Rayla's eyes were wide as she looked at the tiny dragon stumbling towards her. The minute-old creature looked at her face, before turning to her left hand.
The one that was turning black.
The dragon, Zym, reached out its tiny claws to her hand and pulled himself closer, before lowering his jaws to the binding. The Dragon Prince chewed for a few seconds, but the ribbon held fast as it had done against everything else she had tried.
"Oh, it's okay, little one. One miracle is enough for me today," she said, trying not to ignore the tears that sprang in her eyes. She was truly happy that the Dragon Prince was alive and well, and that there was still hope for peace. But she had still climbed the Cursed Caldera with hope of her own, hope that the miracle healer could save her hand.
Zym looked sad, but then he turned back to Ezran and smiled again, hopping away awkwardly on untrained legs. Callum kneeled next to the dragon, hesitantly reaching out his hand.
She didn't want to ruin this happy moment, so she stood up as quietly as she could and walked around the two humans playing with the dragon and went to Lujanne. Maybe this moon mage would know something about cancelling a moonshadow enchantment.
"Uhm… Miss Lujanne? Can I ask you something? You see, I have this… assassin's binding on my wrist, and… eliminating the target of the binding is impossible. Do you know how to undo it?" she asked softly, lifting her left arm to show the older woman.
"Oh no. There is no way to undo it. This is silk grown by the most ancient Earthsoil Elves, and enchanted by elves of every Source. This binding will only release when the target's soul has been released from his or her body. I… I am sorry," Lujanne said. Her eyes shifted between Rayla and the two princes, and she was sure the moon mage knew exactly who the target was.
"H-How long?" Rayla eventually whispered, turning away from the humans. Ellis and Ava had joined the little dragon, though Ellis was looking up at her suspiciously.
"Until it… falls off naturally? Less than a day, I think. It's probably better if the hand is… removed with surgery before then, however. That way the wound-" Lujanne was interrupted by Ezran's shout.
They followed his outstretched finger to see a purple light shooting across the sky in their direction. Rayla reached for her weapon, but before she could grab it the light shattered into dozens of glowing orbs.
"You are being tracked. You should leave this place, now! Take my griffin, she'll fly you to the base of the mountain. I'll use illusions to distract whoever is hunting you. Find a safe place and… amputate that hand. I'm sorry, Rayla, but I can't do it. There's no time," Lujanne said, grabbing one of the floating orbs and examining it.
"But... " Rayla didn't know what to say. She knew Lujanne was right, but she didn't want to leave yet. If she went down there to the world of humans she knew all hope for her hand was lost. But there was no hope up here either.
"I'm sorry for calling you a fake. I wish I had time to study your magic. Callum would love it too. Thank you for helping us," she eventually said as the humans climbed on the griffin. Ava didn't look happy with it, but clung to the feathered neck anyway.
"Rayla, come on! I know a place where we can hide!" Ellis called, and she reluctantly turned away. Callum helped her climb on, gently grabbing her wounded arm and holding her steady when the griffin spread its wings.
"Good luck, and stay out of sight! Rayla will need a few days at least to recover! I'll buy you as much time as I can!" Lujanne called as the griffin took off.
Rayla wanted to feel wonder at the fact that she was flying, that she was riding this incredible creature, but her binding tightened more and she just groaned.
"What was she talking about?" Callum softly asked as Ellis and Ezran whooped and cheered at the flight.
"The binding. It's getting too tight. Lujanne said… she said it's best if we cut off the hand ourselves. Callum, I'll need your help," she whispered, trying to seem strong. Trying to seem like it wasn't bothering her.
"I… I see. I read a few books on anatomy. I'll see what I can do. And we can get that animal doctor from the village, he'll be able to help! He won't tell anyone either! He kept quiet about the egg, after all," he said as the griffin flew low over the trees near the base of the mountain. Ellis was giving it directions.
"Yeah, that sounds good. Maybe he can look at Zym as well. I want to make sure he's completely healthy," she whispered, leaning into Callum a bit more. He was warm and safe somehow.
