Chapter 16:

Chapter 16


His voice, too, was quiet and calm. But it was also broken, strained from the years of crying out for help. "My father was a member of the royal guard. He was a soldier, like me. I think all those years in the military affected him. He was strict with me and my brother. He taught us what it meant to be a man, what the guard and society wanted in a man. Strength and authority. Boys don't cry. Men don't show emotion. They aren't rational, they aren't logical. That's what I was taught. Unnecessary emotion causes unnecessary weakness. If you have a problem, bite your tongue and move on. No one cares. Be a man." Elizabeth and Vera just stared at him. They didn't know what to say. "If that's what he tried to teach us, then why did he go against his own words?"

"What do you mean?" Vera cautiously asked.

"My father served in the war against Strathum. In one of the battles, we were told that he died trying to save some peasants. I know I should be proud but... when you have the entire guard mocking him, it's hard. Died because of his emotions, they said. He disobeyed orders, made an irrational decision, and died because of it. Even during the funeral, the guard made jokes about how he cried the entire time. They called him weak, said he wasn't fit to be a soldier and questioned how he even got in the guard in the first place. Because of them, I didn't cry when they buried his body. Thought it would make me weak like him, and I would either fail at my dreams of being a knight or die a joke, or maybe even both."

"Isaac, crying or emotion, those don't make you any less of a man. They don't make you weak."

"Yeah? Do or don't, it still makes it hard for me to open up. Call me rude. Call me cold. I don't care. Just at least know why I'm like this."

"Isaac..." Vera put her hand on his knee. "I'm sorry. Just know, we're here to support you."

"One hundred percent!" Elizabeth agreed. There was a pause. "Wait, when you fought Van Helsing, he mentioned both of your parents. What about your mom?" Isaac sighed again. He tilted his head back and rubbed his eyes, trying to rub out the tears.

"My father was away a lot of the time, either fighting or training. He would write to us, but it was mainly my mother caring for me and my brother. We had a house out on the countryside, a big field surrounding our little cabin. My mother would have us play outside most of the day, all the while she tidied up the house and cooked our meals. Looking back, that was probably her only time to herself. My brother and I would pretend to be soldiers a lot, clearly influenced by my father. We'd find sticks or random shit around the house and beat the crap out of each other. We used to take a couple chickens and piglets and use them for some sort of capture the flag game." Isaac chuckled to himself. "Mom made us stop when my brother accidently killed the rooster after it scratched his cheek. He bawled like a baby for an hour, thank God my father didn't hear about that." He cleared his throat. He started to remove more of his armor. Piece by piece, laying them on the ground by his feet. "On day, I learned that paladins could use magic. I was, ecstatic. I always wanted to use magic, but I thought it was restricted to mages. So, that afternoon, I decided to try some. While my brother and I played, I tried to cast a spell to beat him. I wanted to just, impress him. I wanted to just show him how cool and strong I was. I didn't mean to cause what happened." Isaac choked up.

"Isaac... what happened?"

"It was too strong. The spell was out of control. I was so stupid! How could I be that stupid?! I should have practiced on something else first! Something worthless! Not my damn brother!! WHAT WAS I THINKING?! HE'S GONE! BECAUSE OF ME!!!" Isaac put his head in his hands. His breathing became rapid, shallow. There was a moment of silence before Isaac pulled himself back together. He sniffled. "My mother came running out after she heard the mix of screams and tears. He was barely even recognizable after. I tried to explain what happened, but she just pulled me in close to her chest. I think she was trying to console me. But I don't think she meant a single word she said to me. We tried to move on after my brother died. Mom didn't have as much work to do anymore, so I didn't need to stay outside for so long. But I did anyway. It's not like I played though. I would just stare off into the horizon. We never discussed it further, maybe she was too ashamed to. Maybe she didn't want to converse with me anymore, like I wasn't her son. After we got the letter that my father had passed, mom quickly followed. I don't think she could handle that much loss. I don't blame her. I don't know how I did. Maybe because I was told a real man could. I just wish I wasn't the one to find her body." Elizabeth and Vera covered their mouths in shock. A single tear rolled down each of their cheeks, but nothing from Isaac. "A priest and a guard member helped take down her body. I don't know if it was because of my father or something but, I didn't cry at her funeral either. I don't even remember them giving one to my brother, but even if they did, I wasn't going to cry at that one either. Shortly after, I was taken in by the guard, and from that day forth they trained me to be a knight. I followed what it meant to be a good soldier. I bottled up all that frustration and used it on my enemies. I guess it worked at the time because I was a damn good soldier. Better than my father, they'd say. They stuck me on the worst patrols, I bounced around Ethros for a while, and now I'm here. So, yeah..."