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

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[TW: Difficult Birth]

The months fly swiftly by, the moonglow lighting Sehanine's temple walls waxing and waning to mark the days. Thorn's stomach balloons outward as pregnant stomachs are wont to do. He keeps his curly hair short to his shoulders and lets Sister Freed and Mother Reverence call him 'him'; the pronoun still isn't quite right, but it's closer. Less wrong, somehow. Father Rik is the only one he never corrects, never changes; any pronoun at all in Father Rik's mouth is love, as far as Thorn is concerned. Better that than silence.

Reverence checks on the boy daily, going over him with curative magic each time and declaring Thorn healthy as a horse and the baby doubly so. Abbie visits when she can, but those visits become fewer in number; Redfangs have come around Yondalla's temple again asking more questions about Ellwythorn's disappearance. No one is harmed, but a lit candle was knocked over in a vestment closet, ruining several clerical gowns. A warning? Abbie isn't sure, but it doesn't feel like benign coincidence.

When Abbie receives a secret token pressed into her hand by a grubby tiefling child, she has to count her dates in surprise. Then she's pulling on her cloak and rushing for the temple door; it's too early. She's certain the baby needed to stay in there longer. Was it stress? an attack? a quarrel with Rik? Do those fools at Sehanine's temple just not know how to keep a baby inside its mother the appropriate length of time?

Rik is already there when she arrives, steadying Thorn as he walks about the room. They're using a stool for the birth, which Abbie at least approves of; better to let gravity do the work than to make the mother hurt himself pushing. A tiefling girl she only vaguely recognizes is boiling water in the enormous bathtub with arcane magic from her fingertips, while Reverence cleanses the water with divine blessing and dips towels in to soak. Abbie doesn't want to look at how much blood is on the already-used towels, but she does anyway because she was a soldier and that part of her mind won't turn off no matter how hard she tries.

Yondalla, how is this happening? They did everything they were supposed to do.

A part of her mind files away the presence of a young man waiting by the door in full armor and the signets and colors of Nerull. He watches everyone with quietly worried eyes--and Thorn doubly so--but does not interfere. Abbie wonders if Reverence placed him there to keep the young man safe from his family. Irony, if what ends up killing the boy isn't his husband or his father but the baby a goddess placed inside him.

They work until the candlemarks burn into the night. Reverence pours healing magic into the boy, but carefully. Dribbling divine healing into someone during a labor is delicate work when that body is trying to expel another body from inside it. Rik is vexed and frustrated when he's told his own healing abilities cannot be used, and could in fact harm the child and its mother. Only Abbie is able to calm him down enough to listen to Mother Reverence--and then only because Abbie knows she's right. Thorn sits in the birthing stool and tries, and bleeds, and tries some more, until he's too exhausted to even cry out.

When it seems as though they might have to make a decision even Abbie can't bear to contemplate, something seems to snap into position. One moment Thorn is panting shallow breaths, then in the next Reverence gasps and her hands move to draw the little bundle out of its mother. It comes gasping and screaming with indignation; tiny, so very tiny, but with strong lungs full of air and outrage.

"A boy," Reverence tells them, rinsing the child with warm water and quickly checking it over for imperfections. There are none. It has the beautiful deep green coloring of its father and his dark hair. From his mother, he has taken his deep sea-blue eyes and the little upturned elvish sweep of his ears. On his ankle, just above his heel, is a little brown birthmark that threatens to bring tears to Rik's eyes: a silhouette of a cornucopia horn. Yondalla's symbol. The same birthmark that led his parents to leave him at the temple instead of at the orphanage. Her mark of favor.

The little boy stares him full in the face with unfocused baby eyes, fussing at the air which is not to his liking; he quite plainly preferred the womb to this place. Abbie turns back to Thorn and feels a cold splinter spear her heart as she realizes the boy is still straining to push in an effort that seems likely to kill him. Reverence looks up at Abbie from her place beside him with tired eyes, the whites in her opals no longer dancing. "The second one is coming. Give me a hand; he can barely sit up."
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"The second -" Questions can wait; Abbie moves back into position, feeling gently at the still-swollen belly and thanking the goddess for her halfling-small hands in case someone needs to make adjustments inside the boy. "You!" She barks the word, looking over at the tiefling boiling water. "Quit doing that. Sterilize those tools." She nods toward a set of gleaming metal implements - including a scalpel. "If this goes south we'll want to be prepared."
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The baby is so small it doesn't even reach halfway up his forearm. Staring into those familiar sea blue eyes his visions blurs for a moment. Just as quickly he is yanked back into the reality of the situation. Cries of pain, half shouted orders, the insistent hand groping out for his. With one hesitant hand he lays ...his son... against his chest where his shirt has fallen open. Pressed safely against the symbol of his goddess Rik takes Thorn's hand in his other and closes his eyes in silent prayer.
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[TW: Difficult Birth]

Reverence catches Abbie's eye when she calls for the tools to be sterilized and nods, looking grim. "You know how to make the cuts? Here and here? We'll have to heal him up fast after. He's fading. You make-- No, you have the small hands," she reverses herself, seeing what Abbie already knows. "I'll make the cuts and you reach in."

