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

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Abbie nods with a resigned smile. "Wait here."

Returning a minute later, she offers Ellwythorn a small wooden box filled with looseleaf dried herbs. "One scoop to a pot," she demonstrates, "and let it steep for at least a quarter-candlemark. Have a pot in the morning and one before bed - the herbs won't make you sleepy, but they can help you feel more relaxed."

She stands aside then - not indicating that she should leave, but not blocking the way either. "If you need more, or if you need anything else, you know where we are. Ask for Abbie Silvergrass or Father Rik. And take care of yourself, dearheart."
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He stands smoothly and steps back out of the doorway. A smile softens his rough orcish features.

" I will have to inquire more about this green grass you mentioned. If it tastes as good as it smells I can't imagine it will last long."
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"It really is so good," she tells him shyly. "And... thank you. Both." She hugs the box gratefully to her chest--this tangible thing is something she can understand--and impulsively gives Abbie a kiss on the cheek. Father Rik receives a more sedate handshake, then she all but flees from the room.

A moment later, one of the apprentices knocks and sticks his head in. "Sister Silvergrass? The orc-woman who just left asked me to give you her temple donation; she said she forgot to leave it with you but needed to get home to make dinner. Evening, sister; evening, Father." He hands Abbie a tiny little cloth coin pouch and heads back out to continue his duties.

The pouch is light in her hands, probably containing no more than a half dozen coins. She may not even open it immediately; even the poorest pilgrims often strive to bring a copper or two. Yet when she does shake out the coins, five platinum pieces drop into her fingers. The equivalent of 50 gold coins--almost two months of an artisan's wages--dropped off thoughtlessly with a young man barely out of his own childhood and sent to Abbie in gratitude for the herbs and her time. The temple has received higher donations, but never from so unlikely a source.

---
[OOC: Ellwythorn has left the scene, but you two are welcome to talk about her and/or compare notes. When you're done, we'll skip the scene ahead.]
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Abbie accepts the purse but doesn't look in it yet. Sighing, she leans back and looks at Father Rik, her posture going from welcoming and motherly to the casual soldier's slouch he's more used to seeing on her. "Five gold says she's back within a fortnight," she drawls. "I assume you heard the first part of that?"
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"The goddess thinned the walls a bit for me this evening, yes. I do not know if she will have the will to return, but if she does then there is hope for her and her child. "
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"There's always hope," she says with a sigh. "But yeah, Father, I want her to come back too."

She shakes her head. "A baby will trap her, you know?" she says quietly. "Or him. Them. Whatever they eventually decide. If she has one with him, she won't leave the child behind. And he'll make sure she can never leave with it."

She shrugs, the gesture an expression of casual indifference that Father Rik knows is an act. "And if so, oh well, right? She won't be the first or the last woman to live out her life quietly unhappy, tied to a violent man and kept from her potential. Plenty of women before her have lived that exact same life, raised their children in those exact same homes. The world won't end if she doesn't come back."

She sighs and looks away. "But Goddess, I hope she comes back."
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His large hand pats her shoulder with firm reassurance.

"Goddess guide and protect them." It is a common phrase often spoken casually in the temple, but is tone gives the words the prayerful meaning of thier original intent.
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She sighs and nods. "That's the hope, isn't it?"

Absently, she plays with the pouch of coins the acolyte gave her, eventually opening it and pouring the coins into her hand. Then she freezes. "Oh," she says in a low voice. "Oh crap. Oh, Rik."

This itself is noteworthy; the halfling woman almost never calls the paladin by his given name, but now she doesn't even seem to notice she's done so. She holds out her hand; five small white coins gleam in the center. "Oh, crap."
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---[fade to black]---

The girl does not return in a fortnight, though whether Father Rik collects on Abbie's proposed bet is his own business. However, a month later almost to the day, the girl visits the temple again: same long sleeves, same high-necked dress, and now with a hooded cloak that leaves her pretty orcish face in shadows. She hesitates over the threshold, looking for a familiar face among the apprentices and acolytes.
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A flash of light off metal followed by the ooo's of children.

Off a side path in the gardens is a clearing. A low circle of children's heads can be made out amongst the bushes and tree trunks that mark the clearing's edge. In the middle of the clearing, seemingly oblivious to his audience, a large half-orc moves through fighting stances with his greatsword. His shirt hangs from a nearby branch leaving the smooth deep green of his skin to glow in the sunlight. The firm sculpted muscle of his arms and shoulders seems to soften around his torso. The lack of clearly defined abs does not seem to phase him as he continues through his practice.

Suddenly a rock is flying through the air aimed at the back of his unprotected head. His eyes closed, his flow from form to form does not miss a beat, and somehow carries him off to the side just in time. Even as the rock passes through where his head just was another object, this time a branch thick with leaves, comes flying toward him. Breaking his flow for a heartbeat the giant blade flashes again. The branch clatters to the stones in two pieces. A third and fourth item come at him and are dispatched with similar speed and ease. The paladin's steps take him toward the source of the onslaught, until his blade slashes and sticks with a loud thunk into the trunk of a tree just above a young boy's head. The paladin's eyes fly open and he roars in the child's face. His attempted intimidation met with an equally loud roar of laughter from the circle of children. Father Rik's hand ruffles the boy's hair as he grins.

