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Devil's Deal

Chapter Text

Callum slowly moved up, hearing somebody getting inside his room. He made quiet groan as he hated when someone is interrupting his meditation.


After unsuccessful attempt to find Rayla he returned to Katolis as he didn't know what to do. Her disappearing made wreck from him, making rest of people who were still near him really worried. Almost whole year he struggled to finally return back to normal, even though he stopped to smile most of the time. With rare exceptions with his friends and family around he actually was happy, but without her it wasn't the same. 


-Your Majesty...- he heard voice of some of Castle servants. Callum really didn't care about what he wanted. Ezran probably wanted to check if Callum ate his food (which he even didn't touch) or just send servant checking if Callum was fine. 


-I am busy, come back later...- Callum respond without emotions. Meditations were only thing that was healing his wound after his heartbreak. During this he felt no pain, sadness, worries and other things that would normally trouble him. 


-It's important. King send for you. We have word about girl...- Servant started but Callum interrupted him. 


-I made myself clear week ago. I don't want to go anywhere with her. - answered Callum, thinking that servant was talking about one of local baron's daughters. 


Seeing him struggle alone Amaya tried to set him up with other girls from Katolis. All of them were one of the best girls in Katolis. Yet Callum wasn't interested - wound after Rayla was still fresh for him. He had no intention to make history repeat himself. After all, girls he liked and loved usually were disappearing or playing with his feelings. He simply had enough of this so he tried to avoid any girls Amaya introduced to him last year.


-But.. It's about Elf Girl.- Said Servant. 


Callum opened his eyes with shock.


It was about Rayla. 


But it was impossible. She was hiding past two years tracking down Viren who died at Strom Spire. Even Ethari and other elves didn't know where she was. Yet if that meant she returned... 


-What? Are you sure?- he asked turning around on his bed. Servant looked at him and nodded, clearly honest with him. 


-Yes your Majesty.- he answered, making sure young Prince understood him correctly. 


If that was truth then... Maybe she was going to be back?


Callum suddenly felt his heart speed up. He wasn't that feeling since he saw Rayla last time. That actually made him... Feel good. 


Callum stopped. She hurt him two years ago. She could changed much since then. She could not want to be with him anymore. He had doubts - should he try to work things up? Forgive her and try to forget? She betrayed him, left him alone and made him suffer. He felt betrayed for months, thinking how pitiful he was. Now he was fine but he wondered - should he get involved again? 


Salt to the wound added fact that she left on his 15th birthday making it worst birthday since his first birthday after his mother died. 


-Alright, I'll be in throne room in a minute. - Said Callum getting up from the bed. He decided that first he will see her, and then... Confront her. 

-You think it is good choice? Callum is finally returning back to normal. If what is in the letter is true... - Soren started. In throne room was only he and Ezran. Young King was still thinking how to react on this situation. 


Soren had doubts. He knew Callum for a really long time. He knew everything about him, from his crush towards Claudia to even his worst and best moments in life. And he never in his life saw Callum that sad and closed in himself as in the moment Rayla left him. Two years he struggled to finally put himself back together and be like he used to be.


-He should know. I informed Ethari, he should arrive soon. After all, he's her family. Besides, I think Callum would be interested. - said Ezran. Only he had faith in Rayla after she left Callum. Everyone else saw her as ungrateful treasonous monster that simply used Callum. Yet Ezran knew more than most of the people. 


Suddenly doors to Throne room were opened with strong wind. Inside rushed Callum. 


-What's with her? - asked Callum as he approached them near table in throne room. 


-Calm down, we need... - Ezran wanted to slow him down. Informations were far from being good. 


- You have to tell me where she is. - Callum demanded as he stopped in front of Ezran. 


-Calm down Callum. Let me explain some things. You see, we received letter today.- said Ezran. Callum took deep breath. Ezran expected that Callum would behave like that - after all, he felt lonely past two years. Her return could help heal all wounds she left after him. 


-What Rayla wrote? - said Callum. However both Soren and Ezran saw that he was shaking - he was eager to act, to do something. 


-That's not from her... - Said Soren. Callum looked at him surprised. 


-What do you mean?- asked Callum. Information was about Rayla, so how it could not be from her?


-It's letter from Claudia. - Said Soren with regret. He read letter twice and inside he knew, that who wrote this was some time ago his sister. But now... It was some monster. 


-Wait, what? But... She disappeared after battle for Storm Spire. What does she has common with Rayla? - asked Callum. He knew both her and Rayla never got along, but if Claudia wrote letter about Rayla that meant something wrong could happen. 


-Yeah, she was gone. Until now. She sent us a letter and... And some thing... - Said Ezran. Callum saw his brother was holding something in his hand, clearly in size of thumb. 


-Can I see letter? - asked Callum. Soren unrolled scroll and gave it to Callum. 


-Here. - said Soren while Callum started to read. 


Dear Soren


I hope you, Callum and Ezran are fine. I really mean it - I really missed you and I wish we would see each other again. 


Probably you are wondering what was happening to me. Well... I had to help dad regain strength. He is alive and he is not angry on you. Yet, he is angry on that elf witch that tried to kill him. 


After few hours of ripping off her fingernails I finally made her talk. Funny think - after she helped kill king Harrow she was a "thing" with Callum. Can you believe it? She had no mercy for him - after all, she took closest thing Callum had in terms of father away from him and then she actually broke his heart. How cruel and horrible. She left him so she would search if she really killed dad for good, which is also mean. 


We caught her as she was sneaking up to dad in order to finish him up. I didn't let her to do so. Even more - I think I made her feel biggest pain she ever felt. That's where I ask you - tell Callum that we need to talk. We can together make her repent or let her go. If he wants to see his monster girlfriend back he has to arrive alone near village where he used Dark Magic, to the same cave where he was in coma. Elf lead me there and I will be waiting with her. As proof I am with her I add part of her to the letter. 


Tell Callum that this will be start of new but expensive alliance. Tell him that we want cube. Rest he will know. 


Yours, Claudia


-Oh no... - Said Callum looking at Ezran as he opened his hand. Mentioned in letter "part" of Rayla was her horn - Claudia broke it and send to them. 


-Callum? - asked Ezran watching mix of sadness, worry, anger and helplessness on his face. 


-And I thought she... That she wasn't right. - said Callum sitting on nearby chair. Whole time he thought that Rayla was chasing ghost, thinking that Viren was dead. As Claudia claimed, he was alright. 


Rayla was right. He doubted it, thinking that she is overreacting or just being scared by her dreams. And here he was - Viren was alive. That meant if Rayla was captured by him and Claudia she was in big trouble. 


-Come on, Callum, it will be... - Ezran wanted o put hand on his arm but Callum suddenly got up. 


-It won't. I have to help her. Now. - said Callum looking at them. Soren was surprised while Ezran was looking at him unconvinced. 


-Are you crazy? Claudia clearly is angry on her. You can't go there alone. I know my sister, and if she is angry she... - Soren tried to talk sense into him but Callum was already thinking about what he would bring with him to the place where Claudia was holding Rayla captive. 


-Sorry Soren, I have to hurry. - Said Callum as he turned around and rushed into exit of the hall. 


-Callum, wait!- called Ezran, hoping that they would stop Callum. Yet Callum was already gone. 


-And he's gone. - said Soren as Callum disappeared in the hall behind exit to the room. Ezran felt deeply that nothing well will came from his brother actions. After all, his father used to say that quick thinking lead to quick mistakes. 


-I have really bad feelings about it. - said Ezran with regret. 

Rayla was trained to be assassin. That meant she would never be broken during interrogation, that she would die before she will reveal any information. How bad it ended made her feel bad.


Claudia at first was polite. She asked about what she was up to, on which Rayla responded sarcastically. It made Claudia hit her. Few times.


Past three days Claudia taught her that everyone would be broken eventually. Rayla felt somehow proud - she gave up after Claudia ripped off her third fingernail, holding on better than Claudia predicted. Adding to this burns after hot metal Claudia was touching her with and bruises from all of her beating Rayla looked badly. Her horn was broken - that was biggest disgrace for elf ever, which made her feel shame. 


-Wake up, slut!- Rayla felt as Claudia puts her boot on her hand. Rayla released quiet scream, trying to not move. Suddenly she felt as collar around her neck pulled her up, making her get on her knees. 


Past few days Claudia was traveling here with her to cave near city burned by dragon Soren and Claudia shot down. It felt like ages ago, and yet it was just two years. City was a rebuilding and slowly it looked good again.


-Here, have some. You must eat, soon we'll see Callum. - Said Claudia giving slice of bread to Rayla. Suddenly Rayla looked on Claudia - she looked bad - white heairs covered her whole head while black veins were visible under pale skin. 


-You can't...- Rayla wanted to say "no" or "stop" to Claudia. She was captured fifth day and she was still talkative enough. That only encouraged Claudia to beat her up. 


-Silence!- Claudia hit Rayla in face with her hand. Rayla tried to remain on her knees almost collapsing on the ground- I didn't allow you to speak. As I said... Soon we will meet with our dear Prince. Don't worry, I am sure that soon your suffering will be over.- Said Claudia as she put her hand on Rayla head. 


Rayla felt strange after hearing that. If end of that meant that nothing will happen to her it was fine. However if that meant death, Rayla was glad to accept it. 


-I hope that collar is tight. I guess you elves like that.- said with mocking smile Claudia, sitting at the edge of cave. Rayla looked away. Collar was tight, making her even hard to breath. Claudia insisted on punishing her by this, because that gave her expression of power over Rayla, who felt more like a thing right now. 


Rayla didn't respond. Claudia was teasing her again. She was not answering in order to prevent Claudia of making any thing that would make her "punish her".


-I still can't believe he actually preferred you. Look at yourself - you are skinny as hell, hair in mess, your face is somehow fine but you actually don't use makeup. What cruel spell did you use on him?- asked Claudia as she sat on rock nearby. Rayla remained silent.


She had no intention to talk about it. She had probably best guy she have ever meet, and she failed him. Thinking that last two years he had work to just forget about everything was horrible. It hurt her too - at least she had Callum, and with him place that she could call home. Now she even didn't have that - she was alone this time.


-Answer me.- ordered Claudia. Rayla looked her straight into the eyes. 


- You think I used spell? You are wrong. Callum is great guy, cute, funny, smart as hell, and very talented. And let me tell you something - he wanted to be with you. He was very into you. And then you just told him that closest person he had to a father was dead. When you run away I had to comfort him. While you played with his feelings I just gave him what he needed with return. You just left him like he was nothing.- said Rayla. Again she recalled every moment she and Callum spend years before. Now it feels funny, but she gladly would stay there knowing that she would have to steal, find or hunt food for past two years talking rarely with almost nobody she knew. 