"There's our logging camp! It's abandoned for the spring, so we can hide here for a while. No one will come here. No winter, no humans!" Ellis said, making Rayla chuckle.
"I heard that one before. But I trust you, Ellis. You're very kind," she said, noticing Callum's expression darkening in the corner of her eye. But before she could ask about it, the griffin landed gently. Ava was the first to jump off, followed by Bait. The kids went next, then Callum, who helped her down with blushing cheeks. She could have climbed down by herself, but it didn't feel insulting right then. Instead she felt… comfortable. Taken care of.
No, these were silly feelings. Feelings she should be having with her family, with Runaan and her parents if they hadn't run away. She had to be strong now. Her hand. She had to focus on that. No time for anything else.
The sun was just coming up when they entered the hut in the center of the logging camp. It contained a few beds, a large table, and some chairs. Rayla noticed a large axe in the corner and gulped. Her own swords weren't suited for the task ahead, but she didn't like the idea of that axe anywhere near her either.
"We need to get the doctor and bring him here. Ellis, how far away is the village?" Callum asked as Ezran sat down on a bed. The little boy was clearly exhausted, and so was Zym. The moment she sat in a chair fatigue gripped her as well. Oh dear, she wasn't sure if she could get up again.
"Not far. A twenty minute walk maybe?" Ava agreed with a happy bark.
"Alright then. Ez, you stay here with Rayla. Keep an eye on Bait and Zym as well. You two need to sleep. Especially you, Ezran, you barely slept last night either! Ellis and I will head into town to get food and the doctor. We'll be back soon," Callum slowly said,
"Callum, wait!" Rayla immediately regretted her outburst. Of course his plan was logical. But for some reason she didn't want him to leave. She didn't want to be alone with Ezran right now. He was the reason she would lose her hand. And although she'd never harm him, she didn't want the boy to feel guilty.
Callum looked at her oddly, and she realized he was expecting her to say more.
"Just… stay safe," she eventually said, and he smiled.
"Of course! You as well. No crazy acrobatics with that arm!" he chuckled, before walking out with Ellis and Ava.
The door shut with a bang, and after that was silence. Rayla turned around to talk to Ezran when she realized he was already asleep. Bait was lying near his chest as usual, but Zym was trying to burrow into that spot as well. The glow toad grumbled, but eventually made room. Ezran's only reaction was some mumbling in his sleep.
Rayla made her way over to the other bed. She had to keep watch over the dragon prince, so of course she wouldn't sleep. She'd just… lie down for a second. Just to rest her legs.
She was gone the moment her head hit the pillow.
"Oh no, it looks like he isn't here!" Ellis said when they found the doctor's stable locked. Callum wondered if it was still too early, the sun had barely come up after all.
"Looking for the animal doctor? That wolf of yours looks fine to me, Ellis!" said an older woman exiting her house next door.
"It's not for Ava. We found a, uhm…" Ellis' voice drifted off, and Callum jumped in.
"I was passing by town when my horse fell sick! Ellis here offered to help me get the animal doctor," he said, chuckling nervously.
"Okay… Well, you just missed Doctor Lake. He had to go to Andrew White's farm, apparently there's an outbreak of cow fever. Not sure when he'll be back," the woman said, and Ava whined sadly.
"Alright, thanks. Uhm, let's see if we can find someone else?" Ellis said, grabbing his hand and pulling him towards the center of town. Callum was unsure what to do now. An outbreak like that could take the doctor all day, and Rayla didn't have that long.
"Is there any other doctor?" he asked. Ellis frowned.
"There's Mr. Wheelwright, he used to be a medic soldier. But I don't think he'll like Rayla. He reaaaaaally hates Elves," she said, and Callum sighed. A man like that would rat them out in an instant. Then they'd have to flee town again, just like yesterday when that man with the sunforge blade-
Callum's stumbled when he realized it. That blade could cut through anything. Ava barely managed to catch him, pulling him back to his feet with a questioning growl.
