 

Ezran tried to chase the kidnapper who, running, tried to lose him in the maze of small streets and alleys. After a while, Ezran thought he had lost them. He didn't know what to do. Fear the worst. He heard about what Jacob Butcher did to his victims. If it was him... Heavens, have mercy watch over Ellis. The very thought of this happening to his friend made him tremble with fear. Suddenly he heard a voice in one of the alleys.

 

-You're pretty ... Such a pretty face ... It's a pity that after I'm done with you you'll be dead ...- said a whistling voice. Suddenly, Ezran heard Ellis scream.

 

-Leave me! Help!! No!! I beg you !!! Ezran !!! Anyone!!!! Help!!!- Ellis screamed. Ezran had no doubts about what the man was going to do. He accelerated, grabbing a bottle along the way.

 

-Don't move ... I promise it won't hurt ...- replied the voice.

 

Ezran finally ran to the end of the alley. Behind a few barrels around the bend at the end of the aisle, he saw Ellis and the attacker. The attacker wore a black sack jacket and hood. He was trying to pin Ellis to the ground. Ezran noticed that her red vest was torn, and her white shirt was torn to the navel. Ezran tried not to look that way. But he could see the expression on her face twisted into mix of pain and terror. Ezran couldn't see the attacker's face, but knew whoever it was, he couldn't let him go on with what he was doing.

 

- Oh, those vests ... Too much trouble with them ... right?- The attacker broke off as a bottle hit his head, shattering on his head. The attacker fell over and howled in pain, allowing Ellis to move away from him.

 

Ezran then kicked his attacker in the face. Aggressor after a kick fell down.

 

-Who the hell are you? Her boyfriend? You're out of luck, kid!- He said, getting up and reaching for the knife he had under his belt.

 

In a moment he ran to Ezran who did not manage to grab the second bottle. The striker was quick, but he seemed to have a hard time aiming, allowing Ezran to dodge the striker's blade with ease. However, he was lightly hit a few times. Eventually, the knife dug hard into his arm, and blood oozed out. Ezran struggled to meet the wall with his back.

 

-End of fun. Aqua Frigilis!- Suddenly Ezran heard a voice he did not expect to hear.

 

Five icicles flew up from the end of the alley. Three flew by the bandit, but the other two hit the side and the knee. The attacker howled in pain as he fell to his knee. Then another figure in plate armor cut attacker in the neck. The attacker, holding his neck, fell dead to the ground. Ezran looked at the people who came to their aid. It was Claudia and Soren. Ava was standing next to them.

 

-Bravo Claudia! We got Jacob Butcher!- Soren shouted happily. His smile faded when he saw a girl he knew and a boy who were would-be victims of the murderer.

 

-Ellis? Are you alright?- Ezran exclaimed as he approached the terrified girl sitting in the corner.

 

She was shaking with fear. Ezran hugged her, trying to calm her down.

 

-Everything will be fine. You're safe now...- Ezran replied. Ellis cuddled up to him. Ezran heard her cry.


-How did you do it?- Ezran asked.

 

They were sitting in the castle hospital. The doctor was busy examining Ellis. Except for a few bruises, the girl was fine, but the medics wanted to make sure she was okay.

 

She was meant to be the fourth victim of Jacob Butcher. The criminal raped and murdered three young girls between the ages of 12 and 18. Soren had been hunting him for a week and finally managed to kill this monster. For this he was guaranteed a medal from the King. Claudia, however, tried not to flaunt her participation in defeating the criminal.

 

-How did we do what?- Soren asked.

 

-These icicles. It's the middle of summer. Where did you get the ice? I also heard Claudia scream what sounded like a spell.- Claudia turned pale at the mention of this.

 

-Well ... You know ... They were not icicles, but ... Claudia taught me an alchemical trick thanks to which when I sneeze ice flies out of my nose ... - he tried to explain to Ezran what happened, but Claudia stopped him with a movement of her hand.

 

-Soren, please. Ezran saw anyway. I'll tell you something you can't tell anyone. But that's no one, do you understand?- Caludia replied. Ezran nodded.

 

-I swear by the coat of arms of Katolis.- he replied without thinking.

 

-When your aunt returned from Xadia, together with this elf they said that Callum had connected with one of the Arcanum and that he could use magic that until now was reserved only for Elves. When I heard that humans could use magic too, I tried to do my best to connect with some Arcanum. Do you remember how I used to go outside with a sword during a storm and try to grow plants in a pot in my room?-Claudia asked.

 

-Yes... You tried for long, what I remember to your accident by the river.- Ezran replied.

 

-Yeah. Then I was able to connect with the Ocean Arcanum. In old books I found a spell that allows you to shoot ice spikes from your fingers. You saw its effects today. But when Callum came back, I wanted to ask him about water magic.- Caludia replied. You could see that she was excited about the whole thing.

 

-Why don't you tell your dad? He could help you with… -Ezran asked, but Claudia cut him off.

 

-No! He can't know. He won't understand. He doesn't understand it's a blessing. Since the accident, he has been asking me about everything I do. He didn't allow me to be more than 100 meters away from the house. He controlled my contacts with friends and spied on me. He would forbid me to use magic, although it makes me feel like I have any value. I'm just waiting for Callum to come back to learn all the spells associated with this, and I will apply to your father for the title of court mage.- Claudia replied.

 

-I understand. I can write Callum to bring back some books on water magic. It could ...- Ezran's parents suddenly entered the field hospital. You can see that as soon as they heard about what happened, they came as soon as possible. Soren came to attention when he saw them.

 

-Mom, I ...- Ezran tried to explain and excuse himself. The whole idea of getting out was Ellis's idea, but Ezran didn't want her to have any more problems. It was enough for what happened in the alley. However, his parents came up to him hugging him.

 

-Heavens! Ezran, are you okay? He didn't hurt you? Where is Ellis? Is she okay?- his parents showered him with questions.

 

-I'm fine. There is only a scratch on my shoulder. I think Ellis is fine too. I stopped it before… -Ezran paused. He felt a shiver at the memory of what had happened there. The parents hugged him tighter. Only then did they notice Soren and Claudia.

 

-You don't even know how the Crown is grateful to you. Both of you.- Harrow replied.

 

-I was fulfilling my duty, Your Majesty. But if it weren't for Ezran, Ellis would have ended up here in even worse condition.- Soren replied.

 

-We know, but you saved them. You will receive an award for merit tomorrow. Together with him you will be promoted to the rank of sergeant. Your father will be proud of you.- Harrow replied. At these words Claudia lowered her eyes slightly.

 

-Excuse me your Majesty, but I didn't do it alone. If it weren't for Claudia, I wouldn't understand what Ava meant. Without Claudia, I might never have made it to the place.- Soren replied. Claudia smiled. She knew that Soren couldn't stand it while she sat in the shadows and credited all their joint achievements under his name.

 

-I was just doing what was right.- Claudia replied.

 

-I understand. Claudia will also be awarded. However, I don't know what else I could give her as a reward, but I think that after talking to your father I will find a suitable solution.- Harrow replied.

 

Then the doctor came out of the next room.

 

-Your Highness.- he bowed.

 

-What about Ellis? Is everything okay with her?- Sarai asked.

 

-She's fine. He has a few bruises and scrapes, but nothing else. However, she is shocked and still seems terrified. He now needs family support and the presence of loved ones. I can also prescribe herbs which have a calming effect. - said the doctor.

 

-Can we see her?- Sarai asked.

 

-Of course, please follow me.- answered the doctor. They followed him into the room.

 

Inside there was a bed, a receiver, two large-sized wardrobes and several engravings on the walls that showed parts of the body. Doctors in Katolis were often able to forget some of their knowledge under stress, so in order to be able to recall the necessary knowledge, if necessary, the figures contained all the more important information needed in the event of treatment.

 

Ellis was sitting on the bed. She was already wearing spare clothes and was sitting under a blanket. There were tear marks on her cheeks as she stared at the floor wrongly. Hearing the sound of the door opening, she got up and walked over to them.

 

-I'm sorry. It was my idea to sneak out ... I didn't know ... I didn't want Ezran to risk ...- she tried to tell them, even though she was shaking with fear. There were tears in her eyes while her voice was cracking.

 

-We are not angry. We are glad that this monster didn't manage to do anything more to you ...- Sarai replied.

 

-Everything will be fine. I promise no one will ever hurt you again.- Ezran said, placing his hand on her shoulder. She jumped up, terrified, feeling the touch. After a while, however, she hugged Ezran. She started to cry hiding her face in his red jacket. Ezran just hugged her.


-Ezran ... Are you sleeping?- Ellis asked, knocking on Ezran's room. They had rooms facing each other. Ezran continued to live in his and Callum's common room. Callum's mother wanted nothing to change in the arrangement of the room until her son's return. After a moment's knock, Ezran opened it. He stood sleepy in his pajamas rubbing his eye.

 

-Ellis? Is everything alright? It's the middle of the night.- the prince replied sleepily. Ellis knew what she was doing was stupid ... But she was afraid. Even Ava's presence changed nothing. The wolf stood behind her, not taking a step away from recent events.

 

-I ... Can I sleep with you?- she asked. Ezran blushed slightly at the question.

 

-S-sure. I'll get some sleep in the chair ...- replied Ezran.

 

-I meant sleeping in one bed. I'm afraid to sleep alone.- Ellis replied. She felt stupid knowing Ezran would probably say no. After all, it would be a scandal if anyone would find them sleeping in the same bed. The barons could force them out to arrange a marriage between them. She knew Ezran wanted to be with Aanya. However ... Only with him she felt safe. He saved her after all. Thanks to her, this monster didn't do anything to her.

 

-If-if you need it...- Ezran replied to her surprise. He really was good friend, Ellis thought.

 

They laid down in bed. Ava jumped on the bed and laid down at the feet of the teenagers. Ezran moved to the end of the left half of the bed. He tried to be a good friend. Aanya would understand. However, his confidence completely vanished as Ellis cuddled up to him. Ezran didn't know what to do. He felt awkward, but tried to be a good friend. Ellis fell asleep in a moment.

 

Ezran suddenly felt cozy. Instinctively, he hugged Ellis, who smiled in her sleep. Ezran felt that he had done his best as a friend when he saw it. The Bait, however, snapped him out of his reverie by purring. At these words, Ezran blushed completely.

 

-Robal! It was indecently bad! How can you say that after what happened today?- Ezran replied. Bait, however, muttered something gruffly.

 

- The fact that I sleep with her in the same bed does not prove anything. Ellis needs backup after what happened. I'm not trying to take advantage of the opportunity.- Ezran replied irritably. The Bait, however, purred.

 

-You know what, you're mean. I regret more and more that I took you out of that fisherman's sack back then.- Ezran replied. Suddenly, Ezran heard a squeaking sound. It was Ava.

 

-You too Ava? Is this some kind of conspiracy? I like Ellis but she is my friend. She's beautiful, but it's not that I like like her. I'm just trying to be a good friend.- Ezran replied. Ava whimpered in response.

 

-Yes, I care about her. And what? She would do the same if I needed it. Now let me sleep, I have a council meeting tomorrow.- Ezran replied covering himself and Ellis with the blanket. He tried to think of Aanya. Just as he remembered her. Eventually, Ezran also fell asleep too.

Chapter Text

-Ezran, you remember princess Aanya of Duren right?- Harrow asked. Ezran looked at him surprised.

 

A month has passed since the death of Jacob Butcher. Ellis was slowly recovering to full health, largely thanks to Ezran. From that night when Ellis fell asleep with Ezran in the same bed, she would come to Ezran every few days when she had nightmares or couldn't sleep. How didn;t Opeli or his parents find out, Ezran had no idea, but what mattered to him was that Ellis should feel well.

 

Ezran himself begun to take a different view of his relationship with Ellis. He had never felt so relaxed around her. He knew she was beautiful and told her this many times, but recently he began to admire it. His thoughts for Ellis began to resemble those of Aanya. Eventually, the young prince realized he had a crush on Ellis. He didn't feel bad about it, though, because no one knew him as well as she did. He felt good with her and with her in his arms he did not worry about anything.

 

His mind was slowly drifting away from Aanya as well. After all, he hadn't seen her for a good 5 years and a lot has probably changed. Interest in her was slowly fading away: perhaps because of the conclusion that it was a feeling based solely on an old childhood friendship, or because Ellis was within reach and slowly began to replace feelings for Aanya. However, as Ezran would soon find out, Aanya was about to make mess in his head one more time.

 

-Yes, I remember. Why do you ask?- Ezran asked.

 

-The delegation will arrive from Duren. Beside the queens, their daughter will be with them. I'd like you to show her around the castle.- Harrow replied.

 

Ezran nodded. Nevertheless, he was glad to finally meet Aanya again.


Aanya was amazed at Katolis Castle. Nothing had changed which made her feel better. It was her first trip from the Capital of Duren in 5 years. She was looking forward to this day. For weeks she had been trying to get highest scores and passed all the exams at local colleges and universities to be able to come here.

 

-Your Highness? Are you sure you don't want us to go with you?- Ian asked.

 

Ian and Han were twins who were assigned to her as her personal bodyguards. They both looked alike: slim boys at her age who had short black hair and green eyes. They wore the gold-colored armor of the Duren troops signifying the Royal Guard. What distinguished them from other soldiers was the lack of hoods on the armor and the lack of arm plates.

 

-There's no need to. Wait for me a moment and we'll join you in a moment.- Aanya replied, then entered the room in front of her. As the door slammed shut behind her, Ian sighed and leaned against the wall.

 

-You should give up on her. We are just soldiers. There is no way she will ever look at you as a potential boyfriend. We are friends with her anyway, although it is forbidden in our profession.- Han said. Although he was a few minutes older than his brother, he behaved as if the age difference between them was equal to a few years.

 

-I know ... But what can I do? I have never seen any girl pierce an apple a hundred yards from her with arrow. You know how amazing she is.- Ian replied.

 

-Yeah .You have good taste for girls, but I'm afraid you're aiming too high. We were with her when she needed friends. Knowing life, in a few years they will arrange a marriage for her with some aristocrat or prince. You know, Katolis has two of these, right? Admittedly, one is in Xadia, but the other is still here and he is doing well.

 

-I remember. Prince Callum. How many years have these monsters been holding him? Eight? Nine? Our Monarchs should gather strength and crush Xadia together. It would be calmer if the elves ceased to exist.

 

-Don't say jump before you do it. Dad always says that if we don't know the opponent, the battle is lost in the start. We don't know how many Elves and how armed they are sitting abroad. It is possible that the entire army of Xadia is as many as humans living on this side of the continent. So far, the elves are fulfilling their agreements and even concluding new ones for the benefit of both sides. I heard they sell elven wine in Katolis, apparently it has a good kick. We can try it later ...- Han replied. At the mention of alcohol, his brother laughed softly.

 

-Mom would kill you for this idea ...- Ian replied, then looked down. The topic of their mother was difficult and hardly anyone outside the family had the courage to bring it up.

 

-Yes ... I miss her too. However, I am sure that he is watching over us despite of everything. -Han replied.


Ezran was standing in the center of the guest room. He put on the best coat he had and washed himself more thoroughly than usual. He brushed his hair (which he didn't usually do) and tied some of it into braids similar to those his father had. He also used his dad's perfumes.

 

Ellis also dressed more formaly than usual, but apart from a green vest and a white shirt, nothing has changed in her everyday appearance. She also used a perfumes and also tied her hair in a bun at the back of her head.

 

-How do I look?- Ezran asked.

 

-If it wasn't for the fact that you are a bit short, you would be a perfect copy of your dad from the back. But you look good. Wait, your collar is twisted ... - Ellis said, fixing his collar. To do this, she got very close to Ezran. Their faces were inches apart. Ellis suddenly met Ezran's eyes.

 

Ezran could then swear his heart speeded up. Up close, she was even more beautiful. He didn't know what she was thinking, but he felt he was getting lost in her eyes. He felt the need to kiss her which he mastered with great difficulty. Control yourself Ezran, don't screw it, he thought.

 

-Ez ... listen, I ....- Ellis tried to say something in a whisper when suddenly they heard the opening of the hall door.

 

-King Harow. It is good to see you healthy again. As instructed by my mothers, I was to meet Prince Ezran in this room. Does Your Majesty know where he is?- Ezran heard a voice behind him that he never expected to hear again. He slowly turned around to see Aanya again.

 

- Oh ... Hello.- Aanya replied, suddenly realizing that she was talking to Ezran. His mind, however, crashed. Aanya was as beautiful as he remembered her. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She wore a light blue open-leg dress with an ornate gold flower pattern around the torso, along with matching pants, black detachable sleeves with gold accents and a floral pattern on the wrists, black boots with gold collars with blue in the center of each. Above her dress, she wears a gold corset with a blue gem at the base of her neck. Nothing but the length of the hair has changed.

 

Ezran felt his heart speed up. Looking at Aanya, he felt the same as when he looked at Ellis. The boy realized how much in trouble he was.

 

Ezran stared at her while Ellis, trying to save the situation, lightly kicked him with her heel to wake him up. Pulled out of his thoughts, Ezran blushed and bowed. Ellis bowed after him.

 

-Princess Aanya ...- replied Ezran. However, as he straightened, he noticed that Aanya had tears in her eyes. Suddenly she walked over to them and hugged them both.

 

-I missed you.- Aanya replied. They hugged her too. After a while they separtaed.

 

-You grew up so much. Ellis, you look gorgeous. Ezran, you also become handsome. Time has really served you.- Aanya said.

 

-You too. I must admit that you are stunning with your beauty. Seems to me or haven't you used any makeup?- Ellis asked.

 

-Not at all. I'm glad to see you again.- Aanya replied embracing Ellis.

 

-Same. Without you, Ezran was bored every time the Duren delegation came. He attended every meeting.- Ellis replied.

 

-I heard. Apparently, on the last one he presented a plan for the running of merchant caravans which impressed our diplomats. I must admit that the plan is accurate and economical. I would not have prepared a better one myself.- Aanya replied.

 

-Really, it's nothing like that ...- Ezran said, scratching his neck.

 

- Modest as always, Ezran? I heard you graduate from economic studies here. How are you doing? -Aanya asked. In the human kingdoms, basic education lasted only 4 years, which allowed teenagers to study. These studies usually lasted three years.

 

-I'm fine. But it's not a big deal ... Ezran replied.

 

-Ezran don't lie. You read book after book and finally passed your final exams with honors.- Ellis said. Aanya smiled and Ezran blushed slightly.

 

-You are cute. Although, I want to introduce someone to you.- Aanya replied walking towards the door. Ezran, in keeping with court etiquette, opened them to the girls and followed them in.

 

Two young boys in Duren Royal Guard armor stood in the corridor. They both looked identical. They were taller than him, but they couldn't be more than 16 years old.

 

-So ... These are Ezran and Ellis, my childhood friends. Ezran, Ellis, this is Han and Ian, my friends. My mothers assigned them to me as bodyguards. I don't know any more capable soldiers than them.- Aanya said.

 

-Nice to meet you.- Ian said reaching his hand out to Ezran. Seeing the gesture, Han slapped his forehead, and Aanya laughed softly. Ezran reached out his hand anyway and shook it.

 

-Your Majesty will forgive my brother ... He fell off his horse when he was little ... And sometimes you forget himself ...- Han said, trying to justify his brother. Ian turned pale at these words, understanding that he had acted boorishly towards the prince of a neighboring country. This could already be the cause of a diplomatic incident.

 

-Nothing happened. Nice to meet you too.- Ezran replied extending his hand to Han. The latter also shook the hand of the young prince. Only then did they notice Ellis presence. In keeping with court etiquette, they both kissed her hand.

 

- It's nice to meet such a beautiful lady.- Han joked. Ellis blushed at his opinion.

 

-And it is nice such a brave soldier. Do you call all the girls beautiful ladies?- Ellis asked. She didn't know why, but she enjoyed the conversation.

 

-Only the really beautiful ones. And compared to you, I saw very little.- Han replied.

 

-You flirt with these beautiful ones too?- Ellis laughed.

 

- Only with you so far. Usually I don't have such courage, but seeing you I feel like I'm flying ... - Han said laughing. Suddenly Han stumbled over something and fell flat to the ground. It turned out that his brother had tripped him.

 

-I'm sorry for my brother. Usually he has more refinement. And also for my behavior ... - replied Ian.

 

-Nothing happened.- Ezran replied.

 

- And Your Majesty ... Is sure?- Ian asked.

 

-I'm not. We are all people after all. So ... are you and Aanya friends?-Ezran asked.

 

-We are as far as we can. Admittedly, we break the rules of our work ... - Han replied rising from the ground.

 

-... but if necessary, I will change the law.- Aanya replied. At these words, Ian smiled slightly.

 

-All right. Follow me, I'll show you around the castle.- Ezran replied.


Ezran showed his guests around the castle. As it turned out, Aanya's bodyguards were very knowledgeable in the art of war, and Ezran had a long conversation with Han about military engineering. To Ezran's surprise, he noticed that Ian seemed to avoid talking to him. However, he talked a bit with Ellis, with whom he seemed to have a passion for music - she played the lute and he was a regiment signalist.

 

During the conversation, it turned out that the Capital Duren had new walls under construction. It was the second layer of fortifications around the city. Ezran knew that eventually Katolis would be surrounded by an additional wall, but at the moment the money in the treasury was barely enough for the current needs. It could take years to raise funds for such an investment.

 

After examining the walls, they headed across the courtyard to the gardens. Walking by the fountain, Ezran began the story of how his parents met. Aanya turned around for a moment, wanting to say something to Ezran. Before she could say anything, however, she tripped over the curb of the path and flew towards the fountain. Ezran jumped after her and caught her in flight.

 

-It was close ...- Ellis said.

 

Ezran still hold Aanya near her waist. For a moment, Aanya looked at him in a rather strange way. She smiled and blushed slightly. Ezran blushed even more at the sight of it. He tried not to look at her and helped her to her feet.

 

-Your Highness, are you okay?- Ian asked. Were it not for the fact that Ezran was faster, he would have jumped after Aanya, although he would not have had time to catch her before falling into the fountain.

 

- It's okay, Ian. I'm okay ...- answered Aanya.

 

-I ... I'm sorry .... I didn't... I didn't to... you know... I didn't want to grab you there ... Just ... I wanted to help ...- Ezran replied, trying not to look in her direction. He felt stupid because where he touched her, according to court etiquette, you could only touch a person of the opposite gender after marriage or if he or she was related to you.

 

-Nothing happened. Thank you for your help.- Aanya replied. She, however, seemed not to be moved by the breach of court etiquette.

 

-So ... How did you say here your father proposed to your mother?- Han asked, changing the subject of the whole conversation.

 

-Yes. Mum said that dad fell in love with her when she stumbled into the fountain with him.- Ezran said.

 

-It was close for the scenario to repeat itself, right?- Han laughed. However, Ellis and Ian looked at him displeasingly, and Ezran and Aanya blushed more.

 

-And you're lecturing me. Big brother by divine grace.- Ian replied embarrassed.

 

-Yes, because I'm your big brother. Han replied.

 

-You are older by few minutes!- Ian replied irritated.

 

-Yet still I am older.- Han said with smile.


-Therefore, we beg you to decline this offer.- Annika said.

 

Sarai and Harrow had not expected this to happen.

 

Aanya was growing up and entering the age when the Royal Council began looking for her candidate as husband. Among the many candidates, both Duren and those from abroad, the Duren queens tried not to choose any that would not be suitable for their daughter. They wanted Aanya to be happy like them. However, the Royal Council had another idea.

 

They wrote a letter offering to arrange Callum's marriage to Aanya. Upon news of the letter being sent, the queens reached Katolis as quickly as possible before the letter arrived. They knew from Sarai and Harrow that Callum was about to decide who he will marry personally, but the council could continue to pressure the queens to marry their daughter.

 

-We understand. We will not accept this offer. Often your advisors works behind your back?- Sarai asked.

 

-We fear too often. We know they planned to send one more letter to King Archling in Neolandia about arranging marriage for his son, Prince Kasef. But Kasef was getting married the week before the message was sent, so luckily for us nothing happened.- Neha replied.

 

-We can only feel sorry for you. However, I am afraid that you will have to marry Aanya eventually.- Harrow said.

 

-We take it into account. However, we don't want to make decisions that will change our daughter's life without her interference.- Neha replied.

 

-We understand. You have our support.- Harrow said.

 

However, the Duren queens were content with how things turned out. For a moment, the council would stop pushing for a candidate, but they knew that they would have no peace of mind until Aanya will find someone herself.


Ellis took a deep breath. She has not sung since the events with Jacob Butcher. Since then, she has been trying to recover.

 

She began to realize how thin the line between life and death is. How low can a people fall. She also understood that there was a fate more terrible than death. The border was thin and a moment of inattention was enough to be be dead.

 

She stood for a while with a lute in her hand. She remembered that evening. She felt terror paralyze her. She didn't want to remember this.

 

Suddenly she felt someone touch her shoulder. She noticed that Ezran got up from the bench where her small audience was sitting.

 

-You don't have to do this if you don't want to ...- Ezran said. Ellis smiled. If it weren't for Ezran, she wouldn't be here. He saved her, and only with him did she really feel safe. From that day, when he agreed to have her sleep in one bed with him, Ellis began to look at him differently. He was brave, affectionate, clever and funny. She realized that she must have fallen in love with him.

 

The only thing that hurt her was that he was still interested in Aanya. Aanya herself was a good friend, and she seemed to have hadn't change since she last saw her. However, Ellis saw that when she was short, Aanya was half a head taller than she was. You could see that she had a more feminine shape and an almost angelic face. Besides, she was wise and nobly born. What did short fourteen year old Ellis, who was looked after by the royal family, have to offer?

 

-I can handle. Thanks ...- she said hugging him. After a while Ezran separated from her and sat down with the guests. Looking at him, she already knew what he would sing. Ellis took a deep breath and began to sing in a low but cheerful voice.

 

Someone loved me, the world suddenly spun because someone loved me for good or bad, the cloudless sky is over my head again, because someone has loved me.

Someone loved me, let all people know it, someone loved me for good or bad, someone loved me, someone who loved me woke me up.

A candle over the threshold and a chair and a door - everything tells me that someone is in love. Water and fire keep telling me that someone loves me today.

Knock with me on unpainted wood, because sometimes happiness lasts only two moments. Knock with me, because I know for sure that someone has loved me.

A candle over the threshold and a chair and a door - everything tells me that someone has loved me. Water and fire keep telling me that someone loves me today.

Knock with me on unpainted wood, because sometimes happiness lasts only two moments. Knock with me, because I know for sure that someone has loved me,

he loved me

he loved me

he loved me ...

 

(Again, in polish it had more sense- authors note)

 

She closed her eyes and bowed. She heard the audience applaud. She opened her eyes and looked at them. Ezran applauded the loudest. She smiled, feeling that only his opinion mattered.


Aanya didn't know what to think about it. Ezran has grown up. He was no longer the child she remembered. Instead of a short, happy boy who was curious about the world, she saw a man growing up slowly.

 

He was kind, affectionate, quiet, modest, funny and, above all, responsible. Among the many monarchs and their children, Aanya did not see such good qualities combined. Ezran was different from them. Maybe it was what she liked about him?

 

-Hey ... Aanya ...- Ezran heard. She turned to see the young prince standing uncertainly, hiding something behind his back.

 

-Yes?- Aanya asked.

 

-I wanted to give you something ... Such a farewell gift.- Ezran said, taking out a bouquet of red roses. This bouquet was a universal gift for any woman, but for Aanya it had a double meaning because they were her favorite flowers.

 

-Thank you.- Aanya replied. She felt awkward with nothing to get back.

 

... But maybe she had something?

 

She kissed Ezran on the cheek. This gesture was completely forbidden for them in court etiquette, but she was fed up with this Etiquette. With Ezran, she could be herself. Only with him she didn't worry what would happen next.

 

Ezran blushed more than the roses he gave her. Aanya smiled. For the first time in her life, she felt a strange tingling sensation in her stomach, as if a flock of butterflies were prowling inside.


-I'm up to my ears in trouble Bait. They are both amazing. They are both talented and beautiful and they like me. What did I got myself into...- Ezran replied. He was already in his bed. It was late, though he couldn't sleep.

 

They both kissed him on the cheek. When Aanya left the Capital, Ellis thanked him for his help with the singing and gave him a kiss on a cheek as a thanks. Since then, Ezran didn't know what to do.

 

He had the same crush on both of them. He admired both of them equally. They were both amazing. Thinking that he would have to choose one of them and hurt the possible feelings of the other, he couldn't sleep.

 

The Bait, however, snapped him out of his mind by purring. At the old toad's answer.- Ezran blushed.

 

-Robal! You pervert!- Ezran replied. The Bait, however, purred in response.

 

-That's the worst idea I've heard from you. I can't believe you were like this since I know you.- Ezran told him. Bait answered him purring.

 

-That's it. I'm not talking to you. A terrible toad ... - Ezran replied irritated, going to sleep. He finally fell asleep to dream of Ellis and Aanya.

Chapter Text

-Rayla, hurry up. We'll be late soon.- Callum called. That day was the wedding of Liadrin and Geatan. For this occasion, Callum prepared two swords with the names of the groom and bride as wedding gift. Despite Rayla's protests, this gift was from both of them. The elf felt awkward knowing that she hadn't even put a finger to create a wedding gift, but there was nothing she could do about it.

 

-I'm coming.- Rayla called as she went downstairs. There were two floors in her old house: there was a corridor downstairs from which a door led to the kitchen, bathroom, Lain's workshop and tool shed. At the end of the corridor was the entrance to the lounge. There were three bedrooms upstairs - one for Rayla's parents, one for guests and their daughter's room.

 

Callum looked at Rayla and smiled. She was dressed in a dress borrowed from her mother. It was a dark green dress with short sleeves. Together with her hair in a braid and light makeup, she made an electrifying impression on Callum again. Seeing Callum speechless, she laughed.

 

-Callum, you are starring again.- She replied laughing. Although she felt weird wearing the dress, Callum was with her which made her feel good.

 

-I don't regret it ... You just look beautiful.- Callum said opening the door holding the gift for the bride and groom under his arm. Rayla left and after Callum closed the door behind them they started walking down the path.

 

-It's just a dress. I still look the same.- Rayla said.

 

-Yeah ... You look beautiful without a dress ...-Suddenly Callum understood what he said. He looked at Rayla who was about to burst out laughing.

 

-Without a dress?- Rayla asked, dying from the inside out laughing.

 

-I'm sorry ... I didn't want it to sound like that. It's not that you look good in your clothes because you are beautiful without them too ... - suddenly Callum hit his forehead. The more he tried to save himself from this situation, the more he digged in. Rayla knew her mage wouldn't have had the courage to spy on her. He respected her privacy too much to satisfy his silent desires. Still, she wanted to joke about this situation.

 

-Callum, you know you could have asked. You wouldn't have to hide with it ...- Rayla said, then giggled at the sight of Callum, red as his scarf.

 

-Just kill me already, okay?- Callum replied keeping his hand on his face.

 

-I was just kidding, dummy. I know you couldn't do this. And even if that's not a problem. You could always ask ... - Rayla replied a little shyly embracing him. She and Callum didn't get that far. She had heard a lot about her friend's bed life and sometimes she thought about her, often fantasizing about it. However, she did not want to force Callum push things up.

 

-Rayla, you know it wouldn't be fair to you. I just want you to feel good and I don't want to force you to do anything. When we're both ready we'll do it. For now, however, we are close to being late for the wedding.- Callum replied.

 

-Right. At let's go.- Rayla said. They both walked hand in hand to the Altar of the Moon, the wedding place in Silvergrove.


-I'm... a monster ... a bloody monster...- the last part of the sentence Callum muttered incomprehensibly lying on the table.

 

Rayla was surprised how strongly Earthblood Spirit worked on him. He only drank four glasses and he was already almost unconscious.

 

They were at the Wedding of Geatan and Liadrin. After the wedding ceremony, they were invited together with the families of the young couple to New Moon Inn. During the wedding, they saw how big Geatan family he had. While on the side of Liadrin, the family consisted of only 6 people (her parents, grandmother, uncle with aunt and brother), on the side of Geatan there were over 20 people (parents, grandparents, great-grandfather, two uncles, three aunts and rest of them were cousins). Eleanor and them were not counted as being Geatan's best friends. In addition to them, City Elder Cirdan was also invited for help in organizing the wedding.

 

The wedding itself was a cultural mix of customs and traditions. For example, while at Moonshadow Elf weddings (which usually organize a ceremony during the full moon), the bride is usually brought to the altar by her father, in the case of Earthblood Elves, the bride was accompanied by the oldest person in the family or a Clan Representative. Due to this and small differences, both families often argued about how the wedding should look like. Ultimately, however, the bride and groom tried to keep the balance so that both families were satisfied.

 

-Your friend has a weak head. But he accepted my challenge. He fought bravely, although no one can beat me.- Geatan's great-grandfather said. The Old Earthblood Elf was the lowest of all those present, but he was the oldest present - he was almost 500 years old.

 

-Callum it's me, Rayla. You drank too much. You're raving and talking to yourself. You have to go home.- Rayla said shaking Callum a little. Mage however, muttered something incomprehensible and began to cry.

 

-I don't deserve you ... I'm a monst ...- Callum hiccupped -... er ... Disgusting human ... -Callum continued to cry.

 

-Callum is raving.- Rayla said patting Callum on the back. The last thing she needed was a drunk Callum to expose himself at a friend's wedding. She hoped Callum would not attract attention, but City Elder Cirdan had already noticed his behavior. The Elderly Elf approached the drunk human.

 

-Callum, it's me, Cirdan. Ethari said he needed your help.- Cirdan said.

 

-Why .... What about him? Si ... -Callum hiccuped again - Sir, what about Ethari?! Please tell me!- Callum almost shouted. City Elder managed to get the attention of the drunk human.

 

-He had an accident. He was crushed by the wardrobe in his workhouse. Come on, we have to help him.- Cirdan said. Rayla realized that the City Elder was trying to convince Callum to go home himself.

 

-Oh no ... I'm drink to ... Corpse ... And he ... What was I thinking ... Raylaaaa .... We have to ... We have to go ...- Callum said, trying to get up. He staggered to both feet and tried to move forward. Rayla and Cirdan grabbed him and, supporting him, started walking to the exit - Ethaaaaari ... We're going ... Hold on!- Callum shouted at the entire room. A few people turned their looks behind them. Rayla tried to pretend she wasn't ashamed of her completely drunk boyfriend.

 

-Are you leaving already?- Geatan asked coming up to them.

 

-Your Great-Grandfather challenged Callum to a drinking duel. They both did not expect, however, that four glasses of Earthblood Spirit would be enough to get Callum drunk for good.- Rayla replied.

 

-After that? At least he didn't end up like one stubborn Sunfire Elf who struggled with grandpa for half a day. Eventually he got so drunk that he slept all day and sobered up for a week. Do you need help?- Geatan asked.

 

-We'll manage. Thanks ...- replied Cirdan. Suddenly Callum, seeing Geatan, broke away from Rayla and Cirdan and leaned his shoulder on his arm.

 

-Geatan dude! Listen ... Have you ever heard that ... That ... That ... - Callum hiccupped - That if you mix ... Cherry with wine ... It will come out ... Cherry Wine? - Callum said looking at Geatan with madness in the eyes. Geatan looked at him with pity.

 

-No, I haven't. I do not deal with wine and I do not sell it in large quantities abroad.- Geatan said. At the same time, Rayla and Cirdan caught Callum and led him out of the building. In front of the inn, they decided to help him sit down. They were slightly out of breath. At last Cirdan replied in a breathless voice.

 

-I've always been curious about how our alcohol affects humans. As you can see, the stronger one knocks them off their feet.- Cirdan said. Rayla froze at this sentence. The Elder knew.

 

The elf didn't even notice Rayla unfold her folding swords and held them near his neck. Elven dresses were designed so that sudden movements could be made in them when necessary.

 

-How do you know the truth!?- Rayla asked. The City Elder, however, smiled.

 

-Half of Silvergrove has known for several years.- replied Cirdan.

 

-You're lying.- Rayla replied.

 

-We and the rest of the Elders have known since Callum moved in here. Runaan told us. Gradually, as Callum grew up, he had to say this to more and more people. In this rate, soon all Silvergrove will know. Don't get us wrong, we don't want to cause him trouble. Callum really changed many of our minds about humans. Since half of the citizens of Silvergrove buy weapons and tools from him, many of us like him. I don't think he needs to worry about his identity. He grew up here with an impeccable reputation as a diligent and reliable magician and is one of us, and that is what counts the most.- Cirdan said.

 

-And you say that now?- Callum has been calling himself a monster for 3 years. He cannot look in the mirror when he is not wearing an illusion. He is afraid of being rejected because he is human. He lived in fear for 8 years, and it turns out that you knew anyway ?! How could you?- Rayla asked furiously.

 

-Unfortunately, without his dedication in this regard, he would have had a harder time now. The elves accept him because he still tries to stay close to the community not standing off in look. However, I think I can make amends for him by convincing the last elves to him.- Cirdan said. Rayla took the blade from the Elder.

 

-How can I trust you?- Rayla asked.

 

-You do not need to. It is enough for you to know that I have easily sold Callum the Moon Opal from which his Primal Stone is made. I know Callum makes good use of it, though other humans would love to use it as material for the rite of the Dark Magic.- Cirdan replied. Rayla was still wary to him.

 

-I understand. Sorry about that with the blades. I got carried away. I didn't know what your intentions were towards him and ... - Rayla began to explain herself.

 

-I understand. Caring for those who are close to your heart is important. You also contributed to this. Many of the Elves, seeing a human with a Dragon Guard's daughter, understood that he could not be evil since the heroes daughter became dated him. But back to the present moment. Can you handle him?- Cirdan asked.

 

-Yes. It's not the first time I'm going to help him walk.- Rayla said.

 

-Good, because I would like to beat the groom's great-grandfather in drinking. Stay healthy.- Cirdan said coming back inside.

 

Rayla sat down next to Callum to think about what had happened. As it turned out, half of Silvergrove knew about him. Should she be worried? This was what she was doing. Should she tell him? Yes. Should she take him home before he falls asleep and she would have to carry him. Of course.

 

-Callum, you must get up. We have to go home.- Rayla replied.

 

-I'm comfy ... Let me sleep...-Callum replied, leaning against the wall.

 

-Callum, we have to go. Ethari needs us, remember?- Rayla asked. At these words Callum stood up, leaning against the railing.

 

-I remember ... I remember. I'm coming. Don't worry, Ethari ... Heeee ... Heeeeelp is coooom ... cooo ... on the way.- Callum replied walking forward. However, Rayla saved him from falling and caught him and helped him walk again. Callum wasn't heavy, but it was hard for her to stop him from slipping out of her hands.

 

-I wish there was a faster way to get to Ethari's house.- Rayla said. After a moment, Callum looked up.

 

-But ... There is ...- Callum hiccupped -... Wait ... Manus Pluma ... -Rayla suddenly covered his mouth, not letting him finish the spell.

 

-Oh no, don't you even try.- Rayla replied. She did not have the strength and nerves to deal with the drunk and flying Callum.He, however, did not understand what she meant and began to cry.

 

-Callum, what happened?- Rayla asked, stopping for a moment. He, however, continued to cry.

 

-You don't love me anymore ...- Callum began to cry. Rayla cursed under her nose, seeing that there are more problems with him than with children in school. She hugged him.

 

-Not at all. I still love you, I'm just trying to help you because you're drunk. Everything will be fine.- Rayla replied kissing him on the mouth.

 

Even though she felt an incredibly strong taste of alcohol, she felt good. She knew that if Callum knew how it would end, he wouldn't think about drinking anything. She also noticed that the drunk Callum seemed to be ... less withdrawn. He didn't usually kiss her that intensely. They eventually split up.

 

-I'm sorry ... I'm stupid. Stupid ... - Callum began to cry again. Rayla knew it was going to be a long night.


They reached Ethari's house just as dawn was starting. They quietly entered the house through the top floor, then turned into his room.

 

Rayla was glad she managed to get Callum home. During the tour, Callum almost two times used the spell to turn his hands into wings (Rayla managed to stop him, however), cry eight times, then laugh and compliment her beauty (even with such hopeless compliments as "You have the best ass in all Xadia") for the rest of the way. She was glad that Callum was still loving to her, but she preferred him to be sober.

 

She was glad that Runaan and Ethari had some errands to do in Storm Spire. Rayla knew that a drunk Callum would have incredible problems if Runaan found out what his condition was.

 

She helped him sit on his bed. She went to the adjoining room for a moment to get her pajamas. Even though she had been living with her parents for a month, she kept spare pajamas in her old room. Sometimes when the weather was bad or she didn't have the strength to go to her house on second side of Silvergrove, she stopped here to sleep with Callum.

 

When she returned in her pajamas, she found Callum crying on the floor.

 

-Callum, what happened?- Rayla asked helping him sit up.

 

-I'm a monster ... I don't deserve you ... You're ... Too beautiful ... To be with me ... But... Please don't leave me alone. ..- Callum purred. Rayla had enjoyed such words by Callum at the beginning of this trip, but now she had had enough of them.

 

-I'm not going anywhere. I'm here, see? I promise not to leave you.- Rayla said.

 

-You promise?- Callum asked.

 

-Yes, I promise. Callum, it's time to sleep. You need to change into pajamas.- Rayla said, helping him up. Callum shook his head.

 

-I don't want to.- he protested like a little child.

 

-I won't love you if you don't change to bed.- Rayla said, pretending to be dead serious. Somehow she had to convince him to cooperate.

 

Callum grunted in annoyance and began taking off his clothes. First, he started with the brown shoes he wore on a daily basis. The boots reached about halfway down the shin. Without Rayla Callum's help, he couldn't take them off. Then he began to struggle with the green jacket. After a long fight with the buttons and Rayla's help, he finally managed to take off his jacket. The shirt he was wearing under did not cause him problems, as did the pants which he also took off without a problem. Seeing Callum without clothes, Rayla blushed.

 

-By Garlach ... Callum, put something on you.- Rayla said, giving him pajamas. Callum picked up the clothes, even though he didn't seem to fully understand that he was standing naked in front of Rayla. She had to admit that in fact everything looked like in the figures. Even though she didn't enjoy the view for a long time, because Callum had put on short pants and pajamas, she remembered exactly what it looked like.

 

-Callum, go to sleep.- Rayla said lying with him in the same bed. Callum suddenly turned green. Rayla immediately understood what he was about to do. She handed him the pot into which he puked. While he was emptying his stomach, Rayla held him. She then noticed that his hair had become long during those many years of living in Silvergrove. Soon she knew he would have to either trim them or tie them into a pigtail or a ponytail.

 

When Callum finished vomiting, Rayla handed him a handkerchief to wipe his mouth.

 

-I'm sorry ... I'm terrible...- Callum muttered. Rayli felt sorry for him. She hugged him.

 

-Nothing happened. It could have happened to me too. Now at least go to sleep. It's late.- Rayla said pushing him to bed. Callum made no resistance and politely laid down next to Rayla. Covered by a blanket, they laid waiting for their sleep to wear them out.

 

-Rayla ... I love you...-Callum said after a long silence. Rayla smiled.

 

-I love you too silly.- Rayla said hugging him tighter.


-Ugh .... My head ...- Callum muttered. An incredible headache woke him up. He opened his eyes to feel incredible pain and see a blinding light. He immediately closed his eyes.

 

-Hello. How are you?-he Rayla heard on his left.

 

-Like I was an anvil in Ethari's workhouse ... Ugh ... Where am I?- Callum asked.

 

-At home. Yesterday you drank four glasses of Earthblood Alcohol after Geatan's great-grandfather challenged you to a drinking duel. I had to help you get home. Rayla replied.- Callum only heard her because his eyes hurt all the time and he couldn't open them.

 

-Never.. I will never drink any alcohol. I promise ... - he said, rolling onto his stomach.

 

-And that's good. You don't even realize what you were doing while drunk. Tell you what happened?- Rayla asked.

 

-Say it. It can't get any worse…-Callum replied.

 

-Oh, but it can. In the beginning, you were lying on the table during the wedding and crying about a monster you are. Then you scared the groom by telling him that the wine, when mixed with cherry, will give cherry wine. At the same time, City Elder Cirdan told you that Ethari had an accident and needed our help. He lied to make you want to leave the wedding yourself, but half the way home you screamed that Ethari would endure and that you would help him soon. Along the way, you wanted to use the spell to change hands to wings three times, but I wouldn't let you finish saying the formula. The second half way or you cried that I don't love you anymore or you paid me compliments like "You have the best ass in all Xadia" .- Rayla replied. She noticed that Callum listening to this story was blushing all over and hid his face in the pillow.

 

-Finish me... Please.- he said in a broken voice.

 

-It's not over yet. When we got home you didn't want to go to sleep. However, I managed to convince you to take your clothes off. However, you took it too literally and took off all your clothes. When I managed to persuade you to wear clothes, you vomited into the jug. -Callum suddenly cut her off with a loud groan. He placed a pillow over his head. He was incredibly ashamed. He promised himself that he would never drink a drop of alcohol again.

 

-Don't despair. You don't look that bad. Now I actually know that everything looks like in book pictures.- Rayla said, chuckling softly.

 

-Let me die. I'm begging you.- Callum said, unable to tear his face away from the pillow.

 

-Callum, you know that you wouldn't act so normally. You were drunk.- Rayla said.

 

- I'm ashamed of myself. Sorry for everything. I didn't mean to ... - said Callum. Rayla silently moved closer to him and hugged him.

 

-Nothing happened. I know if I was drunk I would do everything like you, and you would do the same in my place.- Rayla said.

 

-I wish I could look at you, but I can't ... I have a headache ...- Callum said.

 

-You will get over it. Here, I have a glass of water for you.- Rayla said. Callum sat down and blindly tried to find the glass. Eventually he found it and drank all.

 

-Thanks...- Callum said, slowly opening his eyes. These still hurt, but he was slowly getting used to the light. He looked around to see that she was lying on the bed with Rayla in his room.

 

-Callum, I have a question for you...- Rayla said.

 

-Ask. I will try to answer them honestly.- Callum said laying down on the pillow. He felt he would regret the question, but Rayla had suffered enough from him last night and he owed her. Rayla lay down on his shoulder and hugged him.

 

-I really have the best ass in all of Xadia?- Rayla whispered, blushing slightly. Callum blushed.

 

-Yes.- Callum said with surprisingly sure voice. He was honest with her because she was beautiful and he really liked what she looked like. Anyway, his head ached too much to explain it or try to dress it into more delicate words.

 

-You really think so? You know ... I'm skinny and I miss this and that ... Certainly there will be other girls who have ... - Rayla tried to explain, but Callum interrupted her.

 

-Rayla please. I have an horrible hangover and my head hurts as if I had been hitting the wall with it for a month. I do not have the strength to convince you so I will say it again soberly: You have the best ass in the whole Xadia.- Callum said. Rayla smiled.

 

-Who would have thought that a shy mage like you would be capable of such compliments.- Rayla said.

 

-Your mage who has hangover. And now please ... Let me take a nap ...- Callum said closing his eyes. Rayla closed her eyes as well, wanting to take a nap. In the end, they both fell asleep in each other's arms.

Chapter Text

Lain stepped back and struck his sword from the left. Rayla stepped back, causing the blow to miss her sword. Lain lost his balance and in order not to fall he jumped in the direction of the blow and rolled forward, then turned to block Rayla's blow. Then he jumped back after the hit.

 

-I must admit, Runaan trained you well.- Lain said.

 

-I was trying to reach your level. I hope I don't disappoint you.- Rayla replied.

 

-Not at all.- Lain said. Rayla jumped over her father and delivered the blow from above. Lain blocked and lifted the blade to let Rayla's sword slide down his sword. However, Rayla jumped over and undercut Lain. The elder elf fell to the ground to see her daughter's sword pointed at him.

 

-Curses. It looks like I'm getting old.- Lain said. He was now 78 years old which was the human equivalent of 40. Rayla reached out and helped her father to his feet.

 

-It was not easy.- Rayla said.

 

-Mhm. These wooden swords are perfect. I am glad that Callum helped me design them.- Lain said.

 

- It' was also a lot of fun for him. He just loves to draw. However, I saw more wood. Are you planning to build a boat?- Rayla asked.

 

-No ... I'm going to start building toys. Apparently it's a profitable business.- Lain said.

 

- Glad to have a job. However, you have seemed sad recently.- Rayla said. At these words, Lain scowled.

 

-It's nothing, word of honor.- Lain said. Rayla, however, did not believe it.

 

-Dad, I see something bothering you. Say, what's going on?- Rayla pressed on. They sat down on the stones near the clearing.

 

-Nothing big. I just ... I don't know what to do with myself. My mother and I served in the Dragon Guard for 8 years. The only purpose we had was to keep ourselves and the royal family alive so that we could come back to you when we finish our service. But now that the service is over and you will be completely adult soon ... I don't know what to do. I feel empty after I have achieved all the goals in my life. All I have left is to enjoy a peaceful retirement with your mother. I'm not saying that I don't like it because if it wasn't, I wouldn't have married her 40 years ago. However ... I miss a greater purpose in life.- Lain said. Rayla understood what he was going through. She heard stories from Runaan many times about elves who, after serving in army, could not find themselves in retirement as a simple elf. She hugged her father.

 

-It will be fine. You will see, you will find something to do.- Rayla said. Lain smiled and hugged his daughter.


-So they go for a walk and during this time we are to prepare a romantic dinner for them? Callum asked.

 

-Yeah.- Rayla replied. She saw her parents walking sadly since they got back. They get up earlier than the other elves and lie down later. They had trouble adjusting to civilian life. Rayla tried to help them as much as she could, but sometimes she had trouble with it. On that day, they had their anniversary of entry into service. Rayla persuaded her parents to go for a walk that day (the parents looked at her knowingly when they heard that Callum would be with her at that time) to prepare a dinner for them.

 

Callum was taking a day off from working in the workhouse. He wanted to help voluntarily, but Rayla had another plan for him.

 

-Sounds good. So what are you planning to prepare for them?- Callum asked coming up to Rayla.

 

- Moonberry Surprise, vegetable salad and fruit soup of course.- Rayla said, taking recipes on the table. The recipes for some of the dishes were so old that they remembered the times when her great-grandmother was a little girl.

 

After reading the recipes, they went to work. Callum brought Moonberry preserves and vegetables, and Rayla bought an additional ingredient needed to cook all the dishes. Finally they got to work.


When the dishes were ready, they sat down on the couch in the living room. Rayla leaned on Callum's shoulder, who decided to drink a little moonraspberry juice. She was tempted to ask a question. Finally she spoke.

 

-Callum ... Listen ... I know this might not be the best time to talk about this ...- Rayla said. She felt that she was taking the wrong turn, but she wanted it to be so.

 

-Yeah?- Callum replied without thinking, taking a sip of juice.

 

-A month ago you said I had the best ass in the whole Xadia.- Rayla said. Callum coughed and put down the glass. He looked at her blushing and nodded. Seeing his reaction, Rayla got up and sat on his lap. Callum blushed even more surprised at what she was doing.

 

-Rayla, what are you ...- Callum tried to ask, but Rayla interrupted him by kissing him on the lips. However, this kiss was different from the previous ones. Rayla kissed him greedily, drawing him close. Callum slowly began to understand what she meant. Slowly he started kissing her bluntly. Rayla grabbed his hands and placed them below her back. Callum wanted to take his hands away, not wanting her to feel awkward, but she held them down to let her know what she wanted. After a while she broke the kiss.

 

-Don't be afraid. I want. Very much. And you?- she asked with a smile.

 

-Rayla ... What if ...- Callum wanted to ask, but Rayla replied almost immediately.

 

-I drink a special brew. Eleanor recommended it to me and it works very well in her experience. We do it safely ...- Rayla said. Callum nodded.

 

-Are you sure you want this? I don't want to force you to do anything.- Callum said.

 

-I really want. I hope you too ... you know ... you want ...- Rayla asked. Callum nodded softly and approached. Rayla kissed him instinctively.

 

-Yeah...- he said in a brief pause in kissing Callum. Slowly their kiss grew dull. At first they were quietly motionless to slowly kiss greedily with full passion. Rayla slowly moved Callum's hand to her breast.

 

-I need help with a vest ...- she whispered. Callum began to undo buttons slowly. The vest dropped to the floor a moment later. At the same time, Callum took off his own vest. Slowly he started taking off her shirt and finally she fell to the floor. They were both all red.

 

-You are beautiful ...- Callum said taking off his own shirt. They moved towards another kiss. One of Callum's hands landed on his head near Rayla's left horn. It was an intimate place, touching in public in the elven community was considered by no means offensive. However, in this situation there was no problem because this gesture was reserved only for the closest people.

 

Callum's other hand went to Rayla's bra. The knot on her back was easy to undo. At the same time, Rayla began to unbuckle Callum's waistband. But just as Callum was about to unbutton her bra, they heard someone trying to open the door with a key.