-Funny, you did the same, breaking his heart even more.- said back Claudia. Rayla looked at her mixed feelings on the face. As she thought - Claudia was doubting even more than her.


-At least I had purpose.- argued back Rayla. Claudia made furious expression. 


-Silence! How dare you, you heartless monster.- Claudia hit her again, causing Rayla to collapse to the ground. 


If I ever get out of here alive I swear, I'll kill you, Rayla thought. 


-Who is monster? You, who used life of other beings to bring back your psycho father to life and allow Soren to walk again, or me who killed man who wanted to kill innocent young dragon?- asked Rayla. However this time Claudia didn't move or commented it, clearly shocked from where Rayla had this information. 


-How do you...- she stopped thinking about possiblities. Maybe elves could read in mind? Maybe that's how Rayla controlled Callum, just manipulated him and his mind.


-You talk in your sleep.- answered Rayla with mocking smile. That made Claudia furious, yet this time she didn't hit Rayla. Dark mage just walked to elf and kneeled near her. 


-You just make me furious. But don't worry, I won't hurt you this time. And I am sure somebody will be satisfied. I will make you watch how I and Callum will have fun together.- Said Claudia holding her hand on Rayla's cheek. 


-I was wrong. You are not evil person...- Said Rayla, feeling that inside she wanted to cry. However she mustered all anger and hate to not show any sign of giving up. 


-I get more with closer knowing. - said Claudia with mocking smile. 


-You are just pathetic girl, regretting her choices and now trying to get everything she lost by force.- Said Rayla. Claudia hit her again. 


-Elfish scum.-Said Claudia walking away. Rayla just collapsed on the ground. 

Chapter Text

Callum slowly approached cliff, still shaking with his emotions.


Rayla was up there, right now held hostage by Claudia. Of course Callum was sure that his old friend wasn't at all gentle towards his girlfriend, but he hoped that Claudia was at least partly still person she once was. He hoped that Claudia would be better than this and make his biggest worry simple overthinking .


He also started to think how to talk with Rayla after it. He was sure that it won't be easy talk. After all, what should he expect and want from her? To return? To again be with him? Promise that she won't do that again? After years of healing wound Callum had again purpose - and he wished it won't end again. For now he decided to not talk about it - Rayla was in danger and he was only one to save her.


Soren and Ezran tried to stop him or at least send someone to help him, cover him from distance, but Callum was too fast. With spell turning his arms into wings he managed to get on the place in one day. That was faster than any messenger crow would ever manage to move. Callum knew that time was valuable here and now he needed to act quickly.


As he aporached place it was already dark. He saw fire and green light from the cave he was once in. The very same cave where he learned to use Primal Magic. It was years ago, years of training he was doing alone with books he managed to get from Xadia. He started to even try from connection with other Arcanums, without success.


Suddenly on path on top appeared cloacked dark figure. Callum jumped back seeing how fast figure apeared to him. He was ready to draw rune but then figure revealed himself.


-Dear Heavens, Callum. You grow so much! - said Claudia embracing him.


Callum looked at her with surprise - she was still wearing her dark dress-like clothes. Her hair was almost as dark as night while she was partly pale. That gave Callum impression that something was off. Very off if he had to be honest. 


He understood how much happened between them. She played with his feelings, then tried to kidnap him and bring home with force. Now he actually didn't know what he saw in her - she was always behaving weird and was usually very excited about Dark Magic, which was cruel and awful thing since the beginning. Maybe Callum had crush for her just because she was only girl in castle? That could explain things. 


-Hey... It's been a while.- said Callum remaining calm when she pulled him into a hug. She moved back with honest smile. 


-I know. How are you doing? Hope you are alright after that monster left you.- Claudia said as she placed hand on his shoulder. Callum was surprised that she mentioned Rayla at the very beginning of their "reunion". 


-I'm fine. Thanks for concern. Where is she?- asked Callum. He tried to look as calm as possible, even as he really wanted to go to her. Idea that she was tortured was... Horrible. 


-In cave, up there.- Said Claudia, like she actually was talking about something not connected at all with making pain to someone. 


-Fine. And... How have you been?-asked Callum trying to not show her that he actually cared for what was happening with Rayla. 


-I was doing fine. Thanks.- answered Claudia. 


They walked together to the cave. Callum suddenly realised that he was slightly higher than Claudia. That made him somehow slightly proud. She looked at him with enthusiastic smile, which inside was making him feel strange, maybe partly nostalgic.


-So... What was happening to you after battle of Storm Spire?- asked Callum. He was curious how Viren was alive and where Claudia was during last two years. 


-Me and Dad moved into hiding. For almost year we were hiding near Storm Spire, stealing food from elves. Then we moved west. We set ourself near border with Duren in deep forest. Dad is working on something, it will be worth seeing.- said Claudia. Enthusiasm was beaming from her like she was happiest person on the world. Callum was unconvinced - his view on Dark Magic changed a lot since he met Rayla. Again, he started to think about her. 


-I guess it's fine, but... I really don't know how to think about it. - said Callum, not wanting to upset Claudia. 


-Come on Callum, I know magic interested you. You'll see, when he will get the cube, we'll never would have to use anything for Dark Magic.- Said Claudia. That only made Callum more sceptic about that idea. 


-I don't know Claudia. I think there is other way than Dark Magic.- Said Callum. And it was - he was living proof. Then he realised that Claudia didn't know about his connection to Arcanum. He bite himself in tongue, knowing that telling her about it would change things in this meeting, probably not on his favour. He decided to keep that as his back-up plan. 


-Always withdrawn, huh? You didn't changed at all.-said Claudia with scary smile. 


-I guess you didn't too.- said Callum feeling weird around her. 


-Maybe a little. And I thought about... What I did at Moon Nexus.- Claudia stopped him as she placed hand on his shoulder. Callum inside wanted to go up. He wanted to check if Rayla was alright. 


-And?- he asked, unconvinced about what she wanted to say. 


-I am sorry for playing with your feelings for so long. You are good guy Callum. I just wasn't sure what I wanted back then. But I changed on better. You'll see...- Said Claudia. Callum however felt that she was not honest with him. Claudia was too kind now, so he thought that she wants something from him. 


They finally walked to cave. Callum looked around to finally see Rayla. Seeing her like that almost made him scream with shock and fear. 


-By sources...- he said looking at Rayla. He barely saw her in light that campfire made. 


She was kneeling in corner of the cave. She was barefoot and missing her vest, wearing only her assassin suit. Her hairs were shorter, clearly cut down in hurry long to her neck. Her horn was broken almost in half of it from head. Her arms were full of small wounds, cuts, bruises, scars after use of hot metal in torture. Her face was in blood, streaming from clearly broken nose and bruises around, while her left hand missed fingernails with blood leaking from the wounds. She had hands tied behind her back while on her neck was collar with chain.


She looked at him with pity, sadness and shock at the same time while in her mouth was stuffed fragment of cloth to prevent her from speaking. Seeing Callum she made small grunt, with hope appearing along with tears in her eyes. 


-Oh, yeah. It's her. Kind of backstabbing slut of her, you know.- said with chuckle Claudia. Callum looked at her furious. He squished fist with urge need to almost kill Claudia with his spells. He however tried to remain calm. 


-Claudia...but... Why?-asked Callum completely terrified by what he saw. 


-I wanted to learn few things. As you can see I had to convince her...-Said Claudia without any expression that it was serious. That only made Callum furious. 


-Convince? Convince?! Claudia, she is living being. Look at her. You were torturing her.- Said Callum pointing at Rayla. Claudia looked at him surprised. 


-Oh come on. You still care for her? She left you, she played with your feelings, abandoned you when you let yourself trust her. She broke your heart Callum, aren't you angry on that? On your place I would be furious.- Said Claudia. Callum was furious, but on what Claudia did. 


-But... That's not right! Why you beated her so hard?- asked Callum. He knew Claudia was furious but what she did was too much. 


-She killed my father, helped kill your step-father. Because of her Ezran has ruined childhood and you are almost alone.- Said Claudia. Callum knew who was responsible and that person was Runaan. 


-That is not excuse for what you did. Claudia, beating her up you just lowered to the level you wanted to punish. You are just doing what you claim she did. And Rayla...- Callum wanted to defend Rayla. She looked at him, tears on her cheek. Callum looked at her with worry - he had to take her away from here. 


-Forget about her! She wasted enough of your time. Come on, don't you want everything to get back to normal? To see Harrow alive again? To be happy? To see your mother...- Claudia moved closer, putting her hands on Callum's arms. 


-They are dead. Dead because they made bad choices. Besides, how are you going to revive them?- asked Callum. He knew that would be with Dark Magic, but he wanted to know more. 


-Dad has few ideas. But he needs cube. Do you have it?- asked Claudia. 


-I have.- Callum answered pulling Cube out of his pocket. Key of Aaravos, mysterious cube Rayla found in Banther Lodge. He saw it beamed with light from two marks - one with Sky Arcanum and one with Dark Magic. 


-It... It's here. - Said Claudia. 


-Yeah. - answered Callum. Seeing this Rayla made noise, clearly meaning that Callum mustn't give Claudia that cube. 


-I knew you would do it right. I regret that I always treated you like kid when you actually were becoming a man.- Claudia stretched her hand to take Key, but Callum pulled it back to his pocket. 


-I didn't do anything yet.- answered Callum. 


-You become more careful. I like it...- Said Claudia closing to Callum with closed eyes. As she draw closer and closer to him, Callum put hand between them, stopping Claudia close from his face. 


-What are you doing?- asked Callum, not knowing what she wanted. 


-I'm trying to kiss you.- Said Claudia with rolling her eyes. 


-... What?- asked surprised Callum. 


-I thought you had feelings for me.- said Claudia, clearly shocked that Callum didn't want to make step forward. Callum knew, his younger self would kill to kiss Claudia, but now... 


Now he was loyal to someone else. 


-Well... I had...- Callum started to explain. 


-What's the matter then?- asked Claudia. 


-... It kind of... It died.- answered Callum. 


-Why?- asked Claudia moving back. She was looking at him furious, surprised and betrayed at the same time. 


-Well... It's just... It was after you tried to kidnap me and Ezran from Moon Nexus. Rayla didn't trust you and told me that you are going to bring us to Katolis by force. We had to bring Zym back to Xadia. And you just... Tried to catch us like we were animals. She was right... Back then I doubted in you. I'm sorry.- said Callum. Claudia only smiled with pity. 


-No... I am the one who should be sorry. After all, I wanted to... Use magic and make you get back.- Said Claudia, drawing closer to Callum. 


-Yeah. Later however I saw what you have done to that dragon in woods nearby. How heartless you were. That opened my eyes of what you were really like.- answered Callum. That made Claudia stop. 


