Chapter 15:

Chapter 15


FWOOSH! A large burst of flames erupted into the sky. A spire, a tower of smoldering embers and ash. A burning effigy of the preserver and ruiner of life. A symbol of creation and destruction. Savior and oppressor of man. Pure, unyielding energy given shape and emotion.

"There. I'm done gathering firewood." Sir Isaac sat down on chopped log. "If you want to kindle that flame, do it with your magic."

"Thanks, Sir Isaac!" Vera smiled. "That fight with Van Helsing really wore me out."

"I'll say. He was on a whole other level. I'm just glad we survived."

"I just wish I could've helped out more."

"Ah, don't beat yourself up over it. You did what you could, and that's what's important. And hey! I honestly don't know what we would have done without you! I mean you saved Lenore; you helped me..."

"You patched me up!" Vera added.

"Exactly! You did good doc." Elizabeth smiled. "In any case, we should get some rest. The fire will help keep us warm."

"Oh, come on! I wanna hang out, talk with you guys!" Vera protested.

"You were just saying how worn out you are."

"Not worn out enough to not gossip!" Sir Isaac rolled his eyes underneath his helmet, but still made the choice to stay close by and awake. "Alright, so... what'd you want to talk about?"

"For heaven's sake." He whispered. "You wanted this; I thought you knew what to talk about."

"Uhhh... favorite color?" Vera said sheepishly.

"Oh my god." Sir Isaac put his head in his hands.

"I like purple." Elizabeth nervously tried to start the conversation.

"We know." Sir Isaac and Vera said in unison.

"I don't know, black or blue." Sir Isaac sighed.

"White and red are my favorites, but I enjoy yellow."

"Amazing." Sir Isaac said sarcastically. "Anything else? What about favorite animal next?"

"I mean I think that's a good question..." Elizabeth perked her head up.

"What does everyone want to do when this is over?" She said. The other two just stared at her. "I can't imagine that this is everyone's end game. You guys had lives and surely goals before you met me, what were they?"

"Well you guys already know my whole thing. I wanna become grand elder of the CAM. I wanna be the greatest mage in history! Master of the arcane! And I wanna stick it to the high council who don't think I'm worthy!" Elizabeth giggled while clapping her hands. Vera got so excited that she was trying to catch her breath. She wiped the sweat from her forehead. "What about you big guy? What have you got planned?"

"Oh, uh... I want to be king."

"Really?" Elizabeth beamed.

"You? King? I don't really see that happening."

"What? Why not?"

"Let's see, you're rude, cold, kinda thick in the head..."

"Hey! No one knows Ethros history like I do!"

"Oh yeah? Prove it! Who founded Ethros?"

"Artos the navigator, but he named the land after, and gave kingship to his friend Ethlas!"

"Why can't you find dragons in Ethros?"

"Because we hunted them to near extinction, only stopping when king Xeothum passed the species protection law in 1331! But you can occasionally find one if you venture close to the dragon graveyard!"

"Why do the people of Ethros value flowers so much?!"

"Because the second queen of king Reinald thought they were so pretty and loved them so much that she gave one to every person she passed by!"

"Wow, he really does know his stuff." Vera whispered to Elizabeth. "I still got you beat on the arts though!"

"Sure." He laughed.

"What about you Elizabeth? What do you wanna do when this is all over?" Elizabeth froze. Her eyes widened.

"Oh! Well, I always hoped on becoming a world renown surgeon! I wanted to find someone to settle down with, have a kid or two, and just live a quiet, comfortable life..." She paused again. A realization washed over her, hit her gut like a ton of bricks. "...but I'll never be able to do that..." Her voice lowered, softer than it ever was. Vera and Sir Isaac looked at her with a puzzled look. "I won't be able to do any of the things I wanted... not when this is over..."

"What are you talking about, doc?"

"Yeah, you're kinda scaring us. Of course you'll be able to accomplish all those things! You're smart and adorable!" She didn't have the heart to tell them. She didn't want them to know. But they were catching on. They knew something was up. Best if she just played it off as general insecurities. They don't need to know. They don't need to carry that burden. This is Elizabeth's curse, not theirs. She made this deal, not them. They don't need to be punished by her sadness. She just had to find the light in the darkness, right? That'll make all her missed and failed dreams worth it, right?"


"Y-Yeah. You're right! I-I, no, we'll all accomplish our goals when this is over!" Her voice was shaky. Clearly something was still wrong, but they just brushed it off. General insecurities they thought. How could they suspect the crushing weight of mortality was the reason behind Elizabeth's struggles? She discretely wiped away her tears.

"Sooo... what about family? Family's a good question, I think." Vera segued. "You guys all know I'm close with my grandfather, no secret there."

"What about your parents?" Sir Isaac asked. Vera huffed and rolled her eyes.

"Oh yeah, my parents. I don't really talk to them much."

"Why not?" Vera sighed again.

"They were never really supportive of my dreams. Wanted me to pursue alchemy instead of magery."

"But you're so good at it!"

"That's what I tell them! But noooo. Magery is for the boys, alchemy is a girl's study, they say. Stay home and brew potions for your warrior husband, they say. The only magic they've ever been fine with me studying is purification magic."

"They shouldn't push you to do something you don't want to do, and you shouldn't let them."

"Ugh, preaching to the choir. I try to talk to them, but they never seem to want to listen. Granddad is the only one who supports me. Not my parents, nor the council." There was a brief pause, a quick break of silence. "What about you guys?"

"Well, my dad died when I was kind of young. After that, me and my mom grew really close. We spent a lot of time together. She pushed me to do good things and to be a good person. She was kinda like my best friend. But she was one of the first to become plaguebound, and I lost her pretty soon after." Elizabeth explained.

"Jeez." Vera rubbed her face and her neck. "Here I am complaining about my parents when you don't even have yours. I'm sorry Elizabeth."

"It's fine, you didn't know. I miss her a lot, but I've found ways to cope."

"Still, if you need a shoulder to cry on, we're here for you." Vera smiled at Elizabeth, who gave a soft smile back. The two of them turned their attention to Sir Isaac. "Alright big guy, what about you?"

"Not interested." He coldly responded.

"Wha?! We shared our stories, our trauma, it's only fair you share yours!"

"I'll pass."

"Come on! Don't leave us hanging like that! Spill it!"

"I'd prefer not to, and I'd appreciate it if you stopped bothering me." Vera continued to pester Sir Isaac while he remained firm in his unwillingness to open up. That is until Elizabeth spoke.

"Isaac, it's okay to talk about it. What's going on?" Her voice was quiet and soft. She spoke with a calmness unlike any other, except for one. She reminded him of someone. Someone close. Someone loved. Someone gone. Two sentences, ten words. That's all it took to put a crack in his armor. Isaac sighed, removed his helmet, and rested it next to his feet.

"Fine. You really wanna know?"