If they couldn't use it to cut the ribbon itself, then it should still be perfect for cutting off her hand.
The thought made his stomach turn and sent chills down his spine, but he forced himself to think about it rationally. The blade would cauterize the wound instantly. No risk of infection, no blood loss. It'd be better than him trying to stitch it back up.
"Ellis… Do you remember that man who was showing off his dagger in the square yesterday?" he slowly asked, trying not to reveal too much of what he was planning. This little girl shouldn't have to think about that.
"Sure! He's been staying in the inn for the last couple of days," Ellis said, clearly confused by the question.
"I need that dagger. Rayla needs that dagger. Do you think we can… steal it?" he whispered, looking around for any eavesdroppers.
"I doubt the innkeeper would let us go into his room," she sighed.
"Maybe we can find a back door or something," Callum said, trying not to let his nervousness show. Just a few days ago he would never have considered stealing from a stranger like this, but they had no choice. If he tried this surgery himself without it, Rayla might-
He couldn't finish that thought. No, that couldn't happen. Too much depended on them. Rayla had to be with them when they return the Dragon Prince, and if she had to recover for who knows how long, if she'd even recover at all… All out war might break out. Callum didn't want to think about how many people would die if that happened.
Ellis looked a little unsure, but she might have been stopped by his harsh exterior to question this. A minute later they arrived at the large inn, and Callum looked around the building.
"Do you know in which room he's staying?" he eventually asked. The streets were still deserted, so he wasn't too worried about guards.
"I think he's in the best room. It's around the back, on the upper floor. He's spending his money pretty quickly," Ellis said, gesturing at an alley next to the inn. They walked in there and went around to the rear of the building. There was a large gate, and based on the smell Callum assumed it led to a small stable for the travellers' horses. Ava barked, leading to Ellis quickly shushing her when the horses winnoughed loudly.
"If we had Ezran here he could talk to the horses and have them tell us what's happening inside," Callum chuckled.
"Ava doesn't get along with horses very well," Ellis said, before pointing up. "There's an open window there. I think that might be the big room dagger guy is staying in."
"I guess I'll have to climb up. Can Ava give me a boost? You should stay here on watch," Callum said, trying not to show his nervousness. That man was a trained soldier, what would he do to some stranger in his room stealing his stuff?
Still, he couldn't let that stop him. So he awkwardly climbed on top of the large wolf and pulled himself up to the windowsill. He held his breath as he peeked inside. The only movement was on the bed, where the man was lying under what looked like a mountain of blankets. It slowly moved up and down with his breathing. Callum pulled himself up a little higher, and spotted the sheathed dagger among a pile of clothes.
The muscles in his arms burned with the effort of climbing through the window, and his right hand buckled as he tried to get his foot on the windowsill. He all but rolled inside with a loud bump. Time seemed to freeze as his eyes locked on to the sleeping figure, but his soft snores continued.
Callum forced himself to crawl forward, keeping one eye on the soldier and the other on the scabbard. His sketchbook swung awkwardly at his side, but he didn't dare to adjust it.
Just as he grabbed the scabbard the man mumbled something, and before he even thought about it Callum had drawn the dagger, pointing it towards the bed. The soldier just turned over again, apparently not noticing the heat of the sunforge metal under his blankets. Callum could feel sweat drip down his fingers. How much was from the heat and how much from nerves he didn't know.
Finally Callum lowered the weapon and carefully put it back in the sheath. His hand instantly cooled, and he forced himself to move back to the window.
As he crawled back he thought about what just happened. Had he been prepared to kill that man? A person he didn't know, who had committed no crime? Callum didn't want to think about what he would have done if the man woke up. Would Rayla have done it? He liked to think so, but she had admitted she couldn't kill the guard outside the castle that fateful day.
Ellis was yawning when he poked his head out the window, and he quickly climbed back out. Halfway down he slipped and fell in the snowy mud. The dagger fell next to him, thankfully not leaving the scabbard.
