Pray for the Dead

POSTED: Sat Feb 16, 2019 1:18 pm

ooc: Theodora is exploring the Concrete Jungle! I would love if another optime could stop by. :)

In a long lost memory, a young Theodora had played with a bauble on a chain. The metal had been finely worked, and if she had pried it with her sharp teeth just right it would snap open, revealing two pictures inside. On the left was a hairless, flat-nosed face with a splash of black hair across the top of his head. His mouth was spread comically wide, revealing stubby teeth. On the right, a similar monster—peach pink, this one’s hair longer and blonde, its lips an abnormal scarlet. “Papa, what are these things? Can we find some?” Regan had laughed, pulling her close and wrapping her in his arms. “No, my little love, the humans have gone away forever. Their kind was lost to plague many years ago.” His daughter hadn’t much time to ponder whether to fear this plague when her mother’s shadow had overcast them.

“Leave her education to me, Regan.” A stern reprimand wilted Theodora’s ears to her head. Her mother deftly reached in, pulling her forlorn daughter away from her father. Regan lifted his hand as though he may stop her—he hesitated, the hand fell. His other two children called out for him, and with a sigh he left Theodora with Duenna again. Where he had brought his daughter lovingly to his chest, Duenna had sat her distantly on the ground, her lavender eyes as piercing as ever. “It was not a true plague, child. The humans displeased our Gods, they used their hands for their own selfish desires. They did not give tribute or pray.” Duenna turned from her daughter, reaching into her satchel, pulling loose a delicately wrapped package. Theodora was a reluctant witness as her mother’s fluid hands revealed the prize inside—old bones. Duenna gazed upon them with reverence. “Human bones. Their hands.” Dread had settled a pit in the bottom of her stomach, though Theo had no idea why. “The Gods cut them down, Theodora, and stitched their hands to our legs. They hooked our noses and brought us upright—that we would serve them better, and avoid their mistakes. We are the chosen children, daughter.” In a rare gesture of affection, Duenna had reached out, her own fur-clad hand caressing her daughter’s cheek…

It was a distant thought now, but Theodora’s hand trembled as she held it to her face. The fingers felt the same path her mother’s had, feeling every bit as foreign as Duenna’s had then. Her mouth gaped open, her breath coming in ragged puffs of steam into the winter air. The act of shifting had taken its toll on her, taking much more effort and time than another likely would have. Now that it was over, she still felt every bit as lost. The brick walls of the abandoned house surrounding her kept her free from the worst of the winter winds, but she felt aggressively naked in this body, standing on two legs, unstable as a newborn deer. How can anyone prefer to feel so unbalanced? She limped towards the window, the glass long since destroyed, leaning on the shelf for support as she surveyed the purple twilight. Rows of abandoned houses, the relics of the extinct lined with an overgrowth of invading plant life. How could something so extravagantly built be brought down so easily? Had her mother been correct?

Theodora felt her eyes lift to their mirror counterpart, the night sky above. There were no answers to be found within the swirls of distant galaxies, try as she may. She did not hear the Gods speaking to her like her mother had, she could not even be sure if this was where her mother had wanted her to end up. I’m here nonetheless. So many of the other wolves walked upright here, surely Theodora could do it too. She withdrew from the window, back to the frigid center of the concrete floor. It took much longer than it ever had, but eventually she managed to make a fire. The orange flames flickered in the busted out windows of the building, but Theodora felt so alone in this place it did not bother her.

In fact, her eyes were closed. From her leather pouch she had pulled some form of dry herb, burning it in her makeshift altar to the Gods. The same way her mother always had, she began to hum. Theodora did not feel a religious presence, but it did not dissuade her. After all, it wasn’t to the Gods that she prayed. It was a funeral march for the creatures who had once called this place home years ago, whose livelihoods and culture were now little more than rubble.
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POSTED: Mon Feb 18, 2019 8:35 pm

The magic that Symre leaned into each day upon her waking was entirely made from the depths of her imagination. There was no formal training that came with the strange rituals that she wished upon the world – the love potions and talismans that she blessed with long dark lips. She whispered prayers in French and Spanish – sang keening songs in a language as ancient as the blood that ran through her veins.