 

They both jumped away knowing Rayla's parents had returned home. In horror and haste, they put on clothes so that her parents could not tell if something had happened. However, while dressing, Rayla made one small but important mistake.


-No, they couldn't.- Tiadrin said as she entered the house.

 

-Right? I mean, you know ... elves their age usually already have some experience with it. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Callum and Rayla would decide to do that. However, the young do all kinds of nonsense.- Lain said.

 

Both could not imagine a situation in which their daughter and her boyfriend would do that. They considered the young couple to be responsible people who see where the limits of pleasure and responsibility is. However, fate wanted them to understand how wrong they were.

 

-Hmmm ... Weird. Rayla doesn't usually lock door when she's home alone.- said Tiadrin, grasping the door handle.

 

-I hope you have a spare key ...- Lain asked. Tiadrin smiled and took a spare key from her pocket. After a while the door was opened and the former Dragon Guards entered the house.

 

-Rayla, we're back!- Lain called. He heard no answer. He thought maybe she had gone somewhere, but suddenly he heard a soft noise in the living room. Even then, Lain had expected what would happen there.

 

Entering the living room, Lain and Tiadrin found what they expected: Rayla and Callum were sitting at either end of the couch. They were red like Callum's scarf and their clothes were obviously put on in a hurry.

 

-Good evening.- Callum said. They both heard the fear in his voice. They guessed what they had interrupted with their return.

 

-Hello. What have you been up to?- Lain asked.

 

-No big deal...- replied Rayla.

 

-We read...-Callum said

 

-... We were cooking.- Rayla replied. Hearing the contradictory version, they both looked at each other in horror. Lain smiled at the amusing tone of the situation.

 

-So you cooked and read?- asked Tiadrin.

 

-Yes ...By the way, we have prepared dinner for you. It is in the kitchen.- Rayla said.

 

-I understand. We are in the kitchen as if someone was looking for us.- Said Tiadrin as she left. Out of the corner of her eye, however, she noticed a bra on the floor next to the couch on which Callum and Rayla were sitting. She laughed softly, knowing what had been interrupted by their return. She and her husband will have to talk about it.


-It was close ...- Rayla said, putting her head on her bed. Callum sat down next to her. After her parents returned home together, they decided to disappear into her room.

 

-Too close ... Listen to Rayla ... You don't have to do this if you don't want to ...- Callum said.

 

-But I want. Callum, understand that I want to. I'm not doing this just because I want you to be happy yourself, but because I want to. I know you care about me but ...- Rayla said, but Callum interrupted her.

 

-That's what it's all about. I don't want you to feel bad or have problems with it. I'm also afraid that… -Callum paused.

 

-... That I won't like it?- Rayla asked.

 

-That I can't. I have no experience with this, and I don't want you to feel like you're wasting your time with me. It's just ... I'm scared, okay? I'm afraid.- Callum said. Rayla just cuddled up to him.

 

-You know that I know little more. I am afraid of it, but I want to overcome this fear. I know you won't let me down ... After all, you never let me down. Rayla said. There was silence. Callum cuddled up to Rayla wanting to feel better.

 

-So ... You wanna do this anyway? Even though I am a human?- Callum asked.

 

-From what I saw with my own eyes you are more like an elf than you think. Admittedly, you may stand out a little with shorter length... -Rayla said, laughing a little.

 

-Then it was probably cold...- said Callum, whose pride was tarnished at that moment.

 

-... But that doesn't mean you're worse. I'm glad you're not as hotheaded as the rest of the boys at Silvergrove, but just because you are human doesn't mean you can't match them. We take care of each other and who knows, maybe we'll finally have some privacy ...- Rayla said as she approached Callum.

 

- Sounds like a plan. We can go on, but maybe without your parents on the floor below, right.- Callum said.

 

-Right ... They interrupted a bit ...- Rayla said approaching. Suddenly she touched her vest near her chest. She blushed.

 

-Rayla, something wrong?- Callum asked.

 

-Callum, do you remember what happened to my bra?- Rayla asked. At these words Callum blushed.

 

-I thought you wore it. Are you saying you don't have it?-Callum asked. Rayla, scared, hid her face in her hands and nodded.

 

-We're doomed ...-Rayla said, quickly getting out of bed and going downstairs.


-So they are capable of it...- Lain said. He and Tiadrin were sitting in the kitchen eating dinner that Rayla and Callum had prepared for them. They had to admit that both their daughter and son-in-law did a great job. Although it was felt that Rayla corrected some dishes after Callumie, from what Rayla told them, Callum was taught by Runaan cooking. This did not surprise them at all.

 

-That's what comes out. I hope at least they were doing it safely. You know, I don't want them both to end up Geatan and Liadrin.- said Tiadrin.

 

-Right. Anyway, it turns out that they didn't even had time to do anything. We interrupted them.- Lain said.

 

-My daughter's underwear on the floor says otherwise. But they probably didn't make it any further ...- said Tiadrin.

 

-Possible. But you know ... Don't get me wrong ... I wish I had grandchildren ... - said Lain.

 

-Lain please ...- Tiadrin laughed.

 

-I'm serious. I know it sounds weird ... But I don't know what to do with myself ... - said Lain.

 

-Specify "do".- said Tiadrin. She felt that her husband was getting ready for a longer speech.

 

-You know ... I don't really know. The only thing I've been thinking about the last 8 years has been serving in the Dragon Guard and going back to Rayla so we can be together. Now that we've achieved all of this ... I don't know what to do. I have no purpose. Apart from you and Rayla, I don't see any happiness in life and ... I can't find myself. We were not 8 years here and our daughter is almost adult. I feel like I am ... - explained Lain, but Tiadrin interrupted him.

 

-Burned out? asked Tiadrin.

 

-Yes. You have that too?- Lain asked in surprise.

 

-Yeah. I mean ... I can't get used to all of this. The elves who were 9 years old when we left are now starting their own families. The Elder Elves who were alive when we left are now resting in the Valley of the Shadow. Apparently Silvergrove has not changed ... But still ... It seems different here. I can't get used to it. I also partially miss the rigor that prevailed in the Guard. It's just ... I miss this goal ... - said Tiadrin.

 

-I know ... You know, when I look at Rayla, I wish we hadn't disappear for those 8 years of her life.- Lain said.

 

-Me too. However, we are slowly catching up. Admittedly, I doubt that the arrival of the grandchildren could help in this task ... - said Tiadrin. Lain laughed.

 

-True ... But I'm thinking about it. Eventually, sooner or later, Rayla and Callum would start thinking about the children. I'm not pushing them, but ... You know how it is ... - Lain said.

 

-I understand ...-Suddenly Tiadrin turned towards the door. She didn't even hear a sound, but felt a change in the air. Rayla appeared to be back for what she lost.

 

-You felt her sneaking up too, right?- Lain asked. Tiadrin knew they were both sensitive to this. Often in the Dragon Guard the elves serving there developed a sixth sense after some time, which made them feel like someone was sneaking nearby.


-Hello, Ethari. Callum at home?- Ibis asked. Ethari, who happened to be sitting on the porch, woke up from his nap.

 

-Hello, Ibis. He's gone Should I tell him something?- Ethari asked.

 

-If you could, get your packing. In three days' time in the Dragon Mountains, one of the final mage tests will be held for most Skywing Elves of his age. I hope we will get there on time.- Ibis said. He saw that Callum could handle the tasks because he was very powerful, even more than him. He knew that Callum would have to pass tests in order to formally become a mage. If he could, he would be the first human mage Xadia ever appointed.

Chapter Text

-Be careful. And please come back as fast as you can.- Rayla said. Callum stood sad knowing he couldn't make this trip with Rayla.

 

Callum was about to start the last stage of his education to earn the title of Mage. He was leaving Rayla's life for a week. Rayla, despite Runaan and Ibis assurances that he would come back, began to worry. They were never separated for more than 3 days. Her worries were fueled even more when Ethari prepared the Assassin's Flower for Callum - it was a flower that, when placed in a fountain on the outskirts of the city, floated on the surface of the water as long as the person who put it in the fountain lived or did not pick up the flower.

 

It was a tradition among the Moonshadow Elves that the citizens of Silvergrove, setting off on a dangerous journey, would leave a flower in a special fountain so that other elves would know what happened to that person. Although the elves rarely didn't return (aside from the Assassins), Rayla still feared the worst. Callum's and Ibis's promises hadn't helped, not even a word of encouragement of her entire family.

 

-I promise ... I'll be back as soon as the rehearsals are over. I also have something for you to keep you from feeling lonely.- Callum said taking off the scarf and then tied it around Rayla's neck. For him it was the only thing that was human and he was not ashamed of it. The scarf reminded him of his parents and symbolized that he was not alone as a human being. But now he gave the symbol to her. - Store it for me. Please.- Callum said.

 

-I'll keep it. I'll give it back to you right after your return.- Rayla said. Callum was about to turn to move to the exit from Silvergrove, but Rayla stopped him.

 

-Callum ...- she whispered hugging him.

 

-Yes?- Callum asked, embracing her as well. Rayla approached him and kissed him on the lips. He kissed him back and after a while they separated.

 

-Don't do anything stupid.- Rayla said.

 

-I won't, I promise.- Callum said then turned and walked to the Ibis waiting in front of the only entrance to Silvergrove.

 

Rayla watched him with feeling empty in her heart. When he was already out of her sight, she went to the fountain. His flower was still swimming. Rayla sat down thinking about him. She knew she could handle it. After all, thanks to Ibis, he was a killing machine. He knew a lot about Xadia because he grew up here. However ... Rayla was still afraid. She was afraid that he would not come back and that she would be left alone. They had been almost inseparable for 8 years, of which they had been a couple for 3 months and she simply couldn't imagine life without him anymore. Sitting down, she didn't even notice when the time was up and it was noon.

 

-Rayla?- Eleanor asked. Rayla turned to see her friend.

 

-Hey, what's up?- Rayla asked, trying not to show signs of longing and fear.

 

-You've been sitting here for half a day. Your parents are looking for you.- Eleanor said. Rayla was surprised to hear how long it had been since she sat down here.

 

-I'm fine ... It's just...- Rayla didn't finish the sentence, sitting down against the fountain.

 

-I heard about Callum. Don't worry, he'll be back soon.- Eleanor said.

 

-What if he won't? He may get into a fight with some elves, or get poisoned with Thorn Nettle, or upset the dragon, or ...-Rayla started to count, but Eleanor stopped her with a gesture of the hand.

 

-And you're afraid of it? Callum flies over Xadia about hundreds of meters from the ground with the Ibis. There is no option that anything would happen to him during this time. Anyway, I'd be more worried if some Elf connected to the Sky Arcanum wouldn't seduce him ... - said Eleanor.

 

-Don't even say that. Callum couldn't. He may not be a Moonshadow Elf, but he was raised like us. Loyalty is most important to us, remember? There is no option for him to suddenly find that ... - suddenly Rayla doubted her opinion. Eventually her boyfriend disappeared out of her reach for a week, and he might as well have been seduced or, worse, treated with a Love Potion during this time.

 

No, he couldn't. She had to trust him. She rejected the idea that he might leave. She trusted him. She needed to calm down. The last thing Callum wanted for her was to panic.

 

-... No. He couldn't. I'm just panicking.- Rayla said. She took a deep breath, trying to calm down.

 

-As you think. Listen, Liadrin has been wondering if you would like to meet this afternoon.- Eleanor said.

 

-Why not.- Rayla said. She needed to keep her head on so she wouldn't worry about Callum.


-Tell me about the Skywing Elves. You know, about traditions and their culture.- Callum asked.

 

He and Ibis were hundreds of meters above the ground, flying northeast. They had passed the Storm Spire and were approaching the Dragon Mountains.

 

-My countrymen live in five great cities on the peaks of the highest mountains in the range. In the first and largest city called Glowstone, there is a capital and mix of everything that Skywing Elves are known for, including an elite school for elven mages connected to the Sky Arcanum. After graduating from this school, mages receive the title of Archmage, although getting into it is a problem. Currently, 30 of them live, of which 10 constitute the House of Air Masters which lead over the Skywing Elves. I can say that I almost managed to become an Archmage.- said Ibis.

 

-Almost?- Callum asked.

 

-Yes. The day before the exams, thinking that I had already passed it I get drunk, I could not take part in the final trials. Since then, I don't drink alcohol.- Ibis said.

 

-Wise decision.- Callum said.

 

-Of course. The second city, smaller than Glowstone, is Trarion. It is famous mainly for the fact that Elves there live in symbiosis with the Dragons. The population of dragons is huge in this area, so you will often find huge houses in the city in which dragons and elves live. In addition, the local brewery produces the best beer that Skywing Elves have to offer. The third city is Farelia which is essentially an armory of the Skywing Elves. Thanks to the abundant metal ores found in that region, the help of Archdragon Gimli and several Sunfire Elf smiths, the weapons and armor produced there are of equal quality to those produced at Lux Aurea. The fourth city lies on the northern edge of Xadia. His name is Aet Loren and due to the fact that it is located on the cliffs above the sea, there is also a small population of Tiebound Elves. It is not famous for anything great, but it is mainly there outside the Ocean on the south that Tiebound Elves live. Besides, it is the most set on north settlement in Xadia. The last city, although the name of the Loners belongs to it, is called Aet Lorinen. It is a huge tower where the Great Skywing Elves Library is located. Usually, no less than 50 Elves live there, 25 of which are all Archmages. This is where we're flying for your final Mage trials.- Ibis replied.

 

-And Skywing Elves? What are they like?- Callum asked.

 

-They may seem a bit pushy compared to the Moonshadow Elves. While the Moon Elves are only comfortable at Silvergrove and rarely show any emotion outside of their family, the Skywing Elves are a different story. They are light-minded, don't worry about most things, and often think after they do something. They have a different approach to responsibilities than the Moonshadow Elves. They try to go with the wind and do what they consider necessary to descend with further consequences. Therefore, although there are over twenty thousand such Elves, there are few archmages among us. The problem is mainly in their discipline, because younger elves are easier to distract, so in their old age they take care of their skills where they do not have the same strength as before. A bit of a contrast to the Moonshadow Elves.- Ibis said.

 

Callum thought more about it. By all estimate, there were roughly over three thousand Moonshadow Elves in all of Xadia. He knew that they were represented by the Council of Elders which consisted of 6 Archmages and 6 non-mages. The Moonshadow Elves themselves had Ten Archmages, but for such a small population it was a fairly large number. It was different about the Earthblood Elves, which numbered almost one hundred thousand people. Callum suspected that their archmages were the most numerous, more than 120, but he did not know exactly how many.

 

He looked down. They flew over the hills with small shrubs and smaller trees. Callum has never been this far from Silvergrove in the last eight years.

 

In theory, he was a prisoner, but no one ever watched him. He did not feel trapped, and he hardly felt threatened. It was the prison he happily called home. He may have fled to Katolis, but he did not. He knew he would probably be forced to be a prince again. At the mere mention of the contempt in the eyes of the barons, the limitations of everything he did, and pointing fingers at other children from aristocratic families, he felt a shudder. But he knew it would never come back. He had his place in Silvergrove where the elves accepted him as a blacksmith. Maybe they didn't know the whole truth about him, but he felt good knowing that there was a place he wanted to return to.

 

-You seem to be unhappy with your people. Why?- Callum asked. Ibis turned and smiled.

 

-I have spent too much time among the other Elvesto see mistakes of all kinds. Skywing Elves are reckless, although they cannot be denied energy and skill. Moonshadow Elves are devoted and loyal, although they can be cold and dry to people outside their community. Earthblood Elves are calm, but often too slow they try to adapt to the situation. Sunfire Elves are brave and valor, though often before they think they will do something they will regret. Tiebound elves, despite being forgiving, are often fearful of everything that lives on the surface. Only the Startuch Elves I do not know well enough to say more about them. Our entire race, moreover, is proud, and faithfully believes that it is right about everything it comes into contact with. You can see my opinion.- Ibis said. Callum considered what his mentor said. He was somewhat right about the Elves that Callum met, but Callum didn't know what to say about the types of Elves he had never seen.

 

Thinking of the Elves, he returned to in thoughts Rayla. They have never been separated for so long. He felt strangely lonely knowing he would not have her next to him. Equally 8 years old they were like siblings and from 3 months they were aware of what they both had feeling for each other. He felt emptiness knowing that when he felt bad, she wouldn't be there to hug him, listen to him or even comfort him.

 

-You think about her, don't you?- Ibis asked.

 

-Yeah. That's bad?- Callum asked.

 

-Nope. Don't judge me, but I once had a wife, also a Moonshadow Elf. She was an illusionist mage and had the most twisted sense of humor that any Moonshadow Elf could have had. With time, however, it started to get badbetween us. It seemed that I wasn't what she wanted and we finally divorced. I was not her first husband, but almost 100 years have passed since I saw her. Maybe she found someone. Remember Callum that if you care about Rayla sometimes you have to let her go so that she thinks about everything. She may come back or, as in my case, not.- Ibis replied.

 

Callum nodded though he wanted to disagree. He couldn't let Rayla go. He didn't want her to go away, and he promised himself that he wouldn't let her ever have to leave.

 

It sounded strange to him too. The Moonshadow Elves usually mated for entire life, and there were rarely break ups or divorces, and as already it was more common among mixed couples where only one Elf had a connection to the Moon Arcanum. It was a matter of upbringing and the traditional values of devotion and loyalty instilled in the Moonshadow Elves from birth.


The flight took half a day. They finally reached the Dragon Mountains. The mountain range stretched along the horizon. Callum had never seen the mountains, which made him delighted with the view. By default, his mind remembered the whole thing in the hope that it would be able to draw it.

 

-It's breathtaking, huh?- Ibis asked with a smile.

 

-Yes. I've never seen mountains before.- Callum said.

 

In a moment they reached the mountains. Up close, Callum saw that there was snow on the mountains. It was an amazing sight.

 

Slowly, in the distance, a huge tower began to loom. The building was situated on top of one of the higher mountains. From a distance, Callum could see on its surface a mass of windows and balconies on which a dragon could easily fit. He could not see the gate to the fortress anywhere, which meant that the elves who built this fortress wanted only them to have access to it. At the top, the tower had a small roof from which a huge blue crystal protruded. The crystal caught Callum's attention.

 

-Here is the end of our trip. Aet Lorinen.- Ibis said.

 

-What is this crystal on the tower?- Callum asked.

 

-It's Heaven Granite. Legends say that whoever touches its surface and expresses a sincere wish, it will come true. However, this legend is a whole lie.- Ibis replied.

 

-Why?- Callum asked turning his head towards Ibis. His mentor, however, seemed to look with his imagination as if he saw something that Callum could not see.

 

-If the legend were true, I would still have a wife.- Ibis said. Callum stopped next questions, understanding that it would be better not to bring up the topic further.

 

They finally landed on one of the balconies. The building was made of gray brick, although the wooden elements of the building were visible. On the walls were gilded flags with a rune representing the Sky. They stood alone on the balcony.

 

-Check if you have everything you need. Equipment in this trip can be useful. I'll go talk to the doorman.- Ibis said.

 

When he entered the tower through the small door, Callum took off his backpack and put it on the floor. He opened it to check and count its contents: 3 bottles of Moonraspberry juice, his Prime Stone, a few slices of dry bread, medicinal herbs, Xadia's map, dagger, black cloak ...

 

Callum suddenly recalculated backwards. He didn't remember packing a dagger. He grabbed the blade to realize it was the same dagger he gave Rayla for her 15th birthday. There was a piece of paper on the dagger hilt. He unfolded the letter and began reading.

 

Callum

   We saw that you were packing yourself and when Ibis talked you away, we packed extra items for you. Even though Runaan's anger your backpack is unable to fit a sword, armor, bow and arrows, you have a few small things that may come in handy.

  Ethari wanted to give it to you onyour birthday, but now you'll need it more. It is the Primal Stone fused with the Arcanum of the Sun. He used it for many years in the workhouse to strengthen his creations and recently got a second one from the City Elders for the 50th anniversary of starting work as blacksmith. As he already had one, the other one was not needed by him and he wanted to give it to you. We believe you will use it well.

  Runaan has packed you a potion of Earthblood Mistletoe. It is a mixture that regenerates vitality and heals light wounds. One drop is enough to ease the pain. We hope you won't have to use it though. However, Garlach knows what can happen.

   My parents and I baked some Moonberry Cookies for the road. We hope they will taste good and remind you of home. Also, my dad lent you the gloves he used in the Dragon Guard. They have runes on them that support hand movements and thus allow you to draw runes faster.

As you probably noticed, inside I put on the dagger that I got from you for my birthday. Keep it ready and use it when all else fails.

Enjoy your trip again and please come back to us as soon as possible.

Your beloved, Rayla

 

Callum searched the backpack in disbelief. He did find a packet of cookies, another Primal Stone with Lava floating inside, Blue Light Armored Gloves, and another bottle of blood-red substance. The gloves were illusioned as he felt a place for the fifth finger. He smiled seeing the support his family provided him. Even though he was a monster, they still cared for him and loved him as one of their own.

 

-Hey, are you alive? Hello?- Callum heard a voice behind him.

 

He got up and looked back. The Skywing Elf was standing behind him. She wore a gray robe with long sleeves, short trousers that reached the middle of the knee, brown boots and a breastplate with a shoulder plate. She had a gray shade of skin, hair as black as night, and the marks on her face stretched from the mouth to the eyes. What distinguished her were the wings that were on her back, which was a rare sight among Skywing Elves as only three out of ten of the Skywing Elves were born with wings.

 

-Yeah, I am alive.- Callum replied. He preferred to approach her carefully. Even though she didn't look threatening, Callum didn't want to say much.

 

-I already thought something happened. I am Zeenya and I come from Glowstone. What's your name?- asked the elf with a smile.

 

-Callum. I live in Silvergrove.- Callum replied. He didn't want to be mean, but he immediately felt that her character was ... He couldn't name it, but he didn't feel comfortable in her company.

 

-This Silvergrove? So there are Moonshadow Elves?- Zeenya asked.

 

-Yes. They exist and are doing well.- Callum said and took the gloves out of the backpack and put them on.

 

-So ... You're also trying to pass final trials to the Mage title?- Zeenya asked.

 

-Yes.- Callum replied. Zeenya still seemed to be hoping for a longer conversation.

 

-You seem strange. Are all the elves in Silvergrove like that?- Zeenya asked.

 

-Like what?- Callum asked.

 

-No quiet, withdrawn, gruff ... - Zeenya began to count. Callum was surprised because it was the first time someone had called him gruff.

 

-Yes. Callum said.

 

-I understand. Maybe you can tell something more about yourself?- Zeenya asked. Callum did not reply to the elf who slowly began to annoy him. He chose to ignore her.

 

The next half hour, the girl began to tell him the story of her life, how she ended up here and what she plans to do in the future. Callum ignored this despite the fact that her story was starting to cause him an unusual headache.

 

Moments later, more elves appeared. About 25 Sky Elves arrived in less than an hour. Zeenya recognized a few friends among them and started talking to them, occasionally looking at Callum smiling. Finally, Ibis was back.

 

-Callum! Hey Callum!- Ibis called. Callum, at the teacher's call, pushed through the crowd of Elves and reached his teacher.

 

-Here I am.- He said leaving the crowd.

 

The Ibis was standing next to the elf in a blue dress. The elf had snow-white hair and brown skin. She had tattoos on her hands and face. On the back of the elf were two huge blue wings for an elf. She was holding a staff with Heavenly Granite in her hand.

 

-Callum, I hope you remember Air Master Salla?- Asked Ibis.

 

-Yes. Your Excellency... - Callum said making a bow.

 

-It's good to see you in good health, Callum. You have changed these 7 years. How is your life going?- Salla asked.

 

-Well, Your Excellency. Although the profession of a blacksmith is demanding, it is a quiet job.- Callum replied. At these words, Salla raised an eyebrow in surprise.

 

-Blacksmith? Are you going to share our methods of making weapons with humans?- the Elf asked. Callum understood the double meaning of his answer.

 

-No, Your Excellency. I intend to stay in Xadia permanently. I'm bound to this place for good ...- Callum said. He did not want him to be considered a traitor.

 

-I suppose your choice was influenced by a certain elf who was also raised by Runaan and Ethari, right?- Salla asked. Both Callum and Ibis were surprised by the accuracy of the Air Master answer.

 

-Yes, Your Excellency.- Callum replied.

 

-I understand. Good luck at this stage in your life. For now, however, you have one of the trials to pass. Although, a certain person is waiting for you.- said Salla. Callum followed her, curious who she might be talking about.

Chapter Text

-Hello, Callum. It's been 7 years since I last saw you. You don't have to hide under an illusion.- Avizandum said.

 

They were on a balcony on the opposite side of the tower. This balcony was leaning against the ground, which made it easier to fit for an Archdragon the size of Avizandum.

 

Callum reluctantly removed the illusion necklace. The dragon came here for him. He didn't understand why? He was a monster, his prisoner. What could he, the king of Xadia who was a power over half a continent, want?

 

-Your Majesty...- Callum replied making a bow.

 

-I'm glad to see the real you. Tomorrow you will start the test that you will probably pass. Let's face it, your power and discipline that you've learned while living in Silvergrove will give you an advantage over most of the Elves who will also take part in the trial. I am glad that the first human in the history of the whole world will become a mage associated with Primal Magic. This, as you understand, is success, not so much holistically as well as propaganda one... - said the Dragon.

 

Callum was beginning to understand what was going on here. The dragon wanted to make him a symbol of peace between the East and the West. It felt strange knowing that he was going to be part of politics which was a difficult topic.

 

-I understand, Your Majesty ...- Callum said.

 

-I am pleased with your understanding. You have an well understanding for me which ... I don't deserve. You see, when I grabbed you in the claws of those 8 years ago, for the first time I was threatening not soldiers but an innocent creature. I have killed hundreds of humans over the millennia. I was holding up an entire armies that wanted to attack Xadia. But then when you came between your mother and me ... I hesitated. I began to see in humans something more than monsters and power-hungry creatures of shadow. I realized that I misjudged your entire race. It was then that I made the most difficult decision of my life - I took you from your parents. I understand if you will be consumed with rage and will want to take revenge on me ... - said the dragon.

 

-I think I understand.- Callum said. Ever since he saw the dragon, he held himself from attacking it. The only thing that stopped him from the violence and bloodshed was the realization that he would do something wrong and fail his family.

 

-I'm glad about it. I also heard about you getting close to the people of Silvergrove. Especially with the daughter of former Dragon Guards, Tiadrin and Lain. I don't see a problem that stands against you have feelings for each other.- the Dragon replied. Callum was surprised to hear Avizandum - after all, someone was spying him to follow his activities to the point where he knew about his relationship with Rayla.

 

-Thank you, Your Majesty.- Callum replied.

 

-I also heard that you want to become a Blacksmith. A fair and necessary profession, especially in these uncertain times. I understand you'll be working with Ethari in his workhouse?-Asked the Dragon.

 

-Of course, Your Majesty.- Callum said. He was really surprised how Avizandum could know so much about him.

 

-I'm glad. With this profession you have won the sympathy of many of the Silvergrove Elves. Who knows, maybe someday you will be able to walk between them without the need for an Illusion.- the Dragon replied. Callum really didn't know how to laugh at this joke. He wished he would do that.

 

-I understand in m Your Majesty. I also have an unusual request ... -said Callum.

 

-Ask for whatever you want, but within a reason.- Avizandum said.

 

-I would like to be able to live in Xadia permanently after the end of the hostage exchange agreement. I know humans are forbidden to do so and eventually my identity will be discovered by the people of Silvergrove, but I feel this place is more home to me than Katolis. I would also like to ask for the possibility of visiting my family in the West from time to time.- Callum said making a bow. If King Xadia had allowed this, Callum would not have to worry about anything else in his life.

 

-I do not see a problem. As you probably already know, wine is exchanged for goods from the human kingdoms. After your friend Geatan's petition, several petitioners came to me. For now, there is no way for them to trade, but with time I hope we will be able to establish longer trade agreements.- said the Dragon.

 

-I am grateful, Your Majesty.-said Callum.

 

-The pleasure is all mine. And if we are talking about home, how are Tiadrin and Lain doing in life outside the Dragon Guard?- Asked Avizandum.

 

-I think it's even good. Admittedly, they have problems with bringing their lives to the civilian track, but I think that with time they will get over it and they will live as before.- Callum replied. The dragon probably knew everything, so was this question a form of a test?

 

-I see. You probably won't be surprised by the fact that one of your old friends, Feren, works for the Dragon Guard. He has changed since the last time he lived in Silvergrove. He also told the truth about what happened in front of the inn. He is not the same elf as before.- said the Dragon.

 

-I understand. However, it is not for me to judge him.- Callum said.

 

-It sounds like a fair judgment. That's it for now. I wish you a successful attempt. It will start soon. You must rest for now. You can go now.- said the Dragon. Callum bowed and left the balcony. The dragon sighed with relief when he left.

 

-I haven't seen you so scared in the good 10,000 years.- said Valahir, who so far stood in the shadow of one corner of the balcony. Callum did not notice the elf because he was behind the illusion.

 

-I was actually scared. I thought that when he saw me he would throw himself at me and kill me after a short fight, just like in my dream. As you can see, however, he tried to act like well behaved elf.- Avizandum said.

 

-Maybe rightly so. I saw him keep his fists clenched all the time during this short conversation. But I think that he avoided the fight because of pure decency and the desire to prove that he will not disappoint the expectations of his family.- Valahir replied.

 

- It could be so. Callum doesn't know how powerful being he really is. However, he will discover all his power over time.- Avizandum said. There were many difficulties ahead of Callum, but he already knew that such a powerful Mage associated with the Sky Arcanum had never been on the world so far.


Coming out of the balcony, Callum felt something flew behind him. He turned around to get hit a stone on the ear.

 

-Ouch!- Callum groaned turning in the direction from which the stone flew. There he saw a little Skywing Elf hiding a small slingshot behind his back. The toddler was maybe 2 years old. He had small white wings on his back, though his skin was cream-colored. What made him stand out were blue marks on his face and white hair. He wore a small caftan and trousers, although he was clearly barefoot.

 

-Hello, little one. Where are your parents?- Callum asked, crouching next to the child. The little elf stepped back, but Callum showed with a gesture of his hands that he had no evil intentions.

 

- Relax, I don't want to hurt you. Look, I have something for you.- Callum said, taking out two Moonberry cookies from the backpack and giving one to the little elf. The elf looked at the cookie, surprised, but when Callum ate his, little elf he repeated the movements of the older human. After biting the cookie, the little elf smiled.

 

-Thank you.- the little elf replied.

 

-You're welcome. Where are your parents?- Callum asked.

 

-Hader, where are you?- Callum heard a voice from around the corner of the corridor. He recognized the voice of his "Old Friend".

 

-Dad!- the little elf called when he saw Feren getting out from around the corner. As Callum noted, Feren wore Dragon Guard armor. However, as you could see, he seemed weary - he looked sleepy.

 

-There are you little rascal. Come on to dad. You can't run like that, you know…- Feren said, picking up the little boy. The little elf wrapped his arms around his father's neck and hugged him tightly. Feren looked at Callum.

 

-Hello. So it's true after all. You are a human.- Feren said. Callum suddenly remembered that he had taken off the illusion necklace. He quickly put it on again.

 

-Hello. I wasn't expecting to meet you with the baby.- Callum said.

 

-As you can see, not only you became interested in the ladies. When I was talking about the person who helped me, I meant the mother of this toddler.-Feren replied, placing the little elf on his shoulders to be able to carry him "piggyback".

 

-I understand. I'm glad you finally found someone. It's hard to find love for life in the military ...- said Callum. At this sentence Feren lowered his head slightly.

 

-Yes. It has been a great two years. We joined the Dragon Guard together and got married while in service. Unfortunately, it turned out that she did not survive the labor... - said Feren. He spoke the last sentence looking at his son. The little boy did not understand what happened. It was a strange feeling for Callum - knowing that the boy would never remember his mother's face was... sad for him.

 

-I'm sorry ...- Callum said. That was all he could do - tell him he was sorry.

 

-Nothing happened. I started this topic. But enough sorrows. You came for the trials, right?- Feren asked.

 

-Yes. The last attempt to the title of Mage.- Callum said.

 

-So I just wish you good luck ... Why don't you come over to me later after to drink some tea?- Feren asked.

 

-Sure. I will come.- Callum replied

 

-So see you soon. Goodbye Callum.- Feren said, moving down the corridor.

 

-See you...- Callum said. Feren was nice. He had his own child and despite the loss of a loved one, he seemed to be ... Happy?


-Your first task will be to collect three flowers of the Dove Herb. It is a flower that grows densely at the bottom of the valley. At the bottom, however, are the Xadian Wolves. They can hurt you badly and even kill you. The second task is to defeat the Iron Golem, the mighty Library Guardian. For the third task, you will have to find the certain books in the Library. You will complete the first task together and the next two separately. You can team up for the second task.- said Salla.

 

The Elves gathered in the hall began to whisper among themselves. Most of them only mastered the basics and were far from a strong level, so the habit allowed them to increase their chances of surviving the test by creating teams. Often, such teams worked more effectively by combining the capabilities of individual Elves into a powerful mechanism.

 

There were over 30 of them who took part in the trials. Most of them were divided into 8 small groups. Most because one of the participants stood alone. Salla knew it was Callum - the first human to be connected to the Sky Arcanum. He was probably the most capable candidate for mage present here. He acted alone because he didn't know anyone from here. Most of the elves in the groups knew each other almost from birth and knew what to expect from each other. Callum did not know anyone. He approached it alone, but he alone was worth one group.

 

The elves looked at him in surprise. One of the Glowstone elves, however, seemed to be staring at him with curiosity. Salla had seen infatuation among her fellows thousands of times - herself 200 years before, when she was their age, she was so infatuated. However, she knew Callum was already had feelings with the Moonshadow Elf. She knew the Moonshadow Elves well and knowing that Callum was raised by them, she knew that the boy would take his own life rather than betray his beloved.

 

-The first test will start tomorrow at dawn. Try to be punctual, because if you are late you will not be able to take the trial.- said Salla.


As it happened, Callum was accommodated in a room with the Zeenya group. There were four of them in the room. The room itself, despite its large size, was empty: there was a oven in which a fire was burning in the middle. Apart from that, there was nothing inside. While Callum sat in the distance watching the dagger, the elves were talking about what was happening between the cities.

 

The oldest of them, at the age of 20, was Eros. It was a heavily muscled elf with long gray hair reaching shoulder length. He had black wings on his back and simple dace marks on his face from the ears to the end twisted towards the neck. He wore light leather armor with gray shoulder pads and long trousers. He was wearing shin guards and brown boots which Callum recognized as military boots called Thunder. Together with one set of armor, they were standard equipment for the Xadian troops. Depending on the Arcanum, the armor varied in colors and finishes, but the bronze Thunder was the standard. Eros luggage contained a bow, arrows, and a short dagger. Callum also saw the spell book of the Sky Arcanum. This surprised Callum who remembered all the spells by heart. Eros played with a dagger.

 

The second Elf was Nela. She was the youngest of them all since she was only 16 years old. She had red hair in a braid and gray skin. There were two signs on her face that lined her nose and neck. Callum recognized in these signs that she was a priest. She seemed horrified by the situation she found herself in. She wore a gray hooded outfit and a bag slung over her shoulder. Callum had heard of elves wearing clothes like this. They were the spiritual elves of the Skywing Elves who served as priests in their society. She sat sleeping, leaning against Eros's shoulder.

 

-So your parents let her go after all?- Zennya asked.

 

-Yes. She's here because I was going to be here too. Her parents wouldn't have let her go alone, especially after the Hippogriff accident-. Eros replied. Eros and Nela seemed to be siblings.

 

-With Hippogriff?- Zennya asked.

 

-Nela 2 years ago approached Hippogriff. She wanted to stroke him, but she scared the animal and it scratched with its claws along the entire length of her body. She came out of it, but wears an outfit that hides scars. But since then, she seems to be ... Dreadful.- Eros said.

 

-I think only one person can be more withdrawn. See that guy in the corner? He's from Silvergrove. He was there when I flew in. He is reticent. I tried to have a longer conversation with him, but he seems to be… Disheartened by us?- Zeenya said. Callum smiled. The elves did not see that he was awake and thus could hear what they were talking about.

 

-He's weird for me. Probably just as cowardly as they say about the Moonshadow Elves. Anyway, think for yourself - He did not join the team with anyone because he is afraid that he will fail. In the bag I saw that it has two Primal Stones! What does he need them for? You can see that he is probably afraid that he will not be able to cope only with his Arcanum. Anyway, as a mage, he should only have hands for magic and a book with runes, which he does not have, but still has a dagger ... - said Eros.

 

-I didn't comment on your bow and arrows.- Callum replied, turning to the speakers. The elves jumped up in horror, realizing that their "roommate" was awake. He approached them and sat down by the fire.

 

-Sorry if we woke you up...- Zennya said.

 

-I didn't sleep anyway. I normally go to bed later.- Callum said.

 

-So ... What do you need this dagger for? You are a mage. Where's your rune book?- Asked Eros.

 

-I don't need a book. I remember every rune I was taught. I've been practicing since I was 11 so it wasn't hard at the time.- Callum replied.

 

-How? I've been learning since I was 8 and I don't remember everything.- asked Eros surprised.

 

-The issue of upbringing. At Silvergrove, everyone must complete elementary school and undergo training in self-defense and self-discipline. This makes it easier to train mages, blacksmiths and assassins.- Callum replied.

 

-So the stories about the Assassins are true? Do they exist?- Zennya asked.

 

-I do not know what you're talking about, but yeah, they exist.- Callum said.

 

-My uncle told me when he returned from the Storm Spire two months ago about the Moonshadow Elves couple. They passed the tests on the Assassin and were immediately delegated to serve in the Storm Spire. Apparently, they were able to defeat even a dragon individually, and together they were unbeatable ... - said Zennya.

 

-Your uncle was in the Dragon Guard?- Callum asked.

 

-Unfortunately not. He is an expert on archdragons. He was summoned when King Avizandum and Queen Zubeia were expecting. He was there for a while and saw them. He remembered that the elf's name was Tiadrin and her husband's name was Lain. He vowed that if they were to be released into a hundred humans, no one would even graze them.- Zennya said. Hearing the names of his in-laws, Callum smiled.

 

-Nonsense. They are the Moonshadow Elves. He probably saw them at the full moon. They would probably be otherwise helpless... - said Eros.

 

-I think I know this couple ... indeed, apart from one person, I don't know anyone who would wield weapons better than them ...- Callum said, ignoring Eros.

 

-Impossible. They are the Moonshadow Elves. They prefer to attack by stabbing in the back and only if they have already decided to fight and... - asked Eros.

 

-You are asking yourself for trouble...- Callum said, who was slowly losing his patience with Eros.

 

-You know them personally?- Zennya asked.

 

-I know. Contrary to appearances, Silvergrove is a small town. Everyone knows everyone and knows where to find who. They came home about two months ago. They took care of carpentry and gardening ... - said Callum. Eros seemed surprised by this information.

 

-And they did not want to serve even as Assassins more? It seems ... They're chickened out. After all, if they were as great as Uncle Zennya describes them, we could get rid of humans once and for all. And they're probably afraid ... - Eros tried to say when Callum cut him off, putting his hand on his shoulder with all the strength he had. The elf grimaced as he felt the handshake that Callum had trained in five years of working at Ethari's workhouse and practicing with Ibis. Zennya looked at the situation terrified.

 

-Listen carefully. You live under the misconceptions known from rumors and fairy tales, but let me tell you one thing. I don't know more courageous and devoted Elves than they are. If you say something wrong about them or the other Moonshadow Elves again, I will personally slap you in that stupid face of yours.- Callum made the darkest face and said the words in the deepest voice he could. Eros, despite being an older elf, can be seen that he was embarrassed by Callum's words and strength with he put hand on his arm. - I would argue a little more ... But it's already tomorrow. Go to sleep for now. You will need rest. Good night. Callum said, getting up and walking away from the fire. Zennya and Eros watched him go and went to sleep.

 

It felt strange hearing what other elves think of the people of Silvergrove. The Moonshadow Elves were seen as cowardly by their tactics and way of warfare. However, Callum knew them better. The Moonshadow elves were more devoted than any other elves in all of Xadia. He was sure that if the Dragon Guards were given the choice of either fleeing or fighting to the end in defense of the weaker, it would be the Moonshadow Elves that would endure to the end of their oaths.

 

Or maybe Eros was right? Maybe he was convinced that the elves with whom he lives in one town are better than others, simply feeling more attached to them? He dismissed this idea. They were better than the others.

 

His thoughts went home. Rayla was probably asleep already. He wished he could see her again. But he had to endure. He had a week of hard work before him.

Chapter Text

Nela was afraid to move. It was the moment when fear paralyzed her completely, making any movement impossible.

 

Together with Zennya and Eros, they flew back to the tower when they encountered two Skywing Elves surrounded by Xadian Wolves. Zennya persuaded the entire group to come to their aid. However, as they landed next to them, more wolves came.

 

The beasts had an almost moon-like fur that shimmered like stars at night. Despite their beautiful appearance, they were quick and cunning predators that hunted in herds using various tactics to knock down their prey. As one of the few these animals in Xadia weren't under protection and at the sight of them, according to the Edict of King Gerezed, they were meant to be exterminated as a threat. The edict was signed when the Wolves multiplied to such an extent that they became an open threat to the subjects of the then young Tiebound Archdragon.

 

After a short but fierce fight, one of the elves they came to help was bleeding out, sitting unconscious against the rock, while the other tried to back away the hungry Wolves from her companion. The elf ignored the fact that she had an open leg fracture and had to sit, sending spell after spell at the wild beasts. Zennya, after killing several wolves, was crushed by one of them and trying to get out she attacked the remaining beasts away from herself and from her friends. The worst case was Eros, who was almost torn apart by the Wolves, seeing him as the greatest threat. The beasts crawled around him, biting and scratching the elf, who, despite the use of a dagger and the spells he cast, was getting closer and closer to death.

 

Nela felt her legs bend under her. It was the moment when fear paralyzed her. She wanted to do something, cast a spell, whatever. But she couldn't. The fear was too strong.

 

She saw a huge wolf slowly approaching her. The beast took it's time, knowing that the victim would not run away or resist. Nela couldn't move. She only stared at the beast approaching her. She closed her eyes as the wolf prepared to jump. She knew there was nothing she could do anymore.

 

Instead of feeling the pain, however, she heard a wolf squeal and whine. She opened her eyes to see Callum.


Hearing the noises, Callum flew back to the valley where he noticed a group of Elves fighting wolves. Half of them were surprised by the enormous herd of beasts that were so often killed in Silvergrove just at the sight of them. Callum knew first hand stories from Runaan about what Wolves could do with their prey. Mostly the injuries inflicted by the Wolves were handled by a healer in Silvergrove.

 

Callum also knew from Runaan a tactic against wolves to make them flee. As he flew, he changed his wings to hands and began casting spells at the largest wolves.

 

-Fulminis Frigilis!

 

The largest wolf was hit with a giant icicle in the neck. The beast fell as it prepared to launch itself on the elf. The icicle broke through the neck, cutting into the rocky ground of the valley. The wolf froze, leaning against the ice.

 

-Fulimins Frigilis! Aspiro!

 

A mass of small spikes of ice flew away, shredding the wolves that covered Eros. There was a mass of squeals and growls as the ice began to dig and rip apart the beast's flesh. The survivors left the elf heading for Callum or jumping away from Eros. Also other wolves that had so far been focused on other victims rushed towards the Mage. This one, however, already had a plan to get rid of them.

 

-Magma Spiralis!- Callum shouted, drawing a rune with one hand and holding the Primal Stone with the other.

 

A tongue of fire erupted from his hand and turned into a wave of flames. Some of the wolves screeched and ran into the wave pf fire, not being able to stop before it was too late. Callum could hear squeals, whining and the smell of burning fur and roasted meat all around. The surviving wolves, which the spell's heat did not kill, escaped burned or with flaming fur.

 

Many wolves, seeing that there was an enemy who could defeat them, started to run away. Nevertheless, a few individual wolves continued attack.

 

-Fulminis! Fulminis! Aspiro Frigilis! - Callum was casting spell after spell. The gloves that Rayla's father gave him did help draw the runes. Callum did not even have time to notice when he was drawing a rune, but he did not have time to admire the gloves. The wolves fell under his spells one by one. The last of them, however, managed to reach the human and bit Callum on the calf. The young man hissed in pain, but before he could draw another rune, the wolf pulled his leg. Callum fell hitting the ground and the wolf jumped to his neck to bite the Mage. In desperation, Callum grabbed Rayla's dagger and stabbed the animal in the eye. It howled and pulled away, giving the mage time to use another spell.

 

-Fulminis!

 

The beast was struck by lightning and then died. The rest of the beasts ran away, seeing that they were unable to defeat this opponent.

 

Callum turned on his back to inspect the leg. Blood seeped from a leg wound. He quickly took out the cloth and the potion from Runaan. He drank a small piece of it and poured a few drops on the wound. The wound stung and Callum hissed. Immediately, however, he tied a piece of cloth around his leg as a bandage.

 

Slowly he got up to inspect the battlefield. He felt pain in his leg but tried to ignore it.

 

The bodies of wolves lay everywhere, and he could smell the stench of burned skin, fur and wolf meat all over the area. He had never seen so many at once, and neither had a herd having so many individuals. A herd of up to 15 individuals was a standard in the Forest near Silvergrove, while here in the Dragon Mountains it had more than 80.

 

Two elves sat by the wall. One had a hand on his shoulder while the other was rummaging through the bag looking for something. Callum noticed that the elf who was conscious had an open fracture. Zennya, whose wing was slightly scratched, was standing next to them, but it seemed to be in better condition than most of the fighters. It was she who looked strangely at Callum as if she saw a ghost.

 

Nela was sitting behind her. The girl seemed terrified of what was happening to her brother, but she was fine. Callum realized that the girl was still experiencing the event and that fear continued to make her unable to change anything. At the same time, Eros lay under a large number of wolf bodies. However, he seemed to have survived and was partially aware of what was happening.

 

Callum started working. He walked over to the elf and shoved the potion into her hands.

 

-Use it on her wound and pour some of this infusion into her mouth.- He said pointing to the unconscious elf -Then do the same with your wound. However, not everything, we need it yet.

 

The elf looked at him in surprise, but nodded and did as ordered. Meanwhile, Callum limped over to Eros, who was also already approached by Zennya.

 

-Eros are you alive? They hit you pretty hard.- Callum said removing the bodies of wolves from him.

 

-Yh .... Is that you Callum? I wasn't expecting you ... Where are your horns?- Eros said trying to push off the wolf. It was only then that Callum noticed that he was not wearing the necklace. In panic, he looked around the area, but could not find him. The hood was pulled over his head. He had no resources with him in order to be able to construct a second. He wore the hood and kept the head low, it had to be enough. Immediately afterwards, he looked at Eros, but at the sight of what happened to his face, he flinched.

 

The elf didn't have half his cheek. One of the beasts must have bitten him off during the fight. Apart from his face, he had bites and scratches along the entire length of his body. Most were on the hands because the armor protected the rest of the body. The left wing looked the worst, though - it was partially chewed.

 

-It looks bad ... doesn't it?- Eros asked nervously. He started shaking all over.

 

-Nothing the healer's magic can't handle. It doesn't look bad... - Callum said trying to calm the elf, but Zennya thwarted the whole plan.

 

-FOR THE SOURCEs! EROS YOU DON'T HAVE A FACE!- the terrified Elf shouted. Eros started to touch his face and after hitting the bite he started screaming nervously and throwing himself in all directions. At the sight of this, Nela started to cry. Callum was starting to lose his head, but after a while he knew what to do.

 

The first thing he did was to use the sleep spell made possible by Moon Primal Stone.

 

-Restorum Viventem.

 

The elf fell asleep immediately. Zennya looked at Callum, horrified.

 

-What did you do to him! After all, he ...- shouted the Elf.

 

-I stopped him from feeling the pain he was about to get when I was bandaging his face. If he has to survive, I need to know if you can fly. Can you?- Callum asked.

 

-Yeah. Should I fly for help?- Zennya asked.

 

-Yes. The sooner the better.- Callum said. The elf spread her wings and rose to the sky. As she flew, she looked back at the group. Callum bustled among the injured. Zennya only now realized who Callum really was.

 

A human.


-Your apprentice has done well, Ibis. Not only did he pass the combat test to the full, he also saved other adepts. All he had left was a trial in the library.- said Salla. She walked up the stairs from the hospital floor together with the mentors of the injured. Besides her and Ibis, there were Nex (sister of the renegade Nyx exiled for 50 years for clumsy destruction of several buildings in Glowstone), Hadel and Pax - two of the Elven Archmages.

 

-Indeed, his skills are impressive. In addition, he is a human, which enhances his uniqueness. If the boy passes all the tests ...- Pax said.

 

-I know. It will be a success for Xadia. The first human magician to be accepted by Xadia...- said Ibis. Pax looked at him in surprise.

 

-I was going to say that you will get the title of Archmage for your hard work, but oh well ...- Pax said, rolling his eyes.

 

- With all due respect, Archmage, but since my divorce with my wife, I have no ambition to go any further. I have no children, I do not have a family anymore because my brother died 20 years ago. I won't have a apprentice soon either. I don't know if I want to continue working as a teacher.- Inis said.

 

Pax looked at him in disbelief but understood the whole thing. Ibis was already 150 years old. For the Skywing Elves, it was around human 50. It was extremely rare for elves of this age to start a family, especially to produce offspring.

 

The Ibis had partially wasted his life, and that hurt him the most. Pax had known him since he joined the Skywing Magic Academy. He had heard of his love with the Illusionist of Silvergrove, their painful separation, and the centuries-long journey of Ibis to find further meaning in life.

 

Now, however, he was about to lose his goal: a student whose learning seemed to satisfy the aged elf. Now, however, the same student ended his teaching while he continued.

 

-I understand. Are you saying Callum has already fought?- Nex asked.

 

-Yes. At Silvergrove he got into a fight with one of the Elves. However, it was not him who provoked a fight and he defended himself. Beside it, when humans broke into Xadia about 2 years ago, Callum killed seven of them in self-defense. He knows what to do when necessary.- Ibis said.

 

-Together with the Council we agreed that we will skip all those who took part in that fight with the Golem test ... except for the youngest elf. She admitted herself that she did nothing ... - said Salla.

 

-What will happen to her?- Nex asked. She was the girl's mentor and her intentions were hers.

 

-She will repeat attempts when ready. Currently, she is too young to be able to pass this education.- said Salla. Nex nodded with relief - she was afraid that Nela would be disqualified.


-So a human saved us ...- said Kaya, the elf whom Callum pressed a healing potion into her hand. Zennya did not expect Callum to be human. Nobody expected.

 

-It's hard to believe, isn't it?- Zennya said.

 

-He casted spells like crazy, used them in turns and combined into combinations. Either Dark Magic is eerily similar to ours, or he is connected to the Sky Arcanum.- said Gaul, the second Elf to be attacked by the Wolves.

 

-Yes. But as far as I know, Dark Magic can't turn hands into wings. This means that he is connected to the Arcanum.- Zennya said.

 

-Aren't you worried that it's a human? One of these humans? Are you forgetting what Border is for? After all, he must be greedy and sneaky. He saved us to later feed some blasphemous ritual with our horns.- Eros said. Half of his face was covered with a bandage.

 

-You're a asshole, you know Eros? He saved us all and all you can do is be ungrateful. Did you know that he put the bandage on your face? Or that at the last minute, when Nela was close to death, he saved her? If it weren't for Callum, now you'd probably be eaten by the Wolves. Anyway, we slept with him in the same room and we all live. This is probably the best proof that he is good.- Zennya said.

 

Eros muttered something under his nose and looked away. Callum entered the room at this time. He was still wearing the hood and seemed to pretend he wasn't here. He put his back to them in the corner as far away from the Elves as possible.

 

Gaul got up and walked over to him. Zennya did the same.

 

-Hey ... We want to thank you. If it weren't for you ... The wolves would have eat us. I am giving your mixture back. It's gone a bit, but there's still half the bottle.- Gaul said. Callum turned and nodded, taking the potion from Gaul's hand. - We are grateful even though you are ... -

 

-... A monster? - finished for Gaul Callum. They saw what he looked like without illusions. They saw the monster he really was. No deed and no merit he would achieve would change the fact that he was a monstrosity by birth. He had never felt the need to hug Rayla as much as he did now.

 

-... Human. If you want, you can join us. Maybe it's not like your friends from… -Zennya stopped. She wasn't sure if Callum was telling the truth before.

 

-I wasn't lying. I really live in Silvergrove.- Callum said and turned his back to them. He tried to dissociate himself from these negative emotions. His mind was going back to Silvergrove. To home.

