“I’d like to see what you think you can do about it,” Mariel smirked.
Despite having to look up at her challenger, Jana’s confidence didn’t. “If you are trying to instigate a fight, I will not humor you. Paladins engaging in combat outside of training is forbidden.”
Mariel rolled her eyes. “Could you be any more stereotypical?”
“I do not find taking my duty seriously to be stereotypical. The gods have high expectations of us, we should do our best to uphold those -”
“I didn’t ask for this,” Mariel interrupted, her voice growing louder. “And I don’t have to do a damn thing for them.”
“You are missing the point,” Jana responded, her tone remaining calm.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass what point you think there is. The gods can shove it up their -“
Jana cut off Mariel’s rotten mouth before she could finish. “This isn’t about you, it’s about the protecting the people. They count on us to keep them safe from the dangers of evil in this world.”
“They rely on us too much. The people should stand on their own feet. We aren’t babysitters.”
“This coming from the woman who hides like a coward rather than face her destiny.”
The words stunned Mariel, but rage quickly took its place. Her fist clenched along with her jaw, readying her body to respond to the insult.
“If you damage even one thing is this house, I’ll make you sleep in the barn,” Yvonne warned.
Mariel clicked her teeth, shooting an angry glare before leaving the house in a fury. Gris stood, pulling out a chair for his wife. She kissed his cheek before sitting. “Well, that was quite a mess.”
“Not nearly as bad at the time we caught Mariel throwing parts of the town at Amon,” Gris reminded.
The wife sighed, “Yes. But we have a guest in our home. We owe you another apology.”
“Think nothing of it. I would not be here if I could not handle a tantrum.” Jana returned to her seat, her mood shifting. “Though I must ask, why have you allowed this behavior to go on for so long.”
The parents looked at each other, wary but full of love. Gris rubbed his wife’s hand fondly. “We haven’t seen many Paladins here since the last war, and I’m sure you know our King doesn’t keep many himself. But we haven’t had many issues since then. A few little things, like a flood a few years before Mariel was born or a Great Beast, ran rampant for a week but moved on. I think some villagers felt cheated by not having Paladins around, that somehow they were further from the gods’ grace because of it.
When Mariel was born, everyone believed the gods had answered their prayers. I can’t say whether that’s true, but they believed it, so much that they constantly harassed her. Even as a small child, they put so much pressure on her, wanting a blessing, to hear what the gods told her, or whatever else came to their mind, to where she didn’t want to leave the house. Paladin or not, she has free will; she has a choice. Everyone seemed to forget that she’s still a human being, that she has feelings, thoughts, and dreams of her own. When we saw what was happening to our little girl, we decided we would teach her to be whoever she wanted to be, regardless of being a Paladin. Though we hoped over time, her anger would diminish. Maybe we made the wrong choice, but we did what we thought was best for her.”
Gris stood, taking Jana’s bowl. “Would you like more?”
He grabbed two more bowls and placed them on the table. Jana stared down at it, eyebrows drew down in confusion. “I apologize, I have not heard a Paladin being treated in such a manner, especially at such a young age.”
“Then you have seen little of the world,” Yvonne said.
Jana’s face flushed. “Well, most of my training has been at the Capital or in Pretha where my family is from.”
“Ah, Pretha is a beautiful kingdom, very prosperous. Many stories of the Paladin’s say they have served the Stormwood family since they have been on the throne. The stories are always good, aren’t they? Sure, the Paladins probably struggled to defeat some foe, but they always did. Where have you seen a story about when a Paladin failed? When they struggled outside of the battlefield and lost their way? When they became tired and broken down from the weight of their duty?”
Jana listened to Yvonne’s words, rolling them around in her mind, but she couldn’t fully process them. She never questioned being a Paladin, never thought of her job as a burden, or seen the fatigue the mother spoke of, but if Mariel was experiencing it, then she must find and understand if she was to complete her task.
“Well, it’s about time we go parent our children,” Gris said, standing.
“You handle your son. He needs a father’s comfort right now,” Yvonne said. “And I’ll go deal with our daughter. Come, Paladin, your words seem to hit harder than mine. Maybe you’ll eventually change her mind.”
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