[AW+] Brand New World
"A drag-on?" Cent tilted her head to one side, "Not sure if that's that. All I know is I thought they were creatures of story, but then I visit their lairs and saw their yellow bones. They were even more amazing than the stories." Cent exhaled, suddenly overcome by memories of tales she was told as a pup, of that epic yet tragic past age, populated by creatures of legend.

"I heard the Ones Before used to ride in the hollow of their bellies, be carried in mere days over oceans and mountains." Another wistful sigh escaped her lips, even though the two-year-old had only stories to be wistful about.

And then the whole thing with the boiled water occurred.

Cent felt slightly like an idiot, and she could feel her cheeks turn hot under her fur. She felt like she was being talked to as if she were some dumb pup, but the dog couldn't ignore the fact that she almost poured boiling water on the she-wolf. Now that she thought about it, whenever she saw her relatives cleanse their wounds with saline water, they did let it cool a bit before pouring it on their wounds. That realization made her feel even more like a reckless sheep-brain.

"I'm sorry," the dog muttered once she stopped dipping her apron in the water, no longer seeing a point in it. She carefully moved the bowl to the side to cool and seated herself by the she-wolf. Dinar sat by the fire, glaring disapprovingly, but his glares were ignored by Cent, who was studying the wolf's features for moment, before replying;

"I will sign but after, after that I want ask you a question. It's very serious question, so you don't laugh, okay?"

The dog cleared her throat with an "ahem" and began humming a low tune. At first it was a mindless humming, as she recalled the words of a song that was in her mind. How did that one go? Ah, that's right.

"Тамо 'ђе огњишта диме
и 'ђе гусле још се чују
у брдима више мора
ту је моја Црна Гора

Жељом моје срце гори
да се вратим Црној Гори
'ђе ме стара мајка чека
да се вратим из далека

Зажеље се срце моје
пити воде са извора
гледат стадо како пасе
бранит' јагњад од орлова

Волио бих да сам соко
да полетим ја виско

и да видђу плаво море
и сва брда Црне Горе."

She didn't realize she got teary eyed until her vision got blurry. She wiped away the tears with her arm.

"Ah, no I ask you question, okay?"
As Cent spoke about dragons, Soledad began to wonder if perhaps she’d given Cent the wrong word. Maybe the gusle handle hadn’t been carved in the form of a dragon, maybe it had been something else, another creature that flew. She shrugged admitting her lack of knowledge. “I’ve never seen a dragon.” She had presumed them to be creatures of the long-ago past. Back home, in the big old buildings, there were often images of luperci like creatures slaying a winged beast. This was what she imagined the dragon to be. It would be impossible to travel inside a dragon. A dragon’s insides were made of fire. “I’ve only seen pictures.”

It didn’t matter.

Soledad realized that she’d embarrassed Cent which was the last thing she’d intended. After all, Cent was helping her while the other dog, the one who had attacked her, was doing nothing at all. “Don’t be, it’s been quite the evening. I’m sure you’re tired.”

Cent asked for permission to ask a question, before singing a beautiful song, one that Soledad had never heard before, but it had a nice rhythm to it and she liked Cent’s voice. Hearing the singing made her feel a little nostalgic for times past when she’d gathered with family and friends and late in the evenings someone had sung. Looking at Cent, it seemed as if she too was emotionally taken back to another time. But Soledad shook off her feelings, she couldn’t allow herself to be nostalgic for long. Cent’s voice brought her back to the moment.

“Of course. Ask me what you want.”
Cent sighed. She twirled a lock of hair around a finger, looking somewhere off to the side. Her gaze came to Dinar, still sitting by the fire, which she noticed was beginning to die down. He was to blame for this mess. She never wanted to spill blood or hurt anyone. She ignored his attempt to meet eyes with her and looked at the wolf instead. 

"This might be weird question, but, ah..." She hesitated, recalling the times she asked a similar question to other, seemingly friendly non-dogs and was responded to with laughter or judgment. The friendly relations usually wouldn't last after she veered a conversation towards her religious beliefs. But, then again, why would she care if some wolf didn't like hearing the truth? Even if that wolf was a nice old lady.

"I... You see... You know you won't go to Heaven, yes?" She blurted out. She realised what a blunt question that was, but the flood gates were open and there was no stopping now. "I mean, not all know but I've met nepse who do know and told me I was wrong, but I can't, I can't be wrong because that's the truth. It was written and it is. And I, I don't know how to feel about it because, because not many know the truth and it make me... it make me sad? I think it make me sad, because how else to feel? So many live their lifes and never find out truth. They think they will find Raj upon death but instead they, they just die. That's sad, that is sad, yes? And you, do you think you will find the great lands of Heaven after you die? Is that why you are so... so peaceful? Because you won't. I'm sorry to tell you, but it's, it's how things are. I'm sorry."

She bit her lip. Out the corner of her eye she caught the concerned expression on Dinar's face, but she kept looking at the she-wolf.

"Aren't you scared you won't find peace in death?"

OOC: well, that's one way to let people know you were raised by a cult
Oh. Oh dear. Soledad found herself amused wondering how come, in a life of so many years, there managed to be so much repetition. Religious divide, arguments about what happened when one died, where one came from, what the gods believed, if there were indeed gods, if there was a heaven, whether something was right or wrong. She pushed her body up, correcting her posture against the wall, straightening herself up. With a hand, she reached into her bag, withdrew her knitting and without needing to give it more than a glance, wound the yarn around the needle and began the next row.

And now, this strange girl was apologizing to her because she didn’t believe someone like her would get to heaven. Soledad wasn’t sure what the reasons were behind the belief, was it where she came from, was it that she was a wolf, was it that she was so far from home? Really though, the specifics of Cent’s prejudice didn’t bother her. Prejudice, she was sure, merely concealed insecurity and a lack of understanding. The gods had a reputation for causing problems between communities. Soledad knew this first-hand. Her family was full of religious dispute. Cent was young, in a few years, no doubt, she’d have learnt to reconsider her beliefs and would be able to look back at her childish mindset and see its limitations.

“Would being scared make any difference?” Soledad asked. Sometimes it was better to answer with a question. “Why do you believe I won’t go to heaven?”

She had no idea what a nepse or a raj was, but she wasn’t sure that mattered. She was quite content to allow Cent to talk. The girl had it within her to learn. Dinar, well, he was another matter.
WoD: Reputation / SF: conceal
Sol, with utmost casualness, retrieved knitting supplies from her bag and began to... knit. This behavior baffled Cent, whose heart was in upheaval. Couldn't she see how serious this was? How sincerely the poor girl wanted answers?

The wolf answered question with question, but the dog felt unsatisfied.

"That make no sense to me," As Cent spoke she gestured wildly, jabbing her handpad with a finger in some vain attempt to physically drive the point home. "We are on this world to, to prepare for the next. We live and make sure we live best lives, to earn entry into Raj, into Heaven. If we don't live like that then, then... What is point?" Her shoulders slouched, her hands clasped, and there was, for a moment, a scared look in her eyes. The fear she felt for her soul was real, but worse was that she would occasionally - no, far too often forget it. She would forget the Commandments and the Lessons and the Truths and the Virtues, and would give in to a sacrilegious life, guided by earthly desires and needs of the mortal flesh. In those times, she hoped that her transgressions would be forgiven once she expired, that God and the Martyr would understand that life was hard, that she oft found herself in heathen lands, and that she couldn't combat her greatest vice - her love of women, with their winsome smiles and inviting curves - and that despite it all she tried, oh how she tried to be a good child, dedicated follower and staunch believer. But, come night, chill and darkness, she would keep her eyes wide open to dry out the building tears, and pray and explain to her quiet God that she never meant to dishonor him, she was merely so alone and so easily misguided and distracted, and again, she tried. Truly.

So, why was this wolf's attitude so casual, almost dismissive, despite the grimness of the topic?

She pulled her knees up to her head and hugged them, eyes glazed over, ears pulled back. She felt unease begin to unease. Eventually, it would turn into fear, then despair.

Ah, perhaps the wolf's dismissiveness came for ignorance, because she didn't know the truths, as her second question revealed?

Cent parted her lips to give an answer, and nearly inhaled fur. While she was having her brief existential crisis, Dinar approached and came to rest his heavy head on the girl's shoulder. She appreciated the comfort he attempted to provide, and hugged his neck, digging her fingers into his thick double coat, as he muttered weak reassurances in their tongue ("Све је у реду, све је у реду"), despite not knowing the reason for her discomfort. She kept hugging him for maybe a full minute, until she was sufficiently calmed, then gently pushed him away, and he moved as cued. He walked a couple times in a circle and laid down next to her, curled into a large ball. She gave herself another moment to fix her breathing and flip her hair over her shoulders, before she began speaking again, still not looking directly at the she-wolf, but somewhere farther away than the darkness of the night.

"You probably don't know story, so I understand why you ask. Most don't know any of the stories. Not I don't blame them!" She seated herself more comfortably, straightened her back against the wall, her hands clasped in her lap to keep them from needlessly gesturing, as she was prone to do. "You see, thirty-three years ago, God came to collect the sinners. He sent sickness on humans, and ended their Long Age. They fell dead in the streets, and their corpses were mountains of rot. A dog, who had flat face and curled tail, and was in size like pup and just as innocent and pure, was touched by God. He shared holy message - not that I can translate proper, but can try [She took a moment to clear her throat] - ; "Brothers, sisters, eat on bodies of humans, swallow they hearts and take they shape! Walk this earth and start our age, which will be longer and richer! It will be age of dogs, who lived as human slaves and now earn the world!" And all dogs cheered him and did as he told."

"But, the stench of human rot was too strong, and so the thieves came."

Cent paused a moment, for dramatic effect.

"Out the forest came wolves, hungry, feral, and they saw dogs feast and take blessed shapes. Wolves, full of envy, attacked dogs in middle of celebration, and ate the human hearts. This way they stole God's gift for themselves, and forever tainted the age of dogs on this world. After this theft, the flat-faced prophet said God's message one more time, and said all dogs of good souls will be welcome to join Him in Heaven, but rotten dogs and all thieves of the Gift will burn in Hell. After that, thunder struck him, and the prophet was first dog to join Heaven, where all dogs of good souls live in the perfect age they couldn't have on Earth."

Cent went silent. The fire crackled. Dinar snorted. Somewhere in the distance, an owl could be heard.

"Now you know the story. Do you see why you should be afraid?"
As Cent told her story, Soledad listened. She counted her stitches, but only glanced down when she came to the end of a row. The girl seemed very worked up about Soledad’s fate. To Soledad, whose own religious beliefs fluctuated by the day, this seemed all very peculiar, although she had met dogs who were hostile to wolves before, and wolves who didn’t think must of dogs either. She’d also met some strange religious fanatics who managed to take the most benign fairy tales and turn them into a way of life. She didn’t think that was a healthy way to live.

Was Cent some itinerant preacher? Soledad would have to be calm and patient. Itinerant preachers could turn dangerous unexpectedly.

“Let me see if I’ve understood you right,” Soledad said. “You’re saying that because one pack of wolves attacked one pack of dogs thirty-three years ago, all wolf-kind is doomed to what exactly?”

It took a while for Soledad to connect the dots. “Are you trying to say that when I die, I’ll burn in this ‘hell’?” She imagined a funerary pyre. They’d burnt her parents’ bodies on funerary pyres. She’d been sad that she’d been unable to do the same for her drowned grandsons. “Don’t you think that would be better, to have your body burnt and your ashes scattered in the wind rather than lay and rot and be eaten by whatever creature?”

Perhaps Cent hadn’t thought her story through very well. Maybe she hadn’t understood what a dragon was either. Were these stories nonsense Dinar had told her? The poor child had clearly had an unfortunate pup-hood and a lacking education. Poor thing.

“All pups are innocent when they’re born my dear, you’ll learn that when you have your own, but none stay that way for long. And some of them, on occasion, are born with unfortunate birth defects – like flat faces. They don’t tend to live long. It’s sad.”

Was she afraid? Soledad didn’t understand the question. What did Cent think she was supposed to be afraid of?
Cent felt that she wasn't being understood. She didn't know why she expected more. She never met a canine - dog or other - who could comprehend her zeal. 

"It wasn't just one pack," She explained, still not looking at the wolf, irritation in her expression and voice. "The story repeat itself everywhere on Earth. Nepsi-- Nondogs, they stole the Gift that was for dogs and dogs only. We were ones who were slaves to humans, and we were to be rewarded for Long Age of slavery."

The old lady's idea of Hell was clearly more romantic than Cent's. To the young dog, Hell was more abstract, as each member of the clergy she spoke with told her a different tale. She came to believe Hell was a place tailored to the individual suffering in it, made to cause as much pain, both physical and emotional. It was why she feared it so; She couldn't picture what her Hell would be, and thus couldn't prepare for it.