 

-All right. If you would like to spend time in someone's company, we are here.- The elves said and then they left. When they were far away, Callum took out Rayla's dagger. He held it close to him and one tear dropped down his cheek.


-Hello. What brings you to me, Rayla?- Asked Elder Hesse, continuing her meditation.

 

Hesse was a City Elder and a kind of spiritual guide in Silvergrove. She was entrusted with the mooning, wedding, and funerals duties at Silvergrove. She was also something like a Garlach priest (God-Keeper of the Moonshadow Elves) and a spirit guide to help the people of Silvergrove when their problems could not be resolved by the family.

 

-Hello. I have a problem that I think... Which is beyond my possibilities to solve.- Rayla said, sitting down next to her on a stone in the middle of a clearing near Silvergrove.

 

-This problem concerns a young human, right?- Hesse asked, opening her eyes. The elf was almost 250 years old which was a very old age even for a Moonshadow Elf.

 

-Yes, but how ...- Rayla asked, amazed, not knowing how the Elf knew what her problem was.

 

-Since Callum left for the Dragon Moutains two days ago, you spend most of your time at the Assassin Fountain, making sure that his Assassin Flower is still swimming. Besides, you are not the only one who comes to me with this problem. Your parents came yesterday to ask me how they can help you. - Hesse said.

 

Rayla didn't answer. Basically she has hardly eaten or slept since Callum left. She just made sure his flower continued to swim.

 

She knew she could handle it. She did know he was a talented Mage like him. She knew that all his life he had been preparing to officially become a mageduring these few days. However, she was afraid that when she move away from the pool his Flower would sink. She sat staring at the flower, begging Garlach to look after Callum. Rayla was not an exceptionally religious elf, but only prayer remained of her powerlessness.

 

-Is it normal that ... that we are afraid for our loved ones when they are not next to us?- Rayla asked.

 

-It's nothing unusual. Caring for loved ones is natural. As you may remember, Garlach took care of our people, teaching us to fight and create wonderful weapons and amazing illusions.- Hesse said creating the illusion of a giant and a few smaller Elves. - But he knew that when he only taught us this, we would become cold and brutal. He did not want the people who loved as their own children to become what they have always feared. That's why he started teaching us how important the family is. Without a family, there is no elf, and without an elf, there is no family. Only when the elf and the family are together can their strength overcome all evil and adversity. Caring for loved ones is the basis of our society, and fear for them is not a bad thing. If I'm not mistaken, you feared for your parents more than once when they served in the Dragon Guard, and so did Ethari and Runaan every time you left Silvergrove during that time. It was no different when you were born. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. Your father was walked path in front of the healer's house when he had to wait for 4 hours after your mother, in a fit of emotions, threw him out of the room. But you were born silent. You did not cry like other children when they came into the world. They were afraid you didn't survive the birth. After a while, however, half of Silvergrove heard you cry. There is nothing wrong with loving and caring this human. Callum has grown into our community and lives like us as Garlach's child.- Hesse said.

 

Rayla listened, not knowing what to say. Finally she asked.

 

-So ... What am I gonna do to ... Be able to live in spite of fear?

 

-I do not know. Plan what you will do with him after your return? Maybe spend time with Liadrin, I heard that she is already preparing a room for a child. Or try to do something creative with your parents? You have to make a decision for yourself, because it will help you regain at least partial peace. But I'm sure when Callum comes back he'll be glad to see you-. Hesse replied.

 

-A ... What if ... He doesn't come back?- Rayla asked hesitantly.

 

-Then she will always be next to you.- Hesse said. Rayla fell silent knowing she had to focus on the here and now. Callum wouldn't want her to get so tired and worried. He'll be back in two or three days. All she had to do was not panic.

Chapter Text

Callum didn't think he could handle going into the library to find the artifact on his last trial, but he seemed to be doing well. Deep down, he was also glad that he was finishing his tests and that he would be home soon.

 

Ever since he lost the necklace, he felt the Elven stares following him. Still, aside from the hate in the eyes of Eros and a few of the other Elves, most of them treated him normally. He felt like he didn't deserve it. Although Ibis tried to convince Callum that he had gained their sympathy by going to save some of them during the wolf attack, Callum thought otherwise. He helped them because they needed to. They would probably do the same for him ... Or at least until they knew the truth about him.

 

After several hours of wandering through the labyrinth of bookshelves, he felt someone's presence. As he continued walking, he heard a double step perfectly aligned with his step. He knew someone was following him. He felt cold breath on his back, but he tried to ignore the feeling. Finally, after a quarter of an hour, when this feeling grew, Callum turned quickly, drawing the rune of the Fulminis rune.

 

Emptiness.

 

There was no one there.

 

Callum blurred the rune staring stunned at the empty alley. Perhaps he was overthinking? Maybe he was actually alone here?

 

Suddenly Callum felt a strange feeling that there was now something behind him from the direction he was walking. He turned quickly, but met the emptiness again. He did not understand what was happening. It was beyond his imagination.

 

He moved on, but again felt that he was being followed. Callum picked up speed but the feeling deepened more and more. Finally, he turned again to meet the empty corridor.

 

The next three hours the situation repeated itself every several minutes. Callum was starting to lose his mind. He sat down to collect his thoughts in peace.

 

-I'm alone here. I'm here alone ... - Callum started to say, realizing how bad the situation was since he started talking to himself.

 

Suddenly he felt a cold radiating from the direction he had come from. He did not see what and how far behind which turn or intersection of the library was. It might even be on the other side of this enormous room, but he knew one thing, whatever it was, he had no intention of meeting it.

 

He started running in the direction he was originally headed. The faster he ran, the greater was his fear and the more cold he felt on his back. The more he was afraid, the faster he ran away.

 

Save ...

 

Callum, hearing a sillent whisper, began to run as fast as he could on his legs. He didn't understand what he was dealing with. Even in the worst moments of his life since Silvergrove lived, all the fear he had felt all his life put together was not as strong as this one that made him run.

 

Save ...

 

Callum stumbled over and looked in the direction he was coming from. There was nothing there, though he felt a dark presence. He knew that whatever he was running from it was the purest form of evil. He got up quickly and ran on.

 

After hours or minutes escaping from the thing chasing him he ran to a larger room in the library. It was the center of the racks where he was supposed to go. In the center, he was to find a black book in a bookcase smaller than any other. It, like three others, told the history of the world: first future, the second past, the third present. He was looking for the one about the future.

 

He began to open all the black books he saw, one by one. Between treatises on black rituals, lists about human conquest, books on a long-extinct race of dwarves, and other books, he finally found what he was looking for. The book was inconspicuous, but when Callum touched it, he felt all fear vanished, replaced by curiosity.

 

Open the book.

 

Callum hesitated, but after a while his hand opened the book. At the same moment, Callum felt himself losing consciousness.


-Finally! You finally showed up! Would you like a tea? Okay, straight from VDNKh.

 

Callum opened his eyes hearing a voice he hadn't heard in 7 years.

 

Khan was sitting on a metal crate by the fire in the middle of the tunnel. Nothing has changed. He looked identical when he met him a long time ago.

 

Callum got up and walked over to the fire. A metal kettle hung over it.

 

-Hello Khan. Some years have passed.- Callum said sitting down by the fire.

 

-Seven years, three months and two days if I remember correctly. I must admit that all this time you survived and got through what life put in front of you. You are far from that terrified boy who was forcibly assigned to the Elf family in Silvergrove. You've got the attention of some people with power. People with very much power.-Khan said reaching into the kettle. He poured boiling water into two metal cups - But Iwe'll think about it later. How are Ethari and Runaan doing?- Asked the old man.

 

-Everything's fine with them ... I guess. I am far from home.- Callum said.

 

-I understand. You know, for some time I didn't expect their quiet dream of parenthood to come true, and here it is. Two children to raise. You and Rayla gave them with a lot of joys and sorrows, but thanks to you they are happy. Speaking of Rayla, how is it going between you two?- Khan asked, tossing two white cubes into each of the cups. He handed the cup of tea to Callum. Callum felt the metal burn his hand and he shifted the cup to hold it with the handle.

 

-I think it's okay. You know ... I didn't think she would love me back.- Callum said.

 

-Life is full of surprises. It is only up to us what the surprises will be. And tell me, Ezran still has his glowing toad, doesn't he?- Khan asked. Callum remembered Ezran's childhood pet. He remembered how he and his brother took this Bait out of some fisherman's sack and then ran away to their parents. Callum wondered about his brother.

 

-I think it still does. Toads such as the Bait live up to 200 years.- Callum replied taking a sip of tea. Suddenly he felt the bitter-sour taste of the tea in his throat. The boy couldn't help spitting some of it by the fire. -Sorry, this tea is ...- Callum tried to explain.

 

-... Nasty taste? Yes I know. Everyone who tries it for the first time has the same reaction. Let's face it, it's mushroom tea. Believe me, the second sip tastes way better. -Khan interrupted him.

 

Callum took another sip uncertainly. Surprisingly, this time the tea had a much better taste and it was easier for him to swallow.

 

-What is this magic?- Callum asked, surprised not believing that the tea had changed its taste.

 

-You will be surprised, but this is human creativity. 20 years after the war on a global scale and living underground and people found a substitute for herbal tea. It may surprise you, but humans are a creative race. They can do anything to survive even in a moment of extermination.- Khan said, taking a sip of tea. - What was I ... Ah, we were talking about Ezran. Your brother also noticed the beauty of the girls around him. I feel sorry for the young man because he got into a lot of trouble.

 

-What's with him?- Callum asked.

 

-He did stupid things like everyone his age - he fell in love. However, he was unlucky enough to fall in love with two girls at once.- Khan said. Callum began to search in his mind for information that the letters from his mother told about Ezran. They mentioned the girl from the Cursed Caldera that Aunt Amaya had adopted four years earlier, but he wondered who the other girl was.

 

-That ... I didn't hear about that ...- Callum said after a moment.

 

-Sure not. Not everyone has the courage to ask their parents for advice, especially since they see them on a daily basis.- Khan replied.

 

-Now it just dawned on me that he is now about 14 years old. When that time passed?-Callum asked.

 

-Well, you can see very quickly. While you were busy trying to win the favor of an elf, your brother grew up. Now you may not even recognize him. You know, changes can take place in different ways. For example, Feren. The poor guy was lost.- Chan said.

 

-He changed for the better. I'm sorry about his wife.- Callum said.

 

-Me too. They were a great couple. But finally she left and he stayed. The world is not always fair. Feren understands that, raising the boy as best he can.- Khan replied. After a moment's silence, Callum asked Khan.

 

-You said I got the attention of powerful people. Whom?- Callum asked. Khan looked at him and smiled.

 

-Many kings, magicians, rulers. Both good and bad. I must praise your efforts to use magic only in self-defense. However, there are two people who are interested in you ... You wouldn't want to meet them. Tell me, have you heard the legend of the Mirror Man?- Khan asked.

 

Callum felt a shiver. There were legends among the Elves about the creature of the worst nightmares in the body of a wish-fulfilling man. Whoever signed the pact with him quickly died in a tragic way. A Runaan who told the story to him and Rayla personally thought it was simple fairy tale. However, Callum felt something was wrong. He had heard the legend of the Mirror Man (or as his mother called him "Mr. Mirror") much earlier from his mother. He was afraid to go in home alone for a while in the dark, but Runaan and Ethari helped him overcome his fear. Now, however, when he heard from Khan about the same, he felt a chill on the neck.

 

-Yes ... does he really exist?- Callum asked.

 

-I'm afraid so. And he became interested in you. For now, he does not touch you, because I watch over your world, but he has recently found himself an unfortunate person with whom he signed a contact. However, I think this man can handle it. They call him the White Wolf for a reason. As for your world ... If you meet him, don't sign any contracts, no matter what.- Khan said.

 

-I'm not going. I have heard about the consequences of these pacts.- Callum said.

 

-I am pleased with your knowledge. The other interested person is an elf trapped in the royal mirror of King Avziandum. Personally, I think they should destroy the mirror, but I shouldn't judge the elf inside.- Khan said, finishing off the last of his tea.

 

-Who ... Who is trapped in that mirror?-0 Callum asked.

 

-I do not remember. But rather, this person is not in your favor. The Salamander cult is working for him. Besides, I have a warning for you: Rayla should watch over the three teeth and your brother watch after the axe blade. And when you meet a double face, know that one is for the crossbowman. That's all I can say.- Khan said.

 

-I understand...- Callum said.

 

Khan got up and straightened.

 

-Looks like it's time for you, young man. Goodbye. We'll probably meet more than again... - Khan said.

 

-Yeah...- Callum said and felt him falling from the box he was sitting on, fainting.


Callum woke up with his hand on the book. Quickly he closed the book and put it in the bag. He started down the corridor. Hours passed and he continued to wander the maze. When he began to doubt that he would manage to escape, he suddenly entered the exit of the labyrinth. Valahir was waiting for him there.

 

-There you are. You've been gone for a good half of a day. We were afraid that you would not come back from the maze.- The elf said. It was obvious, however, that he was not surprised by his return.

 

-There ... There was something. I heard something chasing me. What was that?- Callum asked.

 

- They say that they are the souls of elven mages who stayed in this maze forever, but it is not known what the truth is. It is true that in thousands of years since this library was built, 9 elven mages have not returned from the labyrinth. They disappeared without a trace, and apparently you did not share their fate. In a few days, there will be the final award ceremony for your mage title.- Valahir said.

 

They both started up the stairs to the tower. On the way, they passed Zennya and her mentor. The elf smiled at Callum. He also smiled involuntarily.

 

Valahir escorted Callum to the room where Ibis was sitting. The elf mage was meditating.

 

-Rest. Your apprenticeship will be over soon. You will become a mage. Goodbye, young man.- The Elf said closing the door behind him.

 

Callum decided to sit next to his master and also began to meditate. He was breathing slowly.

 

Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

 

He slowly fell asleep while meditating. In his dream, he saw a house on the edge of Silvergrove. It was built in the ground under a huge oak tree. The walls were green and the floor was white. The front door led to a short corridor along which there were three doors to different rooms. Callum also saw Rayla and himself. She slept on his arm while he slept with his arm around her as well. He couldn't wait to get home and be with Rayla again. It was his only dream - to be with Rayla again.


Zennya returned from trials to the same room as Callum. The human meditated alone, although his teacher must have been sitting here earlier. Zennya sat down opposite also in the meditation position.

 

She owed her life to Callum. He, however, wanted nothing in return. He distanced himself away from the Elves and ignored them. He avoided the other Elves like fire and seemed to do everything to finish the trials as soon as possible.

 

He seemed scared by something. Zennya liked him anyway.

 

After a while, Eros joined them.

 

-He's still here?- the elf asked.

 

-Yes. I don't understand why you hate him so much?- Zennya asked him.

 

-Because it's a human. They are not like you or me. They are greedy and evil. I don't know why you don't mind his presence here.- Eros said.

 

-Because so far he has not done anything to anyone. I don't count the wolves because we killed them ourselves. You're just prejudiced.- Zennya said.

 

-I prefer to be forewarned than to be blinded by a crush like you.- Eros replied.

 

-Can you stop? I'm trying to meditate here.- Callum said.

 

The elves turned and looked at the human. Callum opened his eyes. Deep down, he wanted to really hug Rayla.

 

-You think that I saved you because I want your bodies for the Dark Magic? That I am a soulless monster? True, I am a monster. I am a simply monster. For 8 years I have been trying to convince myself that this is not the case, but I cannot fool myself. I am ashamed of what humans have been doing for decades. However, I saved you because I had to. I don't want your trust or your gratitude. I just want to go back to Silvergrove. Come back home. If you don't believe me ask the Dragon Guard Feren. I've known him since he was 12. He can tell you what a Dark Mage I was in Silvergrove.- Callum said.

 

Eros looked at him uncertainly.

 

-And ... you lived 8 years among the elves? Why? How? King Avizandum would not let you ...

 

-King Avizandum took me from my mother 8 years ago during an incident at the border. I am a prisoner here, although I prefer to live here than among humans.- Callum replied.

 

-You're lying.- Eros answered him.

 

-Ask him if you don't believe me.- Callum replied.

 

- Leave him alone, Eros.- Elrochir, another Skywing elf, said as he entered the room. He did not have wings like the other Elves, but he had short brown hair and gray skin, and his facial marks were orange.

 

Depending on the culture in which the elves grow up, they use signs on their faces that correspond to the Arcanum color: orange for the Earthblood Elves, white for the Skywing Elves, gold for the Sunfire Elves, navy blue for the Moonshadow Elves and blue for the Tiebound Elves. The exception was the Startouch Elves that were born with their signs.

 

The coming elf wore a brown tunic and gray pants. Callum seemed to know him from somewhere.

 

-And why is that? It's a human.- Eros answered him.

 

-Maybe he is human. However, if he were evil, my cousin would not have invited him to his wedding. Especially when he told him the truth earlier.- the Elf replied.

 

-I felt like I saw you somewhere before.- Callum said.

 

-In the beginning, I also had a problem with remembering where I know you from, but when it turned out that you are a human, I immediately remembered where from. How are you doing? I remember City Elder Cirdan and your girlfriend Rayla helped you get out of the wedding.- Elrochir replied sitting down next to him.

 

-Geatan's great-grandfather challenged me to an alcohol duel. I fell out faster than expected.- Callum said.

 

-I heard you coming out. The old guy is invincible. Don't take offense at them, but Geatan and Liadrin told all the guests the truth before the wedding in case something happened. Interestingly great-grandfather remembered a story from 400 years ago when one human spared him during his work as a healer on the border. He allowed him to heal wounded elves and humans who were in a skirmish at that time. Besides, Liadrin's parents apparently knew about it for a long time.- Elrochir replied.

 

Callum froze. Does it mean that all the trouble he took himself and all the fear he was living in was for nothing? His friend's parents knew, so more Elves have known. And if they did, why didn't anyone pay attention on it?

 

-I don't know what to say ...- Callum replied.

 

-You don't need anything then. Many Elves have known you since childhood and trust you. Hiding only makes you fear yourself.- Elrochir said. Callum, however, could not nod to him. He felt disgusted with his own person, despite the fact that, as it turned out, the elves tolerated him.

 

-And the Moonshadow Elves tolerate him? It's a betrayal! No self-respecting elf would allow the human to live next door. How stupid and naive the Moonshadow Elves must be to ... - suddenly Eros fell to the ground, knocked down by one of Callum's spells. Before he could get up, Callum was already sitting on him, putting a dagger to his neck.

 

-Shut up. I'm sick of you. Call me what you want. I can take it. I'm a monster and I won't change that. However, I swear that if I hear any slander directed at my family, I will hurt you.- Callum said. He was fed up with Eros who was an ordinary racist. However, he went down on his family. Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder. Elrochir pulled him away.

 

-Not worth it.- the elf said. Callum left Eros. He sat down looking terrified.

 

-I hope this bandage on your face itches you.- Callum said looking at Eros.


Rayla tried to spend time outside the house without thinking about Callum. Despite the fact that she stayed at Liadrin's house many times or often went out to duel with her parents, she always went near the fountain to check if everything was okay. She felt relieved every time the flower continued to swim.

 

-You seem thoughtful. Is everything alright?- Liadrin asked. They were sitting near the healer's house. Liadrin has just finished her appointment to see if everything is okay with the baby. But it seemed that everything was fine, despite the slight pains in Liadrin's stomach.

 

-Yes. I just ... I think about him.- Rayla said. She wasn't lying, she missed him. She tried to do everything not to be afraid that something had happened to him.

 

-He'll be back. You know. After all, he loves you. He wouldn't leave you alone.- said Liadrin.

 

-It's not the point. After your appointment I thought ... I just  wondered what my and Callum kid would look like. You know ... Would it have five fingers or four. Would it have horns or no horns? I just thought ... I don't plan on having children now, however ... I was thinking if I would ever have a chance to have a child of my own.- Rayla replied.

 

-I do not know. Maybe yes? Whatever it looks like, I'm sure your baby would be beautiful. Like mine, which will appear in the world in a few months. -Liadrin said, placing her hand on her belly.


The nightmares grew worse day by day when Callum was not with her. On the first night, she had nightmare in that the Dark Mage had cut off his arm for the ritual of the Dark Magic. The next night, in a dream, she saw Feren cut his throat. That night, she saw a black-haired woman turn him into a coin. Seeing this and hearing Callum scream, Rayla woke up.

 

Instinctively she touched the place where Callum should be lying. But she felt nothing. He wasn't with her. She laid back on the pillow. She touched his scarf that lay next to her. She hugged it and closed her eyes.

 

He was still there, everything was fine and he was definitely safe.

 

After an hour of fighting with sleep, her throat felt dry. She got up and went down to the kitchen to drink. Her mother was sitting downstairs.

 

-Hello. Are you thirsty too?- asked Tiadrin.

 

-Yes. It's late. Why do not you sleep?- Rayla asked entering the kitchen.

 

-I just had to get up. Since we got back ...  I have to walk away with what is bothering me at night. One of those problems is your sorrows.- replied Tiadrin.

 

-It's okay ... I guess. I don't know ... Have you ever been afraid that dad ... Maybe he might go somewhere and not come back?- Rayla asked.

 

-Many times. Especially when they sent us on guard at night. We couldn't go together and one of us was always alone. I was afraid that an attack might come and your father would never come back. However, after some time I realized that your father was safe and that the threat of an attack was in my head. You just have to accept that Callum is away from you and he will finally come home. I know it's hard for you to listen to this advice when everyone around you is enjoying a normal life, but you are not alone - you have us, Ethari, Runaan, friends. We're with you.- said Tiadrin. Rayla smiled and hugged her mother.

 

-Thanks for everything.- Rayla replied.

Chapter Text

The trials of all the candidates for mages lasted another week. Callum was impatient as he waited for the day he would be able to come home. A week turned into 10 days which he really didn't like.

 

Of all the Elves, only Eros and the three other Elves expressed dislike for him, while the rest of Elrochir and Zennya seemed to be neither disgusted nor distrustful of him. Even so, he felt uncomfortable - he hadn't taken the necklace off for more than eight hours, and nine days had passed since he lost it. Even so, he had gotten used to the inquisitive gaze of the Elves.

 

Finnaly it was a ceremony at the end of the last day. They gathered in the highest hall of the tower. The room was so spacious that King Avizandum could fit here. Despite the walls of the same brick as elsewhere in the tower the walls differed in places for painting. They depicted famous Elves whose achievements are still told as legends to little elves. In the middle of the room there was a small stage where Salla was standing. Next to her on her left stood the mentors of mages and three Elves who failed, including Nela.

 

Callum was sitting with the other elves in a meditation position. In front of each of them, there were bowls of body paint, thanks to which they could make ritual tattoos and signs. Most of the paints were white, but a few of the bowls had the colors of other Arcanums. In Callum's bowl, the paint was dark blue.

 

-Today, you are graduating as adepts and students. You have come a long way full of austerities and suffering. Many of you have come close to death, even more than once. You have often faced moral riddles and tame fear. However, you finally got closer to becoming one with the wind. As the sunrise reflects life and the sunset reflects death, the sky is unchanging in relation to them. Over time, you too will become unchanged like the sky with which you are connected to death. I am proud of all of you because each of you will one day teach a new generation of mages who will ensure the continuity of our teachings. Many of you have the potential to become Archmages whose level some of you will surely attain.- said Salla.

 

When she finished speaking, everyone in front of her began to draw marks on their shoulders. They drew lines with slow movements. Only Callum and one elf in the third row seemed to paint it accurately and reasonably quickly. When he finished, Callum looked at his hands - between the runes painted with special invisible paint to turn the hands into wings there were patterns and runes that signified in Draconic "The One Who Controle the Wind". Callum waited for everyone to finish.

 

After a few moments, the last of the Elves put back bowls of paint. Everyone got up and formed a line.

 

-Congratulations, you have become Mages.- Salla said, opening the box that she had in her hands. In the center were small pinned markings with a rune representing the Arcanum of Heaven - these were the Seals of the Air Mage, the official proof of passing and graduating for the mage of the Sky Arcanum. As she walked along the line, she put stamps on everyone. After the last of the mage had received the seal, they all dispersed to their mentors. Ibis did not hide a smile when he saw Callum with the seal.


-I had no doubts you would make it.- Ibis said.

 

They were on their way to Silvergrove. While most of the newly appointed mages decided to hold a party to celebrate the pass the final trials, several mages including Callum and Ibis, they decided to go home. It was evening already, but in the distance the looming Aet Lorinen tower was visible.

 

-Thanks. So what's next?- Callum asked.

 

-What's what's next?- Ibis asked, not understanding the question.

 

-What will you do next?-Callum asked his mentor.

 

- Honestly, I don't know. I didn't think ... WATCH OUT!- Ibis shouted. Callum did not have time to react and did not even notice where the lightning created by the Fulminis spell was coming from. He gave a loud scream and then began to lose height inertly. The last thing he saw was the Ibis diving behind him.


During a routine inspection of the fountain, Rayla was horrified to see his flower wobble on the surface of the water. In an instant, her heart stopped beating, while she stopped moving.

 

Something was happening. Callum was in danger. The worst scenario she feared was happening in front of her eyes. In horror, she wondered what to do. The terror made her unable to decide how to save her beloved. Suddenly she pulled herself together. Running around won't save Callum. She started to breathe to calm herself down.

 

Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

 

She slowly walked over to the fountain. She sat down in front of her. Her heart suddenly sped up. Callum was in danger, but there was nothing she could do. For lack of other options, she began to pray.

 

-Garlach, defender and savior of the Elves under the sign of the Moon, give strength, life and vitality to Callum of Katolis ...


At the last moment, Callum regained consciousness the seconds before hitting the ground. Centimeters from the ground, he stopped falling, nervously flapping his wings. He flew over the ground and landed after a while. His hands changed back to hands and then he drew the rune of the Mantis Frigilis spell. He could feel the stinging pain in his shoulder where the hole had been blasted through the lightning, but he had to ignore the pain. He looked around for Ibis and the elf who had attacked him.

 

-Callum, are you okay?- Ibis asked as he charged his wings next to him.

 

-Just a scratch.- hissed Callum.

 

Suddenly, Eros and five other Elves landed in front of them, expressing their dislike of Callum. While Eros drew his bow, his three companions drew runes - all aiming at Callum.

 

-You don't deserve to wear this seal. You are a disgusting abomination that does not deserve to live!- Said Eros.

 

- Oh, you are unhelpful. You have a bandage on your face that he put on you. If it weren't for him, the Wolves would have eaten you! Leave him alone!- Ibis shouted back.

 

-So you chose sides. You are a traitor to your race! So are the Moonshadow Elves. Naive liars who this monster has deceived! We will find them all and just as we kill you!- Eros shouted.

 

-It's not their fault. You want me, don't you? I will give myself up to you voluntarily, but leave my family and friends alone.- Callum said. He wanted to stop the bloodshed that seemed inevitable, especially hoping that he could bargain peace and safety for his loved ones.

 

-You don't think we'll stop with you? Traitors are like weeds - until you destroy them all, they will be a disease that torments the garden. No Callum - we'll get them all. Especially Rayla that you talked to Elrochir about. She betrayed the most so I'll try to make her suffer for her mistakes. I can promise you that her pain will be ... - Suddenly Eros was struck by the lightning of the Fulminis spell. The elf staggered and howled in pain. He looked at the furious human who was losing his temper. His companions immediately drew runes to defend themselves against the mage.

 

-Do. Not. Dare.To.Touch.He.- Callum hissed furiously.

 

-Callum Wait!- Ibis shouted, but Eros provoked Callum to attack. The young human lunged furiously at his attackers.


-... Give him strength and focus so that he can overcome evil and fight back the darkness ...- Rayla continued praying.

 

She was never religious or traditional, but in the present situation it was all she could do. She could only pray for him out of helplessness.


Elrochir felt something was wrong. Same as Zennya and a few other Elves. When they noticed the missing of Eros and his group of human-hating Elves, they quickly understood what they were going to do.

 

When they got on place where they saw fight, the fight was in full swing. Eros was already lying dead, icicles pierced all over his body, while one of his colleagues was lying nearby, clutching his ripped belly. Only the burning debris, torn to pieces, remained of two other elven mages.

 

At the same time, Callum was putting up ice barriers trying to protect his mentor, wounded in the arm. The ibis was leaning against a stone with jagged icicles in its leg and sleeve. Callum himself had a lightning wound from the Fulminis spell on his arm and had a massive icicle stuck in his collarbone. Additionally, his leg was dislocated again, which made him sit, and Eros' arrow was stuck in his side.

 

-Fulminis! Aspiro Frigilis! Magmus Frigilis! - Callum cast spells at two elven mages. One of them was hit by a fireball that set the elf on fire. The attacker began to roll helplessly on the ground.

 

Another mage tried to escape, but suddenly he was hit by a wave of Zennya icicles. The elf landed next to him and turned to face Callum.

 

-Callum! It's us!- Elrochir shouted as he landed next to him. Callum, however, drew another rune and aimed it at them.

 

-Go away! Leave us alone… -Callum gasped.

 

-Calmly! We've come to help! You see! We have no bad intentions!- Zennya said, raising her hands up. Callum stared at them uncertainly.

 

-How can I be sure!? They weren't bad either! But they ... They jumped on us as we were leaving home! How can I be sure you're not about to attack!?- Callum asked.

 

-Callum, we want to help. Calm down.- Elrochir said. Callum slowly began to calm down. He blurred the runes and slowly sat down next to the unconscious Ibis. Zennya walked over to him and took out the healing potion to give him. Callum stopped her with a gesture of his hand.

 

-Is fine. Give it to him.- Callum said, showing the Ibis. So Zennya took care of the Ibis first. Meanwhile, Elrochir took care of Callum by bandaging his wounds. Helped him get rid of the arrows from the side.

 

-It'll be okay, Callum. You will see, you will come home. After all, someone is waiting for you there, right?- Elrochir asked. Suddenly he noticed that Callum was already unconscious. -Shit, we have to hurry!


-... Give him ... -Rayla suddenly froze. His flower began to sink. It barely protruded from the water's surface. Rayla, seeing this, broke off the prayer.

 

-No ... No no no no no no no! PLEASE NO!- Rayla screamed leaning against the fountain. Nothing helped. It didn't stop Callum from dying. - Please .... No. Please ... Don't take him ...- Rayla cried over the flower.

 

She was afraid for him. Without him, she didn't know what to do with herself. Without him, she didn't know how to live. He always believed in her and made her want to live. He made her feel good. That she had a future ahead of her. He was what she loved and what loved her.


She came home in the morning when she was sure that the flower would not drown any more. Entering the house, she met Geatan and his cousin whom she met at his wedding. They talked to her parents. She wiped her tears as she approached the house.

 

-Good evening. - She said entering the house as soon as she was inside. The evening was not good.It was even very awful.

 

Her parents looked at her worried. She felt they knew what happened to Callum.

 

-Hello. You remember my cousin Elrochir, right?- Geatan asked pointing to his cousin.

 

-Yes. You know what ... You know what happened to him?- Rayla asked. She felt the elf was here for that. She wanted to know, but was afraid of what she would hear.

 

-Yes ... He is alive ... But ... six newly appointed elven mages attacked him and Ibis when they returned home. The attackers died fighting him, but before his death they managed to inflict serious wounds on Callum. It seems they even used poison arrows to kill Callum if they failed. He has received the appropriate potion, but he is still unconscious. His master ... He's also unconscious. Callum's condition was stable when I left here.- Elrochira said.

 

-By Garlach ...-Rayla said feeling her legs bend under her. She fell to the floor, broken by what she heard. A second after she had no strength to stay on her feet, her father grabbed her and lifted her to help her stand - Where ... Where is she now?- Rayla asked.

 

-In Aet Lorinen. King Avziandum personally sent me here on the Archdragon of the Sun Smaug to inform you. Soon the dragon is going back in that direction ...- said Elrochir.

 

-I'm flying over there.- Rayla said.


Nobody had the courage to stop her or ask what she was doing here. It was evident on her face that she is capable of killing anyone who stands in her way to a goal unknown to anyone. Rayla immediately after descending from the dragon started running towards the tower. She'd only had time to pack a few change clothes, some food, Callum's sketchbook, and a pair of pencils. She hoped these items would be useful.

 

Finally she reached the floor where the hospital was. An elf in Dragon Guard armor stood outside the door.

 

-Hello. To Callum, right?- Feren asked. Rayla nodded, stopping in front of him. The last thing she needed was to see this asshole that caused Callum to withdraw into himself for 5 years. He, however, opened the door without a word. Rayla stepped inside without a word.

 

The room was small and it was furnished with four beds with chairs and small tables. In front of the entrance to the hall there was a large window that let the light inside.

 

Callum was lying on the bed by the window, covered with a white blanket. She saw that his entire arm was covered with a bandage. She slowly walked over to his bed, then sat down next to him. She grabbed his hand.

 

-Hey ... It's me. You were gone eleven days. I missed you. I knew ... I knew you could do it. After all ... What's this for you? You've always been an amazing mage. Don't worry ... I'm here. Next to. I love you and I will never let you go anywhere alone again. If you can hear me ... Give me a sign ... - Rayla said. Tears ran down her cheeks. She held his hand, closing her eyes, hoping that Callum would wake up. She had never felt so lonely as she was now.

 

-R-Rayla? Is that you? Did I died?- Callum asked. Rayla opened her eyes at the sound of his weak, almost breaking voice. Callum stared at her with glassy eyes.

 

-No silly. You live. I came to pick you up to take you home.- Rayla said wiping her tears.

 

-Sorry ... I wanted to go back ... But ... They ...- Callum tried to explain and then he started to cry. Rayla leaned down quietly and hugged him.

 

-Do not worry. I'm with you. Everything will be fine.- Rayla said and she also started to cry embracing Callum, trying not to touch his wounds. He put his healthy arm on her back.

Chapter Text

-... then they said ... that they would find you ... and hurt you ... I was provoked to attack. Then it all happened in a split second. In a moment ... We killed 5 of them ... They hurt Ibis and me ... And then ... Then came Elrochir and Zennya, a friendly Skywing Elf. I thought they ... They wanted to ... But they just wanted to help. Then I passed out from the poison from Eros arrow. The next thing I remember is a healer who explained what happened to me ... And then I saw you ... sorry ... - Callum said with tears in his eyes.

 

Rayla sat and listened. The Young Mage was already fully aware of what was happening around him. It took him half of an hour to fully understand he is not dead and close Rayla again, but she gave him time to recover.

 

She was furious with the elves who attacked him. She learned that one of them was so ungrateful that despite the fact that Callum helped him, the elf attacked him. If it weren't for the fact that this one was already dead, Rayla would love to skin him.

 

-Hey ... Everything's fine. All is well. You are safe. Everyone is. You do not need to worry. I'm with you. Breathe.-Rayla said embracing him. Callum, as instructed, began to breathe.

 

Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

 

-You see? Everything is fine.- said Rayla.

 

-I know ... I just... I'd like to be an elf...- Callum said. Rayla was surprised.

 

-But why? Callum, after all, that you are human makes you ...

 

-... a threat to you? For family? For our friends?- Callum interrupted her.

 

-... Unique. Not all elves hate you. Zennya and Elrochir helped you. And at Silvergrove, almost everyone knows the truth about you. My parents like you, you are almost like their child to Ethari and Runaan. You are one of us, Callum. Even as a human.- Rayla said.

 

-But always ...There will always be someone who ... who will want to beat you for it. I don't want to see you suffer because you are close to me.- Callum said.

 

-We will not be. Together we will overcome all evil. After all, we have a Mage on our side.- Rayla said putting her hand on his good shoulder. Callum smiled.

 

-Yes ... You must be right.- Callum said.

 

-Of course I have. Don't think about it anymore, okay? You need to take a rest.- Rayla said.

 

-Yes ... What was happening at Silvergrove while I was here?- Callum asked.

 

-Nothing. I spent most of my time looking after your Assassin flower. As I saw him sinking, I couldn't do more than pray for you.- Rayla said.

 

-You and prayer? I'd like to see it sometime.- Callum smiled.

 

- I was desperate. But finally you can see that Garlach was watching over you.- Rayla said rolling her eyes.

 

-Yes. Although it's still hard for me to imagine you praying for my survival. Just like you happily wearing some dress.- Callum said.

 

-Of course. I'm not a princess to wear such clothes.- Rayla replied with a smile.

 

-I mean ... You know ... You look like a princess, so you could be one ...- Callum said. Rayla turned to smile at him.

 

-Did you just proposed to me?- Rayla broke off, suppressing laughter. She wanted to cheer up Callum a little with a joke and distract his thoughts from recent events.

 

-I ... but ... Rayla ... I ... I don't ...- Callum started to knock in horror. Rayla was pleased to see the young man's reaction to her joke.

 

-But why? I thought you loved me ... You lied to me ... - Rayla feigned sadness and then hid her face in her hands trying to hide her smile and pretend to cry.

 

The joke succeeded her entirely because Callum turned red like his scarf. Rayla saw that he was terrified of what had happened.

 

-Rayla, I'm sorry. Please don't cry. I don't ... Wait.- Callum looked at her carefully. - You're just pretending!

 

-Not at all! You broke my heart!- Rayla couldn't hold it and laughed aloud. Callum felt stupid.

 

-Rayla ...- Callum said irritably.

 

-Forgive me, I just wanted to cheer you up. Anyway… -Rayla paused. It was a serious matter, after all, living in a relationship is easy, and getting married is hard. Anyway Rayla dreamed of marrying Callum one day to make sure that he would never leave he.

 

-That was a terrible joke.- Callum said.

 

-I know. Excuse me. But I think I know what to do to make you feel better ... - Rayla said approaching him with a smile.

 

-Rayla?- Callum looked at her in surprise. He didn't know what to expect from her. But she kissed him tenderly on the lips. He returned the kiss and closed his eyes. After a while they separated to get air.

 

-And how? Better?- Rayla asked.

 

-Yes ... I missed it.- Callum replied.

 

-This is just the beginning of what will make you feel better.- Rayla said making the most ambiguous face  she could. She enjoyed making fun of him like this.

 

-Rayla, I'd like to ... But ... wounds ...- Callum guessed what Rayla might have prepared. He was blushing incredibly.

 

-Shh. Close your eyes. I am sure you will like what you will see when you open them.- Rayla replied putting a finger on his lips. Callum reluctantly closed his eyes while Rayla took his sketchbook and pencils from her bag.

 

-Rayla ... What are you doing?- Callum asked.

 

-That you will love me more for. You can open your eyes.- Rayla said.

 

Callum opened his eyes to see his sketchbook. He smiled.

 

-Sketchbook?- Callum laughed. - You don't even know how much joy you gave me right now.

 

-I know. What did you think I was gonna do?- Rayla asked, wanting to laugh at him a bit.

 

-Well ... I thought ... You know ...- Callum was explaining himself as red as his scarf, but Rayla cut him off.

 

-I know. You do not have to explain. I directed you to this idea myself. Unfortunately, it won't work today.- Rayla said then she came closer to Callum and whispered in his ear -Only after you heal the wounds ...- Rayla said. Callum blushed.


-And they inform me only now ...- Salla muttered under her nose. She was fed up with the problems of a suicide attack by several newly appointed mages on Callum. She knew  who was guilty, but the families of the killed did not have the slightest idea of it. In addition, she went to send letters to get ex-wife of Ibis from her mission on the other side of the border.

 

Only after an hour did one of the guards deign to inform her of the Moonshadow Elf's intrusion into the Tower. From what she could tell, the Elf went straight to the hospital room with Callum. Although the place was guarded by Feren, it was not known whether he would hold out against the attacker.

 

The door was still guarded by Feren. Salla, however, doubted that the elf would let her go inside. She did not know the purpose or motives of the elf, but assumed that she wanted to avenge one of the killed.

 

-Your Excellency...- Feren replied, standing to attention.

 

-Rest. Wasn't here a Moonshadow Elf?- Salla asked.

 

-She was. I let her in.- Feren replied.

 

-What!? Why!?- Salla asked furiously. She had always had a good opinion of the Dragon Guard, but hearing what Feren had done, she wondered if he was competent enough to serve in such an elite unit.

 

-I already explain. I've known Callum and her from an early age. We grew up in one town. Callum and she are, as far as I know, close.

 

-Which doesn't mean you could let her in. Do you realize you risked your wounded human's life? We are responsible for him and if something will happen to him his parents can start a war! How did you know it wasn't an illusion ?! - Salla asked.

 

-The illusions are not trying to kill with eyesight.- Feren replied opening the door. Salla stepped inside.

 

In the center of the room, an elf was sitting next to Callum. The girl didn't seem to move while Callum was drawing something in the Big Book on his knee.

 

Salla seemed to know her from somewhere. Suddenly she recognized her - it was the daughter of the Dragon Guards Lain and Tiadrin. She saw her 7 years ago when Callum was discovered to be connected to the Sky Arcanum.

 

-... You're beautiful.- Callum said.

 

-You are Toady, but a loved one.- The Elf replied.

 

-Let me guess ... Loved by you?- Callum replied with a smile.

 

-Yes. And Garlach help anyone else who feels the same. - Elf and Callum laughed. They seemed to be so self-absorbed that they did not even notice Salla approaching them.

 

-I suppose you broke into My Tower without permission or informing anyone of your purpose?- Salla asked aloud. The elf turned towards her suprised.

 

-Yes. That's right - I broke in. I did it because my boyfriend, returning home yesterday, was almost killed nearby from this tower while you and the new mages enjoyed the end of their trials. I'm here because I simply don't trust you to guard this Mage and keep him safe.- Rayla replied furiously.

 

-I understand you want to do this by violating half the rules in the tower and scaring of everyone here by your sight?- Salla asked. She did not want to let this young elf win the argument, who seemed to be angry on them and blame the Elven Archmages for the condition of her boyfriend.

 

-No, it's better to forget about all appearances of caution and forget about guards or patrols, because what can happen when a human is also in trials among the Elves. I'm no expert, but two Dragon Guards is not enough for a tower with 40 nearly-mages.- the girl replied.

 

-So how am I supposed to understand this? You think I failed?- Asked Salla.

 

-Of course. It wouldn't happened if you had not ... - The girl continued arguing, but she was interrupted by an injured human.

 

-Rayla come on. Not worth it. After all, it's… -Callum tried to smooth things over.

 

-You sleep at home on the couch if you say it's your fault.- Rayla glared at him. Callum was embarrassed, however, did not stop.

 

-... It wasn't  Air Master Salla fault.- the boy finished.

 

-I'm afraid so. If it were otherwise, I would have done my best to stop the bloodshed. However, since I have control over something, I would like to know who you are and what is the purpose of visiting Aet Loriren .- Salla replied.

 

-Rayla from Silvergrove, age 18, profession: Assassin, kind of elf: Moonshadow, I came to see my boyfriend who almost died under your nose. Oh, I don't remember the size of the shoe.- Rayla replied irritably.

 

-Rayla, please ...- Callum said. Rayla calmed down.

 

-Eh ... Moonshadow elves. I grant permission to stay in the tower until Mage Callum recovers ... - Salla replied when suddenly Feren entered the hall.

 

-Your Excellency, the Moonshadow Elf has landed on the eastern balcony. She claims to be Lujanne, the ex-wife of a wounded Mage Ibis.- the Elf said.

 

-I will never understand what Ibis and you see in the Moonshadow Elves. Come on.- said Salla leaving the room. There was silence.

 

-You didn't have to ...- Callum finally broke the silence.

 

-I had to. You don't even realize how much I was worried about you all because this slut wasn't paying attention when she was supposed to watch over a few elven teenagers.

 

- She had no influence on it, you know. It's not her fault ...

 

-Callum come on. It wasn't your fault either. It's the fault of those snotty racists from Glowstone and their prejudices. It is the fault of this bad guy and her incompetence. But it's not your fault.- Rayla said looking at him with pity.

 

-Maybe not mine. However ... I wonder if I could have prevented it somehow ... After all, there had to be a way out.- Callum said.

 

-I'm afraid it wasn't. You have to accept that you can't always get out of every situation and make everyone happy. You know very well that they were to blame for themselves. After all, you didn't make them attack you.- Rayla said hugging Callum. He also embraced her with a healthy arm.

 

-Rayla?

 

-Yeah?

 

- I'm glad you're next to me.- Callum said.

 

-I'm happy about it too, silly.- Rayla replied.


-Hey ... Zennya? Are you okay? -Elrochir sat next to her at the edge of the fire. Part of their path was the same as he was flying to Brown Woods and she was flying to Glowstone, so they decided to travel together. They stopped for the night not far from the Brown River.

 

The elf looked at him without conviction. She was supposed to sleep and yet she could not bring herself to do so. Elrochir felt something was wrong.

 

-Nothing ... Just ... I wonder if Eros could ... Could it have ended differently.- Zennya replied.

 

She knew Eros almost half her life and did not think that he could go so mad when he met a human. Callum did nothing wrong, and even did a lot of good. Nevertheless, Eros decided to kill him. She couldn't imagine her childhood friend could just die for such a stupid reason.

 

-I'm afraid Eros would have to be different for that not to happen. He didn't understand what Callum was doing among them and took an example from the old legends of Elerond the Human Slayer, thinking he was doing well to fight Callum. However, he did not foresee that Callum might be stronger and have a mentor on his side who helped him. I'm afraid we couldn't help him.- Elrochir replied.

 

-But ... I think about it all the time. Callum was innocent, but saving him ... Six died in one life. I don't know if it's a fair price.- Zennya replied.

 

-If it was an innocent life, then it was. I know it must be hard for you, especially since one of them ...- said Elrochir.

 

-You saw ... you saw it when ...- Zennya stumbled uncertainly. She did not expect anyone to see her kill one of the attackers. She felt guilty because she knew the elf almost as much as Eros.

 

-Yes. You did the right thing back there. I know it's hard to survive killing someone you knew personally, but you know what this elf turned out to be. And if you were a human, he would probably attack you too. These elves showed their true faces.- said Elrochir.

 

-I know ... I just ... I've never killed an elf before. Just…-Zennya stopped. She had remorse.

 

-... You feel guilty? You know, meditation helps you stop thinking about it, but it takes time. I guess you'll just have to walk it off. And now forgive me, I'm going to sleep ...- Elrochir said, going to sleep. All he heard was a soft whisper.

 

-Elr?

 

-Yes?

 

-Thanks for ... For your help.- Zennya replied.

 

- That's what friends are for, right?- Elrochir replied.


Callum couldn't sleep. Ever since Eros and the other elves attacked him, he was afraid to fall asleep. He was afraid that when he close his eyes, others would come and do what Eros could not.

 

Rayla was asleep propped up on the bed next to it under a blanket. She held his hand while he lay motionless watching the door. He was tormented by the constant fear that some furious elf would come in to kill him for being a monster. Besides, watching Rayla sleep in such an uncomfortable position kept him from sleeping effectively.

 

Finally he sat down on his bed. His leg and arm continued to hurt, but despite the pain, he slowly pulled Rayla onto the bed. After exhausting himself for a long time, Callum finally lay down on the bed next to her. He cuddled up to her to not feel lonely. In the end, he was afraid that when she fell asleep, someone would hurt her.

 

He wondered if he was doing right to stay close to her. In the end, it made her a target for the Elves, as she kind of acquainted herself with the monster, which the elves thought was wrong. However, Callum rebuked himself for being stupid. When he left, she would surely follow him and who knows if it would not be worse in results.

 

-Callum...- Rayla mumbled in her sleep as she hugged him tighter. Callum looked at her and at her smiling face. He smiled - if he had never jumped into the cart with supplies that his parents took with them to Xadia, he would never have met her. He would not know the love of his life.

 

-I am next to. I love you. -Callum said kissing her forehead.

 

He felt safe at last and slowly fell asleep on his own.


Sarai was furious. According to what the elves wrote, several elven teenagers attacked her son while he was returning home after passing his trials on the Mage title.

 

A letter from Ethari and Runann arrived the day after the tragedy. Nothing calmed her as she read about his stable condition, or that he and his teacher essentially defeated and fought back all enemies. It was only at the mention that Rayla left to see him immediately after she found out about his condition that she felt a little calm.

 

-You know that nobody expected it.- Harrow said, sitting down next to her on their bed.

 

-I know. It's just ... How irresponsible the Elves were knowing about him and still not increasing their guard to prevent possible fights. You know that even this illusion under which Callum hides his identity was not enough anyway.- argued Sarai.

 

-I know. They probably trusted that nothing would happen and overestimated their faith in elves. In addition, Callum survived the attack and killed all of the attackers. He may be more powerful than we think.- Harrow said.

 

-Eh ... The main good thing is that he is alive. And Rayla is next to him.- Sarai said in a slightly embittered voice. It was hard to imagine anyone replacing the most important woman in any of her son's lives, but she knew Rayla had already done it in Callum's life. At the same time, she noticed what was happening between Ellis and Ezran (probably only Soren did not know what the two are up to), but there was something going on that Sarai did not understand. Ezran and Ellis made no effort to move on, as if something was stopping them. Whatever was the cause of the blockade, Sarai decided only to keep a close eye on the situation and keep both Harrow and Amaya informed. It was her sister who set off for an unknown purpose to the other side of the border a few days before Callum got involved in a fight (the second since he lived in Xadia).

 

-Yes ... About her Sarai ...-Harrow scratched his neck.

 

-Yes?- Sarai asked.

 

-I know that it's not right time to talk about it, bu... The point is ... I'm afraid you can get possessive of her when Callum returns ...- Harrow tried to say softly, hoping he wouldn't have to sleep on the couch again.

 

-Are you trying to tell me that I could ... I could be possessive towards his girlfriend? Honey, that's a bit of an exaggeration ...- Sarai tried to convince herself that he was wrong. However, she wasn't sure how she would react when she met her son and her. Every bit of information she received about her confused her. Callum described her as an affectionate and talented in martial arts, beautiful girl (whose drawings he sent quite often). Sarai just couldn't believe that she actually was as great as he described her.

 

-For sure. You laugh less and less when someone brings up her topic.- Harrow said. Indeed, the mention of her made her smile less and less often, something that Sarai hadn't even noticed herself.

 

-Maybe it's out of curiosity to my daughter-in-law. I don't know, but I can promise you that I will try not to interfere with them.- Sarai said. -Going back to the rest of the letter. A letter came from Duren. Annika and Neha want Aanya to study in Katolis. They ask if we would be able to accommodate her in our castle.

 

-I don't think there's a problem. Ezran and Ellis will probably be happy to see her again.- Harrow said.


It's been a week since he got wounded again and he got into fight. By this time, Rayla had already scolded Feren for beating Callum during their fight from 3 years ealier. She also met his son. Hader even seemed to like Rayla and when Feren was on watch, he left him with "Aunt Rayla" who won his sympathy with telling him stories and legends.

 

One day, looking at how Rayla looks after the children, Callum found that he knows no one who loves children more than Rayla. It seemed that despite the sarcastic and strong character outside the family, only the children triggered a sensitive side in her who loved to tell stories.

 

-You know, someone will have to tell fairy tales to our children...- Rayla replied when he noticed how well she got along with Hader.

 

-Our children?- Callum asked blushing.

 

Rayla froze, understanding what she said. She blushed. She sat down on Callum's bed.

 

-I mean ... Shit. Callum, you know what I meant...- Rayla said.

 

She didn't know if Callum would like to have children. They were not even married, and it was not known if it was possible for an elf and a human to have a child. They didn't even get that close.

 

-It's fine. Seriously. Do you want to ... talk about it?- Callum asked.

 

-If you want to. You know ... I wish I had children someday. I know that it is a big responsibility ... And for almost 20 years of life, however ... I would like something left of me to remain beside tombstone. I understand if you ... You know ... You won't want to.- Rayla said hesitantly.

 

-You know ... I don't see any problems. It's just ... You know, I don't know if I can make it. If it were possible, I would like us to someday ... have children. However ... I can't explain it why I am afraid of it.- Callum said. Rayla sat down closer to him, putting her hand on his shoulder.

 

-Fine. I'll try to understand.- Rayla said. It was about both of them, after all.

 

-I honestly wish I would have children with you one day... But ... I'm afraid that ... I wouldn't be a good father. I had good examples - Harrow and Runaan, but I'm not sure myself if I could be like them...- Callum replied. Rayla hugged him.

 

-Callum ... You know you don't have to be like them. Just because you wouldn't be like Runaan or your stepfather doesn't mean you would be a bad parent. After all, the children of Silvergrove like you too ...- Rayla replied.

 

-They're more happy to see you. After all ... You tell them all these amazing stories and legends.- Callum replied.

 

-You help them draw and together with my dad you designed some of their toys.- Rayla replied.

 

-It's not much anyway.- Callum replied.

 

-I don't think so. I think you would be a great dad.- Rayla replied. She was sure that when the time came for them, it would finally turn out that Callum would be a great dad.

