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Sorrowful Supplicant (Rik, Abbie, Ellwythorn) [Backstory]

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[TW: Infertility, Misgendering, Abuse]

Tears aren't unusual at the temple; parents come to pray for their children and to beg Yondalla's protection. Almost every soldier on the wall has a mother, so many sailors on the sea have a father. Sooner or later, no matter what god they hold in their heart, more parents than not utter a prayer to Yondalla in their time of need. Yondalla, see her safely through the birthing. Yondalla, bring him home from the sea in one piece.

But the one Abbie watches today is young; barely out of girlhood, the petitioner seems far too young for the heavy tears she weeps as she kneels by one of the statues in the inner gardens and pours her heart out in quiet whispers to the goddess. Has she been here before? Abbie doesn't remember seeing the girl and thinks she would; her face is unusual, a strange blend of delicate elvish blood and thick orc stock. Perhaps she lost a mother and prays to Yondalla to guide her spirit in her absence? That seems most likely.

She passes the girl by a few times during the day, sensing that intrusion would be unwelcome. But as the candlemarks drip down and it draws time for Abbie to leave for rest, she notices the girl is still there. She's stopped crying, being physically unable to continue, but her raw red eyes study Yondalla's image with misery in their depths; all her time here seems to have brought her no peace.
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A glass of cold water appears in front of the girl; a warm hand settles steadily on her shoulder. "I think you've cried out all the water that was in you."

The words are wry and the voice rough, but the tone at least is gentle. Abbie stands beside her, as tall standing as the girl is kneeling, ready to offer comfort or counseling as needed.
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She starts in a guilty way, shying like a skittish horse; when Abbie doesn't strike her, she takes the water and drinks obediently. "Thank you, ma'am," she says. Her voice is servile and shy, intensely aware that she is taking up too much space, too much area.

Her eyes fall on Abbie's clerical garb, taking her in with quick flitting glances that drop back to the ground each time. "I'm... I'm Ellwythorn. Fr- From Northside. Ma'am."

Odd to hear an elven name on a half-orc in these parts; odder still when Abbie recognizes the etymology: "Ellwythorn" means "dark elf-woman" in the local dialect; a darkness of morality or character, and not of hair or eyes. Lovely on the tongue, but a strange choice for a beloved child. She also does not use the common courtesy of giving her pronouns in introduction; Abbie had expected a "she of" in there.
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"Ellwythorn. Pretty name," she says with a nod, choosing for the moment not to understand the meaning. "Child, you've been asking the goddess for something all day. Think you'd get better results if you talked to her representatives?" The corners of her eyes crinkle, kind despite her brusqueness. "Believe me, we've heard it all, and we're here to help. Yondalla doesn't want you to be miserable, child."
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The girl hesitates, biting at her lip with uncertainty. "Only I don't usually worship Yondalla, ma'am," she admits guiltily. "On worship days, I... I visit Lirr's temple. Ma'am. But she's... They say Yondalla is who you ask f-for babies. Ma'am."
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Abbie softens. "Well." She pats the girl's shoulder. "Yondalla still doesn't want you to be unhappy. Why don't you step inside and we'll talk about it?"
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The girl rises clumsily, a clumsiness which might be less so if she weren't trying so hard to be graceful, and follows Abbie with her eyes downcast. "I appreciate your, um, time. Ma'am. I'm sure you're real busy. An' I don't mean to... I'm not... I don't want to be trouble."
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"You are no trouble at all," she says firmly. When the girl tries to walk behind her she moves instead to her side, placing a motherly hand at the small of her back to guide her.

Before they enter a side room Abbie looks around, seeking a face she is confident will be there. When she finds the paladin her eyes lock with his, and she nods slightly in the direction of the girl before they step inside.
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The paladin had long since shed his armor back in his room, opting for less imposing attire. The woman had been here all day crying her heart out. He could do nothing about his size, but he didn't need to add to it with a layer of full plate and a clanky sword. Instead he had chosen a loose whitish shirt with an open neck line that showed off the deep green tones of his skin along with well fitting pants that hugged his toned lower body. If only the temple could afford less itchy cloth. He chided himself silently for his selfishness even as he allowed his back to rub a bit more than necessary against the rough stone wall he pushed away from at the cleric's nod. He moved to the door after it closed behind them. Waiting for the time to be right to enter. He bowed his head in a silent prayer to the goddess to allow him to help this woman however she deemed best.
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Ellwythorn meekly looks about the little room, unsure whether she's supposed to sit before being asked to. "I don't... I don't get down to the temple grounds much," she says, nervousness prompting her to fill the space with words. "I'm supposed to be at home, but Treygis said it was all right if it was to visit Yondalla and not Lirr. And I did want to come and ask, so- so I'm here. Only I don't really know how to ask a goddess for anything and it just seems so impossible and stupid of me because I'm- I'm the one broken, so it's- I feel silly asking."
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"Here. Sit," Abbie says, guiding her to a low couch. Sitting next to the girl, she takes one if her hands in her own. "Tell me everything, dearheart. Why Yondalla and not Lirr? What is it you want to ask her for - is it just a baby, then? Or something more? And why do you say you're broken?" Reaching over, she strokes the girl's hair with a tender touch. "Start from the beginning, and you let me decide what's impossible or stupid or silly, hmm?"
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She blinks back fresh tears when Abbie touches her hair, unaccustomed to such gentleness. "Um. Oh. Um. Well, I'm." She takes a deep breath and the words begin to spill out, almost too fast to understand. "Treygis and I married, um, three years ago? And I know-- I do know I'm lucky to have him. My parents picked him out for me. I didn't really feel ready but I was wrong and they were right and I'm grateful they guide me so good. 'Well', I mean. Guide me so well. But we- I've always wanted a baby of my own and Treygis does too, so that's-- see what I mean? I'm lucky we match so well. But I can't seem to- I don't like--"

