Rayla growled in frustration as she threw the letter in the fire. “Ray-” Callum murmured from the side, holding their week-old daughter. Aisling was the most beautiful thing Rayla had ever seen, with her father’s green eyes and brown hair with ten fingers and ten toes. The most elven thing about her was the little horn stubs on the top of her head.
“Don’t, Callum. Please.”
“We’ll make them understand.”
“How?! You freed Runaan, Lain, Tiadrin, and many others from those coins. We saved Zym and reunited him with Zubeia. We defeated Aaravos and it’s STILL NOT ENOUGH. They will never unghost me and let me go back home.” Rayla felt the tears pricking at the corners of her eyes and tried to hold them back, but they poured out. “And now I’m getting hormonal and just…UGH.”
She didn’t resist when she felt Callum come up behind her and wrap his arm around her waist. “I’m sorry, Ray. I don’t know why they are being so stubborn. You don’t deserve this, but no matter what, you have me and Aisling, and Ezran and Soren. You ARE home.”
“You don’t get it.”
Sighing, he moved away from her. “What don’t I get? Didn’t we agree that this is your home now? Didn’t we say that, no matter what, we are each other’s home?”
“And I stand by that. But you cannot possibly understand what I am going through. You still have your home. You haven’t been banished and you can come and go as you please. I need weeks of planning to not only go see my parents, but if I want to see my childhood homes, nobody can see me. My culture, my language, everything, is basically lost to me. You don’t get it.”
Callum was quiet for a while, perhaps minding their daughter. Rayla winced as she continued looking at the fire. Wrapping her arms around herself, she felt even more terrible. She didn’t feel like she had taken to being a parent nearly as well as Callum had. Maybe she wasn’t meant to be a parent. She loved Aisling with everything she had, had carried the halfling in her belly for nine and a half months and delivered the child for hours, but she was also crying more, angered quicker, and didn’t stop Callum from getting out of bed at night to tend to the baby. If anything, she hoped he would so she didn’t have to.
Callum finally came back to her and wrapped both his arms around her. “You’re right, Ray, I don’t get it. I cannot understand your pain and frustration. And now that we have a child, I’m sure your feelings have only grown stronger because you want to share all of those things with her. But I have to believe that we can make them welcome you back because I’ll hate them if I don’t. We’re trying to forge peace and hate doesn’t belong anywhere near that.”
“I haven’t even thought about how it would affect Aisling. Gods, I’m a terrible mother.”
“No, you aren’t.”
“Yes, I am. I gave her a Xadian name and she can’t spend time in Moonshadow territory? She’s cut off from half of herself and I’m sitting here thinking about how it affects me.” Rayla felt the panic rising in her chest. “Callum, what if she hates me? All I do is fuck up with her. I’m not bonding with her like I should. She already adores you more and I’m just there.”
“Look at me. Please.” Slowly turning, Rayla raised her eyes to meet his, shocked at the tears in them. “You aren’t fucking up. You’re having a hard time, but that’s not that weird. You heard Sabah and Amaya. Most new mothers feel like this, and if it lasts longer, we’ll get you help. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother or something is wrong with you. What did the mid-wife say?”
“That birth is traumatic for some and it takes longer to heal the mind than the body.”
“That, because I don’t have a support system from my home and my culture, I’m more at risk.”
“I’m so sorry that this is happening and I wish I could fix it for you. I would fly into Silvergrove now and make them take you back if I thought it would work. But you are not screwing up with Aisling. She’s not cut off from half of herself because she has you. If you want to only speak to her in High Elven, I will support that. If you want to teach her to read it, I will find books every time we go to Xadia and ask Janai for some. I’ll order ingredients from Xadia so she can have Xadian food. I promise, I will do what I can to give you both a connection to your home because, even though we are each other’s home, you do still need a connection your culture. Aisling does, too.” Wrapping her arms around him tight, Rayla’s shoulders shook as she silently sobbed in his arms. Callum kissed the top of her head and held her close, rocking her side to side as he so easily did their baby.
Rayla rolled her eyes as she stared at the curtains Callum had pulled over part of their bedroom. He said there were changes coming to the garden and it was a surprise so she wasn’t allowed to look. It had been several months since the Council’s latest rejection of her return to Silvergrove and she was slowly starting accept that she would always be rejected. All four of her parents had visited Aisling and had adored their grandchild, promising to visit as often as possible and give her a connection to her culture. Lain and Tiadrin were even considering permanently moving to Katolis so they could be more active in Rayla’s life and make up for lost time.
Stroking Aisling’s cheek with the back of her fingers, Rayla held her bairn close. Sabah had been a big help in the journey into motherhood, visiting often and letting Rayla freely voice her concerns and fears. Months ago, Rayla had feared the judgmental eyes of others for not being close enough to her child, but she was slowly learning that it really was different for everyone. Tiadrin had shyly admitted she had had a hard time post-partum with Rayla as well; lying in bed for days on end and Runaan and Ethari and Lain having to check in on her. She still felt like a failure some days, but her child was healthy and growing with a flush on her cheeks. “I love you, even if you do wake me and your father up. We need to get you sleeping through the night, wee one.”
A knock of the door interrupted her gentle scolding, causing her to look up. “Princess Rayla?”
“Prince Callum requests you and Princess Aisling join him in the garden.”
“We’ll be there.” Standing up, she held Aisling close and left her bed chambers. The trip to the gardens was a short one, but Callum had covered all the windows so Rayla couldn’t accidently get a peak at what he was doing. “We’re finally going to see what your father has been up to. I’ll bet you five whole jelly tarts he built a pond just to practice ocean magic.”
“I would take that bet.” She turned to the side to see Callum waiting for her. “Ready to see the surprise?”
“I’ve been ready.” She turned to the glass doors leading to the garden and waited for Callum to open them. He smiled at her and turned the handles. As the doors opened, Rayla was hit with the smell of moonlilies. She hadn’t smelled that scent outside of soap in years and her eyes watered in nostalgia and happiness. Callum had planted a whole field of them as well as having built a gazebo. “How did you do this?”
“Well,” running a hand through his hair, he gave her a sheepish smile, “it certainly wasn’t easy. The Council is being so stubborn with unghosting you, but I managed to convince them with a letter a day to let me have enough moonlilies to do this. I told them that it was the least they could do for the mage who had decoined several of their citizens. I know it’s not the same thing, but, at least, you can now have a piece of home right here in Katolis. Let me show you the gazebo.”
He led them over, hand on the small of her back, and Rayla marveled at all the flowers before her. Moonlilies only bloomed at night, but their scent was still unmistakable. The gazebo was wrought iron and featured multiple Moonshadow knots and symbols. There were cushions and benches for sitting on. “I could spend all day here.”
“Thank you. This is the sweetest, most thoughtful thing anyone has ever done for me.”
“I love you, Ray. This is our home, and, I hope, I made it feel a bit more like home for you.”
“You did. I love you, too.”
The three of them spent all day in the gardens, having lunch and dinner in the gazebo and later joined by Ezran and Soren. Sabah, Marcos, and their child joined them as well, Sabah’s heavily pregnant belly leading the way. Rayla and Sabah chatted in their mixed High Elvens while Callum made his attempts and the little one in their group hung on every word. It still hurt Rayla that she couldn’t go home freely, but she did feel a bit more at home now. Maybe one day, she would get to show Aisling and any other children she and Callum had Silvergrove and other Moonshadow territories. Until then, the gardens would do quite nicely.