“Stop it, stop it, stop it!”

Bethany grabbed Arlyle and held her close. The goddess gasped, her light out in an instant. The flame was snuffed before it could do any damage to the young girl.

Bethany was crying. Crying. Tears ran down her eyes as she looked at Arlyle.

“You’re supposed to be my best friend, Arlyle. We’re supposed to have tea parties, and, and go fun places…and have adventures! We aren’t supposed to let anyone be hurt just because I wanted to go on an adventure.”

Arlyle hugged her friend close. “Bethany, please,” Arlyle said. “Just breathe, it will be all right.”

“All right?” Bethany looked at the children. “You’re about to hurt them, or worse!”

“And they deserve it.” Arlyle looked too. “You see children, just a bit older than you. I see new villains, ready to hurt the world for the fun of it. If we let them go free, what will happen to Thelonius? Or your new friend Clissandra?”

Bethany blinked tears away. The badger was standing next to the spire, looking expectantly at the proceedings. He stayed silent, not wanting to interject with his own biases.

“They were going to hurt her, and if they don’t get that, they’ll hurt her even worse because their… their fun,” Arlyle spat the word at the children. “Was ruined.”

Arlyle set the girl down, and walked over to the children. She seemed to grow taller, fairer. Her skull crown darkened, stretching into the heavens. “If I do not stop them now, then all their crimes they shall ever commit will be on my head for allowing it to happen. Our heads.”

“Is that bad?”

Bethany looked at Arlyle. “Is that so bad, to let other people make mistakes?”

“These are not mistakes, child.” Arlyle started to seethe. “This is malice, plain and simple. They want to hurt people.”

“And that needs to stop.” Bethany pointed her finger at Bergsten. “You are mean. And Arlyle was right to scare you. But the other stuff, I don’t know.”

“We will never hurt anyone again.” Bergsten breathed. “We will not set one foot on these lands, not even look at it wrong.”

“He lies.” Arlyle said. “They all will.”

Bethany nodded. “I don’t want anyone to be hurt. Anyone. Either by feeling bad by doing bad, or having done something terrible to stop something worse.”

The girl stamped her foot. “Why can’t we all just be extra nice to everybody? Just try really hard to do good, and when you try to do bad stuff, you have to stop and say sorry?”

Arlyle shook her head. “The world doesn’t work that way, dear friend.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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