She was alone now within Salsola, and for the first time lived outside of the watchful eye of her Uncle, The Director.

Now the young girl had time to watch the inner workings of Salsola through her own lenses – unobstructed by the bias of those who had come before. The Raskdotttir spent as much time outside of the Thistle Kingdom as she did within it and made sure that each time, she went she collected as many tiny pieces of beauty and wonder as possible. There was so much more beyond the Pictou River that she was determined to discover it and commit it all to memory.

The horse that she had borrowed for the journey had been wary of Felix and Tali at first, its silvery ears flattening against her smooth skull. Róta was one of the most beautiful horses that Symre had ever seen – and as soon as the wild thing had blown warm air curiously into her face, she had been all too eager to gallop with her across the low-lying hills that lay beyond Salsola.

Both cats sat snuggled between her legs, their curious expressions turned out to the remnants of a long-lost human civilization.

Wandering seemed as natural a thing to her as the magic which she coveted. She had gathered supplies and loaded the animals back for a journey that would take her south. The snow still streamed through the clouds sometimes, but the snow grew softer by the day – and the further south that Symre rode her pretty horse, the more green sprouted along the paths they rode. She still wore her thick winter cloak, the collar of it tied tightly in a knot at her throat.

The concrete rose in all directions from what remained of a crooked path, and suddenly Felix parted his jowls to meow sharply, "There's someone here."

It was the scent of smoke which had Symre finally dropped from her horses back, setting her cats down to allow them to wander freely amongst the rubble and debris. She pulled the leather satchel over her shoulder and tied off the silver horse, patting her thick neck before disappearing into the shadows that surrounded them.

When she came upon the girl with her fire and burning herbs she couldn't help the sound that bubbled in her throat.

"What a nice pyre you've made." Her maroon eyes sharpened, "Who do you pray for?"

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Amanda
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POSTED: Tue Feb 19, 2019 1:43 am

Funereal rites were a particular thing, so heavily individualistic—it seemed overly simple to reduce the loss of billions of souls to one wolf’s hymn, especially with a conduit as plagued with self-doubt as Theodora. You do not channel the Gods, Theo, you channel your grief; a brief modicum of reassurance, then she was a child again, admiring the pug-nosed faces in an oval locket, their names and lives burned away in the last fever dreams of their species… Now their houses littered the scenery like the vertebra of a gargantuan beast, fallen and encapsulated into the landscape. As Theodora’s voice rose and fell, she probed the edges of her consciousness, curious if she might feel just the subtlest tinge of the fantastical. Surely some spirit, some ghost may have survived of them?

“What a nice pyre you’ve made.” Theodora nearly choked on her own music, purple eyes fluttering open in shock at the sudden intrusion. Alas, it was not the phantasm of her fantasies come to visit her (and wouldn’t her mother have been proud if it were) but rather an intense, almost suspicious looking she-wolf staring back at her. “Who do you pray for?” The question was so direct, so without the floral padding of niceties that Theodora could not help but reply. There did not seem space in such a blunt statement for arguing. “The ones who used to live here.” Twilight eyes swept the deserted building, though the gentle outreach of her arms to the side indicated she meant the town over all, not simply the inheritors of this house. It was surprising how smoothly she managed to perform the motion, though if the other had a clever eye she might see the awkwardness in her joints. Anything more complicated and her company would definitely be able to sense it.

Now that she had performed as asked, anxiety was free to bubble up her esophagus, her pupils furtively darting all over the other with a morbid mixture of inquisitiveness and terror. Unlike Theodora’s feral hair, this girl seemed much more well-presented—and capable, just from the cloak that hung heavily on her cinnamon shoulders. Though Theodora wasn’t brave enough to make direct eye contact, what tiny glitters she gathered were a dark ruby set in a stern countenance. The long fur crowning her head seemed to have some sort of style to it, leaving Theo to consider for the first time that she must appear utterly wild and possibly un-groomed. Perhaps I’ve made no change at all, going from four legs to two.