"Let's go back to Rayla and Ezran before anyone sees us," he told her as he put the scabbard in his backpack. As they left the town, he wondered if he was a wanted criminal now. Maybe when this was all over he could return the dagger. But right now, Rayla needed it.
Rayla woke up to a slamming door and a wolf licking her face. She tried to raise her arm to push the animal away, but pain shot through her when the hand moved. The burning sensation woke her instantly, and everything from the past few days raced through her head.
Oh great moon, she was going to lose her hand. She sat up, groaning in pain at every move her left arm made. The hand was almost completely black now, and it tingled like she had been sleeping on it. Everything in her wrist hurt, and she could see the blackness spreading down her arm.
Rationally, she knew what was happening. The blood vessels were closed up by the tightening binding, so the blood was stuck on either side. With no fresh blood flowing in, the muscles and skin would die.
But every time she tried to think about that her mind went blank, like it couldn't accept that. All she could do was stare in horror at her black fingers.
"Rayla. Rayla! Can you hear me!"
She jumped, suddenly realizing Callum was talking to her. He looked awful. His hair was greasy and matted, and his eyes were bloodshot and weary. But she could still see something in his expression that made her want to trust him with this.
"Sorry, I just… still tired, I guess. Did you get the doctor?" she asked. Callum sighed and sat down next to her on the bed. Ava and Ellis were talking to Ezran, who was still lying in his bed. Meanwhile Bait grumbled, squirming out of the boy's grasp and making his way to the dirty floor to catch some bugs.
"He wasn't there. Had to go to some distant farm, and he won't be back until tonight probably. So it looks like it's just us. But… I got this. It should make things easier," Callum said, taking something from his bag. It took her tired brain a minute to recognize it.
The sunforge blade? But… How? Did you-" Callum shook his head.
"Don't think about that. It'll all be fine. We'll return it when we don't need it anymore."
Rayla wanted to argue, tell him it was wrong to steal from a random stranger, but then she saw the look in his eyes. They were filled with shame. And suddenly she knew he already agreed it was wrong.
But he had still done it. For her? For an elf he met just a few days ago?
No, of course it wasn't like that. It was about the mission. She had told him just two days ago, the gesture was all that mattered. A Moonshadow Elf, a daughter of the Dragon Guard, returning the Dragon Prince to Xadia along with the human princes. If she couldn't make it back, the entire world could plunge into open warfare.
That's why she had to do this as well. She let the world down before, she couldn't do that again.
"Well then… No time like the present, I suppose," she whispered, briefly glancing at Ezran before looking away again. Slowly, on trembling legs, she stood up and walked towards the children.
"You two should go to the village again. We'll need food, and the doctor will need to come here as soon as possible. You won't attract much attention. Take Bait and Ava. We'll look after Zym," she said, trying not to let the gravity of the situation show. Ellis looked confused, but Ezran seemed to understand somehow.
"Alright! Let's see if they have jelly tarts!" he shouted as he jumped to his feet.
"Here's some money. Be careful spending it, okay? Only get what we really need," Callum said, apparently catching on to her plan. "That means no expensive jelly tarts. Get some bread, vegetables, dried meat. And… see if you can find a pharmacist who sells pain medicine. Just… Just in case."
Ezran frowned, clearly catching on to who that would be for. Rayla wanted to argue, insist she wouldn't need it. She could fight through the pain.
But in that moment she didn't dare. Memories flashed through her mind of an old neighbor who had lost a leg. He sometimes groaned and screamed in his sleep from the pain, even years after the accident.
"It's okay to be afraid of things," she remembered Ezran's voice clearly saying that. Maybe the little boy was right.
Either way, she didn't have much choice right now.
"Alright, we'll go! We'll be back with the doctor!" Ellis said, and the two kids ran towards the door. However, Ezran hesitated before going outside.
