Phandelver + Storm King and beyond
Autumn's chill bites down early in the North, and it wasn't much beyond suppertime when the orb of the sun vanished below the horizon, leaving the stars bright and clear in the northern sky. The moon, an oblong dinnerplate of a waxing gibbous, rose pale and ghostly into the sky beyond Onys's room at the inn. Onys, standing in the middle of her room after her sister departed, took a moment to contemplate, then, swallowing once against a dry throat, left the Stonehill Inn for a walk in the night air. She was not armored, but did carry her greatsword in its sling over her shoulder, probably making for something of a confusing sight to the average villager, a young elf in the street wearing an expensive dress and a sword nearly as tall as she is.
The town, barely much more than a village, glowed comfily with lamps in the windows of the houses up and down the streets radiating out from the town square, a rather more cozy sight now that the bullying brigands occupying it were routed. For however much the routing had actually happened and wasn't a shocking mess on her part, that is. She sighed, thinking back on the mess she'd gotten herself in and the utter simplicity that a friendly hand had made of extricating herself from that same mess. Quinys's free and easy laughter when the misunderstanding was resolved and Erys's gentle admonition to let free her burdens…she smiled a little to herself, knowing full well there were some burdens she wasn't ready to lower yet, but not minding overmuch that she continued carrying them.
She looked up at the sky, squinting at the moon, every so slightly out-of-round. Devotions to Hanali Celanil were generally offered under the full moon, but…
Onys scanned the area left-to-right with a slight frown. Said devotions were also usually held at a spring or a fountain, and barring Onys sitting at that rickety-looking well over there, that was something else Lady Goldheart apparently wouldn't be getting this evening, either. She sighed, wondering how her sister was handling her own oath, hardly knowing that Erys was well on her way towards touching the divine in the inn on the corner behind her.
Onys ruffled her hair a little, pushing the indigo bangs back, realizing she was just going to have to make the best of it—-but just as that thought crossed her mind, another one followed, and she smiled, turning back towards the inn. If she couldn't perform the ritual 'correctly,' she'd just have to do it the best she can.
In the grass of the small field between the inn and the building next door, Onys kicked off her shoes and looked up at the inn, some windows glowing with activity, others already dark for early risers. She was no acrobat, but she was elf enough that her plan could not possibly go wrong. Not waiting for second thoughts, she took a short leap and began shinnying up the corner drainpipe, imagining that no one would think to look at her on the roof—-probably the highest point she'd be able to reach in this town, apart from the wreck of the ruined manor they had fought beneath earlier in the day—-and that wasn't particularly a pleasing option.
It was the work of just a few moments before Onys was padding quietly across the slate, taking a seat at the peak of the roof and laying her sword across her lap. She gazed up at the moon and the stars, crisp white pinholes surrounding the pale gold wanderer still rising in the night sky. Even with the chill breeze and her relative lack of warm clothing, Onys felt almost perfectly at ease. Not entirely, though, the young elf fishing the gold heart charm out of her dress, moving it from its place next to her heart to instead let it hang from its chain over her clothes for once. Her eyes still on the not-quite-full moon, she tried in vain to find a place to start. All the hours of all the years where she had honed her skill at debate and argument in the courts of the nobility fled her in this silent moment, leaving her entirely alone with herself and her prayer.
Thus, history will almost certainly show that this may be the first and only oath of paladinship taken that begins with a quietly stammered "H-hello."
Onys took another breath, and began, finding the words inside her, but also finding them pouring down to her from the sky like a million billion shooting stars. "Lady Celanil, goldhearted, she to whom I am devoted. I entreat thee in love and I beg your boon to aver to you my desire that I might be a true paladin in the service of all Toril in thy name."
Her grip tightening on the leather-wrapped grip of her sword's hilt, she continued, picking up the rhythm and cadence, at once as timeless as the mechanics of the celestial realms and as personal as her own name. "I submit to thee that my word shall be covenant, and I shall not renege, even when tested. I shall not proclaim falsehood or feigned affection, or ensconce duplicity in either. I shall instead seek to pour love from the chalice of my heart for the good of all, and in this truth give succor to those who suffer."
Onys's words were murmured, but they somehow carried in the quiet dark—-hopefully all the way to the Seldarine. "I further vow that I shall extend the hand of amity to all in equal measure, and will stand as a glim in dark places, that love may yet flourish in thy light. Let my soothfastness carry whereinsoever there be need. For love's sake, let my flesh fail before my oath and let my blade be thy mercy-tempered commination."