Seeing no obvious threat and no weapons poised, and considering that this new creature was currently blocking the exit route anyway, Theodora resolved herself to be friendly. Wasn’t that the intention of using these hands, Theodora? To become someone who could… chat? Her lips peeled in her best approximation of a small smile. “Feel free to come in, if you’d l-like… There are enough dead here for all of us to pray without end.” The combination of her queer grin and her halting voice made her pronouncement perhaps more macabre than intended. Add into it again the odd-smelling smoke of her fire, and perhaps Theodora finally appeared the druid her mother had always hoped she would be.

Theo considered making some further overture, but until she saw the reaction of the other wolf, she would lapse into silence. Let her take her cues from the more experienced socializer.
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Becky

POSTED: Tue Feb 19, 2019 8:19 pm

There was a great cleansing that came with fire. Sometimes Symre felt herself dreaming about the flames that had claimed her shared home with her Uncle. It had been an accident borne of ritual, and despite everything Symre couldn’t’ help but feel that she had risen from the ashes of her tiny Salsolan beginnings and had emerged changed. There was something self assured to the way she approached the exploration that took her beyond her Kingdoms borders, a subtle weight to her gaze that implied that she knew things.

Charms decorated her satchel; pieces of bone and feathers twisted together and blessed by her tongue. Hidden behind the leather flap was a water skin and a bundle of small sticks that she sometimes wove into little figures as she rode. There were small vials of herbs ties together with red twine and a small dagger that she used for carving and not self defence. Brocade would have admonished her for travelling with so little, but Symre trusted in the magic that rippled between all things.

She believed that she would always be safe.

”The ones who used to live here.” The soft spoken sentence had Symre stepping closer, tilting her head curiously to peer through the cracked concrete and broken windows. She didn’t put a lot of thought in those that had come before though Hyacinth had sometimes woven long winded stories of the Kingdoms that had risen and fallen long before Salsola had ever made its stake in the north. The gypsy blood that ran through her veins put stock in the tradition of storytelling and reflection – but the woman who stood before her was not of the Caravan.

But… there was something there in those amethyst eyes.

”Who used to live here?” Symre clicked her teeth and stepped closer, allowing one hand to rest on the stone that lay closest to the womans pyre. The fire fanned her face, frightening away the traces of winter that clung to her whiskers. In Salsola there were all sorts of ideologies; Khalifism – the dark and light of the world torn asunder; or the belief that came from the ancient power of the Blackwood.

Symres brows suddenly rose, ”Are you a death worshipper?”

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POSTED: Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:29 pm

To Theodora’s both relief and dread the stranger came closer, and she found herself captivated by her adornments. Her nares twitched with the smell of familiar herbs, suspecting that she would find many similar varieties in the leather pouch hanging down her chest. An odd juxtaposition, then—were she an apothecary herself? A witch of some variety? And knowing what Theodora knew about such occult operations, was she the kind to heal or wound? Though she hadn’t practiced them personally, Theodora was more than aware of the darkness in the underbelly of the arcane, and knew her mother had sometimes run on the periphery of such circles. Symre’s placid face didn’t betray much of the depths beneath, but such tranquility could be meant to coddle before a quick blade between the ribs. Theodora hadn’t missed the dagger, but with the size of it she may as well have been afraid of the dark lady’s teeth (which is not to say she was unafraid, she had equal measures of fear for both.)

“Who used to live here?” A more muted surprise pricked her ears forward. Theodora hadn’t considered that the regal creature approaching her may not be familiar with the humans. “The Builders. Architects of the great structures, and depending on who you ask, creators of their own destruction. Humans.” Her mother’s words flowed through her, lapsing onto her training as an orator on a subject familiar. When Duenna had performed her recitations, there hadn’t been indecisions in the words—but she was not here. And Theodora would pronounce them how she preferred, flourished with a gentle shrug, as though to say it did not matter what she opined on the subject.

Symre’s face adopted an even more ethereal look so close to the flames, reflections of the embers burning around her pupils. “Are you a death worshipper?” Theodora’s bottom jaw dropped momentarily, looking much like she’d been slapped. “Oh!” A nervous titter of laughter followed—a combination of sheer shock that one could think her capable of that (were death worshippers not fierce? Was she fierce?) but also embarrassed. Just like her wild affect had initially frightened Calrian, perhaps now this lass too found her disturbing. “N-no, I do not worship death nor the Gods and devils who bring it. I… I mourn it, rather. Try to prevent it.” Delicately, she lifted her fingers to the pouch around her neck, slipping open its leather cords. She tilted the bag, letting Symre look inside to see the harmless baubles and herbs that dwelled within. Her packing made her seem experienced with herbalism, she may gather that Theodora’s were meant for healing.