-That Dragon burned half of the village nearby. You saw those buildings...- Claudia started but Callum had no intentions to hear those lies. 


-Soren said you started this. You provoked dragon to attack. It was just defending itself.- said Callum. Claudia didn't expect that answer. 


-Callum, you must understand, what we did back there was to save people from village.- Claudia trued to explain herself. Callum however knew the truth. 


-No Claudia. I saw in your book what you could do from dragon parts. And it disgusted me.- Said Callum taking step back. 


-Callum, please, you must... - Claudia was clearly not knowing how to stop it. She was loosing this argument and Callum knew that was what she wasn't expecting. 


-No. You must understand, you were good person years ago. But what you are doing now... It's not you. Leave your father and let Rayla go. You are lost, but we can show you how to fix things up.- Said Callum, stretching his arm towards her. 


-Callum. I trusted you, but what you say is far from truth.- said Claudia. 


-So you were able to make people suffer like that? Look at Rayla, she only protected Zym. I know what happened there - your dad is crazy. Leave him while you can because he will drag you down with him.- said Callum. Claudia looked down, not knowing what to do. 


-I can't Callum.- she said with fear in her voice. 


-Then I take Rayla and we are leaving. - said Callum, as he slowly approached Rayla. She looked with hope on him, like she expected him to take her away. 


-No, you don't. - Said Claudia with anger. 


Claudia suddenly throwed on Callum chain that in seconds pinned boy to the ground. That surprised Callum, making him collapse. Rayla made quiet grunt as he fell down. Claudia approached him.


-Sorry Callum, but that monster used spell on you. On Ezran and on my brother. She is controlling you. I have to help you. - Said Claudia kneeling near him. 


-What? That's nonsense.- said Callum trying to move his arms. Chains were too strong however. Callum touched around of his hands only to learn that chain there was easy to break. He had an idea. 


-She would want you to think that. But...- Claudia started, trying to talk reason into him and explain her actions but suddenly she was interrupted by voice both if them weren't expecting to hear. 


-Kill me.


They both looked at Rayla. She managed to get rid of cloth from her mouth and she managed to talk again. That shocked Claudia, but Callum was more focused on Rayla than her. Her voice... He really missed it.


-Another trick elf?- asked Claudia. Rayla however moved her head, making it clear it wasn't. She started to cry, tears rolling over her cheeks.


-No. If you can't believe him, fine. But let him go and don't hurt him. Kill me instead. If I would be dead, then who will be there to control him?- asked Rayla. Callum looked at her with shock. 


-Rayla don't.- he said, making his hand move to place where it could be free to draw runes. 


-Your life for his. Maybe you really love him. Sad thing indeed.- said Claudia, walking towards Rayla. 


-I do. Callum listen... I am so sorry.- Rayla said, as Claudia approached her. 


-Rayla, no! Claudia don't do it!- Yelled Callum. Claudia however was already moving her hand to dagger near her belt. 


-I am sorry. I shouldn't leave you. But... Remember, I really loved you.- Said Rayla. Callum looked at her terrified. 


-Ready to die?- asked Claudia as she put her hand on dagger. Blade moved, up as Claudia prepared to with one strike finish off Rayla. Elf closed eyes, ready to die for him. Callum knew he has to do something. 


-No! Aspiro Frigilis!- chanted Callum as he draw the rune behind his back. 


Suddenly Claudia was covered in big block of ice that pushed and pinned her to the wall. With shock she saw how Callum's breath changed into ice and blocked her, making her only part of head possible to move.


-Fulminis Frigilis. - Callum made another spell. This one made small pile of ice hit chain behind his back, making it break. Claudia watched in shock as Callum was setting himself free. 


Callum got up as quickly as he could. In few moves he untied Rayla and helped her get up. Claudia watched with shock as he managed to get her up while Rayla almost throwed herself on his neck. Callum embraced her while she started to cry - she needed him now more than ever.


-It's alright. I've got you. Let's get out of here.- said Callum as she almost glued herself in a hug to him.


-Y-yeah...- Rayla looked at him, and as fast as her wounds let her she went near Callum. Seeing that she needs help Callum pulled her arm on his neck and his arm on her waist, carrying her. 


-But... How?!- Claudia asked. Callum turned around to see that she set her head free from ice. Now he moved back with disgust - Claudia looked different now. She was pale, her eyes with veins were dark, and her hairs white as much as snow. 


-As I said, there is other way. I can use Primal Magic. I would love to talk more but I have to go. See you around Claudia.- Said Callum walking with Rayla away. 


-No... No! You are not going anywhere. Wolb meht pu!- Claudia chanted spell. Callum looked back to see that Claudia managed to free her hand as well. 


Suddenly something exploded near them. Explosion pushed Callum and Rayla away from the cave, making them fall away into the forest. Heat also released Claudia, who collapsed as ice cracked and landed on ground.


Claudia knew that someone would be interested what exploded here. She had to run. Fast. She looked on place where Callum and Rayla fallen from cliff. Again, she regretted that she messed things up with Callum.


But that was what happened. And she couldn't do anything about it.

Rayla regained consciousness after while. She looked around. It was almost down because she could see few things in the dark. She looked around to see trees and other things possible to find in forest.


She tried to get up only to feel unbelievable pain in her leg. She looked down only to see that her leg was broken. She cursed, knowing that she was almost unable to move.


After checking herself she knew how bad her shape was - along with broken leg she had more cuts, bruises and big wound on her head from where she was loosing blood.


Right now it wasn't important. Important was Callum, how he was and where he was.


Slowly, but with big pain she started to crawl forward, looking for Callum. It felt like ages and hurt her more than tortures from Claudia but she was determined to do crawl forward. She couldn't leave Callum, not after what he did for her.


Again, she couldn't understand him. Why did he actually try to defend her? Claudia was right, she hurt him. And he anyway tried to save her. Maybe he still loved her? He believed in her? Maybe he wasn't mad.


Rayla suddenly felt need to collapse. She stopped, feeling need to stop for a while. Suddenly she saw something near the Bush on her left. Human hand with five fingers in glove and blue sleeve torn by bushes.


-Callum? - she asked to hear no response.


It was short distance so she crawled to Bush where body was lying.


She guessed well, it was Callum. And hoped he was still alive.


Boy was lying on the ground half burned from the explosion. His arm was clearly broken, while from his head she saw small pile of blood.


-Oh no... - she whispered as she crawled closer. She groaned in pain as she sat near him.


-Please be alive, please be alive... - she muttered under her nose, begging Garlach and other Elven gods that he was alive. On her luck he was still breathing - that was good sign.


Next few moments Rayla tried to build from sticks and leaves something to set his hand stable but it was not possible. Again, Rayla sat down near him, hoping that soon he will wake up.


She also slowly started to black out. Rayla tried to fight it, trying to open her eyes but she couldn't win with it.


-I swear sir, I saw explosion on hill nearby. - she heard voice approaching them. That would be probably help. She hoped that they would help them.


-Don't worry z we are going to... Be... Fine... - Said Rayla blinking again, like she believed Callum would hear her. Before help could arrive she lost conciousness again, holding his hand. 

Chapter Text

Callum woke up with feeling of pain making him not move. He looked around bright room he was lying in. He recognised this as one of rooms in Castle in Katolis. Around he saw one big window, wardrobe, small desk, few chairs, night table, and second bed.


He sat down, slowly, trying to ignore enormous pain he felt. Then he realised that his hand was in sling. He started to wonder what happened and how they get to the castle. Last thing he remembered was that he and Rayla were blown off a cliff by Claudia...


Suddenly he realised that Rayla was near him. He sat down as fast as he could, ignoring pain. She was somewhere. And he had to find her.


As he got up he saw second bed in which was Rayla. She had bandage on her head and was covered in sheets.


-Rayla? Rayla, are you alright?- he asked as he sat up. She was sleeping, probably still recovering. Callum however wanted to be sure that it's not trick. 


Callum tried to stand up. With slight problems he managed to get up and walk to her. It was painful, and yet in matter of minutes he reached her bed.


-Callum, what are you doing?- Callum heard Ezran as he was trying to sit on chair near bed. 


-Ezran? - asked Callum surprised. Was that a dream? Last thing he remembered was explosion that send him and Rayla into air. He saw young king in doors of the room. He looked at him surprised.


-Calm down. Everything is alright. You are safe now.- Said Ezran walking to him. Callum embraced his brother as he stood up. Ezran patted his back, making Callum grunt. Callum however ignored that. 


-But... How? How did we get here?- asked Callum. He wanted answers to be sure if everything went fine. 


-Soldiers from local garrison found you in forest. They informed us and we brought you here yesterday. How it went?- asked Ezran helping Callum sit down. 


-Claudia. She... She tortured her. It's not Claudia we remember Ez...- Callum answered recalling memories of how Claudia looked like without illusion. Seeing that in mind he felt cold on his neck. 


-I know by now. Doctors patched you up and they noticed her wounds. They pointed that someone very cruel but unexperienced could do it. She lost four fingernails adding that to fact that half of her current wounds, bruises and burns were made during tortures. Not to mention that she didn't had proper meal for around... Few months. I am really sorry...- Said Ezran putting hand on Callum arm. Callum looked on Rayla. Why she couldn't just go with him? He could stop it before it happened. It could get better. A way better. 


Suddenly Callum actually remembered something that was very important. Cube he had with himself... 


-Did soldiers found with us cube?- asked Callum imadietly. Ezran almost jumped up hearing his question. 


-What cube?- asked confused Ezran. 


-That from Banther Lodge. Ez, it's important...- Callum said almost getting up. Ezran put his hands on his arms however and pushed him on chair. 


-It... Yeah, I have it in my study. Why do you ask?- asked Ezran. Callum felt relief. 


-Viren wants it. It's so important that Claudia tried to convince me to join them. Promised impossible things, even tried kiss me...- Said Callum recalling how Claudia tried to manipulate and convince him to probably join them. She even wanted to bring to life back their parents. Callum however was sceptic about it, knowing that it wouldn't be so sweet and lovely. 


-I hope you didn't agree on anything.- said Ezran, looking on Callum with some uncertainty. Callum moved his head. 


-I didn't. Dear Heavens...- Said Callum as he put his hand on his head. Ezran patted his arm again. 


-It's alright. I'll bring you some clothes. After all Ethari should be here soon. I bet you don't want to make on him bad impression.-said Ezran. Callum nodded - beside bandages he was only in his pants, and... 


Callum stopped on this. Ezran wanted him to make good impression on Ethari? Why? Does he really believe that everything between him and Rayla can be fixed? 


-Yeah... Ez? - Callum agreed, looking as Ezran was leaving room. 


