A Much Needed Talk

Seated on the shores of Lake Lovalus, Rharne serves as the home of the Lighting Knights, the Thunder Priestesses, and the Merchant's guild. This beautiful trade city is filled with a happy and contented people who rarely need an excuse to party.

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Kura Wolfsdotter
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Kura grinned at Padraig's description of her mothers table manners, but simply shrugged when he mentioned the Ragdila's speed. "We don't use them when we need supplies in a hurry. We plan around their speed."

Once in the room, she sat down when directed to a chair, while Phelan reveled in the attention she was receiving. When Faith moved to sit, however, the wolf redirected her from any of the chairs and nudged her towards the bed. When she sat, he jumped on the bed, giving it a reproachful look as it groaned at his weight, then laid down on the bed and put his head on Faith's lap, leaving enough room for Padraig to join them.

When Faith began her story, Kura fell completely silent, neither speaking nor visibly reacting. Phelan occasionally let out a sympathetic whine, while Cally sat more or less in Phelan and did her best to hold Faith's hand as she spoke. When she finished, Kura let out a long sigh. "I'll help as best I can, though I have never been a parent myself." she said, reaching out and taking the scroll Faith offered her. She fell silent again for a moment, then looked at Faith.

"But there is some information that may be of use to you, so I will share it." she said, before taking a deep breath. "The Immortals, for all their power, are far from omniscient or omnipotent. They have great power, but they are also limited. Each Immortal, for all that they are one of the greatest Powers on Idalos, is exactly what they were created to be, no more and no less. My own mother, for instance, could never be a ruler, while Empress Raskalarn could never be anything except a ruler." she said before pausing for thought.

"Illusion, Mimicry, and Chaos. That is what Aelig is. Aelig could not, could not speed up the growth of your child like that. Not on his own. You said you were in that mess down in Oscillus. Lisirra and Syroa were part of that as well, and affecting the growth of an infant is much more in their purview than it is Aelig's. The two of you should be aware that he likely has help." she said, before pausing again, this time deep in thought as she tried to remember the politics of the region.

After a moment, she spoke again. "Ilaren was part of the mess in Oscillus, yes? The two of you should be safe from direct assault by Aelig and his friends in Rharne. Especially since Ilaren has more than a few close alliances, including Ethelynda, and if any of those three are a match for the Noble Serpent, I'd be amazed." she said, before pausing in thought again. "That being said, it might not be safe for the two of you to put down roots here." she said sadly. She liked having Faith and Padraig close by, they were friends. And she knew that Cally would like having someone she could actually interact with.
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Padraig
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"It may be that you're perfectly capable of doing it yourself," Padraig told Faith when he handed a cup of tea to her, and then another to Kura. "But it gives me pleasure to spoil you. So let me do it." And then for the most part, he was content for Faith to explain for them both, everything that had happened and what they'd decided as a result.

No matter what they'd been told, or what Aelig wanted them to believe, this child was theirs together. They'd resolved themselves to that, and they'd raise the babe accordingly. And while Kura might have no experience than them, or at least him, when it came to delivering and raising babies, having a friend willing to share in the process, one they could trust, meant much more than the actual mechanics of doing it.

Still, Kura had observations to share. And while they made some sense, in fact quite a lot, so far as he was concerned it hardly changed a thing. Wishful thinking perhaps. But Padraig didn't think so. "I think," he considered while trying to form his thoughts on the matter. "The implication was, what Aelig would like us to believe, is that Faith has been pregnant for all these many months. He'd like us to believe, I think, that he's only made her appear not to be until now, by creating an illusion not only to fool her, but others who see or know her."

Except, what made that most difficult to believe however, was the fact that Faith had been subjected to countless traumas during that time. Things that no child should have been able to survive in the womb. Which still made it seem more likely in his mind, that she wasn't pregnant at all then but became so later once they were together. And that was where Aelig's trickery arose.

In any case, she had a point about their safety, now and in the future. And he believed it was something to consider, when they decided where they'd settle down exactly.
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The wolf didn't need to do much in the way of nudging, Faith was quite happy to go with him and she sat in what had become known as the "teapot position", legs sticking out in front of her and back against the headboard. As Phelan put his head on her lap, Faith reached down and scratched behind his ears, gently stroking his head and just generally fussing him. She reached out to the thin air where she knew Cally was and she touched the young woman's cheek. "Thank you," she whispered.

Then Kura shared her observations and Faith nodded. She looked, and she felt, quite defeated about the whole thing, but there was a glint of determination in her expression which said she wasn't completely beat just yet. If it had been just her? Well, that would have been a different story, but her hand moved almost of it's own accord and found Padraig's. She listened, though, to everything Kura said and then to Padraig's response to it, not saying anything for a few trill even after he'd stopped talking.

"You say you have no experience." Faith looked at Kura and smiled, "But if our child looks at me with half as much love as Cally does you, I'll consider myself to have loved them well. It's easy for you to forget, you freeborn folk." She smiled at the two of them, because it applied to them both. "Those of us born in slavery? We know different things than you."

Her gaze turned to Cally and she spoke in her quiet voice, "We understand, or understood, only that we were worthless in everything but how we serve our owner. Until someone came into our lives and not only loved us, but made us realise that we are worthy of that love." Faith looked at Kura and said, most honestly, as her hand in Padraig's tightened. "To love and feel worthy of receiving love is the single greatest gift one being can give another. So you more than qualify and we are more than grateful."

But then, there was the more tricky conversation about Aelig and what he had done. Faith hated this, she truly did and she just wanted to put her hands over her ears and not listen, for it not to be happening. But she had to, because it was and she nodded. "I don't know how, or why, but I know it's lies layered on lies." She rested a hand on her stomach and her jaw set in a determined expression.

"So we're maintaining our truth. This is our baby, conceived in love and raised by parents who will probably make all sorts of awful mistakes but who will do their very best." She looked at Kura and said, honestly. "We have to decide that, or that it isn't. Having decided it, it has to be absolutely true for us or it'll drive us mad second guessing and that wouldn't be fair on her." Her hand moved protectively, making it quite clear who 'her' was in Faith's mind.

"But yes, he's walked right in here to us. This place isn't safe and we're going to have to leave. Another reason for these." Faith nodded to the scroll and then sighed from her toes. "We don't do anything the right bloody way around. We were talking about not getting married and not wanting children when he walked in you know. it's like he'd been waiting for the most ironic moment possible." She suddenly realised something and lifted her hand from Phelan in a gesture of 'hold on', in case Padraig was hitting panic. "We're not getting married! Just the humoungously pregnant"
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It was still a wonder to him, and admittedly a little disconcerting, to realize that there were others in any given room that he couldn't hear, see or sense, but Faith did. But clearly Callie was there, considering the way Faith continued to interact with what would have otherwise been assumed to be empty space. The wolf however took up a lot of it in their room, and in the bed they shared. Clearly he'd formed an attachment to Faith, and her to him.

But when Faith spoke to Cally again, Padraig frowned. Not because she did, but because of what she said. Worthless, except for what a slave was worth in labor or profit. Of course he knew she'd had the experience, it would always be part of her past. He just wished it was something she'd never experienced at all.

Still, there was the matter of Aelig and what he'd done to her, and as a result, both of them and the child that was coming. He couldn't help but grin a little when she reminded him of their discussions on the topic of marriage, of which they'd had several now and come to the same conclusion, and he squeezed her hand in response. He'd have liked to say that Aelig could have timed his entrance better. But considering the damage the Immortal had already done, that was the very least of it.

But one thing she'd said to Kura, he could only agree with. "She's right. We have to choose, and we must choose now before the child is born. And we have. It's ours, Faith's and mine together, and that's how we intend to raise it." It was the only way he believed to put the rest aside and focus on what mattered. And the only true innocent in all this, deserved just that.
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Kura listened quietly as Faith and Padraig talked, smiling warmly at Faith's compliment. When they wound down, she spoke again. "You've come a long way since the clothing shop, lass. That choice though, is important. Honestly, though, it doesn't matter worth a damn if the child is or isn't Padraig's blood. If you decide that it's your son, Padraig, then that's what he is." she said, calmly. After a minute, however, she grinned at her friends. "I've been curious about that, however. Why don't the two of you get married? Honestly, the way you two act, I thought you were married. Even now, I'd say all that's missing is the ceremony." she said, before pausing and grinning again. "You know, I am part of a religion. I could perform the ceremony myself." she said, laughing.

Cally, meanwhile, had been grinning more and more widely as Kura spoke. "Yeah, you two should get married! You should, you should, you should!" she said, bouncing up and down excitedly. "And your a seamstress so you could make your own dress and Padraig's suit and whatever you want the bridesmaids to wear but if you let Kura officiate don't let her do it in her military uniform cause she'll try that and..." she said, still talking rapidly in her excited voice. Even Phelan seemed to have gotten excited by the idea, wagging his tail furiously and looking up so he could lick Faith's face some more.
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She'd come a long way since the clothing shop? Faith looked at Kura and smiled. She was a damnably insightful woman. "We hadn't decided if we were able to do this. I.." There was no point beating around the bush, why she was trying she didn't know. "I fell back into old habits I suppose. It was my mess and I was going to clean it up." She looked down at their hands together, then turned her gaze back to Kura, her hand in Padraig's held as tightly as it had ever been. "I showed him every exit and tried to push him out of a few, but he wouldn't leave." The expression on her face told the truth of it; she hadn't wanted him to, she just hadn't known how to do this.

However, her eyes widened slightly as Kura asked oh-so-very-calmly about them getting married, then offered to perform the ceremony. They continued to widen as Cally and then Phelan got themselves wound up to the point of jumping and face-licking respectively. "Dress? Why would I make a dress? I have dresses. Padraig doesn't need a suit, he has clothes? I.. what's a bridesmaid?" She looked at Phelan as he started to fuss and she put her hand on him, rubbing gently behind his ear. "You ganging up here too, hmm?"

Faith's hand in Padraig's had turned rather vice like. In a short space of time, during the whole birth situation, he'd discover that she could grip harder, but really it was fair to assume right now that she couldn't. "I... that is.. we. Well." Faith stumbled and stuttered, trying to make sense of what she thought and what they'd discussed. "I don't know what marriage means." She spoke quietly, trying to explain what was quite complex to her. Breathe in, breathe out and then speak.

"When Aelig came through that door, I thought marriage meant ownership and papers. But it doesn't mean that, not to us, because I am his and he is mine. We own each other already and we are both completely free because of it." She smiled a soft smile and then shrugged. "Maybe it means commitment. If so, it doesn't mean more than the moment Padraig stood in this room, practically nose to nose with me and told that he wouldn't leave me unless I looked him in the eye and told him I wanted it. So we've got that. Before I was free, I thought it meant family." Faith smiled at Kura then and she looked completely calm. "But you taught me what family means and I realised that we already have that. I don't know what it means." Faith repeated the words then shrugged her shoulders. "But whatever it means, we already have it."

Suddenly realising something, she looked at Padraig and smiled, somewhat apologetically. "I may not have mentioned those things before. I didn't know them until now." Turning back to Kura she smiled to her friend. "I guess I don't know, is the answer, it doesn't really seem important."

That was her, she thought with a smile. Ever such a romantic.
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Just when he thought the conversation couldn't get any more awkward, Padraig discovered he was wrong about that. Dead wrong. And like Faith's, his own eyes grew wider in spite of him. Though her hand gripping his harder than he'd have thought it able to, was a brief distraction from the wave of, what, coming over him. 'Ow,' he whispered. Though that in itself was a distraction.

Why didn't they get married? She'd officiate and what, Callie would act the bridesmaid and the wolf would stand in as best man? He couldn't begin to respond, but lucky for him, Faith broke what would have become a very lengthy, awkward, dramatic pause if she hadn't found her voice first. Otherwise, even though they'd talked about marriage before and come to their own conclusions, things had changed with the impending arrival of a child.

Did Faith want to get married? Did she not? Suddenly his earlier reference to a field full of pressure explosives going off in response to one wrong move, seemed apter than ever.

But then Faith said what he would have, once he'd found his voice. And Padraig smiled, squeezing her hand in return. "She's right. A ceremony, a contract, an official document. None of those things would change anything for us. Only for others. We know how we feel about each other. Our commitment is absolute. Never say never," he said with a smile. It was very possible that at some point they might change their minds. But for now? "But all of those things," Contracts and official ceremonies he meant, "imply the approval and acknowledgment of others, of what we have. We already know what we feel, what we are and what we want."
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Kura blinked in surprise at the reaction her fairly simple suggestion got, then settled down to listen to Faith and Padraig explain why they weren't really seeking marriage. When they fell silent, she let a long, slow, sigh. "When the Empire finally conquers Athart, I think I'll personally see to dealin' with the slave trainers. Lockin' them in their own slave pens and lettin' them starve to death is sounding more and more appealin', as is using them for kindlin'. On the other hand, we could always use more hands to help clear out the Forest of Corpses, and that's always a high risk job." she said, sounding cold and angry, as if a glacier had suddenly become homicidal.

Cally, at that, looked at Kura in surprise and actually leaned away from her slightly. "I'd almost forgotten. She could do all that and sleep well at night. Mortalborn. All of humanities capacity for good and evil, for deeds both kind and monstrous, enhanced by unendin' years. I'd almost forgotten." she said, but the look on her face wasn't fear. It was, instead, bordering on adoration.