Hoping that she had answered to Symre’s satisfaction, Theodora stalwartly offered up her own query. “Do… do you grieve? For your dead?” The traditions of every faith were so varied, she could not predict what response the other would have.
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POSTED: Fri Mar 08, 2019 10:39 pm

The violet in the woman’s eyes was tantalizingly soft. Symre couldn’t help glancing over the woman’s creamy fur to wonder at the innocence that lingered just beneath the surface. It was an expression that was not often found in Salsola, for it was a place dedicated to smoke and mirrors – to the careful curating of emotions that were to be on display. Theodora was honest in the way her brows rose and fell – how the twitch of her lips was in earnest and despite the blunt way Symres words fell between the concrete walls.

The builders. Humans.

They were terms that set Symres head to spinning, and she allowed a slight narrowing of her mahogany eyes. Where as Theodoras expression was pliant and filled with an openness that the young girl was confused by – Symres expression was a fortress, steely cold and unflinching despite her youth. It was a trait passed on from her mother, though when her lips finally split into a toothy smile it did not reach her eyes fully. ”The Builders?” Curiosity seeped into her words, and she took another step towards the silvery woman, ”Do you know them?”

The flames danced, casting heat too close to a bent elbow which forced Symre to flinch away.

Theodora tipped the leather satchel towards her so that she could peer at the baubles inside. Symre flared her nostrils in an attempt to ascertain its contents, but quickly lost interest as the conversation continued. Symres shoulders bristled, ”Of course I do.” Her teeth clicked together as she flicked her tail, ”I do not have such ceremony.” She gestured with her hands before pointing at her heart, ”But I feel it, here.”

She wet her mouth, ”What is the purpose of this ritual?”

Finally her expression seemed to relax. ”Will you show me?...” She trailed off as if to ask for the other womans name.

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POSTED: Sat Mar 09, 2019 4:39 pm

It was an alien sensation, to have another rapt upon her words; Symre advanced upon her magnetically, inquisitively. Theodora had witnessed her mother’s work from her shadow and had seen her tutelage approached similarly. Audiences had stared in wide-eyed wonder, their ears thirsty. Theo’s attempts hadn’t been quite as successful, often resulting in Duenna overtaking her words, relegating her to the background again. Her company’s behavior was a boon to her confidence, and though Symre’s smile was not as friendly and open as other’s had been, Theodora was in no place to judge her on that category.

“Only of them. Solely their relics exist any longer,” her pupils swept their current encampment, that deep sadness flickering within her breast once more. She hesitated for a moment, glancing back at Symre, who had found herself too close to the fire. She instinctively lifted her arm as though she might look her over for wounds, but decided against it. “I have seen their likeness. A representation of two of their faces…” She thought back to their strange pinkness, their hairless squashed faces concealed in the darkness of the locket. Reflexively, one hand went to her pouch, where her only treasure lay concealed: her father’s final gift to her, still surviving, though affected by age.

Her reverie to the past was interrupted by her cinnamon counterpart’s offended reaction to her question, but Theodora only found that comforting. After all, she was used to her words coming off awkwardly—it was nice to confirm that they had common ground. If Symre felt the melancholy of loss, that could be the lens through which they could view the world together. “What is the purpose of this ritual?” Theodora’s lips tugged into a frown, considering how to respond. So many of death’s rituals were to comfort the living, despite their attempts to do otherwise. “Many things, I suppose. To calm their spirits, to guide them to rest. To express the grief of those who live without them. To honor their memory, when none of their kind are left to do so.” Though most of her statements applied to death of any kind, the last was specifically for mankind. Perhaps it was a salve for Theodora, who believed too that when she died there may not be any to mourn her.

