It happened when I was a child. Oftentimes, my mother would sing me songs to lull me to sleep at night. I remember how beautiful her voice was, and how it was full of her love and warmth for me. The last time she sang to me was when I was 50 years old. It was on the day my father passed away.
Earlier that day - in the morning, I recall - one of my father's men burst into the dining hall, looking very distraught. I remember that moment so clearly, like it happened yesterday. My mother, Gwendal, Conrart shot out of their seats, crowding around the man, who was out of breath, and stumbling over his sentences.
"My lady…I'm sorry…your husband…he…" He trailed off, huffing and puffing.
She grabbed the man by his shoulders and shook him. "What happened to Beowulf? Tell me!" She demanded. It shocked me to see her lose her temper like that.
"He was…killed…by humans…at the border." He said, voice wavering.
Mother let him go, and he sunk to the ground, his whole body quivering. "I'm sorry." He cried. "I'm so, so sorry."
After that, Mother retreated to her bedchambers, and didn't emerge for the rest of the day. That was, until my bedtime. I didn't expect her to come inside and sing to me.
I knew what happened. I understood the situation. Although I hadn't shed a single tear yet, and for that, I felt ashamed. He was my father; my role model, and I loved him with all of my heart. So why wasn't I crying?
It made me feel like a monster.
To make matters worst, I was at the age where I was vulnerable to what others thought of me. As I carried out my daily routine, I heard the maids whispering about me, calling me heartless, wondering how I could leave my poor mother to suffer all alone.
Anyhow, I was reading a book when my mother came into my room, and she had no trouble with making her presence known. "Hi, Wolfie, ready for a lullaby?" That was what she always asked, but this time, it was rather unsettling to me, as if today hadn't affected her at all.
However, as she pulled up a chair beside my bed, I saw that that wasn't true. Her eyes were red and puffy, no doubt from crying, and that made my heart ache; the fact that my mother was forcing herself to be happy for my sake. I had no idea how to put my feelings into words so I simply nodded.
There was a long, uncomfortable silence before she began to sing. The song wasn't like the others, which were happy and hopeful, and it wasn't because of the words. It was because of my mother's tone; the fact that she was on the verge of tears.
After a minute, I couldn't take it anymore. I reached out for her hand and squeezed. It was then that she stopped singing. "It's okay to cry, mother." I said, softly.
For a moment, she was silent. The next thing I knew, her arms wrapped around me, and she held me close to her chest, to her broken heart, and sobbed. "Wolfie, I can't believe…Oh, I'm so sorry, my dearest Wolfram. My precious child."
Mother was pouring her heart out to me by crying and holding me so tightly, as if she were afraid I'd be disappear too.
I felt so utterly helpless. So guilty that I didn't mourn with her.
All I could do was hug her back.
The days only got worse from there. Mother spent most days in her chambers, and on those days, she barely even ate. She couldn't even find it in herself to resume her duty as Demon Queen. So she sent my bastard Uncle Stoffel to be her stand-in until she found the strength to emerge from her room and face the cruel world where her husband was killed so ruthlessly by those wretched humans.
She only left her room to attend my father's funeral in the Bielefeld lands. My brothers and I accompanied her - Gwendal and I sat on one side of the carriage while Mother and Conrart sat on the opposite side. Mother cried into the palms of her hands as Conrart rubbed her arm in a weak attempt to comfort her.
My touch didn't do anything. Why would his?
For the whole ride, I crossed my arms, and glared out the window, cursing the humans for causing my mother such agony and ending my father's life.
Later on, when we arrived at Father's castle - that my Uncle Waltorana now took precedence over - he and my mother didn't even bother with formalities. They cried and embraced one another as my brothers and I watched.
Once the embrace ended, Uncle kneeled in front of me and brought me into his arms. "Oh, Wolfram," he said, breaking out into tears once more.
A jolt struck my heart as I found myself clutching at his jacket, my small arms unable to wrap around his waist.
Again, not a single tear.
Uncle didn't hold it against me at all, remarkably enough. He just pulled away and ruffled my hair like he usually did when he praised me for an accomplishment.
The funeral was beautiful. The temple was full of flowers that came in a myriad of colors. It was also full of all the people who loved and looked up to my father, his men included. That day, I saw the strongest of warriors break down, and it surprised me.
It didn't seem real.
All these people, the tears, the mahogany casket my father was in, and the portrait of my father beside it. In between all the hugging and greeting, I looked at the portrait, and peered into the blue eyes of my father, struggling to grasp onto this reality. I kept thinking: This has to be some joke. He can't be gone. He's probably at home, hiding, waiting for me to find him.
We did play hide-and-go-seek a lot, after all. Surely, he began to play the game without telling anyone, and then everybody went into a panic when they were unable to find him. Or so I told myself.
It wasn't until that night that reality came crashing down on me. I was in bed, staring at the ceiling of my canopy bed as everything hit home. The soldier reporting my father's death, my mother's tears and tight embrace, my uncle's gentle hug and ruffle of my hair, the funeral. Everything.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to rip everything apart. I wanted to burn everything.
The only thing that stopped me was the thought of my mother being upset with me and that was the last thing I wanted.
So I buried my face into my pillow, and cried myself to sleep.