Miko's Heart, Beyond Lawful Good (Part 11)

“…MY VOWS! I renew my vows to the Twelve Gods, to protect and serve the citizens, now refugees, of Azure City as a paladin in service of the Twelve. I vow to be true to my oath and my heart with the full weight of my new understanding. I beg forgiveness for my selfishness and seek to make amends, even if the Twelve do not accept my service again. I am no longer a child, but a woman! I am Miko Miyazaki, and I am my own!”

At first, nothing happens as the echoes of my voice fade. Saangwan sits beaming, and Karla is thoughtful, as the last remnants of sound fade. Before any of us can speak again, a low humming emanates from nowhere and fills the room. Soft blue light fills the space and I feel a familiar presence just as Soon and Matsumo appear in the room. I move to touch Matsumo, but he is not there physically. My heart leaps with joy and sorrow to see him again so, but his smile comforts me as we touch hands without touching. Soon smiles and speaks simply, “Your oath is accepted, Miko. You have fulfilled your quest and atoned for your deeds in the eyes of the Twelve Gods. Rise once more as a paladin in their service, and be true to your heart and the people of Azure City.”

I feel the presence of the Twelve again, the comfort of their love and support in subtle ways I never realized in my past service. The tears of joy flow freely as my strength returns fully, and I can barely breathe as Matsumo ‘kisses’ my lips. I hear Karla whispering behind me to Saangwan, “No grand speech or—”

“—stirring plot exposition? I know, even I expected the great Soon to do it," Saangwan finishes in the same whisper. Soon smiles at them both with that familiar smile full of his strong personality and good heart, “Now, now, I’m here on behalf of the Twelve Gods, not some Dungeon Master or web-comic writer. But if you prefer…”

Saangwan and Karla speak in hurried unison as I giggle, “No! No, really, that’s fine.” And, “Really, it’s fine, you don’t have to.”

I ask the question that suddenly burns in my heart, “And Windstriker?”

Soon smiles, “Is glad to once more be your steed to call.”

I cannot contain that burst of joy from my heart, as pure as any young girl’s, and clap my hands excitedly. I speak from the heart, “Thank you, Lord Soon. Thank you all for helping me. I suppose we’d better get started on helping Hinjo.”

Karla smiles at the gleam in my eye and nods while Saangwan shakes her head in exasperation. Soon and Matsumo bow and fade to nothing before us, but I find I am not sorrowful. I will not fail to stay my course, and I will see them both again someday. Hopefully not soon, I knew they understood, but someday.

I ride next to handsome Roy, smiling at his surprise. I am as I should be, riding Windstriker and wearing Karla’s earring, with a small pendant to be in touch with Saangwan. Roy pulls ahead of the party a bit, ignoring their varying comments, to speak to me, “Miko?! Why are you here?”

I smile, “To help you. Xykon isn’t destroyed once and for all yet, and the people of Azure City will not be safe until he is. I thought we might work well together.”

Roy speaks slowly, “Wow, and you’re a paladin again. Truth be told, we could use the help. But about—”

“—the Halfling, it will not be a concern. We can incarcerate him after defeating Xykon truly if it comes to that.”

“But we have—”

“—a happy couple that enjoys themselves together nights, and sometimes mid-day, a likable dwarf cleric who will understand just fine, and a wizard I can ignore or get along with as I must.”

Roy quirks his eyebrow higher with each statement, “O-kay, but what about the two of us? I’m the team leader here and I don’t want a conflict of command. In fact—”

I lean close and speak softly, “—you’re worried I’ll take charge. I’ll take charge when you want me to, but only when you put me in command.”

I then lean next to his ear and whisper hotly, “That monk training taught me Improved Grapple you know. I’d be happy to give you a demonstration of the fringe benefits, including Improved Disarm (Social), Improved Disrobe, and Improved Trip (Into Bed).”

Roy’s face becomes hot, but he does not exactly blush…he seems too…eager?…for that. He coughs into his hand, “Yes, well, I’ll have to talk to someone about that first. Either way, welcome to the team.”

He bellows powerfully back to the others, “Miko is joining us in the fight against Xykon, I expect you to treat her like another member. Wait, no, I expect you not to treat her like another member, but as an honored representative of Azure City. Wait…dammit, it doesn’t matter what I expect, you all will treat her with respect. And maybe learn some for each other while you’re at it.”

Elan and Haley whisper to each other in an excited manner as Durkon calls, “Welcome, lass, we could use a bit more sense an’ a bit less foolery!”

The annoying Halfling interjects lewdly, “Hey Roy, planning on making a donation of ‘Treasure Type O’? I’m sure the treasury’s open for tithing to summon the Beast with Two Backs for you. You know, you two could bump those logs down out of your uptight butts while you’re at it!”

The Halfling continues his rambling chain of inane babble as Roy ignores him and turns to the elf with a grimace, “Please tell me you prepared Silence today.”

The elf shakes its head and postulates, “As a part of your request for less overt bickering you could discern and more subtle means of infighting I have not prepared Silence on this particular day. Nor do I have any scrolls of the aforementioned spell with which to quiet our diminutive nuisance as he uses Combat Reflexes to make attacks of opportunity against your dignity, which I find immensely preferable to his usual blather.”

Roy grunts and mutters under his breath before bellowing again, “Dammit, that wasn't what I… — Fine, whatever, but don’t make me come back there. Because I don’t care who starts it, I will finish it! Elan! Haley! That means you two too! Less Dexterity checks and more coaxing the rides to our next destination.”

I cannot hide my grin as I bump ‘accidentally’ against Roy and breathe hotly in his ear, “Hm, such a strong father figure. Sounds like you could use a mother in their lives.”

Roy sighs and covers his face with one hand, “Oh, not you too. What did I do to deserve this?”

I smile happily and give him breathing room for now. I’ll have plenty of time in pursuit. Today is truly a wonder day to be a paladin!

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