Kura, meanwhile, had shaken herself and looked to have calmed down slightly. "Sorry, I...parts of what I am are more...primal than others." she said, before sighing again. "Regardless. That you grew up with such a...warped perception of relationships...damages my calm." she said, before taking a deep breath. "Marriage means somethin' different from culture to culture. For some, it is a sign of mutual ownership. In the Empire, it's merely a sign of extreme devotion." she said, before grinning slightly. "You see, we believe monogamy is a foul and evil thing that only breeds jealousy and anger."

After a minute she smiled again, once more back to normal. "Honestly, for you two, getting officially married wouldn't be...for you. You two are, in your hearts, already joined. It would be to avoid undue comment in places that put too much importance on such ceremonies." she said, before gesturing out at Rharne in general. "And honestly, in Rharne at least, I doubt they put much, if any, store on whether you're "official" or not." she said, grinning. "Actually, have the two of you decided where you're going to go?" she asked, her tone curious.
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Faith's face showed her surprise at 'never say never', but there was neither displeasure nor hope mingled in there, just acknowledgement. Never say never, maybe one trial but right now they were just focused on this baby and bringing her safely into the world, then not breaking her.

Kura's fury at the slave owners in Athart, though, caused Faith to shake her head. Padraig might well agree with their mortalborn friend's opinion, no one would be surprised to find that Faith's was different. "They aren't to blame." Faith looked at the two of them and she was completely sure of what she said. "Slavers exist because people buy slaves." To Faith's way of thinking, it made sense. "The fact that totally obedient slaves who actively seek to serve well no matter how much it makes them die inside are the ones who cost more? Well that's supply and demand. They don't create the demand, they meet it."

Simple economics? "The slavers and owners objectify the slaves so that they can go home and not consider what they are doing to sentient, feeling people." It allowed them to treat it like a business transaction, nothing more. "In a way, it's merciful." Not a viewpoint likely to go down well, she knew and she glanced apologetically at Padraig. "They prepared me for what you could reasonably presume would be the only relationships I'd ever have." They didn't prepare her for freedom, but then, why would they? "The techniques I learnt as a child gave me what I needed to close myself off, to endure. To survive intact, I suppose" Faith was quite sure of what she said next when she shrugged slightly and spoke in her usual quiet voice. "If no one bought slaves, no one would need to make slave brands. Everyone involved is responsible, not just the face of it."

Monogamy in the Empire was seen as a bad thing? Faith didn't know that and she wondered at it, but then it was all fascinating to her to consider different cultures and so on. As for where they'd go? She smiled to Padraig as she answered that, "Well, it's a choice between Andaris, Viden and Scalvoris. Padraig is studying, ready to start his Diploma in Physics at the University" She looked as filled with pride as she felt and so she should, it was a very prestigious thing which very few people achieved. "I think we're leaning towards Scalvoris. It's difficult in Andaris, people know me as a slave there." There were other reasons too, mostly named Venora. "I don't know much about the other two," she admitted, looking at Padraig to fill in the blanks there.
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Monogamy was a strange and evil thing? How strange, Padraig thought, and contrary to what he'd been raised to believe. More importantly, what he felt with every fiber of his being. No matter that he'd never really thought about it before meeting Faith. He hadn't given much thought to relationships and attachments at all. But he couldn't imagine feeling any differently now than he did. The heart and affections didn't stray. His didn't at least.

His feelings on the topic of slavery though, and those who engaged in the practice were much more similar to the mortalborn's. He'd never been quite so outspoken as her. But he'd felt it all the same. Padraig blamed all those from the ones in power who allowed it, to the slavers and traders, to the owners who purchased the slaves, and on to those who tolerated it or said nothing at all, reasoning that if it didn't affect them, then why the bother. Or what could they do, they might ask themselves?

But he and Faith had engaged in these conversations before. And he also knew that her views, evolving as they were, arose from the perspective of someone who'd known nothing else for the greater part of her life. "Disapproval and outrage is easy from the outside looking on. It makes those who disapprove of the practice feel better about themselves," he said. Their silence amounted to patting themselves and each other on the back for their higher ideals. "Except that disapproval without action doesn't solve anything."

"We have a house in Andaris," he said when the topic turned to where they'd be going. "We'll return there briefly, maybe sell it before relocating elsewhere. We've found Scalvoris to be an interesting option for both Faith and I. They've an Order there and a university where I can continue my studies." And Faith could begin hers, if she wanted.
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