-What is it Callum?- asked Ezran looking back to Callum. 


-Can you bring us also some apple juice?- asked Callum. He knew that now he had to take care of Rayla as best as he could. And for the start it could be good to bring some juice. 


-Alright. Now cover yourself before Opeli will walk on you and your bare chest while Rayla is sleeping next to you.- pointed out Ezran with smile. Callum shook his head. 


-Fine...- Said Callum pulling on his back blanket. 

-So... This is here.- Said Ethari as he walked through the corridors. 


Ethari couldn't believe that he would ever be here, in place where Runaan died. That only filled his already hurt heart even more with pain and sadness. Yet that was price of duty. And it was years already, many things changed since then. Ethari was here for wounded Rayla, not to cry over dead Runaan again. 


She send him letter after battle of Storm Spire that she would live in Katolis with friends for a while, waiting to convince village that she should be unghosted. Yet after month contact was lost. Ethari received only letter with question from her friend Callum. He asked if he didn't know where she was, on which Ethari answered with same question. With Rayla missing and Runaan gone Ethari felt lonely. 


-Yes. Do you need anything?- asked Soren. Bodyguard was looking at him with concern. Maybe because he was that night when Runaan attacked Castle. Maybe just because he didn't like elves at all. 


-No. Thank you. You are good man, Soren.- Said Ethari. Soren smiled unconvinced. 


-I'm just doing my orders. Look, I didn't asked but... Are you with Rayla... A family or something? - asked man. Ethari recalled every moment he had spend with Rayla - since her early childhood to her last days in Silvergrove. She was like daughter to him. 


-We are not related but she is like daughter to me. - explained Ethari. Soren nodded with understanding. 


-Understood. It must have been hard for you. She was gone for almost two years.- said Soren. Ethari nodded - after all he was worried about her. He couldn't believe that she was wounded when he actually convinced red dragon named Pyrrah to help him get to the Katolis. It was short but intensive travel. 


-It was hard. Actually she is only person from my family left.- answered Ethari. 


-I understand. And I am sorry.- said Soren. Ethari looked. At him as Soren tried to avoid his eyes. In his eyes Ethari saw... Guilt? 


-For what?- asked Ethari, unsure what Soren meant. 


-For my sister. She was... Responsible for what happened to Rayla.- said Soren. That explained much, yet Ethari wasn't in any way upset. 


-It's not your fault then. Your sister, is she...- Ethari hesitated to ask about if she was using Dark Magic. After all, he heard that current heir to Katolis Throne was able to use normal Magic. He doubted that in one day humans would forget about their past and even after two years he knew that many of humans would rate positively Dark Magic as only magic possible to them. 


-She is lost. But somehow I have to bring her back to light. - said Soren. Ethari smiled, seeing that humans are changing. Maybe they are not as bad as he knew they would...


-I hope you would...- Said Ethari. Suddenly he heard door open behind them. Both of them looked at doorframe to see young boy. He was at least 13 years old, and he already seemed to be serious. 


-Ethari, right?- asked boy. Elf recognised boy as the one who Runaan and Rayla meant to kill two years ago - King Ezran, ruler of Katolis. 


-King Ezran...- Ethari made small bow, wanting to show respect. 


-No need to bow. Please, come in.- Said Ezran. Both of them walked inside his study. Ethari felt strange - young kid was ruling kingdom. Many would call that impossible, give so much power in hand of a child. And yet merchants from Xadia usually had good opinion about Katolis and laws there, clearly favouring equality. 


-So... Is she... Really back?- asked Ethari as they both sat down near desk. Room was small and inside was desk, few shelves with books and small table with papers on it. It looked like young King was often busy. 


-Yes. She is in room nearby, on opposite side of the castle. I gave her best medical attention I could.- said Ezran. That gave Ethari feeling of relief.


-I am in my deepest thanks for you, Your Majesty.- answered Ethari not knowing what to say more. Rayla was back, safe and close to full recovery. He was happy that she was alright. 


-I just helped my friend. She spared my brother during assassin attack two years ago. - answered Ezran. Ethari felt bad - if Runaan made different decisions back there... Rayla would be gone as well. Ezran would be dead and world would be in war. Small decisions Rayla made changed world. 


-I see... My deepest regards...- Said Ethari. He felt bad that he only could say that he was sorry for what Runaan did. Yet that was only thing he could do. 


-Thank you. But world is better place now. Do you need to know something else?- asked Ezran. Ethari thought about it. Then he recalled Callum, that Earthblood elf Rayla brought with her to Silvergrove. Back then she was claiming that they were just friends, but Ethari saw how she few times was starring at him. Ethari knew that was something more than friendship. Callum confirmed it as he asked if he knew where was Rayla as she disappeared. 


-Yes. Does her friend, Earthblood elf is still here?- asked Ethari. Ezran looked surprised at him. 


-Excuse me, who?- asked Ezran, definitely not knowing what Ethari was talking about. 


-Her friend. Name Callum, if I recall correctly.- explained Ethari. Ezran suddenly made face impression that clearly shown that he knew what he was talking about. 


-Oh. Right, they told me about that... - Said Ezran. 


-About what? - asked Ethari. Maybe Rayla didn't say something about her "friend"? 


-Well... Callum is alright. He helped bring Rayla back. Point is... He's not an elf.- said Ezran. That was surprising for Ethari. Does that mean... No, Rayla would not... Or maybe... 


-Not an elf?- asked Ethari not sure if he understood signs correctly. Rayla would know back then in Silvergrove that Callum was human. That would mean she was friend (or more) with human. 


-Yes. He's my human brother. He just made a disguise so he would look more... Elfish. - confirmed Ezran. Ethari felt as he was about to faint. Rayla with human... Being a couple? 


-Oh. Right. So... Is he alright?- asked Ethari. Maybe he wasn't right and she was only friends with him. After all, she took many things from Runaan behavior, and he hated humans. That gave Ethari hope that after all she wasn't even considering being with a human. 


-He is. Actually we put them for a while in one room. He woke up around few hours ago. Why are you concerned about him? - asked Ezran. Of course Ethari would be concerned about him, like every father would be concerned about boy his daughter seemed to like more than just friend. 


-Just curiosity. Rayla seemed to... Be close with him.- answered Ethari. 


-They were good friends. Maybe even best ones. Actually sometimes I felt  like third wheel between them when she was living here. - said Ezran. 


-Oh...-responded Ethari. Ezran however was faster than thoughts in his head. 


-Don't worry, she didn't destroyed relations between me and my brother. It's fine.- explained Ezran before Ethari could even ask about it. 


-I guess so... So, can I... See her?- asked Ethari. 


-Of course, follow me.-answered Ezran as he stood up from the desk. 

Rayla felt something touch her hand. It was weird - it wasn't like last few days boot, with which Claudia used to wake her up. It was soft, gentle squeeze of something soft and nice. She opened her eyes to see that she wasn't in cave or some forest. She was in Castle she knew very well - Castle in Katolis.


-Rayla?- she heard Callum on her right. She looked at him. He was here... Or it was another painful dream she would be awake from with tears. 


-Callum? Is that... Is that really you?- she asked. He only smiled seeing her uncertainty and pulled her hand to his forehead. 


-Yeah. You are safe now.- he said with smile. That made Rayla feel happy first time since few months. 


-By Garlach... It's really you.-she said pulling him into a hug. Callum grunted surprised as she hug him tightly. Callum remained close to her as she was embracing him. He was with her and he actually saved her. 


-Agh.... It's... It's alright. We are fine. She won't hurt you anymore.- said Callum that only made Rayla to cry - mix of happiness and sadness overwhelmed her in seconds. 


-She... I... I'm sorry... - she started to cry in his arm. Callum put one of his hands on her back, trying to comfort her. 


-Shhh. It's fine. You are safe now.-he whispered to her. 


They sat like that while. She held him close while Callum tried to ignore pain she was causing him, as she pushed towards him, smashing her side with his broken arm.


-I'm so sorry...- she whispered. Two years passed since she last saw him. She hurt him and she could only imagine what it could be like when he was alone. How hurt he could be, how much he hated her. 


-I know... Look at me, please. - Said Callum. She moved back to look him in the face. He looked at her not as she expected with hate, but with concern. That somehow calmed her. 


-Alright...- she nodded. She was afraid that this moment of peace would soon be over - Callum was withdrawn and understanding guy, but she was sure that breaking his heart would make him not much calm. 


-So... How are you?- he asked. That question was strange for her - she expected question where she was or argument... That question made her feel fine. 


-Better than in her hands... Is that... Jelly Tart?- asked Rayla. She noticed whole plate of Jelly Tarts on night table nearby. 


-Yeah. Ezran brought Jelly Tarts. Want one? - asked Callum. She looked on him and then on food with hunger in her eyes - she didn't have food like that in... Almost in a year. 


-Anything that is not rotten or from ground.- Said Rayla. Callum stretched his healthy arm and grabbed one of Tarts. 


-Here. You must be hungry. - Said as he gave Jelly Tart  to her. In seconds she devoured Tart like she had no food in her hands for few days. 


-Yeah. Last time I ate something warm was almost months ago.- Said Rayla, noticing that those Jelly Tarts were still warm. Callum looked at her, with smile but that smile disappeared. 


-Why...- Callum started but stopped after one word. Rayla looked at him with question in her sight. 


-Callum?- she asked. She knew that they would have to talk about it soon. Callum however decided to avoid subject for now. 


-Sorry... Did you find out what happened with Viren?- asked Callum. Rayla put her head on pillows in the bed. She at least achieved goal - she knew Viren was out there and he was alive. 


-Yeah. He is alive. I tried to kill him but Claudia got me. After few kicks in face he actually left me in hands of that psycho. I swear, I will kill her for that.- said Rayla. Yet she wasn't certain if she would have strength and skill to do so. After all, Claudia once managed to defeat her. Yet Rayla really wanted to make a rematch. Then she thought why she wanted it. She looked at her hand, bandaged after tortures Claudia made. 


-I see... Are you okay? -aaked Callum as he laid down next to her. She took deep breath - she had to admit it, she failed and let herself be beated down by her ex-boyfriend crush. She felt really pitifull. 


-No.. It's... Just... My pride is shattered. After... Well...- she admitted on loud. She couldn't change that. 


-Your horn was broken, you have been captured, you lost your blades and I had to rescue you? - Callum finished. Rayla looked at him and nodded. He wasn't looking at her like he was mocking her. He just finished what she wanted to say. 


-Yeah. I feel bad. Maybe I should listen to you back then...- Rayla said. Maybe with Callum they could get Viren and kill him. Maybe they could have better chances with fighting tighter than alone with Claudia. 


