Chapter 21:

Chapter 21


It was an hour after the sun set. The ship still drifted across the ocean. Gentle waves battered the hull. The air was chilly, almost frigid. The smell of salt still reeked through the air. The soft glow of the moon illuminated the boat, providing light to the awakened souls aboard. Willie sleepily guided the ship through the water, determined to make it to the destination on time. Elizabeth sat at the edge of the bow, looking out at the nighttime sea. Everything was pitch black around her. With all the light from the moon and stars and the lanterns, it wasn't enough to pierce the dark veil of the night. But though she couldn't see much, she still looked out into the void. Elizabeth closed her eyes and deepened her breathing. Peace. Tranquility. Calmness. That's all she wanted. The ambiance of the sea could provide that to her. A way to clear her mind. To take a break. She needed a break. Feelings of sadness and torment plagued her mind more than the illness on her body. For the past couple days, she has felt nothing but pain and suffering. She just wants it all to end. God how she wants it all to end. A snowflake tapped Elizabeth's nose. She opened her eyes to see the snow fall down. Snowing at sea. Sure, it was logical, it was realistic, it could happen, and it probably happens a lot. But it was something Elizabeth had never thought about before. It was surreal. Beautiful. But nothing more than a distraction from her feelings. These... confusing feelings. The conflicting desires for a long life and a swift death.

Elizabeth continued to stare up at the sky. She watched the snow flurries dance in the air. She observed their life cycle. The formation of one caught her eye. It seemingly appeared out of nowhere and from nothing. Elizabeth saw it crystalize. A small fractal of ice forming from the smallest droplet of moisture. It gathered other molecules of water and other particles of dust to grow. What started as just a little spec in the endless sky, quickly became a symbol of uniqueness and beauty. Its hexagonal shape became apparent. Arms branched out and from them more branches branched out from the branches which soon had branches of their own. They combined, intertwined. Patterns of bridges previously unknown to humanity. It continued to grow until it could grow no longer; until it was complete. From there it spiraled down towards the earth. It twirled and danced in the air just like the rest of the snowflakes, but to its own rhythm. It met with, collided against, and briefly brushed past others like it, staying close to some and drifting apart from others. And finally, it dropped down to the deck. It hit the wood, braking off a piece of its pristine glory. But it was picked back up by the wind. It fluttered back up to meet some new snow, but ultimately came back down again. This time it gently rested upon the railings, looking out into a world so cruel yet forgiving, so horrid yet breathtaking. It slowly melted, disintegrating and withering away, returning to the state from wince it came. Such is the way of life.

Elizabeth blinked back a tear. One either from nature or sadness. Did she weep from the strain of endless staring, from the endless bombardment of ice in her eyes, or was it from the shared experience of life her and this snowflake shared? Did she imagine it or identify with it? She could not convince herself of either way.

Elizabeth shut her eyes again. Deep breath. Calmness. Coldness. No. Tranquility. Peace. What if I can't restore peace? Stop. Relax. It will all be alright. But what if it's not? What if I fail? What if I die? Then I can see mom again. And dad. But then wouldn't everything be for nothing? Vera and Isaac will manage. And what if they can't? They need me, right? Maybe. Probably. Probably not. I can't fight. I can't help. But I'm their doctor. Yeah, but Vera could probably just use a healing spell or something. And I'm not even that good of a doctor. They stuck me in the lab. I didn't help people. The medics did. The plague doctors did. Plague doctors like Grimwald. Grimwald... We're on the run, trying to stop that crazed lunatic from destroying the kingdom. Does it even matter what we do? I'm sure he's already won. He killed Lancaster. He has control. He has us all in the palm of his hand, he's just waiting to tighten his grip. Once I'm dead, it'll all be over. He wants me dead. Maybe I should just drop dead. Then I'll have everything I want! Once I'm dead, it'll all be over.

Elizabeth reopened her eyes, and she paused. She quickly stood up, her mouth agape. Up in the sky. There was a beautiful display. The Northern Lights. An aurora was forming right in front of her. Brilliant greens. Stunning reds. Vibrant blues and deep purples. Waves of gorgeous light. Swirling with the clouds. Reflecting off the waters. It was beautiful. All her questions washed away. All but one. What am I doing this for? Everything, every single thing, culminated into that one single question. All her doubts, fears, and triumphs. Every belief, every emotion. All in one thought. For a while, that question remained unanswered. To break down the very nature of one's being into a single why, simply cannot be done. At least, for your average person. But Elizabeth was far from an average person, not at this stage. The answer to that question would become crystal clear. Who knew that it would take some light and some snow to answer it.

Elizabeth fell back to the floor, sobbing. Her eyes were waterlogged with tears. She cried and cried her little soul out, struck in the heart by the purity of beauty in nature. Everything just seemed so overwhelming. So close to closure yet so far.

"What's wrong with me?" She whispered. She now felt directionless. One night managed to change her whole perception on life. She didn't know if she wanted to preserve it or leave it. Live or die. She didn't know. And it was... scary. She felt exposed to the whole chaotic universe, like the eternal forces of the cosmos were pulling at her in a ceaseless game of tug of war. Then, suddenly, she felt covered, protected, warm. Elizabeth opened her eyes and felt the wool enveloping her. A blanket?

"I don't know, but sitting out here in the cold isn't a good start." Isaac sat down next to her, setting a warm drink by her feet. They watched the aurora together, sitting in the snow. And it all became clear. Live for them now, die for them later. This is what she's doing it for. Her friends, her kingdom, her world. She's doing it all for them. Her life, her work, her pain, her death. All so that they can live the life she wasn't destined to have. And that's okay.