I wrote about two thousand words tonight, and finished up with this. (Edit: also note, it was 3am and I was sleep deprived).
This is how I think a real paladin would act.
That evening, after the rest had gone to bed, Merrily approached her mama on the sofa and took her warm, wrinkled hand. Gertrude squeezed her, and without opening her eyes said, “What’s wrong, baby girl?”
“Am I doing right, mama?” Merrily asked. “I… I feel silly, but I don’t know. No one seems to be really bad here. I mean, yes, they’ve done some wicked things, but no one’s been hurt. Mister Gennyson tried to put Leo back together, even if he was a grave robber. Uriel wants to take off the law that’ll kill him, Mister Gallows loves his son.
“The vows talk about putting the wicked and the strong to flight, defending the helpless… but I don’t see anyone like that here. I feel like I don’t know what to do. Everyone has reasons. Lots of people, all being reasonable…”
Gertrude squeezed Merrily’s hand again. “Do you think evil things are never done with reasons? Good reasons, good intentions, wonderful goals in sight?”
Merrily thought about that, and she shook her head slowly.
“The evil you fight is not the people. I told Diane we’re all bad people, and I meant it. You start thinking that you’re good and they’re bad, and you’ll be in for a world of trouble, baby. The difference between hero and villain isn’t always in what they want. And if you pay real close attention, you might just see that the bad fellows are the ones that need the most saving.
“Now you come right over here.” Gertrude kissed Merrily’s cheek when she bent down. “You listen to your mama. You were meant to be who you are, little Gamble. Made to be who you are. You keep this boy safe like you promised, and you don’t compromise. Someone’s got to hold the world in check.”
The corners of Merrily’s mouth tugged, then drew into a smile. “Thank you, mama,” she whispered.
“Silly girl. Now, it’s late. What you doing up so late anyhow? Scoot! Bedtime.”
Merrily kissed her once more, bid her a good night, and held her skirts as she took the stairs and tried to keep them from squeaking too loudly on the way to her bedroom above the front porch.