-Maybe. However we won't change that. Ezran should still have part of your horn somewhere, so maybe we would try to glue it or something. Claudia send us to prove that you are here. - Said Callum. Rayla smiled - that idea was dumb but she would at least look like normal elf. 


-That won't work but thanks. I hope that she will get sick after sitting in that ice. Heartless slut. - Said Rayla. She felt bad mostly because of Callum presence near, but that wasn't making her want everything wrong she could imagine to happen to Claudia. 


-I know. But don't worry, we'll get her and bring her to justice. - said Callum with small joy. Rayla looked closer to him - two years ago he wouldn't even be eager to tell something like that. And now? Now he was different guy... 


-Who are you and what have you done to prince Callum? - she asked with small chuckle. 


-I had two years to deal with my broken heart. - he answered making himself look like he didn't care. That made Rayla suddenly feel bad - finally Callum mentioned this. 


-Oh... Yeah... - she said. She felt bad about it - idea of only her risking life was good enough for her. And if something happened to him she wouldn't forgive herself. 


They fell silent. Callum took one Jelly Tart and slowly started to eat it. Rayla looked on him. He seemed to not think about what she did. Yet... He seemed to remember everything. He seemed nice but Rayla couldn't get rid of the impresson that he was furious on her. That she left and he had to risk his own life to save her. 


-Callum ... We need to talk. About what I promised you back in Moon Nexus.- said Rayla, mustering all courage she had. She didn't want to end it, yet probably she had no other option. 


-If you want. I really don't want to.-Said Callum, not even looking at her. Rayla felt bad - she messed up and now he probably didn't want to even forgive her. 


-I think I need. Look... I'm sorry.- she started. Rayla wondered how to explain this and maybe at least talk him to stay friend with him. 


-I know you are. - Said Callum looking at her without smile. Rayla felt bad seeing betrayal in his eyes. 


-I know... You have been...- she started to wonder what else say. In fact she still had feeling for him. She knew he was angry but in reality she didn't want him to be. 


-Rayla stop. I know what you want to say. Let me tell how I felt about it. And I felt bad. Do you have the slightest idea how much it hurt to find out that you left not even saying anything but just to find out letter? I swear, that was the worst birthday I ever had since my mom died...- Said Callum. Rayla felt worse - she had no clue that she left him on his birthday. 


-Oh...- she muttered as she understood that it was stronger emotional hit for him than she thought. 


-Yeah. I've been looking for you at least year until I had to return to Katolis. I stayed here, trying to work things up. I felt betrayed, sad and miserable. Seeing me like this aunt Amaya tried to set me up with some daughter of her friends from army.- he said with growing anger in his voice. Rayla knew what that would mean - her place in his heart was already taken or he suffered more because of rejections. 


-Oh...- again Rayla had no words to answer him. As he continued she felt more and more bad about it. 


-And that's not the end. Half of them were not even partly how you, making me feel like I lost most important person of my life. I actually healed up wound you left two years ago only to learn that you need my help.- Callum said looking at her. 


-Callum... I...- Rayla said avoiding his eyes. She knew he would be angry but what she did was far wrong than she thought. 


-Yeah?- he asked. 


-I am sorry. I wanted to make sure you won't get hurt. That you would... Stay safe while I would risk life.- she said finally. After what happened in cave she knew that Callum could manage for himself. But back then... She wanted to be sure none of her family would be lost. 


-Turns out you made mistake.- said Callum. And he was right. 


-Big one. Look... I will go. We can forget about each other if you want...- she said. Internally she didn't want to do it, but she had no other choice. 


-And what you want?- asked her Callum. 


-It's not important.- answered Rayla. She had her chance and she lost it. 


-It's important to me.- he said as he grabbed her hand again. She looked away, not daring to look into his eyes. 


-Callum, you know it won't work.- she said, feeling that he wanted her to confirm what he expected from her to hear.


-You still didn't answer my question.- said Callum. Rayla groaned with frustration. 


-Callum please.- she said feeling frustrated by his stubborn questions. 


-No Rayla. Be honest with me. One time.- said Callum. She closed her eyes angry on his question. Why he wad asking them? To joke from her? To anger her? 


-Stop. - she said not wanting to make herself look pitiful. 


-Nope. Not stopping until you tell me what you want.- said Callum. Rayla felt that she couldn't held her frustrations inside - she wanted him to just stop. 


-You!- she almost Yelled. She opened her eyes to see surprised Callum. 


Rayla took few deep breaths to calm herself down. She felt pathetic - she lost his love. She had to face it - she was receiving what she deserved. Yet... She could be honest with him, one last time.


-I want you. Those two years were the worst ones through my entire life. I rarely seen anyone, esspetially someone who wouldn't scream  "Elf, murderer, hide, people, hide!" and then shoot to me with crossbows. I had to steal food and sleep on the ground. I missed normal life and everyone, but mostly you. I did this to protect you, to make sure you will be safe and when I return... I hoped you would forgive me at least.- she looked down as she finished. She felt tears again apear in her eyes. That was it - their love was done here and now. 


-Rayla...- Callum said, pulling her head up. She avoided his look, not wanting to face him. 


-I know. I made mistake. I am not begging for forgiveness now, but just for... For remembering me good. I hurt you and I don't deserve anything. Just... Let me be.- she said as tears started to roll over her face. 


-Rayla, look... I told everything, making it look bad. Look at me, please.-he said. Rayla wiped tears and looked on him. Imadietly he looked her in the eyes. Inside Rayla saw... Regret? 


-I destroyed it, Callum.- Rayla said. Callum made small unsure smile. 


-I know. But... Let me tell you something. When you left... I was looking for you. I spend almost whole year in travel until Ezran called me back. When I got back I just... Lost it. Everything, magic, drawing, literally anything I was doing wasn't the same. I went on ten blind dates where I was almost bored to death. When I heard about you again however... I don't even know how to describe it. I simply was happy to hear about you again... That you returned. When I learned that you are held captive I was broken, but I could pick myself up. I had purpose in my life, and with it some of the memories and feeling returned.- he said, whole time looking her into eyes. Rayla wasn't sure what he was trying to tell - to remain friends? To continue? To end this? 


-Callum...- she didn't want to ask. Hearing this would make her break down for worse. As long as he didn't finish it she was almost fine. 


-You know, I missed your beautiful eyes.- Said Callum with shy smile. Rayla involuntarily smiled at these words. 


-I shouldn't leave you. And you... Shouldn't just... Forgive me. I hoped for it, even if I don't deserve it.- she said, guessing he was forgiving her. Callum blushed slightly. 


-That's why decision is in my hands...- Said Callum pulling himself closer to her. In matter of seconds before Rayla could react his lips touched hers. 


Callum kissed her. Rayla was shocked. Why he did it? She made him so much pain, broke his heart and made him suffer. And yet he just... Wanted to be with her? It didn't took her long to kiss him back, feeling that was what she wanted. After long while they separated. 


-Wow...- she whispered as he pressed his forehead towards hers. They made it once - after their third kiss. 


-I love you too...- Said Callum with shy smile. 


-So... You want to... Still be with me?- Rayla asked not sure if that was for real. 


-I hope you would want to.- Said Callum. 


-I do.- Said Rayla kissing him again. Again, after long while of kissing they moved back to take deep breath. 


-Then I don't see a problem. One more thing. Never do it again. I can't embrace the fact that you could die again. Especially since Claudia really wants you dead.- Said Callum as they separated. 


-I'll bring on next meeting with Claudia someone special then.- said Rayla with smile. 


-I wonder who could it be.- answered Callum with mocking smile. 


-Some handsome and talented mage. Human from Katolis.- Rayla said with mocking smile. 


-It must be cool guy. I wish to meet him.- Callum said looking her straight into the eyes. Rayla chuckled. 


-Dork...- she said pulling him into another kiss. For the first time in two years Rayla wasn't worried about tommorow. She was happy - happy with him. 

-And that's why Rayla hates water.- Finished story Ethari. Ezran was leading him to room where Rayla was recovering. Talking about her childhood made him feel nostalgic and more eager to see her again. 


-That would explain lot's of things. It's not that bad as me and Callum thought it would be.- said Ezran, clearly surprised by the fact why his friend was so much afraid of water with her reasons like that.


-Do you talked much with Callum about her?- asked Ethari. He still was thinking about that Callum. Rayla so far never had a boyfriend, and Ethari didn't want her to have. Yet he hoped he was overthinking again. After all, Ezran claimed they were friends. It couldn't get that bad. 


-Well... Not much. He was looking for her when she left. He really missed her. I bet he is sitting right now next to her, waiting for her to be awake.- answered Ezran. That answer only made Ethari doubt that Callum wouldn't be "blind" to not see Rayla. Ethari was sure Rayla was by now very beautiful young girl and soon boys would start to be interested in her. Ethari wanted however that those boys wouldn't be - it didn't mattered if they were elfish or human. 


-Yeah...- Ethari answered. In minutes they reached doors. Ezran opened doors and made Ethari place to walk in. As he walked in however Ethari suddenly froze.


He recognised both teens imadietly. Rayla looked more like her mother now, not counting wounds and broken horn. She grew up much since last time he saw her. Same went for Callum. His hair was longer, with hairs made in small ponytail. Ethari would smile right now, seeing Rayla again, if not the fact that what he saw was far from what he hoped for.


They were kissing.


By Garlach, Ethari thought. 

Chapter Text

-Ekhm.- Ethari cleared his throat. It was enough for those two for... Kissing. Rayla and kissing - he never even imagined this thing happen. And yet, there she was, kissing human boy. 


Teens suddenly separated, surprised by appearance of Ezran and Ethari. Rayla blushed much seeing discontent on his face, while Callum looked on floor avoiding sight of everyone.


-Hey... Ethari... Good to see you.- she said as she put her hands together. Ethari shook his head - she often was doing that when she did something wrong. 


-Yes. I hope we don't interrupt in something?- asked Ethari. Callum, who moved almost to the second edge of bed shook his head while looking at floor. 


-No... Not at all... You remember Callum, right? - asked Rayla. 


-I do. Trees to meet you again, Callum.- Said Ethari. Callum looked at him with fear - that meant he remembered him well. 


-Trees to see you too...- answered Callum with quiet voice. Internally Ethari smiled, seeing how much frightened boy seemed to be around him. 


-Well... I think I'll give you while. I'm in my office if you need me.- said Ezran who looked at that reunion with silence. While Rayla and Callum followed him with their sight Ethari looked closely at Callum. Boy had broken arm, probably reviving that injury during rescuing Rayla. Maybe he was not that bad. 


-I guess we have lot's of things to catch up, am I right?-asked Ethari as doors closed behind Ezran. 


-Yeah... We do...- nodded Rayla. 


