I rise with the dawn, my training keeping me focused although I am tired. I move more like a golem than a human, numb with…everything. There has been so much to accept…all of it so fast. But I must know. It gnaws at me like a ghoul on a bone, no matter how I try to ignore it. I can find out. It would be so easy. The morning passes without a soul on this road, but this does not surprise me. Am I not on a forsaken trail? Naturally, the one time I could use a good fight there is not a random encounter to be found. It is forcing myself to break for lunch that I make my choice.
I must eat and stay warm to survive, and the hot food revives some part of me. I finish my provision and draw slowly on the earring from Karla. If she could help me, I would not have to resort to this…but she is just an adventurer. Even if she knew the right divinations, the chances were small she could aid me. I sigh before sucking in air, before I shout the one word I need, “QARR!!!”
With a flash of acrid smoke the bothersome imp appears and asks in that grating voice, “Heya, toots, knew you’d come back sometime. Ready to sign on the dotted line and get your inner blackguard on?”
My answer to this, at least, is firm: “No.”
Qarr flits through the air and with a puff of fell smoke a pen appears in his hand, “Of course, of cou…wait, waddaya mean ‘no’? You called me, toots, I don’t get infinite credit on the Interplanar Express here. Give me one good reason not to Plane Shift my ass out of this Gods forsaken place.”
I ignore the imp’s blathering and answer him, “I need to know more, first.”
Qarr grins evilly and snickers, “Ah, a reluctant holdout I see. Well, if you need a good chat to get past that useless morality, I know exactly who you need to see. Miko, meet my Boss…es.”
The world grows dark, and I am both comforted and unnerved as the sun seems to go behind a shimmering curtain of black. There is no puff of smoke, no settling effect…in a moment as sudden as two unique scenes pasted together there just is a swirling darkness as three cloaked figures rise before me. They are different that I can see only from their eyes, glowing three uniquely fiendish colors.
Yellow: “Greetings, Miko.”
Orange: “The pleasure is ours.”
Purple: “Heard you could use some clarification, and we’ve recently had a high level encounter of the ‘uncomfortable truth’ variety.”
These three…can help me understand. I do what I must, “I would hear your offer, foul ones.”
Orange: “Only ‘foul’? Such a flatterer.”
Purple: “We offer you power, Miko, to do with as you see fit. As a limited time offer, we are providing an additional incentive…”
Yellow: “…the truth of alignment, your heart, and your path.”
I bellow in frustration at these Outsiders, wishing so very much that I could smite insolence, “Enough games! Tell me!”
Purple: “Some things are absolute, but alignment is…bendy. How else could we gain followers without breaking their minds? You are a creature of Law, and it has always been your comfort…”
Orange: “…but not your salvation. Good and Evil are fickle enough, both trying to gain souls at every turn. I think it’s clear which team we’d rather you be playing for.”
Yellow: “We offer complete health and dental, the power to lay down the Law as you choose, and a consort to meet the needs those ‘good guys’ never met.”
Purple: “Affection and attention. An amazing hottie.”
Orange: “Devotion and loyalty. A real team player.”
Yellow: “Security and validation. A true soul mate.”
Purple: “As an additional bonus, we’d be happy to Dominate one person or soul of your choosing. Even bring them to you from anywhere in the multiverse.”
Orange: “You could go back to your Twelve, of course. Become a shining beacon of ‘good’. Never be sure of your own emotions or if you are ‘good’ enough."
Yellow: “Deal with those weak nobles and paladins, constantly struggling to do the right thing when nothing seems to be going right."
Purple: “Risk heartbreak from a fickle mortal who doesn’t truly know themself. Relationships and goodness that won’t guide you, but force you to make choices.”
I hear their words, like silk along my skin and a cool breeze on a hot day, the small comforts that I used to think had no meaning. Their offer…I could make the nobles obey the law. Make the law that protects and serves able to withstand their selfish influences. I could make Hinjo see the truth, stop Xykon, and have Matsumo agaib. Or anyone. AND anyone…of my choosing! The faint taste of that power, of promises that would be upheld, rules that could not be broken…
I felt their next words caress me like a lover before setting me aside:
Purple: “We understand it’s a big choice. One that may take some consideration…or sleeping alone on. A shame for one as beautiful as you, but necessary.”
Orange: “Indeed. We’re willing to extend the offer up to and until you call us again, with expiration of our quality guarantee if the choice is not made in a full thirty days. You couldn’t ask for a better kegger invitation.”
Yellow: “Just remember who has let you down, Miko. Who has let you down, and who is here for you now. Willing to be there for you even after death itself…”
As suddenly as they appeared, all four fiends are gone and I am alone on a bleakly sunny day with a cold breeze torturing my skin. I have a choice to make, of whose arms to accept. Whose words to trust. Whose comfort to take. And who I truly am…