"Oh, grandma, in Hell your soul burns, not your body. And soul can't become ash." Cent shook her head. Clearly, Sol wasn't too educated in theology. This realization made the wolf's heathen beliefs more understandable. Still, the young woman immensely regretted starting this conservation in the first place. A part of her knew, with certainty, that she'd be met with either ridicule or ignorance, and that she'd be forced to - as to not compromise her beliefs - defend her faith. And still she asked the old wolf that question, wanting to be understood and wanting to be advised. And despite her obvious ignorance, she found herself not wanting to be seen as the antagonist in the eyes of this frail old woman. Because she wasn't an antagonist. Just a young soul far from home, seeking understanding.

"Grandma, I- you don't understand." Cent gestured as she spoke, eyes fixated to the ground. "Yes, you say truly, we born innocent and we grow not pure, but, we have to... to... to fight to, ah, remain pure. We have to live such life that when we are old we are as good as when we were pups. I think that if you live like that, if you fight to be good person, even if you are wolf or kah-ya-tee or jackal you, you..." She hesitated a moment. She asked this question once she was young, but she thought there would be nothing wrong in telling a reassuring lie to an old woman. "...Your soul will able to enter Heaven, where you will know only joy and happiness."

Cent went silent, thinking back to the tragedy Sol described befell her grandchildren.

"And, you know, maybe," She whispered. "Maybe you will meet your family there."

She felt a nudge and turned to Dinar, his nose pushed into her side. 
"Видљиво си уморна,"  He mumbled, obviously tired himself. "Боље би било де легнемо. Реци курјакици да те остави на миру." Cent nodded and turned toward Sol, finally facing the wolf.
"Dinar says he's tired. You can sleep with us tonight, just not, with us. Dinar wouldn't like you too close. Sorry." She didn't even know what she was apologizing for. "Sorry I implied your whole family is in Hell?". There was something to be said about ruining someone's life by educatin them.

OOC: Congratz on joining CDC!
Soledad wondered if Cent knew that the long age of slavery had hardly ended and could easily be found if you wandered into the wrong part of Berlin or Bucharest. She didn’t think it wise to mention this, however, especially just before they were about to sleep. Instead, she approached Cent's peculiar story from a practical angle.

“My dear, think about it, how can a soul burn?” Soledad asked. “Burning is the process of material turning to ash. Burning hurts because the flesh of your body dies on contact with excessive heat.”

Then again, the dear child had wanted to pour boiling water on her injured hip. She clearly lacked some basic education. Maybe she’d just been very sheltered as a pup and someone had taken advantage of her with all these spurious tales. One minute she seemed to think all wolves would go to hell, and the next she was talking about Soledad meeting her family in heaven. Had she not noticed Soledad was a wolf, a non-dog, a nepsi? Perhaps some of her family would make it to heaven, if such a place existed, but none of them was as innocent as a newborn pup.

Tienes razon... you are right, though,” she allowed, “it’s hard work to do the right thing sometimes. And sometimes it’s hard knowing what the right thing is. But I think if we try to act always from a place of honesty, kindness and... generosidad, then we’re heading in the right direction.

Soledad looked at Dinar, questioning silently whether Cent believed that her companion would make it to her heaven, or was his soul doomed to this fiery hell of hers. She said nothing, of course, there was no point antagonizing the pair, years ago she would have handled the situation with a much more self-righteous air, but what did you get from antagonizing strangers?

“No worries, don’t get yourself flustered.”

Soledad poked her knitting back into her bag, she stretched, flexing out her muscles, rolling her shoulders first forward and then backwards, twisting her head one way and then the other, waking up her tired limbs. That done, she pushed her bag away from where Cent and Dinar were laying and then glanced up at the roof. She moved away from the pair to a point where it seemed snow wouldn’t fall through if the weather were to change, pulled off her tunic, laid it down on the ground and then, beginning on a long exhale, began to shift into her lupus form. If anything happened in the night, she could react faster this way. It took a moment for her to shift, and inevitably her hip began seeping blood again as she did so. But once down on four legs she settled herself on top of her tunic, licked the injured hip to stop it bleeding and then lay her head down on the familiar citrus-scented leather satchel.

“Buenas noches,” she said softly.
OOC: Yea, Old lady Sol has had quite the journey since we started this thread!

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