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for woodsmoke !! 8) backdated before the Olympics.


He caught wind of the trip one way or another, and Rand was under the impression that quite a few of the Interlopers would be out of the pack for a number of days, much to his delight. Perhaps another meeting with Vodeva was in order for them to decide how to use this time wisely — an opportunity to construct more shrines for their Goddess and dot them around the territory, beacons of hope and light that would be discovered by the faithless wanderers that returned.

Those that did not understand would seek them for guidance, surely. They would have been foolish not to. But, then again, this Realm had proved itself time and time again to be quite unreasonable indeed.

It was a brisk pace that brought him through the Square, his liverish fur almost shimmering in the warm midday sun. The River Valley was his destination, as it so often was; his day began with something of a late start, so his morning ritual had been delayed until now.

The Priest had half a mind to pay his young disciple a visit, if only to whisk him away from that terrible influence of a father; there was a war of rhetoric there, Rand's permeating words against those of the Commander, though he was fairly certain that his own would win out in the end. Harlan was too bright a pupil to let go that easily, anyhow.

All these thoughts and more materialized in the form of a long-winded sigh, and the Coara cast a cursory glance over his shoulder to a sound behind him.

[+2]
Woodsmoke shadowed the man as he moved through the territory. Rand seemed driven, given the speed of which he walked. A reason now, for her stalking. What was he up to, why move so fast? Was he late to a date, or perhaps it was less wholesome. A forbidden pairing perhaps? Those ideas were cast aside pretty quick, she figured he only wished to show reverence for Nin. Not quite her cup of tea, but she was content in her own beliefs.

Things were so much easier when there were no greater beings to worry about appeasing. The only rules she lived by were her pack’s of course, but also the laws of nature. Sometimes she stayed more true to the latter than the former. Regardless, she held no love for New Caledonia’s gods, but she harbored no hatred for them either. They had theirs, she had hers, and as long as that was respected, she had no problem.

Cherub was perched on the woman’s back as she trailed after the blue river man. He was concocting many nefarious pranks that they would pull on Rand. It brought the bird great joy to see anger and misery in others, as long as it was wrought by his own beak. With the help of Woodsmoke anyway. Alone he was pretty limited, but even then he could always drop pebbles on people from above... among other things.

They were nearing him now, and Cherub let out a small croak of excitement. He was ready to torment the river man, though his utterance made Woodsmoke stop. As Rand glanced back, the huntress raised her head to show that she knew he had taken notice. No need to slink when the quarry knew they were being followed, but at least he didn’t run away. The woman glanced at the bird who hopped up on her head. “Shoo,” she told him, shaking her head to tempt the bird to lift off of his perch. “Be a good bird, please don’t mess with Rand,” the command was met with a very ruffled feathered Cherub, who promptly roosted in a nearby tree. Woodsmoke stared at her companion for a moment, turning her attention to Rand.

“Hey you,” she greeted and waited for an invitation before she’d close the distance between them.
Birds were a foreign thing to Rand. Sharp-eyed and shrill, the familiars of those of the clan Menel. Many he simply paid no mind to; mindless, thoughtless creatures, lesser than he, exerting their dominion over a realm that was far above the watery depths of his Mistress.

He was no stranger to the concept of avians heeding to a luperci master. Many Menel-born had their eagle and owl companions. But a common crow, gurgling its low string of incomprehensible blabber, seemed a questionable choice.

With mute interest, the Priest watched as the dark wildling sent her feathered companion on his way, much to the corvid's chagrin; but Rand's tall ears told him that the creature lay just nearby, no doubt watching, waiting, murmuring under his breath.

His eyebrows cinched at her blasé greeting — but he smiled anyway, his teeth yellow and sharp as he regarded her with something akin to a fondness.

"Woodsmoke," he addressed her, reaching out with a hand in the vast chasm that stretched between them, one that he no doubt expected to her to fill at his beck and call.

"You're not likely to eavesdrop much at all out of me, I'm afraid. The ones worth listening to are still in the City Square."

[+2]
This gently irritating, yet handsome man. She approached him, bridging the gap between them. "Uhuh," Woodsmoke muttered as she stepped towards him. Her bird was not a nightmare thing, but he sometimes behaved like one. "I'm not looking to eavesdrop,"she told him. "I wouldn't mind some company though."

Once near enough to Rand, she seated herself on the ground and looked up at him. He was interesting for a stick in his own mud. "Many people choose to spend their time in the rivers, and I chose you," she explained. "You should be honored." There was no pompous tone in her voice, no she was teasing. The mischievous smile she boasted was a telltale sign.