-Callum, can you leave us alone for a while?- asked Ethari. Boy looked at him and nervously nodded, slowly getting up from a bed and leaving the room. 


-Of course... I'll be behind doors...- Callum said as he walked towards the doors.


-Fine.-answered Ethari looking after him. He needed while to talk about everything with Rayla privately. Callum was not allowing him to talk with her in four eyes.


Ethari watched as boy left the room. He starred at Rayla with sorrow in his eyes while she looked at him with begging for help in her eyes. Ethari shook his head - she wanted him to stay and confront him togheter. Not this time young lady, thought Ethari.


-Good to see you again...- Said Ethari as Callum left. Rayla smiled and pulled older elf into a hug. Ethari knew she needed family right now. After what she've been through she was lucky to be even alive. 


-Yeah... I missed you too.- Said Rayla as she hugged Ethari close. Ethari smiled as this was reminding him how many times Rayla was sad and used to hug him and Runaan for comfort. 


-Your horn... Is...- Ethari saw horn near his face. It was broken. In Xadia that meant shame for Moonshadow Elf. 


-Callum and Ezran have part of it somewhere. I feel bad without it...- Rayla sniffed sadly. She already was disgrace for her own people, but now they would laugh at her. Ethari hugged her tighter. 


-It's going to be alright. We'll glue it or something. How is your hand?- asked Ethari as he pulled her hand up. It was bandaged but he was sure that under it were horrible wounds. 


-Better than... You know. Being smashed with boot and had torn away fingernails.- Said Rayla sniffing. She looked pitifully on him. 


-I know. What made you even consider tracking that monster alone? It was highly irresponsible. - asked dryly Ethari. That was idiotic and very dumb idea. What even made her consider that? 


-It was. Are you angry on me? - she asked like she used to when she was younger. 


-Partly. But yelling at you how idiotic your decision was won't heal your wounds. Did you lost your blades as well?- asked Ethari, trying to ask more friendly. Rayla sniffed. 


-Yes...- that was another thing to be ashamed off, for Moonshadow elf. Ethari knew that if Rayla was still living in Silvergrove nobody would even want talk to her. 


-Don't worry. I'll make you another one. Probably something similar to sword your mother once had.- promised Ethari. Rayla smiled and pulled Ethari closer. 


-Thanks Ethari. You are the best.g she said, wiping tears. 


-I hear that rarely last time. How are you feeling?- asked Ethari. Rayla looked around and took deep breath. 


-Beside embarrassment after my failure? Quite good.- she said. Ethari knew that this could be thanks to young man behind the doors. 


-I assume your "friend" helped you with that feeling "quite good".- said Ethari. Rayla moved back to see again his not smiling face. She blushed knowing that Ethari caught them in middle of the kiss. 


-How much you saw?- asked Rayla, hopping that maybe she could talk him over or do something about it. 


-To know that it wasn't first time you both kiss. Do you have something to tell me?- asked Ethari with serious voice. 


-It... Happened after we left Silvergrove two years ago... - started Rayla. Ethari looked at her uncertainly. He hoped his mind was just over-thinking. If he had done something with her back then... Something he shouldn't, Ethari promised that for the first time he would kill someone. 


-What happened?- asked Ethari hoping that nothing happened and Rayla even didn't thought about going further than kiss. 


-Well... We... Had to travel with one Skywing elf. Quite asshole she was.- started Rayla blushing. 


-Rayla, please, language.- interrupted her Ethair. He tried to teach away wrong words she learned from older kids and Runaan. 


-Alright, sorry. She wanted to kidnap Zym. Meanwhile Callum and I... Had honest talk. And when we had to save Zym from her we had while. Callum approached me and... Well...- Rayla stopped. Ethari was praying in his head that teens just kissed and nothing more. 


-You two kissed? - he asked to confirm his worries. 


-Yeah.- nodded Rayla blushing. Ethari made calm sigh. He was afraid that young couple was carried out back then. Yet everything was alright. 


-So you have been a couple last two years?- asked Ethari. Rayla shook her head. 


-One month and the half, I'm not counting time when I left. He actually said he loved me after two weeks, during day of Battle.- said Rayla. Ethari smiled. 


-It's easy to say that in your age.- he said knowing that teens usually don't even know full feeling of love. 


-But it's not easy to jump off from a mountain to save someone. And he did it. In last moment he managed to change his arms into a wings with a spell and saved us both. - said Rayla. Ethari looked at her for a while confused. Humans can grow wings? How? Then he recalled that Callum could use Primal Magic. 


-Oh... I guess he had motivation.- said Ethari with mocking smile. 


-Ethari please.- Rayla said blushing. 


-I'm joking. Was he angry on you when you left? - asked Ethari. As far as it seemed she left him to find Viren. He was surprised that those relationship didn't collapse after that. 


-Little bit. But he missed me more. Actually I promised to never do it again.- said Rayla. Ethari noted - Callum was very forgiving guy. Maybe he would forgive even Runaan probably murdering his father. 


-Do you really love him? - asked Ethari. 


-Yeah. He saved my life. Twice. I wish I could repay him somehow. All I can do however is to love him. - said Rayla. Ethari took deep breath. Of course, it had to happen. After all parents are loosing meaning for kids with time. She had to find herself someone after all. And she found. 


-You know, many would be not happy from your relationship. Even I am not.- Said Ethari. Rayla looked at him confused. 


-But... Callum is good guy. I know his "Trees to meet you" pun was awful, let me introduce him. I think you would like him. Besides, humans are not...- she started to explaining but Ethari wasn't looking on that. Someone dared to be with Rayla and he wanted that someone to be best guy for her. 


-It's not like I care about him being a human. If he was an elf I wouldn't be happy about your relationship either.- explained Ethari. Rayla looked at him even more confused. 


-Then... Why are you angry?- she asked. Ethari in fact wasn't sure why. Of course he wanted her to be happy, but also he wanted to be safe. Around Callum he knew she won't be. 


-Maybe I can't let you go. You know... I still can't believe you are almost adult. I just... I can't explain this.- Said Ethari. Rayla looked at him unconvinced. 


-You are afraid that Callum would hurt me?- Rayla asked, trying to guess what Ethari meant. 


-Yes.- nodded Ethari. That was closest thing to truth. 


-I doubt he would. He's one of best guys I've ever met.- said Rayla. Ethari shook his head - young people in love always glorify their beloved ones. 


-I hope he's not like that one illusionist who wanted to confess his love for you on the bridge.- said Ethari. Rayla blushed remembering that guy. 


-Don't bring that topic with Callum around. Please. Whatever you want, but don't tell him about this. - said Rayla with begging look. Ethari smiled at this. 


-I guess that would be fine. I bet he would love to hear about how you started to fear water...- Said Ethari as he got up. Hearing that Rayla moved up to get up. 


-What? No! Ethari Don't...- suddenly she left a loud groan of pain. Ethari looked back to see her holding her leg. 


-Rayla, what's wrong? - asked Ethari. 


-My leg... It hurts...- Said Rayla trying to hold enormous pain. 


Ethari moved sheets to see that her leg was in splint. Before he could react inside entered Callum. 


-What's wrong?- he asked as he walked to Rayla. 


-Ezran didn't told me, but her leg was broken.- said Ethari quickly knowing what was wrong for her. 


-I didn't know either.- answered Callum as he sat down near Rayla. Instantly their hands connected. He looked at her with soft sight. Rayla unvolountarly smiled. Ethari watched them, guessing what they were thinking right now. 


-I think leg would be fine if I won't move it. After all it's... In splint. - Said Rayla looking at her leg. She sounded not good at all - she would be not able to move around for long time. 


-Yeah. I guess you will be fine. So, this time without any secrets - Ethari.- Said Ethari as he moved hand towards Callum. Callum got up and shook his hand. 


-Callum. And I'm really sorry for that pun with trees, sir. I was trying to... Blend in.- explained Callum. Ethari felt his hand shake - boy was nervous. 


-It's alright. It was actually funny. I understand also why you were trying to hide. I bet half of Silvergrove would attack you on sight.- said Ethari. Callum swallowed nervously as he saw his painful death in his head. 


-They would, sir?- asked Callum with nervous voice. 


-Yes. Most of us hates humans. But I can see some of us can love them.- Said Ethair as he pointed Rayla, who was watching scene with interest. 


-Oh... Right. We weren't actually doing anything... It was just... Human traditions for friends... You see...- Callum wanted to explain. Ethari smiled seeing how he tried to deny it and hide him and her behind human traditions. 


-He knows.- Rayla destroyed Callum's explanation. Callum swallowed again, looking with fear at Ethari. 


-Oh. Yeah. Right.- Boy nodded nervously. 


-No need to be nervous. I'm not happy to see you kiss Rayla, true. But it's not that because you are human. I'm just overprotective. That's all. If it depended on my Rayla would never have boyfriend but that's not my choice to make. Rayla proved to be partly responsible. Partly, since during last events... - Ethari stopped looking at her. Rayla rolled her eyes. 


-Ethari please.- she said, wanting this shame to end. 


-... She had troubles. But you came in and saved the day.- said Ethari, finishing his words.


-I was doing what was right... Sir.- Said Callum. Ethari noticed boy was sweating and now he looked like he was trying to look like he was not shaking at all. Older elf nodded, knowing that boy was more scared of this situation than he should. 


-No need to be formal. Come on, sit down.- Said Ethari sitting on chair. Callum sat near Rayla on bed. 


-So... How did you two met?- asked Ethari. He expected that was weird story, full of action, death, blood, adventures, journeys, wisdom-like talks about forgiveness, boring dialogues about anything but to just continue awkward talking. 


-Well... How to put that.- said Callum scratching his neck. Rayla also seemed to not remember this in good light. That only fueled curiosity from Ethari. 


-I tried to assassinate him...- Said Rayla. Hearing that Ethari forced himself to not blow up with laugher. 


-By Garlach. I knew this would be crazy story but I didn't expect you to get from enemies to lovers. - said Ethari, clearly seeing this as funny turn of events.


-I guess I had luck.- said Callum looking at Rayla. 


-You had luck? I almost cut you down while you were running around the castle. - said Rayla with mocking smile. 


-Back then I wasn't able to do magic.- said Callum. Rayla rolled her eyes. 


-I remember. Yet you were selfless back then. - said Rayla. Callum blushed and made face of someone who was trying to remember details. Ethari was holding off to not burst with laughter. 


-Was I?- Callum asked. 


-I wanted to kill Ezran. You tried to convince me you were him.- said Rayla. Callum suddenly understood. 


-Oh. Right...- Said Callum, again scratching his neck. 


-Not every human is cowardly as I see.- said Ethari wiylth mocking smile. 