Her heart twisted for a moment as she anticipated the next statement, considering her recent luck with being correct in her assumptions. "I give warrant that I shall offer remit if I am misguided and my actions cause innocents to come to ill, and stand sentinel for any whose aegis is mine own duty; be they boon companion or nameless stranger, they shall be offered my love and care."
The final tenet of the oath, however, the tenet of courage, truly stuck in her throat, proving far more difficult for her than the other pacts. Quickly, she realized, heart racing, that she was barely swearing an oath at all, and instead praying for the Lady to support her where she could not support herself. "I petition and beg that you bear me up when I am frail and fill me with courage, though for my desire is strong, my fear is great that I might…fail thee."
Onys lifted her head and began to close her oath—-"Shalt thou grant my boon, Lady…"—-but found herself interrupted by a quiet voice behind her.
She turned 'round in complete shock, nearly dropping her sword, then her breath caught in her throat. Just a few feet behind her, on the downward slope of the roof, leaning casually against nothing, wrapped in white and gold silks, the single most beautiful woman Onys had ever seen. Her voice caught again and she gasped as she recognized her divine patroness, who took two silent steps and sat down next to her, somehow still elegant even atop the humble inn roof in the rustic backwater.
"Onys, my child, my awkward love, what should I do with you? I am not Shevarash. I am not Helm or Ilmater, or even Gorm Gulthyn. My service has not ever called for makers of war and crafters of death, even in the defense of love."
Onys blanched, her pale face growing sickly, mind instantly on fire with the fear that her path had been false.
Hanali, however, reached out and touched Onys with two fingers on the spot of her forehead where her sister had kissed just maybe minutes before, and the young elf instantly felt once more the serenity and the buoyancy of new-kindled love. The goddess continued, "Your sister, even in the service of Sune, follows me more closely than you may think in her passionate embrace of love in all its forms. Your zeal for service, to protect love as it grows, does you great merit, child of Kiirnodel, but…it is difficult to love one who loves themselves too well or too little. In order to protect your loves—-your family bonds, your few, scant few lovers—-you have built castle walls around your own heart. Onys, know that mine own heart aches for you, and that I await the day when you may love others as perfectly and wholly as naturally as you would stand and suffer for them."
Celanil paused then for a moment, tapping her lips with an elegantly-rounded fingernail. "Sadly, in times such as these, my service may indeed call for martial prowess, where formerly it only sought marital prowess. But it is not for this reason why I am here, why I am considering accepting your oath. Child, you are broken inside, but when your heart is whole and shining, I see no reason why you would not be paramount amongst my servants. You have sworn me oaths of devotion, but I ask an additional geas of you, scion of Kiirnodel."
Onys, trying not to cry for what felt like the hundredth time since rising that morn, could only nod, her whisper hoarse and trembling: "Yes, my Lady?"
The elven goddess took Onys's sword and put it aside for a moment, then took the moon elf's hands in hers and helped her stand, the pair of them facing each other like young lovers in a secluded rendezvous. "Promise me that every day, you will share in your love and receive love when it is given. It need not be physical, though, it must be said you are certainly among the most…chaste…of my children. If—-if not for me, then for yourself—-if you are able to share yourself and to let others share with you, then know that I will be with you even in the most grim, red tasks, and you will be my paladin, the hardiest, most loving and most blessed knight upon life."
Decorum be damned, Onys could not help herself and threw herself into the goddess' arms, her reply a simple "I swear," before her entire sight and being was suffused with golden light.
The warmth and light and love and passion and seemed endless, but eventually it faded just slightly and…moved to the right?
Onys opened her eyes.
She was in her bed in the inn, and the current golden glow was morning sunlight streaming through her window, a pale reflection of what she had seen and felt in the night. She felt as if she had exhausted herself completely in Hanali Celanil's arms, and had hibernated like a flower all through the winter to regain herself. She stretched for a moment, sitting up to find her clothes, her discarded shoes, her sword, all in a neat, clean pile at the foot of the bed. Her hair was unbound and around her neck hung the goldheart on a chain she wore beneath her clothing. Unconsciously, she reached up to touch the holy symbol and was greeted with an echo of the goddess' voice: "Hide your heart no longer, child, in hope, in compassion, and in love."