"Are you… sure it's gonna be okay?" he asked, voice so soft she could barely hear it. It was so unlike the bubbly optimist she was used to, and she realized he was scared too. Maybe he felt guilty.
Before she could answer, Callum walked over and kneeled next to his brother. They had a conversation that Rayla didn't hear, though she caught something about guilt.
Ezran eventually wiped at his eyes and ran out. Callum sighed deeply, and the little dragon looked very confused. Zym quickly cheered up when he saw her, though, and he awkwardly waddled over to lie next to her.
"I just didn't want them to see this. They're too young. Especially Ezran, I don't want him to feel like this is happening because of him," she eventually said when the silence became unbearable, and Callum nodded.
"I figured. It will be difficult for Ezran, I think. But he'll understand eventually. I think he'll be okay," he said with a forced smile. It disappeared when his eyes fell on her hand again.
"So… I think you're gonna have to talk me through this. Although swordfighting was part of being a prince, battlefield medicine is not," he said, chuckling awkwardly, and she blushed. There was her dorky Callum again. Despite the pain she couldn't help but smile.
"Alright, I'll do my best. Though I seem to be the teacher all the time. How about after… all of this, you teach me something? Maybe drawing? I always wanted to draw," she said, unsure why she was talking about silly stuff at a time like this.
"Heh, I'll do my best. Maybe I can teach you sign language as well, it's really useful and cool. Then you can talk directly with my Aunt Amaya. I think she'd like you if you two met on better terms," he said quickly, before turning bright red all of a sudden.
"I mean, it's gonna be harder with just one hand, and even if that wasn't the issue the four fingers would still complicate matters, but… we can try," he rambled, clearly nervous, and she avoided his gaze.
"Thanks. I'd like that. Really," she whispered, before sitting down at the table.
"Soooooo… How are we going to do this? Should you be lying down, or sitting, or... " Callum asked, grabbing the scabbard and fiddling with it.
"We should prepare some stuff first. Clean towels, disinfectant. I guess the sunforge blade does simplify things a lot. I'll… I'll sit down here and put my arm on the table like this. That way I won't have to look," Rayla said slowly, trying to stay calm and remember her training.
"Okay. Towels and disinfectant. I can do that," Callum said, running around the room to check all the cupboards.
"There's some cloth in here. A bit dusty but otherwise clean. And I found a bottle of whiskey, I guess that's the best disinfectant we're gonna have," he eventually said while she tried to take off her left glove with one hand.
"Let me help with that," he suddenly appeared next to her, and she jumped a little. With oh so gentle hands he grabbed the cloth and pulled it around the black numb fingers. His fingers were trembling slightly.
"I'll cook some water to clean the towels. Should be easy with the dagger," he said after they got the glove off. Well, it was off up to the binding. That damn binding. Callum filled a metal bucket with snow and carefully put the dagger in it. It instantly began hissing and melting, and Rayla hoped the bucket itself wouldn't melt.
"You're gonna have to cut right here," she said, flinching when she ran her good hand over a specific line next to the binding. "That'll keep the bones intact and separated. At least until the doctor gets here. The blade will cauterize the wound, but you should still cover it with the towels,"
"Ooookay… right there. I'd draw a line if I could see my charcoal on this," he chuckled, though she could see the smile didn't reach his eyes.
"I trust you with this, Callum," Rayla whispered while he cleaned the towels in the boiling water. Even though she couldn't see him from her seat, she could sense him tense up.
"Thanks. I guess? I'll do my best," he said awkwardly, and it made her smile.
"I know it must have been hard to give up that Primal Stone. But… You're still amazing, even without it. I'm sure you'll be a truly great mage one day. You'll be able to study under the greatest masters of Xadia," she said.
"Thanks. That means a lot. And… And I know you'll still be a great warrior, and climber and runner and everything, even after… this," he said, before walking around the table again and pouring the whiskey over the towels. She didn't answer. It was suddenly too real, too close. All she could do was stare as Callum laid out his limited tools next to her arm. The towels and alcohol, the dagger in its scabbard. Its glow contrasted starkly with her dull dead hand.