-Well... I was cornered. At least my death would save Ezran. Well... Wouldn't in fact, but I didn't know about that belt-thing. - said Callum. Ethari looked surprised at Rayla, guessing what boy meant. 


-Assassin binding?- asked Ethari, hoping he was not guessing well. Rayla only looked down and nodded unwillingly.


-Yeah.- she said as she looked up. Ethari tried to remain calm as he was processing her answer. Runaan allowed her to take risk with binding. How could he? The least experienced person in the group and he just... Let her do it. If not for the fact that Runaan was gone for two years, Ethari would like to really talk to him about that. 


-Letting you go on this mission was bad idea. If I only knew what you would go through...- Said Ethari. He shouldn't agree on that. He should held her home, not letting her go. 


-I made my choice. Besides, I would not meet Callum.- said Rayla. She grabbed his hand while boy squeezed it gently. There are pluses and minuses, thought Ethari. 


-Yeah. We would live on opposite sides of world not even knowing that we exist.- Said Callum as he nervously smiled looking at her. 


-You would. Yet - forcing Rayla to kill wasn't best plan. Runaan should send you back. Or even not take you with him. - said Ethari. It was mistake - this whole thing was mistake. 


-It was about my parents. You know that.- said Rayla looking on him. In her eyes Ethari saw need for vengeance and shame - same thing he saw in her sight as she learned about attack on Spire and escape of Dragon Guard. 


-I know. Their name was cleared after we received word from Spire. Village Elders don't want to admit it but they made a mistake.- said Ethari. He still was working on making Elders unghost her. It was hard work since they really didn't wanted to accept the truth. 


-I believed they were cowards, but they were heroes.- said Rayla with regret. She felt probably sorry for so long hating them, Ethari was sure of it. 


-Yeah. They were. Do you know how did they found out? - asked Ethari. He knew from news that they weren't traitors, but how people learned this was still not known for him. 


-Callum used spell and necklace you gave me. With it he learned what happened to them.- said Rayla. Callum, visibly proud of himself smiled. 


-I see. Well I guess when we will find them and bring back they would be greeted as heroes back home.- said Ethari. 


-Yeah. They would.- said Callum. Ethari knew that would mean he would face another elves as boyfriend of their daughter, but so far Callum was for Ethari fine. 


-What about your parents Callum?- asked Ethari. Rayla gave Ethari full of hatred look. Callum looked down, making Ethari remember - his parents were gone. 


-They... They are dead. Runaan killed my step-dad. And mom. - Said Callum. Boy looked like he needed hug right now. Seeing him like that made Ethari feel bad. 


-Oh. I'm sorry. Are you alright?-said Ethari. Boy sniffed holding off emtoions and looked at him with small smile. 


-Yeah. I'm fine.- answered Callum. 


-Let's change the subject.- said Rayla. She was looking on Ethari whole situation with anger, so Ethari knew how to fix this. 


-She's right. But I think I'll make her regret that. I know that you are aware that Rayla is afraid of water.- said Ethari. Hearing that Rayla looked at him with more anger and frustration. 


-Well... Yeah? I wondered why.- said Callum, as he was drawing more attention towards coming story and not feeling of loneliness. 


-Ethari, please don't.- Said frustrated Rayla. Ethari however didn't want to stop. 


-Too late. It started when Rayla was eight years old...- started his story Ethari. Callum listened closely, while Rayla put her pillow on her face, trying to hide her embarrassment.

-How are you not angry?- said Soren. Ezran looked at him unconvinced. Soren was questioning why Callum and Ezran were so forgivable for Rayla who recently returned. He couldn't understand that after breaking his heart Callum just forgive her as same as Ezran. 


-Why would I?- asked Ezran. He was guessing why Rayla did this - probably to not have to worry about Callum. Two years before he was quite clumsy and he was sure that if he went with her their mission would end terribly. 


-She literally made your brother collapse emotionally. When he returned he was closed inside of his room for weeks. Not weeks, months. And you just freely let her stay and even call her weird uncle here.- said Soren. It really hurt him to see his best friend suffer like that. Sympathy for Rayla from him disappeared completely as he was trying his best to help Callum get into society again. 


-She made mistake. - said Ezran. Not first, not probably the last. Yet Ezran knew that she won't do it again. 


-Of course she did. Fight with my dad and Claudia alone? She would need small army to fight them.- said Soren. Ezran knew that and already had plans to make things work. 


-I am aware of that.- said Ezran not even touched by it. In fact he was afraid that casualties during capturing rouge magws would be high, but all he could do was hope best for his soldiers. 


-Then why are you calm? - asked Soren looking at Ezran. Young King only checked his to do list out of boredom and looked at Soren. 


-For my whole life I saw people around me make mistakes. My father trusting Viren, my mother trying to save Viren, then Viren trying to rule world by getting Zym. Rayla was just another person who made mistake. At least no one was hurt.- said Ezran. Eventually Callum was fine. Or even more than fine, since he and Ethari walked on him and Rayla kiss. Ezran already knew that inside is probably another hell.


-Yeah, but she destroyed our trust. How can you...- Soren started but Ezran had good answer in his sleeve.


-You also made mistakes Soren. Rember, at Moon Nexus?- pointed out Ezran. Soren fell silent - Ezran was right. 


-You're right.- admitted Soren unwillingly. 


-There is hope for everyone to return to the light. After all, you redeemed yourself during battle for Storm Spire. There is still hope for Claudia.- Said Ezran. Soren looked down. 


-Do you think that my dad has it too? - He asked pulling his head up. 


-I doubt. He drowned in ocean of his own ambitions so deep, that he is beyond saving. Only one solution is possible to make sure he won't hurt anyone.- said Ezran. Viren was fanatically believing he was right on the way to save humanity. And for fanatic nothing means away from his own mind. 


-I understand. - said Soren. Ezran knew that Soren was sad - he wished his family would again be bacj to normal. 


-I know you would.-Said Ezran. Siren smiled, wanting probably to make a pun. 


-You sound like Aanya more and more recently.- pointed out Soren with smile. Right, Ezran was taking more and more advices from her. She was full of experience and visdom - only she could help him with his dilemmas. Beside one that started recently - and included Ellis. 


-I know. But that's matter for different time. You suspect what I want you to do, am I right? - asked Ezran signing order. Soren nodded. 


-I think so.- answered Soren. Ezran knew that would be the hardest thing Soren would ever do. 


-Good. You will take Corvus and few squads of best men we have. We need to bring Claudia and Viren back to Katolis. Dead or Alive.- Said Ezran. Soren didn't look surprised - he seemed to expect that task. Yet Soren looked down, making for Ezran not possible to see his face. 


-I... I don't know if I can...- Said Soren as he pulled up his head. 


-You can always give place for someone else.- sugeested Ezran. Soren was best choice but he always could not agree on that. He knew Claudia and Viren, their habits, what they like, what they can. He was perfect candidate. 


-No. I'll lead searching party.-answered Soren after while of thinking. 


-I wish you good hunt then, Commander.- Said Ezran. Siren almost jumped up hearing this words. 


-I... I got promoted? - asked Soren with smile. 


-Yep.- said Ezran. Soren was right man to this rank so why not? 


-Thanks Ez!-said Soren shaking young King hand. After that he made a small bow and left the room, probably to prepare for his task and read orders on paper from Ezran. 


Ezran looked as Soren left room. He shook his head with smile - some things never changes. 

Chapter Text

-... And that's why Rayla hates water.- finished story Ethair. While Callum looked at him shocked, while Rayla tried to hide her red face in her hands. 


-Are you done?- she asked rising head up. She was blushing very much. Much more than probably even Ethari ever saw. 


-Yes. And I guess your boyfriend really liked this story. - Said Ethari looking at Callum. Callum looked at them with shock on his face. 


-Well... That explain a lot of things.- said Callum, trying to hide fact that he wanted to smile and laugh a little about what he learned now. 


-Indeed. But that is only the beginning.- said Ethari with smile. 


-What do you mean?- asked Callum. Rayla looked at older elf with anger. 


-I think you would love more stories about time when Rayla was younger. Am I right?  - said Ethari. Rayla looked at him with pure rage while Callum smiled.


-Yeah. I would... - Callum suddenly looked at Rayla who touched his side. She looked at him with hate, betrayal and shame in sight.- I mean... Maybe tomorrow. It's already late, and... You know. Rest helps heal wounds.- finished Callum as his smile disappeared from his face. Ethari looked through window. Sun was almost gone behind horizon. 


-I see... Ezran set me up in room nearby. I think that is all for today. Callum, one more thing before I leave.- said Ethari as he got up from chair. 


-Yes?- asked Callum. Ethari smiled looking at them. 


-Sleep in separate beds, please. I don't want you two to be carried out in night. You understand? - said quietly Ethari. Both Rayla and Callum blushed as Ethari chuckled. 


-I... Well... Of course. Separate beds.- Said Callum nodding nervously. 


-Ethari, you had to?- asked annoyed Rayla. 


-I am enjoying teasing you two too much. But don't be angry on me.- Said Ethari with smile. 


-You know I can't.- answered Rayla with regret. 


-I hope so. Good night kids.- Said Ethari. He lowered his head, kissed Rayla on forehead and then headed to the doors.


-Good night Ethari.- Said Rayla as she looked after him. 


-Yes. Good night.- Said Callum. Ethari left and with hands he gestured to Callum that he has an eye on him. 


As Ethari left the room Callum sat down near Rayla. She still looked at him with shame after Ethari told long, quite funny and very interesting story about her fear of water.


-You know, it went better than I thought.- said Callum. Rayla looked at him unconvinced. 


-For you. I am ashamed now totally.- she said as she put her head on pillows with hesitation. 


-Oh come on. You were ashamed before that story.- Said Callum looking at her. 


-I was. Guess why I am now? - asked Rayla irritated. 


-Because I know your secret? - asked Callum. Rayla looked at him with shame. 


-Not yet, because Ethari will throw at you every story about everything weird I did as kid.- said Rayla. Callum could only imagine what could do small Rayla when she was a child. 


-Is it wrong to be interested with things like that about my lovely girlfriend?- said Callum. Rayla smiled involuntary. 


-No... It's just... I feel stupid. - she said looking away from him. 


-It's not. If my parents were here they would do the same. You know what? Ezran and Amaya can tell you about everything I did when I was kid.- said Callum. It was bad idea, but he wanted her to feel good. It was sacrifice worth to be made. 


-I bet it would be nothing compared to mine.- Said Rayla with smile. 


-I doubt, but that's not my story to tell.- answered Callum. 


-I guess so. So... You really want to go to sleep? It's barely evening. - asked Rayla. Callum did that in fact to help her. It's not like he really needed sleep anyway. 


