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

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He considers the questions one at a time, "I don't believe so. She didn't mention him at all. Oh most definitely. She was hooded and cloaked when we were playing in the gardens so I don't think anyone saw her directly. She has been here since yesterday afternoon. And yes, of course I know that people sleep together for other reason than creating a baby, but they don't sleep with ME for other reasons." He laughs softly at the absurdity of the question.
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Her eyes grow wide at his answers, but at the last one she sighs fondly, deflating somewhat. "No, hon, but they... they may want to," she explains gently. "Especially someone who's been mistreated and then finds herself in the arms of a handsome man who's kind to her."
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He grunts softly and shakes his head, "I did nothing but speak truth and let her be kind to herself when she was ready. She will be able to stand on her own two feet. She does not need me, and one as lovely as her will have plenty of handsome men to chose to welcome into the family she is creating."

He gazes over the back of the couch at her sleeping form. Not many half-orcs call upon his gift. He has prayed with women of all shapes and sizes and enjoyed the unique form of each. He would never claim to have a preference, and he doesn't truly, but there was something about her form that called to him. The variations in the green of her skin, like sunlight filtering through seaweed. The fire reflecting off her almost metallic curls. The sounds she made growling into his mouth as Yondalla blessed them, her, through him. He shakes his head a bit and coughs, turning his gaze away from the form, but not facing the cleric again just yet. Allowing his blood to cool a bit first.
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"It's not that simple," she sighs, then shakes her head. "Well. Right now the important thing is keeping her safe." Followed closely by keeping us safe. "Let's go ahead and wake her, then; we can save the rest of the conversations until she's hidden."
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He walks over to the side of the couch. Kneeling beside her he quickly locates his laces and secures his trousers. Gently he touches her shoulder to wake her.

"Mother... mother... it is time to wake up.. The cleric is here to spirit you away to safety..."
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Ellwythorn stirs in her sleep, smiling softly at his touch.

Then her consciousness is pierced and she wakes. She sits bolt upright on the couch, blinking in a blind panic like a cornered animal; she pants as hard as a runner. A soft mewling sound escapes her throat as she looks around the dark room with unseeing eyes and fails to understand where she is and from whence the waiting pain will strike. In the light of the dying embers of the fire, and with her makeup smudged away in passion, the bruised skin around her eye where she was struck recently is an ugly purple against her green skin.

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[OOC: Reaction and response order --> Rik --> Abbie --> Ellwythorn --> repeat.]
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"shhh, you are safe, shhh" He speaks soft and low. "all is well Mother, I will allow no one to hurt you here."
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"You're still at Yondalla's temple, child." Abbie moves to sit next to her, on the other side from Father Rik. "He's not here. There's no one here who will hurt you."
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She blinks rapidly, reaching up to rub sleep from her eyes until her vision clears. "Miss Abbie?" She smiles shyly, pleased to see her again but faintly confused how she has come to be here in this room with her.

Then she sees Rik. The tension she's holding in her shoulders and arms flows instantly from her limbs and she smiles up at him, warm and radiant and happy. "Rik? Father?" The appellation is soft, with a sense that a word which once held so much pain and fear for her has now, through some magic she doesn't fully understand, been transformed into one of safety and security and love. Gently, she reaches up to take his hand and presses her cheek to his palm.

"I'm sorry," she whispers, her eyes contentedly closed and her smile softly bashful. "I didn't know where I was at first. Of course I'm safe here with you. I won't run away, I promise. I love you, Father."
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He pauses, letting the initial turmoil those words stir up settle. He gazes at her bare face.

"A father and mother can love eachother. It is good for the child they create. It is not the same as the love between a husband and wife though. I am Father and yes, now you are Mother."

He pauses and rests his large hand on her belly. His fingers spread wide letting in that coolness striped burst of warmth.

"Yondalla has blessed you. She has allowed me to deliver her blessing and I am so grateful for that. "

He looks over her shoulder at the cleric. " She does make a good point though. Why should she run away? She would be safe here with me. "
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Abbie sighs, rubbing her temples, and turns her attention to Ellwythorn. "Child. Is it true you've left your husband's home? Permanently?" Assuming she nods, she continues. "It is perfectly legal for you to do so. It would be illegal for your father or your husband to stop you, bring you back against your will, or harm you or those who helped you in retribution."