Chapter Text

The Ibis was gone. Callum saw him for the last time during the fight. He left Callum a letter explaining that he had received an important mission from King Avizandum. But Callum felt guilty that Ibis was also injured. At least he wanted to thank him for those 7 years of his teaching and help during the fight. Even so, the young mage felt that he would meet his teacher again one day.

 

After a week of rehabilitation and treatment, he recovered (mainly thanks to Rayla's help). Salla and Rayla, despite the general agreement to stay Rayla in the Tower, argued at every step about various things. Callum tried to ease the situation, but Rayla had no need of stopping arguing with the elder elf. Finally, when Callum was able to fly, according to the healer in the tower, he and Rayla decided to go home.

 

-... We hope you enjoyed your stay at Aet Loriren after all. We wish you a good return home.- Salla said making a bow. Callum and Rayla bowed as well and started toward the balcony.

 

-Slut.- Rayla whispered when they were out of earshot.

 

-You know that she did what she could.- Callum replied.

 

-Which doesn't mean she's not a slut.- Rayla replied.

 

They came to the edge of the balcony. It was over 100 meters high to the ground.

 

-You don know how to get out of here, right?- Rayla asked. Callum smiled.

 

-I know how. But you have to hold on me from the back. Very tight. Callum said.

 

Rayla did as Callum said, not hiding her surprise.

 

-Are you holding tight?- Callum asked.

 

-I think so. What are you going to do?- Asked Rayla.

 

-Something you will kill me for. Manus Pluma Volantius.- Callum said after which his hands changed into wings. Rayla suddenly realized what he was planning.

 

-Callum wait, there must be another way to aaAAAAAAA ...- Callum suddenly flew up. Rayla screamed and pressed closer to Callum, closing her eyes.

 

-It's okay Rayla. You don't have to be afraid with me.- Callum laughed.

 

-By Garlach, BY GARLACH. Callum land! Please, LAND!- Rayla begged him, holding on to him tighter and tighter.

 

-I'm afraid it's the only way to traverse the Dragon Mountains quickly. And the only one safe. Down in the valleys there are packs of wolves, and on the hills between the our Forest and the Mountains there are many two-headed vipers. It looks like you are at my mercy.- Callum laughed. Rayla just purred vaguely, clearly angry at this unexpected flight.


-Can you stop choking me? If you don't stop, we'll crash.- Callum said after an hour. Rayla loosened her grip.

 

-Sorry...- Rayla said. Callum knew she had never flew on him, even though she had flown a dragon twice. The problem was that Rayla was afraid that Callum, unlike the dragons, would not hold her and crash. The young mage, however, was able to carry her as well as their bags.

 

-You know, you can open your eyes. You'll miss a lot of nice views.- Callum said.

 

Rayla opened her eyes uncertainly. Indeed, they flew over picturesque hills lit by the afternoon sun almost at the height of the clouds. These were within arm's length. Rayla stretched her hands curiously to the white clouds, grasping them. Her hand began to trace along the cloud.

 

-You know, sometimes flying here alone makes me lonely. I know you don't like flying, but we could ... Well ... You understand ...- Callum said blushing a little.

 

-You would like to take me on joint flights more often, right?- Rayla asked with a slight smile.

 

Despite the fear of sudden death by smashing to the ground, Rayla felt more and more safe seeing that Callum not only copes with it and flew high enough that all the important elements of the landscape could be seen from here - in the distance was green land which was the Moonshadow Wood, in the distance the summit of the Storm Spire loomed, and far beyond them stood like gray teeth with the white tips of Dragon Mountains.

 

-Yes ... I wanted to impress you with this on our first date, but you know what happened the day before...- Callum said.

 

-You know you impress me without those big wings, right?- Rayla said.

 

-With them, I'm just an ordinary human.- Callum replied with bitterness in his voice. Rayla, however, moved closer to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He smiled.

 

-Can an ordinary human be able to create such a good armor as mine, which you have been creating for the past 5 years?- Rayla asked.

 

-Nope...- Callum replied. He knew she was right.

 

-Can an ordinary human draw as well as you?- Rayla asked.

 

-Not everybody, I guess...- Callum replied. She was right again.

 

-You see? You are remarkable as a human, even without magic.- Rayla said.

 

-You are probably right...- Callum replied.

 

-Of course I am.- Callum said.

 

Callum flew on while Rayla hugged him tighter. Callum liked this state of matters - his girlfriend and he flew through the skies. There was nothing around, just him, her and the clouds. Callum felt the joy of the flight through which he forgot all his worries - about being a human in a place full of Elves, whether his family would be safe or what tomorrow would bring. Only they and the sky mattered.

 

-Hey ... Rayla?- Callum asked after a long silence.

 

-Yes, honey?- Rayla asked.

 

-You know I love you, right?- Callum asked.

 

-I know. I love you too.- Rayla replied.


-You know you don't have to hide ...- Rayla said.

 

They made it to Silvergrove that evening. Callum was worried all the way when they landed that he didn't have a masking illusion. It was evident that he was a human and he was afraid to enter the town. Rayla's assurances did not help, nor did any of the evidence she presented.

 

Callum felt a blockade which he could not get through in any way. Instinctively he put on the hood, trying to hide his face under it.

 

-Rayla, and what if...- Callum protested, not wanting to rejected by the Elves he considered his community. But Rayla cut him off.

 

-Trust me. You know it won't be that bad.- Rayla said. She grabbed his hand.

 

Callum took a deep breath and he and Rayla entered Silvergrove. Callum looked in horror at the elves who were walking around their houses.

 

Surprisingly, no one paid any attention to him. He could see the faces of each of the Elves which meant he had not been banished by the Ghost Spell. A few Elves even greeted him, ignoring what he looked like. Callum tried to answer as little nervously as possible.

 

-Why don't we come over to the New Moon Inn?- Rayla asked. Callum nodded softly. He didn't know why, but he began to hope that the elves would find out, after all, to accept him.


-Hello. What's for you? - Asked the innkeeper. Callum avoided his eyes, though he was not focusing on him.

 

-Two teas, please.-Rayla said. After a while, they were sitting in the same place where Callum argued about place with Feren years ago. Despite Callum's fears, the guests of the inn did not even seem to be interested in him.

 

-You see? It's not that bad.- Rayla said.

 

-Yeah...- Callum replied. He felt weird. Ever since he lived here, he was afraid to walk around Silvergrove without illusions. Apart from the nightmares about Rayla, these were the only things that made him afraid to sleep. Still, it seemed that everything was fine - no elf paid any attention to him, and most of them even seemed to be friendly to him. However, this state of things was meant to be interrupted.

 

-So that's why you were so afraid to talk to any girl except Rayla. You are a monster.

 

Callum and Rayla turned their faces to face Barris. She just entered the inn and saw that her recent object of interest turned out to be a monster.

 

-Leave him alone.- Rayla said.

 

-Cute. The complete loser had no chance with normal Elven boys, so she gave herself to the human. I wonder if he has everything he needs in his pants. Will you tell us Rayla?- Barris asked mockingly. Everyone in the tavern noticed them and looked at them with surprise.

 

-You'd like a boyfriend like that.- Rayla replied. Barris wanted him in the past, but as before, she did everything to tease and humiliate and mock Rayla.

 

-Such a monster? Pathetic! You must be desperate to believe that this something may feel the same as you.- Barris said, then pretended the meanest laugh she could.

 

Callum closed his eyes trying to withstand the urge need to send lightning towards the mean elf. Everything he believed so far - the hope that the elves would accept him - vanished in the insults of Barris.

 

-You're mean.- Rayla replied.

 

-But you are nothing more than a cheap slut...- Barris tried to say when she was interrupted by Haldir, the captain of the Silvergrove City Watch.

 

-It's enough. Leave the human and her alone.- he said in a voice that could not stand any objection. Behind him stood the innkeeper and several guests of the inn. It was evident that they were not satisfied with her behavior.

 

-You can't be serious. After all, he is a human. You defend the traitor and the monster who ... -Barris argued, but Haldir cut her off again.

 

-Who grew up here. This "monster", as you call him, is responsible along with its caretaker for most of the armor, tools and weapons that are used here in Silvergrove. The same human looked after my son when there were no teachers at school. Bren came back alive and well showing the drawings he had helped him draw. You can see that by exerting yourself on him you heal complexes and grief after your opponent was basically faster and won his heart in front of you. Call him a monster again and I'll try to make sure you don't pass the last trials as an assassin.- Haldir said.

 

Barris, clearly flustered by the Elven reaction, did not know what to say. After a while, however, she left the inn. All the other elves returned to their places except Haldir who approached the surprised Rayla and Callum.

 

-That's a piece of nits. That such a combat power must go hand in hand with such an empty head ... -the captain grumbled.

 

-I... thank you.- Callum said.

 

-You don't need, young one. After all, you are one of us. When we ran into these humans two years ago while training in the woods, your armor saved me. I never had a chance to thank you for it, I was busy. Carry on, friend.- the captain said, patting Callum on the shoulder.

 

Callum and Rayla were silent looking at each other. They didn't know what to say after all.

 

-So you see ... It's not bad. I told you there would be no problem.- Rayla said.

 

-I know. Are you alright? You know, Barris has focused on you… -Callum asked. Rayla looked at him in surprise.

 

-I'm fine. She just can't stand the fact that I did something she didn't. It may not seem like it, but I'm glad about it.- Rayla said.

 

-All right ... What you say.- Callum replied.


After leaving the inn, they headed home. Nobody cared about them on the way. Suddenly Callum heard a whisper.

 

-Mom ... Why is Callum missing horns?- asked the little elf looking at him.

 

-Because he is human. But don't be afraid of him. He is a good human.- his mother said.

 

Callum smiled. The longer he walked without illusions in Silvergrove, the better he felt.


-Sapphire no! Stop it! Oh no! Damn it, Sapphire! Callum tried to push back the Shadow Paw who, seeing him in the workhouse, threw himself at the human to greet him.

 

Callum's adorable pet has turned into a huge animal, reaching above the elbow of an adult. At the same time, it was about 2.5 meters long and weighed enough to easily pin it to the ground and lick him as a sign of joy by return of his caretaker.

 

-You can see that he missed you too.- Rayla laughed. Callum, however, slowly crawled out from under his pet and stroked its head. The Sapphire purred happily.

 

-I missed you too, buddy.- Callum said.

 

After a while they entered Ethari's workhouse. The blacksmith was busy repairing the helmet of one of the officers of the City Guard.

 

-Ethari, we're back.- Rayla exclaimed. The elf turned and smiled.

 

He was glad to see Callum alive and well. He noticed that he did not have an illusion necklace and that he had tattoos on his arms intertwined with runes painted with transparent paint, which allowed him to turn his arms into wings.

 

-Welcome home.- Ethari said coming up to both of them and hugging them. Callum and Rayla hugged him as well. After a while, however, they began to choke in the grip of blacksmith with almost 50 years of experience.

 

-Ethari ... We need air ...-Callum said, trying to catch his breath. Ethari released them and looked at the tattoos on Callum's arms.

 

-So you passed.- said the blacksmith.

 

-Without Primal Stone from you it would be harder. Thank you.- Callum said.

 

-I wanted to give it to you for your birthday, but by then you might need some extra magic on the trials. I hope it will serve you well.- Ethari said.

 

-I used it well. Where is Runaan?- Asked Callum.

 

-Three days ago, he became City Elder of Silvergrove. He's got a council meeting now. He will come back in the evening.- Ethari said.


Runaan returned home late at night. The work of the Elder was hard and time consuming, but it was also more honorable and better paid than teaching young Assassins.

 

As he entered the house, he found Callum's and Rayla's coats hanging in the hallway near the door. They came back.

 

Walking down the corridor, he remembered the first day Callum had come to their house. It has been almost 9 years ago. During this time, a lot has happened both good and bad. Despite everything, Runaan knew he wouldn't change anything. With what happened, Tiadrin, Lain, Ethari, he, Rayla, and Callum were happy. He couldn't imagine that it could have been otherwise - that he might never have met Callum, or that he might have known him as a evil human whom he could not get along in any way.

 

He looked into Callum's room. It was quiet inside. He and Rayla Callum slept in the bed, cuddled up to each other. As he slept shirtless, Runaan noticed a tattoos on his arm, signifying that he had passed the final test as the Mage.

 

Only Rayla and her trials as Assassin remained.

Chapter Text

-May I know what I walked on!?- Soren asked without hiding his blushes.

 

He had lived in the house near the castle for a month with Claudia. His sister stayed in his home for a while until she found a permanent job after she left home after an argument with her father. Claudia was fed up with his overprotection and after a short but strong argument she decided to leave the house. She lived with Soren who is already 23 years old.

 


Soren knew that his sister was not exactly like the other girls given her sense of humor, but the fact that she had a girlfriend Soren didn't expect. He found out about this by accident when he returned home earlier than usual to find his sister in a rather strange situation.

 


-You know ... It's summer. It's hot for people when they sleep with their clothes on, so ... - Claudia tried to explain.

 


-You kissed during Claudia! I may be a moron but I'm not that stupid.- Soren replied.

 


-Eh ... Fine! Yes! Ves is my girlfriend and I slept with her. Glad!?- Claudia asked irritated, adjusting her sleeve. She had to dress quickly in order to try to calm her brother down.

 


-No! I can't get that image out of my head right now. Especially since I'm her commanding officer!- Soren said, pointing towards rooms door.

 


Ves continued to dress up inside because it took a long time to put on the standard Katolis armor.

 


-I can not help it! There is such a thing as knocking dumbass!- Claudia shouted.

 


-I have to knock on my own house !?- Soren shouted. There was silence.

 


Claudia felt bad because her relationship with Ves had turned up. They tried to keep it a secret for almost 3 years. However, she was afraid that her father would discover it and he would force Claudia to break up with her. Still, she hoped Soren wouldn't tell him.

 


-...How long have you...? -Soren didn't finish the sentence, remembering a few minutes back where he had seen his sister like he shouldn't have seen.

 


-3 years.- Claudia said.

 


-... And you guys like that all the time ...?-Soren asked, still unsure what to say.

 


-... No ... It's only been a month since first time...- Claudia said.

 


- I wish I hadn't asked. Let's forget what happened here. I will not tell anyone what I found here and you will try not to have "fun" in this building.- Soren said.

 


-You know that there is no way for her. She lives in the barracks. There is no option for us to... - protested Claudia.

 


-I know, I know, I know. Shit, what did I get myself into...- cursed Soren under his breath.

 


-How old are you, Soren? Five ? If it wasn't for the fact that all the girls in the Capital City consider you as an idiot, you would have someone too. You must try it sometime ...- said Claudia.

 


-Claudia, for heaven's sake, stop it! It's not just that. I also mean you did it in my bed!- Soren said. Claudia looked at the door in surprise. Indeed, when they felt that they started something they couldn't stop, they accidentally entered Soren's room. Claudia turned red like her lipstick.

 


-Oh ... Sorry ... Maybe we'll talk when ... Ves leaves your room ... You understand ...- Claudia suggested.

 


-Yes ... Shit, why did I come back ...- Soren cursed again.

 


-Yeah. Why are you so early? Your shift in the garrison lasts until dusk.- Claudia asked.

 


- I have mission to escort someone from Duren across our border. I came back in for a backpack for a while.- Soren said.

 


-Ezran's coming with you?- Claudia asked.

 


-Yes. So is Ellis. You know why.- Soren said. Claudia and Soren knew very well what was going on between Ezran, Annya and Ellis. Personally, Claudia felt that the young prince couldn't have got worse - between one girl and another.

 


-Poor kid ...- Claudia said. The door to Soren's room swung open. Ves left the room trying not to meet the eyes of any of the siblings. She didn't know how to resolve this situation with Claudia. Due to lack of ideas, she tried to solve the problem by reporting to her commanding officer.

 

-Sergeant Soren, the sharpshooter of Ves is reporting ...- Ves stammered out, not knowing what he was doing. She was red like Claudia.

 

-You both sit down. Shit… -Soren said. They sat down at a table in the main room. There was an awkward silence.

 

-... How did that happened?- Soren finally asked.

 

-You mean that in bed or ...- Claudia asked and Soren hid his hands in his face.

 

-Between you! Hell, Claudia, you are perverted!- Soren said, trying to hide the growing urge to fall underground from embarrassment with his hands on his face.

 

-Well ... After Vernon died, I had no family. My friends  tried to calm me down, including Claudia. She tried to help me come to terms with the loss of my stepfather. About a year after that ... We became a couple.- Ves said.

 

-Yeah. We had an honest conversation in the royal gardens and somehow it turned out.- Claudia said taking Ves's hand.

 

-I am surprised that you managed to keep it a secret for 3 years from everyone.- Soren said.

 

-So what now?- Ves asked.

 

-Honestly, I do not know. I'm not telling anyone what I said here. Now you will probably be my sister-in-law ... Welcome to the family.- Soren said, patting her shoulder.

 

-Thank you Sergeant.- Ves said.

 

-You can call me by name. Admittedly, not in front of the rest of the squad, but when no one can see ... Except for Claudia because it's her fault.- Soren said. Everyone laughed.

 

-Thanks, Sor-Bear.- Claudia said.

 

-I'm covering your back too much. First the magic thing… -Soren slapped his forehead, realizing what he had said. He sold Claudia and her secret. However, she understood what was going on and quickly stopped him.

 

-Ves knows.

 

-... Alright. Like I said, I'm covering your back too much.- Soren said after a moment's silence.


- Katolis again. I think that you like this country.- Ian replied.

 

They drove the road from Duren towards the Cursed Caldera. In order not to draw attention, two of the best soldiers of the Duren Army, Ian and Han, were selected as her bodyguards. The "Young Couple" that Aanya and Ian pretended was a convincing alibi, and no one suspected that it was Princess Duren with bodyguards.

 

-Well, King Harrow, like his predecessors, is fighting the nobility for the rights of the peasants, and he also holds one of the largest countries known for the best bread and the largest army on this side of the Breach in line. Besides, Ezran is not a nervous idiot like Prince Dmitry of Del-Bar or a mean asshole like Prince Kasef of Neolandia.- Aanya replied.

 

-You seem to judge them critically. Ezran isn't bad, but Dmitry and Kasef aren't too bad either.- Han replied.

 

-Kasef did not understand half of the things I said to him and then "by accident" smashed the jug that was made of years ago by order of King Iven III. Dmitry, on the other hand, talked fanatically about the military and his project to create a heavy-armed shock cavalry with wings on its back. I simply feel sorry for his future wife.- Aanya said. Neither of them had aroused her sympathy like Ezran. Ezran tried to keep his distance and speak only if he really knew what he was talking about, while Kasef was his complete opposite and Dmitry always changed to military for whatever topic of conversation, which bored Aanya when she met him.

 

-I have to admit that you wrote a lot of letters with Ezran. I guess you guys really like each other.- Han said. At these words, Ian glared at him.

 

-It is truth. Ezran seems to have a different approach to life.- Aanya said. Maybe it was a matter of being raised by his mother, or his friendship with Ellis, but no other princes of the human kingdoms were like him... that human.

 

In his letters, he tried to write simply, without adding poetic comparisons or fake respect. He was just himself which impressed her.

 

At the same time, Ian looked at his brother displeasingly. He was deceiving himself - his father wasn't noble, much less he. He could only dream that Aanya would feel the same as he did. They were friends, of course, but he simply doubted that he would ever achieve his goal.

 

-Ian? Are you alive?- Aanya called.

 

-Yeah ... Everything is fine, Your Majesty.- Ian said a little blush. Of all the girls at court in Duren, why did had to fall in love with her?


-Is something wrong?- Aanya asked.

 

They stopped on night on north of the Cursed Caldera. They camped in the woods near the road. Han was already asleep, while Aanya insisted on taking first watch at night. She noticed that Ian was still awake.

 

He thought about his mother. She died when he and her brother were 6 years old during the birth of their younger sister. The sister was born dead. For a time their father had an episode of alcohol after her death, but due to the prohibition on selling him alcohol by the Queens of Duren, he quickly recovered from his addiction and took up his responsibilities. It didn't change the way of how harsh in raising them become their father.

 

-It's okay ... It's just ...- Ian tried to explain, but Aanya came up to him and sat down next to him.

 

-You think about your mother, don't you?- Aanya asked. She was one of the few who knew the truth from them. They told her a few months after they started working as her bodyguards.

 

-Yeah...- Ian said. He wasn't expecting Aanya's gesture - the girl hugged him. At first, Ian didn't know how to react, but then he hugged him as well. He felt tears trickle down his cheeks.

 

-I'm sorry ... I shouldn't ...- he said after a moment when they separated. He wiped away the tears and tried not to look in her direction.

 

-Why? You mean ... - Aanya didn't finish the question when Ian interrupted her.

 

-I'm weak. I am the Royal Guard, I should…- He tried to convince himself that he shouldn't cry.

 

It only worked when Han did. His brother was always better at everything - he was faster, stronger, smarter and, unlike him, he dealt with the loss of their mother better.

 

-... Stop talking like you're your father. It's okay to cry when you need to. You are not weak because of it. Suppressing the emotions inside will make you hurt more. Besides, nobody knows about it. This will be our secret, okay?- Aanya said. She tried to help a friend who was with her when she needed help.

 

Ian said nothing and just started to cry harder. He cuddled up to Aanya, venting his emotions. He cried because he was the worse son in everything. He cried because he missed his mother. He cried because the girl he loved was beyond his reach.


They found them on east of the cursed Caldera. Ezran was glad to see Aanya again. Ever since he found out about her plans, he has been looking forward to meeting her again.

 

-So ... How was your trip?- Asked Ezran. They rode a little further ahead

 

-It was fine, thanks. You seem sleepy. Is everything alright?- Aanya asked. Indeed, Ezran looked sleepy.

 

-I helped my dad late yesterday with papers, plans and appropriate edicts. The winter is supposed to be tough this year... - said Ezran.

 

-Such as when our parents went to Xadia?- Aanya asked.

 

-Yes. After all, no one wants Callum to sit as hostage for another 10 years on the other side of the border.- Ezran said. They both laughed.

 

-Yes ... What's up with him? Aanya asked.

 

- As far as I know, he's doing fine. Recently he wrote that he passed the final tests and became a mage. The other elves however battered him, but they paid the attack with their lives.- Ezran said, and then fell silent. It's been almost 10 years since he last saw him. He recalled the last moment he saw his brother.


-Callum where are you?- Ezran asked. A little boy was playing hide and seek with his brother. According to Ezran, Callum was a master at the game. He knew all the hiding places in the castle and found the little prince with no problem.

 

He was in the stable looking for his brother for an hour. Or maybe for a hour? Time runs differently when you are 6 years old. Ezran looked everywhere and after walking around the entire stable, he came out and went to the main square.

 

-Hey Ezran. Do you need something?- Soren called. According to Ezran and Callum, he was cool. He was 13 and he had his own sword! Ezran wanted to be the same like Soren when he waill be 13..

 

-Hey Soren. I'm looking for Callum. You don't know where he is?- the little boy asked.

 

-He hides in a barrel. That one there, see?- Soren pointed at him. Ezran nodded and walked towards the barrels. He crept quietly to the barrel. He jumped on the barrel next to it to find Callum sitting huddled inside.

 

-I got you!- Ezran shouted.

 

-It does not count! Soren gave you a hint.- Callum protested.

 

-I found you! Come on out!- Ezran said. Callum crawled out of the barrel and sat down next to Ezran.

 

-You promised you would take me piggybacked!- Callum! Said Ezran.

 

-No. It does not count! Soren was telling you.- Callum protested.

 

-Come on. You promised!- Ezran argued.

 

-Yh, fine. Jump in.- Callum said coming down from the barrel. Ezran jumped on his back. Callum started running while Ezran held his hands up.

 

-Hey Callum.- they heard Claudia behind them. Callum turned around to wave the girl.

 

-Hey Claudiaaa...- Callum didn't notice the curb through which he stumbled and fell on his right arm, while Ezran fell beside him. Claudia laughed seeing that and helped them to their feet.

 

-Are you alright?- she asked.

 

-Yes, everything is fine.- Callum said blushing.

 

-Okay. I'll see you in class this afternoon.- Claudia moved on, waving Callum. The little boy seemed to be looking after her with a strange flush on his face. Ezran didn't understand what his brother was doing, but he wanted him to stop and focus on him.

 

-Callum. Hey Callum! Are we still playing hide and seek? I can search again!- Ezran said, pulling on his sleeve, snatching Callum out of his reverie.

 

-Okay ... I'm going to hide!- Callum ran towards the stables while Ezran started counting. It was the last time he saw his brother. The next day, he learned that Callum had been taken prisoner by the elves.


-... Ezran, are you there?- Aanya touched his shoulder. The young prince became so thoughtful that he did not react to anything around him.

 

Feeling a touch on his shoulder, Ezran flinched and almost fell off his horse, barely staying in the saddle.

 

-I am! You said… -Ezran asked as he climbed back into the saddle.

 

-... I asked if everything was alright. You seem to be... overthinking. Are you alright?- Aanya asked.

 

-Yeah... I'm fine. A week ago it was the anniversary of his being in Xadia as hostage. Already 9 years. Mom made a special beaded necklace and takes one bead every day. She ... She went through it a lot and her humor affected everyone. Dad takes it hard too, but he tries to get busy so as not to worry. If not for mom, he would have fallen into workaholic a long time ago.- Ezran said.

 

-And how do you ... do you bear it?- Aanya asked.

 

-Quite well. I miss him, but I am used to not having him around. I barely remember him. I hope that when he comes back next year we will be able to rebuild everything between us.- Ezran said.

 

-You will probably make it. Besides, I'd like to finally meet your brother as well as Rayla.- Aanya said.


Ellis was walking with Aanya up the stairs to their room. Ezran took care of Ian and Han's accommodation across the hall in the next room. He wanted her bodyguards to be around if necessary to help her.

 

-So Logistics Studies? I thought you came to study Economics with Ezran.- Ellis said, surprised.

 

-Yeah. I have already completed my Economic Studies... - Aanya said. Again, she listed the 7 fields of study she graduated from. When five years ago she got into trouble while visiting Katolis, her mothers locked her in the tower for two days. They decided to enroll her in several teachings at once, along with learning archery. Aanya mastered learning with difficulty, enjoying it after a while, as it was the only thing she was allowed to do. Still she would have collapse mentally long ago if not help from Ian and Han.

 

They entered a medium-sized room. There were two beds, a desk, a wardrobe, two enormous trunks, a mirror, a table and three chairs. To the left of the entrance was a bathroom door. Although the room was tidy, it was obvious that Ellis had not cleaned the desk which was cluttered with papers. In the corner there was a bear skin on which Ava slept at this time as usual.

 

-Okay. So here we sleep. My bed is on the left.- Ellis said.

 

-Alright. It will be nice to live in the same room with someone for a change...- said Aanya.

 

-Till that someone's not snoring. I suppose it happens to me so… -Ellis said.

 

-I have a hard dream. Besides also happens to me.- Aanya laughed sitting on her bed.

 

Suddenly they heard a knock. Ellis opened the door.

 

-Hello Han. What brings you here?- Ellis asked.

 

-How can you be sure I'm not Ian?- the boy asked.

 

-I have a feeling.- Ellis said.

 

-Your feeling is not wrong then.- Han said.

 

-I felt so too. Did you leave your brother with Ezran?

 

-Yes. You know what he is like. Besides, Ezran was curious to see what the drills in the Duren army finally looked like. He said he had a bet with someone.- Han replied.

 

-Yes, with his aunt. But that is different. Do you have what I asked for?- Ellis asked.

 

-Sure. Hold on.- Han said, handing the girl the book. Aanya watched the incident curiously. Han led a secret life (which wasn't surprising Aanya) and wrote letters with Ellis (which surprised her completely). She thought that they might ...

 

-Thanks. There are no such collections of Shanties in Katolis. I wish I could repay you somehow, but I'm afraid I don't have much to do.- Ellis said.

 

-I'm sure we'll be even someday. Anyway ... You know ... Well ... Listen ... Maybe ... We would be tomorrow ... You know ... Go out somewhere?- Han suggested, blushing slightly. Aanya seeing it tried not to laugh.

 

-You really want us to be even, don't you? I don't see a problem. I'll show you around.- Ellis said.

 

-Yeah... I'll see it tomorrow.- Han said, heading towards his room.

 

-See you tomorrow.- Ellis said, closing the door.

 

-I see that you caught someone's eye.- Aanya said.

 

-Me? No, I don't think so. Han was just nice. We have been writing for some time. I was looking for a book with shanties and he had this book. I really want to give him something in return. You know him well. Tell me what does he like?

 

-If I saw correctly, it was brunet Katolis girls playing on lute.-Aanya joked.

 

-Stop joking . He doesn't think that at all… -Ellis suddenly thought. She accepted that Ezran would be out of her reach and finally gave up. Now Han appeared. There was nothing wrong with it, although ...

 

-You haven't really seen his butter eyes?- Aanya asked.

 

-... Oh shit.- Ellis said, realizing that Aanya's bodyguard had a crush on her.


Soren was sitting on the porch at home.

 

It was just cruel. Everyone had someone. Even Claudia found herself a girlfriend. Everyone except him.

 

Some of his childhood friends were long ago since they married while the rest had children already. And he was still alone.

 

No girl from Capital took him seriously. Nobody really treated him like that. Because he was a moron. However, it was not wrong with him - after all, he was aware that he was an idiot.

 

However, despite this, time was moving forward and yet nothing changed. He was still alone, and everyone around him had someone. Soren felt a single tear run down his cheek.

 

-Soren? Are you there? Get off the porch,it's late ... Soren? What's wrong?- Claudia asked.

 

Soren turned around and looked at her. His sister looked at him in surprise. It was evident that he was crying so Soren didn't try to pretend he was okay.

 

-Thread. I'm just ... envy you guys.- Soren said.

 

-Us? I mean who? And for what?- Claudia asked, sitting down next to him.

 

-I envy you all for having someone. You know ... You were right yesterday morning when you said that if I wasn't an idiot I would have someone. The truth is, I'm terribly lonely. I look at everyone around me. Marcos has found a girlfriend and lives with her near the border. You have Ves. Even Ezran and Ellis are more successful in this than I am. I wish I had a girlfriend. One that would take me seriously.

 

-Oh, Sor-Bear. I know it doesn't work that way, but somewhere out there is the one girl you will be happy with. Do not worry.- Claudia said hugging her brother. He cried like a child.

 

It was not an enemy that he could defeat with a sword. Loneliness could not be fought that way.

 

-Claudia ... You know if you need to ... someone to talk or... to punch someone, I'm for you, right?- Soren said.

 

-I know, brother. I know.- Claudia replied.

Chapter Text

-I didn't expect that when you said you wanted to go out with me.- Ellis said.

 

Han has made many preparations for this, including borrowing crossbow from Soren, a straw and wood dummy, and a set of bolts. They headed for the forest where Han set up a dummy near the river.

 

Ava walked between Han and Ellis all the time. The wolf seemed to like Han and had a good time with them. The boy often stroked the wolf.

 

-I can surprise, right?- Han asked.

 

-Yes. But I have a feeling you will be showing off with this crossbow.- Ellis said as she sat down on the rock next to him.

 

-What? No ... I mean ... I wanted to ... Well ... Teach you to shoot ... If you want to, of course.- Han said, blushing slightly.

 

Ellis rolled her eyes. All night she had been asking Aanya about him. She learned that Han was somewhat obsessed with military equipment. At home, he and his brother have a large collection of all kinds of equipment, armor and everything that they have managed to find / buy / build over the years.

 

-I don't see any problems. So...  can you show me.- Ellis said.

 

Han loaded the crossbow and took the shot. After a moment, he sent the bolt straight into the dummy's torso, then turned with a smile to Ellis.

 

-Bravo...- Ellis said, clapping mock delight.

 

-I know. I'm not showing off anymore. Your turn.- Han said.

 

He gave Ellis the crossbow and stood behind her. Ellis blushed as he stood behind her gently grabbed her and gently helped her hold the crossbow.

 

-So, yeah ... You have to put the stock on your shoulder, right here, your  shot will be better. Raise the crossbow a little, the projectile will then fly further. That's right. And gently squeeze the trigger. Do not tug because then the bolt will fly further over the target.- Han said. Ellis did as he said and pulled the trigger. The bolt stuck slightly above Han's bolt. Ava grunted as her caretaker hit the target.

 

-Not bad for a first shot.- Han said.

 

-If it hadn't been for your help, especially that you had a crossbow with me, it wouldn't have happened.- Ellis smiled. It was something funny and comforting in him with his arms around her. Han blushed at these words.

 

-Nothing special. Dad taught me like that too. Do you want to try it yourself?- Han asked.

 

The next shots were less accurate. Ellis simply had trouble holding the crossbow to aim. After some time, Han started helping her again, and Ellis began to hit more often. They didn't notice how they'd spent the entire afternoon joking and firing a crossbow.


-You are finally here. You know you shouldn't leave the castle alone.- Opeli said.

 

They returned at dusk. On the way, Han told her story how he and his brother played with matches and set fire to a wardrobe in the garrison. Ellis liked the bodyguard and felt good in his company.

 

-I wasn't alone. Han and Ava were with me.- Ellis contested. Han smiled when she mentioned him.

 

-You weren't alone that time either. And if not Ezran ... - Opeli would not let it go. Ellis didn't want to come back to it, especially with Han around.

 

-I know. I remember. I did wrong. I will not do this again. I promise.- Ellis said. Opeli looked at her without conviction and then left.

 

Once they had entered the castle and were about to go their rooms, Han asked.

 

-What did Opeli talk about when we entered the castle? You know, about "last time".

 

Ellis froze. She didn't want to go back to what happened in the alley. She closed her eyes trying to forget and stop thinking about it, but that only increased the fear and the wave of the memories.

 

She didn't even notice when she started crying. She forgot about Han who was next to her all the time. He was surprised, looking at her, not quite knowing what was going on.

 

-Ellis, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to ... I ...- Han stuttered uncertainly and slowly approached her. She continued to ignore him anyway, thinking elsewhere.

 

The boy hugged her. He didn't know if he was doing right, but he felt he should do that. Contrary to what he expected, Ellis hugged him as well and began to cry on his shoulder.

 

They stood there until she calmed down.

 

-Are you alright?- Han asked.

 

-Yeah... Thanks.- Ellis said. Han wanted to back out, but Ellis kept holding him. - Please. I ... need ... to not be lonely.- she said blushing. She felt bad forcing him to be close to her. However, Han stayed and all he did was help her sit on the bench next to her.

 

-I am not going anywhere. Han whispered. - Tell me, what's the matter? - He asked.

 

She told him about Jacob Butcher. He listened to the whole story hugging her. With him she felt as with Ezran - safe. When she was done, he promised her it would never happen again. That he won't let anything happen to her.


-I swear, they've been gone all day. Queen Sarai dies of worry.- Aanya said.

 

The first day of the next studies was as tiring as the previous ones. Still, Aanya was still doing fine. She only returned to the room to discover that Ellis wasn't inside. While looking for her, she found Ian who was looking for his brother.

 

-Don't you find it strange? Han and she disappear late at night… -Ian said.

 

-I am not a fan of this type of theory. I know he came out with Ellis somewhere. Opeli claims they came back a while ago. And your brother probably likes her, so...- Aanya said. Suddenly, walking down the corridor, Ian stopped her with a gesture of his hand and showed her to be quiet. Aanya looked at him in surprise, then looked around the corner near which he was standing.

 

She could see Ellis and Han huddled together, sitting on a bench in the corridor across from them. It seemed Ellis really needed the help she found with Han. At last she heard the boy's soft voice.

 

-I promise not to tell anyone. You have my word.- Han said.

 

-Thanks. I hope...- Ellis looked at him awkwardly.

 

-No. Honestly...I haven't been hugged for a long time. It was a nice feeling...- said Han.

 

-You know ... If you need to talk about something, I'm for you...- Ellis said.

 

-I will remember. And now though, they're probably looking for us.- Han said. They both got up from the bench and walked towards Ellis's room.

 

-Did you see what I see?- Aanya asked, looking further at the bench.

 

-Yes. And I honestly can't believe it.- Ian replied.


Ian blocked Soren's blow, then stepped back to slash him from below. Soren, however, ducked and slapped his sword from the side.

 

Han and Ellis watched the duel between them. Soren wanted to prove that learning sword fighting in Katolis was better than one in Duren. Even so, the sixteen year old Royal Guard resisted fiercely, or at least until the corner of his eye caught sight of the princess he had sworn to protect. Aanya was returning from Logistics Studies and decided to watch the fight.

 

-Hey Aanya!- Ian called her, waving her. She also waved and smiled. However, Ian was struck few seconds after right in the face by the hilt of a wooden sword. As he fell, he hit his head on the ground.

 

-Shit ! I thought he was away.- Soren cursed, kneeling beside him. Before he could do anything, Han and Aanya were with the wounded.

 

After a quick inspection, the princess said it was nothing serious, but they had to take the wounded boy to the hospital.

 

For the next three hours, she watched Ian, worrying about his condition. She tried as hard as she could to understand why she was so worried about her friend. She knew he would be fine, but she was still afraid about him.


-Forgive that. I thought you were standing few steps away and ... You see. Here, it'sas an apology...- Soren said, putting a bottle of Cider next to the injured boy.

 

-Nothing happened ... I don't even remember it. Thanks for the Cider...- said Ian. Aanya had just come back from the castle kitchen with food for the wounded man and for her. Seeing Soren with him, she wanted to kill him.

 

-Can I know what are you still doing here? The doctor ordered the injured man to be left alone. Leave. Now.- Aanya said. Soren gave in and bowed before leaving the room.

 

-It's not his fault ... I was distracted ...- Ian said.

 

-But he hit you. He should have used less force because it was a bloody duel for fun with wooden swords.- Aanya said.

 

-But he apologized. He even gave a bottle of Cider. Do you want some?- Ian asked. Aanya looked at him indulgently. "-orry, I forgot that Your Majesty ... I don't drink ...- Ian watched in surprise as Aanya opened the bottle and took a sip. He could see from her expression that the Cider was too strong for her. -... I didn't expect that.

 

-You don't want to drink it all yourself, do you?- Aanya asked.

 

-Who are you and what have you done with Princess Aanya of Duren?- Ian asked, surprised.

 

-Forgive me ... I just wanted ... Is it really so strange that I drank alcohol?- Aanya asked.

 

-Yeah ... You always refused when someone suggested it. It's just ... Wow ...- Ian said looking at her surprised. This place changed Aanya, although for the better according to him.

 

-I just wanted to cheer you up... Damn. It was stupid...- Aanya tried to excuse herself. She began to blush.

 

-Your presence makes me feel better. Really. I don't know a more talented princess than you.- Ian said putting his hand on her shoulder. She looked at him and, despite her lack of conviction, smiled.

 

-You know... I'm not really...- Aanya tried to deny it.

 

-Think that you're adopted doesn't mean anything. Aanya, you are amazing. And the fact that you have no royal blood in you changes nothing.- Ian said. Aanya smiled looking at him and then hugged him.

 

-Thank you...

 

-At your service, Your Majesty.- Ian said with emphasis on the last words so that Aanya would remember who she was.


Aanya had been living in Katolis for a month. She did not seem to be interested in anyone and tried to be friendly with everyone, but Ezran wasn't blind. He saw that something was between her and Ian. Likewise, Ellis, along with Han, was rarely seen alone.

 

Ezran guessed that both of his crushes had found someone. The pain he felt because of this made him unable to sleep at night. He felt that he had missed an opportunity. But what could he do? They were happy and he was fine with it. However, he felt a void that he could not fill in any way.

 

Lying in bed, he wondered what to do with himself. What to do to stop thinking about how he screwed up the whole line.

 

The Bait looked at him darkly. Finally he muttered under his nose.

 

-Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks for care.- Ezran said. Nothing was right at all. The Bait continued to purr anyway.

 

-And what can I do? They are both happy. After all ... I'm not gonna make them fall in love with me. It's just ... I need to keep myself busy. Do you have any idea?- Ezran asked. The Bait purred softly.

 

-I think it's a good idea. Dad is going to like it.- Ezran said. The bug continued purring, feeling that the young prince needed help.

 

-I know. Thanks Bait. I am also if you need me.- Ezran replied.


Harrow got up early in the morning to start the routine. While Sarai did her best to deal with the military, he dealt with bureaucracy and administration. However, Harrow was surprised to find Ezran in the council room sleeping over a mass of papers.

 

His son seemed recently ... out of rhythm. He hardly smiled, he was sleepy, he accompanied him almost everywhere when Harrow had some council meeting. The king felt that his son had a problem, but he still lacked time to talk to him.

 

He walked over to him and his papers. He noticed tax applications, edict signatures, replies to merchants' complaints and a lot of other documents that they were supposed to deal with that day. They were stacked in two piles - the smaller one with unfinished documents and the larger one with documents signed by Ezran and stamped with the King's seal.

 

Harrow realized that Ezran had to big problem and needed help now. He rarely missed council meetings, sat non-stop either studying to finish the second studies, which was also Logistics Studies, or on papers in which he helped him taking almost 60% of all his duties.

 

Harrow felt that this should not be like that - Ezran should now enjoy the rest of his childhood, run after girls and graduate in school, not sit over papers. He needed to talk to his son now.

 

-Ezran ... Son ... Time to get up ...- Harrow shook his shoulder. Ezran suddenly sprang to his feet, eyes wide.

 

-I'm awake!- he shouted loudly. He looked around the room. He looked at Harrow. - Hello Dad. It's already morning, isn't it?=”Ezran said nervously stretching.

 

-I'm afraid so. Have you been sitting with papers for a long time?- Harrow asked.

 

-It is beginning to dawn ... The last thing I remember. I did most of today's business. Hope you're happy ...- said Ezran uncertainly.

 

-I wish I was, but I see you have a problem. Can we talk about it? In the castle kitchen, with a mug of brown morning potion? What do you think?- Harrow asked.

 

-That's a reasonable proposition...- said Ezran. Harrow smiled - Sarai had often pointed out how much Ezran looked like and behaved like Harrow now.

 

They got up and headed for the kitchen.


-... And that's more or less how it looks like.- Ezran said. He didn't know any point in lying to his father about his failure. He told him the whole story under pressure that he wouldn't tell mom.

 

Harrow listened, leaning against the outer wall of the castle. They were sitting on the wall watching the courtyard. Both with cups with an awakening brown substance.

 

-Well ... It's gonna be hard for me not to talk to your mother about this because I'm a moron myself on this subject. Until now, I think I was more fortunate than smart about this marriage with your mother. Most of the advice Callum asked us about Rayla came from her. I think you should find a hobby. I will lie, I don't like the fact that despite how much you help me, you push yourself to the papers. In my opinion, you shouldn't get involved that much and do something to relax for a while. Anyway, if you want, I can arrange a marriage for you...- said Harrow.

 

-No! I mean ... You don't have to. Really no need. It's just ... It won't change anything ...

 

-Alright. If you need help, I'm here to help.- Harrow said.

 

-I know. Thanks, Dad.- Harrow said.


-Ava what are you doing ?!- Ellis shouted.

 

As usual, she hugged Han as a greeting. She already felt that there was more to her and him, but she wanted to give it a moment longer. Ava, however, knowing what her caretaker felt, decided to move things between the teenagers forward. They had been playing around for three months, and it was already exhausting her.

 

With a rope tied to a pole in the castle square, she surrounded the legs of unsuspecting teenagers. Before Ellis and Han realized what had happened, Ava pushed Han and they both fell to the ground. If not for the fact that Han was supporting himself with his hands, he would have crushed the girl. They stared at each other in surprise and then blushed at this awkward situation.

 

-Are you alright?- Han asked.

 

-Yeah, and you?- Ellis asked.

 

-Yes. I guess it can't get any better…-Han said.

 

-Listen ... Sorry about Ava. I don't know what happened to her...- Ellis began to explain.

 

-Nothing happened ... Ellis ... I know that maybe this is not the best moment ...- of course it was not, Han was afraid that Ellis would reject him - And I know that maybe I'm not who you would see this way but I wanted .... I wanted to ... I wanted to ... I wanted to say ... That you ... I like-like ... Very much ... - he didn't complete his speech because Ellis pulled him to her, kissing him. The boy returned the kiss without thinking much.

 

-Forgive me ... I ruined the moment ... I wanted to save you from running out of nerves ...-Ellis said.

 

-You ... You too ...?- Han asked uncertainly. Ellis pulled him into another kiss. This one was even more intense and faster than the last one. Han rolled over and lay down on the ground next to her.

 

- Doesn't it say everything?- Ellis asked.

 

-Indeed ... it says ...- Han said.

 

Ava stared at them, grinning with joy. She has achieved the goal she has chosen since she noticed how these two began to feel something for each other.

Chapter Text

Rayla sat in front of Silvergrove Elders. The whole thing was part of an assassin ritual. She had been preparing for this as long as she could remember. Runaan found her and her group ready. Only Liadrin was unable to attempt the trials due her 8th month of pregnancy. Nevertheless, as soon as she was able to give birth, she would have a trials.

 

She sat in the arena where she practiced until that day. She could see Callum, Ethari and her parents on the bench. She was glad that they were with her in this difficult moment. However ... she was afraid of what was coming. She did not know anything about the task and the older Assassins were silent when anyone asked them about their attempts.

 

A silver goblet with a strange black liquid was placed in front of her. She wondered what she was going to do with her: Drink? Move somewhere without spill? Pour out? Destroy?

 

-Rayla from Silvergrove.- Kaidor, Archmage of the Moonsadow Elves and Leader of the Silvergrove City Elders began. - You have come a long and hard way. Are you ready to accept the sacred duties of an Assassin?

 

-I'm ready.- Rayla said. She lied because she was afraid of what would happen to her. But who would admit their fear at a time like this?

 

-Well then. Your task is to drink the liquid of this cup and meditate.- Kaidor said.

 

Rayla looked surprised. Was that it? Drinking a strange substance from a silver goblet and meditating? Did she practice almost 9 years of her life just to meditate? Was it this terrible trial?

 

But Rayla felt it couldn't be that simple. Something was going on and she knew that drinking the contents of the cup would not end.

 

She drank the liquid in one movement. It tasted terribly bitter and swallowing it was heavy on its own. After drinking the liquid, she put the cup back and began to meditate. She felt strange closing her eyes.

 

She started to sweat and from the inside she felt as if something was burning inside her. In less than an instant, she felt unimaginable pain. She wanted to move or scream, but she couldn't. She sat paralyzed shaking with pain. After a while, she felt her faint and drifted away.


Opening her eyes, she found herself atop some tower. She looked at the strange shapes around her as well as at the landscape around the object. She saw the Mooshadow Forest in the distance and the Dragon Mountains farther away, but what she saw was much lower than she was. She guessed there could only be one place - the Storm Spire.

 

She couldn't control her movements. She saw a human in a white robe. He was wearing what looked like a crown, and in his hand was a strange staff. His face ... Rayla noticed with disgust what could be anything but the result of using Dark Magic. However, she recognized the man despite his disfigured face.

 

He was the same man who had haunted her sometimes in nightmares - Viren, from what Callum had claimed.

 

-I will be ... the most powerful being ... in the world!- the mage hissed complacently. There could be felt that his words almost tainted the air with the corruption and decay of Dark Magic.

 

Rayla looked at what the mage was doing. He created a vortex in which a little blue dragon was trapped. Rayla didn't need to guess what the monster was doing - it was taking magic from a helpless creature.

 

From then on, Rayla didn't control her movements. She got up and launched herself at the Mage. Not to kill him or injure him - to throw him off the top of the mountain they were standing on. She didn't care that she was also falling to full death. Once she was in the air, she heard Callum call after her. At that moment Rayla was unconscious again.


Callum looked nervously at Rayla. She had been meditating for a good fifteen minutes and in the process he could see the sweat pouring down from her like a waterfall, not to mention the fact that he saw her shaking in the process.

 

Callum kept telling himself everything was fine. That everything will be alright. She was ready, after all, she had been preparing for it for 9 years. There was even no option that something would go wrong ...

 

His thoughts were interrupted by her sudden scream and the sight of some force tossing her backwards. Callum got up, wanting to go to her, but Ethari stopped him by putting a hand on his shoulder.

 

At the same moment, Rayla got to her feet in one leap. She looked at the Elders with strange horror.

 

-What ... What was that?- Rayla asked terrified, looking at the goblet in disgust.

 

-It was the venom of the Xadian Sea Devil mixed with the elixir of Moonberry. Makes a tested Assassin into a state of coma. The test was for you to overcome spiritually the weakness of your body and awaken yourself from the coma caused by the venom. As you can see you are the right candidate for Assassin. You passed the test. Congratulations.- Kaidor said.

 

Rayla smiled without conviction.


-Inresponsible idiots. What if you wouldn't wake up?- Callum asked.

 

They sat where they usually do at this time - admiring the sunset on the same tree as usual. Callum hugged Rayla while she was sitting resting her back on him.

 

-You know there's a special spell for this. There would be no option for me to fall asleep for good ... Besides, the test passes 9 out of 10 Assassins.- Rayla defended Elders. More than 10 out of 12 Assassins were passed from her training group - Yeavin did not pass because he turned out to be too weak and the Elders had to wake him from a coma with a spell. Apart from him, Liadrin, who could not be exposed to Venom for the sake of the child, did not pass the test.

 

-But anyway ... How could they endanger you like that? They should do it in the same way as the Mage test - check what and what you have learned during these years of study and not take the test with the venom of the most dangerous fish in the South Sea.- Callum argued.

 

-Oh, Callum. It's fina. You see, I'm okay.- Rayla said turning towards his face and kissed him. He returned the kiss to separate after a while.

 

-I know. When you screamed down there ... I was afraid the attempt was getting out of hand...- Callum said.

 

-Myself I do not know what happened. I don't even remember what I saw or felt at that time. The first thing I felt was my body throwing itself backwards and a moment later I woke up standing in the middle of the arena. It was a strange feeling ...- Rayla said.

 

-Are ... Are you okay? You don't feel nauseous, or… -Callum started asking questions, but Rayla stopped him.

 

-Callum, I'm not pregnant. Everything is fine with me.- Rayla said.

 

-If you say so. So ... What next?- Callum asked.

 

-I think we're celebrating ...- Rayla replied with a smile.

 

-How do you want to celebrate passing the final assassin trial?- Callum asked with a smile.

 

-I was thinking about a romantic dinner with a certain mage on the New Moon Inn. Or visiting him at his house ...- Rayla said in the most seductive voice she could make.

 

-And what would you like to do in this house?- Callum asked, following her example, trying to play her seductive game.

 

-Only bad things.- Rayla laughed.


The new home of Liadrin and Geatan was the overbuilt of their shop. The stairs leading above the store led to the living room which was combined with the dining room and kitchen. Opposite the door was a corridor from which led to the bathroom and three rooms - one for Liadrin and Geatan, one for their child and the last for guests.

 

-I can see my idea paid off, huh?- Callum asked entering their living room. Together with Rayla, they decided to visit a young couple.

 

-You don't even know how much. Humans in Katolis love our wine. Every month, at least 300 bottles cross the border. We barely made it ourselves with Liadrin, but after hiring a few Elves to help us, we make deliveries and even manage to make a light supply. I also met your aunt recently.- Geatan replied.

 

-How's your impression?- Callum asked. Although he had seen her a long time ago, he remembered his aunt as a brave and cheerful soldier. She was a bit scary by the inability to speak, but when someone got to know her better, she turned out to be nice and friendly.

 

-Besides that she looked at me and looked at me distrustfully, she really seems to be nice... Liadrin, wait.- Geatan called seeing his wife coming up the stairs. Geatan approached her to help her in. Usually it was not a problem for her, but now she could not overdo herself for the baby.

 

-How are you feel?- Rayla asked.

 

-As for several months ... Fat. Plus, Aiden keeps me awake kicking all the time.- said Liadrin, placing her hand on her big belly.

 

-And how can you be sure it's not a girl?- Geatan asked. His wife looked at him knowingly.

 

-Then it's Arven ... But it doesn't matter anymore. Better tell me how Rayla's assassin's test went.- Liadrin asked as she sat down on the couch with everyone.

 

-Someone very wise thought that drinking the venom potion of the Xadian Sea Devil is a really good way to test her skills...- Callum muttered grimly.

 

-Callum, please stop. We have already talked about it. Everything ended well.- Rayla said.

 

-That would explain why Cirdan bought back my acid protection bottles. The venom of this creature is not only poisonous but also it's strong acid.- Geatan said.

 

-Yes. Rayla was nearly thrown against the wall. I can't believe Runaan allowed this.- Callum said.

 

-Callum, you know he knew it was al....- Rayla tried to argue.

 

-That they will risk your life? Rayla, that's called irresponsibility. I just can't believe that Runaan, that Runaan, let it happen.- Callum interrupted her.

 

-Stop it. You panic like you're 10 again. I'm fine. Can't you just give it up?- Rayla replied irritably.