-You looked like you wanted to run away from it. Besides, I missed sleeping with you in one bed. - said Callum. Rayla smiled hearing that. 


-Ethari won't like it. But it's not like we are doing anything bad. Come over here. I'll...- Rayla hissed in pain as she moved her wounded leg. Callum looked at her with concern. 


-If it hurts I can always...- he wanted to back down. He didn't want her to feel pain for him. Rayla however cut him in. 


-No. It's fine. We can both fit in.- said Rayla. Callum hesitated but then he decided to get in. 


-Alright.- said Callum. He slowly laid down near to her. Instantly Rayla put her arms around him. He also put his healthy arm around her. 


-I hope you are still not snoring in sleep.- Said Rayla. Callum smiled. 


-Nobody told me. Nobody actually had how to tell me.- said Callum. After all, he was sleeping alone in his room. Even Ezran moved to their dad old bedroom. 


-Well, I will tell you then.- said Rayla. Callum smiled even more. 


-Nice to know.- Said Callum. Suddenly he felt Rayla grabbing his hand. Callum looked at her - she was next to him smiling.


-What?- asked Callum. 


-I forgot how our hands perfectly match.- said Rayla. 


-And I thought I was one with poor flirting.- Callum joked. 


-Alright, then try to flirt with me.- Said Rayla rolling her eyes. 


-Alright... As you want. Ekhm. Lady Rayla, when I saw you...- Callum started to be only interrupted by Rayla laugh. 


-Sorry, I thought you won't act like prince from story about princess closed in a tower.- Said Rayla as she calmed herself down. 


-You wanted me to flirt with you. Let me do my work. So... Lady Rayla, when I saw you for the first time, I knew my life would change soon. After all, you was standing over me with a sword. Then, however we joined into journey to return young dragon to his home, and with it bring peace and friendship to our people. You were bravest of us, most skilled of anyone who was around. Your beauty is unmatched, as it looked like your skin was made by perfectionist artist, your hair was long and clear like the snow. Your hands are soft as they were more like pillow. By this your figure is perfect in shape and with it your face. Along with this treasure, that no one could posses, came brilliant character, finest smile and underrated sense of humour. You, beautiful angel, you let me be with you, sinister mortal even with nothing I could give you but purest love and hope. And all I want you to give is love - I love you Rayla.- Callum finished. Around half of his words Rayla blushed. Callum smiled as she looked at him with amazement. 


-By Garlach. Did you improvised right now?- she asked completely stunned. 


-Nope. Not at all.- lied Callum. He remembered she had birthday some time after him and was preparing for that before she left. In fact somewhere in his sketchbook was full text of what he said right now. 


-Callum, now I feel more ashamed. I wish I could tell more about you and how I love you. - Said Rayla looking at him. 


-You don't need to.- answered Callum. 


-Nope. I have to.- she said with sure voice. 


-Just don't push yourself too much. I know you don't like things like that. After all - poetry is boring. - Said Callum. He already tasted it when Soren asked him an advice about his poetry. And since then Callum really didn't liked it. 


-Whatever. - answered Rayla. 


They were laying in complete silence for long while. Callum embraced Rayla with his healthy arm while she did the same with her arms. It was fine for Callum - he felt alone in one bed after she left. Through last two years he couldn't fight feeling of being alone as he was trying to sleep. That was only making him troubles during sleep and even making him sleep sometimes to even noon. Right now however he felt calm for the first time in years. 


Callum slowly started to fell asleep, happy she was near him. He guessed hours passed, while he enjoyed feeling her on his chest. Suddenly he heard loud sob. He turned to see Rayla wiping tears. He looked with shock at her - he thought she was calm. Why she was crying? 


-Rayla?- he asked surprised. What happened? Why she was crying? 


-I still can't believe you actually forgive me after that...-she said with tears. Callum understood that she has some sort of mental breakdown. He pulled her closer. 


-You know I love you, right?- said Callum as he reached for her forehead. He kissed it tenderly, trying to be as gentle as possible. 


-I know. Just... Be near me when I wake up. I will handle Ethari, just be next to me. I... Don't want to wake up alone. I... Just don't... Want to.- Said Rayla crying into his shoulder. Callum put hand on her back. He understood that she wasn't sure if she would wake up next to him or alone in the forest.


-You won't be alone. I promise you. You'll never would wake up alone.- Said Callum. 


Slowly she started to calm down. Callum however tried to hold her close. In next few minutes he understood that she was asleep. After while he also closed his eyes and fell asleep. 

-So, shortly. You failed to get cube. You failed to recruit that mongrel. You failed to even get rid of that elven slut. And I thought you was more capable than your failure brother.- counted Viren. Claudia could see he was furious, even as he was almost impossible to be seen in this light. She swallowed, knowing that he gave her already last chance. 


-Elf... Used spell. If I had more time, I would...- Claudia wanted to explain herself about her failure. Viren however had no interest about this. 


-Save your excuses.- Said Viren. In seconds Claudia felt chain around her neck. Metal suddenly tightened as her father used spell. Claudia collapsed on the ground of cave, gasping for air. 


-Dad, no! Please... I tried... - Claudia gasped while he was choking. 


-I hear that every time you fail. I don't want to even hear that. I gave you two last chances. Tell me why I should not harvest your energy for Dark Magic?- asked Viren. Claudia started to move her legs, trying to catch some ground as she was slowly lifted up. Her hands were near her neck, trying to separate it from chain. 


-I... Can be useful... Just...- she started to choke. Painc started to overwhelm her as she was slowly seeing dark. 


-You won't be.- answered Viren. 


-You won't... survive without... me.- Said Claudia. After few seconds she collapsed on the ground. Chain returned back to Viren as Claudia was gasping for air. 


-Last chance. I won't accept another failure. And now, go make traps near our base. We are going to have guests soon.- said Viren. Claudia looked at him. His veins were dark, his skin was purple, his eyes were almost empty. That's what remained from proud Court Mage of Katolis. 


-Yes... Father...- Claudia said as he returned deeper into cave. 


Claudia got up and walked towards exit from cave. It hurt her that her father saw her as failure. She was always his most dedicated assistant and student. He could depend on her anytime. However now she was failing to complete his task, not to mention his expectations.


Deeply she was glad that she wasn't able to even get rid of Rayla. Claudia didn't understood why - she killed her father, destroyed her easy life in Katolis and turned everyone against her. Or maybe it was just her fault and Claudia was trying to explain why everything was going wrong as she tried to fix things falling down near her. Maybe Callum was not under elfish spell. Maybe that cute little Dragon wasn't weapon. Maybe trapped in coins elves weren't assassins trying to kill King, as Viren was explaing. Claudia was... Doubting. 


She wished she could go back in time and leave with Soren from camp before battle for Strom Spire. She wished she could change that. It was too late for that however. She caused so much pain for her old friends. They were already hostile for her, even Soren. She had no other option but to slow down her fall and death. Everything she was doing was not for idea of safe Humanity her father believed, not Dark Magic as force of expansion for humans, not even revenge on Rayla for what she did to her.


She was doing it because she was afraid of death. Every crime against her morals, every wrong thing she did, everything she has done until now was to only make her wrong life longer. For a month, for a week, for a day, for an hour, for a minute. And she wanted to keep it doing - even in face of fact that this fight was already lost. Her father was already gone - this thing was once him, but now... Claudia regretted even bringing him back to life. It was last time to fall back, after all Soren and Callum could save her before angry mob could do anything about her. 


And yet she was here, alone, sad, hungry and afraid to die. She however knew that she had to do it. To fight.


It was all she could do - fight to live another day.

Sleeping here was not easy task. After all, it was legendary land of monsters, Dark Mages and evil he knew from stories. For now however it seemed fine - humans were not hostile towards him. Even more, Rayla was alright. And with her that boy Callum. He seemed even alright. Maybe he wasn't that bad?


Yet Ethari wanted to be sure that everything was alright. He dressed up and quietly left room. He walked through empty corridors of castle without noise. That was natural ability of Moonshadow elves, and he really loved it.


As he approached room where was sleeping Rayla he decided not to knock. If kids were doing something, he could catch them while that, and if they don't nothing should be wrong.


Ethari slowly moved doors. Those made no sound, what only calmed Ethari.


Elf looked inside as doors were opened only to half. He looked at Callum's bed. It was empty. Maybe boy went to toilet. After all, where he could be during night...


Oh. Right, also here.


Ethari found Callum as he was asleep in Rayla's arms. Kids seemed to be still in clothes so Ethari was sure, nothing happened. Rayla was embracing Callum while he pulled his healthy arm over her.


Looking at them Ethari felt calm. After all he wanted Rayla to be safe. And she was, but (sadly for Ethari) with that boy. He seemed to be good behaved, young man. Ethari so far felt he was perfect match for Rayla. But that will be shown only by time.


-Stay safe, kids. Stay safe. - Said Ethari closing doors.

- Ready men?- asked Soren. He turned around on his horse. 


Thirty soldiers, best members of Royal Guard was behind him on horses. Elite of Katolis Army. Will that be enough to capture Claudia and Viren? After all, no one could knew what would happen during their mission.


Soren took deep breath. He hoped Claudia would not kill anyone of them. He hoped she would surrender. Differently he thought about his father. He needed to die - he is too dangerous to be left alive. And Soren killed him once - second time would not make any difference.


-Ready, Commander.- Said Marcos, his right hand at this mission. Soren pulled helmet on his head. 


Commander. It sounded funny. He never expected to get that far. Maybe he was not that bad after all. All he needed to have as stabile man was now a wife and house - maybe now his father would be proud of him. But could he ever be? After all - Claudia was really his favourite, since beginning. Probably that's why she stayed with him. She was afraid that there would be no place for her in world without their father, without no one to be proud of her.


-Forward men! - ordered Soren. Soldiers moved forward, into the night.

Rayla woke up feeling something large in her arms. She opened her eyes to see Callum. She looked around to see that she was still in Castle's room in Katolis. She felt relief, making her move closer to him. 


-Five more minutes... Please...- murmured Callum as he felt she moved. Rayla looked at him with sorrow and pulled closer to him. 


-I know. Sorry.- she said kissing his forehead. Callum opened his eyes to look at her. 


-It's fine. I told you.- he said with shy smile. 


-What?- asked Rayla. She was just awake and before her mind will work properly it will take some time. 


-You will never wake up alone. I promised and here we are. Prepare for that more often - I am not leaving you. - Said Callum. Rayla smiled heating that. It was so much good that after all of her failures and struggle he still loved her. 


-I know. That's why I love you.- she said pulling closer to him. 


-I know. I love you too. - Said Callum rubbing his eyes just before Rayla pulled him into a kiss.