Her cheeks burn and she looks down at her hands. "I know it's stupid, but I don't like... going to bed w-with Treygis. It feels all wrong and I- I keep trying but it keeps getting harder and harder, like it's- it's not getting better, it's getting worse. And he's very patient with me--I told you I was lucky--but it's... you can't make a baby if you don't go to bed. O-obviously. I'm not that stupid. So I... I guess I was asking Yondalla if she could... just... give me the baby without having to let Treygis--" Her color deepens. "Or just... if she could make it so that I like him to do those things."

Sighing, she shakes her head. "You can't really ask Lirr questions like that! Lirr is- she helps me paint. But Father says my pictures are a childish indulgence and Treygis would rather I didn't spent the money on trivial things. So I... don't get to see her much since I got married. But Lirr understands me better, I think, than- than they do," she whispers. "But that's okay. I'm really lucky. I really am. Father couldn't have been a better father. The best." Hands trembling, she slows and takes another sip of water.
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Abbie sighs in sympathy, listening. "Tell me about Lirr," she requests, voice gentle. "And your painting. What do you like to paint?"
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"The- the sea," she admits, intensely shy. "Father says once you've seen one painting of the sea, you've seen them all. But it's... there's so much variety! The way the light dances, the way the waves foam, the-- It changes! Every time. You never see the same sea twice. And it's so strong, you know? It carries people and all our things and sometimes it's-- do you ever think--"

She frets at her hands, frustrated and quiet. "Treygis says if I like the sea so much I should worship Osprem," she says with a nervous laugh. "But it's- Lirr is more- Osprem is so- When you look at her statues, she's so pretty. Lirr is more like me, I think. Well, a little like me," she amends, blushing. "I know she's not orcish. But she's- even though she's a goddess, people say she's- they say she can be anything she wants. Girl or boy or anything. Osprem doesn't do that. None of the other goddesses do. So that's why Lirr is the best," she finishes happily.

"Um! But Yondalla is real good too," she adds in a quick rush.
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Abbie nods; if the praise of another goddess bothers her she doesn't show it. "Would you like to be like that? Being girl or boy or anything you want to be?"
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Her eyes fly wide at the question and she shakes her head. "N-no, I know I can't ask for that," she explains. "Father and Treygis have- have said so. Firmly. And Mother cried. So I... I do know. I'm not that stupid," she repeats. Then she sighs. "Anyway. I know boys can't have babies and I do want a baby, so. It's just as well that they say I can't. You see how lucky I am? If I just went and- I wouldn't be able to have the things I want. So it's good to have guidance."
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Abbie nods slowly, frowning, and files this away. "How does Treygis feel about your painting? You mentioned money trouble," she adds sympathetically. "Could the clerics of Lirr help you find someone who'd want to buy the paintings? Might not bring in a lot of money, but surely at least enough to cover the painting supplies themselves. Would it make him happy, then, that you could do something you enjoy without spending money you can't afford?"
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"Oh! I've sold some," she explains happily, brightening. "One of Father's friends bought the purple lightning storm, and a lady at the market talked me into selling the dawn sunlight on the water. She said she could put me in touch with a merchant, even!"

She looks back down at her hands, quiet again. "Treygis says it's not... He comes from a- With his family, women don't work like that? They cook or take in children, they're not... artisans. Or, if they are, it's because their husbands taught them. Trey doesn't really know how to paint. I offered to teach him, but he... he didn't like that idea." Her last words are a soft whisper.
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She nods slowly. Then, very softly, she asks, "But you want to have a baby with him?"
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Ellwythorn opens her mouth and then closes it. "...I want to have babies," she says quietly, not meeting her eyes. "And he's my husband."
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Abbie's eyes soften further. "Oh, child. I understand." Leaning in, she kisses Ellwythorn on the forehead.

Then, changing the subject, she says, "But. Before we go any farther. You were out there all day, dearheart; you must be famished. Have you eaten at all?"
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He frowns slightly as his stomach rubbles. Perhaps he should head to the kitchen, this is taking a while. He steps back from the door and spins on his heel as he heads toward the scent of fresh baked bread.

He returns a few minutes later with a tray. Not the generous piles of meat and baked goods that usually call to him, but there was a fresh fish pie and some sort of delicate green vegetable concoction he had never seen before but smelled so good the cook frowned at the loud rumbling his belly made.

His large fist knocks delicately on the door.
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"I- I could eat, ma'am, yes, please," she says, eagerness creeping into her voice at the mention of food.

When the door opens, however, she starts to her feet with a little yelp. Eyes on the figure in the doorway, she backs a step away in real terror, one hand reaching up to clasp superstitiously around a little stone pendant dangling from her neck. "Please, I- I didn't do anything."
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Abbie is on her feet in a moment, placing herself between the girl and the door. Alarm flashes in her face, but her voice is soothing. "Father Rik, how kind! Ellwythorn, this is Father Rik Templeborn, one of our paladins. He would never hurt you, child. May we welcome him in?"
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Her eyes flick from the paladin to Abbie, then back again in a repeated loop as she tries to steady her breathing. "I don't... He... He works here?" This seems to astonish her. "My... my husband didn't send you for me?"
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