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

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Abbie exchanges a long look with Father Rik, choosing to let him handle this one.
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His gentle smile can't hide his tusks, but as he kneels with practiced fluidity just outside the doorway he offers the tray to the cleric and petitioner.

"Yondalla bade me bring nourishment. A mother to be must maintain her strength. I need not enter though if that is what you want. "
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The kneel astonishes her even more and she shakes her head, instantly shy. "N-no! Please don't, uh, feel like you have to go away. I'm sorry. Oh gods, I'm so sorry, really. I just. You're orcish and I assumed..." Her cheeks burn, a warm red under her own pale green. "I really am sorry. Um, it's... very nice to meet you, sir. Paladin. Sir Paladin."
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He carefully sets the tray on the floor, only making a bit of a rattle.

"I will go of course, but I was hoping you might do me one small favor first? Do you know what this green stuff is? My stomach is quite curious about it I must say. Oh and please, everyone just calls me Father. "

His smile is unphased and he looks at her curiously.
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Her body language is still faintly and probably unconsciously defensive, curling her shoulders in towards her core in expectation of a blow. But his smile is soft and she knows the answer to his question; smiling shyly, she looks at the tray and back at him again. "The vegetable? That's sparrow grass, sir. It's- Gosh, it's real good, but you don't see it much in Brilight. Hardly any of the local farmers grow it. A shipment must've come in or something." She sniffs the air, her expression wistful. "I haven't had any for years. Father didn't-- I mean, my father-- Immeral says it's a peasant dish. Sir. Father."

History = 15:
Immeral is an elven name and not an unusual one. However, the mention of the name may spark a memory: there is an Immeral Xiloscient on the Brilight council of elders who has an orcish daughter in his family. The man is a Wood Elf of considerable dignity, respect, and political power. His wife is also a Wood Elf.
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"Well, we're certainly glad we could provide it for you then," Abbie says warmly. "Actually, Father, could you join us? Ellwythorn here has been telling me her reasons for petitioning, and I was hoping to go over some of Yondalla's teachings."

Joining her on the couch again, Abbie takes a deep breath before looking at the girl. "Yondalla teaches the importance of family," she begins slowly. "Families require work, and they require compromises. A good family, a solid family, must have love and respect and support. You understand?"

She raises a hand. "But. The responsibility to provide these things falls on all parties. Parents as well as children. Husbands as well as wives. Furthermore, when one person has power over another, the burden of that responsibility lies more heavily on them. A healthy family requires both mother and child to respect and love each other, for example, but a mother will not die if her young child doesn't love or respect her. Tragically, the opposite is not always true." She leans forward. "Therefore, a mother is required to love and respect her small children even if they do not return it. But children are not obligated to love or respect a mother who does not show them the same. Does that make sense?"

She folds her hands in her lap and looks at Ellwythorn with serious eyes. "My point is that a strong family should make all its members happy. With that in mind... I have a few questions." She takes a deep breath. "First. You said that you do not enjoy bedding your husband, but endure it for a child. Tell me truthfully, dear: if you bear a child for him, will that mean you no longer have to? Whether he swears to abstain, or takes a mistress or second wife, or visits courtesans or whatever you would be comfortable with... could you be a family and make a home together and raise a child in love and respect and support if he never touched you again?"
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Father Rik does not move at the cleric's invitation. His face is relaxed, calm, undemanding. He feels no need to reposition his loose arms or shift his hips on his heels. His body is at peace waiting. His eyes slowly move to meet hers as the cleric speaks. Gently, gently, like reaching out to a skittish doe does he ease his gaze into hers. Not reacting when she flinches away, patient for her to return, waiting for her to be able to meet his eyes and allow him in. No urgency in him, no pressure. Faith in his goddess to guide them both to what is meant to be.
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Ellwythorn is nodding fiercely along with much of this, until the end when she stumbles to a puzzled halt. "I... I... Families. Love and respect and obedience, ma'am, yes. I was raised up right, to respect my mother and father and husband and his mother and father and family. How to make a good home. I-I think I'd be a good mother, ma'am. I want to be a good mother. To have a little one to love and protect and take care of."

She hesitates then, unsure and shy. "I don't... I don't mind my husband having, uh. If he... I already told him the same, that he could have a second wife if he wanted. He says I'm a sweet girl to offer and that maybe he would." Looking down at her lap, she fusses with her hands. "But I don't... I don't think he'd ever not want to b-bed me. He's being patient right now because we're still almost-strangers, but he..." She's quiet for a long moment. "He'd be a good father, though," she says, and on this at least she seems convinced. "He loves children. So that's. That's alright. I just need to... I just need to stop being broken."