"Ready?" he eventually asked with a deep sigh, unsheathing the dagger. Rayla gulped.
It tumbled from her lips before she could stop it, and her head dropped. She couldn't face Callum like this.
"So am I. But today is a day for miracles. You can do this, Rayla. I believe in you. And… if you believe in me, then that's all I need to attempt this," he said, and she slowly looked back up in his eyes. There was fear there, but also something else. It was how he looked when doing magic.
"I'm glad you're with me. I'm ready. I think," she said, putting her arm flat on the table and looking away. She heard Callum's rapid breathing as he positioned the dagger.
"Here, right?" he asked. She didn't want to look. She just wanted to pretend this wasn't happening, that she was back home with her parents and Runaan without even a thought of becoming an assassin.
But that wasn't possible. She had to be strong now. So she looked down and tried not to become sick at the sight of the dagger hovering over her wrist.
"A little closer to the binding. Yeah, like that," she said, before turning away again and closing her eyes.
"Slow or fast?"
"Fast, but… but keep it in place for a second when you're… through. So it can cauterize."
She tried to think of a lullaby her mother used to sing for her. That one always calmed her.
Yes, little girl, the Moon is black
But in a few nights its light will be back
Until then the Stars will shine at night
And the Sun will always be daytime's knight
The Earth is steady and the Sea is calm
And the Sky makes sure everyone is warm
So each Source keeps us safe and sound
The magic always going round.
Rayla sang it in her head, silently wishing for her mom to hold her as she sensed Callum preparing to cut. A tear ran down her cheek.
Then the blade dropped and all thought left her brain.
She screamed. She screamed harder than she ever had in her life. Her arm bucked, and Callum grabbed it with strength she didn't know he had. Her wrist, her stump was pushed against the blade and she could feel every nerve in her arm on fire.
Then came a different fire. She couldn't think about what it was, all she could do was scream and cry and beg for the pain to stop.
It didn't stop, even when her throat was hoarse and her face wet with tears. Her vision was blurry, and she could barely think. She looked down and caught a glimpse of something black and red, and she immediately squeezed her eyes shut.
"I'm sorry Rayla. I'm sorry. It's over now. Just rest," Callum's words sounded muffled, like she was underwater.
"Is it off?" she asked through a raw throat.
"It is. I cut where you told me to. Didn't go through any bones. And it's disinfected and bandaged now."
Callum's words didn't make much sense to her numb brain. She just wanted to lie down and never move again.
"Let's get you to the bed," he said, standing up and moving to support her. In retrospect, he basically carried her. Her legs wouldn't support her weight, and she doubted she could have kept her balance. The room span around her.
She fell into soft blankets and pillows, and the pain didn't seem as bad in this soft bed. A chirping sound reached her ears as Callum pulled blankets over her. Though her vision was still blurry she recognized the little dragon who was moving right next to her arm. Then she looked up at Callum.
"I'll just clean this up and get you some water," he said, turning away, and suddenly her right hand flew out and grabbed his wrist.
"Don't go. Please don't go," she whispered, and he looked frozen for a bit.
"Alright, I'm not going anywhere. I'll stay right here," he eventually said, sitting down next to her and grabbing her hand in his. Her remaining hand. The thought made her stomach turn, but feeling Callum's warm hand somehow made it easier to ignore.
"Thank you," she managed to whisper before falling into an uneasy sleep. In her dreams she saw her parents again in their little Moon village, but Callum and Ezran were there too. Her left hand was completely white, but it still felt warm in Callum's soft grasp.
A/N: Hello everyone! Welcome to my first Dragon Prince fic! I really hope you liked it! If you did, please leave a review! Right now I'm intending this as a one-shot, where Rayla eventually makes a full recovery and is still the badass warrior we know and love even with just one hand. However, depending on how the second season plays out, I might continue this, try to make a sort of Amputee AU for the entire storyline! Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading!