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

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As she takes her weight from his arm he steps away, back to the clearing just long enough to collect his greatsword and replace his loose fitting shirt. Before she has time to more than frown uncertainly he is back beside her. His broad hand returning to rest gently at the small of her back uses just the barest of pressure to let her know which way they are heading. Navigating deeper into the temple they finally reach a heavy wooden door, one among a few on this warmly lit hallway.

"It would be a pleasure if you would join me in prayer to Yondalla for guidance in the journey you are commencing."

He pushes open the heavy door with ease, looking to her to lead them in.
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Ellwythorn steps into the space, fretting quietly with her hands. "Well, I... I don't know that it's a 'journey'," she admits shyly. "I don't really know where I'm going. I just... I decided to leave Treygis and I did it. I just got dressed and came here and I'm not going back. I'll go anywhere else but home."

She looks up at him, but can only hold his gaze for a moment. "You were right. I can't... have a baby with him. Because he wouldn't let it be happy. And I wouldn't be happy either." Her face clouds and she looks as though she might cry. "But I don't... I don't know who I can have a baby with, so I guess I can't have one at all. I don't like that part."
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He follows her into the room, pushing the door gently closed behind him. A number of cushions lay on the floor before the fireplace and he steps over to them. His eyes close briefly in prayer before he kneels.

His well muscled legs are hugged by close fitting brown pants as he kneels before the fire. He reaches out his hand, inviting her to join him.

"Well I doubt Treygis is the only one who might wish to lay with such a lovely woman as yourself. Why do you think you cannot find another more suitable to love and start a family with?"
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She takes his hand gently and kneels beside him, but her eyes study the fire instead of him. "I... I don't think I can do that," she says softly. "I don't think I know how to be a wife after all. Or maybe even a woman? People say the word to me and it's like... the word doesn't fit. I know it's supposed to, but it just doesn't. Maybe I really am like Lirr, or... I don't know. Olidammara, maybe, except that he's bold and frightening and wild and everything I'm not. He wouldn't know me even if I could call at his temple."

Religion:
Rik will know that Lirr and Olidammara are genderfluid gods. Olidammara is also a wild, chaotic god of revelry and tricks. Ellwythorn is suggesting that her gender may be similar to his, but her personality is otherwise not, therefore he is not a good match as a patron god for her.

Sighing, she shakes her head. "And I... I don't know how to let... I mean, I thought Treygis was good, and I was so wrong." Carefully, wincing, she takes down her hood. In the firelight he can see what shadows and makeup hid before when they were outside together: heavy finger-bruises on her neck and a purple shiner where a fist connected with her left eye. She doesn't meet his gaze, too ashamed to look at his face. "Who can I trust outside this room, really? Who won't do this to me if I give them the chance? Father, I'm afraid."
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His eyes harden as he sees the multiple bruises. He inhales slowly, his nostrils flaring and then relaxing. His shoulders pushing down, he bows his head. "One need not be a woman to be a mother. Yondalla's blessing can allow such things. It is not the physical that defines us. But I think it is quite clear that the man who did this is not meant to be a husband nor father. Regardless," his head gives one firm shake and his eyes return to her, "the question brought before the goddess is wholely separate from him."

He lets himself take in the damage to her face and neck and frowns.

"Is that everything? Are there more marks that he has left on you?"
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Her cheeks burn afresh as she nods reluctantly. "Yes, but... I'd rather you didn't see them," she admits, eyes downcast and voice trembling. "It is my shame and I'd... I'd rather you think of me as good and whole rather than broken and bruised, sir."
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"If your child came to you with a bloody knee because he tripped and fell, would you think poorly of them? If they then confided in you that they had not fallen but instead had been pushed by another, what would you say? 'Don't show me that, I must never see you damaged or weak or I will never believe you can be strong'? Bruises are temporary, but the knowledge that can be gained from them, that has value and yes permanence. I see the purple around your eye and I do not think, 'oh what a pathetic weakling' instead I wonder what this pain has taught you. Judging by your presence here I think the answer is quite a lot."

He pauses and a small smile curves around his tusks. He shifts decicively, turning so that his back is to her.

"I have had a long day of training today. While I think the goddess was kind enough to allow me to show my swordmanship well in your presence, it was not true the whole afternoon. Both Allen and Hales managed to get a couple of shots in. My back has bruises. If you would think less of me to see them then please do not look."
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Ellwythorn gasps very softly and reaches out with tender fingers to touch his shirt. Hesitant, fearful of hurting him, she pulls the rough material away from his skin and lets her cool touch brush gently over the bruises there. "I couldn't think less of you," she promises, her voice soft. "It isn't possible. I hold you as high as the sky."

She's quiet then for a long moment, though Rik hears the soft rustling of cloth behind him. When he turns back to her, if he turns back to her, she has shed her clothes down to a thin underdress. Bruises--some old, many new--cover her body, more even than his magic could heal. This is a person who has endured more physical pain than most. She can only meet his gaze for a heartbeat, but tears well in her eyes. "You see why I get afraid," she whispers.
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He finishes pulling his shirt off over his head and gives her a moment, time enough to change her mind, before turning back to face her.

His sorrow is palpable. "I can see why you fear him, and even me when we first met. I do not know why you would be afraid now. Do you think I might somehow believe you deserve to have been treated like this?"
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Her expression crumples, tears falling down her cheeks as she nods. "Yes," she whispers, wrapping her arms around herself and sinking back down into the cushions.
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He moves to her at this. Lifting her easily in his strong arms, he carries her over to a low couch. He pauses and looks down at her.

"May I hold you"
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Blinking in surprise, she nods without hesitation. "Yes. Please. I... I feel safe when you're near. Like nothing will get at me."
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Taking a seat on the couch he gathers her in his arms. He lowers his head to touch his forehead to hers.