 

-I can't. You are hurt and you think that I will just sit and watch as a few old Elders risk your life? I don't agree on such option.- Callum argued.

 

-This is the Callum tradition. If it was lethal, they would have forbidden it long ago.- Rayla answered him.

 

-So we have to wait until someone dies during it to be banned? It's very good idea. Elf clever after the damage, right?- Callum replied sarcastically.

 

-Not everyone can have in terms of trials to fly in the mountains and have an evening in the library.- Rayla replied.

 

-Take it easy, you don't have to argue so...- Geatan tried to cool down the situation, but the couple were too absorbed with each other to notice his presence.

 

-This "flying in the mountains" ended up fighting a horde of wolves.- Callum corrected her.

 

-And you hold me accountable for the fact that my trials was dangerous. Besides, you were driving yourself into trouble. Nobody told you to save those Elves. Especially since one of them decided to KILL you few days later.- Rayla said.

 

-Yes, because...- Callum tried to counter argument but Rayla cut him off.

 

-Shut up! I know what you wanted to say! YOU ARE NOT A MONSTER! When will you stop blaming yourself for the evil in the world ?! Stop it.- Rayla shouted.

 

- I'm just stating the facts! Why do you think all this happened ?! Why did you have to kill these three people then? Why did you have to worry about me? It's all my fault! And nothing will change it! I am the cause of this!- Callum shouted as well.

 

-So what!? Should I take this as the end? Just because you don't have horns and long ears should I leave you alone? Callum you moron, by Garlach, use your head.- Rayla shouted.

 

-Yes, I use it and I see that ...- Callum didn't finish because Rayla hit him on the cheek. Suddenly she realized she overdid it.

 

-Oh no ... Callum I'm sorry ...- Rayla tried to apologize but Callum got up and left the room. She didn't follow him - she knew he needed to cool down. Callum disappeared up the stairs, then Rayla heard the door slam shut behind him.

 

She felt guilty - she hit him. She never caused him much pain. Helping him many times when he was hurt made him feel pain, but ... What she did was very wrong. She wanted to bring him to order somehow, make him calm down. She meant good, but failed him. She sat down looking at her hand - she was red from a hard blow on Callum's cheek. She couldn't stop the tears from running down her cheeks.

 

Watching the whole argument, Geatan and Liadrin finally decided to move. Liadrin moved closer to her and put her hand on her shoulder while Geatan went to get the bottle of cherry wine.

 

-Don't ry. It will be alright...- said Liadrin.


-He hates me...- Rayla said sitting at their table. She drank six glasses of wine. She felt a slightly drunk, but it only intensified her sadness.

 

She had failed him again. She made him suffer again. She was a total failure. She only knew how to cause pain - she didn't want to, but that was the only thing she managed to do.

 

-Not true. He's angry but he'll get over it. After all ... I don't know any other couple who would love each other as much as you guys do. You have a slight crisis, but there is no way it will change anything.- said Liadrin.

 

-But ... I hit him. I feel bad about it.- Rayla replied.

 

-It's a sign that what you feel about him is good. Give him time. He has to cool down after ... You know ... That hit.- Geatan said.

 

- I'll give him time. I ... I'm sorry that ... I started argument here. I know stress is not good in your state of Liadrin ...- Rayla said.

 

-Nothing happened. Aiden or Arven is fine.- said Liadrin.


-Let me guess, you guys come to talk about your daughter and her boyfriend?- Hesse said, opening her eyes.

 

In the clearing in front of her, Tiadrin and Lain did not know what to say. Rayla had come home drunk with the help of Liadrin and Geatan two days earlier. A young couple told about her argument with Callum.

 

They both didn't know what to do. They wanted the best for their daughter who loved this boy so much. The next day, Runaan and Ethari came to them asking if they knew what had happened because Callum was ignoring them. When they found out, they decided to help Callum and Rayla, but their efforts were efortless.

 

-How do you know?- asked Tiadrin.

 

-Runaan and Ethari came to me yesterday with the same problem. I'll tell you the same as them. I believe that the young will come to an agreement on their own. After all, this is what this thing is about them. However, you have to support them. I know it will be hard for you to watch young make mistakes, but thanks to them they learn and their bond is put to the test. If they survive this test, they will be safe.- Hesse said.


It's been a few days since Callum argued with Rayla. He ignored her and Ethari with Runaan and Rayla's parents wanted to help things over. Once they even tried to set the two on a blind date, but Callum decided that day to meditate in only a place known to him, while Rayla applied for a job to the City Guard.

 

For the first time, Rayla feared that what she had done would destroy her relationship with Callum for good. For several days she cried and had nightmares about Callum leaving her. However, one evening Callum came to her.

 

Rayla was then sitting in the kitchen preparing dinner. Her parents had just left to talk to Ethari and Runaan. They tried to help her and Callum, but she felt it was over.

 

They were together for almost nine months. Nine months of happiness, joy and pure love. She felt she broke it. She thought she could break nothing anymore. That she will not destroy anything. She was so wrong.

 

She heard a knock. She put down the knife and set the food on the counter. She walked slowly towards the door. Opening it, she saw someone she did not expect to see.

 

-Hey Callum. What brings you...- Rayla asked, but seeing her, he hugged up to her. She could see the tears in his eyes. She hugged him herself, feeling a bit of joy. Suddenly he pulled away.

 

-Sorry... I missed you... I wanted to talk about what happened ... You know ...- Callum said scratching his neck.

 

-I know. Come inside.- Rayla said. Callum entered and Rayla closed the door behind him. They headed for the kitchen where Rayla sat down on the table top. Callum stepped in front of her. She could see the uncertainty in his eyes.

 

-I'm listening.- Rayla said hesitantly. She felt that this one had come to end it. She was not afraid - even though she still loved him, she knew that even if he finish it now, they would still be friends. And who knows, maybe they'll be together again someday.

 

-I ... I wanted to admit you were right. Nothing is my fault. I thought it was, but ... You were right, you know? I understand if you will be angry because I was acting like a child, but as for that ... I still love you and I hope ... You too... - Callum said nervously. Rayla quietly stood up and pulled him by his scarf to her, looking into his eyes. She was drowning in those eyes, but she loved to do it.

 

-Me too...- she said, kissing him. Callum moved closer and kissed him back. After a while they separated. Callum sat down next to her.

 

-Did it hurt a lot?- Rayla asked, checking his cheek.

 

-It's been worse. I'm fine.- Callum said.

 

-I'm sorry about that then. I just wanted you to calm down. It hurts to see you blame yourself for everything that happens to you. It's just ... I did Callum wrong.- Rayla said.

 

-It's fine. After all, it's ... - Callum tried to say, but Rayla cut him off.

 

-Oh no! By Garlach, are you starting this again!?- Rayla shouted putting her hand on her forehead.

 

-... I just wanted to say it helped. I don't want a repeat things from a few days ago.- Callum said.

 

-Oh ... Sorry... I thought ... that again ... Never mind. Go on.- Rayla said hiding her face in her hands. She felt stupid.

 

-I finally realized that blaming myself for something I can't change won't change anything. I'm human, but that doesn't mean I have to be a monster. I know it's late ... But ... - Callum tried to say.

 

-It took you 5 years to understand this. You have no idea how happy I am.- Rayla said hugging him.

 

-Yes. So ... are we still... a thing?- Callum asked scratching his neck.

 

-Yes. You don't know how lonely I felt that day ...- Rayla said.

 

-Me too. In addition, it affected everyone around. At one point I thought that Ethari and Runaan would decide to force us into marriage.- Callum said. Rayla chuckled softly. It was the same lovely human she fell in love with.

 

-Yes. My parents tried to do something too. They wanted to set us up on a blind date, but you were meditating. I think we need to tell them we're okay.- Rayla said.

 

-I think so too. But that's later. You won't be mad if I help you with dinner, will you?- Callum asked.

 

-You know how to make me happy.- Rayla said.


-Shit, Callum!- Rayla shouted as he tickled her as she cut the lettuce.

 

-Yes, dear?- Callum asked, pretending that he was doing something and didn't know what was going on.

 

Rayla looked at him without conviction then threw a handful of flour at him.

 

-Hey!- Callum shouted in surprise.

 

-Is something wrong love?- Rayla asked, pretending that she was busy with something else and didn't know what Callum was talking about.

 

-Oh, so you want this that way. Aspiro!- Callum drew a spell in a moment, then blew at Rayla. The spell raised a cloud of flour that covered Rayla and half the kitchen.

 

-Oh you! Get this! - Rayla laughed, splashing water from the bowl next to him at him.

 

-Oh you! - Callum laughed pouring water on her from the pot. Fortunately for him the water was cold because they hadn't started cooking it yet.

 

-Ah yes? Then look now ... - Rayla wanted to throw Moonraspberries at him when she suddenly slipped on the water spilled on Callum fell down and lost his balance. At the same time, Callum withdrew his leg and also slipped. He landed on his back while Rayla landed on him.

 

-...Ouch ... Are you alright?- Rayla asked.

 

-Yeah, and you?- Callum asked.

 

-I'm fine. Thanks to you.- Rayla said.

 

-I helped, but not selflessly.- Callum said with a smile.

 

-I think the payment for your toil will please you.- Rayla said and kissed him. Callum returned the kiss. Slowly they started kissing greedily and more passionately. After a few days without feeling, they only wanted each other.

 

-Rayla ... Let's not stop this time. - Callum said, breaking away from her for a moment. She nodded, pulling him for another kiss.

 

He put his hands on her waist while she slowly tucked her hands under his shirt. They slowly began to unbutton the buttons on their shirts. Callum felt the smell of Moonraspberries again.

 

-You smell like raspberries ...-he said for a moment, breaking away from Callum's kiss.

 

-And you like flour ...- She muttered during the kiss Rayla. Their kiss grew more passionate and quicker. This time, nothing could interrupt this moment of passion ...

 

-Rayla, we're back!

 

Once again, Rayla's parents interrupted them just as the couple was about to take their relationship a step further. The young quickly got to their feet and as soon as they could adjust their clothes so that her parents did not know what they were going to do. Red as Callum's scarf again, they waited for her parents to come into the room.

 

-Haldir asked me to ... pass on to you ...- Lain looked at them in surprise. He was clearly not expecting Callum, and neither was the mess in the kitchen.

 

-Ummm... Good evening? ...- Callum replied.

 

-Are we ... are disturbing?- asked Tiadrin, following her husband into the room.

 

-No ... Just ...- Rayla tried to explain herself. She knew it looked indecently wrong.

 

-Are you okay?- Lain asked.

 

-Yes ... Just ... Callum and I ...- Rayla stuttered.

 

-I came to talk to Rayla ... And then I stayed to help with cooking ...- Callum explained.

 

-And during Callum he sneezed ...- Rayla said.

 

-That explain devastated kitchen, right?- Lain asked.

 

-Yes.- they answered in one voice.

 

-We'll clean the kitchen, we promise.- Callum said.

 

-All right. We're not disturbing you, right Lain?- said Tiadrin. Lain nodded and he and his wife left the room. After they left, Callum and Rayla breathed a sigh of relief.

 

-It was close.- Rayla said.

 

-Yes ... Too close.- Callum said. He looked at her again and they both started laughing.

 

Rayla leaned against him trying to catch her breath after laughing while Callum hugged her. They were both glad that, after all, it was still the same between them.

Chapter Text

-So ... How do I look?- Rayla asked shyly.

 

Since she was five, she didn't need a swimsuit. She always forgot about it so didn't have to face the water. However, now that Callum has managed to overcome his fear of who he was, he has decided to repay Rayla by helping with her fear of water. To do this, he decided to go with her to the river. For this, however, she needed a swimsuit, which she bought with the help of Liadrin and Eleanor.

 

Callum knew Rayla was beautiful, even the most beautiful girl he knew. He had seen her many times in both clothes and underwear and knew she looked perfect. She had his attention now too - he could hardly refrain from looking at her. Her swimsuit consisted of a short top and green pants.

 

-Well ... You look beautiful.- Callum said trying to take his eyes off her. Rayla blushed.

 

-You know ... Thanks...- Rayla said smiling.

 

-For you, everything ... So, you're ready?- Callum asked.

 

-Yes ... I think...- Rayla said without conviction.

 

Callum grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the river with him. During the time he spent in Silvergrove he had been by the river many times and the every time it was always the same - he went for a while for a swim and then returned to the shore and spent the rest of the time with Rayla. However, it was bad for him to watch Rayla sit in the sun while he chills in the water. Today he was going to change that.

 

-So ... What are you going to do?- Rayla asked. She still felt the fear of the water. She was afraid that what happened when she was small will repeat itself soon- she will feel safe and suddenly it will turn out that the water is dangerous and then she will start to drown.

 

-First I wanted to get into the water. And then ... We'll think.- Callum said.

 

-What I let myself get into...- Rayla said.

 

-Don't whine. Since I managed to deal with the monster complex thanks to you, you will definitely deal with the fear of water.- Callum said. Rayla smiled at him - he believed in her.

 

They were already step from the water. Rayla squeezed Callum's hand tighter although he was still with her. Finally, she took a deep breath and took a step forward. She felt the icy water and the muddy bottom of the river. She felt a shiver run through her, and with difficulty mastered the reflex urge to withdraw her leg. Callum was already ankle-deep in the water.

 

-It's fine. You're doing great.- Callum said.

 

-I don't think so.- Rayla said. She took the next step. It was the same - she wanted to take a step back. Despite this, she tried to move forward.

 

After a while she stood knee-deep in the water. She tried to withstand the fear at all costs and not jump on Callum.

 

-You see? It's okay. Although, we go further.- Callum said.

 

Rayla was walking beside him. Callum smiled as he looked at her. She seemed less and less stressed about being in the water. He hoped he had managed to do it, but suddenly Rayla screamed and jumped into his arms. The elf wrapped her arms around his neck with all her strength while her legs wrapped around his waist. Callum struggled to keep his balance.

 

-Rayla, what happened?- Callum asked.

 

-There's something. Callum, I swear I stepped on something.- Rayla said, squeezing him tighter and tighter.

 

-Rayla, that was my foot.- Callum said. In fact, Rayla put her foot on his foot and got scared from feeling something other than a muddy bottom.

 

-... Really?- Rayla asked looking at him terrified.

 

-Yes. Nothing's going to happen to you. You can come down.- Callum said.

 

-Ah ... I have to?- Rayla asked.

 

-Yes. You have to.- Callum said.

 

-All right ... Slowly...To this cold, terrifying water.- Rayla said, getting back into the water. She felt a shiver again as she put her foot on the bottom.

 

They moved slowly forward. Rayla seemed to be calmer in the water again. Callum paused for a moment where the water reached their waist.

 

-How are you holding up?- he asked her after a moment.

 

-Beside feeling making me want to drown you in that damn river, it's tolerable.- Rayla replied smiling without conviction.

 

-Don't overdo it. This is just the beginning of the attractions. Besides, you're doing great. You really bravely face the problem.- Callum said.

 

-Toady. Internally, I want to jump on you and not come down until you get back to the shore.- Rayla said.

 

-If you hold on and don't panic to where the water is shoulder-length, I'll personally carry you ashore. I promise.- Callum said.

 

-Agreed.- Rayla said.

 

They were about to move when Rayla jumped up again and lunged at Callum.

 

-Rayla wait! This is my leg again!- Callum did not manage to regain his balance and fell into the water with her.

 

After a few seconds, he surfaced. The water was pouring out of him. Rayla surfaced a few seconds later coughing.

 

-I am here. Everything is fine.- Callum said, coming up to her and patting her shoulder. Rayla just cuddled up to him.

 

-I am a complete failure Callum ... Please, take me ashore.- Rayla whispered. Callum just hugged her.

 

-Honey, nothing bad happened. I would also jump if I stood on your leg. Nothing wrong happened. We're halfway there and you can't give up now. You have to go on. I know that you are afraid and stop yourself with the last of your strength before escaping to the shore, but I'm sure you can do it. I promise if you will do it, I'll take you to New Moon Inn for a romantic dinner tomorrow.- Callum said.

 

-I ... I don't know Callum. The further I go, the more I fear inside that I will lose my footing and start to drown. Just ... Be with me all the time.- Rayla said.

 

-I am not going anywhere. Besides, I guess we have a deal, right?- Callum asked. Rayla smiled slightly.

 

-Yeah. I think we have.- Rayla said.

 

They walked slowly on. Eventually they reached a place where the water was up to their necks.- Callum smiled.

 

-You got it Rayla. We can go back now .- said Callum. Rayla grabbed his neck without a word and cuddled up to him while he grabbed her leg with one hand and her back with the other. He slowly started to come out of the water, but Rayla stopped him after a while.

 

-Callum wait. Put me down for a while.- Rayla said. Callum was surprised to set it down. She shuddered again, setting her feet to the bottom. But a moment later she looked him straight in his eyes -I want to go back to the shore myself.

 

-Fine. Say ... At least I helped with your fear of water?- Callum asked.

 

-You don't even know how much. Thank you. You are lovely.- Rayla said. They looked at each other quietly for a moment, then Rayla moved closer to him and kissed him. He returned the kiss and hugged her while she put her hands on his neck.

 

They spent the rest of the day building a sand castle. Rayla insisted that the castle had a huge tower in the center and was surrounded by two layers of wall and towers. Half of its structure collapsed, but she spent a great time with Callum.

 

At the end of the day, they sat together watching the sun go down. They felt that this day was great for both of them.


Returning to the city, they found Geatan looking for Callum. The young owner of the wine store was incredibly pale. They felt that something had happened.

 

-It's about Liadrin. It started. I need you in case Lia or the baby can't breathe. Do you know the Respiro spell?- Geatan asked so quickly that it was almost incomprehensible.

 

-Yes. I'm coming.- Callum said and then ran after him. Rayla watched it with surprise and strange joy - Geatan was what Liadrin always dreamed of.


-It's your fault, Geatan! You did this to me! How could you?!! I loved you! It's all you fault! I hate you! Can you hear me? I hate you!- Liadrin shouted. She was lying on the bed clutching the handle of the next chair with her hand.

 

- Relax, they always say that. Come out for a moment. When it ends or when the Respiro's spell is needed, we'll call you.- said the healer.

 

Callum and Getan obeyed and left the house. While Callum sat on the bench in front of the entrance, Geatan began to walk in circles.

 

-Everything's gonna be alright Geatan. Everything will be fine with Liadrin. She is tough. What's for her to have a baby? - Callum said.

 

-It's not the point. Callum, I think I'm going to have twins.- Geatan said.

 

-Why do you think so?- Callum asked.

 

-Liadrin said that her great-grandmother had a twin sister and gave birth to twins, her grandfather had twins - her mother and uncle. Then she and Geren were born. I think there will be twins this time again.- Geatan said.

 

-I guess it's nothing terrible, right?- Callum asked.

 

-By Garlach and every other God it freaks me out. Callum, I have no idea how to be a parent. I don't remember anything from the books I've read about parenting. My wife is giving birth there in agony and I cannot help her.- Geatan said.

 

- Just calm down. Don't panic or you'll make things worse.- Callum said.

 

-If Rayla had been there instead of Liadrin, you wouldn't have left her bed.- Geatan replied.

 

-Probably so. But what can I do? I don't even know if me and Rayla can have children. We talked that once we settle down, we can try, but not yet. Anyway, Liadrin would like you to calm down.- Callum said.

 

-Yes, you probably have ...- Geatan suddenly heard her scream through the window. The elf couldn't stand it and stepped inside. Callum shook his head but didn't stop him. Sam knew that if it was Rayla, he would go inside even if he had to use force. Callum was left and started meditation.

 

After a few hours, Rayla, Geren, and Eleanor arrived. They had blankets, diapers and everything needed for young parents.

 

-Hi. Have you been sitting here?- Geren asked.

 

-Yeah, about few hours. Your brother-in-law needed protection in case the baby or Liadrin stopped breathing. Everything seems to be going well so far.- Callum said.

 

-So we have to wait.- Eleanor said. They sat down next to Callum on a bench. Rayla leaned on his shoulder while Callum hugged her. Despite the apparent calmness, he felt that something was going to happen. That it will come to the point when it is needed. He hoped that he was exaggerating after all and that it would not happen.

 

-Callum we need Respiro!- Callum heard Geatan through the window. He was inside in seconds.

 

As it turned out, Geatan correctly guessed - twins were born. While Liadrin was holding one newborn baby who was crying loudly, Geatan placed the other baby on the bed next to him. The child was not breathing and was not moving. Callum drew a rune.

 

-Respiro.

 

Nothing happened. The child still laid motionless.

 

-What? Respiro!

 

Still nothing. The spell didn't help. Healers began looking for stronger spells to aid breathing in the books while Geatan held Liadrin's hand. She looked at Callum in horror. Her eyes begged to save this child.

 

Callum himself was starting to panic. He thought about a solution, a spell that would help here, but he knew no other spells. Time was running out and with him the chance that the child would survive. However, he decided to improvise.

 

-Respiro Spiralis!

 

After drawing the spell rune, he immediately cast a spell. The Geatan looked at him confused, then walked over to him. The child still laid motionless.

 

-Geatan, I'm sorry. I can't help ... I tried ... - Callum tried to explain himself. He panicked - he couldn't save the baby.

 

-Callum ... How could you use a spell you just made ...- Geatan mumbled furiously as he was interrupted by a soft cough. The baby moved and after a while she began to cry. Geatan looked stunned.

 

-You did it!- Geatan shouted with joy, embracing Callum.


- I really don't know how I'll repay you. You saved my daughter.- Geatan said. Liadrin slept after this difficult moment for her. Nobody disturbed her - after all, she needed sleep now.

 

They had a daughter and a son. They called them Aiden and Arven. The boy had gray hair and dark skin. Healers claimed he was connected to the Moon. The girl, on the other hand, had cream skin and brown hair. According to the healers, she was an Earthblood elf.

 

The children were in the hands of Geren and Rayla. They both couldn't wait to be able to hold the little ones in their hands for a while. The children looked at them curiously, but they were not afraid of these Elves. Aiden even grabbed Rayla's finger. Callum did not hide a smile as she felt Rayla was with the children.

 

-It's fine. I did what had to be done. Not bad for a human Mage, right?- Callum said.

 

-Yeah. Forgive me for jumping on you when you used this spell. I was afraid that ... that you finished off my daughter. Beside, I didn't know how she would react after you used the spell. After all, you made it. Do you think the spell is permanent?- Geatan said.

 

-I think so. I didn't expect it to work.- Callum said.

 

New spells were rarely developed and had to be patented in order for them to be used more widely. For archmages it was a large and long undertaking, while for a Mage who was an adept not so long ago, it took much longer.

 

-Neither I. I really thought ... She's over. Look ... We were expecting one child and we agreed that their patrons at the mooning would be Geren and Eleanor. But as you can see I have two children ... - said Geatan. Callum turned to him in surprise.

 

-Are you serious? Do you want me to be a patron on mooning?- Callum asked.

 

-Yes. After all, the baby owes you her life. I don't see any problems so that you can't. If you want ...- said Geatan.

 

-I would be honored.- Callum replied. Further conversation was interrupted by the crying of the baby. Arven got bored with Geren and wanted to go back to her parents.

 

-I give the little one back. I think she's fed up with Uncle Geren and she missed her daddy.- Geren said. He handed the baby over to Geatan.

 

-Hey baby. You missed me? I am here. You're not going to let my brother and me go anywhere for a long while, will you?- Geatan said. The new born immediately stopped crying and grabbed her father's finger. Geatan smiled.


-Today is the day when two new souls join our community. These children will be the future, your sorrow and joy. Do you, Liadrin and the Geatans, promise to raise these children in accordance with the teachings of Garlach?- Hesse asked.

 

Mooning was the acceptance of the little Elves into the community at Silvergrove. This was done the day after birth so that the elf would feel a connection with the city community from the very beginning. Usually, parents were accompanied by patrons of children - people who were to support and help parents in the new stage of life and be a kind of mentors for children. Aiden's patrons were Eleanor and Geren, while Arven's patrons were Callum and Rayla.

 

-We promise. - the couple replied.

 

-Do you promise to take care of them and teach them everything you know and think is right?- Hesse asked.

 

-We promise.- Liadrin and Geatan replied again.

 

-And do you patrons promise to support young parents in their difficult mission? Will you help them and teach the children what they will need in life?- the older elf asked.

 

-We promise. - All four patrons responded. Callum felt weird - he wasn't even mooned and yet he was Arven's patron. He felt ... uncomfortable. However, if there was no problem, was there any point in worrying?

 

-As elves you are born and as elves you will die. Let the Moon guide you and Garlach support you and show you the way.- Hesse said. She walked over to parents and children. She dipped her fingers in a bowl of purple paint and drew small marks on Aiden's face. The mark stretched from the eye to the ears. The little elf who slept feeling fingers on his face began to cry -Welcome to the Moonshadow Elves Aiden, Son of Geatan and Liadrin.- Then she walked over to Arven. The girl was awake and was looking at Hesse with surprise. The older elf repeated everything, but unlike Aiden, the girl made no sound. -Welcome to the Moonshadow Elves Arven, daughter of Getan and Liadrin.


-We had a feeling Aiden would have a flair for arms from his mother. I got him a longbow and a set of arrows. Maybe he won't be able to use it for now, but I'm sure he'll be a good archer when the time comes.- Geren said.

 

He put a weapon next to the crib where Aiden and Arvena lay, which the boy will use when he gets older.

 

-You really didn't have to...- replied Liadrin.

 

-Nonsense! I had to make sure my nephew won't become a mage. I have already seen the gifts Callum brought and considering it was point of honor to give something equally wonderful.- Geren said.

 

-Don't overdo it, Geren. I just prepared a special cape for her that she will use when she gets older. Besides, I've made a lot of such cape lately, including one for you.- Callum said putting his cape on the bed rail.

 

-Oh come on. The Invisibility Cape is an amazing gift. Thanks to it, you can steal cookies from the kitchen without being noticed.- Geren laughed.

 

-Not so much invisibility as with a camouflage spell. If the cape isn't moving, it will blend in with the surroundings. He tried for a long time to modify the cape, but I think he succeeded.- Rayla corrected him. Callum scratched his neck and blushed slightly. -Besides, you spent two nights on it...- Rayla added dissatisfied.

 

-I know, I'm sorry. I promise to go to bed at the right time today.- Callum replied. Rayla smiled knowing she was still holding Callum in hand and managing to keep him check.

 

-They really are wonderful gifts ... Although you know ...- Geatan said hesitantly.

 

-... giving children an invisibility cape is pure asking for their frequent visits to the kitchen in order to steal sweets. As well as bow to make them break things.- finished Liadrin.

 

-It's hard to not give them these. After all, we are their patrons - they get useful and nice gifts from us. You, on the other hand, will have to deal with it.- Eleanor said.

Chapter Text

-Okay, Rayla. Can I uncover my eyes now?- Callum asked, adjusting the blindfold over his eyes.

 

-Not yet.- Rayla replied. Callum heard and thought from the tone of her voice that she was happy with something.

 

Six months have passed since her last trials. At that time, she started working for the Silvergrove City Guard. Many may have been surprised that the daughter of such famous warriors as her parents did not decide to go higher in search of fame, but Rayla wanted a stable life.

 

They managed to save a lot of money and were already considering buying a house. After all, it was hard for them to live in different houses apart from each other, and they wanted both complete independence and separation from their parents and caretakers, as well as a bit of privacy.

 

-Come on Rayla, we're on our way for half an hour. We must have walked all of Silvergrove. Are we there yet?-Callum asked.

 

-I'll tell you when we get there.- Rayla said.

 

Rayla stormed into Ethari's workhouse that day when Callum was on a break and told him to go with her to the "place of surprise". She also ordered him to put on a blindfold that effectively blocked all view of everything around him. Callum just had to listen to know where he was going.

 

From what he heard, they were beyond Silvergrove, several meters from the city. Callum wondered where Rayla was leading him, but he was sure they would get there soon and learn everything. Suddenly Rayla stopped him.

 

-We are there.- she whispered in his ear.

 

Callum took off his blindfold to see a small house built in the roots of an old oak tree. It was evident that the building had a ground floor and a first floor because there was a large window slightly above. The exterior walls were white and the doors green.

 

It was not strange in Xadia to build houses in the roots of trees (especially since these trees were many times larger than those on the human side of the continent). This was heavily practiced by the Moonshadow Elves with their obsession of hidden houses and placed on big scale around the town of Silvergrove, so that despite the population of almost three thousand Elves, the town seemed to be a small village, and the Earthblood Elves who simply wanted to be so close to nature. In addition, such houses had several advantages - they were warmer in winter thanks to the thick layer of ground, and you did not have to worry about the roof.

 

-Rayla is that ....- Callum asked the elf.

 

-Yes, it's home.- Rayla replied.

 

-Okay, but whose? I didn't know we were visiting someone.- Callum asked.

 

-Oh, Callum. So smart and you are sometimes like a child. This is our home.- Rayla said.

 

-... Are you serious?- Callum asked. Rayla nodded looking at him with a smile. Callum hugged her immediately and lifted her up for joy. - It's wonderful!

 

-I know ... The place is good for me - we don't live that far from Silvergrove. The path is a short and after short walk we are in the market square.- Rayla said.

 

-It sounds fine. It's just ... Where did you get the money for this?- Callum asked.

 

-Well ... I took some denars from your purse and spent all mine. I hope you're not angry ... - Rayla said a little hesitantly.

 

-I'm not. You know that the money was for buying a house. Can I go inside?- Callum asked.

 

-Of course you can. After all, this is our home.- Rayla said, dragging him with her.

 

It was dark inside. The interior was full of old boards and paint peeling off the walls. Through the door they entered a corridor that was shaped like a pipe. On the left side there was a kitchen with a small pantry. The cupboards were covered with a thick layer of dust and cobwebs, and there was a pot with holes on the stove.

 

On the right side there was a large room with a huge table with 12 chairs. There was a fireplace at the far end.

 

Behind the bathroom with a spring and bathtub built in the floor inside, there was a staircase to the second floor. There were 5 rooms - one full of empty crates and barrels, while the rest were empty and dusty. In the last one there was an armor stand in the corner. There were traces of moisture on the walls and places where paintings used to hang in the past.

 

-Not bad. Repaint and clean everything and furnish the rooms and I think it would even be cozy.- Callum said.

 

-I know. The last owners moved to Lux Aurea to train there Elves how to produce better arrows. They say they willingly accept the Moonshadow Elves into the City Guard, especially now when some giant monster is rumored to be prowling there.- Rayla said.

 

-Are you talking about the rumors about the great fire-resistant wolf? That's nonsense for me.- Callum said.

 

- It used to be nonsense that there was an elf-human relationship.- Rayla said embracing his neck.

 

-You've confirmed this myth, you know?- Callum said, embracing her waist.

 

-Yes, but I would like to confirm a few more. You know what I'm talking about ...- Rayla said.

 

-When we renovate the house. I promise then we'll prove all the myths you want to.- Callum said and kissed her.


-...So ... Callum and I wanted to move there.- Rayla said.

 

Everyone at the table were speechless. Although everyone knew that sooner or later it would happen, they expected that when Callum returned from visiting family on the other side of the border, they would start thinking about their own home. Ethari and Runaan suddenly felt strangely bad. They didn't understand it - they wanted the best for them, but they didn't want Callum to move out.

 

-So ... When?- Runaan asked.

 

- Even today I was planning to take my things. In addition, in the near future we will be focusing on home renovation, so we won't come often. This will change later, but for now we want to renovate the house.- Callum said.

 

-I understand. Well ... You are grown up now, so we have no right to stop you.- Ethari said.

 

-Well ... If you need anything, like furniture, go ahead. I have a lot of wood in the shed so I could put together a few wardrobes and beds ... - said Lain.

 

-Lain!- Tiadrin admonished her husband. Nobody really knew why, but maybe hint was in the word "beds".

 

-Thank you. For now, we have to renovate the whole thing. And then we'll think about some furniture.- Rayla said.


Ethari just couldn't get over it. Callum lived with them for almost 10 years. He and Runaan had raised him, and although he was human, they loved him like their own child. Now it hurt to see him go. They did not blame him - everyone at some point leaves their family home to live in their own house. He went through it himself, and that was the way of things.

 

Runaan had to go to the forest for a while. It helped him to calm his mind not to do anything stupid. Ethari didn't stop him, he knew his husband needed it. Anyway, Ethari also needed to be alone to be able to think things through.

 

However, he felt empty. He was walking around the house and all the memories of the events that took place here made him feel more and more that nothing would ever be the same. He was staring at Callum's room. He and Rayla have already taken all their belongings to their new home. His room was awfully ...empty.

 

Memories flashed back to him when Rayla moved in. About once she had the idea to use Runaan's bow to knock the cookie jar to the ground. Then Callum appeared, and with him a lot of other good memories - about how Runaan and Ethari taught him Elven culture and legends, about how he taught him blacksmithing or Runaan cooking. The following years passed quietly in this house - Callum discovered his magical abilities and began to learn. Rayla during this time continued her education towards being an Assassin. During this time, Ethari noticed that a bond had developed between them - Callum became Rayla's friend, then they were like siblings and finally became a couple. Ethari was convinced that for a few more years he would reassure the young human before the wedding.

 

Despite his joy, he felt that a lot would change. He didn't know if it was for better or worse. The only thing left for him to do was with Runaan to go on - after all, if possible for Callum and Rayla, he would someday have something to teach the little half-elves.


-Ouch!- Callum jumped off the wall holding his hand. He was already a little tired and hit his finger with a hammer as he patched up the corridor walls. Blood began to trickle from the nail of his bruised thumb.

 

-What did you do again?- Rayla called from the next room. While he was patching the holes she was painting the walls.

 

-I broke my thumb with a hammer. Nothing serious.- Callum said. Rayla came to see for herself whether it was something serious or not. However, as soon as she saw Callum dripping on his hand the blood , she immediately went for the bandage and bandaged his hand upon his return.

 

-You should be more careful. After all, you only have five fingers on your hand. You don't wanna live with four, do you?- Rayla asked then laughed a little.

 

-Living with four fingers on one hand doesn't seem so bad.- Callum replied.

 

-Yes, but then holding hands feels weird. As for the other elves, of course.- Rayla said.

 

-... Are you holding hands with the other elves?- Callum asked jokingly.

 

-Stupid human, the only elf with which I held hands was the elf Callum who you are so wonderfully replacing here.- Rayla also replied playfully.

 

-I feel betrayed Ray. Is there something you're not telling me?- Callum asked.

 

-Many things. For example, that you look handsome without clothes ...- Rayla said, blushing slightly. Callum also blushed.

 

-Ah ... I can see where this is going. You know ... We have a lot of privacy now, so if you really want ...- he replied blushing.

 

-I ... Well .... On Sources, how did we get into this from talking about broken fingers?- Rayla asked, holding back a laugh.

 

-I do not know. Maybe this is what the romantic tension between lovers looks like?- Callum replied with a shy smile.

 

-We have to relieve this tension because it makes our conversations getting weirder. For now, we need to renovate the bathroom and our room. And then it will be easier.- Rayla said. Immediately after that, they went to work.


On the first day they managed to completely renovate the bathroom and their room. They also managed to repaint and repair the corridor as well as clean up the kitchen. They stopped work in the evening due to exhaustion. They left their things in their room - they didn't have many of them and most of them were personal and what they needed.

 

Rayla put her armor on the rack and put it in the bathroom to keep it clean for now. Over the years, Callum expanded the armor - now it consisted of chain mail, a breastplate, plates covering the legs, greaves, epaulettes and bracers. She put her blades right next to it.

 

She went to the kitchen where Callum was cooking them supper. He tried out a recipe for pasta and tomato sauce that his mother had sent him. There was also meat in the recipe, but Callum, after almost a decade of living in Runaan's house, was a vegetarian like any elf.

 

-I see you need help.- Rayla said leaning against the door frame.

 

-Not much, but thanks for your concern.- Callum replied putting the food on the plates. After a while, he placed the plates on the table where he and Rayla sat down. Meanwhile, Rayla poured the Moonraspberry juice into two cups.

 

They got the dishes as a gift from Geatan and Liadrin who couldn't visit them soon because they were absorbed in caring for the children. In addition to the normal amount of activities that they usually do, the little elves began to grow horns, which made them cry more often and were harder to put to sleep. Without the help of Eleanor and Geren, who had been living alone for three months, the young parents would have been neglecting their jobs.

 

-Mhm ... This is delicious.- Rayla said surprised. Callum was not a cooking master, but here he surprised Rayla who was delighted with the taste of the sauce.

 

-Right? Mom wrote that it was a recipe that she got from my grandfather. Grandpa used to say, "Through the stomach to the heart."- Callum said.

 

-You wanted to make sure I love you, so you made sure with your food, do you?- Rayla asked, eating the dish.

 

-You can laugh, but this is how my grandmother fell in love with grandpa ... Just like my father with my mother ...- Callum fell silent. The topic turned to my father again.

 

He didn't know what to think about it. His father left her mother because he didn't believe that he was in fact the father of the unborn child. However, if it weren't for that, he would still be living in Lower Katolis with his birth parents and probably would never have met Rayla and would not be who he is now. At least he wanted to know the truth - what his father's real name was and how he could have left his mother like that.

 

-Callum?- Rayla asked putting her hand on his shoulder. Callum always fell silent when he mentioned his biological father, and when he was in a bad mood, he simply went somewhere to meditate. However, with time he slowly gave up and no longer had such problems as before - once he did not want to talk about his family for anything, and now he could say it easily.

 

-I'm ... It's just ... I've been thinking about them. There's still three months left on the deal, can you believe it?- Callum asked.

 

-Well... Half life in Xadia is a lot. But ... To be honest, I can't imagine those ten years without you.- Rayla said.

 

-Me neither. Without you, I don't know if I would have done it.- Callum said.

 

-You have your whole life here anyway. Work, home...- said Rayla.

 

-Right? I know Xadia better than the human kingdoms. There is probably nothing that I don't have certain knowledge and experience on things here.- Callum said.

 

-Well ... There's one thing you don't know much about, Callum.-- Rayla said getting up from the table.

 

Before Callum could react, Rayla sat on his lap and kissed him passionately. Callum didn't resist and kissed just as intensely as she did. Eventually they both separated.

 

-You, me, our bedroom. Now.- Rayla said, holding Callum by the scarf and collar of his vest. The whole thing was spoken in an imperative tone that could not be refused. Callum immediately knew what was going on - he nodded and they both headed to their room.

 

There was a long and pleasant night ahead of them.


-Hello. How are you after yesterday?- Rayla asked Callum as he entered the kitchen. He still had traces of their "myth confirmation" on his neck from yesterday. The sleepy human yawned, pouring himself a cup of water.

 

Rayla got up earlier, feeling the need to drink some water. Then this need turned into a desire to brew tea, so she sat in her bathrobe until water will boil.

 

-Hi. I'm tired. Can I hug?- Callum asked coming up to her. He just wore his pajama pants. It was evident that he was tired after yesterday evening.

 

-You know you don't have to ask.- Rayla said hugging him. After a while they hung up.

 

-So ... How do you feel ... After ... "confirming the myths"? You fell asleep a moment after that and woke up early in the morning ... Are you alright?- Callum asked.

 

-Yes. Don't  worry. I'm fine ... You know ... You were amazing.- Rayla said putting her hand on his cheek.

 

-Really? I mean ... I tried. You too ... You know ... You were amazing too.- Callum said.

 

-I know...- Rayla said, placing her hand on his back. The mage suddenly hissed in pain - Callum, what's wrong?- Rayla asked.

 

-Honestly, I do not know. I have been in pain since yesterday ... You know when we finished ...- Callum said. Rayla didn't wait and quickly stood behind him and blushed seeing his back.

 

-By Garlach ... Callum, it looks like ... I over do a bit yesterday. You have traces of my ... fingernails ... - Rayla said trying to speak as calmly as possible. Nevertheless, Callum knew that it would prefer to sink into the ground.

 

-Seriously?- Callum tried to look over his shoulder but was unable to turn his head like that.

 

-Yes ... Callum I feel bad that it turned out that way. Next time... - Rayla began to explain but Callum cut her off, embracing her.

 

-Rayla, calm down. Nothing terrible happened. It's just a few little wounds, I'm not gonna die over this. For me it's worth feeling such pain for such pleasure as yesterday...Besides ... Next round?- Callum asked smiling. He wanted Rayla to stop thinking about what was on his back.

 

-Well ... Of course if you want ...- Rayla said hesitantly.

 

-You don't even know how much. You know, it's morning so we can come back to our room for a while...- said Callum.

 

-...Let's go.- Rayla said. They were about to go to their room when they heard a knock on the door.

 

-I got it.- Callum said putting on his shirt. As he walked to the door, he saw in the window that Eleanor was standing there. Callum opened the door.

 

-Hello El. What brings you here?- Callum asked.

 

-Hello. I'm going to the forest to pick berries and Ethari asked me to check on the way if you're okay ... Sorry, I interrupted you?- Eleanor asked looking at the marks on Callum's neck.

 

-Well ... Yeah ... We've been busy ... Don't tell Ethari, please.- Callum said.

 

-I don't even know anout what. Bye Callum.- Eleanor said, then continued the path towards the forest. Callum closed the door and headed for their room where Rayla was already waiting. Inside they set themself on floor with bedrolls.

 

-Who was that?- she asked Callum as he entered.

 

-Eleanor. Ethari asked her to check if we were okay. Probably with Runaan's full blessing.- Callum replied.

 

-When did they get so overprotective?- Rayla asked.

 

-This is called "empty nest syndrome". I think they miss us.- Callum said.

 

-Well, we can't help it. We want to be independent and there is nothing they can do about it. And now it's time for the second round ...- Rayla said, pulling Callum to her by the collar of his shirt.

Chapter Text

The renovation of the house took almost a month. Eventually, at the end of spring, they managed to renovate the last rooms and furnish them with Lain's help.

 

The day after the renovation, Rayla had to get up early to go to work - she was accepted into the City Guard. Her work was based on regular exercises and patrolling the contractual boundaries of Silvergrove and check if there was sonething in the area that would threaten the community in the city.

 

At that time, Callum came to Ethari's workhouse. After all, he continued to work there as a blacksmith.

 

-Hello, Ethari.- Callum called, entering the room. The older elf, however, was sitting in a chair at a table. Something had happened because he had an expression of sadness mixed with resignation on his face.- Ethari? What's wrong?- Callum asked.

 

-I'm too old Callum.- Ethari said without even turning towards Callum.

 

-Oh come on. You're not old at all. You are an old man in the human age range, but you hold on better than many young elves. Why do you think you're old?- Callum said, putting his hand on his shoulder.

 

-I forgot that today is Runaan's birthday ...- Ethari said.

 

-... Today? It's March 17, Runaan's birthday is May 17.- Ethari broke down at this information even more. He was only 87 years old (middle age for a Moonshadow Elf), but sometimes he forgot basic information about everyone around him. It was breaking down Ethari, who felt that it made everyone feel bad.

 

- I'm begging you, don't finish me ... What time is it?- Ethari asked.

 

-It's almost noon. Forgive me for coming so late ... But I overslept ... - Callum said. He and Rayla again "get busy".

 

-I guess so. Is Rayla already at work?- Ethari asked, getting up from the chair.

 

-Yeah. Apparently, she has to participate in some lawsuit as a bodyguard.- Callum said.

 

-Oh yes. Runaan is also supposed to be there. They got down Angmar's gang.- Ethari said.

 

-That Angmar?- Callum asked.

 

-That same. Apparently, if not been for the intervention of Valahir and the Dragon Guard, it would not have been possible to capture him. Most of the gang died on the spot, but four of them were captured. As it was close to Silvergrove, their trial is to take place here.- Ethari said.


Runaan looked at the list of offenses. Each of the four Elves sitting in front of him was accused of at least 25 murders, theft, numerous mutilations, rape, breaking the laws of specific places and attempted regicide.

 

Their leader, Angmar, was a Moonshadow elf. He was slightly younger than Runaan, although both were from the same training group. He ended up here because Silvergrove disowned him and applied a ghost spell for his failure on the mission to assassinate King Istven IV of Duren.

 

Beside him was Ellen, the Tiebound Elf - a muck left for death a quarter of a century earlier during the invasion of the Katolis coast. The veteran never forgot his grievances and as soon as he heard about Angmar, he decided to join him.

 

Another convict was Zella - the Skywing Elf and sister of the Master of the Wind Salla. When she found out that she would not be the leader of the Skywing Elves but her sister she tried to make a coup that failed. Since then, she has escaped from bounty hunters and the Dragon Guard.

 

The last elf was a Sunfire Elf - as far as was known his name was Zeb and had deserted from the Dragon Guard some 10 years earlier. He didn't want to serve in the Dragon Guard because his wife divorced him after he was recruited. He tried to kill King Avizandum, but overestimated his skills.

 

Their gang previously numbered 13 people, rejects from elven communities, veterans who did not meet the expected understanding, and mighty Elves at odds with the elven monarchs. Escaping their problems, they decided to rob caravans and attack small villages in the northeast of Xadia. There were several groups like them in that region - but Angmar was a symbol of resistance against Avizandum. They were captured, but the rest of the gang were massacred by the Dragon Guard.

 

-If it does not mind, I find the accused guilty of the crimes committed - committing a total of 134 murders, theft and destruction of property in the amount of almost 300,000 denars and committing crimes such as rape and regicide. Do the accused have anything to defend themselves?- Kaidor asked.

 

The Elder's voice echoed through the empty hall. Inside were only them and nearly 50 members of the Silvergrove City Guards and 15 Dragon Guards. Even Lain and Tiadrin, who were needed, were called from the retirement.

 

Angmar just laughed.

 

-You're cute. But also incredibly blind. You think the threat is to the west and the real enemy is coming from behind your back. He will come back and then you will know what I do- we are all dead. Nobody is safe as long as the mirror is intact. But it's hard ... After all, the time for repentance came after the fact, right?- Angmar asked. Nobody in the room except Valahir knew what he was talking about. The ancient Startouch elf, however, knew what the criminal was talking about, and what he was saying terrified him.

 

They were led out of the room and placed against the wall. Twelve Silvergrove City Guard warriors armed with bows stood before them. They aimed between the eyes of the gathered bandits. One by one, they were taken away from under the stone wall. There, their right hands was cut off with a sword so that they could not pose a threat any longer. Everything was done in the company of Silvergrove Elders. Then they were handcuffed and placed in a a wagon with bars for transporting prisoners.

 

Despite the contempt with which they were treated, sentenced elves were blessed by Hesse - despite Angmar's rejection of their culture, the Moonshadow Elves still felt responsible for the former Assassin. They were meant to be taken to a prison in the southeast of Xadia - no one really knew where except the elven leaders. Information about the location of the prison was one of the lines of defense.

 

Rayla who watched it all felt her stomach rising to her throat, seeing the stumps and hearing the screams of the condemned. But she tried not to move. She looked at all the other guards from the City Guard - they also tried not to move, but the younger ones also seemed moved by the fate of the convicts. In the end, she found her parents through her eyes. They winked at her knowingly - they were with her.


Rayla wanted those memories out of her mind. She wasn't sure if they deserved such a fate - true, they were criminals, but where was the punishment given to them better than what they had done?

 

After her return, Callum felt that something bad had happened - after all, for the first time in several months she was walking lifeless without speaking to him. He intuitively prepared a bath for her and made a Moonberry surprise for her. Rayla smiled at his efforts ... Even so, she still felt guilty. Guilty of participation in this terrible activity which was the trial of these Elves.

 

Finally, while taking a bath, she heard a knock on the door.

 

-It's open.- She replied without even moving. Callum entered, but seeing her, he covered his eyes. Rayla laughed.

 

-You have already seen me without clothes several times. One more time won't make you blind ... - Rayla said.

 

-I know ... But yeah ...  you won. I'm here to talk.- Callum said sitting down next to the tub.

 

-You can join me, the tub can fit four people.- Rayla said. Indeed, there was enough space in the circular bathtub built into the floor for four people.

 

-I'd like to, really, but I have to go for something.- Callum said.

 

-Can't it wait? I'm sure a moment in the bathtub together wouldn't be a bad thing.- Rayla replied in the most pleading voice she could make.

 

-Unfortunately, but I can't. I have to leave soon, and I know that when I will sit next to you, I won't leave the bathroom until tomorrow morning.- Callum said.

 

-Okay. You won... - Rayla said rolling her eyes.

 

-I know. So ... I saw you walking as if ... Out of rhythm.- Callum said lying on his stomach next to the bathtub.

 

-Out of rhythm?- Rayla asked.

 

-Yes. I wanted to ask if ... Was anything wrong? You came back from work in a bad mood today, and it hurts to see you struggle with it from the inside out. I want to help.- Callum said.

 

-Thanks honey. You are lovely. The point is ... I feel sorry for these inmates.- Rayla said.

 

-From the Angmar gang?- Callum asked.

 

-Yeah. I know they did a lot of bad things but ... Can you blame them? Runaan knew Angmar, and he didn't want to kill humans just because they were building fortresses on their side of the border. Ellen was forgotten and suffered in human prison for a decade to escape and discover his wife remarried. Zeb served with my parents and broke down when his wife left him when he was called up to the Dragon Guard. On the one hand, they are criminals ... But on the other hand, it was society that made them who they were.

 

- Honestly ... I didn't looked on it from this perspective. How are you doing?- Callum replied after a moment of silence.

 

-Not bad. If not for your help, it would have been worse. Thanks sweetheart ... - Rayla said looking at him.

 

-You would help me if I had problem. do you want me to get something for you from town?- Callum asked.

 

-Yourself.- Rayla said looking at him greedily.


This wolf smells awful.

 

-You know, by the smell you can guess that it had home in the sewers. It smells horrible . Anyway, you could use a bath too.- Janai said.

 

For a month now, the citizens of Lux Aurea had been terrorized by this wolf. The beast was nearly 3 meters tall and had the strength to crush spell-fortified elven armor in seconds. There were three Sunfire Guard patrols on the beast's account and half of the Brown Woods merchant's caravan. Khessa, Queen of the Sunfire Elves, has awarded a prize of 10,000 denars to the person who slays the beasts. After a long and arduous sewer hunting, Amaya accompanied by Janai succeeded.

 

They both knew from the survivors of previous attacks that the wolf had a weak point in the form of an underbelly that had been attacked several times in previous fights. Ultimately, it was Amaya's daring move of dodging when the wolf jumped on her and making a cut in the beast's underbelly that made the monster die. Due to the giant's belly slit, Amaya was soiled all over the wolf's insides.

 

Now they were returning through the empty streets of Lux Aurea from the beast's lair towards the Royal Palace. This streets were full of gold - buildings were expensively decorated in gold and yellow. Materials of the buildings were mostly stones and metal, something uncommon in other Elves cities. In far was great walls of this biggest and most fortified city in Xadia. Amaya carried a monster's head in a sack on her back, and it smelled worse and worse every minute.

 

I can't believe I agreed to hearing treatment. I still get the feeling your voice sounds funny.

 

Janai brought Amaya to Xadia so that healers could heal her hearing. The woman did not even know the elf's plans until the last moment. Many days after successfully regenerating Amaya's ears, she still struggled with sleep problems - for her it was just too loud around to sleep like before.

 

-Very funny. At least you don't need to see speakers's mouth now to know something is going on.- Janai replied.

 

This is a big plus. But ... Your sister is furious.

 

-You talk like I'm gonna care. You know what it is like. As soon as she heard that you were coming, she was incredibly furious. Needless to say, since your last visit here, she hates you slightly to say the least.- Janai laughed.

 

She was risking my nephew's life. I don't know what she expected from it, but I'm not going to forgive her.

 

-You know, that was almost 9 years ago. Maybe you could finally make it up? I am not saying that you should become amazing friends overnight, but that you should not try to kill each other with your eyes. Do it for me at least.- Janai asked.

 

You know my heart is too soft for you.

 

-Said the toughest woman I know.

 

Are you trying to flirt again?

 

-I could. But for the moment I'm not going to bother you in driving my sister crazy. Are you really going to go straight to the Royal Ministers Chamber and put that big head on the table?- Janai asked.

 

Of course.

 

-Eh ... I'll try to make sure that you are not thrown into the Circle of Fire...- Janai shrugged.


Kheesa was fed up with the human general who made her furious. Sure, she had saved her sister 9 years earlier from an avalanche of rocks and killed that tainted wolf, but Amaya was still dry and even mean to her. When she healed wounds 9 years earlier, she always knocked on the wall behind her room, not letting her sleep. However, the greatest offend so far was the laying of a dead wolf's head on the table in the Royal Ministers Chamber as "proof of the task's completion".

 

In the past, Janai had tried to stick to her side in most disputes about her, but as the years passed, Janai began to take more and more side of the human. She didn't know what caused Janai act like that. 