Nodding, she looks up again with fresh determination, able to meet both Rik and Abbie's gazes for at least this fleeting moment. "Yes. That's... I have two wishes, please. A baby, that's the big one, please. And... and... and if I could stop being broken, please. That's two," she explains, though she seems far less sure about wanting the second wish.
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Abbie glances at Father Rik again and nods - not in agreement, but in understanding. "We'll talk about that second one," she promises. "But my second question is: say you have a child, with our help or without it. Say it's a daughter. ...And say she loves painting." She leans in. "Or music. Or writing. Or woodworking, or business, or totaling sums, or arguing law. Will your husband give this hypothetical daughter love and respect even if she wants to do something he doesn't want her to do? Will he support her in doing what brings her joy?"
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Ellwythorn struggles with this one, opening and closing her mouth several times before looking defeated. "Treygis would love my daughter. He loves his sister's daughters! But he... they don't..." She looks down at hands, her expression miserable. "They're very traditional. Like my parents. That's why Father picked him for me, so that I would be... comfortable with someone who can guide me. I don't think they'd let me... raise her like that." She sighs. "But thank you. I'm... I'm sorry I wasted your time, ma'am."
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Abbie covers the girl's hand with one of her own. "Third question," she says, as if Ellwythorn hadn't said the last bit. "Child, why were you so afraid when you saw Father Rik?"
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She looks up blinking, then gives them both a bashful smile. "Treygis' family is real big, ma'am. I haven't met all the cousins yet, so I thought Father Rik was one of them. And he knows I'm here praying and he said I could, but I didn't mean to stay here all day, it just sort of happened." Whether this answers Abbie's actual question or not, this is given freely and without guile.
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"But you were afraid," she presses, gentle but firm. "Why would you be afraid of your husband's cousin?"

Reaching out, she touches the girl's face. "It's safe to answer," she says quietly. "It won't leave this room, and we won't think less of you."
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She frowns, shifting in her seat a little as she struggles for an answer. Finally, uncertainly, she reaches down to the end of her long sleeve and rolls up the thick material several inches. Heavy bruises--a thumb and four fingers--are marked into the pale green skin of her wrist.

She holds this out tentatively to Abbie and Rik, unsure if this is the right answer to a question which seems so obvious that the very asking feels like a trap or a test; a riddle she's meant to solve with cleverness rather than the bald unveiling of banal fact.
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"Child," she says gently, sorrow in her voice. "May I give you a hug?"
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Shyly, she nods.
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At the sight of the bruises fire flickers Rik's eyes but he smothers it quickly and concentrates to keep his breathing level.
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Leaning forward, she wraps her arms around the girl and strokes her hair.

"Listen to me," she says in a low voice. "You are not broken. Not wanting to have sex with a man you didn't choose for yourself doesn't make you broken. Not wanting to have sex with any man doesn't make you broken. Not wanting to have sex with anyone at all doesn't make you broken. And not wanting to be a girl, or even not being sure if you want it or not, doesn't make you broken. Whether your family likes it or not, there is nothing wrong with being the way you are. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not broken."

She leans back then, but keeps her arms around Ellwythorn. "And. You want to have a happy, good family with a child of your own. We want that for you too. I want to help you get that. But." She sighs. "Families exist to help everyone be happy. Child, you are not happy. No one should fear that their family will hurt them. No one should feel that they can't say no to things they don't want, or that they're not allowed to do the things they do want, provided doing so doesn't hurt anyone." She shakes her head. "It wouldn't be good for a child. It isn't good for you. So." She leans forward. "How can we help you get from where you are now to where you and your potential child can be happy and healthy? To where you can have not just the love, but the respect and support you deserve?"
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She freezes, unable to breathe; perhaps ironically given her earlier reaction to him, she now looks to Father Rik as though he could save her from Abbie's direct gaze. "I can't leave," she whispers, a sudden note of ragged desperation in her voice. "Father would be hurt. There would be so much gossip. About Treygis, too. A good name is very important to keep."
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"More important than your child to be?" The words could have been harsh, but the question comes out more curious.
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"And more important than you being hurt?" Abbie tacks on, very softly.
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"My... my child would be loved," she insists, her voice soft. She drops her gaze, troubled. "And I'm not... I'm really not being hurt! Treygis is a good man, and I'm lucky to have him. It's not like he- he beats me or something. It's... Sometimes he's a little more rough than he means to be. And if I wasn't- if I didn't mess up so much, it wouldn't-" Her breathing comes faster now, like a trapped animal. "I should go. I'm sorry I wasted your time."
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"It's not something you have to decide tonight," she soothes. "We aren't going anywhere. And we won't turn you away, however you decide. This isn't an ultimatum, where you leave him or there's no baby." She shakes her head. "You're young. There's no reason to think you won't conceive if you keep trying, and the Nightdocks sell drugs that can dull your experience of the act itself - yes, I've been to the Nightdocks, don't look so shocked." She sighs. "I honestly don't think Yondalla will extend her blessing to help a baby to be born under the circumstances you describe, but she won't interfere with the natural way of things either, and we at the temple do provide guidance and counseling, as well as magics and other assistance to help a pregnancy and birth go well. You will always be welcome here."

Then she touches the girl's hand again. "But. I do want a happy and safe family for you and your child. Yondalla wants that too. And there's a long walk from 'not really all that bad' to 'happy.' Just something to think about."
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"My family left me here at the temple to be raised. No name, no history. I imagine sometimes a situation not unlike yours. Perhaps my mother came to realize while she carried me that it was better for me to have no family of my own than to be a part of theirs. I do not wish that on anyone else, mother or child. Family means many things more than a name. Please take some time. Think on this. Abbie I am sure can send you home with some herbal teas to help with conception and nerves. If your husband questions, tell him they took all day to prepare. If you feel you need us, do not deny Yondalla's call. Trust in her. If family is your true wish she will guide you to it. We are here to serve Her in this. "
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She watches them both with wide eyes, nodding when Rik offers that herbs be brought for her. Then she sits very quietly, trying to make herself small in her chair.
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