Everything happens in a quick whirlwind. Reverence and Abbie infuse Thorn with as many blessings as they dare pause to make, then Reverence cuts with the scalpel. Blood flows as Abbie draws the baby out, then both halfling and baby are free from the mother and Reverence is slamming healing magic into Thorn, who has all but passed out from the pain. His wounds heal instantly, closing up under Reverence's powerful hands, and he breaths the first sigh of relief in what feels like eternity.

Abbie turns the little baby over in her hands, terrified by how still and silent it is.
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She instinctively calls on the power of her goddess to heal the little one - and feels, instead, only a gentle sorrow and the sudden crushing reminder that all her own healing magic was used making sure Thorn was well enough to survive being cut.

She stands and whirls then, holding bloodied arms out to the new father. "Rik. Now. Take her." She thrusts the tiny, still infant towards him, reaching out to take her brother instead.
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He does not see the scene unfolding before him. His vision beneath his eye lids is light and warmth, the urgency of love when it is new and oh so fragile. He is too big. He senses the heart beats of his family. His own like a large deep red throb in his chest surrounded by the gold of Yondalla's love. Pressed close there the tiny pink thrum of his son. And below, spirited and vibrant, racing on waves, seeming to get farther and farther away, his Thorn. Even as he drops to his knees, trying to keep her close a new tapping joins the familial rhythm. So soft, like a fingertip on a pain of glass.

Take her

The voice drifts on a breeze he can't feel, but the tapping grows closer. His hand clasping mother's rises to his chest as tapping and thum press into his heart. At first the gold keeps them out. Panic rises within him. Something is wrong. Mother come back! The tapping seems to fade, tip toeing away.

Yondalla help me!

But I already have my child.

The whisper is a faint reminder. The gold surrounding his heart does not melt, but swells, a mist expanding from him, reaching out, encompasing the thrumming bird, the window tapping, the snap of a sail. His family. Each beat and color now held in that golden glowing fog. Slowly they come back toward him, louder stronger.

Finally when they are joined again in a beating joyous dance, he opens his eyes.
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Healing. Renewal. Life.

The little girl draws in a tiny breath, almost like a hiccup, and then wails her severe displeasure at everyone in the room for several long heartbeats before pausing to look and see whether anything has changed to meet her many reasonable demands.

She has her mother's coloring about her; the softer pale green of Thorn's skin, the splash of brown freckles across her nose, the copper wiry hair that sticks in tiny ringlets to her damp baby head. She has the same sweeping elven tipped ears as her older brother, and the upturned boop of a nose that her mother has had all his life.

But when she opens her eyes, the one green eye and one brown eye that looks back at them all with unfocused curiosity bears no resemblance to Thorn's blue or Rik's grey. In fact, Abbie realizes with a sinking feeling that settles into the weariness of her bones, she has seen that odd mismatched combination of eyes recently: the last time Betreygis Redfang came to interrogate her at the temple of Yondalla.

The little girl squirms in Rik's arms and that is when they notice a birthmark on her ankle as well. On the opposite leg to her brother's, the silhouette of a mask: one side in dark brown and the other in a splash of pale green so light it looks white against the surrounding skin. Olidammara, the trickster god, and his two-faced mask.

Reverence, for her part, notes these details with an unsurprised expression. She turns away from the babies to help their mother into bed; Thorn limps obediently along beside her, too weary to disobey, even in his healed state. Only when he is under the covers does he reach for his children, his expression confused and faintly alarmed. "Twins? But how did... when did we make twins?"

Mother Reverence sinks into a chair and closes her eyes for a moment, gathering herself. "Well," she finally asks, her voice bright only through sheer force of will. "Who's going to sign the fathership papers?"
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Father Rik climbs into the bed with Thorn and the twins and pulls them all close in his arms.

"Is this ok? It doesn't hurt? I am not squishing you? Or them?"