 

Secretly from her sister Khessa, she sought advice from the most talented archmages of all Xadia. However, no one: no Master of the Forge, Master of Air, Illusionist, Archmage of the Ocean, Priest of Nature, and even Archmage Valahir has detected any traces of Dark Magic in both Janai and Amaya. Checking it without their knowledge required extreme precision and keeping a secret from them.

 

Khessa was going to her sister's room. She wanted to talk to her about this human. She felt that her sister was possessed by a Dark Magic spell and needed to be cleansed. However, the Queen was not quite sure how she wanted to solve the situation - it was 3 months until Prince Callum could return to his side of the border. She had to wait for the human to leave and then close the border, cutting off the bad influence of humans on her sister.

 

She stopped at the door to Janai's chamber. When she was younger, she talked to her sister about everything, often about boys or about new weapons. At present, however, she had too little time to visit her sister more often. It hurt her that she was not as close to her sister as she used to be, but she had to think first about her subjects and not about her own needs.

 

Entering her sister's room, she decided not to knock. After all, why would she? Her sister has been single since she was 40 years old. She had no one closer to her, so Khessa was sure that she could not disturb her sister in anything.

 

As it turned out, she could.

 

As she entered, she found her sister in an awkward situation. Janai was sitting on the bed in her uniform with her armor off. In front of her was Amaya, wearing a white shirt and pants which she usually wore. Her shoes lay beside the bed. They both sat glued to each other with their lips.

 

Khessa knew her sister had been interested in women since she was 16 years old. She hadn't seen a problem with her last girlfriends, after all, it wasn't unusual in elven society. But an romance with a human, and a high-ranking officer in another country ...

 

Khessa was furious. But she wanted an explanation as soon as possible.

 

-Ekhm.- She grunted, leaning on the door frame.

 

Both women noticed her and jumped away from each other. They both blushed knowing how bad a situation they found themselves in.

 

-I can see the negotiations are out of control.- Khessa said, seeing their embarrassment.

 

-Khessa ... listen, it's not what you think ...-Janai tried to explain.

 

-Our mother said the same thing when 9 months before you were born, I walked into our parent's room at the wrong time. I'm not angry. - Khessa lied, she was so furious that she barely restrained herself not to banish these two - I just want an explanation.


-So ... Are you telling me that this is more common than I think, telling me that both prince Callum is dating Moonshadow Elf and one of my Sunfire Guardsmen is dating one of Katolis soldiers? Okay, I don't know if I want believe you.- Khessa replied.

 

-You don't have to believe the facts. However, we will not change the truth, almost 30 years have passed since the greater war between elves and humans, and since 10 years there has been no skirmish. There is peace. Needless to say, there shouldn't be any problems if there was love between an elf and a human.- Janai argued.

 

-It's not the point. You always think it's not about politics, but having a romance with a neighboring country general of a similar rank, you know it looks like either you or she was spying and stealing military secrets from another, no offense.- Khessa looked at Amaya. She just nodded, confirming that she didn't feel offended.

 

-I understand. We promised ourselves that we would not talk about work unless the situation required it, as during that incident where soldiers from both sides were attacked on patrol.- Janai replied.

 

-You can say that, but rumors will say otherwise. Does Katolis know about this?- Khessa asked.

 

-No. Amaya didn't speak to her sister about it.- Janai replied.

 

-I understand. Okay. You have to tell her and together we will decide what to do next. I will cover you for now, but if this leak out to the public, I will either have to banish you or lock you up within the kingdom. Enjoy your privacy for now.- Khessa replied, standing up and walking towards the door.

 

-Khessa... Thanks for not ... not being mad.- Janai replied after a moment.

 

-Who said I'm not mad? Just because I'm not going to do anything about you two for now, doesn't mean I'm not mad. But you are an adult, our mother was  complaining about who you were dating.- Khessa replied, turning over her shoulder.

Chapter Text

That day had been 10 years since Callum was taken hostage to Xadia. 10 years of fear but also joy. 10 years of his new, wonderful life. 10 years since he had known Rayla. Callum and Rayla had been planning a trip to Katolis for a month. For a month they had been gathering supplies for this trip, browsing maps, sending letters and getting ready to be able to safely come to Katolis.

 

Callum was excited like young child. He wanted to show Rayla the place where he lived for so many years and meet his parents. Nevertheless, Rayla didn't share the excitement - she didn't tell him, but she was afraid that he would like Katolis or that some human woman would seduce him. She was afraid to go there and as she counted the days she thought about the doubts that tormented her. Surprisingly most of the worries were about his friend from childhood - Claudia.

 

Finally, on the day everything was ready, Callum and Rayla finished packing and set off to say goodbye to everyone. It was not a long journey, but to be sure, if they had been in Katolis longer than they want. 

 

Rayla's parents were the first to visit. Tiadrin and Lain were unable to detach themselves from their daughter, showering her with advice and instructions like "Don't talk to strangers.", "Stick close to the Callum." and "Always keep a dagger with you". Callum promised them that he will return with Rayla safely.

 

Their friends were next. They met them all in the market. While Geatan and Liadrin went out for a walk with the children, Eleanor and Geren ran the jewelry stall. Their friends tried to comfort them and encourage them before the trip, and Eleanor asked for a book on human jewelry to be brought to her.

 

Runaan and Ethari were last. With them, there were the most tears when saying goodbye to Callum. Ethari couldn't  just let the young man go  - he cried hugged to such a beloved child who he had been raising for 10 years. It didn't help even to explain from Runaan that they would be back in a few months, or that Callum and Rayla would be okay. Finally he let go of Callum - the young mage was ready for this journey.

 

Eventually they moved west. In silence, they left Silvergrove on Sapphire, which Runaan almost forced them to take so that they wouldn't have to go on foot for a month. Callum rode with his arms around Rayla, because she was handling their mount better after all.

 

-So ... This is it? The journey of our life to the west.- Rayla said after a long moment. She couldn't stand the silence that was killing her every time. She had never went this far to a place she knew little about.

 

-Yeah. Are you scared too?- Callum asked.

 

-Yeah. In the end ... It is this legendary land of evil and darkness which I have been scared of since childhood. But I'm more concerned about seeing my in-laws for the first time. Now I know why you were so afraid when you were supposed to meet my parents.- Rayla said.

 

-You know they can't order me anything now? After all, they can't care about who I date, who I live with, who I love and who I sleep with. Anyway, they know about us, so there will be no greater secret. Maybe not everyone in the castle knows, but that's none of their business.- Callum replied.

 

-I know ... I just ... What if they don't accept you?- Rayla asked.

 

-It's enough for me to be accepted by the elves in Silvergrove. I live there and have my whole life so I don't know if I have anything to worry about. Anyway, Aunt Amaya probably has an romance with an elf, so I don't know if my parents will be able to resist the two family members who love elves.- Callum replied.

 

-...probably you are right. Is there a human tradition I should know about? That there would be no awkward situation. You understand ... - Rayla said.

 

-I don't remember any of them. We both don't know how to behave so we'll do as we've been taught. I am sure that my parents will be understanding towards us.- Callum replied.

 

-I hope.- Rayla said. In fact, she was afraid of his mother. Callum talked a lot about her, but she was afraid that she might not accept her. She didn't want Callum to be faced with a choice of either her or his family. Despite Callum's assurances that they couldn't force him to do anything, Rayla was afraid she would have to give in for him.

 

-We have about a week's journey to Border ahead of us. Are you sure you don't want to take a nap?- Callum asked.

 

-I'm not asleep...- Rayla suddenly yawned -You used a sleep spell on me, admit it.

 

-I would like to, but I see you don't need any help for this. Take a nap, we'll be going by dusk, and then we'll stop for the night somewhere along the road.-Callum said. Rayla leaned against him while he held the Sapphire reins. Rayla slowly fell asleep against him.


They stayed on night in a small cave on east of Sun Hills. Callum was surprised that Rayla had slept for so long. The day before it was full moon so he guessed that this was probably why she couldn't sleep. He gently placed her on the ground and placed her sleeping bag under her head, then covered her with a blanket. He took off Sapphire's saddle for which the Shadow Paw licked him with joy. After collecting the wood, he lit a fire and did another bags inspection. He and Rayla had done it several times, but never enough to be sure.

 

But everything was there: a supply of dried fish for the Sapphire, travel biscuits, two water bags, tinder, a few healing potions, a few simple tools to repair clothes, a map, spare clothes, Rayla's armor (forcibly pressed in bag by her parents) Rayla's bow and a set of arrows , (also forcibly stuffed into the bags by her parents and Runaan), a book about the Arcanum of the Ocean (Ezran asked Callum to bring him because he was interested in the magic of the Ocean Arcanum), a collection of elven songs (asked by Ellis, who was interested in the music of the elven community), four additional swords (Callum wanted to give his parents, Ezran and his aunt a gift so he forged a sword for each of them. They were perhaps not comparable to the ones produced by the Sunfire Elves, but Callum knew that it was the greatest weapon he had ever created), his two Primal Stones  (forcefully stuffed into bag by Ethari), his and Rayla's coats, two blankets and sleeping bags (counting the sleeping bag Rayla was sleeping on), a travel pass and permission to stay for Callum in Xadia, which he got from Storm Spire, and a travel and residence permit for Rayla in Katolis. Callum counted everything again and after finding that he was not missing anything, he lay down next to Rayla.

 

He was lying with her under one blanket looking at the sky. Looking at it, he wondered if the sky was endless. After all, if there is no end, does it mean that the world has no end? What if there was something there? For example Garlach?

 

In his thoughts, he was awakened by Rayla's soft muring.

 

-Callum?- Rayla muttered moving closer to him.

 

-Yes darling?- Callum asked, embracing her.

 

-Is it morning already?- she asked, hugging him.

 

-No. It is midnight.- Callum replied.

 

-Really?- Rayla asked, opening her eyes. It was indeed midnight.

 

-Yeah. You slept all day.- Callum said.

 

-It's hard to believe. I hope it didn't make it hard for you ... - she said, sitting down next to him.

 

-The time I had to go after the need, you almost fell off Sapphire, but he caught you. -Callum explained sitting down next to her.

 

-By Garlach, I'm sorry. I'm not going to sleep anymore.- Callum said.

 

-Now it's a waste of time. You can keep me company until I fall asleep, you know?- Callum replied.

 

-I would be honored.- Rayla said laying on his shoulder.

 

After a moment's silence, Rayla whispered to him.

 

-We are alone here. Sapphire is sleeping ... And the stars above us. You know, I'm happy. I really don't miss anything in my life.- Rayla said.

 

-Really?- Callum asked.

 

-Yes.- Rayla said.

 

-You know ... I'm glad. I'm trying my best and ... I'm happy too.- Callum replied. Rayla kissed him on the cheek.

 

-I hope you are. After all, I don't care about anyone as much as I care about you.- Rayla said.

 

-I know...- Callum replied.

 

-I know that you know...- Rayla said, then after a moment she asked -Callum?

 

-Yes darling? Callum said, yawning. Rayla had to admit that she found it cute.

 

-You will love me forever, won't you?- she asked uncertainly.

 

-Yes. I promise. Why do you ask? -He asked.

 

-You know ... I wonder if ... I don't know. It's a bit silly, But ... you haven't contact with all this Caludia since you moved to Silvergrove, right?- Rayla asked.

 

-I did not have. Are you jealous again?- Callum asked with a smile.

 

-No. I'm just preventative.- Rayla replied proudly. Even so, she was afraid that human women would be more attractive to him and he would leave her.

 

-As you think. I sincerely doubt that she is in my type.- said Callum.

 

-You have the type? Well well. I'd love to hear it.- Rayla moved closer to him.

 

-So yeah ... My type is white-haired, athletic Moonshadow Elf Assassins who are a master of swordsmanship and are amazing. Oh, their name must start with an "R".- Callum said embracing Rayla.

 

-By the Source, Callum you toady bastard ...- Rayla laughed.

 

-You wanted to know my type, here it is.- Callum replied with a smile.

 

-I can't believe you can be such a toady.- Rayla replied trying not to laugh.

 

-My fault that I absolutely fell in love with you?- Callum said hesitantly.

 

-I would say I twirl you around my finger easily, but that doesn't suit you. Submissive guys aren't my type.- Rayla said.

 

-So you have the type too. Will you tell me about it? -Callum asked.

 

-With pleasure. I like human men with brown hair, connected to the Sky Arcanum. Oh, and they must be muscular, like a certain prince of Katolis.- Rayla replied.

 

-By Garlach, It twisted me. Rayla, I thought you couldn't be a bigger toady than me.- Callum replied, trying not to laugh.

 

-You'd be surprised.- replied Rayla. After staring at the stars for a while, she looked at Callum.

 

-Do you think we've traveled far?

 

-Well ... Judging from the fact that we are near the river ...- Callum replied.

 

-River? There was no river west of Silvergrove on the map. Are you sure?- Rayla asked, sitting down.

 

-I'm sure. It is possible that we have unknowingly turned north...

 

-Show me the map and light something for me.- Rayla said, reaching for the map.

 

Callum lit a stick and handed Rayla map. Rayla analyzed the map for a moment to put her hand on her face.

 

-Callum, we turned south, we have one extra day to go. I can't let you lead us or you will get us lost.- Rayla said keeping her hand on her face.

 

-I ... Well ... I was wrong, okay? Sorry. I promise to make it up to you somehow ... - Callum replied scratching his neck.

 

-I hope. Tomorrow by the river, okay? -Rayla replied without hesitation.

 

-... I can even now.- Callum smiled.

 

-What if we wake up Sapphire? The poor guy will be traumatized for the rest of his life.- Rayla replied jokingly.

 

-He would see why you are the most beautiful elf in the world.- Callum replied. Rayla, hearing his answer, rolled her eyes.

 

-It's enough for me that you know it.- Rayla laughed.


-Callum, this is ridiculous.- Rayla said.

 

Callum had the idea to draw her sitting on a rock by the river while they were swimming for a while. Callum tried to fight Rayla's fear of water again, but after some time of swimming, she decided to sit on a nearby rock, wanting to rest a bit and calm down after passing such a piece of water.

 

-I know. But I wouldn't forgive myself if I didn't draw you. I promise that no one will ever see this drawing except us.- Callum said.

 

-You know ... I hope. It would be a bit stupid for someone to see my drawing in my underwear.- Rayla replied.

 

-I know. Besides ... I never thought I'd draw you like that.

 

-I hope so. I honestly wouldn't have thought you could draw me just in my underwear. And especially without clothes ...- said Rayla.

 

-Right? It would be strange ...- Callum replied, who blushed. Rayla looked at him closely.

 

-Callum?- Rayla asked.

 

-Yes love?- He replied leaning out from behind the book.

 

-You never drew me without clothes, did you?- Rayla asked.

 

-Never. And I'm not going to ... Because this ... You know ... It would be wrong ...- Callum replied nervously.

 

- Easy, silly. I believe you.- Rayla replied.

 

-Well. I was about to show you that I am not lying... - Callum replied turning the book towards her and leafing it in front of her eyes.

 

-You wouldn't have to. I believe you. Anyway ... After drawing I suppose you have to make something up for me, right?- Rayla asked.

 

-You don't even know how much I want that. But I have work to do.- said Callum.

 

Rayla sat staring at him for another hour. She felt like he was very focused on drawing. She loved seeing his focus and the expression he made while he was doing it. It was cute.

 

-And ready. I hope you like it ... - Callum said coming up to her. Rayla got up and walked over to him.

 

The drawing, as always, was beautiful. The lines were even and precise and the proportions were kept. Rayla smiled shyly seeing, after all, her drawing in such a state.

 

-It's awesome.- Rayla answered him.

 

-Alright. Then I will put this sketchbook aside and I will come back to you soon... - Callum said walking to the shore.

 

Rayla, standing knee-deep in the water, looked at him with a smile. She felt good knowing she was with someone like him. After all, he helped her fight her mortal enemy - water.


The next week they traveled along the river. The further they went to the northeast, the more the area changed. In time, they rode into the Sun Hills and moved in a straight line to the gloomy plain by the Breach. They bypassed around the area where Sol Regem lived (even though Callum was safe, he could not count on anything more than being burned by blind Dragon) and went straight to the passage.

 

Rayla felt uncomfortable in this landscape and now wore her armor and camouflage cape all the time. Her strange fear passed to Callum, who was watching with her and prancing up his ears. But nothing but the wind was coming from the wasteland where hornless skeletons in rusty armor lay in places.

 

Less than 8 days after leaving Silvergrove, they finally saw a river of lava with their own eyes - the border was in front of them.

Chapter Text

She arrived as soon as found out he was here. She has not seen him for 9 years. She was worried that, after so many years with the elves, Callum would not want to return to Katolis or even visit them. However, he was literally on the other side of the border.

 

Amaya did not spare the horse which galloped to the Sunfire Elf outpost. The little gilded watchtower was empty as always, except for the signal fire garrison. Nothing noteworthy apart from the quiet surroundings and a few smaller fortifications. However, attention was drawn to two figures and the mount in no way suit for the area.

 

-... I have a safe conduct, so there should be no problems for me to move after returning to Xadia, right?- Callum asked.

 

One of the elves picked up the safe conduct and read it. The elves standing around stared at them in surprise - they had seen humans many times, but hardly ever the Moon Elf.

 

-Everything I can see is correct. I don't see any contraindications so that you can't. A moment ago, we notified the human garrison commander of you so you can expect a welcome among your people.- The Elf replied.

 

-Thank you for ...- Amaya suddenly emerged from the small crowd and hugged Callum as suddenly as she appeared. The mage did not expect his aunt to appear so suddenly. Seeing this, the elves laughed a little and resumed their activities - they wanted to give this family time for themselves.

 

-For Sources! Aunt Amaya? - Callum asked surprised looking at his aunt with surprise. She, however, continued to choke him with a hug, not going to let him go.

 

After a while, however, Amaya put Callum on the ground. Then she started showing in sign language. She studied his face and the whole.

 

- Nice to see you too, Auntie.- Callum replied hugging her. He was barely taller than her, as Amaya noted with pain. When she last saw him, Callum was 11 years old and his head was on height of her belt. He was now 19 and has grown into a pretty good-looking young man. After a while they hung up.

 

-We were gonna go right away. By the way ... - he approached Rayla, putting his hand on her shoulder.- You remember Rayla, right?

 

Rayla so far stood quietly watching the whole thing. It felt strange seeing Callum seeing someone from the family again. It made her feel strangely unnecessary and spare, like she wasn't needed at all. She began to wonder if Callum felt the same when he was seeing the rest of the family.

 

How could I forget? Glad to see you too Rayla.

 

Rayla, not knowing what to do, bowed. She felt stupid because she didn't know how to show respect to his aunt. This one, however, also embraced Rayla. Surprised, the elf hugged her as well.

 

Tell me how are you.

 

They got on their mounts and then set off across the breach to the West. Amaya was surprised to ask:

 

There are no horses in Xadia?

 

-Nope. Sapphire was still a puppy when the Wolves bit his mother. I have been looking after him ever since. He likes to be scratched behind the ear.- Callum replied. Amaya replied with a few moves.

 

I see. Well, what country such a custom, right?

 

-Right. So ... How is the rest of the family?- Callum asked.

 

Your mother has set the castle ready for your arrival. They want to make a bigger party for the occasion. You don't even know how much your mother missed you.

 

-I know. What about Dad?- Callum asked. Amaya looked at him in surprise.

 

Dad?

 

- I mean ... Harrow. What about him?- Callum corrected himself. Amaya still knew Harrow would jump with joy when she learned that Callum called him "Dad".

 

I think he's also looking forward to you at home like your mother.

 

-I don't doubt. How is Ezran doing?- Callum answered. Amaya just shook her head and replied in sign language.

 

It's a real pity to talk. There is nothing wrong with him, he is doing well. The point is, I can see your little brother is in love.

 

-What? With who?- Callum asked in surprise.

 

Good question. However, from what you can see it's not returned  love - he looks like your mother at his age when she broke up with her first boyfriend.

 

-Poor kid ... What's about Ellis?- Callum asked.

 

Everything is fine with her. Don't tell anyone, but she is better than Ezran in matters of the heart.

 

"How is that?" Callum asked, surprised.

 

He has a romance with the bodyguard of Princess Duren who is studying at Katolis. I have nothing against them, but I think that Ezran was a bit disappointed by it.

 

-The world is big, he will definitely find someone-. Callum said. His brother would be somewhere around 16 now. How fast was that time when he was in Xadia?

 

I hope so. Sometimes it hurts to look at him. As for you, Rayla is always so silent?

 

-Usually not. I think she's more stressed than I am, right Rayla?- Callum asked, snatching Rayla out of her reverie.

 

-I.. well... Yes ...- Rayla replied uncertainly.

 

- Everything's gonna be alright Rayla. After all, at the beginning I was also afraid to talk to your parents and now I get along with them, remember?- he consoled her. Rayla seemed uncomforted after all.

 

-Yes ... You're probably be right... - She nodded to him without conviction. Amaya smiled at her and gestured in sign language.

 

Don't worry about anything Rayla. I'm sure Harrow and Sarai will like you.

 

-What did she say?- Rayla asked.

 

-That my parents will surely like you. You have nothing to worry about. Aunt, are you going to Katolis with us or are you staying on the border?- Callum asked.

 

I'm staying. I would like to go but I have to stay. Let's say I'm waiting for someone. Do you remember Janai? Golden Knight from Lux Aurea.

 

-I remember. She tried to speak in sign language and accidentally said something ... I don't remember what but something immoral?- Callum answered hesitantly. Nobody had taught him the words in sign language so he wasn't sure.

 

You remember well. We are a couple, but don't tell anyone.

 

-I will not tell anyone. Well, maybe Rayla ...- Callum replied.

 

-About what?- Rayla asked.

 

-Aunt Amaya and Janai are indeed together. We are not alone in this.- Callum said.

 

-It doesn't help anyway...- Rayla replied.

 

-Everything will be fine, I promise.- Callum said.

 

Rayla didn't answer. She felt like an intruder and a stranger as Callum talked to her aunt. She began to wonder if Callum felt that way when she spoke to her parents. She felt bad thinking that Callum actually felt like her. Amaya interrupted her with another question.

 

I understand that you are going to live together?

 

-I mean ... We already live together. I wanted to write to you earlier but ... I've been busy ... - Callum said, blushing strangely.

 

Hmmmm ... with what?

 

-Nothing important, really. Just ordinary things… -Callum said nervously scratching his neck.

 

-So I'm an ordinary thing, huh?- Rayla asked with a smile, turning so that Amaya couldn't see her mouth.

 

-Rayla, not now.- Callum said.

 

-You don't have to be nervous. Your aunt can't hear anything.

 

I hear you. Rayla says you've been busy with her,huh?

 

Callum turned red like his scarf. Rayla looked at him in surprise.

 

-Rayla ... I'm afraid ... But how? Auntie, you were deaf. How are you ...- Callum stammered out.

 

I'm just mute now. Janai took me to the doctors in Xadia who fixed my hearing. I heard your every word. I hope you did it at least safely. It's enough for me to have two nephews and an adopted daughter for now.

 

-... That explains it all. Rayla ... Auntie can hear us. It turns out that... Her hearing has healed.- Callum said.

 

-... Oh ...-Rayla choked, hiding her face in her hands. Amaya just laughed softly.

 

Easy. I will not tell Sarai. I know what it is like when you're young and it's still a long way from getting married. Callum's mother couldn't hold out until the wedding either. Even I am not a saint.

 

-I ... Thanks for covering us. Really… -Callum said.


Sarai paced restlessly in the throne room. Nine days had passed since Callum was supposed to leave Silvergrove. He assured her that he would reach the border in a week, but his letter was still gone. The queen began to worry. She had been waiting for information from him all day.

 

-Your Highness? It's late now, shouldn't you sleep by now?- Viren asked, walking with a stack of parchments to his new office.

 

Indeed, it was already late. Sarai didn't even notice it.

 

-I am waiting for news from the border. You understand.- Sarai said.

 

-I understand. If something is needed, I am in my office.- Viren said. The former court mage has changed - it turned out that sitting for a long time in the archives was the perfect job for him. It was enough for him to live a quiet life with his wife in the city and to set up a garden. Despite mockery from other mages who served at the courts of the current rulers, Viren was in a good mood - he led a happy life, and that was enough for him.

 

-Mom?- Ezran asked as he entered the room. Sarai turned to face him. A few months earlier he had birthday, he was now 16 years old. Despite this almost adult age, Sarai felt that her son was not happy - he was sadder than usual, and more often he spent time with his father with whom he seemed to get along better than with her.

 

-Dad finished the Council meeting yet?- she asked.

 

-Yes.He's coming soon. A letter also came from the border. Aunt Amaya wrote that Callum was there. He's going west in a few days.- Ezran said.

 

-Alright. You know ... Maybe you could escort your brother and leave the castle for a while. Why won't you take a break from papers in your room and spend some time with your brother? I am sure that driving through the area will do you good.- Sarai said. She felt that Ezran needed to leave the castle for a moment and breathe with fresh air. He was spending an awful lot of time with Harrow, even though they both tried to convince him to rest a bit. Even so, Ezran didn't listen to them, and he sometimes fell asleep in the evenings while talking to his parents.

 

-Sure. I'll leave tomorrow morning. I'll take Soren and Claudia. A small group will not be suspicuous.


-... And when I showed him my swords he begged me not to drink his blood. Then We had a sincere conversation and from that day on we were friends. This is more or less how we met.- Rayla said. Amaya chuckled softly and delivered the message in sign language.

 

So this is how you met the love of your life Callum? She stood over you with a sword?

 

-Claudia scared me a month ago with stories about elves who drink blood and make bread from human ears. Besides, I was 10 years old. Back then, I was afraid of literally everything.- Callum replied. Rayla chuckled softly at his reactions.

 

They were sitting in one of the empty rooms of the Katolis Bastion near Border. The young people asked for any room where the roof is not leaking and is not windy and chose the one with an old bunk, table and a few chairs. Amaya spent the evening with them. After a few hours of talking, she finally managed to establish a dialogue with Rayla.

 

-By the way. Speaking about swords, I have something for you, Aunt.- Callum replied. Amaya watched as Callum went to the packages and retrieved the sword from there. It looked like a mixture of a saber and the most ordinary sword. Even so, there was a slight curve at the end that was deliberately created. There were a series of runes on the sword.

 

-One of the greatest I have ever created. I hope you like it.- Callum said, handing his aunt the sword.

 

Amaya walked over to him and grabbed the weapon. The sword was even well balanced. Amaya swung her sword and it whistled through the air.

 

Perfect sword. It's hard to believe that this sword was made by a human.

 

-I had years of practice before that. I made Rayla's armor almost myself, only  with the runes helped Ethari. Besides, I made a lot of things like hoes, shovels and scythes. - Callum mentioned. They sat down at the table again.

 

Who would have thought that a scared little prince would one day become a talented mage and a skilled blacksmith.

 

-So it turned out that way. I would like to cook even better because apart from the recipe from my mother I have nothing to show off.- Callum said.

 

-Oh, come on It's not that bad with you.- Rayla replied putting her hand on his shoulder.

 

I understand you both had different cooking schools.

 

-Runaan  taught Callum and Ethari taught me. Callum can handle it but is far from being the champion.- Rayla said.

 

-You must be better than me, otherwise I would feel weird.- Callum replied.

 

-And why is that?- Rayla asked rolling her eyes.

 

-Because I always think you're the more talented person between us-. Callum replied.

 

-You want.- Rayla said.

 

Amaya had been watching them for several hours. She saw that to a trusted person like her, they were not afraid to show that what they feelt for each other was true, honest love. They weren't afraid to touch their partner and looking them in the eyes you could see a deep devotion to their feelings. They reminded her of Sarai when she first got married. But Amaya knew that none of them would back down this time, and death would separate them sooner than their will.


Amaya couldn't unlearn these habits. Sometimes she had to get up to watch Breach. At night, a river of lava illuminated the area. Ideally Elf outposts on the other side of border were visible from there. Amaya felt a certain apprehension and dread looking at them. She felt that there was a threat coming from there, although for a decade time Xadia and Katolis had lived in peace with each other.

 

-Aunt?

 

She turned to look at Callum. He should be asleep, but apparently got up, feeling the need to stretch his legs. She wished she had seen him grow up, but was sure that her nephew had grown up and was not the same boy who lived in Katolis. He was much more confident and calmer, though she felt that he could also be firm when needed.

 

I can see that I am not the only one who has sleep problems.

 

-You see ... I am tired of one question.

 

I can try to answer it.

 

-I wanted to know ... What was the real thing with my father ... the biological one. What happened to him after ... he left mom.

 

Amaya felt like he was going to ask just that. After all, no one was around, so the conversation would stay between them.

 

How did I know you will ask about this? You look very much like him, but not in character. Your mother truly loved him, but he ... He couldn't believe that he could have had a child with her. He thought Sarai had lied to him, but she was telling the truth. He left feeling disappointment in her. As far as I know, he went to the family to Evenere, and that is all I know. Your mother was devastated by this, but she persevered nevertheless. You were an almost perfect copy of your father. When she saw your eyes for the first time, I thought Sarai couldn't be more broken than she was. Then we were moved to the capital and Sarai met Harrow there. He truly love her and despite all the adversities they have been together for 17 years. Don't blame your mom for talking so badly about the father who thought he was cheated. She had lived through his leaving, and it was years before she picked herself up. Why are you curious about him?

 

-I wanted to know if I was lying to Rayla. She knows this, but I wanted to make sure that she was unknowingly not I lied.- Callum said.

 

If you said he left her, you weren't lying.


-That comes out. It's just ... I'm scared.

 

Amaya looked at him questioningly. However, she was sure that Clum would explain what he meant.

 

-I am afraid that I will not hold on. That I leave Rayla like my father. I don't want to act like him. I love Rayla and I want her to be happy. However ... You know what it's like when the elves around here emphasize how evil humans are. I'm afraid I won't be good enough to be with her. I know I sound like the last tragedy actor but I don't want to disappoint her.- Callum said.

 

I'm sure you won't leave her. You've known each other too long and I can see that you care about her. You have doubts, however, it shows how much you love her and want her to be happy. I'm sure you don't have to worry because death will tear you apart sooner than either of you decide.


After a few days in the garrison, Rayla and Callum headed for the castle. They were supposed to meet in the area Ezran which set out the day after they reached the border.

 

-Soren, Claudia and Ellis are supposed to be there. Ellis knows about us, but I'm not sure the rest of us know. Maybe just in case, let's pretend we're just friends. I know you won't like it, but… -Callum explained.

 

-You're asking me to throw you off Sapphire Callum.- Rayla replied without emotion.

 

-I know that doesn't sound like the best plan, but I'd rather you ... You know ... so you don't get in trouble. We can lie that you are an messenger from Kaidor, for example.- said Callum.

 

-I understand the idea. But I wish I didn't have to keep it a secret.- Rayla said. She was still afraid that Claudia might try to get her boyfriend away.

 

- Me too, but you know it will be safer this way.- Callum said. Rayla grunted without conviction.

Chapter Text

-Rayla. I have to go... you know... For a need. Can you wait for a moment?- Callum asked.

 

-Yeah, sure.- Rayla replied. Callum dismounted from Sapphire and headed towards the bushes.

 

They had been in the human part of the continent for two days. Everything seemed different here - the trees were smaller, the plants weren't magic, and they saw very little of the animals. It had a strangely depressing effect on them who were used to Magic in every being they encountered in Xadia.

 

The road on which they traveled seemed less used than the others, so they followed this path in order to be not meet any humans. They were looking for Callum's brother Ezran on the way. The mage was looking forward to meeting his younger brother again.

 

Suddenly a horse bursted out at full gallop from behind the trees. A young man with dark skin and black hair was trying to hold on in the saddle. He was wearing a red caftan, as well as pants and shoes similar to the ones Callum wore when he was younger. It was evident that he had a problem with calming his horse and was about to fall off it.

 

The horse stood on its hind legs when it saw Sapphire and the rider fell off from his mount. The horse stood and turned around. The rider miraculously avoided being crushed by the animal's hooves.

 

-Ouch...- the boy muttered, standing up.

 

-Are you alright? Sorry, your horses probably rarely see the animals from Xadia, right?- Rayla asked as she stepped down from Sapphire. She looked at the young man who could not be more than 16 years old.

 

-It's okay ... Do we know each other?- The boy asked looking at her as if he had seen her somewhere.

 

-I think...- Suddenly Rayla heard something coming from the direction where the horse came from.

 

Suddenly, two identical men in leather jackets pierced with chain mail and one in plate armor ran out of the forest. They immediately ran up to her, drawing their swords. When they were close to her, they directed their blades towards her. On their sight Sapphire run to the woods behind Rayla.

 

-Leave the kid alone, monster!- The blond man in the plate armor ordered. Rayla raised her hands slightly to resolve the matter peacefully.

 

-Claudia, no!- the boy in the red jacket shouted suddenly. Before Rayla could react, 5 icicles flew out of the forest and crashed against Rayla's breastplate. This gave her confirmation that these humans had no peaceful intentions.

 

-And I wanted to do it for peacefully ...- Rayla said, unfolding her blades.

 

In a second she reached the opponents hitting the blades with the blond's sword. He blocked the blow, but Rayla kicked him with all her might in his his belly, making him back away, while her swords blocked the twin's swords. She jumped away from the twins and jumped over one of them, kicking him in the face, knocking him over. Then she put the swords in hooks and cut the blonde who hit the ground.

 

-You swept the leg!

 

-What?- Rayla asked, turning her head towards the teenager.

 

-Nothing ... Watch out!- the teenager replied. Rayla turned to the last attacker.

 

-Ez, get back!- the attacker called.

 

The other twin ran towards her with a sword. Rayla blocked his blow to dodge the blonde's blow a second from it. She stepped back and cut the blonde aside. His armor stopped the strike, but it threw the knight aside, causing him to land on the boy.

 

However, at that time more icicles hit her leg and this time they stuck into her leg. Rayla screamed as the icicles broke through her skin. She fell when she saw the blond man rising up, lifting a sword above her.

 

-Any last words, monster?

 

-Yes, mud.

 

-Wait, what...- blonde asked looking at his leg when suddenly Rayla kicked him in the leg behind the knee. The blonde fell next to her, but the first twin was about to deal her final blow. Rayla closed her eyes. She thought of Callum.

 

Goodbye Callum ...

 

-Hey!- Rayla heard Callum suddenly. - Leave her alone or I'll cut his throat!

 

She opened her eyes to see that Callum was holding one of the twins with his arm twisted behind his back and the sword he was about to give his mother around his neck.

 

-Just try and I'll cut her head off!- The blonde said also putting the sword to Rayla's neck.

 

-We don't want problems. Let's get along and let's go in a peace without blood. Here's what we'll do - you will go back to the forest, and I'll let the boy go, both sides will separate and it will be easy.- Callum said.

 

-You fell off your horse!? She attacked one of ours! You let go of the boy or I'll cut her head off.- The blonde said.

 

-I didn't attack anyone!- Rayla replied.

 

-Shut up!- ordered the knight.

 

-Try to do something to her and I'll spread you on the trees!- Callum threatened. He drew the Aspiro rune behind the hostage.

 

-Don't even try.- The black-haired woman in black clothes said, leaving the forest with her hand raised in front of us. She aimed at Callum with her hand. She had in front of her hand a rune that meant "Ice Rain Tears", but she had no Primal Stone anywhere.

 

The situation seemed stalemate tragically until everyone heard the murmurs of the teenager getting up.

 

-Yh ... No, wait!- The teenager called, standing up.- Soren, leave her alone.

 

-Ez, she ...

 

- She didn't do anything. The horse scared her and therefore ran back. But it's not her fault. Stand back, that's an order.- the teenager ordered.

 

-But Han ...- replied the twin with the blade by Rayla.

 

-I promise on that you can see me that I will let him go, just let her live!- Callum cried, tears in his eyes.

 

Hearing this, Soren and Han's twin threw their swords to the ground and backed away. The woman lowered her arm and blurred the rune. As soon as they did it, Callum took the sword from the hostage's neck and let go of his hand.

 

-You're free, go.- He said and almost rushed to Rayla.

 

She tried to get up, but Callum was faster. He picked her up and embraced her with all his strength.

 

-I'm sorry ... I shouldn't have gone anywhere ...

 

-You did not know. Everything is fine. You see, I'm alive.- Rayla whispered. Callum, however, was crying on her shoulder.


While Claudia was helping Han who had an ankle wound, Soren and Ian went to get the horses they had left in the woods. Ellis and Aanya followed Ezran's horse who ran into the forest and did not even know about the fight.

 

-Ow snap. What the hell happened here... Are all elves that fast?- Han asked as he sat down.

 

-I think so. I appreciate that you rushed after me to save me, but you unnecessarily attacked her.- Ezran said.

 

-She's an elf.- Han.

 

-It doesn't interest me. You should be glad that thanks to Caludia and the fact that there were three of you, she didn't kill anyone. Remember that we are to find my brother and return to Capital with him.- Ezran replied.

 

-Maybe she knows something. After all, she seems to be coming from the direction Callum was supposed to come from.- Claudia suggested.

 

-I was supposed to apologize to them for this whole thing anyway.- Ezran replied.

 

Ezran approached the elf and her companion. They seemed familiar, though Ezran had no idea where he knew their faces from.

 

He watched them curiously. The man on the face looked like he was about 20 years old and had brown hair. His green eyes almost glow as he looked at them. He had heavily muscled hands on which were tattooed marks that Ezran did not know meaning. He wore a navy blue sleeveless tunic, a coat with gold buttons, black pants, and brown shoes.

 

The elf, on the other hand, had white hair and tattoos on her face. She wore navy blue armor covered with runes and underneath she had a turquoise and navy blue suit which also, like her human companion, had no sleeves.

 

-Excuse me. I wanted to apologize for the whole incident. I really feel bad that it turned out that way. We can share the supplies and help with the leg.- Ezran said.

 

-Thank you. I am discouraged by the presence of the blonde and the twins .- Elfka replied.

 

-I know ... Soren can be pushy but he's a good guy. I think if you met him from the better side, you would definitely change your mind.- said Ezran.

 

-Soren? Wait. You're from the capital of Katolis, right?- the man asked.

 

-Yes. Why do you ask?- Ezran asked. He tried not to spread the word about the purpose of his journey, which was to find and bring his brother home safely.

 

-I'm going home after 10 years of being hostage in Xadia. Didn't you see ... - asked the companion of the elf when Ezran suddenly realized where he had seen this man's face.

 

-Heavens?! Callum!?- Ezran almost jumped, understanding who was standing in front of him. Claudia and Han turned to the dissolving.

 

-Yes. That's my name. What's your name?- Callum asked.

 

-It's me, Ezran. Do you remember? I was 5 years old when ... You know ... You must have moved to Xadia... - said Ezran.

 

Callum was surprised - his brother was a head shorter than him. He was 16 years old and had grown tremendously since Callum last saw him. But the last time he saw him was 10 years ago when he was almost 6 years old.

 

-I remember. By Garlach you've grown ...- Callum said, pulling his brother to hug him. His brother hugged him too.

 

-You're huge.- Ezran said.

 

-You grew up too.- Callum replied. After a while they hung up. - By the way. Ezran, this is Rayla. Rayla, this is my brother Ezran.- Callum introduced them.

 

-Hello.- Rayla said making a slight bow.

 

-Nice to meet you. Callum wrote a lot about you.- Ezran said.

 

-I know. He also told a lot about you. It's nice to finally meet this "master of looking for hide and seek".- quoted Callum Rayla. He told her about Ezran with whom he loved to play hide and seek.

 

-Callum could hide well, but I always knew where to look for him. By the way ... -Ezran began to whisper- So you are ... You know ... A thing?

 

-Yes. But we don't have to announce it to everyone, right?- Callum said. Ezran blinked one eye knowingly to show that he understood.

 

-So ... How do you like Katolis Rayla?- Ezran asked.

 

-Except that a knight and his two henchmen tried to stab me and someone shot me with icicles, I'm even pleased.- said Rayla.

 

-I'm not anyone's henchmen!- Han protested, standing up with Claudia's help.

 

-It's fine. This is Han. His twin is named Ian. They are the bodyguards of Princess Duren who is studying in Katolis. She came with us to "intercept" you. I think she went with Ellis to catch my horse. Claudia is next to Han. You remember Claudia, don't you Callum?- Asked Ezran.

 

-I remember. Callum replied blushing slightly. When he was 10, he had a crush on her. But he was with Rayla now, and he wasn't even going to leave her.

 

-Callum? You have really grown up.- Claudia said hugging the mage. Rayla stared coldly at the woman. She cleared her throat after a moment. Claudia turned to face her.

 

-I hope I'm not disturbing you ...- she said, glaring at Caludia. Claudia stepped back and Callum smiled strangely.

 

-This is Rayla. He's an messenger from Xadia sent on a mission that he can only talk to my parents about. -Callum said. Rayla slightly laughed.

 

-Ezran. We're dead. We have attacked the messenger.- Han said. In international human law this was a crime punishable by death.

 

- I'll try to forget what happened here.- Rayla said. Han breathed a sigh of relief. Meanwhile, Soren returned with Ian.

 

-Ellis and Aanya will be here soon. What are they doing here? They were going to leave, right?- Soren asked.


-Listen, it really came out stupid...- Soren said. They were moving towards the Cursed Caldera. Not only did they attack the messenger and a friend of a childhood friend.

 

-Once again somebody will refer to what happened on that road and I promise that I will kill someone.- Rayla replied furiously. Callum treated her leg wound despite Claudia help offer.

 

Rayla did not trust both Claudia and Soren. The twins expressed remorse once and for no more, while Soren continued the topic, driving Rayla into an unprecedented rage.

 

Ellis was riding a horse with wounded Han. Rayla felt that there was something between them because in many cases they acted like her and Callum. She felt looking at them... Calmer.

 

Soren was driving alongside Claudia talking to Ian about something. Claudia was looking at Callum all the time, but each time Rayla glared at her, as a result Claudia looked away and followed them embarrassed.

 

-So ... What's about politics in Xadia? - asked Ezran after a while, wanting to defuse the atmosphere.

 

-Politics?- Callum asked, surprised.

 

-Yeah, politics. I can't believe Xadia is one great kingdom. Besides, Aunt Amaya mentioned the Sunfire Elf Queen and the Dragon King. Can you somehow ... Explain it? If you can and donn't want to be accused for treason against Xadia.- Ezran asked.

 

-I don't see any problems, do you Rayla?- Callum said.

 

-They told us not to announce the location of cities, but not what it looks like inside.- Rayla replied.

 

-I hear you talking about politics. Can i join?- Aanya asked as she rode closer to them.

 

-Sure, go ahead. For now I will take a nap. Wake me up when you're done.- Rayla replied closing her eyes and leaning on Callum. The mage took over the reins.

 

-So yeah... Xadia is in fact a union of several elven and dragon communities united into one great state. Even so, each of the six elven communities is accountable to the Dragon King - the most powerful creature alive.- Callum was telling.

 

-What are the communities?- Ezran asked.

 

-I already explain. Each community is centered around one of the Sources of Primal Magic. The first is the Sunfire Elves who live across the border in the Golden city of Lux Aurea. Since they live near ... You know ... Humans ... This is the most militarized and combat-knowing kind of elf. Besides, they are good blacksmiths, artists, and their mages are experts in using magic to burn enemy units. They are also crazy about proving who is stronger and bolder. Queen Khessa is now in charge there.

 

-Wasn't that Ambassador Janai's sister?- Ezran asked.

 

-Same one. There are about 50,000 of these Elves and, apart from heavily fortified city Lux Aurea, they live in several outposts along the border. If you want to count their army, you can say that it is about 30,000.

 

-They can afford such a large army for almost half of their population?- Aanya asked.

 

-It looks a little different with them. After basic training, soldiers are not isolated from the world for 10 years, they only live peacefully in their homes with their families. In addition, each of them takes care of the armor and weapons that are adapted to the elf, although the armor and shield are to be arranged according to specific standards. There is also the Queen's Guard, made up of Elves that can enter the fiery rage of the berserk. Then their aggressiveness, strength and resistance to damage increase. They are also immune to all fire spells. I heard that such a Guard can pick up a horse with a knight and throw it on a few meters.- told Callum.

 

-You're trying to scare us, aren't you?- Aanya asked.

 

-Not you, but Soren who does not want to talk and eavesdrops.- Callum said. Everyone turned to see the surprised Soren.

 

-But ... Like you ... I'm 7 meters away. How did you hear me whispering?- Soren asked incredulously.

 

-For years I have been practicing listening to what the wind brings. You had the misfortune that it was blowing in the back and I heard you.- Callum replied.

 

-You're showing off, don't you?- Ezran asked softly.

 

-Some. I don't know why, but I remember Soren better. Back to the topic ... The next type of elf are Skywing Elves connected with the Sky Arcanum. They are ruled by a Council composed of the most talented mages and archmages among them. They are the craziest, risk-loving, and least-minded elves. They live in the Dragon Mountains in the north of Xadia. From what I remember there are about 30,000. They don't have a huge army, but that's where most of Xadia's books come from. These elves also have quite good beer, as if someone would like to try sometime. Besides, their magic is based on spells based on ice, wind and fog. Unfortunately, some of them are born without wings and use spells to turn their hands into wings. I know this spell myself, as well as any spell created by them. Still, I don't like these Elves.- Callum said.

 

-Why?- Aanya asked.

 

-Last time I saw one of them I was attacked me and my teacher as we were returning from my final mage trials. I killed attackers but I was badly injured. I don't know my teacher's fate, but as far as I know he has survived it. The attackers also had trials then and one of them was incredibly ungrateful. I treated him a few days earlier when he was injured. He didn't even take off his bandages when he tried to kill me.

 

-Oh.- Aanya replied.

 

-Sounds nasty.- said Ezran.

 

-Because it was. But never mind him. The Moonshadow Elves are next. One of them is Rayla. Apart from the fact that the moon gives them strength, they can also disappear completely during the full moon. Rayla gave me a heart attack several times during the full moon. Then they also have trouble sleeping, but never mind. There are about 3,000 Moonshadow Elves and they live in Silvergrove. They are mostly Assassins and hunters. They are led by the Silvergrove City Elders, which selects citizens from the community who are highly respected as members. Additionally, they can create illusions, such as Rayla's cloak, which blends in with the environment. They have a knack for making wine, but you probably already know that... - said Callum.

 

-You mean the Moonberry Wine? It's incredibly popular in Katolis.- said Ezran.

 

-I bet the creator of this wine is some legendary elf who worked on the recipe for years, centuries ago.- Aanya said, half jokingly.

 

-I will disappoint you, this is my friend with who I had been in one class throughout whole school. He has been creating wine for only 3 years. He wouldn't have decided to export wine abroad if it had not been for my idea for quick money because he did not have enough to prepare for the care of his children who were to be born seen.- Callum said. He saw the surprise on Ezran and Aanya's faces. - Not everything in Xadia is so legendary.

 

-You broke my idea of Xadia as a place where everything is magical.- Aanya replied.

 

-Who has lived in Xadia for 10 years is not surprised by the presence of magic, and the lack of it feels for him disappointed. But back to the topic. The Eaethblood Elves live in the east of Xadia. Most of them are peaceful and pacifist elves living in the clans ruled by the Clans Representative. The creator of the wine is one of them. Most of them live in villages from a dozen to several hundred people. They are the most numerous type of Elves because there are about 90,000 of them. They are also known to like nature and their mages can heal all injuries, influence plants and even talk to animals.- Callum said. At his last words, Ezran gave him a strange look.

 

-Hmmm ... That's interesting.- Aanya replied.

 

-Yes, it's a rare and unique skill. Besides, these elves are the biggest food producers in Xadia. Next up are theTiebound Elves who have a queen. I know little about them, except that the cities along the shore are full of them. Their magic is similar to that of the Skywinf Elves.- Callum said.

 

-You were talking about six kinds of Elves. You have listed five kinds so far. What's the sixth?- Ezran asked.

 

-These are the Startouch Elves. There are the least of them because apparently there are not even 100 of them. They can predict the future and manipulate the space around them, for example moving objects or keeping them in the air.- said Callum.

 

-Wow. Sounds cool.- saId Ezran.

 

-I saw only one once. But enough talking about Xadia. Introduce me to the human side of the continent. If you don't take me and Rayla for Xadia's spies, of course.- Callum said.

 

They spent the rest of the journey talking about the current situation in the Human Kingdoms. Ezran and Aanya told him in more detail about human Kingdoms than he did about Xadia. Callum saw his brother knew what he was talking about. He also seemed to allow more time for Aanya to talk in conversation at which he looked with eyes that Callum could call ... buttery.

Chapter Text

Rayla asked him to take turns sleeping on it. She didn't trust humans even though Callum felt "normal" in their company. When they camped near the Cursed Caldera, Callum was the only one who had not gone to sleep. He stared at the stars and compared the Rayla armor he had created and the Soren armor which, though it seemed solid, seemed to be cheap to manufacture and easy to replace.

 

Rayla, even though they had to pretend that they weren't together, slept next to him. Nearby, Soren spread out with a sleeping bag. He took off his armor and slept in the uniform of the Katolis Army. Caludia was sleeping next to him. Contrary to Rayla's fears, Claudia did not sleep even close to them. Callum did not understand why his girlfriend was so distrustful to his childhood friend.

 

Next to them, Ezran lay down with his a sleeping bag. He talked until late with Aanya, who had put her sleeping bag a little further away next to the twin's and Ellis sleeping bags about some taxes for the toll at Del-Bar. Callum would never have expected Ezran to become so interested in economics and politics.

 

It was midnight when Callum noticed that Ezran had moved. He thought he was moving his body to make him sleep better. However, younger prince sat down after a while. He was clearly not asleep.

 

-You don't sleep at home too?- Callum asked. Hearing his voice, Ezran almost jumped to his feet.

 

- Hell, Callum. I almost had a heart attack because of you.- Ezran said gasping for breath.

 

-Forgive. I thought you saw me. Why you are not sleeping?- Callum asked.

 

-I can't just sleep. It's just ... It's kind of stupid ... But ... Have you ever thought about the risk of being lonely? I mean... That the girl you like might ... You know ... Like-Like... Be interested in someone else?- Ezran asked.

 

-For half my life. But in the end it turned out that she was talking about me all the time. It was a bit weird and awkward at one point. Why do you ask?- Callum asked.

 

-You know ... I just ... Eh ... There were two girls I liked. One of them already has a boyfriend and the other ... I don't know. Apparently there it's not like that, but there is something between her and her friend. I don't want to force anybody or hinder them from pursuing their happiness. It's just ... I'm a little jealous about them.- Ezran said, leaning on the ground with his hand.

 

-Well ... I was not so conciliatory. When I heard that in my case she was interested in someone, I was ready to beat this guy and tell him to stay away from her.- Callum said.

 

-Heavens, who are you and what did you do with my brother who cried 10 years ago when he found out where the meat in the stew came from?- Asked Ezran, laughing at the family story his father told him.

 

-Very funny. Back to the topic ... What are you going to do about it?- Callum asked.

 

-I don't know. I just ... I want both of them to be happy. I know that this will not help me solve my problem, but at least they will be happy, and that is what I want.- Ezran said.

 

-You can see. However, I suggest you give it time. Be her friend you have been to them so far. Who knows, maybe the situation will change someday?- Said Callum.

 

- Sooner the sky will fall on our heads.- Ezran replied.

 

-The sky and the stars are in place, see? - Callum pointed with his finger.

 

-Oh yes, Big Dipper and other constellations.- replied Ezran.

 

-What?- Callum asked.

 

-Well ... The constellations. The stars used in navigation that are easy to see because they are arranged in a shape. Elves don't have this in Xadia?- Ezran asked.

 

-It's ... It's just ... We call it another name. Which constellation is the Big Dipper?- Callum asked. Ezran sat down next to him and pointed his finger at him. - Ah. Yeah. Garlach's Fist. This constellation represents the hand of the Moonshadow Elf God Garlach. In fact, all the sky according to the myths of the Moonshadow Elves belongs to him. The constellations describe his achievements and exploits. For example that one, see?- Callum pointed and Ezran nodded- this is Garlach charging on his Shadow Paw chasing the Wolves away from Silvergrove.

 

-And that one?- Ezran asked, pointing further. - We call her Capricorn. How elves call it?

 

-It's Garlach Decapitating His Enemies.- Callum replied.

 

-Alright. And that one? We call her the Great Bear.- Ezran asked.

 

-Garlach Burning Their Enemies at the Stake.- Callum replied immediately.

 

-And there? We call her Little Bear.- Ezran asked.

 

-Garlach Tearing Enemies to Pieces.-Callum replied.

 

-Remind me, what God is Garlach?