She waits a beat, then sighs. "Putting those marks on your face was also illegal. Speaking of, here, let me take care of those." As her hands glow with the faint light of healing, she looks at Father Rik. "That's why she can't stay here, at least not for right now. These are bad men who are used to getting their way, and they have money. That makes them dangerous. You can't protect her constantly; you have other duties, and if nothing else, you need to sleep." She sighs. "They could buy the loyalty of an authority figure, enough to put forward a claim that we're the ones holding her illegally. Even that we're magically controlling her. And if that fails? If we openly defy them, especially in a public way, what next? Does someone 'accidentally' knock over a lantern and burn down half the temple? Does one of those children you love to play with take a tumble and break their legs - or their neck? Because I guarantee there will be an attempt to intimidate us into backing away or guilt her into returning - or if nothing else, simply punish us for going against them."

The bruises having faded from Ellwythorn's face, Abbie reaches over and takes her hand. "That's why I've taken the liberty of arranging a safe place for you to stay, at least for a little while until something better can be worked out. If they can't find you and don't know who helped you, there's not much they can do. We can speak more once we're there - I suspect there's a lot we need to talk about - but we should go soon."
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Ellwythorn laces her fingers through Rik's and places a hand over his on her stomach, yearning to feel what he is so certain is there. Her smile is soft and easy, nodding at his words. "Yes. I love you, Father. Yes, I will be a mother for you. Yes." Plainly, nothing could make her happier than what he has said and offered.

Only when Abbie begins to speak does her expression falter and fall. Still holding Father Rik's hand tightly, she nevertheless nods, knowing Abbie is right. "I've put you in danger coming here," she whispers. "I'm so sorry. I... I didn't think. I will do whatever you think is right, Sister." She bites back tears, trembling now, but she can't deny the wishes of this kind woman who has healed her and now offers protection.

She looks back at Father Rik, unwilling or unable to release his hand. Then, miserably, she looks back at Sister Abbie, her expression like the guilty before the scales of judgment. "If... if he comes with me, he'll be in danger too," she whispers, studying Abbie's face with tears welling in her eyes. "Won't he?"
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She softens. "No, not necessarily. Not if we're quiet about it. Remember, the point is for people to not know where you are; if we accomplish that, it should keep other people out of danger too."
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Hope, young and fragile as a sapling, flares to life in her eyes and she looks back to Father Rik. "You'll come with us? To this safe place?"
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He blinks. Not quite sure he heard the cleric correctly. "You are saying I could go, be there to keep her safe and get to watch the goddess's blessing grow within her? Maybe even be there for the birth?" His eyes fill with tears and he does not understand why. He does not fight it though. He allows himself to look into those blue eyes without hesitation.
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She gives him an odd, almost motherly look. "If that's what you want. Of course. Is that what we're agreed on? Because if so it's time for me to do some things."
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Ellwythorn nods eagerly, happy tears in her own eyes, and throws her arms around Rik's neck. "Yes. Yes, please! Oh, I'm... I'm sorry, I'll dress. I will. I just." For a long moment, she holds him tightly, lost in this fleeting joy.
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He nods silently and breaks into a wide smile as she does the same. The tears come in ernest now and he cannot help himself. He is there, wrapping his arms around her, pulling her off the couch and into his embrace.
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Abbie looks nonplussed but nods. "Good. You... do that. Give me a moment."

Going to the door, she sticks her head out and beckons to someone unseen. A whispered conversation ensues; they might pick up the phrase "Plan Phantom-B." Then she comes back, carefully not sitting again on the couch where they embrace.

"We've got maybe a half-candlemark," she says bluntly. "When it's time, Father Rik, you and I will leave first. I need you, Ellwythorn, to count slowly to 1000 starting when the door closes behind us, then leave. Wear the same cape and hood, but don't bother too much about hiding your face." She pauses. "If you can contrive to look upset, as if you came here for help and we turned you away, so much the better. We can't chance that nobody knows you came here, but there'll be people in the yard who'll be able to swear under oath that they saw you leave."