"Do you leave the square for the same reason I do?" She asked, glancing quickly to her bird to see if he wasn't wreaking any havoc, or if it seemed like he would.
The amber of his eyes seemed to crackle and shine, and he chuckled. "Should I now? I should say the same to you, wildling," he countered, but much like Woodsmoke, there was no discernable malice in his throat. Certainly, his words held truth, but he was just as satisfied exchanging little digs back and forth. The stiff nature of his ordinary interactions could get so boring, so tedious.

Woodsmoke was an anomaly, an evolutionary throwback. She had no shame walking on all-fours and conducting herself like the animal she was. This both fascinated and made Rand feel a little sorry for her, in his own way; but she seemed content with her chosen way of life.

Ignorance was bliss, he supposed.

"The Square is no place for coherent thought, much less prayer," he remarked, sighing pitiably. "It is all wood and stone, full of idle gossip, laziness, hedonism — It is much easier to commune with my Goddess in the presence of Her creation."

His brow rose at her critically.

"Though I suppose that is not why you are here," he mused.

[—]
Wood and stone for sure, but the place functioned as the heart of the pack. Blood flowed as she and her packmates traveled around the territory. Each went to their jobs, or went about on whatever whims or obligations they held. Woodsmoke didn’t hold too many, but she not only did her duty to New Caledonia, but to the whole world itself. As long as she kept herself and others alive, she was doing her part in the great grand scheme that was life. Her eyes lingered behind them as she glanced at the city square. Home, but not quite. She existed there, but slept in the earth like her mother, her grandmother, and the many mothers who came long before them.

“I don’t pray like you do,” she told him, casting her gaze back to the blue man. “But I think I do pray in a way.”

Her life was simple compared to most, but that by no means meant she lived simply. The woman was fulfilled by many things. Hunting, protecting others, reproducing; survival and continuation was he goal. Her religion. “Mice and squirrels sometimes scurry about in between the houses. I guess if I catch and eat one, or give it to someone hungry, then I suppose that would be like if you gave an offering to Nin,” the woman was trying to explain it, but she was no priestess. Hell, there was no name to whatever she claimed to have a duty to. She didn’t want one for it anyway, there wasn't a way to even do it.

Cherub hopped to another branch, this time closer to the pair. Letting out a caw, she knew the young bird was pleading for permission to cause trouble as he crowed more and more. She ignored him, as she knew that Cherub would always be an imp regardless of attention. Rand, she supposed, would always be Rand, but perhaps he’d be willing to hear her beliefs for a time. Maybe they could share, as she did want to understand her own pack better. "How do you praise Nin, exactly?"
uppity rand being uppity


Rand was intolerant, for all of his grand posturing and supposedly virtuous ideals; faiths other than his own were seldom given the respect they deserve, certainly not the respect he demanded from others. Still, the Priest listened to Woodsmoke's primitive sort of prayer with a thin sliver of interest, similar to the sort derisive attention he afforded lesser creatures that acted in a way he found quaint.

His arms crossed over his chest, head tilting to the side as he considered this.

"It is not the same," he corrected her. "There is a vast difference between giving something to another soul on this earth and offering something of substance to the Goddess. One cannot ever hope to live up to the other."

To the Coara, it was a simple matter, easily comprehendible. He thought himself of higher intelligence and did not expect Woodsmoke to understand.

A tall ear jerked at the caw of the crow, but he ignored it.

"I give thanks for all She has given to me," he answered. "There are many ways to show praise — communing with Her directly in prayer, offering her a sacrifice, blessing the water..."

He scoffed.

"Every being on this earth is alive only because of Her rivers. Nothing alive can exist without Her. Yet only a few acknowledge and rightfully fear Her power. This world is backwards, Woodsmoke."

That, surely, she would relate to.

[+2]
Quote:Preistess Rank I progress:

"Make an offering to your chosen deity. Remember, different gods expect different things from their followers." 914/1000

"Learn about one of the Clans' gods from a past-member of Old Caledonia; if an old Caledonian yourself, teach!" 1315/1000

Giving sticks to the water seemed a far lesser thing than a meal to someone who needed it, though Woodsmoke acknowledged the weight the seemingly inane action carried for Rand. It was silly, in her head, but she was past the point of poking fun at jewelry wearers and cloth-bearing men and woman she stole from in the past. Useless things often gained significance one way or another. One may find rings hanging from ears or noses to be attractive, or the pockets in a pair of pants could help the wearer hold things.

Utility was worthy of praise, and attraction was something she could understand. Though she found the ability and general health of a man to be alluring, instead of the gold embedded in his body, or the fabrics hanging off of it. The frivolity she saw in building a thing for something one could not see or interact with did not leave Woodsmoke's mouth. She knew it would make Rand shut her out entirely, but she disagreed with him on more than that.