 

-Yeah. It may not seem like it, and at first look Garlach appears to be a brutal God of War, but in the mythology of the Moonshadow Elves, he is different. According to legends, Garlach was the first of the Gods to come into the world. However, he was lonely in this world, so he created the Moonshadow Elves. He taught them how to make weapons, use fire and fight. However, he knew that these abilities could threaten other beings in the world in the future, so that the Moonshadow Elves could not threaten the world in any way, Garlach taught them how to use their strength not as a tool of conquest and gaining power, but as a way to defend their homes. He also taught the elves that the family is the most important and that the community is the supreme value worth any price to defend. The Moonshadow elves listened and learned as Garlach ordered. He, however, wanted to check them, so he sent demons to the world. These demons attacked the elves who, despite the advantage and the possibility of crushing the opponent, kept their positions in Silvergrove. Then Garlach knew that he had done his job well.- Callum said.

 

-When you present him from this side it doesn't seem so bad.- replied Ezran.

 

-Right? According to the mythology of the Earthblood Elves, after learning how to live the Moonshadow Elves, he fell in love with Arel - the goddess of home and family. After she returned his love, they taught the Moonshadow Elves together how important a partner is in life. By this teachings, the Moonshadow Elves are the most rarely divorced type of elf. If there are any divorces, the Moonshadow elf does not get along with a spouse who is a different type of elf. This rarely happens, however, because the Moonshadow Elves rarely marry someone they have not known since childhood.- Callum said.

 

-Well ... You're not afraid of anything about you and her, are you?- Asked Ezran.

 

-No I'm not. I know that as long as I care for her, she will take care of me. Anyway, if I tried to withdraw, I know that she would not forgive me. What like what, but I would not like to upset the Assassin.-Answered Callum. Ezran chuckled softly.

 

-Right, that's fair deal.- replied Ezran.

 

After staring at the stars for a while, Callum finally spoke up.

 

-Hey. Ez?- Callum asked.

 

-Yeah?- Ezran replied.

 

-I realized heaven is exactly the same here as in Xadia.- Callum said.

 

-You sound like you expect our heaven to be without magic. Ezran said.

 

-Not completely. Look - even though everything is smaller, weaker here and there is no magic in it, the stars remain the same. This is somewhat reminiscent of the Skywing Elves philosophy. According to her, everything else passes apart from heaven. We can live in the world and hundreds of years and everything around us will change but not heaven. According to these Elves, it is necessary to fly according to the sky which, as a mighty entity, over time, at will, may lose an elf or strike him with lightning. I've been hit like this once. - laughed Callum.

 

-Really?- Asked Ezran incredulously.

 

-Yes. It hurt like hell. But I survived.- Callum replied.

 

-I see. We wouldn't be talking otherwise. How did it happen?- Asked Ezran, surprised.

 

-I was flying over the river to do something important and the lightning struck me as I flew by. If not for Rayla, I would have drowned.- Callum said.

 

-You see, that's why it's better not to fly in the storm. Just as we talk about water. Do you remember when I wrote about those books?- Ezran asked.

 

-Yes. I don't know what they are for, but ...- Callum replied.

 

-They're not for me.- Ezran interrupted.

 

-What? Who is it for then? -Callum asked.

 

-For Claudia. Rayla said someone was shooting icicles at her, remember?- Ezran reminded him. Callum thought about it and then quickly put the facts together.

 

-You mean Claudia...- Callum asked.

 

-Yes. He's a mage just like you.- said Ezran.

 

-Oh shit. I just stopped being special. - Callum laughed. -Seriously ... Look, I know I'm the only one who knows more or less what's going on, but ... I don't know. I've never taught spells to anyone. I'm afraid to screw something up.

 

-Claudia knows more or less what's going on. After all, he knows one spell to perfection. She wanted to learn other spells. She wanted Viren to be proud of her.- said Ezran.

 

-He? He could teach her Dark Magic so ... Wait. Why didn't he do this? Claudia uses normal magic instead of Dark Magic.- Callum asked.

 

-Viren hasn't been using Dark Magic in 9 years. He is now Lord of the Archives. He has changed a lot.- Ezran told him. Still, Callum wasn't sure and doubted Viren's honesty.

 

-I do not believe. He's probably deceiving you and secretly using this filth.- Callum whispered.

 

-I don't know, but I think he's honest with us.- Ezran said.

 

-I doubt it. But we'll find out when we get to the castle. Is everything there in place?- Callum asked.

 

-Yes. My room has changed a bit, because you know ... I'm 16 years old. Teddy bears landed in the attic and so on. Plus ... how to say it. I have a pile of papers in my room.- Ezran said.

 

-Mm ... Are you busy?- Callum asked.

 

-Some. When I work, I don't think about ... You know. Being lonely and that stuff. It helps me, though parents say I'd better let it go. They say something about overworking but I'm sure I'm fine.- Ezran said.

 

-That's a way too. But I think you take on too many responsibilities. You should find a hobby.- Callum suggested.

 

-Hobby? Hobby!? Callum, I have too many responsibilities on my mind. There is no option that I... - Ezran spoke when Callum interrupted him.

 

-Duties you took away from dad?- Callum interrupted him.

 

-... Good point.- said Ezran. Suddenly, one of the twins rose.

 

-Can you be quiet? I'm trying to sleep.- Han whispered.

 

-Sorry.- both replied.

 

-I understand that you haven't seen each other for 10 years and you want to make up this time, but hell, go to sleep. Tomorrow is a day too. Everyone is asleep, even Rayla who is a Night Elf.- Han said.

 

-Rayla is the Moonshad...- Callum denied.

 

- Shit, Callum, I'm begging you because I can't guarantee I will be calm myself.- Han said.

 

They have already decided to remain silent. In the glow of the fire, Ezran communicated to him in sign language.

 

Good night brother.

 

Callum also answered him in sign language.

 

Good night to you too, Brother.


Rayla woke up before dawn. She looked around the camp in horror. Claudia slept in her place and Callum slept next to her. Rayla breathed a sigh of relief. It was just a bad dream.

 

She lay down in front of him. She missed the taste of his lips. All the past day, she couldn't hug him or even hold his hand. She felt the need of contact with him, although she knew that just in case she had to be careful that no one saw them.

 

She looked around. Everyone was asleep, including Callum who was supposed to wake her up at midnight so that she could change him on watch. Of course Callum forgot himself. However, she didn't blame him. It was still dark and the fire was burning down. There was a deafening silence all around. Rayla felt like she was in one of the many training courses she had undergone with Runaan at Silvergrove.

 

She looked at Callum. He slept soundly next to her. Rayla smiled as she saw him hugging her shoulder. Rayla approached him and gave him a kiss on the lips. He was still asleep, unaware of her closeness.

 

-Sweet Dreams Love.- Rayla whispered hugging him even tighter.


Soren yawned heavily and stretched. He did not like to get up so early, but he could see that the sooner they got up, the sooner they would get home.

 

Han and Ellis sat by the fire. They ate the traveler's biscuits which they had taken from the warehouse in the castle. Aanya and Ian continued to sleep. According to him, they seemed to be very good friends because hardly anyone held hands while sleeping. He saw in a similar way, getting up at night at the urging of Callum and Rayla. Currently, the elf and her companion sat leaning against each other talking about something in a whisper. Ezran was not at the fire, he probably followed the need into the forest. Claudia sat next to him, staring at Callum.

 

-Soren ... Listen ... Do you remember when we talked about ... You know ...-Claudia asked. She felt a little strange looking at Callum, who was taller than her. It was... weird.

 

-Yes. Do you want to talk to him now?- Soren replied. He saw that his sister was as shy with him as never.

 

-Yes ... You can come with me ... Not that I'm scared ... Only...- Claudia tried to justify herself.

 

-Fine. I do not see a problem.- Soren said. Together they got up and headed to Callum.

 

Seeing them elf and the mage, they fell silent for a moment, as if they were expecting where their siblings were going.

 

-Callum, can we talk? On a private matter, you understand, no witnesses.- Claudia said.

 

-Sure. Be right back.- he said Rayla and got up. Rayla looked at them distrustfully. After a moment she gave Claudia a bright expression.

 

Know your limits.

 

They walked a little away from the campsite. Soren stood behind her while Callum leaned against a tree. Claudia noticed just now how muscular his hands were - possibly more than Soren's.

 

-So, what did you want to talk about?- Callum asked.

 

-You know ... Some time ago ... I found out that I can do this.- Claudia drew a spell rune.

 

-Aqua Frigilis.- she said clearly, though softly so that no one in the camp would hear her. Icicles shot out from her fingers and crashed against the tree. Callum did not seem to see anything out of the ordinary anyway.

 

-Ezran told me yesterday that you are connected to the Ocean Arcanum. I see you've mastered the basic attack spell to perfection. However, I don't use such spells ...

 

-Wait, you can do that too?- Soren asked. Claudia was surprised by his memory because he had told her what Amaya and Janai had told about Callum.

 

-Not quite so, but I can do my job. Fulminis Frigilis.- Callum drew a blunt rune in an unreachable rune. After uttering the spell, the air in front of his hand turned to ice and struck the tree, breaking off a piece of bark and wood.

 

-Woow. So... Will you teach me to do magic?- Claudia asked.

 

-Sure. You have the potential, so why not. You better know how to use magic because you could hurt someone. But don't expect miracles, I don't know much about this kind of magic, so I won't teach you much.- Callum said.


-You seem angry. Is this about Callum?- Ellis said after a moment. Han went to collect the wood and the girl was left alone with the elf in the camp (not counting Aanya and Ian still sleeping next to each other).

 

Rayla was sitting looking at the place in the bushes where Soren, Callum and Claudia had disappeared. It worried her that they were not coming back. She felt insecure sitting alone with a group of humans by the fire.

 

She remembered that when Callum had his final trials to become a mage in one of the nightmares she had seen Claudia while waiting for him. In this dream, the woman turned him into a coin. Rayla fought the urge need to follow him there.

 

-No. I just ... I don't trust Claudia and Soren.- she replied. In fact, she trusted no one from here, especially the siblings. She felt intuitively that sooner or later she would have to fight Claudia. Then she was sure that she would beat her blindfolded.

 

-Don't lie. I see you're worried about Callum.- Ellis said. Rayla had to admit that the girl was smarter than she looked.

 

-Why are you so interested in this? I'm not asking what is going on between you and Han.- Rayla replied.

 

-I've lived in the castle for a long time and Ezran trusts me. When Callum wrote about his life at Silvergrove, I read every letter with Ezran. You don't even know how much the words of these letters were devoted to you.- Ellis replied.

 

-And what? We are only friends so ...- Rayla tried to deny it, which was interrupted by a surprised Ellis.

 

-Callum lied a year ago when he said you were a couple?- Ellis asked in surprise. Rayla thought that Callum, despite being smart, wrote too much.

 

-... Eh ... No. He wasn't lying. For our own sake, we don't want to tell anyone. Don't tell anyone, okay?- Rayla asked.

 

-I'm not going to.- Ellis replied.

 

-Alright. Who else knows but you and Ezran?- Rayla asked.

 

-Amaya, Ezran's parents, Aanya. Only that many people.- Ellis said.

 

-Worth knowing.- Rayla said.

 

After a while, Soren returned to the fire. He seemed inconsolable.

 

- Something happened, Soren?- Ellis asked.

 

-I'm so hungry. - he said, rummaging in his backpack - But I know how to fix it.- He said, pulling out the bundle. There was a strange brown lump inside.

 

-What is this?- Rayla asked. According to her, it smelled strange.

 

-Dried meat. Do you want some?- Soren asked.

 

-No! Disgusting.- Rayla contested.

 

-Your will. Ellis?- Soren turned to the girl.

 

-Give me some.- Ellis said. Soren handed her some and they both gnawed and chewed the meat. Rayla looked at them in disgust.

 

-How can you eat it? It was another living being.

 

-Not now. It is now a delicious strip of dried pork. You don't have pigs in Xadia?- Soren asked.

 

-We don't eat meat there. None.- Rayla replied. The elf felt sick to her at the sight of meat being eaten.

 

-Why?- Ellis asked.

 

-Because it's a murder on a being who lived a quiet life. It's barbaric.- Rayla said.

 

-Your loss. This meat is delicious-. Soren said, nibbling on his meal. Rayla took out her Silvergrove biscuits to eat some breakfast.


As they continued their journey, Rayla drove Sapphire a little further to be out of earshot of the rest of the group.

 

-What did you and Claudia talk about?- Rayla asked.

 

-Nothing big. However, I can't tell you. I would like to, but I promised not to tell anyone .- explained the Mage.

 

-Really? Not even me?-Rayla asked.

 

-Forgive me honey. Even you.- Callum said.

 

-I understand. Well, nothing ... Probably nothing wrong, right?- Rayla said. She wasn't sure if it was anything bad, at least for him.

 

-Nothing wrong with that, I promise.- Callum assured her.

 

Even so, Rayla doubted his words. She had no secrets with him. He did not hide anything, apart from what he had felt about her in the past, from her. Rayla, however, tried to convince that Callum could not leave her. After all, he only loved her, right?

 

-Hey. You know I love you, right?- Callum asked.

 

-I know ... I love you too ...- Rayla said. Callum kissed her on the head where her horns were sticking out. - Callum, not there. You know you can't kiss this place in a public.

 

-Since when is the Forest a public place?- Callum asked, surprised.

 

-Since we have been followed by 7 humans.- Rayla laughed. She decided to believe Callum ...

Chapter Text

Rayla, despite Callum's words of encouragement, for the next two days of the trip, she became more and more nervous about the situation. Claudia and Callum disappeared every day around evening and returned late at dusk. They were always either alone or with Soren. When asked what they were doing, they said nothing. Rayla didn't have to be a genius not to know that they were hiding something from her.

 

Traveling away from human cities with a group of humans, Rayla realized that humans are different than she previously thought. Despite caricatured portrayal of them by other elves, Rayla realized that humans are not very different from Elves - despite being often more sloppy or short-sighted or even stupid (she attributed the last trait to them thanks to Soren and his strange behavior), people loved, feared, tried, argued and envied just like the elves. Even so, Rayla still felt uncomfortable.

 

On the third day they met the group, they stopped at the northern foot of the Cursed Caldera. They had descended from the old roadinto the small ruins of the Katolis-Duren war town nearly 600 years earlier. The ruins consisted of the walls of several larger buildings. Ezran and Aanya told them the history of the area. Formerly, there was an inn and a mill here, but the passing Katolis troops burned down the settlement that then belonged to Duren. After winning the war, these lands were incorporated into Katolis. From then on, both kingdoms turned from fierce rivals and enemies to allies. The current alliance was strengthened by Callum as a hostage to Xadia which ensured that the Duren people would survive the winter. Aanya said that higher in relations between countries there may already be a personal union (a marriage that makes both countries ruled by one ruler, but both countries have everything separately, it is true thing and I am sick of pretending that it is not possible- authors note), on mention which Ezran blushed strangely.

 

They have decided to locate themselves in the ruins of the mill. Only the exterior walls made of stone remained of the building. They set up a fire at the entrance in the north corner of a medium-sized building, the twins with Ellis and Aanya. Callum Rayla and Ezran lay between them and the fire. Soren and Claudia set their bedrolls in the eastern corner.

 

In the evening, when Rayla was carrying water in a metal cup, she saw that Claudia and Callum were talking about magic by the fire. The elf could have sworn that she almost crushed the cup with her fingers. She couldn't bear what she saw. She watched the pebble sticking out of the ground after Claudia. Rayla smiled wanting to implement her devilc plan.

 

Walking next to them, she tripped purposely over a stone, pouring water over Claudia's head. All the contents flooded the woman's head, making her hair stick to her face.

 

-Shit, Soren, if this is another stupid joke of yours ...- Claudia muttered.

 

-Forgive me ... It's me. I accidentally tripped. sorry ...- Rayla said, pretending a repentant voice.

 

-Ah... It's fine. Nothing happened.- Claudia said uncertainly. Still, Rayla wasn't going to stop there.

 

Moments later, she did exactly the same.

 

-Ups. Clumsy me.- Rayla said. Claudia didn't answer, just dried herself with the towel that Callum handed from her bag. It only fueled Rayla's anger.

 

She poured water over Claudia's head once more. This time, however, the woman responded to her taunts, feeling that Rayla was doing it on purpose.

 

-Shit, Rayla! What is your problem!?- Claudia asked furiously.

 

-My problem? I just did something by accident. Take it easy because you have problems.- Rayla replied in the most innocent voice she could.

 

-Do not lie! You tripped over the same stone three times in a row! Callum said you were agile. Either he exaggerated or you do it on purpose.- Claudia replied

 

-Are you suggesting that Callum was lying?!- Rayla approached her. Claudia was only a few centimeters away. - Stay away from him or I'll kill you, bitch. -Elf whispered in the her ear. Claudia was surprised by what she heard. Before she could react, Callum and Soren began to separate them.

 

-Rayla, come on. I'm sure Claudia didn't mean anything by it .- calmed Rayla Callum, pulling her away from the woman.

 

-Claudia, you know she doesn't really meant it. It can happen to anyone.- Soren assured Claudia, pulling her away from the Elf.

 

Rayla gave Claudia a scornful look anyway. She just looked at her nervously. Rayla was ready to even intimidate Claudia and force her to stay away from Callum, even by breaking her own morals.

 

Everything was watched by the rest of the group who clearly didn't know what to say. They were all tired, so they understood when someone argued about things that were of little importance like this. However, seeing how Claudia reacted, they felt one thing: fear.


-Okay, now try the Aqua Spiarlis.- Callum said.

 

He and Claudia practiced their spells a little further beyond the camp. Claudia insisted that she didn't want anyone to see her skills until she it level enough. She had a spell accuracy problem for the first few days, but on that day her spells were doing quite well. Claudia drew a rune and directed her hand towards the river.

 

-Aqua Spiralis!- Suddenly a trickle of water from the river shot into her hand. Claudia felt her hands. She moved the whip that rose from the water in her hand.

 

-Not bad. Try hitting that tree.- Callum pointed.

 

Claudia took a swing and hit the indicated plant. A few splinters and bark had fallen off the tree.

 

-You are very talented with magic. Something motivates you?- Callum said.

 

-Some things ... One is to impress my father ... And the other ... Well ... It's kind of silly. But ... I'm afraid of Rayla ... - said Claudia.

 

-What? Why?- Callum asked. He saw Rayla, by some strange coincidence, teasing Claudia quite often. Even if it was not on purpose, it still seemed strange to him that Rayla could trip over the same stone three times.

 

-I don't know ... It's just ... She is mean to me. I don't think she likes me.- Claudia said.

 

-She? Rayla is fine. I don't know if you have anything to worry about. Maybe you don't get along, but believe me, I don't know any more capable or nicer person than her.- Callum said.

 

-I know. It's just ... Maybe if I can do magic like you, maybe he'll stop treating me with contempt.-Claudia said. She did not understand why the elf disliked her so much and teased her so much at every opportunity. She felt, however, that there was more to this than her usual dislike of the elf's for humans.

 

-I can talk to her. I'll see if something is really up.- Callum said. Claudia looked at him pleadingly at these words.

 

-Heavens, yes. If you can, I would be grateful.- Claudia replied without thinking. Callum began to wonder what Rayla had to do to her when he wasn't next to her that Claudia was so terrified of her.


-You seem sad. Are you alright?- Rayla asked. All day Ellis had seemed glum and sad. Out of all the humans, she, Aanya, and Ezran were the nicest to her. Rayla liked them more than the rest of the group, so she also tried to care for them more.

 

They sat alone in the encampment while the twins, Aanya and Ezran went to look for some firewood and Soren went to see what Claudia and Callum were going who had disappeared into the woods.

 

-I'm fine ... I just ... I grew up around this mountain. In a village to the south,.- said Ellis.

 

-Are you close to home? I would be happy if I were close to home.- Rayla said. Ellis, however, did not smile at the mention of the houme.

 

-Me too. If it weren't for the fact that ... I'm the last one out there.- Ellis said hesitantly.

 

-Why "last"?- Rayla asked surprised.

 

-When I was seven, all peole vanished from my village. In one day, without a word. Poof, there's no one. I was left alone. My parents, friends and people all I knew from birth simply disappeared. A few days later Ezran Aunt found me and took me in. I haven't been that close to this place since then.- said Ellis.

 

-Wow ... Do you remember how it happened?- Rayla asked.

 

-Yes. The day was just like any other day. There was no sign that anything would happen. It was winter solstice, everyone were happy like always. In the evening from the east a green glow was shining from the forest. People didn't know what it was or why it glowed, but looked uncertainly knowing something was odd. Dad was a member of the city militia. He told my mother and me to go in and not to go out. Suddenly, a mist, thick as milk, blew from the forest. I couldn't see anything behind the glass in the window. Suddenly I heard screams from neighbors, then others, and then I heard screams from all over the city. Mom told me to go with Ava, my wolf into the basement, which she covered with a carpet. That's why I survived. Moments after that, I heard her scream. I am surprised that whatever came after them did not take me because I cried so much. I wasn't moving until Amaya opened the basement door few days later. There was a lot of blood in the city. They told me that only I survived.- Ellis replied.

 

-I'm sorry. How are you ... Are you holding up?- Rayla asked.

 

-I'm fine. Ezran's parents look after me and took me in. I know Han, Ezran, Ezran's parents and Amaya are with me. I am not afraid of what happened to my real family. I want to know. Know what happened to them. I want to know where my parents went.- Ellis said.

 

-I understand. Exactly ... You and Han ...? You guys are ... You know ... - Rayla asked.

 

-Yes. We're. Don't tell anyone, okay?- Ellis asked.

 

-No one. After all, you cover my back too. I owe you that, in a way.- Rayla said.

 

-I know, thanks.- Ellis replied. Suddenly, Aanya entered the ruins.

 

-So as I thought, you are together after all.- Aanya said. Ellis blushed when she saw her. Her friend heard everything.

 

-No ... I mean... -Ellis tried to explain, but knowing that lying to the already informed Aanya was pointless.

 

-Hey take it easy. I'm not going to do anything with you. He is my friend and all I care about him is his welfare. I can see that you are together and it makes you both happy. I'm not going to bother you.- Aanya said. Ellis looked at her uncertainly.

 

-But they ... They said that ...- Ellis wasn't sure what she was saying.

 

-They can't be close to me. This does not mean that they cannot have their own lives in the background. Besides, I haven't seen one of them so happy for a long time. You guys fit together.- Aanya said, sitting down next to Ellis and patting the younger girl on the shoulder.

 

-I... thank you.- Ellis replied after a moment.

 

- That's what friends are for, right?- Aanya asked. Looking at the whole situation, Rayla felt that she liked at least these two girls after all.


-Soren, come on. I'm dying to laugh.- Claudia laughed as they returned to the camp. Callum meditated for a while on the spot where they practiced their spells. On their return, Soren joked about Callum and the focus he attached to meditation.

 

-Don't say he didn't seem very focused on getting "all his problems" out of himself.- Soren joked. Claudia burst out laughing, followed by Soren.

 

-Soren! He is our friend. You can't be kidding like that.- Claudia said trying not to laugh.

 

-I don't think he'd be offended. Besides, I'd rather joke about him than his elf friend. She scares me.- Soren said, trying to control himself. At the mention of the elf, Claudia turned pale.

 

-Yes. She is quite scary ... - said Claudia. The ruins in which they camped loomed in front of them. They entered the building in which they slept. Everyone was already inside except Ezran and Ian.

 

Rayla looked at her siblings in surprise, then her face twisted into a scowl of anger. She got up and started walking in the direction of Soren and Claudia with uncontained fury.

 

-Where. He. Is.- Rayla asked.

 

-Who? -Claudia and Soren asked in unison.

 

-You already know who. Tell me what you did with him, witch.- Rayla said. She felt that the siblings had done something to Callum, but preferred not to think about it.

 

-He meditated when we left him in the woods.- Claudia replied. Rayla didn't seem to believe her anyway.

 

-You lie.- Rayla replied. The situation was getting more and more tense and it is not known what would have happened if it had not been for Callum who flew into the ruins through the roof.

 

-Rayla! I'm here. Easy. I'm here.- Callum called, changing his wings into his hands again. He landed behind Claudia. Seeing him, Rayla walked towards him, not forgetting to hit Claudia by her shoulder. Claudia jumped back surprised. Soren was about to defend her but Claudia stopped him with her hand.

 

-You are here. They didn't do anything to you, did they? You can't walk alone like that. - Rayla quickly checked his head and everything around him.

 

-Rayla, I'm fine. Thanks for caring.- Callum said hugging her. Rayla hugged him as tightly as she could. - We have to talk. It's not a big deal, trust me.- Callum whispered in her ear. Rayla was surprised but nodded.

 

When they left Claudia sat down in her sleeping place to breathe a sigh of relief.

 

-Why is she that angry on to you so much?- Ellis asked.

 

-I do not know. I didn't do anything to her. I don't know anything. I never touched the Dark Magic. I didn't touch her stuff. I don't know, I just don't know.- Claudia said nervously.

 

-Maybe it's because you spend a lot of time with Callum and Rayla is worried about him?- Aanya asked.

 

-That would be it. The whole think now began with her asking where Callum was.- Han said.

 

Claudia felt compelled to beg Callum for books on magic and stop approaching him. However, she wanted to catch up with her childhood friend. She didn't mean to steal his heart or anything like that - she was still in a relationship with Ves.

 

-Hey. Pst. Claudia. You know if I have to, I can try to punch her or something.- Soren  whispered to Claudia and then winked at her knowingly. Claudia was glad that her brother was still with her after all.


-I noticed you've been ... nervous lately.- Callum said. They sat on a tree branch away from the campsite. The sky was already dark and the stars were shining on it. The forest was quiet and the only thing possible to hear in it was a soft breeze.

 

-Nervous? No, no.- Rayla contested. Since they were out of earshot and sight of anyone in the camp, Rayla continued to hold his hand tighter than usual. Callum felt Rayla had a problem.

 

-You know what I mean. What's going on with you and Claudia? You're really mad at her.- Callum asked.

 

-Me and Claudia? I have nothing against her ...- "Not even respect," Rayla thought.- I don't trust her. You spend a lot of time together. Besides, she is lying, tries to manipulate everyone around and has a morbid inclination. Anyway, this is the daughter of Viren, this Viren. Don't say you trust him too

 

-Rayla, you haven't acted like this since Barris gave up about me. You're sure you're not jealous?- Callum asked.

 

-Not at all. I'm just trying to remind Claudia that there are limits she shouldn't cross.- Rayla lied. She was aware that she was terribly jealous, but did not prevent her from undermining everything Claudia was doing.

 

-I'll believe you. Look, you don't need to be friends and be at peace with Claudia right away, but please stop thrilling her. You scare me when you tire and intimidate Claudia. Please promise me that you will stop mocking her at least.- Callum said.

 

-I promise. - Rayla lied once again - But enough about her...- Rayla said, pulling Callum by his scarf. Their lips joined in a passionate kiss.

 

-Rayla, you know I love you, right?- Callum asked as they hung up.

 

-I know. You don't even know how much.- Rayla said.


-You are holding on?- Ian asked. Ezran nodded softly.

 

They ran into a furious bear who injured them both. However, if it weren't for Ezran and his dramatic attempt to talk the bear with reason, they both wouldn't have come out alive.

 

-Listen ... I know it's not the best time, but promise me that if I didn't make it to the camp ...-Ian looked at his torn leg, which Ezran had bandaged. - Then you'll tell Aanya that ... I ... I ... I love her.

 

Ezran gave him a strange look, as if telling him that Aanya was his sister.

 

-You ... You too?- Ezran asked uncertainly.

 

-Wait ... you too? Oh shit ... Ouch!- Ian howled, standing on his injured leg.

 

-Don't move. I'll change the bandage.- said Ezran. He alone had a torn sleeve and a wound along the entire length of his arm, but it did not stop him from trying to bandage Ian's leg. -So ... how long have you ... been in love with her?- Ezran asked.

 

-You won't believe it, but since I saw her. I didn't believe in love at first sight, but it redefined what I should believe. Then it turned out she was amazing. She is smart, nice and I'm not talking about the fact that she impressed me by piercing the apple with a bow shot from 100 meters. How long you ...?-Ian asked. It was weird talking to another guy about a girl they both liked.

 

-When I saw her for the first time since her parents told her to focus on her studies. I know you are wondering why I am talking about this. I try to make you think about her and not think about the pain or death. Believe me, when you think of a person like her, you want to live.- Ezran said. Ian laughed.

 

-True. But you know ... She's the only one. And us ... There are two of us.- Ian said. He was ready to fight for her with a prince of another kingdom.

 

-I know. However, it is not up to us what she will want. Listen, I have a suggestion. If we both survive to reach the camp, we will try to win her favor. Which one of us she choose is the winner and the other has to come to terms with it and do nothing to make the winner die early. However, if something happens to the winner, the second one will help Aanya. Deal?- Ezran asked, pulling his healthy arm. Ian shook his hand without thinking.

 

-Agreed. But you know ... It's gonna be an unequal fight. After all, you are a prince and you have the means to ... - Ian denied Ezran.

 

-For what? I am a human like you. Besides, look at you and me. I'm skinny and you have at least a little muscle. Aanya would surely find you more attractive than me. Besides, she is a princess so she has everything I can give her except the love that she can also find with you.- Ezran said.

 

-A princess impressed by you. Plus, she is…-Ian wanted to say something, but Ezran cut him off.

 

-I know how biology works. I don't give a shit about fact that she is adopted. Anyway, you helped her the most. You were with her when she needed it-. Ezran said.

 

-But with you she was herself.- Ian said. There was silence. Both boys headed for the camp. Unfortunately for them, they were far away.

 

-I just ... I have an impression if you talked to that bear?- Ian asked.

 

- Believe it or not, I understood what he was saying. And he understood us. We entered his teritory. He was angry but I managed to convince him not to tear us apart.

 

-So ... Can you talk to animals? Come on… -Ian said.

 

-Yeah. For a while, I thought it was just empathy and guesswork. Callum said, however, that Earthblood Elves can do that too. Now I don't know what to think.

 

-That would be useful. You understand ... Talk to your brother. Maybe he can teach you something.- Ian said.

 

-That's not his type of magic. But I can try.- Ezran said.

 

-Try what? Suddenly Rayla hung in front of them, holding the tree brunch by her legs. Both teenagers screamed in horror and fell over. Ian hissed landing on his injured leg and Ezran screamed, leaning on his torn hand.

 

-By Garlach, what happened to you ?!- Callum asked coming down from the tree Rayla was hanging from. The elf also came down from the tree, helping both of them to get up.

 

-We had a meeting with the bear. It's not a big deal, really… -Ian said and Ezran nodded.

 

-Nothing big? Ezran has a broken arm and Ian has so many injuries that somehow he hasn't passed out from lack of blood yet. We're taking you to the camp immediately.- Rayla called. Before either of the boys could say anything, Callum and Rayla carried them to the camp.


Aanya lay snuggled against both of them. She was afraid to leave them alone even for a moment.

 

When Rayla and Callum brought them in, Aanya almost fainted. The two boys she liked and respected so much, barely escaped death by a bear. Nevertheless, she pushed herself and began to help both of them, sparing no effort to carry water or wash their wounds. She tried to help both of them equally.

 

Ezran had a broken arm and scars all the way down his arm. His jacket was in shreds and if it weren't for the fact that it was already red, it would have been visible how soaked with blood it was. Besides, he had a wound below the rib that looked like a bear's claw mark.

 

Ian, on the other hand, had a broken leg which was full of wounds from a bear bite. How he hadn't bled out so far, Aanya didn't know. However, the mere awareness that the boy had survived gave her both relief and fear -  was he alive but for how long?

 

Aanya wondered why she was so worried about both of them?

 

Ian was nice, trustful, and he was there for her whenever she needed it. He was also handsome, and despite being the perfect copy of her twin brother, Aanya thought he was unique.

 

Ezran, on the other hand, was kind, cheerful and affectionate as well. When they talked alone, he never pretended anything, nor he was a parody of court etiquette. He was just himself. Besides, he was cute to her, especially when he started talking about the animals he often saw in the forest near the capital city of Katolis. The enthusiasm with which he talked about it made Aanya smile involuntarily.

 

With both, she felt like herself. She felt safe with both. With both she felt ...

 

Love.

 

She loved both.

 

Aanya blushed at that conclusion. She realized that she was in love.

 

However, she realized that she would have to choose one of them. Ian, who was popular in the garrison of the Duren capital and was even called by her mothers as "the promising young man", or Ezran, who was liked and respected because of his fair and mutually beneficial contracts between Katolis and Duren, which his mothers called him as "Duren's friend".

 

It was a tough choice. Aanya, however, decided to reflect and ask the older friends, both in age and experience. She felt silly thinking that she would ask Claudia, Rayla and Ellis about such a topic, but felt she would have no other choice.

Chapter Text

Due to the wounds of Ezran and Ian, they had to stay in the ruins for an additional few days. The journey was getting longer, which did not suit anyone, but there was no other option to be able to resume the journey because of the wounded.

 

During those few days, Aanya looked after the wounded while Callum and Claudia disappeared into the woods for an unknown purpose for entire days. Soren decided to pass the time by offering Rayla and Han a sparring. Rayla nodded without thinking while Han said he needed to sharp his sword.

 

Soren struck his sword from above, but Rayla swiftly deflected his sword to the left and delivered a blow towards Soren's neck. A few centimeters from the man's throat, the blade stopped in the air.

 

-Damn. You're pretty good at this.- Soren said, holding his hands up to indicate that he was giving up.

 

-I know. I've been practicing this for 10 years-. Rayla said with a smile.

 

-I see. Two swords are handy, huh?- Soren asked. In the process, he wanted to try to convince Rayla to leave his sister alone.

 

-Yeah. You should be glad that there were three of you when we met you. If any of you tried to fight me alone, you would probably not survive the fight.- Rayla assured him.

 

-I believe. Look, I once heard a story about Moonshadow Elven Assassins. Apparently, their eyesight kills and they are completely invisible at night. Is it true? - Soren asked.

 

-Not much of this is true, except that all Moonshadow Elves can vanish during a full moon. We are faster and stronger at night. Besides, we are fast and agile ourselves. However, neither I nor any other assassin ever killed with his eyes.- Rayla said. At these words, Soren turned pale.

 

-So ... Are you one of the Assassins?- the man asked.

 

-Yes. Each Moonshadow Elf warrior is an Assassin. Assassination skills are quite effective in stealth combat. Besides, thanks to this my home town has a small but elite army.- Rayla said.

 

-This is ... Pretty interesting solution. Katolis has a regular army that rely on standardized and regular training and equipment for soldiers. It works.- Soren said.

 

-Sounds nice. Tell me, Claudia has someone?- Rayla asked. Soren was surprised by the question.

 

-Yes ... Yes she does. Why do you ask?- Soren asked.

 

-Pure curiosity.- Rayla replied. She wanted to make sure Claudia was interested not only in Callum.

 

-Okay. And you? Do you have someone?- Soren asked.

 

-I have. Round two?- Rayla asked.

 

-You bet.- Soren said.

 

They faced each other. Rayla moved towards Soren this time.He stepped back as she dealt a blow, blocking the second aimed at with the second sword. Rayla jumped away from him while he backed away. They circled for a while waiting for the opponent's distraction. All the time Soren was swinging his sword, tossing it from hand to hand.

 

-Are you playing around or fighting?- Rayla asked, bored with his performance.

 

-I'm distracting you,- Soren said, kicking a pile of sand in her direction. Rayla stepped back and shielded her eyes from the sand that was aimed at her eyes, then blocked Soren's blow. She tried to deliver a second blow, but Soren grabbed her wrist. Surprised Rayla tried to step back and break free from it but Soren unexpectedly released her, causing her to fall. Before she got up, Soren had put his sword to her neck.

 

-So you can be beaten alone.- Soren said, taking the blade away and offering her hand. Rayla didn't answer as she stood up. Her pride was clearly tarnished.

 

Over the next few fights, Rayla proved to Soren that he had made a mistake. Fight after fight Rayla send Soren to the ground. The man was terrified of the elf who did everything to defeat him.

 

-Uch.- Soren grunted, sitting down after an hour or so of constantly hitting the ground and being squashed with Rayla's shoe.

 

-One to twenty-one. Not bad. Each time you held out for a few seconds longer.- Rayla said. She was pleased to prove himself the best swordsman in the area.

 

-It doesn't comfort me.- Soren said. He felt disheartened after Rayla plowed the ground several times with it.

 

-Don't be so strict with yourself. I know elves far from your level. You can see that with a little practice and a change of equipment, you would be able to match me in combat.- Rayla said. Even though Soren was defeated by her several times, she began to respect him. Despite being the embodiment of stereotypes about people, he was even a skilled swordsman.

 

-I got this sword from my dad. I am attached to him. It's a bit bulky, but you know ... It's my sword. I wouldn't feel like myself if I didn't have it with me.

 

-I know something about this. These blades were made for me by my uncle when I was seven. Since then, I haven't used any other weapons ... Except for the dagger I got from Callum for my fifteenth birthday. - Rayla said.

 

-You've known Callum for a long time, right?- Soren asked.

 

-A whole decade. We lived in one house most of the time. Now ... I can't imagine my life without him ... - Rayla said.

 

-You must be good friends. I can't imagine my life without my sister. Speaking of her ... Look, I know you guys don't get along, but could you please stop ... teasing her. She's not that bad, really. Maybe her sense of humor isn't decent but ... You understand what I mean.- Soren said.

 

-I'll think over it.- Rayla lied. She wasn't going to let Claudia take a breath. Rayla thought that it was like the woman was turning Callum against her.

 

- Good for me. Listen ... We're going to run out of supplies soon. We will have to go to the nearest town and buy supplies. You can come with us or stay in the camp and watch over the wounded. Your choice.- Soren said.

 

- Sounds like a plan. But I could find some fruit in the forest, or some root. I know also a way to make a pretty good pine needle tea. No need to go to town ...

 

-We need not only food but also medicine for Ezran and Ian. You understand yourself. Aanya is a real miracle worker, but even King Florian will not pour from the empty bottle.- Soren said.

 

-Who?- Rayla asked.

 

-King Del Bar Florian III, his heir now, Florian V, rule this kingom. Monarchs have something to do with naming their children after their grandparents and adding numbers to their names when they are becoming king. Everyone considers Florian III the best king of Del Bar. A lot of proverbs and sayings with his name were created, which he inscribed in the cultural heritage of his country. It is said that he found Del Bar wooden and left it bricked.- Soren said.

 

- Sounds like a series of good jokes.- Rayla replied.

 

-Because it is.- Soren said. Their further conversation was interrupted by Aanya.

 

-Rayla, can we talk?- the younger girl asked. Rayla nodded and, taking off her breastplate, she followed Aanya. She was sweating hard as she fought Soren, who resisted her fiercely.

 

-So ... What do you want to talk about?- Rayla asked.

 

- It's no big deal ... Really. It's just ... Not talk for here-. Aanya said, not hiding  that she was blushing.

 

They went to the farthest building from where everyone was sitting. It used to be a small house, but now it was made of two stone walls. Rayla leaned against the wall while Aanya started pacing back and forth, forgetting that she was supposed to talk to the Elf. She seemed thoughtful, but it was hard to tell on what.

 

-Aanya, we were supposed to talk.- Rayla said after a long moment. Aanya, out of her thoughts, looked at her.

 

-I ... Well ... I don't know what to do. This is the first time I'm talking to anyone about this ... You see ... - Aanya said. Rayla guessed what the seventeen-year-old girl meant.

 

-So human women have it too ...- Rayla said.

 

-What?- Aanya replied, surprised.

 

-You know, it's okay. It only happens once a month and that is completely normal. I was terrified of it myself when it started to me, but it's nothing to be ashamed of. You know, your body grows and changes ...- Rayla tried to calm Aanya. She knew growing up could be terrifying and wanted to help her understand what was happening to her.

 

-Rayla, I'm not talking about it! Damn ... I don't know what to do.- Aanya said, putting her hands on her face.

 

-Will you tell me what's going on? The more you roll yourself into it, the harder it will be. I want to help you, but I can't if you don't tell me what the problem is.- Rayla said walking away from the wall by which she was standing.

 

-Alright ... The point is ... That ... I ... I think I feel something for ... a certain person. It's not a bad thing ...- Aanya tried to explain, but Rayla knew what it was all about. The young princess fell in love. Rayla was surprised that she had come to her with this problem when there were more trusted people around her.

 

-So you're in love and you're asking me for advice, right?- Rayla asked.

 

-... Yes.- Aanya replied.

 

-Easy. I want to help. I owe you all this covering me and Callum's back. Tell me what is the problem between you and this person.- Rayla asked as she sat down on the ground. Aanya sat down next to her.

 

-The thing is ... I have feelings for ... Two boys.- she said hesitantly, blushing.

 

-On Garlach. So that's it? Having trouble choosing one of them?- Rayla asked. Aanya nodded.

 

-Yes. I understand if you won't help me. After all, it's a kid's problem, not yours…- Aanya said uncertainly.

 

-Don't be afraid. I understand you feel stupid, but if you hadn't needed any help, you wouldn't have asked. Tell me about them first.- Rayla said.

 

-Well one of them ... He's a gifted soldier. He is nice, withdrawn. Sometimes he's cute. He has family problems and I feel a little sorry for him. I've known him for a long time and he helped me in difficult times. He can cheer me up when I feel bad. I feel safe with him. The other is an aristocrat a little younger than me. He's also cute,  funny. Besides, with him I feel ... Myself. He is not artificial, nor does it pretend to heavens know who. He's a little shy sometimes. I love it when it gets turned on talking about animals. They're both amazing ... But ... You understand. I am one. And there are two of them.- Aanya said.

 

-Let me guess - it's Ian and Ezran?- Rayla replied after a moment of reflection.

 

-But how are you...- Aanya asked, surprised.

 

-I am not blind. I saw how you take care of them lovingly. You reminded me of helping Callum with his wounds many times.- Rayla said.

 

-So ... What should I do? -Aanya asked.

 

-Well ... I wouldn't call myself an expert because I have no clue how humans in relationships work, nor was I in such a situation but I have an idea. In the evening we will go to a secluded place with Claudia and Ellis and talk quietly. Together we'll try to tell you what you should do.- Rayla said. It was the best solution, in the end it will be easier for the four of them to decide what to do.

 

-Sound ... Like a good idea. Are you sure you and Claudia will ... get along while it?- Aanya asked.

 

-I hope we can reach an agreement for a common goal. I will not mention that she is interested in my boyfriend.- Rayla said.

 

- Sounds fine. You know ... I know Claudia a little and from what Ezran told me I'm sure Callum wouldn't be able to cheat on you. It's not like both of them, and Claudia is… -Aanya tried to explain to Rayla that she had nothing to fear.

 

-Cheat?- Rayla interrupted her, surprised.

 

-Well ... To cheat means to be with someone and at the same time be with someone behind the back of the first partner. Don't the elves do that?- Aanya asked.

 

-No ... the Moonshadow Elves don't ...- Rayla suddenly realized that Claudia could force Callum to cheat on her. Callum couldn't ... Right?

 

-Rayla, is everything fine?- asked Aanya after while.

 

-That Slut!- Rayla suddenly stood up. She understood what was happening behind her back. Claudia tried to convince Callum to cheat on her. She clenched her hands in anger. She had had enough of these stalks and Claudia's playing "childhood friend". She had to point out to Claudia that Callum was hers and she wasn't going to share him.

 

-Rayla, where are you going?- Aanya called after her, surprised by her reaction. She felt she caused a storm.

 

-Do something that I took too long to do.- Rayla said walking towards the forest. Aanya felt that she would have to prepare additional medicine.


Claudia was returning from practicing with Callum. Soren went over to talk to them about a planned trip to the city to replenish supplies. There was a moment to talk to Callum while she decided to return to the camp.

 

She had been practicing magic with Callum for a week and was getting better at spells. She began to understand better her connection to the Arcanum of the Ocean - water was everywhere, after all. Its source of power was in almost everything - plants, earth and living things. All it took was a little source for Claudia to create an icy cover out of the water, or to shoot ice spikes. However, she was limited by water - she could not use spells in the desert, otherwise she could hurt herself (Callum explained that every creature is partially made of water, and when using spells, she should be careful not to use up all the water from the body).

 

However, the joy of what she learned did not change the fact that she continued to fear Rayla. She thought about how to prevent the elf from teasing her. Maybe she should actually tell her what she's really doing with Callum. Rayla would understand ...

 

As if on cue, Rayla came out from the bushes opposite. The elf noticed Claudia at once and started walking towards her. It was obvious that the elf was furious. She clenched her fists at the sight of Claudia.

 

-Rayla, is there something ...- Claudia tried to ask, but the elf grabbed her by the collar and crushed her to the nearest tree.

 

-Listen carefully, bitch. I know what you're gonna do. I will not give you the opportunity to take him from me, you understand?- Rayla glared at Claudia furiously. Claudia froze internally.

 

-But, I don't know what you're talking about. Leave me alone!- Claudia said, her voice breaking.

 

 

-You know very well witch. Callum is mine, can you hear me!?- Rayla shouted to Claudia's face. The woman knew then that there would be no way to survive for her without a fight.

 

-I don't care what you and Callum have in common. You hate humans and now you are looking for excuses for your anger.- Claudia said. At this time, she drew water with a spell and drew a spell rune that creates a whirlpool. - Aquiro!

 

Rayla flew a few meters away, blown away by the stream of water directed from Claudia's hand. However, despite her surprise, she quickly stood up and unfolded her folding swords.

 

-I don't want to hurt you Rayla!- Claudia said drawing a rune to create a water whip. Water flew into her hands and formed a line.

 

- Bad for you.- Rayla replied ready to attack.


- It would be nice for a change, to see the human city up close. I haven't been to any for a long time. Rayla would probably like it too.- Callum said.

 

-I know. We would buy supplies and other things. I got from Ezran money for this journey and we spent none of it. You must probably miss of decent food. How did you survive 10 years without a bite of meat?- Soren asked.

 

-You can live without meat, you know.- Callum said.

 

-Callum, you are describing a world where there is no place for me.- Soren laughed.

 

They walked along the path to the camp. On the way, they decided to collect firewood for the fire and each of them had quite a lot of sticks in their hands.

 

-Listen, I ... Sorry about Rayla. Sometimes she can be possessive and has temper. You see for yourself how she is with Claudia ... - said Callum.

 

-Don't remind. When you and Caludia were practicing spells, I talked her into sparring. Just a few sword fights. I won the second round, but then she swept the ground with me. It hurts like hell.- Soren said, scratching his ear.

 

-You know, she was the best assassin in her training group. If not that ...- Suddenly Callum stopped and turned in the direction from which the wind was blowing. It was not strong, but it was enough for Callum to hear what he was carrying with him. What he heard made him drop all the brushwood in his hands.

 

-Callum , is something ...- Soren asked.

 

-Run to the river. Now!- The mage told him.

 

-Wait, Callum, but what ...- Soren didn't understand, but Callum interrupted him.

 

-Claudia and Rayla are in trouble. Run to them! Manus Pluma Volantius. - After the spell, Callum grew wings and in a few seconds he was in the air. As quickly as possible, he moved towards where the sounds of fighting were coming from. It was a bit far however.


Claudia was tired. Even though she was casting for about 10 minutes of spells, the constant intake of water from the trees made her exhausted. She was leaning against a tree. Rayla was standing a bit further away, barely on her feet. Claudia tried to play defensively and still not hurt the elf. She kept her distance all the time and kept Rayla away with more spells. Everything around was wet with the spells Claudia used.

 

- Hell ... I don't want Callum! Do you understand!? I have a girlfriend!-Claudia shouted at Rayla.

 

-You lie!- Rayla tried to get up to her last attempt to attack Claudia, but at the same time Callum landed through the trees with a thud. While landing (or perhaps hitting the ground more), he used a spell to cushion the landing, unconsciously freezing all the water in the area, immobilizing both combatants.

 

-I heard the fight, did ... somebody ... Are you okay?- Callum asked seeing Rayla and Claudia frozen. There were no other opponents in the area.

 

-Rayla attacked me because she thought you were cheating on her. Please explain to her that we've been practicing spells.- Claudia pleaded.

 

-Wait ... Rayla, is that true?- Callum asked, surprised.

 

-I do. This is true.- Rayla replied looking at the ground. She felt a little ashamed to think that Callum found her in this situation.

 

-Why?!- Callum asked.

 

-I thought that ... that Claudia was going to take you away from me. I was afraid that when you disappeared into the forest ... you and her ...- Rayla tried to explain herself, but now she began to understand that all her thoughts were stupid.

 

-I didn't want to do anything. I wanted to learn spells. I swear it.- Claudia argued.

 

-It's true Rayla. I can show you the place where we have been practicing all the time. Nothing happened.- Callum confirmed.

 

-And... Aren't you cheating on me? Rayla asked.

 

-I don't even know what that means.- Callum replied.

 

-I ...-Rayla didn't finish the sentence. She was foolish about this fight.

 

-It's okay ... We'll talk in private in a moment. Are you both alright? -Callum asked, drawing a spell rune to free them.

 

-Yeah ... I think so ...- said Claudia. Meanwhile, Soren reached them.

 

-What happened here?- Asked the panting sergeant.

 

-Claudia will tell you on the way to the Camp. I need to talk to Rayla alone. Aspiro.- Callum said and then blew. He had practiced this spell for years, and now its power could crush the ice without any problem.

 

Both fighters fell to the ground, shaking. Soren approached Claudia while Callum took care of Rayla. They were both shivering with the cold.

 

-Are you alright?- Soren asked, putting his uniform coat on her shoulders. Claudia nodded. Soren immediately took her to the camp.

 

Callum covered Rayla with his cloak and drew a rune to create a small flame of fire in his hand. Rayla put her hands near it.

 

 

-Explain everything to me ... From the beginning.- Callum said.

 

-Eh ... It started when we met them. You started disappearing into the woods and you didn't say what you were doing there. I thought Claudia and you ...

 

-Oh, Rayla. You know that I only love you. Besides, she's not my type. She asked not to tell anyone because she was afraid that her father would find out and forbid it to her. That's why I didn't say anything, although maybe I should have said it earlier ... - Callum said kissing her forehead.

 

-Yeah ... Now it all seems stupid to me ... I got carried away with jealousy like a crazy teenager. Sorry.- Rayla said, moving closer to him.

 

-You shouldn't apologize to me, but that in a moment. You need to keep warm. I'm not angry, I'm just ... I'm surprised. Who would have thought you were capable of this to make sure we would be together?- Callum said embracing her tighter.

 

- Stupid, right?- Rayla replied.

 

Rayla hugged Callum for a while. She wasn't cold because Callum was trying to keep her warm. She felt stupid about this situation where she misjudged Claudia. She got carried away by jealousy and attacked an innocent person.

 

-Claudia is really connected to the Ocean Arcanum?- she asked after a while.

 

-From what I can see, yes. I stopped being special.- Callum laughed.

 

-You're all the time for me special, you know that silly.- Rayla said.

 

-I know. And I promise you, I'm not going to either cheat on you, whatever that means, or walk away from you. I love you and I will not let anyone stand between us.- Callum said.

 

-Yes ... I love you too ...-Rayla said kissing him on the lips.


-Lovely creature ...- Ezran said, stroking Callum and Rayla's mount. It's been a few days since a bear attacked them and they were slowly recovering.

 

-Yeah. He's sitting with us all the time. Faithful ... Cat-Dog-Deer thing?- Ian asked.

 

-It's Shadow Paw, I think.- said Ezran.

 

-How do you know the species of Xadian animals names?- Han asked, dodging from cleaning his sword.

 

-I guess.- said Ezran.

 

Suddenly, Aanya burst into the ruins looking for more bandages. She had been looking for medicines for a good hour only for a purpose known to her.

 

-Hey, Aanya? Is everything alright? - Ian asked. She, however, as soon as it got inside, run out with medicines into the second building.

 

-What do you think is happening?- Ezran asked.

 

-She talked about something with Rayla and then she went furious to the forest. I think she's preparing for the worst.- Ian said, trying to straighten up despite his bandaged leg.

 

-Oh, come on. Rayla and Claudia shouldn't kill each other in the same forest. They went there, but probably for other purposes.- Ezran said. He doubted that Claudia and Rayla would get into a fight. After all, what can go wrong for this to happen?

Chapter Text

-Hey ... Can we talk?- Rayla asked. She was holding two mugs in her hand.

 

It was evening already. Everyone returned to the camp. Claudia sat in front of the ruins of the building while the rest of the group sat inside.

 

Claudia had to collect her thoughts from this day. The first time only because she had contact with any man, his partner wanted to kill her. They managed to come to an agreement, but Claudia was still afraid.

 

-Sure ...- Claudia replied. Rayla sat down next to her and gave her a cup of pine needle tea. Rayla sat down next to her.

 

-I wanted to apologize for ... you know ... for everything. I was jealous about Callum. It's not about that you're human, it's just ... I love him. I thought you wanted to take him from me ... - Rayla said.