She shakes her head. "Once you're out the gate, a cab pulled by a spotted grey horse and driven by a man with -" she pauses, remembering, "shaggy, greying hair, a droopy moustache, and a floppy hat will pull up. Get in with him. Understand?"
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---(fade to black)---

Early morning inside the unified temple grounds, a pretty half-orc woman emerges blinking in the sunlight from the temple of Yondalla. She wears the same clothes she wore the night before, and it shows; her dress bears the telltale crumples of a night spent on the floor, her face is without makeup, and her hair is love-tousled. Her eyes are red and she has been crying--and seems poised to do so again--and though she leaves in haste there is something furtive and shameful about her movements. She looks, even to the most charitable eye, like a woman leaving her lover's room after a night spent in arms which were not her husband's.

Outside the gated temple grounds, she calls for a cab and one pulls up; this early in the morning, the shutters on the little cab are still drawn tight against the morning glare. The young woman steps hesitantly into the darkness, her fears in her throat, then the door is closed behind her and Rik's warm arms steady her in the dim light. She sobs in relief and holds him tight, letting go of him only long enough to put on the new cloak and hood Abbie has waiting for her to change into.

The ride is long and rambling, and takes many side trips. Nobody talks much during it, wary of their voices being heard from the street. When--after quite some time--the cab driver drops them off at the temple compound gates, a voice that sounds much younger than the grey hair and mustache would indicate lets them off with a cheerful "Osprem's blessings!" Abbie and Rik emerge into the sunlight with a young man between them, his head down and his gentleman's cloak wrapped around him for warmth; at this time of day, the boy is probably ill and being taken to his favored patron for treatment.

They shuffle together into the temple of Sehanine, the cool darkness and soft white moonlight magically lighting her halls a welcome relief from the morning glare outside. An acolyte at the door guides them to the very back of the temple halls, past the sparse rooms for pilgrims and visiting petitioners and into a wing containing luxury rooms maintained and rented to special donors desirous of keeping a holy love-nest in the tradition of their free-loving goddess. Here an elderly priestess--a Tiefling woman with bright red skin and milky white eyes--awaits them and waves the acolyte fondly away, taking charge of the quiet trio.

She guides them to a quiet corner of the wing and down a narrow hallway which seems to be a dead end until a twist obscured in shadows lets them into a richly furnished room at least thrice the size of a cleric's quarters in the temple of Yondalla. The room is not the normal fare offered to Sehanine's poor pilgrims, nor is it even the quiet luxury of the love-nest rooms; if Rik or Abbie were to guess, this particular suite is the cream of the crop to be reserved for visiting princely dignitaries or high priestesses from other cities.

These rooms are not, notably, anything like what Abbie had been led to expect when she asked for and was promised a room for the girl, and while the Sehanine high priestess was understandably sympathetic to the girl's plight, this largesse goes far beyond the bounds of normal decency. For reasons yet unknown, Ellwythorn is being treated like a foreign princess rather than a runaway.

Ellwythorn steps into the luxurious surroundings with a little gasp, letting down her cloak and looking around with wide eyes; her hands run over the satin bed covers and she stares with wide-eyed wonder at the black marble bath dominating the attached necessary room. The elderly priestess watches the girl explore with an amused smile as another Tiefling cleric--this one a girl barely Ellwythorn's age, with mauve skin and wry lips--joins them and closes the door behind her. "Nobody followed them in, Mother Reverence," she reports, looking smug.

"Thank you, Freed," the priestess says, patting the girl on her hand. Then she looks at Abbie and Rik, her white eyes dancing with amusement. "We so rarely get to host Yondalla's children."

 

---
[OOC: Let's go Abbie --> Rik --> DM, since Abbie can introduce everyone.]
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"You've gone above and beyond," Abbie says in a steady voice. "We're very grateful. Everyone, this is Mother Reverence of the Temple of Sehanine, and her daughter, Sister Freed. Reverence, this is Ellwythorn, the one I told you about. And this is Father Rik, one of our paladins." She pauses. "He may be staying too. I thought I would have to apologize for taking up even more of your space," she continues, a hint of dryness creeping into her tone, "but after seeing this largesse I think even a man of his size will fit with no difficulty."
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As they travel farther from temple there is a slowly rising tension in the paladin. Muscles that were loose, eyes that were relaxed, now tense and wary. As they enter the temple grounds and move to the room he stands close to the mother. His eyes shifting, assessing. Entering the lavish room he frowns. He takes a few strides to be able to glance in the necessary room, even down into the large tub. He checks closets, behind curtains, with a thin courtesy veneer of admiring the furnishings.

"This room is too much. What does your capricious goddess wish to gain from us? Or does she just delight in fooling the husband who so mocks the bonds of love?"

Having taken stock of the room and finding no threat imminent he moves over to a small couch, more if a loveseat really, and picks it up. He turns with it in his arms, careful to avoid the mother, and places it down by the entry door.

"I shall sleep here. I would ask that you block off any access to viewing holes into this room, can we agree to that for the sake of all involved?"
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Freed's lips do not lose their wry laughing twist--indeed, the young woman's face seems divinely formed to express mockery of her audience--but her eyes fly wide with outrage as Rik barges about with the expensive loveseat in his arms. Whirling in place, she looks to the high priestess with righteous horror etched on her young face, fully expecting a firm rebuke for this ungentlemanly behavior.

Mother Reverence watches all this quietly, then a low rumbling laugh gathers in her belly and throat. "Oh my. Oh bless my bones. You may belong to Yondalla, my boy, but if I were a few decades younger I'd relish the opportunity to show you other options." Smirking, she looks back at Abbie to answer her previous remark. "And, yes, Sehanine and her children are capable of accommodating men of any size."

Still chuckling, she reclines like a queen on the loveseat as though Rik procured the seat for her comfort alone. "If there were any viewing holes into this room, yes, they have been blocked up," she agrees with a wave of her hand. "What I want from you will be given freely, and you are safe." Her opalescent eyes take in Ellwythorn's appearance and the way Rik hovers about the girl. "You may even find somewhere more pleasant to sleep than a couch half your size, young paladin. Come here, sweetheart," she adds, beckoning gently to Ellwythorn.

The girl steps shyly to the high priestess and allows herself to be drawn to a seat on the couch beside her. Ignoring the others for a moment, Mother Reverence fusses in a motherly way over the girl, straightening her hair and checking over for any bruises Abbie might have missed. "Now I don't want you to be afraid," she says. "You are safe here. I know who you are and you may believe me when I say you are our honored guest. Sister Silvergrass tells me you are seeking freedom and a child for your own, hmm? We have some very fine male clerics among Sehanine's children but between you and I, dear, there is a paladin of Nerull who I think would be a very fine match for you. No?" Her eyes glitter as Ellwythorn shakes her head shyly, and a hand contrives to brush against the girl's stomach. "I see. How clever of you, dear. How interesting you are. I expected no less. Freed, please tell Sister Silvergrass and the... Father who our guest is."

Freed, who has recovered from the disappointment of not seeing Rik thoroughly tongue-lashed for his crimes against decorum, puffs slightly in place. "This is Ellwythorn Redfang, formerly Ellwythorn Xiloscient, daughter of Councilman Immeral Xiloscient and wife of Betreygis Redfang." The words in her mouth clearly mean a great deal; the same words in the ears of the Yondallan clerics mean almost nothing.
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Abbie nods. "'Councilman' doesn't surprise me; we knew her family had power. I'm afraid the names don't mean as much to me as you seem to think they should, though. Would you be so kind as to enlighten me?"

Then she turns unreadable eyes to Ellwythorn. "And she's not wrong," she says quietly. "You're free now. If you want romance and love, you have many options. You may well decide to explore them."
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His eye bulge a bit and he chokes out the words, "NERULL! They must be using a very different definition of paladin there. When I was a child paladins served deities of hope and life and goodness. You are setting the bar rather low dont you think?"

He turns to Mother, leaning down to where she sits and placing his large hands a bit heavily on each of her shoulders.

"It is perfectly natural for a Mother to want a husband not just a Father for her child. You should have that joy. It is good for a child to see. But please tell me you will ask more of them than that they be a paladin?"
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