Faisal bows his head briefly, unwilling to risk Scarlet letting go of his arm.
“If you feel that my presence in this form serves The Eternal Light of Compassion, I shall consider the wisdom of your words. I do ask that you reconsider and allow Tamara to take her proper role as Duchess. They are a fine couple, and with a proper heir on the way, our land would be far more stable.”
They continue in silence for a few moments before the kobold stops abruptly, his amber, draconic eyes intent.
“Scarlet, you are far harsher on yourself than I ever was, even in the depths of my anger and foolishness. You blame yourself for being less than perfect, as I once did, but you are beating yourself with what should be nothing more than the reality of being mortal.
“The Book of Forms has a verse:
Accept the flaws and failings of yourself and others.
Strive toward perfection, knowing that it can never be achieved.
For if each were born to never fail,
We would sit at The Eternal Light’s right hand
Rather than struggle toward the Light.
“Perhaps I understand the wisdom of these words now. I recognize the harm in expecting perfection from others, you must do the same for yourself. I hold you blameless in these events for which you whip yourself mercilessly. They were consequences of circumstance and my own poor choices. If, in retrospect, you believe you should have acted differently, this is no more than the reality of our imperfect lives.
“You may not feel worthy to be loved, but you are wrong. Whether you are able to reciprocate or not, you should at least recognize your own value.”
The paladin raises his hand to cup the young woman’s cheek, careful not to allow his claws to scratch her creamy skin. Scarlet’s eyes widen and her heart races in panic as she realizes what Faisal is about to do.
Nicholas bursts into the clearing, face red and lungs pumping.
“Tamara has gone into labour early! Something is very wrong! We have to return to Tuskany right now!”