 

-Nothing happened. I didn't want anyone to know that I can ... You know ... I was just careful. But I should trust you and tell you. I didn't know you and Callum ...- Claudia paused. She felt that this topic was still unstable.

 

-Yeah ... We've known each other 10 years and now ... I can't imagine my life without him. I was a bit possessive.- Rayla said shyly.

 

-Some? You threatened to kill me. I think you got your goal and I'm not going to even move Callum. Anyway, I have someone...- said Claudia.

 

-Right. Another direction with her, right?- Rayla said. Claudia nodded.

 

-Yes. You know ... Looking at you, I'm absolutely sure Callum will never leave you. Not because he is in love with you, or because you are talented and beautiful, but because he will have no other options because you will scare the other girls away from him.- said Claudia. Rayla chuckled softly.

 

-Yeah ... Listen ... I have a problem ...- she said after a moment.

 

-Yes?- Claudia asked.

 

-Aanya has a problem. She came to ask me for advice, but you know ... I can't quite help her alone. Ellis has agreed to help, and you still remain. It's about the heart.- Rayla said.

 

-I see ... Of course I'll help.- Claudia replied, standing up.

 

-I was counting on it. After all, you have a little more experience than I do.- Rayla replied, standing next to her and walking towards the ruins where their main group was.

 

-With girls. I doubt Aanya is also interested in people of the same gender.-Claudia laughed.

 

-Not really. But you'll understand everything when we talk to her.- Rayla said.

 

They entered the ruins where Han, standing over the fire, was telling everyone a story while Ellis tried to tune her lute to play. Ian and Ezran sat against the wall while Soren and Callum sat by the fire. Soren was cleaning his armor while Callum meditated. Aanya sat quietly by the fire warming her hands.

 

-... And he then chop, chop, chop with an axe...- Han said, but Rayla cut him off.

 

-Forgive us for interrupting, but can we "borrow" Ellis and Aanya? We have a few girl's issues to discuss without you guys.- Claudia said firmly. Both girls looked at her in surprise, but got up and followed her, leaving the male part of the group alone.

 

-What do you think they mean?- Soren asked.

 

-I don't know. I am honestly curious, but I know from experience that we have nothing to do with it.- Han said.

 

-I feel like it's about Rayla and Claudia's fight. You know, it may not seem like it, but it's a bit like us.- Soren said.

 

-What do you mean?- Callum asked.

 

-They compete with each other if they like-like someone. And sometimes they fight for that someone too. Let's take such Callum for example... - Soren said pointing at Callum. Everyone in the crowd laughed.

 

-Oh, come on guys...- Callum said holding his laugh.

 

-Tell us, Callum, how many girls have tried to date with you?- Ian asked.

 

-From what I remember ... Eight? One probably even had a fight with Rayla, but both didn't get along without my interference. However they all were giving up after a week of trying to date.- Callum replied.

 

-Let me guess - because she intimidated all the other girls around?- Ezran asked.

 

- It could be true. I will admit without hitting that I beat up one guy who was interested in Rayla. Different thing was that we argued not about her, but about a place in the inn.- Callum replied.

 

-And I thought the elves were pacifists.- Ian said.

 

-Same.- Soren added.

 

-Just the Earthblood and a little Tiebound. Moonshadow will not hesitate to push a dagger between your ribs and you know the legends of the Sunfire ones.- Callum replied.

 

-We know. You don't even know how much our drill sergeants threaten us by them them during trainings. "You have to practice because one cruel elf will take you and break you in half with one movement of his hands." They set in us view that the elves were monsters drinking blood. And here they are, they are dangerous and even pretty.- Soren said. Callum gave him a look.

 

-Ekhm ... To be clear and making sure that the situation from today doesn't repeat itself. Rayla and I are thing. Anyone who thinks to redefine it should know the fact that I may try to massacre someone. And I am able to spread you on the surrounding trees, so I do not recommend trying.- Callum said.

 

-Okay, forgive me. But I have to admit, you have a pretty girlfriend. You have a girlfriend. That's something.- Soren said.

 

-And you don't.- Soren? Callum asked.

 

-I'm not so lucky. You see ... Maybe I'm an idiot, but ... I feel lonely sometimes ...- said Soren. On his face you was visible that this loneliness overwhelmed him.

 

-Oh ... Han, give me that canteen.-Ian called. Han dug up a canteen labeled "B&B" from his backpack.

 

-What's inside.- asked Ezran.

 

-Tea herbs, sugar, incredibly strong wine, honey. Such, ingredients mixed gives this called "Over Wine".- Han exchanged counting on fingers.

 

-What's this for?- Callum asked.

 

-We get it by assignments for further expeditions from the army. This drink gives you a kick. One sip and you feel like you're dying ... But in this positive way. Anyway, hold Soren, I can see you need a sip.-Han said giving Soren.

 

Soren picked up the canteen and took a deep sip. His face suddenly flushed red and twisted.

 

-Holy shit, how strong this thing...- Soren said, giving Ian a canteen.

 

-It kicks in, huh?- Han laughed

 

-Yeah. I don't need to complaining about my bad luck. But this patent is brilliant.- said Soren.

 

-True. Each soldier, after a sip of alcohol, goes to fight bolder and harder.- Ian assured him.

 

-We have to smuggle this into our military, don't we Ezran?- Soren said to Ezran.

 

-Don't count on me. Talk to my mom. Maybe you'll get a flask of vodka for a mission.- Ezran laughed.

 

The canteen was wandering from hand to hand. Finally, when it was about to reach Ezran's hands, Callum took it away.

 

-Where with that hand? It's not so good to drink that, young man.- Callum said passing to Han.

 

-Come on, don't be like that. It's just one sip.- Ezran said.

 

-Have you ever drink alcohol before?-Callum asked.

 

-Well ... not really ... but ...- Ezran tried to persuade his brother somehow, but Callum wasn't going to give up.

 

-I did. It ended badly. You don't want to end up like this, believe me.- Callum said.

 

-Oh, you won.- agreed Ezran.

 

-Don't be like that Callum. Let your brother drink.- Ian insisted.

 

-I will not let him. If any of you smuggle something to him quietly, I promise, he'll come home on a stretcher .- threatened Callum

 

-You won. I'm sorry, Ezran, but you won't drink anything tofay. By the way, have you noticed that the sky is incredibly calm and it wasn't raining over the area?- Ian said.

 

-Actually. We've been here for almost a week and it hasn't rain since then.- Soren remarked.

 

-It's me doing a simple spell. Sending clouds on the Cursed Caldera. There is nobody there, so there will be no one ... - Callum was explaining when he suddenly grabbed the hand of Han who was trying to pass a canteen of alcohol to Ezran behind his back. - What did I just say? Sit still or I'll tell Ellis.- Callum threatened.

 

Han took his hand away and put the canteen in his backpack.

 

-I forget sometimes that you hear whispers through the wind. It's a mean skill, you know that?- Han said.

 

-Yes. But for my brother's sobriety, I will not give up.- Callum said, causing the smile from Ezran's face to disappear.


-Well ... This is what it looks like ...- Aanya said. It felt weird for her saying that she was interested in boys to her friends. It was stupid.

 

She was sitting by the fire that had been made for the conversation that evening. While Ellis and Claudia seemed surprised by her words, Rayla knew everything and showed no emotions.

 

-Heavens. And I thought Ezran would fail.- Ellis said.

 

-How fail?- Aanya asked, not knowing what the other was talking about.

 

-You don't even realize how big crush on you he have. After all, your person motivated him to study and work. He's crazy about you.- Ellis told him.

 

-You're exaggerating, Ezran wouldn't say that ... It's not like him ...-Aanya said.

 

-I lived with him in one castle for 8 years. I know all kinds of things about him, such as that he sometimes talks to himself in his sleep. But I am sure about one thing, Ezran likes-likes you very much.- argued Ellis.

 

-I think the same. Besides, can't you see his butter eyes?- Claudia added.

 

-I ... don't ... I don't know ...-Aanya said hesitantly.

 

-Okay enough. You're not helping by pressing on Ezran. The problem is not that they both may feel the same, but that Aanya has feelings for two different boys at once.- Rayla interrupted. She was trying to get the girl out of it.

 

-Han told me that Ian seems to feel something towards you too. You seem to have a problem.- Ellis said after a moment.

 

- As if I hadn't noticed this problem. They're both ... awesome. I like both of them the same .... But I don't know what to do. I know that when I choose one, the feelings of the second one will be hurt. Now if you say that they both can feel the same, I'm afraid to do anything about it.- Aanya said. If they both felt the same ... The situation was going to end badly.

 

-You need to take it easy. Think what will change if you start dating one of them.- Claudia said. Aanya took a deep breath.

 

-With both of them, it's not quite possible, at least overtly. If my mothers found out, they would force me to marry and I am not sure if I or them want to get married so soon. It ... scares me ... If it were Ezran then ... Katolis might disagree. After all, another person not noble-born into the royal family is a clean blow to the cheek for them. They would do anything to prevent this from happening. On the other hand, if it was Ian ... He could be in trouble. It might take years to rehabilitate him from being a traitor, but who knows if he would live to do so. The Duren Council might not recognize him because of his origins. For the most part, however, the problem is that to officially be with them, I would have to marry them overnight.- Aanya said.

 

-And not overtly? For example in the form of a romance like me and Callum.- Rayla asked.

 

-It could cause a scandal. If someone found out about it and spread the word, Ian could lose a job and I would be forced into another marriage. In the case of Ezran, they would force the two of us to marry. Why is this goddamn law not allowing you to love your way!?- Aanya said with tears in her eyes.

 

-Well ... If you play it right, you can keep the romance a secret. The basis is a trusted few people who knows and a backup plan, such as proposing a marriage to a "candidate" on day when they find out so that they can't blame on you. But that doesn't solve the problem with both of them, does it?-Rayla suggested.

 

-Yeah. I would actually wait for the development of events. Eventually, it might work out and one of them will remain with feelings and the other will leave it.- Claudia said.

 

-I think so too. However, I would keep in touch with everyone as such and spend them so that they would know that you also care about them. Equally, three days a week with Ezran, three days with Ian, and one with both of them, for example. And who will be the first to have the courage to tell you how you feels wins.- Ellis suggested.

 

-What about the second one? I can't stand the thought of hurting Ezran or Ian. I just ... I don't want to hurt them.- Aanya asked.

 

-You can always help the other one find a girlfriend. I think Ezran would have understood if you hadn't chosen him. And Ian ... Well ... I don't know. It seems ... different. I don't know how he would get it, but if you don't choose him, we should keep an eye on him with Han to do something to yourself. - said Ellis.

 

-Thank you all. I know ... It's kind of stupid ... But I don't know what to do. I don't know if I would understand everything without me ...I owe you. - Aanya thing.

 

-No problem. I needed help with Callum myself and I know what it looks like from this perspective. - Rayla spoke.

 

-Same. You think Han and I purely know what we were doing? I asked a lot of advice from Ezran's mother and his aunt. - Ellis release.

 

-I had the same problem. It's much more difficult that it were feelings for another girl. But it all worked out. You just have to talk honestly because only then you have a guarantee that everything will succeed... - Claudia was talking when suddenly they heard a scream from the place where the male part of the group was sitting.

 

Rayla ran out of the ruins and bursted into the camp with blades. But there was no danger. Everyone but Han was seated. Han, on the other hand, was attached to the walls with a thick layer of ice. Callum was looking furiously at him.

 

-What I said Han!? Ezran doesn't drink it!- Callum said irritated. After Rayla, other girls, surprised by the situation, bursted in.

 

-You won Callum. Keep it for safekeeping.- Han said throwing from his hand canteen towards Callum.

 

-Someone can tell me what my boyfriend did for getting stick to the wall with ice?- Ellis asked.

 

-Nothing.- Callum and Han replied in one voice.

 

-You're gonna release him, right?- Rayla asked.

 

-Yes. It was silly joke.- Callum said.

 

The girls looked at the agreement Knowingly and then returned to the place where they talked about Aanya's situation.

 

-Han did something, otherwise Callum wouldn't have treated him with a spell. - Rayl's spokesman.

 

-Yeah. He and his brother have a flair for stupid ideas. But no one will tell us anything through "male solidarity" anyway. - Claudia's thing.

 

-Yes ... I also have a question ... Stupid but still ... How is it with kissing? I mean...- Aanya asked.

 

-Remind me, how old are you?- Rayla asked. It seemed strange to her that an almost adult person would not know anything about it.

 

-Seventeen. My parents keep me locked up all my life. - Aanya thing.

 

-That explain a lot. I'll tell you, take a look at the thing. If one of them kisses you  don't panic. Callum did that once and didn't know what to do, and then awkward situation emerged. In addition, somehow it is common in Xadia that when kissing you close your eyes. I think it was so here, so you understand. And in the process, I think you'll know for yourself what to do ...- said Rayl by putting a hand on her shoulder.

 

-Thanks. I feel weird. I never asked about it. You seem to be experts ... - You seem to be Aanya. They all seemed to know what they were talking about. Aanya smiled - it were helpful advices, after all.

 

-We learned from our mistakes. And now you will learn from your own. - Claudia said. Aanya felt that all this advice would turn out well after all. After all, what bad can happen?


-Me? Well ... I killed one. One man. I haven't told anyone about it, but ... I killed himone two years ago in Katolis. A murderer known as Jacob Butcher. He killed and raped three young girls. A biggest monster from here to Neolandia. I was then on patrol with Claudia when the dog whose owner was attacked by this monster came to us. I didn't know what the animal wanted, but Claudia did. We followed him to the alleys in the Workcraft District. There this asshole tried to stab some kid, in the background sat a terrified girl who this monster attacked. I rushed in and cut into his throat. Even though I felt joy then, at night as I closed my eyes I saw his dead eyes staring blankly at me. The attacks stopped, I got a medal and a promotion. But I feel bad about it sometimes, you know. And you Callum?- Soren asked. A canteen circulated between him, Han and Ian, which made the three of them get drunk more than Ezran and Callum. The topic passed from girls through bread to weapons and finally to murder. Ezran and Han looked at him understanding everything - after all, they knew the story more accurately.

 

-He was a monster deserved to die.- said Ezran.

 

-I know. But it still haunts me.- Soren said.

 

- Well ... I haven't talked to anyone about this for a long time. I've killed seven humans and five Elves on my account. The elves asked themselves for it, and it's not my fault, it was self defense after all. However, humans still haunts me. It was about three or four years ago. I was meditating with my teacher in the woods, just like usual at this time. I was just after the training of the combat magic. We heard with the wind that humans were walking towards the town where I lived. Probably the group that was supposed to kill me, but it still doesn't help. We intercepted them in a clearing near river. Ibis created a fog to confuse the enemy. We started casting spells blindly. I don't know how many of them I killed by then, but only seven survived the attack. They ran along the road to the edge of the river, while I took a shortcut to stop them. I waited for them, and when they arrived, I gave them the choice of either giving up or dying. They attacked me. After a while, I used a spell to create ice shards and push them towards them with incredible speed. "Cloud" hit them, shredding all seven. Everyone let out a cry of pain. After a while, everyone bled out. These screams sometimes haunt me in nightmares, but if it weren't for Rayla, I would have broke down... - Callum said. Han moved hand with a canteen to him, but Callum stopped him with a gesture.

 

-Come on. I know you want.- the bodyguard suggested.

 

-No, I do not want to. Last time I drank, I told Rayla that "she has the best ass in the whole Xadia". When I listened to her what I did while being drunk, I wanted her to finish me off. Actually, it makes me laugh now.- Callum said.

 

- Speaking of compliments ... What do you think is the best compliment for a girl?- Ian asked.

 

- "Your beauty blinds me and makes me see nothing but you, my dearest."- Han laughed.

 

-“Oh my lady, your eyes sparkle like the stars in the sky that turn pale with beauty?”- Asked Ezran.

 

-. I think "You have the best ass in the whole Xadia." from Callum is the best.- Soren said. Everyone laughed.

 

-Consider that you can get hit in the face for that. Rayla was understanding towards me then because I was drunk. Anyway, she liked the compliment.- Callum said.

 

-You were shy 10 years ago. What have these elves done with you? -Soren asked.

 

- They raised me, besides, when you get drunk there are always more original ideas.- Callum said.

 

-True. I heard that in Neolandia there is a tradition that when people think about an idea, they first wonder if it is good when they are sober, and then when they are drunk. If the idea is both considered worth making, it is executed.- Ezran said.

 

-I have to tell mom that she shouldn't give you access to alcohol ...- Callum said. Everyone except Ezran laughed.

 

-Callum, don't be like that. I joked.- Ezran protested.

 

-The word is said, brother. When you grow up, you will be able to drink as much as you want. For now, you will be sober, I guarantee that.-  Callum laughed.

 

They spent the rest of the evening talking about alcohol. It turned out that Soren was going to build a wine cellar at home. Callum, however, promised himself never to drink - he knew that it was better not to repeat the mistakes of both his and Ibis.


-Really?- Claudia asked.

 

-Yes. When he found out that he said, "I have the best ass in all of Xadia." he wanted me to finish him off. But he repeated it a moment later sober.- Rayla laughed.

 

-What have you done with that shy boy in that 10 years?- Claudia laughed.

 

-Only bad things. But he did everything voluntarily. It's not my fault.- Rayla replied.

 

- Sounds like the easiest way to flirt.- Ellis laughed.

 

-But just as effective. You know, drunk Callum is even funny, though I don't know if I could stay with him long. It is important for me that Callum has not been drinking alcohol since then. You don't even know how it calms me down.- Rayla said. She liked bragging about her boyfriend.

 

-It's even good.- Claudia said.

 

-Yeah... Han and Ian's father had a problem with alcohol once, after their mother died. However, it is forbidden to sell alcohol for him in Duren so that forces him to take care of his sons and his responsibilities.- Aanya said.

 

-Oh ... really?- Ellis asked.

 

-Yeah ... He didn't tell you?- Aanya asked.

 

-No ... he didn't ...- said Ellis.

 

They spent the rest of the evening talking about Callum. Claudia kept silent about the situation when Callum gave her a rose for her 11th birthday. She knew better than anyone to not upset Rayla, and Callum had long been dedicated in love with Rayla.


In the evening, everyone went to sleep in the camp. Rayla and Callum slept cuddled together. After some time, Callum got up. He felt that he heard something, but he thought it was nothing. He laid down next to Rayla and whispered in her ear.

 

-Sleep well, my love. I am next to you.- Callum said kissing her forehead. He hugged her and spent the rest of the night hugging her.

 

But Callum heard right - the sound that woke him up was crying Ezran trying to sleep despite the loneliness and emptiness he felt.

Chapter Text

-And ... Done. Human Rayla beautiful as always.- Callum said. Rayla looked at him unconviced.

 

Several days have passed since Ezran and Ian were injured. They were able to withstand horseback riding and the journey was resumed. In the southeast, the road led through the hills to City of Helburg and from there it was a day's drive to the Capital. They had to cross the city because their supplies were running out. They decided that Ellis, Ian, and Ezran would stay with the horses and Sapphire outside the city. Someone had to stay to calm the animal, which would cause enormous interest of people, and no one except the pet's keepers got along with him as well as Ezran.

 

Callum wanted Rayla to see human city, so he prepared an illusion for her. She looked exactly like on his eighteenth birthday when she was pretending to be a human Rayla. Callum used Rayla as the source of Illusion's power. Their unusual clothes were covered with coats which covered them completely and reached their ankles.

 

-I feel sorry for you. Half life under illusion ...- Rayla said hugging Callum. Callum smiled anyway

 

-I don't regret any of it.- Callum said. Rayla smiled hesitantly and kissed him.

 

-Hey, lovebirds, stop touching yourself. We have to go to town, right?- Soren called after them. The couple laughed and followed him.

 

After a short way through the forest, they stopped in front of the clearing. A great empty space and some buildings loomed behind the trees. Soren stopped them.

 

-Okay, most of you know how to behave in human cities, but we have two people who need to be reminded about the rules. You don't talk to strangers and take no food from them. You don't buy anything with Xadian money, Katolis uses florens, not denars. We have 2000 florens in the purse, so most of us who don't have money like that can buy something by me if we buy everything we need. Besides, do not go far away and walk only in the company of people you know. And above all, keep an eye on your pockets and pouches. They like to disappear in the crowd. Are you ready?- Soren asked. Everyone nodded - Okay, follow me.

 

They started towards the clearing. However, when they entered it, it turned out that it was not a clearing but fields with grain. They reached almost to the horizon, except for the places where single farms stood and the place where the palisade was located and the buildings were behind it. Houses were mostly wooden and the roofs were made of white tiles. The buildings formed three circles in the center of which there was a market and a well. The gates to the city were open.

 

The group approached the gate and approached the guards. These were dressed in the armor of the Katolis army, just like Soren, with the difference that they had helmets on their heads and a seal with a white-tiled house on their shoulder straps. It was an indicator of a Battalion stationed in a garrison on the other side of the city.

 

-Halt. Who are you? - asked the officer.

 

- Sergeant Soren of the Capital garrison. Me and my friends wanted to replenish our supplies in the city.- Soren said, showing the seal on the shoulder with the symbol of the Royal Guard.

 

The officer examined Soren's Seal and then nodded.

 

-Alright. You are lucky, Sergeant, a caravan from Evenere has just arrived. The products are fairly new and you will have a lot to choose from. We close the city gates at dusk. Welcome to Helburg.- the officer said.

 

-We will remember. Thank you, Captain. Come on.- Soren said and motioned to the group.

 

They entered through gate into a street full of people heading for the market square. They went to the market. They passed quiet houses and streets not as lively as main one. You could hear a lot of conversations, a lot of smells. There, a woman called the children to go home, a man was murmuring carrying barrels, and in the distance an old man complained to a patrol of soldiers on the street. It all overwhelmed Callum and Rayla, feeling strangely surrounded by the entirety of this city. They haven't seen anything like this at Silvergrove or Lux Aurea.

 

Rayla grabbed Callum's hand to be sure. She was afraid of being surrounded by the hundreds of humans all at once. She was, after all, an elf, a monster that had been scared of them since childhood. She knew what Callum felt when he lived in Silvergrove.

 

-It's alright. I'm with you.- Callum said. Rayla smiled.

 

-So ... What do you know about this town?- Claudia asked Aanya.

 

-It is a city founded on the Neoland City Law. This law is a model for creating cities that determine how the city should look like, how it should be arranged and what laws should apply here. As far as I know, however, the street layout has changed here - in other cities it's mainly rectangles, and here are circles.- Aanya said.

 

They made it to the market. It was round and in the center there was a large well. There were stalls with bread, milk, meat, books, tools, fabrics, furs and things that Callum and Rayla had never seen before. There was a small inn in the front of main street.

 

-Okay, maybe Rayla and I can order some warm food to take away for everyone, while you buy supplies and everything you need? It will end our job here faster.- Claudia said.

 

- It's a good idea, actually. Can you manage without me a moment, Callum?- Rayla asked.

 

-Maybe not. But I will have to. I finally promised Eleanor we would bring her a jewelry book, right?- Callum said.

 

-True. Go and come back quickly, dearest .- Callum laughed.

 

-I will be back soon, my love.- Callum said kissing her cheek then he followed Han, Soren and Aanya.

 

At the same moment, Claudia pulled Rayla into the inn. They had a few travel pots in their backpacks in which they wanted to bring the rest of the group warm food that they hadn't eat in a week.

 

-Claudia. Where are you pulling me like this?- Rayla asked.

 

-To try something wonderful. I promise there's no meat there. But it will be the most delicious thing you have ever tried.- Claudia said pulling the elf into the inn.

 

The interior of the inn was white because of the brick the building was made of. There were a lot of tables and chairs inside. It was a bit dark around, but from the counter opposite the entrance light shone from the kitchen door. Behind the counter there was a price list that contained mostly types of dumplings. It was crowded inside. They went inside where Claudia walked over to the counter.

 

-Hello, what can I get you?- Asked the old salesman.

 

-Good morning. I'd like nine servings of potato dumplings, please.- Claudia ordered, putting the right amount of money on the table.

 

- It'll take a while, but it'll be ready soon.- The seller said entering the kitchen.

 

-Really? Was it about dumplings? -Asked Rayla looking at Caludia who was smiling at the very name of the dish.

 

-These are not ordinary dumplings. These are Del-Bar dumplings. My mother comes from there and she often made them for Winter Solstice. You won't believe how good they taste.- Claudia said.

 

-I see that you are a fan of such dumplings. And because you are so excited about them, I'm curious how they taste now. There is no such thing at my house.- Rayla said. Claudia just nodded, smiling.


-It's a rip off! Yesterday a book about hunting cost 90 florens, and today 140 ?! - the town dweller argued.

 

-What can I do, hard times.- the merchant laughed. The dissatisfied customer walked away from the stall.

 

Callum decided to approach the stall anyway. After all, 140 florens for a book that cost 270 in other stalls is a good deal.

 

-Ah, hello hello. You can see that you are knowledgeable people. What do you need, Captain?- asked the seller.

 

-Sergeant.- Soren corrected him. He knew the merchant was trying to age him with a degree to please him. This was old trick for selling things by merchants to military.

 

-I am looking for a book about jewelry. Do you have something like that on your market stall?- Callum asked.

 

-I'll see ... So yeah ...- the merchant began to rummage in books - "Alchemy for Dummies" ... No, that's not it. "Magic of Women, 101 Ways to Make the Night More Pleasant" ... I recommend the last one because it is a popular product. "Economics for Morons" ... I doubt it. "By the Way, I think Lux Aurea Should be Destroyed" ... I don't even know where I got this comedy from. "Legends of Del-Bar" ... No, not really ... "Human Anatomy" ... They are always someone eager for a book like this ... Ah, it is. "Necklaces and Ornaments". There will be 140 florens. Nobody wants to nuy it, but you can see that you are familiar with the world, youthful and you surely appreciate the genius of this book.- said the Merchant.

 

-Noble Lord, pay low, go down price to 100.- said Soren. Callum looked at him strangely, but the merchant distracted him.

 

-140, that's my price.- said the Merchant.

 

-100.-Soren argued.

 

-135.- pressed the merchant.

 

-100.- stayed with his Soren.

 

-134.-the merchant protested further.

 

-100.- Soren replied.

 

-130.-The merchant bent slightly.

 

-100.-Soren didn't give up.

 

-120.-The merchant did not give up.

 

-80.- Soren said suddenly.

 

-Sergeant, no way for that price.- the merchant protested.

 

-Okay, 100.-said Soren.

 

-Deal.- repeated the merchant. Soren set the purse on the table. The merchant counted the whole thing and gave the book.

 

-What happened here?- Callum asked, putting the book in his backpack when they were away from the stall.

 

-What happened there? I haggled. Half of them set the prices they want. They will sell you the book for 200 and they bought it for less than 100 florens. In Xadia, maybe the merchants are honest, but here the merchants are simply greedy.- Soren replied.

 

-It sounds real.- Callum said. They saw blacksmith products. Callum instinctively approached them to look at them. While Soren went to the dry-meat vendor to get supplies for the road.

 

The seller was a muscular mustachioed man. He had red hair and wore a black sleeveless shirt. His stall was full of swords, axes, knives, hoes, forks, rakes and other tools. Callum measured one of the quite impressive swords in his hand and waved.

 

-You are looking for something for yourself young one?- asked the seller.

 

-No, I'm just curious. I am a blacksmith myself and I have been away for 10 years. I wonder if something is different here from where I work.- Callum said.

 

-O please, you're on the subject. I honestly admit that these tools are made of poor quality steel. Quite a lot of this raw material has been bought by the van Horst merchants, they will probably sell the whole thing when there is demand for it, but less. I did my best to make strong tools out of the leftovers. I use old methods from before the creation of the Border.- the smith said proudly.

 

-I see. I had elven swords in my hands. The core of the sword is slightly curved, but the hardening of such steel took some days ...-Callum said, examining the weapon in his hands.

 

-I see you are very familiar with the subject. I met once a guy who was there too. Some bounty hunter for sure. He wore a studded jacket and some vials on his belt. He had two swords on his back and a scar across his face from temple to chin. I swear, he had cat eyes and looked like he wanted to kill everyone around. He ordered a silver sword from me with a hilt with a wolf's head. But never mind that. Where do you work?- asked the smith with a smile.

 

-Abroad Katolis.- Callum said and put down the sword.

 

-Aaah, you haven't been to Katolis for a long time, have you? Time passes fastly abroad, and here, please, the country is still holding on. Even that the nobles would stop brawling about this new law on the equitalization of the last peasants.- the smith said with a smile.

 

-Equitalization of peasants?- Callum asked.

 

-Oh yes. The last peasants forced to work on the baron's farms regained freedom and power over their farms through the edict of King Harrow. He has the nerves to deal with the nobles. But it is good for the nobles. Let them go to work, because neither the peasants nor we the townspeople will do it for them. Now, however, everyone is focused on the return of Prince Callum from Xadia. I hope the elves did nothing to him - his mother would break her heart if something happened to him. It is thanks to her influence on the king that it is so good now, but not for the nobility. Long live Queen Sarai, for one hundred years.- the Blacksmith exclaimed cheerfully.

 

-Yeah. Long live.- Callum said. He smiled at how people spoke well of his parents.


-By me. Welcome. I haven't seen Your Majesty for a long time.- called the merchant. Aanya recognized him immediately - he was one of the more powerful merchants in Duren. He traded in smaller ornaments and jewelry.

 

-Hello, Castor. How's the trade going?- Aanya asked. While Han was busy looking at the knives, small crossbows, toolboxes, stitched jackets, helmets, and other military stuff, she decided to buy a gift for Ezran.

 

-Slowly forward. The people at Katolis love our trinkets. But never mind that. How's your studies going?- the Merchant asked.

 

-Not bad. Listen ... Don't you have any heart-shaped medallions? Those with an inscription for "best friend" and the possibility of having names engraved there.- Aanya asked.

 

-I have. The starting price is 50 Duren crowns, but for a repeat customer, I can go down to 30.- said the merchant.

 

-There's no need to. I'll take two.- Aanya said.

 

-Okay, for whom?- the Merchant asked, getting ready to engrave.

 

-One for Ezran and one for Ian.- Aanya said.

 

-General Sturn's son? Your Majesty knows that he ... How to put it softly ... He is interested in you?- the merchant said hesitantly. Aanya wondered how she didn't find out about Ian erlier.

 

-Not only him. But it can be said that intrest is ... returned.- Aanya replied. The merchant smiled softly, understanding the intention of the young princess.

 

The merchant gave her the necklaces. They ended with a small circle. There was a heart on one side of the circle and an inscription on the other. Aanya paid for the necklaces and then placed 25 more crowns.

 

-That's to make sure that my mothers don't know I was here, okay?- Aanya asked. The merchant nodded.


Rayla was leaning against the side of the inn. It wasn't all that bad in human cities. Although the crowd and the smells were overwhelming for her, it had a certain charm in it.

 

-Hello three.- Rayla heard on her left. A young man in a blue jacket and black pants was standing there. He had short blonde hair and pale skin, and his green eyes were staring at her.

 

At that moment Rayla remembered what she looked like in an illusion created by Callum. She was pretty, but she preferred her elven beauty with horns and long ears more than even being a pretty human woman with who Callum would not have to be ashamed walking around other humans.

 

-Hello. Are you looking for problems?- Rayla asked. She felt that the conversation with this guy would be focused on one topic. She cursed mentally knowing Claudia had spoken to some redheaded man on the other side of the inn.

 

-I'm afraid I found it. I can't take my eyes off your beautiful face.-The man grinned.

 

-Really? You say that every prettier girl?- Rayla replied harshly.

 

-By you, they all go into the shadows, because you walk among people like a goddess. Your beautiful hair shimmers like gold, your figure is perfectly curved, and your violet eyes radiate goodness. Will I know your surely beautiful name? - asked the man looking at Rayla with his eyes like "I wonder how she looks without clothes". At this sight Rayla covered herself completely with her coat to suppress the exuberant imagination of the man.

 

-I'm Rayla. And you?- Rayla asked. She wanted to talk him off during the conversation so that she would not have to use force.

 

-They call me Hektor. I come from an illustrious family of van Horst merchants. I've been traveling around the world for many years, but I've never seen a creature as beautiful as you. -Said Hektor, leaning against the pillar in front of Rayla.

 

-This is some cheap flirt text, isn't it?- Rayla asked, rolling her eyes.

 

-Of course not. Why you distrust me? Haven't you heard of the good name of the merchants van Horst?- Hektor asked with a smile.

 

-I haven't heard.- replied Rayla.

 

-Your bad luck. However, I can assure you that my intention is sincere. Where did a beauty like you got in a place like this?- Asked the merchant.

 

-I'm passing through.- Rayla replied, turning the other way.

 

-It's just like me. Heard there are good dumplings in this inn. Maybe you want some?- Hektor suggested, standing in front of the elf's face.

 

-No thanks. I am waiting for someone.- Rayla replied.

 

-Probably someone important, right?- Asked the merchant.

 

-What's your deal about it?- Rayla asked.

 

-That I can spend this time with you. We'll find a cozy corner and show you how well that I can please a beauty of your kind. What do you say?- Asked Hektor.

 

-No.- Rayla refused.

 

-Don't let me ask you- urged the merchant. He rested his hand on the wall a few inches from Rayla. Rayla felt weird as if he was trying to ... intimidate her? Encourage? Pick up? She didn't even know what to call it.

 

-May I know what you're doing?- Rayla asked.

 

-I'm courting. How are you not  ableto see that my honest efforts for your heart?- Hektor said, coming closer to her. She could smell his perfume.

 

-Listen to the cheap seducer. I have someone, and if I were you, I'd get out of here before he sees you here.- Rayla said.

 

-I'm not afraid of him. We can always have fun and he won't find out. What do you think?- Hektor suggested, with the greed in the eyes.

 

-Leave me alone or ...- Rayla was losing her patience. Her hand under her cloak wandered to the dagger in her belt.

 

-Pretty, don't break my heart. The boyfriend is not a wall, you can move it. Anyway, he's not here, so he won't find out.- Hektor said.

 

-How can you be sure?- Rayla asked, sliding the dagger from her belt.

 

-I will take care of it. Believe me, I know how to make you pleased.- Hektor said.

 

-Really? Will you really go and leave me alone?- Rayla asked.

 

-That's not what I meant. Anyway, it'll be a long time before your boyfriend comes back. There is still a moment and I can't see him anywhere.- Hektor laughed.

 

-Then turn around.- Callum said furiously.

 

Before Hektor could turn around or do anything, Callum punched the seducer in the face with all his might. No one even noticed it, but van Horst fell to the ground. For a moment he kept his hand on nose where he had been hit. He stared in horror at the mage who revealed his muscular arms from under his cloak. Rayla chuckled softly.

 

-Get away from my girlfriend you jerk or I'll smear you on the walls.- Callum said furiously. Seducer took it to heart and escaped from the scene as he got up. As soon as he disappeared around the corrner, Callum quickly approached Rayla.

 

-Are you alright? He didn't do anything to you, did he?- he asked, checking her if she was okay.

 

-No. He tried to trick me into sleeping with him, but you punched him away. I wanted to do it non-violently, but apparently you solved it this way.- Rayla said embracing him.

 

-Forgive me ... I got mad when I saw that he was trying to seduce you.- Callum said.

 

-I know how it is. But this time it's good that you used force. This moron is a hopeless case.- Rayla said hugging him tighter.

 

-I heard. I have never heard such pathetic texts in my life.- Callum said shaking his head.

 

-Said the man who said that I have the best ass in the whole Xadia.- Rayla laughed.

 

-I just stated a fact. Anyway, you love that compliment.- Callum said.

 

-Yes I do. It was more honest than his poetic arguments. How did you get here anyway?- Rayla said.

 

-I came for you. Soren has already bought supplies. Aanya and Han disappeared into the crowd.- Callum said.

 

-We are waiting with Caludia for the dumplings. They'll be ready soon.- Rayla said.

 

-Alright, Soren will be here soon. I'll go find Aanya and Han.- Callum said. Rayla pulled him into a kiss from which they parted after a while.

 

Callum moved on. Merchants, city dwellers, army patrols and local traders passed by. He looked for Aanya or Han's hairs, but in such a crowd it was hard to find exactly.

 

In the crowd, however, loomed a man whose features he remembered well. Callum rubbed his eyes but did not find him. He was surprised to connect his face with its owner, Ibis. This surprised Callum, this face was cream like his.

 

Suddenly, a muscular man ran into Callum.

 

-Hektor van Horst sends his regards.- said the man. Callum immediately understood what he was about to do.

 

Before man could stab him with a knife, Callum managed to grab his hand, stopping the blow, and draw in the second hand rune of the Fulminis spell. The attacker had not expected an electric shock and his soft scream echoed through the stalls. Callum quickly jumped into the crowd so that no one would have time to associate him with the event. Immediately there was a crowd of onlookers in which Callum disappeared.Several soldiers from the local patrol ran up to the electrocuted man. Callum met Soren looking in that direction.

 

-Callum, what ...

 

-That guy tried to stab me, I hit him with a spell. Let's get out of here, quick.- Callum said.

 

As Rayla and Claudia left the inn and Han and Aanya were found in the crowd, they got together to flee. In a moment they took everything they needed and headed for the city gate.

 

There, however, Callum noticed Hektor talking to the guards. At one point, he pointed towards Callum and then walked away smiling. The mage knew the problems were only just beginning. Especially since no one here distinguished between Primal Magic and Dark Magic.

 

As he walked forward, captain stopped them at the gate. He looked uncertainly at Callum, like his troops whom suddenly more appeared around.

 

- Sorry, Sergeant, but you can't leave town. At least not all of you.- said the captain.

 

-Why? We did nothing wrong.- Soren said in surprise.

 

- I'm afraid not. Your friend supposedly electrocuted a man. According to King Harrow's edict, it is forbidden to use and practice Dark Magic within the borders of Katolis. The penalty for this offense is imprisonment for life.- the Captain said, pointing to Callum. Callum noticed that the street behind them was strangely empty - it seemed that the crowd had fled the street, feeling an argument.

 

- Gentlemen. This is some kind of mistake, how am I supposed to do magic? Anyway, that man tried to stab me and I just defended myself without using magic.- Callum said.

 

-Everyone says so. Another thing is, a few people saw him trying to stab you. He has a separate case for assault and attempted murder, and you are under arrest for foul magic.- said the Captain.

 

Eight Katolis soldiers armed with crossbows emerged from the door of the watchtower near the gate. Four of them aimed at Callum and the rest moved a little further to aim at him from a different direction. Everyone moved away from Callum, including Rayla who was forcibly pulled away by Soren and Han. The elf, however, with evident difficulty refrained from approaching him. The situation was hopeless and Callum didn't know what to do.

Chapter Text

-You can't arrest him.-Rayla said.

 

-What? Why?- the captain asked.

 

-He didn't use Dark Magic.- Rayla protested.

 

-Young lady, I have been living in the world for more years than you and this boy have together. People can't use Normal Magic, that's what Dark Magic is for. The exception is Prince Callum, but he is coming back from Xadia.- the Captain denied.

 

-What if this is Prince Callum? Han asked.

 

-There is a prison sentence for impersonating.- said the Captain.

 

-Which doesn't change the fact that he's in my retinue.- Aanya said. Everyone looked at her in surprise.

 

-And who are you?- the captain asked in surprise.

 

- Princess Aanya of Duren. He really is Prince Callum.- Aanya said.

 

-By Inos, more problems with you than with Dar and his Swamp Herbs. You too are under arrest for impersonating a princess of a foreign country.- said the Captain.

 

-There is a merchant on the market who will confirm it.- Aanya explained.

 

-Same as the fact that use of Dark Magic is also banned in Duren. I'll pretend I didn't hear this attempted identity theft. Put the shackles on his hands.- the Captain called. Two soldiers with shields approached the confused Callum.

 

-Wait! If you have to take him ... Then I want to go with him.- Rayla said. Everyone looked at her with surprise and the captain hit his forehead.

 

-You are incredibly annoying. Okay, but no stupid ideas in the cell. The judge will be here in a month so you will be bored. We'll give you books just in case.- said the Captain. The soldiers went to get another pair of shackles for her.

 

Rayla walked over to Callum and stood beside her smiling.

 

-Rayla, what are you doing?- Callum whispered.

 

-I'm trying to make a plan. Are we running or are we fighting?- Rayla whispered.

 

-If we run away, they will chase us and there may be trouble before we get to the capital. If we fight, innocent people who carry out their orders may die. I don't want to go back to my homeland killing a humans.- Callum whispered.

 

-Okay, but you're not going to get yourself locked in jail, are you?- Rayla asked.

 

Suddenly a fog appeared around them. A strong wind blew out of nowhere that knocked over soldiers. The figure of an elf loomed in the fog.

 

-Rayla, take the rest to the forest.- Ibis ordered. Rayla, despite her surprise, disappeared in a moment.

 

Callum felt the dagger around his neck, but it was loosely placed so as not to hurt the mage. Callum looked back and saw Ibis.

 

-So I really saw you there after all.  I saw you in the market.- Callum said.

 

-Yes. I see you're getting into trouble again.- his former teacher confirmed.

 

-It's hard not when this country is governed by different rules.- Callum said with a smile.

 

-What right is right. I'll pretend you're a hostage, okay?-Ibis asked. Callum nodded.

 

-What the ... ALARM! ELVES IN THE TOWN!- yelled the captain, rising to his feet. All the soldiers rose as well and surrounded the two mages. They ignored Rayla and everyone else's disappearance.

 

-Stop right there or I'll kill him.- Ibis threatened.

 

-Let him go!- Commanded the captain.

 

-There's no option. Here's what I'll do now. - I'll go away and you won't see me anymore and I'll let the kid go in the forest and you will capture him then. Shoot and I'll slit his throat and I'll kill you all.-threatened Ibis. The soldiers looked at each other uncertainly.

 

-It's a bluff, he wants to run away with the mage and finish him off for the Dark Magic.- one of the soldiers said. It was probably a under-officer.

 

-I guess that's what you mean, right?- Ibis asked with a smile.

 

-Listen carefully to the dagger-ear. This is not Xadia but Katolis. I don't care that you in Xadia get Dark Mages on fire or cleaned up in killing way. Here they are to undergo a lawful process on this land. Give the kid back and I promise you that he will end in prison and we will not bother you.- said the Captain.

 

-The group got to the forest?- Ibis asked in a whisper. Callum looked towards the open gate. Rayla and the rest of the group disappeared into the woods.

 

-Yeah. Are we flying away?- Callum asked.

 

-To the Cursed Caldera.- Ibis said.

 

-We are waiting for your reply Elf.- the Captain called.

 

-Okay, you won. I let the kid go when you put your weapons down.- Ibis said.

 

-Fine.- The captain agreed. The soldiers put their weapons down. - As I promised, you can go now and you will not be disturbed ...

 

-But Captain, it's an elf!- one of the soldiers shouted.

 

-Shut your mouth, Siemko! We have a deal with him, so ...- he tried to calm the soldier Captain, but the conversation was interrupted by the spell of both mages.

 

-Manus Pluma Volantius!- Callum and Ibis exclaimed.

 

Suddenly, the hands of Ibis and Callum turned into huge wings. Katolis soldiers looked at them in disbelief. The mages, however, quickly rose in the sky and began to fly towards the forest.

 

-What are you waiting for!? Shoot them down!- the Captain ordered, picking up his crossbow. But Ibis and Callum were well beyond the reach of the bolts by now.

 

-What happened to you after that attack near Aet Loriren?- Callum asked as they flew away to the height of the clouds.

 

-I'll tell you everything, but for now, fly towards the Cursed Caldera.


-They flew away. He's hit ... No, they missed. He escaped. They're flying towards the Cursed Caldera.- Soren called, watching Callum from the branches of the tree. Rayla breathed a sigh of relief.

 

-Someone can tell me what happened here?- Han asked.

 

-Some guy tried to flirt with me and Callum punched him in the face. Then Callum went looking for you, but after while he returned and said we had to get out of town. Rest you saw for yourself.- Rayla said. She didn't know what had happened, but had a feeling it was more related to the bar chaser.

 

-Callum managed to tell me that some guy wanted to stab him, but he hit him with a spell. People here have not seen elven magic with their eyes, so they take it as Dark Magic. I also saw some blonde guy talking to the guards.- said Soren.

 

- He had a blue coat?- Rayla asked.

 

-Yes, did you see him too?- Soren asked.

 

-My almost-seducer, Hektor van Horst. I think I'll go back to town at night and kill him.- Rayla said. She sincerely wanted to go back there and stab the merchant in his back.

 

-No!- Claudia, Aanya, and Soren called all at once.

 

-Eh, Fine... I hope I won't meet this bastard again.- Rayla said.

 

-Me too. The elf that suddenly appeared there scares me more. Callum seemed to know him though.-Han said in surprise.

 

-It is right. It was his teacher. I don't know what he was doing here, but I'm sure Callum is definitely safe with him.- Rayla said trying to calm down.

 

-Right. We should go back to where we left Ezran, Ian and Ellis with the horses and decide what to do next. Callum will probably start looking for us there.- Claudia said.


- They were supposed to be here two days ago. Two goddamn days… -Sarai said. She was sitting on the bed in their bedroom.

 

Harrow tried to calm her down. She was shaking more and more since they didn't give any sight of life. She had been a nervous wreck for the two days Ezran and Callum were due to return home. He knew that he was terribly worried about his children who gave no sign of their life.

 

-I'm sure they're okay.- Harrow said. He alone tried to cheat his fear of losing his two sons. He was glad that Callum called him "dad", but he knew he shouldn't end on it - after all, they had 10 years to catch up.

 

-Don't lie to me. Your hand is shaking.- Sarai said. Harrow didn't even notice how, like Sarai, his hand began to shake. He grabbed his hand and held it steady. He sat down next to Sarai.

 

-It's not like Ezran. He always sticks to the road and does not deviate from it. What could stop them for that long?- Sarai asked.

 

-I don't know. However, I am sure they are not far away.- Harrow said, embracing her. Sarai, however, remained motionless.

 

-Maybe we should send messages to local units? Maybe they saw them?- Sarai asked.

 

-It's very good idea.- Harrow answered. Rising from their bed, he put his hand towards Sarai. She smiled seeing the concern in his eyes.

 

-Of course love ...- she said then they left their bedroom and headed to Raven Lord.


-Captain, a letter has arrived from the capital. - Siemko said.

 

Vincent sighed from the map of the area over which he was sitting in the headquarters of the barracks. He sent patrols looking for both the elf, the mage, and a group of this sergeant. They fell like a stone into water, which unfortunately had to be included in the report for the capital. In the search that lasted all night, all that was found were the footprints heading towards the road and getting lost there in the caravan's tracks.

 

He now cursed van Horst in his mind, who with his "civic duty" (he wasn't even from Katolis!) which meant denunciation (such people Vincent hated moststly, the types from under the dark star who sold their buddies for a little money) caused him more harm than good . It also turned out that elves could walk everywhere, so far from the border! It was supposed to be a quiet retirement place, not the center of the world events.

 

-Okay, get it here.- Vincent said. Siemko handed the commander a letter bearing the king's seal. He opened the letter to read it while drinking the brown potion.

 

-Mhhm ... Prince Callum ... In the area ... Take notice ... Brown hair ... green eyes ... light skin ... By Inos! Siemko!- Vincent called, choking on the drink from the mug.

 

-Yes, Captain?- Siemko asked.

 

-Burn the report. Can you hear me? Burn that goddamn report. We didn't see any mage or elf. I'll explain later. Besides, gather everyone in the canteen and cancel the search for that group. We have to make an announcement to the soldiers.- Vincent said. If it turns out that they probably threatened to arrest the son (adopted but still) of their king, then everyone will pay for it.


-I don't understand. It's the Cursed Caldera. There's nothing there.- Callum said.

 

-Trust me. Not everything is as it seems.- Ibis said. Slowly they started to land near the summit which was strangely dark and there were a lot of dark clouds around.

 

Suddenly they flew through the illusion, as it turned out in front of them there was a forest full of pine trees illuminated with blue light, similar to the one around Silvergrove. Elven buildings and ruins protruded between the trees, and there was a huge lake in the distance. Callum guessed where he was.

 

-Is that ...- Callum asked.

 

-It is. Welcome to the Moon Nexus.- Ibis said.

 

-But ... I thought this place was just a legend, a thing to encourage the little elves to take this land from the humans ... Is it true?- Callum asked, landing in the center where there were several buildings.

 

- But it's true. I also thought it was lie ... Until we got injured at Aet Lorinen.- said Ibis.

 

-Will you tell me what happened to you and where have you been all this time?- Callum asked.

 

-I was here. Remember that legend about that stupid stone on top of that tower when you had your last mage trials?- Ibis asked.

 

-... Yes? It fulfilled wishes. You also said something about your ex-wife.- Callum said uncertainly. He wasn't sure if it was a good idea to talk about it.

 

-You could tell it all started when ...- Ibis said as he felt a hand on Callum's shoulder.

 

-Booo!- Cried the old elf who suddenly appeared behind him.

 

-Ah!- Callum shouted, terrified, jumping away from her. The elf laughed at the sight. She had long white hair, dark skin, and wore turquoise and white clothes with a turquoise cape, and a brown leather belt.

 

-... my ex-wife Lujanne came to see if I survived.-said Ibis to Callum and, despite her sudden appearance, walked over to the Elf and hugged her.

 

-So ... This is your ex-wife?- Callum asked.

 

-He probably didn't talk a lot about me, did he? I am Lujanne. You must be Callum.- Lujane said.

 

-Yes ... Are you the Guardians of the Nexus? Callum asked.

 

-Yes. While you were recovering, Lujanne came to see me with Valahir. They offered me a job as a guardian and defender of this place. Normally I wouldn't say yes ... -said Ibis, scratching his neck.

 

-But after appropriate blackmailing I managed to recruit Ibis. It was nice to see that idiot-pigeon again after 100 years of separation.- Lujanne said hugging the Ibis.

 

-I love you too Lu.- Ibis laughed.

 

-I understand. I know this will sound strange ... But can I see the area?- Callum asked uncertainly.

 

-Sure, you can desecrate this hallowed ground, Garlach doesn't forbid it, after all. I'm joking of course.- Lujanne said.

 

-I see you want to remember this place and draw it, huh? We will not disturb you. Have a nice visit. We're in the third house from north, if you need us. - pointed to the Ibis building taller than all - It's hard to miss.

 

Callum spent an hour walking omong the buildings. He rarely saw the outer walls of the buildings in Silvergrove, because these were often built into specially carved caves in the trees or buried in the ground. Possibly, like the New Moon Inn, the buildings were on top of trees. Here, however, the buildings stood loosely on a clearing from which a path led to the stone ruins. He understood that it was here, according to legends, that magic rituals were performed about which Callum had no idea.

 

When Callum saw all the places, he returned to the buildings. He found Ibis and Lujanne meditating on the terrace in front of the house they had pointed. Callum said that meditation for a while will help him collect his thoughts. He put his bag down and sat down next to them. He began to meditate.

 

He wondered where Rayla and the rest of their group were now. Callum knew they had fled, but he wasn't sure where they were or what was happening to them. He was hoping to get an idea of where they were while meditating.


Rayla was walking in circles. She was waiting for Callum. She was afraid for him, after all he was declared a criminal in the area. It didn't help her to know that there was an Ibis with him, with who he formed a harmonious duo. Something could have happened to him, for example, he was shot down, or the soldiers caught him, or ...

 

-Rayla, come on. You know he'll be back. Walking around you will not help you or him.- Ezran said. He stood up with difficulty, using one hand while the other in a homemade sling. Aanya was a really capable healer.

 

In the distance there was a fire where the rest of their "team" sat. They were eating dumplings and listening to Ellis's lute playing. Ezran moved to Rayla standing in the distance from the camp, waiting for Callum's return.

 

-I know ... I just ... Why does he have to get in trouble ... It always ends this way.- Rayla said.

 

-He must be out of luck. Don't worry, I'm sure he's okay. He will definitely come back when he loses searching parties. I'm also sure he wouldn't want you to get yourself tired like that. At least go near the fire. It is cold here.- Ezran said.

 

Rayla and Ezran returned to the fire without a word and sat down next to Ellis and Soren. Why was Callum always in trouble, always hurt, always had to fight and run? What in the heavens did he do to make life so exciting for him? She just wanted everyone to stop focusing on him, and for a change, focus on her and make her problems, not Callum. She was ready for that sacrifice.

 

-When do you think Callum will be back?- Han asked after a long moment.

 

-Soon. I doubt that even the best riders and trackers of Katolis will track him flying hundreds of meters above the ground.- Claudia replied.

 

-Yeah ... Funny thing. Did you say in the Callum's accusation that Hektor van Horst is involved?- Ezran asked.

 

-Yes. He also tried to flirt with me and sent a killer on Callum. Why do you ask?- Rayla asked.

 

-He recently took power over his merchant family and tried