The zealous-eyed girl, wreathed in the red of firelight, appeared softer. Theodora’s baseline frown slipped upright, gesturing to the fire as an invitation. “Please, join me.” Dull-witted as she was sometimes, Theodora did not miss the query for her title. “I’m Theodora, by the way. Theo if you prefer. What do they call you, miss?” Her fingers grappled her sachet, plucking an herb for the fire. Though many preferred sage, she went for lavender. Theo went to toss it, halted herself, then held it halfway to Symre. It was an unasked question, why just watch, when you can participate?
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POSTED: Sun Mar 10, 2019 11:11 pm

The new concept made Symres head spin. Hyacinth had believed in some greater power that she had never been able to put words to – a secret magick that lingered in all beautiful things that hung somewhere between darkness and shade.

Theodora had begun to intrigue her.

Death was a concept that Symre tried not to think about. It was frightening to consider what lay beyond life – to realize that all lives came to the same careful conclusion. In the end, her station would not matter. Her rank, her family – nothing would matter save for the quiet offerings that she had prepared her whole life. She thought of the tiny bird caught in the palms of her hands, the wings spread wide as if to accept her magick.

”Why do you honor their memory?” It was a question that crept unbidden, and Symres brows cocked as she continued, ”What of your own kind?”

There was ceremony for the passing of life – and already Salsola had seen its fair share of pyres and cairns. Symre would attempt to draw power to her through her work, but Theodora seemed to pledge herself to a specific line of memories. The invitation forced the girl to smile, one of her free hands tugging the long rope of her hair so that it lay smoothly over one of her shoulders.

”I am Symre Rask.”

The womans fingers dug into her satchel and emerged with a bundle of lavender, the rich scent wafting between them as Symre went to stand at the womans elbow. The candle light flickered as if it was preparing for the womans ceremony, and Symre reached out a hand to collect her half of the lilac flower.

It matched the tone of Theodoras eyes, and Symre canted her head curiously as she waited for further instruction.

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Amanda
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POSTED: Fri Mar 15, 2019 11:24 am

It was difficult to phrase the way that Theodora felt about mankind. The preoccupation with the former inheritors of the world had been born as she was a young pup, and her father had been the sort to encourage whatever fancies she had. As time had matured her, it had not fleshed out the bonds to other wolves that so many of her brethren naturally adopted, leaving Theo’s soul adrift. Perhaps that is why she had felt such a kinship, such a willingness to grieve their loss. Symre’s question troubled her, and it was written across her face. Your own kind. Did Theo have any, truly? There was nowhere that she belonged, desperate as she was to find a home. Even if she attempted to return to her father’s pack, there was no guarantee that the roving band would be anywhere near to where she remembered, and her memory was not that reliable anyway.

“I… I suppose it just feels right. We wander their mass graveyards, after all. Adopt their trinkets and relics.” The silvered wolf paused, tilting her head. “I pray for my hunting kills, too. Or the herbs I take from the earth. If I encounter a dead wolf, I mourn them as well.” Her lips pursed in an awkward line, her shoulders rolling as though to burn off an anxious energy. “I wouldn’t say I… have a kind?” A thought flashed through her mind, of praying for her mother—she pushed it from her brain, finding it distasteful. As far as she knew, her siblings were still alive as well, but her mother’s enforced separation had stilted any truly positive relationship from developing between them.

At last, there was a name for the creature with which she would share her fire. A bit of the unpleasant twist of her face ameliorated, genuinely content to have met her. It was a pretty name, and seemed fitting to the countenance that owned it. Delicately, the burden of the lavender was shared, ensnared by dark fingers that contrasted her own. Those cream fingers took their purchase and tossed it, unforgiving, into the fire. They fell on the outer coals, and the heat began to release an aromatic smoke, accompanied by a harsh sizzle. Knowing that Symre would follow, and not pausing to wait, Theodora’s hands spread out and wafted the smoke around them. Her diaphragm stretched with the intake of air, allowing the herb to fill her lungs, tickling the recesses of her chest. A deep sound began to churn in her throat, a music without language, but strong with emotion. Theodora closed her eyes, letting the sound go where it would to send her grief outward, the notes swaying higher and lower as she invited Symre into her prayer.
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Eastern Realms