"My lady, I need your guidance. You have tasked me, but I know not how to fulfill my instructions and yet hold myself to my tenets. The Shield is here, within my grasp, but to take it would be to invite bloodshed. Harm another of the cloth."
The tiefling bowed his head, and a woman's voice replied. Gentle, caring—a mother's voice. "Virtue, my child, my dutiful servant. You have done well, but to allow those miscreants to abscond with such a…powerful artifact would invite bloodshed in itself. The blood of the innocent and downtrodden of your realm. The blood of those you swore to protect."
"But my lady...its bearer is Belarian, sworn to the same oaths I am."
"It's bearer broke those oaths, did he not?"
"Yes, but…but he is restored. He has completed his penance."
"His penance to recover the Shield of Belarius?"
"And where is the Shield of Belarius now, child?"
"It is…he…" Virtue looked at the tall dragonborn by his side, great axe slung over one shoulder and a darkened grey shield upon his arm. The Tiefling's reflection could be seen in a hand span of polished silver, the rest of the shield covered in a dull grey patina. "There is no Shield of Belarius."
"And if the Shield of Belarius is not recovered, the penance is not complete."
"And he remains an excommunicant."
"But I witnessed it, my lady. I witnessed the Judge, the swearing of the oath."
"Virtue, the men and women before you have taken the lives of many with their actions. Cut down slaves and criminals alike, sentenced hundreds to death with their inadequacy. Is that the result of lives led in service of Justice and Protection?"
"But…Belarius still believes in them. Stealing is not our way."
"Belarius believes in them because he must. The strength of Belarius and his servants failed to protect the Shield, and thus the Shield is no longer that of Belarius. He has no claim to it. Were your positions reversed, would they hesitate to take it from you? To take your life for it?"
The paladin did not reply for a moment, thinking. Weighing the situation. "My lady, there is still conflict in my heart. You teach that to do as our enemies would is to become them. What you ask of me…is this not to become a heretic myself?"
"The Seals are breaking, child. Strength is needed to withstand what is to come. Is the Shield better in the hands of criminals and murderers, or a loyal servant of Light? That is for you to decide."