“Yes, many things use the rivers,” she tried to relate. “Everyone needs water, or else they would die, and there are animals in the water that we can eat,” these things were evident to her. These were the merits she saw in his belief. “Many luperci don’t seem to notice these truths, but I think there’s more to life than what the waters give us,” Woodsmoke told him. There was value in the ferns that crowd forest floor, and the trees that shaded them. The animals that called them home mattered, and there had to be importance when the shriek of death left their tiny mouths. Especially when teeth caused and silenced it.

Perhaps her thinkings were too complex to explain, or maybe she hadn’t the words to speak them properly. The woman looked to Rand, a man who held firm beliefs of his own, and though hers were not as concrete, nor as handed down through generations, to the woman; hers were just as solid. Arguably, she practiced the religion they all did once, before they were a people. “Life is full of cycles, always returning to the beginning, never stopping. I know that for sure, I have partook in creation, and in death. I am a force in these matters, as I’m sure you see yourself as a force for your goddess, no?”
She agreed with him; she would have been foolish not to. Yet there were still more objections, subtle and thought-provoking, many of which he had heard before. It wasn't as if Rand lived in a bubble, ignorant to the criticisms of his belief system — no, he reveled in the arguing, the back-and-forth that sought to, if not outright disprove Her, expand his mind, as if he was somehow blind to all other forces of nature.

It was quite the contrary. Rand understood the other Gods' roles and their power, but he understood, too, that it all came back to the water.

"Life follows a great Circle, this is true. Nanin dictates the cycle of life, death, rebirth, and of course we all have a part to play in such a thing."

His thin fingers gestured in the air as he spoke, as if to further illustrate his sermon.

"Consider this. Nanin, the Verdant Stag, claims dominion over the Woods — rich green landscapes that could not exist without the water quenching their thirst. Dúr, the Heart of the Mountain, is lord of the forge — the rain and great rivers cut away the earth to form the mountains out of rock, and what tempers the ironworks of the forge if not the water? Valleui and Valleuar, the Dual-Spirit, lords of light and dark — are the tides of the coast not pushed and pulled by the moon and the stars?"

There were holes in his logic, surely, but he could not see them. It was sound. It was what he truly believed.

"Everything comes back to Nín. It is all connected. This is the Gods' grand design."

[+2]
She listened to the wheel the man painted. Each of the gods doing their part, but of course his chosen weaved through them all. A snaking river claiming more importance than the rest. Rand’s feelings on the importance of Nin were rather transparent, especially when he was giving a lesson. Woodsmoke thought about the wheel, how Rand put each in a place, but Nin seemed to encompass all of them. Surely the gods themselves wouldn’t see things as such. She wondered what the wheel would look like if a Druid of Nanin was speaking to her, or a practitioner of Dur.

She then thought, instead of swallowing the swill poured out by the priest. How well did the wheel Rand explained turn? Dur needed wood as fuel, blackened by flame, but still. Needing to rely on Nanin and Nin? “Then why do you give her gifts of wood?” Woodsmoke asked. “You are taking wood that came from Nanin, and giving it to Nin. If it is driftwood, did Nin not have it already?” She was speaking thoughts as they bubbled up. “And if not for the mountains, would there even be rivers?” She asked. “If all land was flat, then the water wouldn’t move. It would become muck, and then probably a bog.”

Her questions were not to poke holes, though they were numerous. Rand was an expert in his chosen god’s teachings. Clearly biased, but still far more knowledgeable about the gods than Woodsmoke. Knowledge didn’t always make someone right. “If it’s all connected, then maybe they are all one? No need to separate them, if together they’re all of everything.” The all of everything seemed far more easier to digest than the pantheon.
He scoffed, waving a hand in the air as if to dispel her doubts.

"Of course she already owns our offerings," he answered. "It was never a question of ownership — what can we possibly think to offer a God if not our very allegiance?"

Chuckling, he regarded her like one of the many children that had learned of Her through his guidance; one of the many that had been formed like clay in his very hands, manipulated and shaped into the perfect acolytes that their Goddess so deserved.

They would never dare speak about the questionable ways he had molded them. Most of them had turned to ash in the first fires of the war.

"It is symbolic, Woodsmoke. Do not take these things so literally, and an entire new world of understanding will open itself up to you."

'Do not question me and things will go very well for you,' was the unspoken meaning.

"The water cuts through the lands. This is why it is not flat," he said with a tinge of irritation, as if she hadn't been listening to him, as if she had any reason to continue to prod him.

But the last suggestion was perhaps the most egregious.

"Why?" he asked, tone sharp. "There is no one God. That is the beauty of it; they are all tailored to one realm of creation. This is how it has always been, from the very beginning."

He chuffed.

"Nín is simply at the heart of it all," the Priest concluded, unshakable in his faith, indominable in his resolve.

She would not test him. Though she was welcomed to try and fail as the countless others before her had.

[+2]