Volar thought that things would be back to normal when his father came home, but things were different. Rou slept. His mother looked tired and pensive all the time. She spoke little, face wrinkled with worry. Even their daily conversations at breakfast were hollow. She seemed only to be partly paying attention. Volar knew his mother loved him, but it hurt his feelings that she would not be engaged with him at least in conversation. Her words were usually requests to go milk the goats or weed the garden while she tended Rou. Close to dark she asked him to hunt. These were the only times when Volar had a bit of fun. It was easy to forget your troubles when the wind was blowing peacefully through the trees and all you had to do was focus on the rabbit or deer that crossed your path. Those were the times where it was easy to not be sad, easy to forget that his father was ill, incapacitated, and for all Volar knew, dying in his bed.
He even saw the gold bear again. It nodded to him and they spoke for a while. Mostly, it told him of things he knew nothing about. "Beware of Zakran, man-child." It warned, bushy eyebrows scrunching down in a look of stark seriousness. "In his soul is an evil like few of you humans ever have. Your loved ones will all weep."
Volar had never heard of anyone named Zakran, but the name did sound sinister enough to want to avoid a man with that name. "There are others." the bear said. Volar just nodded. "They are all evil they will continue to hurt the world. But you will shake it." Volar walked away soon after that. At least the beast could try to make some sense.
Dinner with his mother was sometimes more unnerving than anything else. She cooked in silence, not humming as she usually did, eyes in a far off place. She did not even speak much at the table. Her comments were often memories about Rou and wishes for him to be okay. Volar just wanted his father to wake up. Then maybe his mother would not act this way.
Rou lay in bed. Maura fed him soup even though he seemed little more than half conscious. Volar would watch her sometimes from the couch in the living room. She talked to him like he was awake. Volar never saw his dad even move other than to draw breath.
One night he actually went into the room while his mother was preparing soup. He could not bring himself to speak to his father, but he sat at the foot of the bed. "Please be okay." he whispered as he clutched the blankets that covered Rou. His mother had not enchanted the wood he chopped earlier in the week, and their supply was getting low. He would have to go chop some more wood soon, but he decided he would not do it today. -Maybe later,- he thought as he drifted off to sleep.
He awoke to see his father's smiling and unshaven face. The smile was weak, but genuine. Volar thought he would never see in his life such a welcome sight as the smiling face of his father.
"It is great to see you, son." Rou whispered. Volar leaped up from his crouch, ignoring the pain of cramping in his legs. "Be careful." Rou wheezed. "There is still a bit of soreness in my chest."
Maura dashed in, showering Rou with beautiful smiles and kisses. The music came back into her voice and the worried look that had been like a mask the past few days disappeared. Her eyes shone brightly as she smiled at Volar and Rou, then embraced them both. "I love you both so much." She whispered with tears running unchecked down her cheeks.
Volar cried too. And so did Rou.