For the first time perhaps ever in their 9 month relationship, Father Rik worries about her strength. About the city around them accepting these two beautiful babies. Two. Yondalla didn't warn him. Did she know... The hand of another god or goddess perhaps. They are his now. Thorn and his to raise into the better people than they are.
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Abbie wipes her forehead, ignoring the streak of blood this leaves, and sinks into her own chair. The mage girl from earlier scurries about, pouring everyone a celebratory drink; Abbie accepts hers with limp fingers. "Rik," she calls, her voice hoarse. "Fathership papers. You need to sign them if you want to give these babies your name."
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Thorn smiles at his concern, tired after a long day. "Not at all. No squish. Here, I think... I think this one goes here and this one-- ouch! Okay, that's. I guess that's how it goes." He holds the babies to his breasts to feed, wincing whenever one or the other gets too enthusiastic.

The paladin by the door clears his throat quietly. "There is another option," he points out in a calm whispery voice to Abbie's statement.
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"I will sign them if Mother Thorn wishes it so still. Shall we raise these two together?"

His hand brushes back a sweat damp curl and strokes her hair. Not even a presumptuous paladin of Nerull can dampen his joy.
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Thorn looks up, face alight at the offer.

Still, he hesitates, looking back down at the babies for just a moment. "Rik, are you sure you want to..." He swallows, looking between them all in search of answers. "It's... We weren't expecting twins, were we?" Abbie receives a plaintive look as the closest Yondallan expert least likely to try to spare his feelings.
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"Yondalla's blessings are as many as they are varied. Anyone would be lucky to raise these two bundles with you. That foolish twig of a 'paladin' by the door for instance." He winks conspiratorially at Thorn and then sobers.

"I fear that your free spirit will grow bored of me and fall for someone ready and willing to jump into the sea with you. I may never be that orc, but I also will never hold you back from finding that someone if it is not me. Together we can teach these two so much about so many things. She may become a sword fighter and he an artist. Regardless, will you find out with me?"
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He still frowns at the little girl in his arms, not liking where his suspicions lead, but at Rik's words he looks up and softens.

"Rik. I don't want anyone but you," he says, smiling wistfully. "I keep telling you that and you keep not believing me. I know there's a big world outside that door, and I know I'm cooped up in here and sheltered, but."

Leaning forward, he gives Rik a gentle flick on the nose. "Trust me to at least know when I'm in love?" he whispers softly. "And if you wanted to give your name to these babies I worked real hard on, I couldn't be happier," he adds with a shy grin.
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"Yes Mother" he replies in such a tone to get a glare from just about every one in the room. He laughs whole heartedly and looks over to Reverance.

"Would someone be kind enough to bring me the papers so I need not leave my family to get cold and lonely in this most lavish of beds?"
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Abbie touches a finger to her nose, glances at Reverence, and laconically states, "Not it."
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Reverence looks unsurprised in the least by this development, her white eyes regaining some of their old dance. Bringing the papers over to Rik with a pen and acting as witness, she explains.

"Young man, this is not a marriage certificate, nor a statement of intentions towards Thorn. You two get to work that out on your own, between yourselves and the law. What this is is a statement that these babies Thorn has made here today were fathered by you, or conceived with your material aid. Thorn will sign in agreement here below your name, and at that point you are the father of these two babies in the eyes of the law. Thorn will be able to give them your name in honor of that relationship, and if anything should happen to Thorn, the law would likely consider you an appropriate guardian for the children."

She gives him a dry look. "As this is a statement of historical fact rather than an agreement of future relationship, there is no changing your mind on this. If you were these children's father eight months ago when you took Thorn to bed, you will be their father henceforth in the eyes of the law." Ignoring Thorn's blush, Reverence offers the pen to Rik.
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"Thank you for being thorough and professional in performing your duties mother cleric. I am the one that gave life to these babies with Yondalla's blessing. I sign freely. "
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Reverence watches him sign, then watches Thorn sign. She moves to sign as witness... then stops.

She looks around the room, her eyes falling first on Abbie and then on the tired mage girl enjoying her liquor quietly in a corner. Rejecting them both quickly with her white eyes. Then she sees the paladin who still waits politely at the door. "Yes. Yes, you'll do well for this. Come here, boy."

The young man steps forward and takes the scroll, signing as witness with a delicate flourish before returning pen and paper both to Reverence. She rolls up the scroll and tucks it in a carrying case before handing it over to the paladin. "To the temple of Nerull, and have your high priest direct it to the city hall birth records as usual. If anyone asks, Sister Ardent delivered them in a house in the Westside and you were there as her bodyguard."

He nods, bows, and turns to bow to Thorn, rattling off something in elvish which causes the tips of the young mother's eyes to pink. Then he strides from the room, and Reverence allows herself to collapse into a chair next to Abbie. "Well, children. Sehanine's temple is safe for another night. Tomorrow I'll get my niece looking for a proper home for you four. Would've had one narrowed down already but those babies came far too early for my tastes."
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[Thread Close. You get 100 XP for your backstory.]
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