He tugs his blade free of the wood easily, but as he turns to continue his practice he notices a familiar form not far off.
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The hooded figure watches the practice transfixed, coming to life only when he looks in her direction. Ducking behind a nearby tree, the swirl of white cloth tries to hide from his gaze.
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He lets his gaze slide past the skittish figure and turns slowly around the circle. His shoulders hunch slightly in immitaion of a stalking predator. He eyes each child in turn, quirk of a thick eyebrow and a flick of his grey eyes toward the hidden figure alert them to a new unspoken game. Most smile conspiratorially, the older hushing and distracting the less subtle younger childern.

"I am surrounded by all these tasty morsels of baby goats, what is a DRAGON to do!" he punctuates the deep rumbling in his voice with a practice roar.

The children giggle in recognition of the well known game and scatter in all directions. The braver throwing the occassional 'baaaa' over their shoulders. The paladin sheathes his blade and pulls a length of cloth from a pocket and slowly wraps it around his eyes. As he does he recites the game's opening:

"I am the hungriest GREEN dragon," he pauses for the ripple of laughter, "that ever roamed these lands! I haven't eaten for ONE whole day and I smell some yummy yummy goats!"

He finishes the opening lines with a much better dragon roar. The immediate bleets and baas chorus up around him and he darts toward the closest. His arms coming up empty, he spins on his heel blindly.

"I am the hungriest GREEN dragon that ever roamed these lands! I haven't eaten for TWO whole days and I smell some tasty...cows!"

This time his roar is met with moos and more laughter. His rush snatches at a bit of a shirt and then it is gone.

"I am the hungriest GREEN dragon..."
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The hooded figure watches from behind her tree, giggling softly in spite of herself whenever he lunges and nearly catches one of the littlest "cows". She does not approach him, or indeed any of the temple staff, seeming content simply to watch from her peaceful hiding place.
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The hungriest dragon game continues. He allows the ebb and flow of children around him to guide him gradually. The smallest children adding a bit of randomness even as the more savvy work their way circumspectly around and well behind the hidden figure.

"...NINE whole days and I smell some delicious chickens!"

A sudden cacophony of clucking errupts just behind the figure. The bare chested blindfolded paladin sweeps directly towards them...
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The hooded figure gasps, covering her mouth with one hand as the paladin seems likely to collide with her. She stumbles back, but a thick root catches her by the foot and she gasps again as she loses her balance and begins to fall.
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His side steps up next to her, a thick strong arm behind her in a blink. He does not grab her, but is there, supporting her so she does not fall. The children cheer at the show and scatter away to play.

He smiles gently behind the blindfold, his arm unmoving, as if he could support he there indefinitely.

"Someone as brave as yourself could hardly be a chicken I think."
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Ellwythorn gasps again, very softly, but does not move away from him. "T-thank you. F-father," she murmurs, inclining her head in respect. Still, her eyes can't help but study his face, a little curious smile playing at the edges of her lips. "Can... can you see me?"
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"Well no, that would be cheating now wouldn't it? Though feel free to remove the blindfold if you like. "
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Fingers trembling, she reaches up to gently untie the blindfold and pull it away, gazing up into his warm eyes with soft wonder. "Then... how did you know to catch me? How did you know it was me at all? Was... was it magic?"
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"Well you weren't exactly silent now were you?" He chides gently and smiles. His eyes meet hers for the first time for more than a fleeting glance. He does not push or demand with his gaze. Open and welcoming he allows himself to appreciate the tones and varriations in the sea blue of her eyes. The arch of the brow, down to the curve of the jaw. There is still plenty of space between them. His arm behind her back is steady as a thick tree limb. He does not pull her in the slightest toward him.

"Beyond that, I trust the goddess to guide me to be where I am needed and how I am needed."
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She blinks several times before letting her gaze drop shyly away, but she makes no move whatsoever to separate from him. "Well. Please... thank her from me."

She swallows hard and brings her gaze back up to him. "I... I came to tell you that... I'm leaving. Only I'm not sure yet where I'm going. But I-I wanted to see you again a-and tell you."
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At that last comment he glances down at himself and chuckles, "well I would say you have definitely seen me again. Hopefully, not as frightening as my first impression seemed to be?"
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Following his eyes, she blushes softly. "No," she agrees, shaking her head shyly. "Not frightening at all."

Swallowing hard, she suddenly seems to notice they're attracting an audience; the little children have returned to clamor and play around them. "Ahh, is there... I probably shouldn't be seen in- in public much," she admits, fingers flying to pull her hood further forward. "Is there somewhere we could talk?"
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"Of course, Yondalla has many private prayer chambers. Most who come here understand the personal nature of the requests she receives."

He opens his other arm wide, almost as if leading her into a twirling step for a dance.
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Blushing, she follows his lead and steps with him, staying as close to his arms as he'll allow.
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