“Even you will break a bone if you keep it up,” Yula said. He sat with his legs crossed, his head in his hands. The tears had stopped, leaving behind the red and puffy evidence. Mariel slammed another bolder with her fist, smashing it, blood smearing on the pieces. She examined her hand, wiping away the blood from her already healing wounds.
“Did you know she was coming?”
“And you didn’t tell me?”
“Of course not, you would have run away or picked a fight with her.”
“Why would the Capital bother? I’ve made it clear I want nothing to do with them. Even if there’s a chance of war. It’s not my war.”
“It will be everyone’s war and not just with humans.”
Mariel turned. “You think a god is involved?”
“There is suspicion. If it’s true, everything on this planet will be in danger, including your family.”
The prospect of any real danger coming to their small farming village felt too distant to be real. Still, if there was a war of that magnitude coming, it made more sense to stay right where she was and protect her family. They were the only ones that mattered. Why should she care about every soul walking the earth? How could she care for all of them?
“Then my part of the war effort will be here. Not playing politics with some king.”
Yula walked to Mariel, taking her hands in his. “I’ve been with you since the moment you were born, so I know accepting being a Paladin is terrifying for you. I don’t want you to go to the Capital because of a war or for the Champion Selection, I want you to go so you can find who you are. You can’t avoid yourself your whole life, trust me, it’ll break you.” He examined her hands, knowing nothing would be there, but still checked every time.
“Why did they pick me, Yula? Why couldn’t I just be a farmer’s daughter?” Mariel asked, her voice cracking.
He wrapped his arms around her. “I don’t know, but regardless of your opinion of yourself, you’re my Paladin, and I’ll be by your side till your last breath.” His head turned toward Mariel’s home. “Your mother and Defender Jana are coming, I’ll take my leave.”
“Defender? What did she do to get a title?”
“Ask her yourself. Oh, and keep quiet about a god’s involvement.”
With that, Mariel stood alone in the forest, the sound of insects waking for the coming night. She took a deep breath of the woods before walking to the nearby river. Mariel would need to wash the drying blood off her hands before her mother arrived. She wouldn’t say it out loud but, longed for her mother’s soothing words but felt they would not be in her favor this time.
Her parents demanded nothing of her as a Paladin, but she sometimes thought she caught a glimmer of pride in their eyes at the fact. The sound of hooves caught Mariel’s ears before she entirely made it out of the woods, her almost relaxed mood becoming spoiled again at the sight of Jana. Major trotted up to her, rubbing his nose along her face, forcing a smile. Her mother looked at her with an expression Mariel was all too familiar with, groaning at what she would have to do.
“I’m sorry for my actions earlier.”
A soft smile appeared on the Paladin’s face. “I accept your apology. I hope we can move on from this unsightly incident.”
“Of course,” Mariel replied, trying to hide the annoyance in her voice.
“Now, when should we leave for the Capital?”
Mariel climbed onto her horse. “I’m still not going.” A smug smiled broke on her face as she rode past the Paladin, despite the sigh from her mother.
“Why must you make this difficult?”
“I don’t like you.”
“You do not need to like me. Really, would it be so bad to go to the Capital?”
“It could be.”
The Paladins continued their endless argument the entire ride home. Yvonne covered a laugh from time to time, not really fazed by the pair. When she called their verbal battle adorable, both of them went silent. Mariel tightened her hand on her reins as she gazed into the distance. Another thing she didn’t say out loud: part of her wanted to know what waited outside of the village. But she didn’t want things to change. Despite the treatment she got, she at least knew what to expect every day. Out there, she had no clue. More than that, she couldn’t place why she had such a sinking feeling in her stomach.
Comments (11)See all