"You do not deserve this. No one *deserves* to be treated this way. A mother must know she is worthy of respect and love, otherwise how will she teach her child to respect and love others? You. You must know your strength. Know you are strong and capable so the child you raise will know to be strong and capable. Show me the brave person behind the frightened woman you show to others. Show Yondalla the mother you wish to be."
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She studies his face as he speaks, a tiny worried frown furrowing her brow. Then she takes a deep breath and closes the short distance between their lips, kissing him with warm affection.
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This close she can actually feel his eyebrows rise in surprise for just a moment and then they are down, eyes closed. He returns the kiss with a low gutteral moan. His thick lips are soft and warm against hers. He does not press the kiss, following her lead. She can feel the tension in his arms the longer the kiss continues.
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Bravely, encouraged by his response, she deepens the kiss, warmth turning by slow degrees to heat. Her fingers cup his face and trace over his bare shoulders, his arms, his chest, memorizing each hard muscle and every scar.
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Her hands on him make his eyelids flutter. He lets her deepen the kiss. Opening his mouth oh so willingly to her. He waits to feel her inhale and offers his very breath to her.
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---fade to black---

"I love you, Father."

The fire burns low in the hearth, only just illuminating a half-orc man where he lies across a couch, his shirt crumpled on the floor, his trouser laces lost. A girl lies beside him, safely nestled between his skin and the couch back, smiling in her sleep as she pillows her head on his chest.

Abbie opens the door, leading pilgrims into the prayer chamber, only to quickly close it again when her eyes glimpse the chamber's occupants. "--closed for maintenance," can be heard muffled through the thick door. "This one over here… Sister will show you… Just need a moment." A pause, and the door opens more slowly this time, creaking lightly as she slips back inside.
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Hearing the cleric's entry and abrupt departure, the paladin stirs ever so slightly. His hand reaches out and finds the discarded shirt. He hesitates, not wanting to wake her. He gathers the fabric of his garment in his free hand, shifting just enough to slip it over her head of coppery curls. He guides the fabric down over her form. His fingertips saying a soft farewell. He allows his hand to linger against her belly, rubbing softly there, a tingling warmth flowing up his arm that he has come to recognize as Yondalla's blessing of life taking root. His voice is soft and warm.

"Mother...mother, it is time to wake up. The cleric shall be back in a moment and there is much planning for your journey to be done."
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"She's back now," comes a dry voice from the door, "and for the Lady's sake don't wake the poor thing yet. From the looks of it, you wore her out."

In the shadows by the door, Abbie folds her arms and casts a critical eye over the scene. "I'd point out that we do have beds, but I know you know that. So. What happened, Father?"
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He does feel the soft tingle in his arm, warm and loving and motherly in the way only Yondalla can truly personify through and through: His goddess granting Her blessing to this good and worthy vessel whom she has measured and found deserving. Yet under that familiar warm feeling there is a current of something different this time, something Father Rik has never felt before. Not bad, but not like his other children: a cool, laughing, burbling thread amongst the warm light, like a babbling brook or a joyful breeze. There's a wild strength in the feeling, as though he could run a marathon without breaking a sweat or move a mountain with his bare hands. Then the sensation is gone, so quickly he isn't sure he didn't imagine it.

The girl stirs under his touch, her smile sleepy and confused, but if no one presses the matter she remains asleep--she has not, it may be surmised, been allowed a safe place to rest in a very long time.
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He pauses thoughtfully at the change in tenor of the thrum flowing through his arm, but no alarm bells ring and he is content to let the gods show their will in their own time. He finishes settling the shirt about her body. It could be a dress on her frame and he is satisfied that her modesty is maintained. As she stirs slightly he takes the moment to move out from under her. Settling her carefully on the couch, a quickly located pillow beneath her head. Her eyes never open. He moves to kiss her forehead and changes his mind, placing a final sweet kiss on her soft lips. He moves away from her and the warmth of the fire. The cleric waits in the cold doorway.

"There must be a mother before there can be a child." his words are matter of fact, but his voice is filled with warmth and pride.

"She is free of him now. She will need a place to go. I assume you have made the relavent arrangements?"
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She sighs. "Like the arrangements to bring her to Sehanine's temple where she can hide safely, and where we can talk to her before she makes any decisions? Does she at least know that this was expressly for the purpose of putting a baby inside her and that there won't be a repeat?" Tilting her head, she eyes the paladin. "Or is that even true in this case? It's not like you to do away with protocol. I'll ask again, what happened?"
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"We talked. She is emotionally ready for this now. She needed to work through some things first, but she has shown me the strength within her that a mother must have. It was wondrous." He smiles wistfully.

"Yondalla has blessed her now, what need would there be for a repeat? As far as protocol... Yondalla knew our hearts and guided us. I have learned to listen to her guidance. There is no need to fear when you are in the hands of a goddess."

He comes back to earth and smiles happily down at the cleric, "And clearly in her wisdom she has brought you to us to take care of the details that you are so good at."
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Abbie takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "Father, we have got to work on that tunnel vision. Yes, Yondalla has a special calling for you, but that doesn't mean you should ignore every other aspect of her work." She shakes her head. "Does her husband know she's here? Does her father? Are they likely to come looking for her? Who else saw her come here? Goddess, how long has she been here?"

Worry - and perhaps a touch of genuine fear - twists her features, but after a moment's thought she pauses and looks back to him. "And... Father, you... you do realize people sometimes like to sleep together for... well, for reasons other than creating a baby?" The question is gentler than the others, and she searches his face, suddenly not sure she knows the answer to this.
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