Miko let her mother lead her into the temple, Windstriker being led off to the stables to be fed and groomed. Despite her growing panic at being discovered, she couldn’t help but smile at seeing old, familiar surroundings. Eyko kept talking, oblivious to her daughter’s discomfort.
“You cannot imagine how good it was to see you again,” Eyko said, “When Gobbotopia was founded after Azure City fell, those wretched creatures sent envoys to try and win our loyalty. Naturally, we… politely declined and sent those insults to the noble Twelve Gods back in pieces. How could we ever support a race who gloated so openly about their conquest?”
“Yes… Can’t trust hobgoblins, no ma’am,” Miko said. She looked into a training room as they passed, seeing several young men and women training to be monks.
Eyko nodded. “Such wretched creatures… They claimed you were dead, but I prayed to the Twelve Gods daily… And praise be, they’ve brought you back to us!”
Miko fumed inwardly. It wasn’t the Gods that brought me back, mother. They abandoned me! she thought, taking a deep breath to calm herself.
“Oh my lovely Miko, it’s so good to have you home again! There’s some new epic level feats for monks that you can learn, that will perfectly compliment your paladin abilities,” Eyko said. She then paused. “Which reminds me… Miko, who is the father of your baby? Or babies, rather, if that belly size is any indication?”
Miko paled a little. She had always been a terrible liar, her bluff checks so low they made dents in the floor. “Um…”
Eyko smiled indulgently. “Is it a God? Have you become so enlightened that one of the noble Twelve Gods chose to mate with you?”
Miko fought back the urge to gag at the very concept of a God touching her in that manner. “I… I assure you, mother, that a God had a great deal of involvement in my current condition,” she managed after a moment. Which was technically true, but not in the way Eyko’s joyous expression meant.
She hugged Miko again, “Oh, that’s wonderful! That explains your appearance change so well,” she said, “Still, though… Violet and Indigo? Aren’t darker colors usually born from evil influences?”
Miko coughed nervously, thought desperately for a moment, and eventually came up with something. “Ah, but in the current Green Lantern story arc, Violet and Indigo have been established as the colors of Love and Compassion respectively.”
Eyko looked thoughtful for a moment, and nodded. “Makes perfect sense,” she said, “I shouldn’t judge by appearances anyway, I know better than that.”
A flash of bitterness came through Miko. Thanks for teaching ME that, she grumbled inwardly. Still, though, she was grateful her deception worked. A natural 20 on my bluff check, whew… I feel a little stupid that I had to resort to a pop culture reference, but at least it worked…
Eyko led Miko onward, telling her about what had happened since her last visit. After a while, Eyko mentioned something confusing, so much so that Miko felt compelled to ask. “Mother… You said three gates… Wasn’t the Azure City gate destroyed?”
“Hm? Oh yes. Tragic, that. But apparently even goblins and hobgoblins have common sense. The rift over the city got too big, so they recreated the Azure Gate,” Eyko said. She scowled. “It was the only time we ever cooperated with those wretched creatures.”
Miko frowned. Three gates now… That will make things complicated…
Not if you butcher everyone in the former Azure City, the Snarl commented.
Miko blinked. Master?
The Snarl remained silent. Miko frowned. But she did have to admit, it was a good idea. And she was planning on doing that anyway. She giggled as fantasies of eviscerating Redcloak and grinding the lich into powder that she would sprinkle in her coffee. The fantasies expanded, including a rousing game of tetherball using Belkar’s intestines as the tether and his head as the ball…
So lost in happy violent fantasies was she that she hadn’t realized where she was being led. When she realized that Eyko had stopped, she blinked. “Mother?”
Eyko smiled, somewhat embarrassed. “Forgive me, but indulge your doting old mother. Just let the priests examine you, make sure that you and your young are all right.”
Miko frowned, wondering what to do. But she felt a sense of assurance from the Snarl, and she nodded, smiling. Letting the aged priests lead her into the temple’s hospital, she stripped out of her armor until she was in her undergarments. She looked down at herself and realized that she did look quite pregnant.
A side effect of having the Snarl’s power in me? There’s probably so much of it that my body had to expand SOMEWHERE just to contain it… she thought idly.
Miko lay back on the couch, as a priest came over with a stethoscope to listen to her stomach, checking for the heartbeats of her babies.
…Oh I can’t resist, the Snarl said in Miko’s mind as the stethoscope gently touched her belly.
“Let’s see what we can hear, shall we?” the priest said, listening in.
I like to sing-a, about the moon-a and the June-a and the spring-a, the Snarl sang. The priest jerked back up, confused.
Miko giggled, despite herself. When the priest looked at her, she said, “It’s cold and you’re tickling me.”
Frowning, the priest leaned in to listen again.
This time, the Snarl sang, Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you. Never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye, never gonna tell a lie, and hurt you!
The priest jerked back up again. Miko giggled, blushing a little. This was too funny!
Scowling now, the priest listened in again.
The Snarl, still having fun, sang, And we were trying different things, and we were smoking funny things, making love out by the lake to our favorite song! Drinkin’ whiskey out the bottle, not thinkin’ ‘bout tomorrow, singin’ Sweet Home Alabama, all summer long!
“That last one was kinda catchy,” the priest muttered, calling over his colleague, and asking him to listen in. This time, the Snarl just simulated the healthy heartbeats of three babies.
The priest’s colleague glared at him. The first priest looked nervous. “There was singing! I swear it!”
The second priest frowned. “Have you been in the medicinal whiskey again?”
“NO! I swear! It was just the one time!” the first priest said, the second priest sighing in frustration. Miko giggled, thinking the whole thing hilarious.
The rest of the examination proceeded normally, Miko being dressed in a robe before being let out. Eyko met her outside. “How do you feel, my dear?”
Miko looked around the temple. It felt good to be here, true… But still, she didn’t feel quite comfortable here…
After a long moment, Miko smiled weakly and settled on saying “Nostalgic.”
Eyko hugged her daughter again, and walked around with her some more, the two of them chatting happily. Miko made up a story about having a vision and going off on a quest, expressing her ‘regret’ that she was not there to help save Azure City, but describing a fairly decent fake adventure of enlightenment that culminated in her being visited by Tiger and mating with him, resulting in her current condition. (She almost said Horse, but she remembered too well her time in Hell and the thought of that just made her shudder.)
Eventually, after having dinner together, Miko was led to her old room in the temple. It still had all of her old things in it, the few material possessions that Monks were allowed, her armor laying in one corner of the room. Eyko bid her daughter good night, hugging and kissing her once more, leaving Miko alone.
Miko sat on her bed, picking up the small white, horse plush and hugging it. She smiled briefly, remembering the comfort she received when she was younger just from holding it, her joy at seeing her favorite toy seemingly come to life when she first met Windstriker.
She felt she had shown him little in the way of appreciation in the last few years of her life. So dedicated to the life of a paladin was she that she had missed out on so much. He had never left her side, even after being turned into a fel beast.
She looked up, seeing a small golden shrine to the Twelve Gods mounted on the table. Scowling, she reached out and grabbed it, heat radiating from her hand and melting the shrine into slag. With an angry toss, she threw it out the window.
Feeling better for venting her frustration, she lay back in her bed, slightly small for her now, but big for her when she was younger, and drifted off to sleep, a single thought in her head as she tightly clutched her horse plush.
This is no longer my home…